Monthly Archives: September 2016

Pre-Measured Ingredients and a Glass of Wine: My Kind of Cooking

Meal planning and preparation (not to mention cleanup) has always felt like such a burden to me. When I get in the zone, I love to cook, especially if I have a glass of wine. But the thought of planning a menu and shopping for it sends me over the top. Actually doing it practically puts me prone on the couch.

So when I got a coupon for $30 off homechef.com, I thought I’d bite (sorry). I figured that if, for that first week, I could get 3 gourmet meals for 2 for $60 less $30, even if it wasn’t that good, it would be worth it. When I signed up, they even gave me another $10 off. I thought I probably wouldn’t go beyond that first week.

Have you heard of homechef.com? I guess it’s similar to blueapron.com, but from looking at the meals, I suspect that homechef is a little more “gourmet” in flavor. Not sure if they have these companies outside of the United States.

The weekly shipment comes in a padded box with six re-usable ice paks (if you don’t want to keep them, you can empty them out into the sink as the contents are harmless). Each meal’s ingredients are bagged together, with the meats separate in sealed packages. Enclosed is a 9×11 cardstock recipe with photos and other interesting info for each meal.

So far, we’ve had grilled salmon and vegetables, pork chop with honey mustard cream and fingerling potatoes, pesto shrimp and pecorino grits, chicken with green peppercorn sauce, white bean and butternut squash stew with baguette (whole thing except the baguette was gluten free, and the baguette was packaged separately), Thai red curry shrimp, and chicken in cherry red wine sauce (with artichoke gratin). Each meal is enough to eat, although the gardener likes a lot of rice, so I added a little more for two meals–and added mashed potatoes to whichever meal came with mashed carrots. But, boy,was I in for a surprise. Mashed carrots are delicious! I hate cooked carrots as a rule, but now I know that it’s easy to mash them and totally change the flavor and, of course, the texture.

My sauce was too thin because I drank too much wine, but it tasted great anyway

You can choose meals based on gluten-free, low fat, low carb, and so on. When I wanted to find out if the stew was gluten free without the baguette, I emailed them and got a reply very quickly from the chef. Different chefs design the various meals. Every week is different.

Best yet, I can skip any week I want with no penalty–or cancel whenever I want!

Lots of pros to this for me–and mainly it’s the idea that I don’t have to find recipes, make shopping lists, or shop (which I detest). All I have to do is grab my glass of wine and cook for 25-45 minutes on any given night. I don’t have to buy more ingredients than I can use. How many times have you bought a jar of pesto only to use a small amount for a recipe, then figure you’ll use it up later, and it ends up going bad in the fridge? Or if not pesto, other things, right? All you are required to keep on hand is olive oil, salt, and pepper. The recipe cards even tell me how long the ingredients will last before cooking so there’s no guessing if the meat is safe to cook or not. Each meal  at full price (without the discount) is $9.95 per person which is not a bad price for a gourmet meal.

Any cons? Yes. I don’t eat pork, so I ate the other part of the meal, but the gardener said that the pork chops were not very good. He said it was hard to get good pork chops and suggested I not choose those again. With plenty of seafood, chicken, and veggie options, that won’t be a problem. They have beef, too, but I don’t eat that either. The produce is not the quality I like to buy. It’s adequate for the purpose, and it doesn’t affect the flavor of the dishes at all. But it’s not the sort of produce I would make a salad with. And the lime that came with the Thai shrimp was completely dry.

But the ease and the taste of this food is well worth it, to my mind. I’m not usually somebody who takes to “stuff like this,” but I’m enjoying the benefits to homechef.com.

If you want the $30 off discount, I can send you an invite (just let me know your email address). When you refer people they get $30 off–and so does the referring person (which would be me), so we would both benefit (hehehe, she chuckled).

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You can see from the slideshow that I completely forgot to take a pic of the gorgeous Thai shrimp because I was so excited to eat it. It was delicious. So was the stew which you can see in the slideshow.

Anyway, if you try it and hate it, maybe it isn’t right for you. But it works out perfectly for us–two people who don’t want a bunch of leftover ingredients cluttering the fridge. Every time I opened the fridge I used to hear them demanding to be used. Guilt guilt guilt.

What else is going on besides cooking? Work. Always plenty of that. Then, also,  I’ve been revising some short story drafts that have lingered on my computer. We’ll see how that goes. Kitties are well. Kana and Sloopy Anne like to play Hot Pursuit together.  Hot Pursuit is round and, when it’s turned on, has a stick with a toy attached that goes round and round. The cats like to lie on the stick and try to keep it from moving.

 

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Fiction, Food & Drink

Another Opportunity for a New (to me) Book

I was in California this past week, and I discovered a “little free library” in front of someone’s house when I was mailing some letters.

I’d never had the opportunity before, so I grabbed a book I was willing to give up and visited.

I donated an unread Anne Rice novel. I figured that I had had it and never read it, so it might as well be read by someone who would appreciate it. While I am fascinated by a lot of topics, vampires have never appealed to me. Maybe I’m afraid of them, not sure.

There were quite a few children’s books in this little library, but even with only a handful of adult books, I could see several that appealed to me. I picked the memoir about anxiety (I can sure use that and then I can pass it on to one of at least ten other people I know who could use reading it) by Daniel Smith, Monkey Mind.

These little libraries are such a positive affirmation of reading, sharing, education, and community spirit. The only drawback I can see is that adult books can fall into the hands of children–and, of course, there are inappropriate scenes in many of them.

I wonder what other people think about that concern . . . .

I finished the first book in the Dolls to Die For series. It was great fun, in part because Deb Baker pays such attention to setting, and that setting is Phoenix. In fact, Phoenix almost becomes a character in the story. The reader is given a lot of description of the climate and topography of Phoenix. Here she describes the aftermath of a monsoon storm: “Last night’s storm had moved toward the coast, and the arid desert heat had already begun to absorb the large quantities of fallen rain. In the next short, sunny hours, all evidence of flooding would evaporate, and the land would appear parched again.”

Because the book was first in the series (Dolled Up for Murder), I had a good time guessing which characters might become regulars in the series. The protagonist, Gretchen Birch, is young at barely thirty, but her aunt played a large role in the story, too. Nina, the aunt, is a purse dog trainer, meaning she trains tiny dogs to stay inside handbags so they can be sneaked (aka snuck) into restaurants and stores.

Another treat I finished was the entire six seasons of Downton Abbey. More, more! I became addicted, and now the whole world seems gray without it. Soon after I wrote my last post about Downton, I realized that Isobel Crawley was my absolute favorite character. I love them all, but she is the one I will miss the most.

But I am reading Monkey Mind already!

I hope your week is full of just the number of books that you have time to read. If you love books, you will know what I mean.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Review, Books, California, Fiction, Memoir, Reading, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Finding a New Cozy Series

The gardener and I visited our local used bookstore and loaded up a box. I know, I know. I’ve said I have a shelf and a half of unread books. I have a lot of want-to-read books on my Goodreads list. I’ve promised people their books will be read in the next phase. But the gardener was out of his books to read. He reads hardcover-only historical fiction, preferably in Asian settings.  Nothing too specific hahaha. I didn’t happen to have any of those on my shelf, so off we went.

Can you imagine me waiting around in a bookstore with discounted and sale prices and twiddling my thumbs?

All of this is to say It’s Not My Fault.

I thought I’d check out mysteries and poetry. I don’t even bother to look for memoirs because our store rarely has any in stock. Maybe people don’t give up their memoir copies as quickly?

In the somewhat lame poetry section, I found a Billy Collins book, so I grabbed that. But most of the rest were obviously cast-off textbooks/the classics–and I already have those.

In mysteries I had better luck. I prefer cozies. And of cozies I most prefer theatre (those are hard to find) and cats (those are easy to find) and retail shops (antique, book, etc.). What I never thought I’d find would be dolls!

And here they were: 4 wonderful mysteries of the Dolls To Die For series by Deb Baker. The entire short series right in front of me. And guess where they take place? Phoenix! (aka home)

So I brought them home where they are right at home.

When I lined them up with the doll buggy, I was reminded of a poem in Doll God. “Vintage Doll Buggy” was originally published in The Antigonish Review, a Canadian literary journal. I wrote this poem about war and innocence, focusing on a green doll buggy I’d seen in an antique store. But I happen to have two versions of that buggy–one pink and blue; the other red and white. In the poem you will see why I used the green buggy instead of mine.

 

Vintage Doll Buggy

 

 

“Every Boy Wants a Pop Gun”

— the company’s slogan. And

not just guns, but air rifles,

clicker pistols, caps.

They specialized in the arms

industry for boys in striped Ts.

 

How this paean to fertility

flowered in that factory, it’s hard

to figure.  Pre-war, maybe 1930s.

Pressed from Ford plant

scrap metal, like the guns.

 

The inside cups like a clam shell.

Like an embrace.  A sheath.

With a satin pillow, it’s a rolling

coffin, a time capsule.

 

When the fighting began,

the government banned metal

for toys.  The war effort claimed

even the green paint.  At the factory

they pressed en bloc clips

for the M1 Garand rifle.

 

Now its wheels bow out,

the green paint

chipped and dulled.

The yellow canopy still reverses.

A calm lingers inside as when

one fingers past a peony’s petals.

 

castle promotional cover

Click through to Amazon

Nancy Ann Storybook doll with pre-war doll buggy

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Filed under Arizona, Books, Doll God, Dolls, Fiction, Literary Journals, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry Collection, Writing

Labor Day: Lords and Ladies, Louisville, and Liminality

While we were in Louisville we visited the Frazier Historical Museum. It was particularly interesting for its history of Prohibition and bootlegging. They also had an exhibition of contemporary art by Louisville artist Julius Friedman. Not sure how that is historical, but it certainly was pretty.

 

I loved the glass cubes on a bed of glass shards.

This piece struck me as particularly liminal:

 

This weekend I discovered that PBS was going through the entire Downton Abbey series, and since I had never had time to watch it before and needed a break from work, I thought I would try to keep up with the help of my DVR. All was well until yesterday morning when my water heater caught on fire. So glad we were home!!! All is ok once it gets replaced–except perhaps for the odor which has permeated our clothes since the water heater is in our closet. This week it has to be replaced.

When I smelled the fire in the cabinet, I yelled for my husband and went in search of my 5 cats. I wanted them rounded up in case we had to vacate. The fire was caught in time, but the cats had adventures camping in the laundry room and half bath.

Still, I am well into season 3 and enjoying the show. Such great acting! Old news to most, I guess, but not to me ;). I know that Maggie Smith’s character is “everyone’s” favorite, but who else do you like best? I love Hugh Bonneville (who looks so like my uncle), Joanne Froggatt (Anna), well, I can’t keep listing because they are all so great.

The history of the show is fascinating because it is also quite liminal–that period between the “old day” and “modern day” captures the imagination. What a time to have lived.

I really do intend to get back to writing, but it has not happened yet. Still hanging out in that liminal space, I guess.

 

 

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Filed under Art and Music, History, Nonfiction, Photographs, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing