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Weather in Tucker, GA

Warm Spinach Salad Dressing

Recipe for the dressing since, uh, there’s no prep to spinach in a bag! LOL I bought the pecans toasted/salted or a sweet candied pecan would be awesome, too.

Warm Spinach Salad Dressing
olive oil
2 Tbl diced pancetta
1 small shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 medium creminis, halved then sliced (small pieces)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
juice of one orange
2 Tbl sherry vinegar
1 Tbl honey
1 tsp sugar
prewashed spinach
toasted/salted pecans (or candied would be good)

In a small skillet, put a couple of turns of olive oil and pancetta, then turn on med low heat. Render the pancetta for about 8-10 minutes until it starts to crisp. When it’s crisped, add in the shallot and garlic – keep an eye on the heat so as not to burn your aromatics. When the shallot and garlic have softened, add in the creminis and cook for 2-3 minutes. When mushrooms have given off their juice and have gotten soft, add S/P. Then add the juice of one orange, vinegar and honey. Stir and taste for sweetness. My orange wasn’t very sweet, so I added the extra sugar. Let this cook down for another 2-3 minutes then kill the heat and let it stand for 2-3 minutes.

I always cut up and removed the stems of my spinach before I plate it. I hate big pieces. Put the prepped spinach in bowls and top with a few pecans. Pour warm dressing over the salad. I also dressed the spinach with just a turn of olive oil.

This is enough for 3 small salads or two large ones.

Angela’s Cabbage Rolls

This is my spin on the traditional cabbage roll. I suppose it’s more Mediterranean since I added lamb, but this is generally a standard recipe. I did not get pix for this one, sorry! They look like any other cabbage roll! These are low calorie and very tasty. We had just one roll and potatoes for dinner and were satisfied for around 300 calories.

Lamb and Beef Cabbage Rolls

8 leaves of savoy (or regular) cabbage, blanched
1/2 lb ground beef, 90/10
1/2 lb ground lamb
olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp each salt & pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbl Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 egg
1 small can tomato sauce
1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes (I like fire roasted)
1 Tbl Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbl brown sugar
1/4 cup beef or chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375F. Put a 4qt pot of water on to boil with 2 tsp salt.

Put some olive oil in a skillet and sweat the shallot, onion and garlic over med low until translucent, about 5 mins. Set aside in a bowl. In the same pan, put tomato sauce and tomatoes with sherry vinegar, paprika, pepper, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and 1 Tbl of aromatics over low heat.

Pull off 8 leaves of cabbage and remove the thick part of the stem. When water boils, turn to simmer and toss in the leaves for about 1-2 minutes, until they become very green and translucent. Pour into colander and rinse with cold water. Hold.

Mix together meats, herbs, spices, vinegar and egg. Add cooled aromatics. Mix until combined, but don’t overmix or the meat will be dense.

Spray 9×12 baking dish with nonstick spray. Put about 1/2 of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Add stock to remaining sauce in skillet and turn off heat.

Roll each cabbage leaf with about 1/4 cup meat mixture. Start at the stem end and roll like a burrito, folding sides in. Place in baking dish, seam side down. Don’t overfill these or they’ll pop. You should have just enough filling for 8 rolls.

Pour remaining sauce over rolls. Cover tightly with foil and bake for an hour.

I served this with roasted baby potatoes. Cut potatoes to bite size, toss in olive oil, season with steak seasoning, roast at 425F for about 15 minutes. The potatoes are about 120 cals per cup with 3gr fat and 15gr carbs. Approximately.

According to Livestrong, the nutrition for 1 roll + sauce is:
Cals: 174
Fat: 9gr
Carbs: 9gr

Another Amazing Lamb and Barley Stew

This recipe is different from the previous lamb and barley stew recipe in that it has tomatoes and I used part of a boneless leg of lamb rather than chops. I think this is even BETTER than the first recipe, which is why it’s called Awesome! :)

Awesome Lamb and Barley Stew

Awesome Lamb and Barley Stew

Awesome Lamb and Barley Stew

~2 pounds lamb roast (leg or shoulder), cleaned of all visible fat and cut into 1-2″ dice
3/4 cup flour for dredging
2 tsp dry mustard
S/P: 1 tsp each
1/2 cup red wine
2 Tbl butter
2 med onions, 1″ dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl tomato paste
Bouquet garni: 5 thyme stems, 2 4″ rosemary stems, 3 bay leaves tied with butcher twine
2 carrots, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup barley
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 Tbl sherry or champagne vinegar

Heat a large dutch oven over med hi. Cover bottom with EVOO. Mix together flour, mustard and S/P in a bowl and dredge lamb chunks in it before browning in oil. Do this in batches so the lamb browns. When done, put in a bowl to stand by. Add oil as needed when browning lamb, then swab out excess oil when lamb is done. Pour in red wine to deglaze pan and get all that cooked flour off the bottom. Use a wooden spatula to scrape ALL the bits from the bottom of the pan. When pot is cleaned, pour the wine over the lamb that’s standing by.

Put butter in the pot and turn down heat to med. Add onions and cook for 5 mins. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for 3-4 minutes – or until the onions and garlic are soft. Pour the lamb and wine mixture in and stir. Add the bouquet garni, carrots, celery and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 5 minutes. Your stew should be VERY thick at this point.

Add in the beef and chicken broth, stir and bring back to a light simmer. Cover the pot and keep at a slow simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. At the one hour point, add in the barley, cover and simmer another 30-40 minutes, until barley is softened. (You shouldn’t have a lot of fat in this stew. If your lamb was fatty, you may need to skim off the fat before you add in the barley. If you trimmed the lamb thoroughly, this is a low fat stew.)

After barley has cooked, add parsley and the vinegars. Check your salt level again.

Serve with crusty bread.

Yield: about 2.5 quarts. This stew freezes beautifully.

Missy Kat Health Update 2

We went to see the vet yesterday and get a once over and bloodwork. Missy has lost some of the weight she gained, sadly. She is at 6.2# down from 6.8#. But she is still looking a lot better than when we started the Total Cat diet.

As I was expecting, Missy’s BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) was a bit elevated from the higher protein diet. At the start it was 35 and now it’s up to 43. (Normal range is 14-36mg/dL) Although I was expecting this, now I need to do something to try and bring it down. My plan is to add some egg whites to her food to see if that helps keep protein high and make it easier on her kidneys. I already serve the food wet and add low sodium broth to it, to encourage her to get more fluids, which is helping with dehydration.

Her constipation has gone away with this diet, which I’m very happy about. She’s becoming a bit more incontinent (she has some wee pee when she sleeps), but hey, it happens to all of us old ladies. Vet did a quick ultrasound to check her bladder and all is well. It’s just old age making her leaky. I can relate. ;)

Other than that, the vet was impressed with her fur being very silky. Missy has always had soft bunny fur, but it is very shiny and silkier now with the homemade diet. The vet is pleased with her overall health at the age of 15+. :)

Overall, a good visit and I’m pleased with the homemade food. I give her the goldenseal supplement to help her kidneys and I am going to start adding Omega-3s to the mix as well. I also add a digestive aid just for good measure and that might be helping with the constipation. I am considering a phosphate binder for the high BUN, but I’d like to try the egg whites first.

She eats about 4 oz of food per day, which is right in the middle of what she should be eating. I’d like her to eat more, but she just eats when she’s hungry. Animals are pretty good at self regulation. She does have a Hobbit schedule of about 7 feedings a day. I’ll continue these updates over the course of 2016.

First installation here.
Second installation here.

Virgin Mobile USA Support Tips

In light of the truly sucktastic service we’ve gotten from Virgin Mobile USA this week, I felt I should write a post in the hopes that it might help others who use VMU but can’t get things to work. Most of this post has to do with iPhones in particular, since that is what we have experience with, but I’m sure a lot of it will help with any device you have using the Virgin (which is under Sprint) service. This post is about USA service only. BTW, Sprint is dying and it will take VM with it. I wouldn’t advise spending a lot of dough on a phone with either of them. It’s a shame, we’ve used VMU for over a decade. I’ll miss them, shitty customer service and all. :(

Basic Virgin Mobile FAQ:

– Virgin Mobile shares bandwidth on the Sprint network in the US. This used to be a good thing, now, not so much. Sprint is dying. America is the land of the oligopoly and eventually there’ll be just AT&T for phone and satellite TV, but for now there is Verizon (CDMA network) and AT&T (GSM network). VM uses the CDMA network. That means the phone must be CDMA. You cannot use a CDMA phone on a GSM network or vice versa. Here is an article about bringing a phone to Verizon, FYI.

– NO, VMU will NOT be getting the iPhone 5 series back in stock. Every VSU employee will tell you “Yes! It’ll be any day now!”, which is a lie. The front page of their site is a lie. I asked them over a year ago when they’d be getting the iPhone 5 in stock and they said “Soon!!” The fact is that VMU bought their iPhone stock and then it sold out. IPhone 5 series is not being manufactured any more, so their inventory is finite. You must buy a 5 series (or 4 series) off of eBay. Which is generally not a problem, just make sure it’s a VMU phone with a clean ESN. If it’s a 5 series, you’ll need to also buy a new card for it (it is a UICC card, which is just a newer generation SIM card).

– YES, a used iPhone 5 and up WILL require a new UICC card. Do not listen to the VMU employees that tell you otherwise. NO you do NOT need a card for a 4 series phone. Actually these require NO CARD in the slot.

– VMU has really horrible support. Which is probably why you’re here. It will not get better, so it’s something you must make peace with. Hopefully something in here will help you.

– Don’t even bother with trying to use the website to swap phones. Just suck it up and call.

– The Twitter people (@VMUcare) suck just as much as the phone people. Don’t bother.

– If you have a “support” person who clearly does not understand what you are calling about, just say goodbye and call back. You may have to do this many times. Be prepared to spend a LOT of time on the phone. You simply have to persevere and keep cycling through support people until you find one that has a clue. No way around it.

There is a glitch in the VMU system that will render your iPhone 4 series unable to send/receive calls when you update the OS. Virgin support is apparently unaware of this and cannot help you. But I can. Simply call ##873283# and your phone service will be restored. I am not sure if this applies to 5 series (or 6 series) iPhones. I’ll update this when Nick updates his 5c.

How to buy a new iPhone and get it activated with VMU:

– Go go eBay and look for phones specifically labeled Virgin Mobile. Make sure they have a clean ESN – which means they are not stolen and/or bricked.

– If you are buying a 4 series iPhone, you’ll need to REMOVE the SIM/UICC card that might still be in it. My phone had been used with TMobile, apparently, there was a card in the slot. I know this because when I called to activate the phone, it kept giving me an “incompatible SIM card” error. Of course the “support” person in Philippines did not know what this meant. I am a nerd, so I knew to pop out the card, but the “support” dude kept telling me I had to take the phone to Apple. Yeah, NO. 4 series iPhones do NOT need any card in the slot to work with VMU. Ignore whatever else you’re told, just pop out the old card and then call VMU to activate. You can google how to remove a SIM card, it’s a snap.

– If you are buying a 5 series phone, you’ll need to buy a NEW SIM/UICC card for it. They sell those on eBay, too. Once you get your new phone and the card, this is where the fun begins. And by fun, I mean soul sucking hell. :( You’ll have to call VMU to get the phone and its card activated. The problem is that most of the “support” people don’t know how to do this. They will attempt to activate the phone w/out activating the card, which, of course will not work. It took my husband FOUR DAYS to find a support person who could understand this issue and activate the UICC. Once the card was paired with the phone’s id#, all was well. Getting there was a chore, for sure.

Those are the biggest issues with iPhones and VMU. They won’t get any better. My advice is to go with another provider if you’re just setting up cell phone service. As I said at the top, Sprint is dying and with it, Virgin Mobile USA. We assume another provider will buy up the bandwidth and service (Verizon most likely) but the heyday of good VMU service is gone.

Do not get into a contract with any provider. Just buy the phone that will work with one of the two networks and then shop providers. Like I mentioned, there are only two networks in the US and AT&T (GSM) is dominant. Their non-contract division is called Cricket. Even tho I detest AT&T, I think Cricket is the best choice for non-contract. If you have a Virgin/Sprint phone and want to switch, your only choice is Verizon – which may or may not take your phone.

Cell phone service is as screwed up as broadband and TV in the US. It won’t get any better. Just try to find the best deal you can and don’t be afraid to change if you’re not happy. I think too many people in the US are afraid to change their providers. In addition, make sure to support efforts to break up and/or regulate our broadband, TV and cell services. The reason American services are so bad is due to the government being paid off by monopolies and oligopolies that collude to keep prices high and service low. You must speak out about this to your US House Reps and Senators. American cell service sucks because we let it suck. Remember: we are a third world country when it comes to broadband/TV/Phone services.

Good luck with your cell phone service! I hope something here may have helped.