Monday, January 4, 2010

New toy and program recommendations

We decided to buy a laptop for Christmas. We were given some money for a family present by hubby's parents, some more from my brother, and we put in some, and found a decent laptop for a very good price. It came with Vista, but, being a Toshiba, we were able to upgrade to Windows 7 for about $30. Can I say - I'm in love! It works so much better than our other, second-hand, slow computers! I can sit in the recliner, with the laptop on my lap and fiddle with my pictures, write fanfic, and blog. ('Cause I'm back - honest!)
Anyway, along with the laptop, you also need programs. I like writing, amongst other stuff, and so need an office suite. Rather than pay more money than I have for Windows, I use Open Office. To be honest, I now prefer Open Office to Windows. For my photos, I use Picasa. I did get the Creative Memories program, but have gone back to Picasa. For me, Picasa is easier, especially since I use my photos for blogging, adding to Flickr, and other stuff. I don't do digital scrapbooking, so I don't need that functionality. And I just prefer the look of Picasa.
When I need to do more with a photo that Picasa can do, I use Gimp. This is a free Photoshop alternative. I don't have a lot of experience with it, and certainly can't justify the cost of buying Photoshop just to touch up some photos. I really can't compare it with Photoshop since I've never used the other program, but it appears to have similar functionalities.
So, anyway, I'm now a very happy camper, playing with my photos, writing my stories, and doing other stuff without huge lumps of money going to other people. Very happy :D And hopefully my experiences can help some others.

Lazy Beef Satay

The original version of this recipe was for a satay marinade, and (from memory) consisted of:
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs oil
3 tbs ketchup
3 tbs peanut butter

Well, I never used it as a marinade, but decided to turn it into a sauce instead of using a packet mix for beef satay (one of my favourites - yum!) So this is what I made for dinner tonight (serves 5-6.)

1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 capsicum, thinly sliced
650g beef minced
1 tbs sweet soy sauce (ketcap manis)
3 tbs tomato sauce
3 tbs crunchy peanut butter
1 tbs curry powder (to taste)
500g frozen mixed vegetables
rice to serve

Saute the onion and capsicum in the oil, then brown the mince. While that is browning, mix the sauce.
3 tbs crunchy peanut butter. I just used a generic brand, and am generous with this recipe. I use the Australian Metric measures (20ml tbs) and don't mind if it's rounded ;)

1 tbs sweet soy sauce (ketcap manis) - the original recipe implied the more typically known soy sauce, but since this is supposed to be an Indonesian dish, I use the Indonesian variety of soy sauce (which is also yummier, though thicker.) er... I also ended up using 3 tbs sweet soy sauce, so the dish ended up being a bit sweeter than usual. That will teach me to measure without thinking about what I'm measuring :o

3 tbs tomato sauce - not puree, but more like ketchup.

Because I'm a lazy cook, I freeze my mince in meal-portions (not the lazy part, just smart) and then just dump the frozen meat straight into the frying pan. It takes a bit longer, but I'm not hovering over the pan, so I'm fine with that.

I have to be quite generous with my curry powder, as it's *really* (really!) weak. I would easily use 1-2 tbs of the stuff. I need to get some more, and not buy that brand again. (Some generic brand mild curry powder, I think. Some things are better in a brand name.)
Brown off the powder a little, till it's aromatic, then mix the powder in with the sauce. (That way you don't get unevenly flavoured mince.)

I add extra water to extend the sauce, and to ensure the vegetables have a little something to cook in. Also, it seems to make the sauce creamier than without. I just use the original bowl I mixed the sauce in for the water, so that I can scrape the last of the ingredients in.

At this point, I just cook it until the vegetables are done - 10 or so minutes. When the vegetables are done to taste, serve over hot rice.

If you want to make this gluten free, you pretty much just need to watch the soy and tomato sauces.