Thursday, March 19, 2009

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

I made a really good pot roast in my slow cooker recently. It came out fork-tender and delicious. I'm going to make it again soon, because using a four-pound roast fed us for about a week. The leftovers were great for sandwiches and brown-bag lunches. If you're watching your sodium intake: this has quite a bit! I used low-sodium broth, and we didn't end up consuming most of the cooking liquid, so it probably provides less net sodium than it seems.

I have a 6.5-quart slow cooker. If yours is smaller, you may need to scale this back a bit. But again, this was a really big roast so you should be able to do a 2.5-3 pounder easily in a 5-quart pot.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

1 4-pound bottom round roast
2 tsp flour
1 tsp seasoned salt
¾ tsp fresh ground pepper
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp meat tenderizer
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 lb carrots, trimmed and halved
1 lb red potatoes, halved
1 Tbsp fresh /1 tsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp onion flakes
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp celery salt
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 quart low-sodium beef (or vegetable) broth
½ cup Worcester sauce
½ cup red wine
1 large onion, quartered

1. Mix flour, seasoned salt, pepper, paprika, and meat tenderizer. Rub this mixture all over the roast.

2. In a large skillet, heat butter or olive oil. Brown the roast on all sides in the skillet.

3. While the roast is browning, add carrots, potatoes, parsley, onion flakes, onion powder, celery salt, bay leaves, and minced garlic to the bottom of a 6.5-quart slow cooker.

4. Remove the browned roast from the skillet and place in the slow cooker. Deglaze the hot skillet with the wine, scraping up the browned bits with a spatula. Pour this mixture into the slow cooker over the roast.

5. Pour broth and Worcester sauce, over the roast. Place ¾ of the onion around the edges of the roast, then separate the layers of the remaining ¼ of the onion and place them on top of the roast.

6. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, until very tender.

In a fog

It's been really foggy here the past few mornings. Driving to work makes me feel like I'm going blind.

Today is the first day since last Saturday that I don't have a headache. Headaches are stressful, and they give me weird dreams. Last night I dreamed I was trying to kill an alien facehugger with a baseball bat while on a camping trip. I woke up stressed and tired. That's not very restful, subconscious.

We finally finished the series run of 90210 on Tuesday. Something like 297 episodes covering 10 years, watched in about eight months. We're not going to know what to do with all this free time now, and the TiVo may have a nervous breakdown.

The tomato plant in the Topsy Turvy seems to be surviving. I tried to move it to the front yard for more sun, but we can't find anything that can support its weight.

The AeroGarden is still going strong. I can't keep up with its basil production; I think I'm going to have to make pesto out of self-defense. Which is fine, because pesto is delicious.

Monday, March 02, 2009

This week is MS Awareness Week

This week, March 2-8, 2009, has been declared Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. I feel that I am somewhat more aware of MS than the average person; I get to be extra aware of it every night when I take my Copaxone injection. Fortunately, I don't really have many symptoms at the moment -- a slight tingle in my left hand and arm is all.

I always thought it was cool when people did charity events like the annual BP MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin. Now I have an extra appreciation for this kind of charity activity. Just so you know: MS is still out there, but treatments do exist now. There's no cure yet, but the outlook for a newly diagnosed person is much better than it was even 15 years ago. New treatments are being found as well, and there's a glimmer of hope that a cure might be found in my lifetime.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Project Topsy Turvy is afoot

I planted a little grape tomato plant in the Topsy Turvy on Sunday. It's hanging from one of the support beams at the edge of our back patio, so I hope it gets enough sun. It's going to be in the low 80s today -- that's right, 82 degrees on February 26th, welcome to Houston -- so it looks like we're in prime tomato time already. I think it's supposed to take about 62 days to get ripe fruit from it, but we'll see what happens. Watering it is kind of a challenge since it needs to be watered very slowly to keep the water from running right through it. That takes some patience.

Fresh herbs are awesome

The AeroGarden's crop is now ready for harvesting, so I used some of the dill and basil last night on fresh salmon filets. The filets were about six ounces each cut long and skinny from the broader end of the same larger filet, with the skin and scales on the bottom. I rinsed the filets, patted them dry, then put them skin side-down on a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. I sprinkled a little seasoned salt and fresh-ground pepper on the filets. Then I put a few springs of dill on top. I tore two large basil leaves in half lengthwise, slid two of the halves down between the two filets, then put the other two halves across the tops of the filets at a diagonal. I don't like a heavy basil flavor, but I thought a little touch of it would be good. Last, I covered the filets with lemon slices, wrapped the foil into a packet, and threw it on the grill for about 15 minutes. I also put some fresh pineapple spears on the grill.

The salmon turned out incredible! Jeremy said it was the best salmon he'd ever eaten, and it definitely was up there for me. None of the flavors overpowered the taste of the salmon, so the dill, basil and lemon were all just right. It was very moist, just from cooking in its own fat and steam inside the foil packet. I'm sure baking it that way would work just as well; I just put it on the grill because I wanted to grill the pineapple too. The grilled pineapple got a little more charred than I intended, but it still was very good. Jeremy's usually not a huge pineapple lover, but he loves it fresh and grilled. Pineapple is my favorite fruit, so it's an easy win for me. This meal is going to become a regular fixture on our dinner calendar, maybe with a little green salad on the side.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

I hope Shuffle Tarot is just having an off day

1. How does the world see you?
Scary - Bjork

2. Will I have a happy life?
With or Without You - U2

3. What do my friends really think of me?
Rudie Can't Fail - The Clash

4. What do people secretly think of me?
FBI: "Six Dead Not Really 'Mass Murder'" - Onion Radio News

5. How can I be happy?
Something - The Beatles

6. What should I do with my life?
Mango Pickle Down River - M.I.A.

7. What is some good advice for me?
Lorelei - Styx

8. How will I be remembered?
Yesterday - The Beatles

9. What is my signature dancing song?
Beat on the Brat - The Ramones

10. What do I think my current theme song is?
Lords of Kobol - Battlestar Galactica Season 2 Soundtrack

11. What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
American Land - Bruce Springsteen (Seeger Sessions)

12. What song will play at my funeral?
The Green Hornet Theme - Kill Bill Vol. 1 Soundtrack

13. What kind of dudes do I like?
No Sleep Tonight - Faders, Inc.

14. What is my day going to be like?
Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) - Jesus Christ Superstar Movie Soundtrack (!!!)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

AeroGarden Update

Finally, a photo:

Now that the parsley has sprouted, it seems to be making up for lost time. It started as one tiny green shoot, and now it has several friends.

Over to the right, you can see the box for the Topsy Turvy. I'm looking forward to getting that started, but the weather has been so unpredictable recently that it still might freeze. We should be in the clear in a few more weeks. I have a daylily blooming in the front yard today, and a few hibiscus buds are visible. My poor plants are so confused!

I hate colds

I am way too busy to have a cold. I stayed home from work today to see if I can power-rest through it. Looks like it was a pretty day out -- clear, sunny, and 70 degrees. I spent it indoors sleeping and watching YouTube. This was my favorite thing that I watched today: a seven-year-old who has just had dental surgery and is still high from the drugs.

It took me years to figure out why I always had pleasant associations with the dentist. The goofiness and sleepiness never bothered me. It was just nice.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Bleh, not feeling great

Hey, it's Groundhog Day!

I think I'm finally getting this cold everyone's had. I started getting a sore throat and extra tiredness Friday night, and hoped that a weekend of vitamins and sleep would fix it, but I'm not sure it worked. Maybe it helped make it less severe at least.

I put the camera batteries on the charger, so I should be able to put up a photo of the AeroGarden soon. All the pods finally have sprouted. The parsley took forever; I was starting to think it wouldn't come up at all, but the first little green shoot popped out on Friday. We're two weeks into the cycle, so we should have fresh herbs ready to eat in another two or three weeks.

I didn't watch the Super Bowl, but I did TiVo the Puppy Bowl. I look forward to watching that later this evening over some soup and hot tea.

Crap, I'm coughing now. Why does February always suck?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

AeroGarden Update

Everything but the parsley has sprouted now. I had to take the biodome off the chives last night because they had gotten too tall to fit under it. I tried to take a picture, but my camera batteries are dead.

January in Texas

It's 70 degrees, gray and dreary outside. By tonight, it's supposed to be down to the mid-30s. Wild weather changes usually give me headaches, and I've had headaches for the past two days. Bleh.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Teeny sprouts

I could see the teeny-tiniest of sprouts in the AeroGarden today, on two of the plants. Thyme and purplebasil, I think, but I may be misremembering. It was early this morning, and I was very sleepy. Maybe I'll take a photo tonight if they're a bit more visible.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes we did!

I still can't quite believe it. Congratulations, President Obama!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The AeroGarden has been planted

Is "planted" the right word for the AeroGarden? Yesterday I assembled the thing, put the little seed pods in their slots, added water and nutrient tablets, plugged it in, and that was it. I think the whole thing took 15 minutes and that includes reading the instructions. It makes a great nightlight. The glow even lights up the front porch through the vertical blinds. Now I just need recipes for fresh herbs.

Weekend TV, and a movie

Ah, the waning hours of the Bush administration. I always wonder how we'll explain this particular era to our hypothetical offpring. I suppose we'll just give the kid a highlight reel from The Daily Show and the series run of Battlestar Galactica. Those should sum it up nicely.

Speaking of BSG, Friday's episode "Sometimes A Great Notion" was just breathtaking. (No spoilers here.) It's one of the most relentlessly bleak hours of TV I've ever seen, but it was so good that it couldn't quite be depressing. It never felt maudlin or manipulative, just raw. Man, this show is a tough sell for Friday nights though. When you're tired at the end of the week and just want to relax and blow off steam -- how about a heaping dose of this?

Jeremy picked up a few seasons of The Dukes of Hazzard for cheap. He's been sick and needed some TV comfort food. I've only watched a little bit of it with him, and in some ways it's a little better than I remembered. The show has a decent sense of humor about what it is, and is pretty funny. The worst effect is that it makes my accent come back with a vengeance. When I was a kid, it was a perfect Friday night show. My whole family watched, and it was just fun, light entertainment for when your brain is tired.

What I've discovered about DoH is that I didn't understand much about the show as a kid. I was a toddler when it started, so a lot of it just passed me by. There's more slightly racy humor than I expected, because it was usually just subtle innuendo that as a kid I didn't understand at all. I also never knew that the reason them Duke boys was in trouble with the law is because the family business had been making moonshine. I honestly thought they were in trouble because they had a habit of speeding and reckless driving. I didn't know that Roscoe had been a straight-arrow lawman for the first 20 years of his career until his pension was defeated in a bond election. They may never have mentioned that again after the pilot; I don't know. Regardless, Toddler Annie didn't know much about pensions or bond elections.

Saturday night we went to see My Bloody Valentine 3-D. If you like the idea of a 3-D slasher movie, you are likely to enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. If you want great dialogue and realistic characterization, this film may not suit your needs. If you like a handsome leading man in 3-D, you're in luck. If you're hoping he will be shirtless at some point, prepare for mild disappointment. (I swear, I resisted developing a crush while wathing Supernatural as long as I could, and then I just couldn't do it anymore. Hello, TV boyfriend. I'm a little embarrassed about it, especially since many of his other fans are crazy.)

We're now in the 8th season of 90210. Watching the entire 1990s go by in a compressed amount of time has been kind of a trip. I never would have had the patience to watch it from week to week; it's just not that involving at this point in the show. But watching 10 episodes per week while also doing sudoku, it just flies by.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The greatest alarm clock of all time

ThinkGeek now offers a lovely alarm clock programmed with around 130 wake-up statements voiced by Stephen Fry as Jeeves. No, seriously.

I love that, but I'm a little concerned that I wouldn't wake up. I've had the same alarm clock since high school, and I'm accustomed to waking to either that monstrous thing or my cell phone alarm. My alarm clock makes the exact sound that is every foley artist's favorite standby MEEP-MEEP-MEEP-MEEP alarm sound. I hear it all the time in TV shows and commercials, and I just about hit the roof every time. I do not like being awakened by horrible noises. I like to slowly drift into consciousness over a long time, sometimes as long as two hours, then get out of bed when I feel like it. Being jolted awake is just wrong.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday, Monday

I got a lot of housework and some errands done this weekend, and Jeremy worked both Saturday and Sunday. I still haven't started the AeroGarden, but I did clear a space for it in the breakfast nook. Baby steps. Very productive, but the Netflix discs are still unwatched. We finished the run of The West Wing Saturday night. It was very enjoyable, and nice to close the book on a show I loved when it started 10 years ago. I got busy between Seasons 3 and 4 so I didn't see the rest of the series as it aired. Most of Season 5 was pretty weak as they tried to figure out how to have a Sorkin-less WW, but they pulled it together after awhile. Having an excellent cast helped a lot.

Above all else, that show reaffirms my feeling that I'm glad every single breaking news story isn't my problem. I barely can handle writing some of the newsletter articles and other work junk I have to write, but that's mostly because they require me to suppress all personality or opinion. It's anti-writing. I'm procrastinating on perpetrating a particularly egregious example of such right now.

We watched god-amongst-men Neil Patrick Harris' episode of SNL this weekend. It was okay. I'm not sure they used him as well as they could have, but we are talking about SNL here. Maybe it was asood as they could do. On the other hand, Jon Hamm's episode earlier this season was mostly hilarious. I don't watch unless there's a guest I really like, and this inconsistency is exactly why.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bunny Food

I made grilled chicken salads for dinner last night. Those were one of the main things I ate back in 2004 when I lost 50 pounds. I gained it back over the next four years, but I'm going to try to get healthy again. Salads are easy to make, and pretty healthy if you do it right. We make them in very big bowls, so we get several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, some lean protein, and a bit of calcium from low-fat cheese. I like crumbled feta or gorgonzola -- they have strong flavors, so a little goes a long way. We always make our salads with romaine and/or spinach since I hate bitter lettuces or any of the various icky weeds you find in "mixed greens." Leafy greens have iron, which I need, and they're filling, which I also need. Marinating and grilling a bunch of chicken at once is easy and it saves time and propane, but I have to be careful that I don't do it too much. I usually don't want to eat the same exact thing more than two nights in a row. Salads give you a lot of flexibility to add different ingredients, which helps, but I still get burned out. I think I'll keep them to once or twice a week this time.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Monday and Tuesday TV

Most of shows are still on their winter hiatus, so it's been pretty light so far this week. Gossip Girl and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (yay, Monday Night Food Porn) were our only new shows Monday night. GG demonstrated one of the things I like most about it in the first few minutes of this episode. Chuck Bass, recently having been orphaned, didn't just decide to dull the pain by getting wasted at home in New York, even though I'm sure drugs and alcohol are available in NYC -- no, he headed straight to a Bangkok opium den. Who does that? Chuck Bass, that's who. His grief is so overwhelming that he needed to go all the way to Thailand to smoke opium with hookers! I guess he's not sold on the whole "buy American" thing. I love how even though everything is outrageous bordering on nonsensical, many of the characters are drawn well enough that the audience can connect with them emotionally. Blair and Chuck would be outright villains on any other show, but they're my favorites. I can relate to Blair's emotional makeup way too easily (and Leighton Meester does abang-up job every week), and Chuck is just delightful. It's so wrong.

The one thing I can't figure out about GG is how the writers want us to feel about the Humphreys, especially Rufus and Dan. They're so awful most of the time. It's tough to get behind either of the epic on-again, off-again romances they're supposed to be involved in when you just want Lily and Serena to run far, far away from those creeps. During the holidays, the History Channel was running a Band of Brothers marathon and I watched some of it. There's a real cognitive dissonance watching Matthew Settle playing bad-ass supersoldier Spiers in that now that I'm so used to him as Rufus.

Last night's 90210: The New Class is still unwatched on the TiVo; I'm sure we'll get around to it eventually. I'm only marginally interested in it, but I understand they brought in some new writers and it's supposed to get better soon. Jeremy never had watched 90210: Original Flavor back in the day, and SoapNet runs two episodes a day. The first season rolled around towards the end of last summer, so we started TiVoing it. We're about halfway through Season 7 now. That's a LOT of 90210 to watch in a few months, but it's been more enjoyable than either of us expected. The nostalgia factor is high: every questionable fashion trend and hairstyle from my high school and college years; topical references stuff like the Whitewater investigation; tons of forgotten '90s singers like Donna Lewis playing their one hit at the Peach Pit After Dark. Yes, lots of it is stupid and ridiculous, but the members of the cast who stuck around for years and years make it worthwhile. They all seem like people who really have known each other forever and get along and horse around and have fun. I'll be glad not to spend 10 hours a week on it anymore when the series run concludes sometime in march, but it's been fun to watch.

Books: TWoP and Seagalogy

Like most people in the Houston/Galveston area, Jeremy and I spent a good chunk of last September without electricity following Hurricane Ike. We usually spend most of our free time at home watching DVDs or something on the TiVo, so when this option was taken away from us we were at a loss. Once the sun went down, we were like birds in a cage with a blanket thrown over it. Since we never were quite ready to go to sleep at 9pm, we decided to read to each other by flashlight since it generally was too hot to do anything but sit still. What did we decide to read? Books about movies and TV, of course.

We took turns reading. My pick was Television Without Pity: 752 Things We Love to hate about TV. It was written by Tara Ariano and Sarah Bunting, founders of Television Without Pity, or TWoP, as people who spend a lot of time goofing off on the clock already know. The book is pretty funny, even though I disagree with a number of their opinions on certain TV shows (The O.C. was awesome, and Richad Belzer rocked on Homicide. There, I said it.) and am mostly mystified by the entries about various reality shows since I've never watched them. Fortunately, the book is funny regardless. If you watched much TV between 1980 and 2005, you probably can get something out of it. Its greatest strength in the post-Ike period was that it's easy to read aloud in small increments using only a flashlight. It's also good for daylight car trips.

Jeremy's selection was Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal by Vern, a writer for Ain't It Cool News. Prior to reading this book, I never had watched an entire Seagal movie, although I had ridiculed brief clips from them if we ran across them on cable. Once we got our electricity back, I watched about half a dozen of them in short order. The book was a real surprise because while it's very funny and spends plenty of time discussing the weirdness and frequent shortcomings of the Seagal canon, it's not bashing the movies. It's definitely lighthearted, but the author takes the subject seriously. Vern is especially interested in how Seagal usually tries to work some left-leaning philosophies into his films, which is the polar opposite of most '80s and '90s action films. You will believe that an ultraviolent action movie can preach Buddhism and nonviolence! Well, almost. But Seagal's movies do tend to have messages involving nonviolence, questioning government authority, environmentalism, animal rights, and so on. The fact that these messages generally are delivered in the clumsiest, most ham-fisted way possible is the source of some of the book's humor, as well as some of the unintentional entertainment factor in the films, but the point is thet Seagal tries. He really does seem to want to make the world a better place, one broken bad-guy wrist at a time. I enjoyed the book a lot even though I hadn't watched any of the the movies; everything made sense, and I think the book will be a pleasant surprise for anyone who enjoys reading analyses of pop culture.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Still alive

I have neglected this blog for a long time, but it's a new year and I'm thinking of starting up again. Get ready for a bunch of posts about TV and/or movies I've watched and food I have cooked and/or eaten.

I took some time during my holiday vacation to reorganize my some of my kitchen cabinets and my pantry. We have a lot of cabinet space, but it's easy to bury stuff way in the back. This especially was a problem in the pantry, but I added some little wire shelves to the big ones to help use more vertical space and make the items more visible.

I got an AeroGarden (not sure that link is for the exact model I have, but close enough) and a Topsy Turvy tomato planter for Christmas. I have a spot on the front porch where I can hang the Topsy Turvy that should get enough sun. I've heard they work pretty well, and we use plenty of grape/cherry tomatoes, so I hope we get a bumper crop. The AeroGarden will be an interesting experiment. It's going to live on the breakfast nook table and hopefully provide us with lots of fresh herbs. This gives me an excuse to try out new recipes using whatever herbs I grow. I think I got the Italian herbs seed pack, so this may be the year I start making my own tomato sauce instead of just buying jars of spaghetti sauce. I'm supposed to be eating healthy and organic whenever possible to help combat my various health issues, so go AeroGarden. Or go as soon as I set it up, probably this weekend. If I get really industrious I'll take pictures and you, the hapless reader, can watch a totally legal hydroponic herb garden grow.

Or maybe my next post will be sometime in mid-2011. We'll see!