Monday, December 12, 2016

Spicy Beef Stew: An Instant Pot Story

Twenty-nine minutes to NOM!
On Thanksgiving last, I came home about 10:00pm from dinner out with my family in Poulsbo to find water pouring into my condo through every conceivable spot in my kitchen and living room ceiling. Turns out my upstairs neighbor turned on the tap in his kitchen sink and forgot about it for hours. The upshot of that is that I'm living in the Marriott Residence Inn for about six weeks while my home is repaired. It's a lovely place and it has a functioning kitchenette, but no real oven. My cooking repertoire leans heavily toward the grill and the oven, so I was feeling a bit out of luck.

My beloved friend Hippy Goodwife had recently joined a cult purchased an Instant Pot, which is a very fancy multi-function gadget that is simultaneously a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté pan, and other things I'm sure. I was intrigued with the possibility of using it here in the hotel, so having unexpectedly received an Amazon gift card, I settled on the smallest size of the current product, the IP-DUO50.

While I waited the 24 hours for it to arrive I studied the bazillion recipes you can find online just by typing "Instant Pot r" into Google. It seemed that most people's first essay in Instant Pottery was beef stew, so I gave that a try. I read through five or six recipes and then decided that I knew better. Shocked?

I just finished slurping down my third bowl and felt the need to share the recipe with you all before collapsing in a heap on the gorgeous king-sized hotel bed.

Seumas' Instant Pot Spicy Beef Stew

Serves two full-sized gays generously.

  • ~ 1 lb chuck roast cut in cubes by the handsome butcher at your local grocery store
  • 1 cup onions diced for you by the staff in the produce department
  • 1 tablespoon diced garlic from a jar because who has time for that
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 2 dashes worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • ~1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup carrot slices
  • 1 cup mushroom slices
  • 4 new potatoes cut in quarters
  • 2 stalks celery cut into one inch sections
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper and coat the beef cubes while you heat up the Instant Pot on the sauté setting. Add the cold oil and beef to brown on all sides. Add the onions and garlic and stir until the onions start to soften. Turn off the Instant Pot.

Puree the tomatoes and jalapeño. Add the remaining flour mixture and worcestershire sauce. Add enough red wine to bring the total fluid to two cups. Add to the beef / onion / garlic mixture and deglaze the bottom of the cooking pot. (that's fancy cooking talk for scraping the stuff off the bottom that got stuck)

Add the beef stock and the vegetables. Put the lid on the Instant Pot – it beeps to tell you if you did it right and won't let you go any further until if you don't. A very nice safety feature.

Push the button marked "Meat / Stew" and go find something to do for about 45 minutes while the Instant Pot heats up, cooks for you, then cools down and depressurizes.

The damn thing even keeps your food warm for you if you forget about it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Project 53: The Pirate of Mens Pants

Five pair of jeans, light blue, red, dark gray, dark blue and medium gray.
I made seven pair, but these five are the best.
Groan if you must, but it was either that or Lord of the Pants. Anyway, Back when I made my Black Velvet Pants I thought I had the whole trouser thing down pat, but when I tried to make myself some jeans, I realized that the geometry for pants is quite different from that of jeans. I went through eight different versions of the pattern before I got the fit just right.

Light blue and red jeans with printed pockets turn out.
Sassy pockets!
Having succeeded with the pattern drafting, I went to town and made a bunch of them. I can now proudly declare that when I step out my front door, I'm almost always wearing my own jeans!

Along with getting pretty good at sewing a fly with a zipper shield, I've settled on my signature move in jeans; Sassy pockets! I pick up a couple quilting remnants (called fat quarters) in a print that I like and make the pocket bags out of them. I'm usually the only one who sees them, but I think they're really fun.

detail of zipper shield in fly.
Fly with zipper shield. Pretty close to RTW!
Speaking of sewing a fly, I watched a bunch of videos and read tutorials but ultimately I figured out my own way of doing it that I actually think is better than anything I read or saw on YouTube. I may have to make my own video about sewing a fly in my spare time.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ding! Level 50

Pearrygin Lake
Another year over and it's time to answer the Birthday Questions again. I spent an extended long weekend with Doug, Lance, Deena, Suzanne and their parters and kids camping out at Pearrygin Lake State Park near Winthrop, Washington so this is a little late.

What was the most difficult thing you faced while 49?

Without a doubt, it was the realization in early 2016 that I had slipped back into a depression and that it was manifesting very differently than before; as anger. After I got back from my wonderful Christmas trip back to Cleethorpes and no longer had that out in the future to distract me I started to find myself getting into pointless, unnecessary conflicts with people. Some of them very important and beloved people. After the third or fourth incident I started to feel like something was wrong with me, since I was the only common factor in all the scenarios. I'm happy to report that just naming the problem has given me the power to at least control myself when the anger arises. I'm working on more durable solutions, but that's a story for another time.

What was the best thing that happened while you were 49?

Aunt Betty, and two daughters, one granddaughter,
and four great granddaughters of my Uncle Eric.
The moment that I became a UK citizen in my Mum's hometown with my aunt Betty and cousins Karen and Dave there. I became aware in 2014 that the UK had changed their citizenship laws so that the foreign-born children of British mothers could apply to be recognized as citizens. The foreign-born children of British fathers have always been citizens from birth. Apparently citizenship flows more easily through a penis than a vagina, or something like that. Anyway, I began the application process and one of the requirements was that within 90 days of being approved you have to attend a citizenship ceremony in the UK. I used the magic of Google to find out how long the application process usually takes and counted on my fingers and toes. If all went well, I could combine the trip for the citizenship ceremony with my long-wished for trip back to Cleethorpes to spend Christmas with the English side of the family. There were a huge number of variables, of course, and my approval didn't come through until a week before I got on the plane, but the kind folks at the Northeast Lincolnshire Council accommodated me. Since Doug has been a UK citizen from birth through his father, we now have a shared citizenship and the possibility of living and working in Scotland someday.
Aunt Betty and Uncle Tom, cousins Karen and Dave Suthern,
and their daughter Kelly.

What do you hope to achieve while you're 50?

When I retired from the Board of Slighe nan Gaidheal last October, I decided that I would not accept any new projects until my Three Great Quests were achieved. Firstly, finish Mum's estate. Secondly, finish my second CD, and lastly get married. Will I achieve all three this year? Who knows?
I'm going to close this post with a quote from the birthday card that my loving, patient future husband wrote to me.
Just a reminder… 
Cousins Lynn and David and their grandson, Corben
Welcome to 50, Love – it's way cooler than it looks. You get to be you. You give up a few things that it turns out you weren't going to be, and then you find out they were blocking your view of who you are.
And you're fabulous.
My younger cousin, Mark 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Project 52: Black Velvet Pants

Back in 2014, when I made myself a new set of ritual robes to wear at our godson's Wiccaning, I bought a whole bolt of the main fabric to reduce the per-yard cost. The rest has been sitting in a corner of my bedroom gathering dust until this weekend. I have made several attempts previously at creating a custom pants pattern for myself, but met with no success. The geometry simply evaded me over and over again.

I wound up taking an online class from the makers of Garment Designer and that helped clear up some of the mysteries. I didn't realize that the basic shapes for pants inside the software were so far from the final pattern shapes. It took about nine trial runs making muslins out of remnant fabrics from other projects before I felt confident with both the fit issues and the complex structure of a cut-on fly with a zipper shield to try it for reals.

This weekend, though, it finally worked. I made myself a pair of pants from the same black cotton flocked velvet as my ritual robes. The fit isn't quite perfect yet. The waist is about a half inch too big, but the next generation of pattern will be completely perfect. In addition to the zippered fly, this was my first venture into patch pockets for pants. It was a bit tricky at first, but I got the hang of it. The front pockets are little narrow, but I've already re-drafted those pattern pieces for the next pair.

These are a pair of take-me-out pants if there ever was one. So, who's going to take me out in them first? Applications are being accepted.
Fly front from audience

Sassy pockets

Fly from operator perspective

Sassy pockets during construction