February 29th, 2020

children of dune - leto 1

food buying and preparing in review

Recipe Apps

Due to Pepperplate going to a subscription model, I went looking for an alternative.

I don't object to paying--I'm a software tester and currently head up mobile app testing, hell yes I know what kind of work goes into even a simple app--but I do object to doing it every month. I like buying apps; all the games I buy now but Pokemon Go are pay upfront and no in-app purchasing. Non-Game apps, if there's an add-free premium paid version, I upgrade. Pokemon Go is literally the only exception to this.

So, I bought Paprika 3 off Google Play, which is pretty much Pepperplate but without a working web interface (I think?). It does have a Windows program you can sync with but it's $29.99. And while I might quail normally, I have to admit I am at least going to try the trial and see.

(I am seriously tired of inventing my own versions of anything I need using spreadsheets and what is becoming some terrifyingly complex VBA scripts (and oh God so many subfunctions) that are sometimes half comments to explain what I'm writing, what it's subfunctions are, and why. I love coding but would like to go back to doing it recreationally for Agincourt and Pokemon Go and work and not to get through my life without forgetting rent or buying nothing but brownie mix and cotton candy grapes and computer parts.)

When I say it's basically Pepperplate, it is; there are some quirks, but nothing to write home about so far. It let me import everything from Pepperplate and there were a few oddities, but Pepperplate's import system often had some oddities that with some, I forgot to ever correct.

My biggest objections with pretty much all recipe programs (the ones with features) still stand, however.

Meal planning

Recipe apps really really like the daily calendar thing to do meal planning, you have to add a meal or meals to a day, which no.

a.) That's not how I plan, like, at all. I plan by month; this is what we're eating this month at some point. I don't want to add for a day; I have no idea if I'll have time, if Child and I are both home, if Doordash will give me 15% off and free delivery, or if bread and cheese is the limit of my functionality that day, okay?

b.) you can't just see a flat list of 'meals added for month'. You have to go day by day. See above.

c.) You can't manually add a meal without an attached recipe.

It's a taco kit; I do not need a recipe, I need a box and ground meat. Other variations: spaghetti, frozen gnocchi alfredo, tamales, Frozen family size lasagna, Frozen Marie Callender Because I Had Coupons and I Love Her Chicken Fried Steak and Turkey Dinners, Subs n'More Has Tamales This Week Hell Yes, etc. I don't need the recipe; I need them for my meal count. I need to be able to see Thirteen to Sixteen Confirmed Meals Of Some Kind, Yes, Including the Three That Are Just 'Sandwiches or Something'.

d.) no option for special meal planning or one time things aka Family Reunion Things, etc

The entire meal planning alone is just really outdated; I don't know anyone not in much higher income bracket than me who does planning at that level (and wouldn't they pay people to do that for them?). Even my mom during her (very few) SAHM days in the eighties didn't microplan three meals a day; she had a husband and three kids and hell yes, she planned, but she did it like I do, dinners for the month, and the only hard dates in there were ones with complicated shit, like her three hour prep for lasagna. When she went back to work, the same thing applied. And breakfast was planned at 'oatmeal, waffles, or cereal'. Fancy breakfasts were vacation or big family party territory and this is Texas, it didn't meed to planned: it involved eggs, two or more pork products, several variations on the basic potato, biscuits and gravy. Aka Special Meal Planning.

I mean, leave the option for the calendar if it makes you happy! But have a month list option and without dates. Yes I can do it on my spreadsheet, but if I do that there, I might as well do most of it there instead of glancing from phone to spreadsheet to confirm.

Add to Grocery List

I actually like this functionality but it has issues.

a.) It will add the same thing multiple times if the wording is slightly different and so far, I can't work out how to manually edit the grocery list after the fact. I can remove something before adding if I do it from the meals calendar page, but not condense.

Chicken broth and chicken stock are the same damn thing. Chicken bouillon is a form of chicken stock. A can of cream of chicken is the same as a can (14 oz) of cream of chicken and a can of condensed cream of chicken. 'Salt and pepper to taste' is not an ingredient. 'Garnish' is not an ingredient. 'eggs' and 'Eggs' are literally the same. I get it's being thorough so it gets everything, but a merge function or something would be good here.

Or even--I would love this--a grocery entry of "Chicken, Total 4 lbs" and you can click to open a sublist that breaks down your specific chicken needs there by recipe. Like, this way does reduce my workload--and it does list the recipe(s) for each entry on the grocery list--but not by very much. I'm currently in the process of going through my recipes and standardizing, but one day, someone is making a recipe app for me.

b.) Buying location options: I'd kill for that. HEB, Amazon Prime, Amazon Pantry, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Central Market, Trader Joe's, Instacart, Target, the list goes on. Yes, I know that would be a whole round of complicated, but seriously. I don't expect the local Latino/Mexican and Indian and Halal and Chinese and Asian markets, but when you have a major online presence that specializes in online grocery shopping, it shouldn't be this hard to comparison shop.

c.) Alternative: ability to manually edit grocery list entries with place/price. There are many local and many online options; when I see a good deal, I want to note it down if I cant' shop immediately. Sometimes it may be over by then, but the alternative is I'll forget it.

Food Shopping in General

Amazon Fresh finally came to Austin, and--it's not bad? Prices are reasonable and a pretty good variety. Mostly, though, the more Amazon encroaches, the more I hope HEB with level the fuck up already. They've had the time and funds; for decades, they had a practical monopoly over most of Texas, so it's not like they didn't have the money to get into this.

The smaller local grocery stories, especially the halal and Chinese and Indian and ones like M Mart--don't have a lot to worry about; they specialize in what you can't get anywhere else and if you can, it's not the same quality. The Mexican/Latino grocery stores are local to the community and also have really good prices; they chose for location to get their population perfectly, and again, you can't get most of it from online, and their only real competitor is HEB, who--to do them credit--do adapt their merchandise (and believe it or not, prices) to the community.

(In Austin, we have an HEB for four rough groups: Jewish people, Latino people/Mexican immigrants, upper middle class people who feel brand loyalty and/or want to save gas so don't want to go to Central Market or Whole Foods, and working to middle class (untyped). You know when you walk in: one has a massive Kosher section (in fresh foods, frozen foods, and meats); one sells nopales, tortillas made fresh in house, parts for tamales, fajita kits, and has special fresh cooked chicken caliente (hot chicken basically) you can buy with three sides (refried beans, rice, and corn or flour tortillas, optional jalapenos), and a three chickens for eighteen dollars deal (if you need the address, email me; you won't regret it, I too buy in bulk); one has stuff with French names and organics with Central Market labels and God's own produce section; and one has none of that and no one really wants to go there but that's what they have locally. When possible, we all go to one of the others. (We'd go to the upper middle class for steak, butter sales, boomerang frozen pies, and their produce section, then the local Latino HEB for actual groceries and dairy, ground beef, chicken, and pork, three to six fire chickens, tortillas and bread, and anything needed for barbecue or fajitas. The Kosher HEB had better beef than anywhere but was too far away for casual groceries unless we happened to be in the neighborhood.)

Part of my excitement that Amazon was piloting taking EBT (SNAP/food stamps) was that it might finally force the major food chains to play nice; they have dragged their feet with online delivery so damn much. Yeah, six years ago it was the province of those with money but how the hell they didn't look ahead and realize that was going to change fast blows my mind. Specifically--and Amazon is pretty much the only one who seems to get this--people using EBT with limited funds? Hell yes they'll comparison shop, note price gouging, and with free delivery--if amazon is willing to take the hit--they could get most people on Food Stamps who don't have a friendly local market that specializes to the community. (Wal-Mart is as close as I have to friendly local market; everything else is a minimum hour bus on weekdays and two hour on weekends. Yeah, no. I miss my local HEB and regular fire chickens like you have no idea.)

And I can't lie: the better it is for business (for Amazon, for major businesses) to get EBT money, the better protected the program is. If the free market can protect it, by God I will support it.

Creamy Tuscan Chicken

My new favorite dish; we make this twice a month now at Casa Jenn.


4 chicken thighs or 3 breasts
2 Tbs olive oil (can substitute regular oil, butter if you're experienced)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, granted
1 cup spinach, frozen or 2 cups fresh
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 box angel hair pasta or favorite pasta

1. Cut up or slice chicken into double the size of bite size. Think half the size of a chicken tender
2.) Heat olive oil and cook chicken for three to five minutes. You can also skip this and use leftover or precooked chicken, it literally makes no difference in flavor
3.) Remove chicken and set aside
4.) Add heavy cream, broth, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese to skillet (add butter or olive oil first if you had pre-cooked chicken and skipped two and three). Whisk until thick
5.) Add spinach and sundried tomatoes. If using fresh spinach, continue until spinach is wilted; otherwise, five minutes or so.
6.) Add chicken, heat thoroughly, then pour over pasta.


For leftover chicken, this is a fast meal, maybe twenty minutes prep time. Now, some suggestions.

1.) Sometimes, it won't thicken because food. Either create a roux with cornstarch or a white sauce base with three tablespoons butter and three tablespoons of sugar, then pour in some of the liquid above to start the thickening process.

2.) Check your sundried tomatoes; are they super strong flavored? Cut them up into quarter. I love them but the first time I had this, I left them whole and they really overwhelmed my taste buds.

3.) You can use whole milk instead of cream, but in that case, definitely make the roux or cream sauce first. If you're using 2% or 1%, add more butter and flour to get the fat up. If fat free or skim milk, check the flavor and if doing the cream sauce, you may need a roux anyway to get the thickness and flavor or start with a four tablespoon butter/four flour white sauce.

4.) Sub in broth for cream and you will need to create a white sauce (with broth) or roux.

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children of dune - leto 1

almost forgot

I replaced my laptop battery two weeks ago.

I knew it had gone bad, as batteries do. I had no idea how bad it had been getting before failure until I got the new battery (thank you ebay!) and realized that actually, it used to be able to hold a charge for 5+ hours in Balanced, not one and a half to maybe two hours at best in Power Saver. It's a whole new world.

Also I found in my battery settings I adjusted it to 'cool' settings which was hobbling performance. I have no idea why I did that or when but that does explain why I've been frustrated with performance along with dying battery.

Note: to be fair, I buy laptops that are overpowered; they're desktop replacements and I usually pick gaming machine specs with the highest CPU and either highest RAM or highest potential RAM; hard drive, don't care, I get the smallest because I usually replace it myself. So battery life will never ever be something to write home about, but still.

Also: finally, all Christmas-related items are now fully packed away, and I got a new cushion for my outdoor loveseat and am tentatively starting the move back to spending cool afternoons and evenings and (being me) nights on my porch instead of inside. I basically moved back inside ful time after Terrible August 2017, but when a 49.99 cushion appears before you on sale for around $13, that shit is a sign.

I need to put up the second set of porch blinds I bought when I moved in for the front left (first set and sunshade are up on the front right side) and get a new set for the left-left to block wind and get privacy at night, but it's shaping up. And a new outdoor rug, but only after doing a clean sweep. In April, I think I can also move some of my houseplants outside; currently, they colonize an end table hovering close to the sliding back door for indirect afternoon light, but I feel ambitious.

In August, I will have been here four years and will sign for a fifth year; I'm so glad I picked this place.

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