27 March 2015

College Throwback Home Fries

Back in the day, this was my everymeal.  Fry up some potatoes, add whatever veggies sound good, spice it up, top with cheese.  Home fries.  Made to serve.
Now that Kyle disappears one night a week, I've found that I don't particularly feel like prepping a full dinner for one.  The past couple weeks - you guessed it - I've been throwing together some home fries and loving every bite.  They taste like nostalgia and cumin.

Start by frying up some cubed potatoes until a crunchy, golden crust develops.  Try a bite and make sure they're cooked through (cooking time depends on the size of the cubes).
Add in some meat and spices, toss until the meat is warmed through.  Home fries from my college days were usually vegetarian, but sometimes - spiked with cheap lunch meat.  I know.  These days I can opt for something a little more pricy, like real meat.
This is the step where I grabbed my camera, caught the strap on a cupboard door, and pretty much sling-shot it into the floor.  I can't vouch for the following photos, as something clearly happened to the internal mechanism.  Sigh.

Since I'm not in college anymore, these home fries are getting fancy with some lightly wilted spinach.
Just as the spinach begins to wilt, plate them up.
Grate a bit of cheddar on there - that's the stuff.
As I was eating these home fries, I thought back to my typical home fry add-ins, back in the day: mushrooms, green peppers, the occasional jalapeno, and almost always, ground cumin and cayenne pepper.  Perfect.  Then, of course, I remembered I have a plethora of mushrooms in the fridge that I could have added to these fries.  It just has not been my day.

Home Fries with Wilted Spinach
Ingredients:
  • 2 c. cubed potatoes (roughly 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 1 tbs bacon fat or cooking oil of choice
  • 3/4 c. shredded or cubed meat of choice (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. baby spinach
  • 1/4 c. grated cheddar cheese
Instructions:
1.  Fry up the potatoes in the bacon grease in a large pan over medium heat.  They should develop a crispy golden crust in 5 - 7 minutes (test one to make sure they are cooked through - careful, they're hot!).
2.  Add in the meat and spices.  Continue frying until the meat is warmed through.  This is also when you can add in things like peppers or mushrooms.
3.  Toss the spinach on top and let wilt slightly.  Remove from stove - spinach will continue to wilt slightly.
4.  Top with cheese and serve.
Cheap, easy and delicious.  Just like any college meal should be.  Now, I've got to ask Google about camera repair...

20 March 2015

Happy Spring!

This has been one of the easiest winters I've ever had, weather-wise, but I'm still looking forward to the first day of spring!  With sun shining and plants sprouting, I can't wait for fresh fruits and colorful veggies.  What better way to acknowledge the changing of seasons than to make a list of my favorite spring/summer recipes?

Fresh fruits:

Rustic Blueberry-Plum Galette
I love love LOVED this galette.  It was so tempting to eat the whole thing in one sitting.  Blueberry season just feels like the pinnacle of summer, and there's no better way to eat them than in a pie.
Blackcap Cheesecake Pie
If you prefer cheesecake over pie, then maybe you can find some middle ground with a cheesecake pie!  Blackcaps or black raspberries were my urban foraging adventure in Michigan.  Who knows what I'll find this year down in South Carolina!
Black Raspberry Gin Fizz
There's nothing like getting your serving of fruit in cold, refreshing beverage form while sitting out on the porch enjoying the last rays of sunlight.  This gin fizz tasted like a gourmet soda with a touch of gin - fancy and satisfying, all in one.

Colorful Veggies:

Veggie Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
I had to put spring rolls on the list, for obvious reasons. But just look at that rainbow of colors!  Spring rolls are a great appetizer - and they're easy to put together!  I made them for Easter last year and they were a total hit.
Paleo Taco Boats
These taco boats are a lighter, gluten-free / Paleo version of their tortilla counterparts.  All the deliciousness of a taco, delivered in an endive wrap.  Because tacos.  But also bikini season.
Crunchy Black Bean Chicken Salad
This dish is as delicious as it is gorgeous, combining grilled chicken and a cilantro-lime dressing with a veggie-rich black bean salad.  Grilled chicken, people!  Dig that grill out and remind yourself how great it is to be able to grill outside.
Lime Basil Juice + Margarita
As long as we're on the subject of colorful, delicious things, let's pretend for a second that basil is a vegetable and add lime-basil juice to the list!  With or without the margarita, this juice was one of the most interesting things I've made.  Highly recommended!
And if we're still chatting about tropical-flavors-that-don't-really-meet-the-designated-category, I'm going to go ahead and throw this one in too, because fresh ginger and tuna steaks just sound like a something that should be a spring tradition (especially after watching everyone on my entire Facebook take a Caribbean vacation this winter).
Spicy Grilled Caribbean Tuna
If it makes you feel better, you can grill up some kabob veggies to go with it.
There it is.  All the season's joy in eight recipes.  Time to get cooking!

13 March 2015

Garden 2015

I'm sure you saw this one coming.  I have mentioned the raised beds for several months now (here, here and here), and suddenly, spring is upon us!  Planting season may or may not be in full swing.  I don't actually know the seasons here, so I'm just going with my gut.
These beds are made from cheap fencing from the 70% off cart at our local home improvement store, so they are treated.  Therefore, we needed to line them to avoid the chemicals.
Also, a key component: dirt.
Some hard labor was required to move the pile from the driveway to the beds.  Major thanks to my parents, who helped me move a mountain despite the fact that they were supposed to be on vacation!
When it was all said and done, we discovered we'd made some very large, fancy litter boxes.  I imagine that at night, it looks a lot like a kitty version of the Roman bath houses.  Blech.  So here's the latest in free cat deterrent solutions.
In the meantime, the sprouty buddies I started in February are coming along nicely.
Lastly, here's my current square foot garden plan.  I seem to have left my copy of Square Foot Gardening in Michigan, so I'm guessing.  Mostly what I'm trying to figure out is how to succession plant to make the most of SC growing seasons.  Also how to take advantage of big plants (zucchini, etc) while they're small - for instance, putting some fast-growing radishes in those squares before the squash plant takes over.
If anyone has any advice, hit me up, I'm a total rookie!

I guess I should amend this to talk about the time I declared it Gardening Month (all the way back in 2012!) and wrote a bunch of posts like Soil Amendments, Double Digging, Companion Planting and the somewhat sketchy post about Moon Planting.  Still, I'm a rookie.

06 March 2015

Bus-stagram

I forgot to write a blog post today, so I'm using this 
opportunity to introduce the sixerbus Instagram!
Keep track of our travels...
See what work we're getting done...
Occasional random bus things...
And lots of photos of a very pretty bus!
Happy weekend!

If you see us on the road, let us know with #sixerbus
Or check out the latest info at instagram.com/sixer.bus/

27 February 2015

Is it Spring Yet?

So the final week of February brought us freezing rain (close all the schools!) and general hibernation.  Can we move on yet?
February was about as stressful as predicted - the first portion of it, anyway.  Now that the bus is running and my plants are growing, I'm feeling a little more relaxed.
  • We had two sets of visitors this month!  It's always so great to see people again, and we seem to get lots of visitors!  The perks of living in the southern climes...
  • Two batches of wine needed to be bottled.  Done!  Plus Kyle started an IPA and I started some chardonnay
  • Put the bus back together.  Get it running.  Bleh.  We put it back together, then it took a little extra time to get it running.
  • Go camping in the bus.  Fail.  The bus wasn't running so we didn't make it.  Well, we stopped by for a few minutes on Sunday (via car).
  • Dirt needed to be acquired and plants needed to be planted. Plants planted!  Raised beds bedded!  Dirt...tbd.
  • Start picking up more of the housework.  Hum.  I'm a terrible wife.
  • Just to add something fun - Charleston Food Truck Festival! We went, we ate, we enjoyed!  It was a good time.
That being said, this was a weird month.  We cycled back and forth between warm and cold weather, and the cold brought on a malaise I struggled to defeat.  A day out in the cold was followed by two days feeling incredibly snuggly and lazy.  I'm ready for March to start bringing more typical SC temps.
  • We attended the French Quarter Art Walk twice last year and it's become one of my favorite local events!  That's on my list for the first week of March.  The best part...
  • ...My parents will be visiting for the March Art Walk!  
  • I'm really hoping that by the end of the month we can start eating greens from our garden and stop buying them from the grocery store.
  • The chardonnay will need to be bottled, and I can get another one started.  Either a merlot or a montepulciano this time.
  • With so much bus work, the online classes I'm taking got left behind, so I need to catch up!
  • Prep the bus for the interior build - strip the housepaint, fix the rust, insulate, and scrub it clean.
Obviously February was dominated by this.
However, we still managed to get some other work done, like bottling 11 gallons (!) of wine.
Kyle started bartending this month, and we've been using his tip money for our "frivolous" spending, such as going out for Valentine's Day.
We've been lucky enough to have some good weather on the weekends - perfect working weather!
The bus engine is back in, and it stays running for more than 30 seconds.  I could finally wash it (how does it get so dirty just sitting in the garage?) and then we took it out for a day!
First destination: Folly Gras!  We made it in time to watch the parade, but we were took late to be in the parade.  Then on to foodie paradise:  the Food Truck Festival!
We tried out two delicious food trucks and also sampled from the bier garden.  Life looks a lot brighter on this side of February.  Cada dia es mejor!

20 February 2015

The Seventh Circle of Vacuum Leak Hell

Friday:
We re-diagnosed our problem, instead of blaming the AFM we decided it was a gross vacuum leak.
Saturday:
Kyle spent a little time checking things over but we spent most of the day away.  Sometimes you just need a weekend.

Sunday:
Kyle confirmed his suspicions that an injector seal hadn't been attached.  He also seal-all-ed a rubber elbow that I had noted as being fairly cracked and worn.  Aha!  Easy peasy, but...
Same symptoms persisted.  Kyle went over each vacuum line connection and still couldn't find anything.  It was cold out and when I finally warmed up, I became extremely lethargic - does anyone else feel like this after spending a lot of time in the cold?  At a total loss, Kyle finally consulted the Samba, then pulled out all the stops on trying to nail down this vacuum leak.

Monday:
At lunch, Kyle picked up a fuel pressure gage and tested the fuel pressure that afternoon - everything was fine.  Kyle started methodically going through the manual for the fuel injection system.  It was ridiculously cold and miserable outside.  Not quite Michigan-bad (sounds like y'all had a rough weekend!) but no fun to be working on a bus.  We also pulled off a bigger hose with some cracks in it and treated it with our now-patented superglue / seal-all fix.  Symptoms persisted.
Tuesday:
Kyle built a smoke device to send smoke through the vacuum lines and then look for smoke leaking out of any connections.
This resulted in a good deal of smoke pouring out of the oil breather.  Sighing in relief that we had finally found our problem (and kicking ourselves for not realizing the oil breather needed a seal on it!), we whipped up a cork seal and installed it.  The previous seal was disintegrated beyond recognition - oil gunk was keeping it sealed before we took the engine apart.  We started the bus up.  Same thing - ran fine until it was warmed up, then the rpms kept dropping until finally it died.  Curses.
 
Wednesday:
At noon we hooked up the smoke device again.  It's actually a pretty ingenious little invention - Kyle bought a quart-sized paint can, attached a valve and a hose line, then ran a bike pump to the valve and a hose from the paint can to the vacuum system.  Make some fire in the paint can, put it out, then contain the smoke in the paint can.  The clamps in the photo are to keep the lid from popping off when the pump is being exercised.
This resulted in smoke puffing out of one of the the air plenum / injection manifold joints.  At one point back in our reassembly, we realized we had forgotten to install a tin, which led to a quick redo of one side of the engine.  In our haste, this intake sleeve curled under, and since it was on the bottom side of the intake manifold we didn't see it.
Kyle tells me it idled pretty well after that was fixed.  Eureka.

After I got out of work, we planned a test drive.  We made it as far as the end of the driveway - a small win, considering we hadn't tested the shifting system yet.  We'd had to jump it pretty frequently during our troubleshooting, but we chalked that up to constantly starting it, but not running it long enough to charge.  It was a little more serious than that.  Someone, in his infinite wisdom (shall remain nameless) didn't hook up the alternator.  So yeah.  Our battery was DEAD.
Hook up the alternator, give it one last jump with the Fit...now we're rollin'.

Thursday:
We planned a bar night - either to lick our wounds or celebrate our victories.  I can't even tell you how happy I am that it was the latter.  Kyle even drove the bus to Homegrown (I met him there later in my car). 

Friday:
I'm spending my lunch hour trying to get this posted.  So far we've driven the bus to O'Reilly's, my work, and Homegrown Brewhouse.  I think it's finally time to call this a success...six weeks after pulling the engine out  in the first place.

13 February 2015

Engine Out / Engine In

This is going to be a long post, and I'm mostly putting it here for posterity - so a few years down the road, we can remember what we did.  But the long and short of it is that we took the engine and transmission out, cleaned them both up, replaced some parts, and then put them back together.
It's a pretty impressive before and after, no?