Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Convenient Spinach-Cheese Taco




In November, I had written about a convenient quiche that required only five ingredients. The convenient food item this time around is a spinach-cheese taco that requires only three items—really convenient and inexpensive for road warriors, vacationers, other travelers, relocatees, and folks at home. The only items required are a plate (paper or microwave-safe), a taco-sized tortilla, shredded cheese, fresh spinach leaves, and access to a microwave oven.

If you want to skip straight to the recipe, go ahead. For those who want to read how I got to this topic, continue reading. At a recent networking event, I was talking to someone (BT) when we got to talking about making bread. He said he makes his own—kneading AND baking. (Wow—especially coz we're talkin' about a GUY!) I thought it interesting that we segued to the bread-making process. (I do bread machine bread myself.)

We talked about the fluid temperature and how to achieve it. We talked about the kneading (push, fold, rotate partway, etc. vs. machine's paddle action), the dough rise, the punchdown, the second rise. We talked about dough-rise easiness but didn't conclude much. My bread machine is squarish, requiring a bit of vertical rise against gravity. With hand-processing, the dough can spread out to bigger areas more easily (oblong, flattened round), requiring less vertical resistance, I think.

During the bread discussion, BT then suggested I view a youtube video "George Egg Hotel Survival" . The description includes "how to cook tortellini and how to bake muffins, all in a hotel room using just what he find there". Regarding the bread discussion, the snippet of interest for me (kneading) occurs around the 48-second mark. We then talked about the spinach and tortellini entree. I personally didn't care for the looks of the results, but the dish appealed to BT.

George Egg claimed his meal would have run £22, but he spent only £4. I told BT about my convenient recipe that calls for spinach, cheese, and taco-sized tortilla, which can include an egg if so desired. BT started expressing hunger, as in "I'm getting hungry". Our conversation led me to thinking that the topic would make a good blog article. Here goes.

Spinach-Cheese Taco Recipe

Ingredients: Taco-sized tortilla, shredded cheese, spinach leaves.

Other items required: Plate (microwave-safe or paper), microwave oven, fork to fold taco as necessary and also use as a utensil to eat finished item with.

Procedure:

  1. Place tortilla onto plate.
  2. Sprinkle about an ounce of cheese onto the tortilla.
  3. Layer spinach leaves onto the cheese.
  4. Place plate into the microwave oven and heat on high for about a minute, rotating halfway through if there's no rotator. (The leaves will shrink down some.) Add cooked egg if desired. (Recipe follows.)
  5. Sprinkle more cheese onto the heated plate of ingredients.
  6. Microwave the plate about another minute, rotating as necessary. (If the last layer of cheese hasn't melted to your satisfaction, fold the taco halfway, then microwave an additional 20 seconds or so.)
  7. Eat it!

Spinach-Cheese Taco with Egg

If you want to add an egg to the meal, follow the steps below:

  1. Obtain another plate, container for stirring the egg, oil spray, additional cheese.
  2. Spray the oil onto the plate.
  3. Crack open the egg, pour it into the container and mix it.
  4. Pour the egg onto the oiled plate.
  5. Place plate into the microwave oven and heat on high for about a minute, rotating halfway through if there's no rotator until suitable doneness.
  6. Flip the cooked egg onto the spinach-cheese taco AFTER shrinking down the spinach in Step 4 of the upper recipe.
  7. Add more cheese (yes! more cheese!!!!!).
  8. Microwave the entire plate of items for melted-cheese doneness, rotating as necessary. (If the last layer of cheese hasn't melted to your satisfaction, fold the taco halfway, then microwave an additional 20 seconds or so.)

Burp.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Create Monthly Calendars for the Year

Did you get a 2010 calendar recently? Get one for a Christmas gift? Buy one for yourself? Bank give you one? Some other business give you one? Calendars used to be assumed freebies, which seemed to be in short supply this season. The other day, I asked a bank teller about calendars. She pointed out a small stack of pocketbook-sized ones. Well, it’s adequate for viewing month to month, but the cells measure only 1.2" wide by 1" high.

I decided to visit an online calendar utility for viewing and creating custom calendars. I wound up creating and printing out all 12 months for the year in landscape orientation, double-side printing them onto six sheets. This type of calendar is good for scribbling short notes on a month-to-month basis. I myself like the days-of-week column arrangement to reinforce weekly occurrences.

For making the calendar, I used a Firefox browser with PaintShopPro7 (PSP) graphics editor, and selected options at http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar. (The default view shows a 3-row by 4-column setup for an entire year, tweakable for preferences.) I experimented with the browser screen sizes for graphics capture, then previewed and tweaked the page setup in PSP for printing maximum cell sizes.

If you want to make your own monthly calendar, start at http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar and click Advanced customization. At the new screen, the critical selections are as follows:

  • Calendar period=1 month
  • Format=[your preference]
  • Add space for notes=[some vertical spacing per cell]
  • Main template=[your preference]

When done with selections, click Show calendar. For the rest of the procedure to set up and print the first month, YMMV. To prepare the browser to capture screens, I set my browser for maximum size; i.e., clicked the Maximize button (restored to full screen). To obtain more vertical viewing space, I turned off the navigation and status bars (browser view menu), and pulled down the task windowshade to close it.

To set my graphics editor to capture screens, I opened PSP and set it to use a cursor for dragging and defining a capture window.

An alternative to setting the browser for maximum and setting the graphics editor for windowing the area: Resize the browser so only the calendar appears, then set the graphics editor for Object capture. This setting enables capturing only the object inside the window.

To prepare the application to print, I set up page settings to Landscape and Fit to page. I then tweaked settings by unchecking Fit to page, and accepting the new default margins.

I created the rest of the months for the year by doing the following:

  1. Scrolled the browser upward until I saw the links for previous/next month.
  2. Clicked the next month.
  3. Scrolled the browser downward until I got the full view of the month.
  4. Captured and printed the months as I did for January.

Yup, I'm set up for the rest of the year now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sew What

I occasionally sew, although much less than I used to. (I mostly repair items or shorten overly long t-shirts for myself.) I assess if it's worthwhile to pull out the sewing machine and set up the spool and bobbin. If the job's too small, or if I feel I might risk mangling the fabric by using the sewing machine, I'll hand-stitch the item. Often, when I sew or think about sewing, I think about the term for someone or something who/that sews. I wonder why a person is not a thought of as a "sewer", but a "seamstress" or "tailor".

Sew-related—why has a sewing machine not evolved to become referred to as a sewer, as a washing machine has become referred to as a washer? For that matter, a machine that dries clothes used to be called a clothes dryer but is now commonly called a dryer. Maybe the topic of that particular machine never comes up except in the context of clothes, so using the single term "dryer" is enough.

The noun "sewer" has three main entries in the Merriam Webster online dictionary. What an unfortunate case of one word being spelled the same way, but meaning three different things, with the definition partially dependent on pronunciation!

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French asseour, literally, seater, from Anglo-French asseer to seat ­ more at assize
Date: 14th century
: a medieval household officer often of high rank in charge of serving the dishes at table and sometimes of seating and tasting
Date: 14th century
: one that sews
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from assewer, essiver to drain, from Vulgar Latin *exaquare, from Latin ex- + aqua water ­ more at island
Date: 15th century
: an artificial usually subterranean conduit to carry off sewage and sometimes surface water (as from rainfall)

In the written form, "sewer" requires context. I'm thinking that "sewer" has a built-in unpleasant connotation (sewage), effectively rendering the other definitions nearly irrelevant for acceptance. In the spoken form, both the pronunciations for sew and sewer (someone or something who/that sews) seem they should be spelled "soh" and "soher". The etymology goes way back, so (not sew fast) probably we will be stuck with sew much unpleasantness. (BTW, "sow" has its own set of definition, pronunciation, and part-of-speech issues, which I'll forego.)

"Seamstress" and "tailor" seem to be two main words associated with people who sew that don't conjure sniggers (silent or vocal) that "sewer" seems to. It seems there's a gender implicitness in using "seamstress" or "tailor" for someone who sews. A seamstress sews, although the root indicates the seam is the object of attention. The suffix is the feminine form—a girl or woman. Why isn't a male who sews commonly called a "seamster"? For that matter, "seamster" seems to be a term for someone who, uh, seams. "Tailor" is used for someone who creates, but also customizes clothes, and might actually sew. It seems that "tailor" implies a male occupation.

Returning to talking about "seam", a seam is only one specific part of an item that gets sewn. Anyway, I've never encountered "seam" used as a verb as I have seen "stitch" used. I never hear anyone referred to as a "stitcher", yet it seems "stitch" is a perfectly good word that fits the sewing topic. A "stitch" is a general term for a unit of the activity "sewing". To stitch is to sew—perfect infinitive, imho—even spells like it's pronounced. A stitcher can be someone who sews (no gender assignment) and sews any part or all of an item that has stitches—seam, collar, facing, interfacing, sleeve, cuff, armhole, yoke, lining, hem, skirt, pants, suit, ….

Sew what? Sew what you think you might want. In August, I had run across a recent article about sewing getting popular again ("Sewing surges in popularity"), which you can sink your teeth into. A notable excerpt is the following:

At Sew Crafty, students start with clutch purses ­ for male students "man bags" ­ and gradually move on to pajama pants and aprons. Despite the rules on the studio's wall, students are encouraged to let their imagination guide the stitches.

Maybe after reading the article, you'll be inspired to sink (or stick) pins and needles into a sewing project.

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