Aug. 16th, 2018


Meg Reviews Recipes: Potato Wedges with Sloppy Joe Topping

Source: Australia Women's Weekly Mince Favourites cookbook, p25; ISBN 186396490-8; (c) ACP Magazines Ltd 2006.

This one is another old favourite which I tend to pull out when I'm bored, when I'm just wanting something easy to cook, and when I'm wanting something sharp and sweet to eat.

The recipe basically tells you to make the wedges from scratch (chop a spud per person into eight wedges, grease with a bit of oil, and bake for about 30 - 40 minutes (or until done). You can cheat and substitute store-bought oven-bake potato wedges (follow the directions on the package), or you can substitute any other kind of carbohydrate substrate you fancy with the mince. I've tried rice on one occasion (with leftovers - worked out quite nice); served it up with garlic bread for my partner; and it would probably work quite nicely with some of the more chunky sorts of pasta, or even just plain old hot bread rolls.

Also, sprinkling a little cajun seasoning mix on the wedges turns out nice, although it did tend to get shouted down by the vinegar of the sloppy joe sauce.

The sauce itself can generally do with about half an hour of simmering time, just to make sure the flavours combine nicely. It's a pretty easy one to have the ingredients handy for - onion, garlic, celery, green capsicum, mince, a cup of tomato sauce (tomato ketchup, for my readers in the Americas), mild American mustard, cider vinegar, and some grated cheese to top it at the end (and that's pretty much optional, too).

If you have to pay attention to standing time, or you have upper arm issues, this recipe does require the fine chopping of the various vegetables (plus crushing of garlic), and it'll require a certain amount of standing and stirring while you're browning the vegetables and the mince. However, once you've added the tomato sauce, mustard and vinegar, and stirred everything together, it can be left to simmer on its own. It is possible to time-shift this recipe, by pre-making the sloppy joe sauce and re-heating it around dinner time, and cooking up the carbohydrate substrate at the point where you're re-heating things.

Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 1 - 3 out of 5. Really, this depends a lot on whether, like me, you're the type of person who tends to run through all their spoons in the morning, or if you're the type of person who has a bit of energy during the evening. If you're the first, then it's 3 out of 5, if only because it's one of those recipes where you either have to do some pre-cooking in order to have everything ready, or you have to reserve spoons for the evening. Otherwise, probably 1 out of 5, possibly 2 out of 5 if you're needing to consider standing times or chopping times.
Overall: 4 out of 5. This is a bit of a favourite in our household, because it's nice and easy, and it can be eaten with just about anything.
Considerations: Well, definitely don't feed this to a vegan unless you're replacing the beef mince with some other form of vegetable protein (in which case, hold the cheese on top as well). Check the ingredients on your mustard, tomato sauce and cider vinegar if you have allergies (not that you're not already doing this anyway), and choose substrate according to gluten tolerance specifications. Choose mince carefully to comply with Kosher and Halal standards, and for kosher, skip the cheese at the end.

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Aug. 12th, 2018


This Has Been A Week

Short summary: meltdown on Monday due to smoke alarms going off; panic attack on Tuesday due to social anxiety getting kicked good and hard; miseries, rampant brainweasels and depression on Wednesday and Thursday due to after-effects of Monday and Tuesday; further near-meltdown on Friday due to loud shouty encounter (not involving me, but clearly audible, and definitely something I Did Not Need at that point) in office of JobActive provider.

All of this after about three weeks of near-continuous rainy weather and cold temperatures in a house which as far as I can tell has NO insulation at all (built in approx 1920s, no serious upkeep or non-emergency maintenance since approx 1970s). Said house also has no under-cover drying facilities (in rainy weather, we dry our laundry on a rack in the main room of the house, and it takes about two to three days for things to dry out). Plus my depression has a seasonal component.

Plus of course the usual stresses of one class per day from Monday through Thursday (the tutorial on Thursdays is at 8am, which means I have to be out of the house by 7.30am in order to get there on time). Plus the additional fun this week of two appointments with various people at the JobActive provider's office on Friday, and dinner with the in-laws today. (This last would not be an imposition most weeks, but this week, it's definitely heading in that direction).

Thing is, none of these things on their own would be a problem. They became a series of problems because they were most definitely NOT on their own.

Basically, my brain has been throwing up "out of spoons" errors left, right and centre, and I am currently at the point where any kind of cooking more strenuous than making soup or putting something into the oven and letting it reheat is Entirely Too Much Work. Meanwhile the brainweasels all object to buying foodsicles from the shops (because " it's overpriced, you know how to cook that, you can't afford it, you should be able to do this" etc etc et bloody cetera) and throwing fits about me considering canned meals or packet mixes or whatever.

And for this weeks' fun anxiety-inducing thing, I also have two weeks worth of reading for university to do - the stuff I should have been doing over the past week, but haven't been able to due to brainweasels and out-of-spoons errors; and the stuff I have to do for next week, so I'm all caught up. Oh, and the weather turned cold (minimum yesterday was 2.7C) in the last couple of days.

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Aug. 9th, 2018


Meg Reviews Recipes: Continental Rich Beef Casserole recipe base

Another 40g sachet meal base. Again, got it from Coles (I prefer Coles to Woolworths in the grand battle of Australian supermarkets because firstly, Coles supermarkets seem to have a better range of products most of the time, and secondly, Coles has been the nearest supermarket to where I've been living in the past two rental properties. If I had to recommend supermarkets here, I'd suggest Coles first for range and price, IGA second for range, and Woolies a distant third after those two, because sometimes Woolies has products you can't get elsewhere. Aldi don't have a shop anywhere near me at present, so they're not being rated).

This one has the same problem as all other Continental recipe base sachets, namely that the instructions are apparently written in Flyspeck 3, and I need to pull out my reading glasses to be able to make sense of them. Which is annoying.

It's a pretty basic beef casserole recipe, where they ask you to add 500g of lean beef (I went with a couple of pieces of chuck steak, which isn't lean, but is cheap and good for casseroling), 2 sliced onions, 3 cups of halved mushrooms (I went with a 250g pack of sliced mushrooms instead), 2 sliced carrots, 1 1/4 cups of water, and two tablespoons of tomato paste to the recipe base. It's supposed to take about 1 1/2 hours to cook if you use rump or topside as your beef; I chose to do things in my "slow-cooked in the oven" fashion, where it's cooked on a high heat for an hour, then turned down and simmered for the rest of the afternoon. They do say the recipe can be cooked in a slow cooker (I suspect the answer there is basically "cut the water content down by half", because slow cookers are very good at retaining liquids). The advice is to serve it with mashed potato and broccoli - I'm going to be doing the mashed spud, but skipping the broccoli, because Himself won't eat it, and I therefore see no point in paying about $4 per kilo (current price at Coles) for the wretched stuff only to throw it in the bin. The recipe method is "put all the solid ingredients - beef, onion, mushrooms, carrot - into a casserole dish; combine the recipe base, water and tomato paste and pour over, then bake for 1 1/2 hours at 180C" - it is very hard to mess this one up.

Once it's cooked up, there is a lot of gravy. This may be the fault of me using sliced mushrooms rather than whole - I know mushrooms shed their juices like it's going out of style. So, provide lots of mashed spud, or crusty bread, or even rice or pasta, to soak up the excess. Next time I cook this, I might just try a single cup of water, rather than a cup and a quarter. The overall taste is good - it's nothing fancy, but it's a nice reliable beef casserole, and something easy enough to whip up in the morning when you're in need of a decent meal that evening. Himself quite liked it, in as much as I could get a coherent opinion out of him ("yum" doesn't really tell me much).

The cooking can be time-shifted either by doing the "slow cook in the oven" trick, the "straw box" trick (bring casserole to a boil early in the morning, take from oven, place entire casserole into a box tightly filled with insulating material - traditionally one used straw for this; I've had good results from using scrunched up newspaper - and leave, covered in insulating material, for the rest of the day, before bringing it out and reheating if necessary), or just using a slow cooker to cook things up. Or, conceivably, you could do all the prep in the morning, pop the whole thing into the bottom of the fridge for the course of a day, and bring it out to put into the oven as soon as you got home - it'd probably need a bit more cooking time than shown on the packet, maybe about 2 hours, but still do-able.

Skill Level: 0.5 out of 5. If your kid is old enough to be trusted with a sharp knife to chop up meat and vegetables, they could put this together as a very early effort at making dinner for the family.
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 4 out of 5, mostly for the inconvenience of having to take off my seeing glasses and fetch my reading glasses in order to be able to render the instructions even vaguely legible. Seriously, Continental, a larger font would definitely help here. Australia does have that ageing population thing - larger print might expand your market!
Overall: 4 out of 5
Considerations: The package (once you put on your reading glasses or get out the magnifying glass) warns for wheat and soy, and also points out this is made on equipment which also processes products containing milk, peanut, egg, sesame, fish and crustaceans. If serving to vegans, perform protein substitutions as required. Don't serve this to people allergic to onions, mushrooms or tomatoes. Probably neither Kosher nor Halal - certainly I can't see any indications it might be - so if you're planning on serving something like this to a friend who keeps either of those dietary codes, check with them first.

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Aug. 8th, 2018


All Bingo Fairytale challenge

gifted item commoner lost/ abandoned needed travel wise/ learned person
rhyming commands speaking backwards cold iron natural disaster travel companion
guide made of wood FREE SPACE student/apprentice baked magic
urban setting strange visitor modern wilderness sweetest honey magician
mentor errand clay life law/ decree lost item

Let's see if I can get this done. >.> I have a new OTP of Kurosaki Ichigo/fem!Zack Fair. So be prepared for that.

Aug. 5th, 2018


Reflections on Jobsearch

I'm starting to think a police clearance (formal notice from the police department that I don't have a criminal record, and that there are no charges pending against me) is basically a component added to job ads for classist (and possibly racist) reasons first and foremost. When you're asking people to have a police clearance (which, the last time I applied for one, several years ago, cost about $60) which is current to within the last three months, what you're basically saying is "I don't want anyone to apply for this job who isn't able to throw away at least $60 every three months on a new piece of paper just to be able to eligible to apply for jobs". It's a way of filtering out the poors.

(To put this in perspective: something else that costs me $60 is two weeks worth of food for one person. So I'm expected to spend the equivalent of my fortnightly food budget every three months, just to obtain a piece of paper intended to show I'm acceptably middle-class).

In a country like Australia, where there is a lot of institutional prejudice against our Indigenous population, and where cultural clashes lead to a higher rate of arrest, charges and imprisonment for Indigenous people (particularly Indigenous men) asking for a clean police clearance (again, a maximum of three months old) is basically saying "no Indigenous need apply", despite whatever the "diversity" statement down the bottom of the ad might be proclaiming about the company welcoming applications from Indigenous people.

Now, I'm reasonably certain this didn't start out as a conscious thing - I've certainly started to notice it a lot more in the last five years - but rather as a way of filtering down the number of applications employers are receiving for every open position. I'm getting little statements from Seek every so often which are telling me "your application doesn't look like it's going to progress any further", and those mention how many applications the employer received via Seek alone - and I've not seen one with a number lower than 200 yet. I got to the interview stage at one employer recently, and they mentioned they'd picked me for interview out of about 200 applicants. There's a lot of these filtering tactics showing up these days - closing dates for applications which are incredibly close to the date of advertising (like, maybe a week); requesting 3 - 5 years of previous experience in the role or something similar; and so on.

Funny, really - I mean, the government trumpets how much they're doing for job creation and such... but there's still over 200 applicants for every position I'm trying for, and I'd suspect the bulk of them are people who are already in jobs, who are looking for a different job, or (since I'm applying primarily for part-time work) for a second job to make ends meet. Which means effectively a lot of the "job growth" in the past few years has instead been a case of musical chairs - people moving from one position to another, and employers only advertising positions when the music stops, so to speak.

(Or in other words, yeah, I've been doing my jobsearch. Again. Things really got a lot easier for me since I stopped expecting to actually get something out of this endless hoop-jumping other than more of the same again next week).

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February 2011



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