Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tilapia With Almond Parsley Gremolata

Tilapia's Revenge: This Time, It's Baked!

The weekend. It's a time for relaxation, reflection and re-decorating the dining room. After putting together a bazillion dining room chairs and stationing them around a new dining room table, it was time to actually use this new furniture. And that's when it was announced that we'd be having tilapia from Hello Fresh again. After the mediocre Valentine's Day offering from Hello Fresh, I was apprehensive about having another tilapia meal from them. But, this particular meal had two things going for it:

  1. The tilapia would be baked this time and not pan-fried. 
  2. This meal would not be prepared by me. 

You gotta love the description: "Fishing for a delicious, sea-faring meal? We’ve got just the thing. Flaky tilapia fillets are rubbed with a bold seasoning blend, then roasted to perfection. Once they emerge from the oven, they’re drizzled with an enchanting sauce known as “gremolata.” In it, there’s fresh parsley, crunchy toasted almonds, garlic, lemon, and olive oil. On the side, there’s roasted green beans and buttery Israeli couscous. Yeah, that’s a whole ’lata weeknight goodness."

Joke's on you, Hello Fresh, we were going to be eating this stuff on a weekend! And we didn't need some kind of fancy mathematical conversion rate from weeknight to weekend in order to calculate our enjoyment. No! We'd be diving right in and we'd be the once to decide whether or not this contender would knock our taste-buds out. 


I liked this one a whole lot better than the Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia from last week. I've never been a huge fan of couscous, so I swear that these meal kit companies must be infusing them with crack before shipping them because I just can't get enough. The tilapia was good enough that I'd actually have it again or attempt to make it on my own.

Monday, February 24, 2020

First Alert 2-in-1 Z-wave Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector

In some ways, I feel like I've betrayed Nest Protect buy purchasing the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm. It's not you, Nest Protect, it's me. You're absolutely brilliant in my common areas like the kitchen and the bedroom hallway, but, for smaller settings like bedrooms and the home office, I think that the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm is a better solution. It's cheaper, smaller, and it doesn't connect directly to my wi-fi.

Of course, the real test of a smoke detector is how it operates when there's a fire and/or when there's carbon monoxide. I'm not UL certified, so I won't be running field tests on this thing. And neither should you. So, the best I can say is that the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm connected to my SmartThings hub easily and it was a simple thing to install it in all the places that it needed to go. I hope that the time never comes when I need to test its functioning. But, I sleep a little better at night knowing that its there.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia

Ah, Valentine's Day. It's a day for exchanging Hallmark cards with your special someone and wolfing down a special dinner. I thought it would be a romantic gesture for me to handle Valentine's Day dinner, so, while the kids got a heart-shaped pizza, I looked to Hello Fresh for a meal idea that I could make without worrying about whether or not it would actually be good. And nothing says "romance" quite like Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia with Buttery Coconut Rice & Green Beans, right? Don't answer that.

Of course, I was taken in by the description: "Want to take your taste buds on a trip to the tropics? We’ve got just the thing. This dish has warm and sunny flavors guaranteed to brighten up dinnertime. First, flaky tilapia is rubbed with golden-hued turmeric. After crisping up in the pan, it’s served alongside fluffy brown-sugar-simmered rice tossed with toasted coconut flakes and lime zest. There’s also a side of steamed green beans for a bright crunch. For a dynamic finish, the fish is drizzled with a ginger, shallot, and cilantro-flecked pan sauce. Now all you need is someone to bring you a piña colada!"

Well, instead of piña coladas, we went with Moscow Mules. But, who wouldn't want to take their taste buds on a trip to the tropics, especially in this cold, miserable weather? My work, studies and parenting duties demand that I stay close to home in-season, but, darn it, my taste buds were packed and ready!

In all seriousness, I think I kinda messed this one up. The tilapia fell apart and I botched the reduction. Plus, massaging turmeric into the tilapia left me with yellow fingers for the entire weekend. But how did it taste? Meh. It was okay, not spectacular. My girlfriend was a real trooper and choked down most of her tilapia like a good sport. Now, whether this lackluster dinner was the result of a design flaw or a launch failure is up for debate. Either way, this isn't something I'd have any desire to try to re-create on my own.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Insurance Scammer Says My Name Again

Another car insurance scammer called recently trying to get me to switch my insurance company to some fly-by-night scammer insurance carrier. When asked who my current insurance company was, I said "Zoo Station" insurance. The scammer then asked me if I had any DUIs. I said that I had had six and that I was due for another. "Due for a DUI" I said jokingly. When asked my name, I replied with the usual "Heywood Jablowme" and asked the insurance scammer to say it back to me. It took a few attempts, but when he finally did, I told him that he wasn't my type.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Crispy Monterey Jack Chicken

By Tuesday, it already seemed like it had been a long week. I've moved to a new, private office at work, had a ton of papers to grade, started work on a faculty lecture, had to medicate the dog's ears and started planning our Spring Break vacation. All things considered, dinner wasn't high on my list of things to think about. Good thing there's Hello Fresh.

This weeks box included Crispy Monterey Jack Chicken. It's also known as Monterey Jack Un-Fried Chicken, because you bake it in the oven rather than fry it in a pan. The description, which includes the promise of a quick prep and cleanup, sounded like it was exactly what I was looking for: "Crispy chicken is always a recipe for success. Add melty Monterey Jack and Ranch seasoning to the mix and you’ve got yourself a winning dinner. Once baked, the cheesy panko crust turns golden brown while the meat stays juicy and tender. The crunchy cutlets are served with sriracha-spiked mayo and sides of buttery green beans and crispy potato wedges. If this all sounds complicated—it’s not! 35 minutes is all you need for this delicious dish to land on your table."

I did most of the prep work right when I got home from work. I then put everything in the fridge for a few hours while I did some work from my home office. When dinner time approached, I kicked on the oven, put everything in and cleaned up while everything cooked. The end result garnered mixed reviews.



While the chicken was very tasty, I was personally a bit disappointed with the size of the portion. It's a pretty measly breast cut. In contrast to that, I felt that there were way too many green beans. Maybe this is an indication that we need more vegetables in our lives, but, I ended up saving about a quarter of these for lunch the next day. The potato wedges were okay, but not spectacular. I'm told that I needed to put more oil on them in order to crisp them up.

This is a meal that I would likely make on my own, though I would probably go with mashed potatoes or even a Little Potato Company product for the side next time.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Honeywell Z-Wave Light Switch

I've learned a number of things in my home automation journey:

  1. If the Roomba is missing, it's probably under the couch
  2. No matter how perfectly you schedule the thermostat, someone will adjust it manually on a whim. 
  3. Twisted pair switches are too big of a pain in the rear.  
Three of the four Geeni TAP Smart Wi-Fi Light Switches that I have installed in the bedrooms have been slowly falling out of their housings over the last year. This has been largely due to heavy use and the fact that the large wire couplers (one for load, one for line, and one for neutral) used to bind all the wires together took up so much space in the housing that I couldn't screw the switch in entirely. So, I decided to replace the wi-fi switches with Z-wave switches because they're less bulky thatn wi-fi switches. And, since Z-wave switches don't directly connect to a wi-fi router, I would also be able to cut down on the traffic on my home automation wi-fi channel. I've already got a Phillips Hue Z-wave hub, so I looked for switches compatible with it. If there are any, they are difficult to find. So, I broke down and bought a SmartThings Hub and purchased some Honeywell Z-Wave light switches.

There's a lot to love about the Honeywell Z-Wave light switch, not the least of which is the fact that it has receptacles for your existing wiring rather than requiring you to twist pairs together. But, even better than that, the Honeywell Z-Wave light switch can automatically detect your load and line wires, so you don't have to worry about screwing those two wires into the right port (just so long as you don't put either in the "neutral" port). They're also two-way compatible out-of-the-box, so that's a plus, especially since I have some more two-way switches that I'd like to add to my home automation plan.

I had each of these switches installed in less than five minutes, and it only took another minute to get my SmartThings hub to recognize them. There was plenty of space to fit the switches into their respective switch boxes and I was actually able to screw them in, which was a nice chance of pace. No more worrying about switches falling out of the wall.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Chicken & Cranberry Currant Pan Sauce

Nothing says "Date Night" better than cooking a meal together, so the girlfriend and I endeavored to make a Hello Fresh meal together. Out of the three that had been shipped to us, we decided to go with the Chicken & Cranberry Currant Pan Sauce with Scallion Couscous & Zucchini. The description provided by Hello Fresh seemed enticing: "You know those special sauces that make just about anything taste delicious? Meet your new favorite: cranberry-currant pan sauce. Currant jam brings a sweet, earthy taste while dried cranberries turn up the texture and tanginess. Spooned over juicy seared chicken breast, alongside a heap of scallion-flecked couscous and tender, roasted zucchini, this dish is sure to satisfy. Talk about a square meal bursting with winter flavor." At only 650 calories, it seemed like it would be a tasty, yet somewhat healthy meal to eat before hitting the couch to watch Napoleon Dynamite.

The zucchini was decent but forgettable, the tang of the cranberry-currant sauce was interesting but not overwhelming and the couscous was a great pairing with the chicken. It's a meal I would likely try to make on my own outside of Hello Fresh, though I would try to do something else with the zucchini.



Monday, February 3, 2020

Jeppson's Malort

During our Starbuck's Reserve Roastery adventure a few weeks back, we tried the Roastery Boilermaker which features malort, a Chicago staple alcohol that is so bad, few in their right mind would drink it straight. The Roastery Boilermaker mixes the malort with a lot of other things that mask malort's oddly pungent flavor, yet, my girlfriend was very insistent on trying malort straight. Though technically a bask, malort is very much like a wormwood flavored schnapps. Some aficionados swear on it as a remedy for stomach cramps and digestive issues.

I'm not unfamiliar with the stuff. My grandfather used to choke down a shot of malort after a rough day. He said it was akin to getting a slap back to reality. My mother and my grandmother always warned us that malort wasn't something we would ever want to try if we valued our taste buds. Yet, my siblings and I all kicked back a shot of the stuff at my grandmother's funeral back in the late 90s and I recall it tasting so bad that I wanted to follow her into the grave afterwards.

This weekend, I acquiesced to my girlfriend's whim and decided to pick up a bottle of malort from my favorite South Side liquor store. When I brought it up to the clerk, she asked me if I had intended to play a trick on somebody with it. When I informed her that it was for intentional drinking, she laughed and wished me luck.

Let me tell you in no uncertain terms: This stuff tastes terrible. It's distilled sadness. It goes down with the flavor of pencil shavings fermented in gasoline, which is bad enough. But, it's the aftertaste that gets you. It's like pencil shavings fermented in gasoline that have been set on fire. My girlfriend instantly regretted trying the stuff and likened it to drinking liquefied tree bark. I've still got almost an entire bottle left and have been trying to think of concoctions that might mask most of the malort flavor. Perhaps some kind of Moscow Mule knockoff involving grapefruit and a few shots of Old Style. One might call it a "Chicago Cow".

Malort has gotten quite a reputation with hipsters in the area and has become somewhat popular at a number of area bars. So, Malort is seeing a bit of a resurgence. All they need now is a cool advertising campaign with a catchy slogan to appeal to the masses. Perhaps something like "Had A Rough Day? It Could Be Worse: Jeppson's Malort".