29 October 2008

Procrastination tastes like cranberries

I should be preparing my personal statement for the NSF Graduate Fellowship Program application, but it turns out that talking about myself in a flattering, but not arrogant light is really hard. My research statement has been a lot easier to write, but that's mostly just self-reporting what I remember from projects that I've worked on. I find it sad that I need to do an ADS search of myself to remember all my projects. Oh well, instead I'm contemplating the obscenely warm weather and what foods I want to prepare for Thanksgiving.

I've been menu-planning for weeks. I feel like I'm justifying all the stupid department stores that put up Thanksgiving decorations shortly after Christmas, but I can't help it. This is the first Thanksgiving that Colby and I are celebrating on our own, so it's exciting and a little frightening. Even better, two (and possibly three!) of my closest friends are coming out to Austin to celebrate and eat lots and lots of food. In my extreme anticipation of the holiday, I've been testing recipes here and there, and I have decided to never ever buy the cranberry-jello-in-a-can again. By making it myself, I can call it a chutney which sounds fancy; more importantly, it's incredibly tasty.

apple cranberry chutney
2 small apples, peeled, diced
12 oz fresh cranberries
1+ c granulated sugar
1 c water
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

combine all ingredients, bring to a simmer/boil. Let it all reduce. it'll take about 30 minutes or so. store in the fridge.

My favorite application is on toast with turkey.

26 October 2008

Dear Fall, Please come to Texas. Love, Julie

At about 1:00 AM, I can see the Great Square of Pegasus and Orion the Hunter from my balcony. This celestial marker, amongst relatively few others, is a sure sign that it's fall. At this point, I expect to see the leaves changing color and the day time temperatures to be around 60 on a warm day. Instead, what I see are unchanging leaves, daytime highs in the upper 80s and an extreme lack of unpasteurized cider.

I had planned on blogging about all the different available ciders in the greater Austin area and lamenting how much terrible they all are compared to anything from Michigan, but so far, I've only found two pasteurized ciders. I expected Whole Foods to be a better bet for stuff like that, but, alas, I have been thwarted. The one that I've tried is a pasteurized cider from Louisburg, Kansas. One of my fellow stranded Michiganders brought over some to try during the absolutely victorious Michigan State-Michigan game. It mostly tasted like apple juice, and I wouldn't call it better than nothing because it's almost 7 bucks for a gallon at HEB. Much sadness.

I wasn't really into the idea of spending 7 bucks on another disappointing pasteurized cider, so I decided to put the remainder to good use. Two weeks ago, we went to the farmers market and came back with a very pretty heirloom acorn squash. I've just gotten around to doing something with it, so my solution was adapted from Elana's Pantry. Basically, you take acorn squash and play up its sweetness against tart apples and I used dried cherries.

1 acorn squash, halved and seeded (but don't throw out the seeds!)
apple juice/cider
1/2 large apple (I used granny smith), diced
2/3 c dried cherries
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs butter
crushed black pepper

place the acorn squash face down in a baking dish. add in about 1/4-1/2 in of the juice. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes at 350. Toss the apples and cherries together in the cinnamon. Take out the squash and try not to pour ridiculously hot liquid all over the inside of your oven. Good luck with that part. Flip over the squash and add in the apples+cherries, along with a couple grinds of black pepper, and a tbs of butter on top. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Nom carefully, as they are hot. real hot.

Whilst the squash were roasting, I separated the seeds from the pulp, put them in a single layer on an oiled baking pan, salted them and put them in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. I actually like them better than pumpkin seeds.

21 October 2008

short and sweet

Given my intense impatience and my inability to deal with the fact that I now have a disposable income with any ounce of maturity, I find myself in possession of a blackberry curve. Don't get me wrong, it's totally awesome, but I probably should have waited to get a storm since they're coming out shortly and they look amazing. Nevertheless I am totally taken with the curve (although, if Verizon releases the storm in the next thirty days I'll return this one).

To celebrate my impatience and, mostly, to give me a chance to play, I've decided to post a recipe... And what better recipe than one that is short and sweet, like my new phone, the actual contents of the recipe, and twitter posts. (Because, let's get real here, people: the main reason I wanted a blackberry in the first place was for twitterberry)

Fake sun-dried tomatoes aka oven dried
1 sleeve cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
A couple tbs EVOO

Toss the tomatoes in EVOO and season with good s+p. Put in a 200 deg oven for 2-5 hours depending on your oven. Seriously one of the most delicious things I've ever made!

14 October 2008

Pausing for Politics, Pasta, and, perhaps, Procrastination...

I spent a month and a half averaging less than four hours of sleep a night. It would have been nice to say that it was for a good cause; I guess it was, but it ended on a rather my-proposal-wasn't-submitted-so-I-threw-a-fit-at-Colby note. In the end, I learned that I always need to verify that what people tell me isn't full of lies and my boss learned that being an advisor is probably more difficult than she had imagined. The silver lining will come when we submit an amazing proposal next trimester and find a whopping amount of lead in our lithium-enhanced giant. Not that that means anything to most people who read this... or does it? (*AHEM* Chris,Kyle)

Needless to say, I've spent the past week attempting to regain my sanity. It's mostly worked, I think. Surprisingly enough, I haven't really had the urge to cook. In order to just get through the week, we made pasta sauce. The recipe is mostly taken from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (for which I have mixed opinions), with adaptations for our dietary preferences (omnivorous addiction to basil).

1/2+1/4 small yellow onion, diced
6+2 cloves garlic, minced
1+1 tbs olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
herbs/spices, s+p

in a large pot, heat olive oil and sautee 1/2 onion for ~5 minutes stirring occasionally, until it's translucent and no longer has the icky texture of an onion. add in the 6 cloves of minced garlic and let it cook for about 30s. Add in the 2 cans of tomato-y goodness and let simmer. Add in whatever herbs/spices you desire. The last time I used (all dried) about 2 tbs basil, 1 tbs parsley, 1 tsp sage, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp red pepper flakes. These are all very approximate... it turns out that I like stirring in herbs so I sort of just go for it... In a separate pan, heat 1 tbs olive oil and add in the rest of the onion+garlic+ground beef and brown. drain and add the beef to the other pot and let it simmer for awhile so that the flavors meld. Season with s+p. It ends up making about 2 normal-sized mason jars.

So this is actually buried in my lasagna recipe, but I felt like reposting because I think I changed what I did a bit.

And I had a whole manifesto written in my head about who I'm voting for and why... but it's late and I should be madly attempting to not fail my grad classes. Instead I will leave you with this (courtesy of Chris):


05 October 2008

Beer Beer Good for Your Heart...

They* say that beer was the impetus for civilization. Nomadic people along the Nile found that puddles of water that had fermented grains in them to be safer to drink than "pure" water because the mild alcoholic content of the fermented water killed potentially disease-causing microbes. Finding this non-lethal liquid source to be a good thing, they settled around areas where they could cultivate the grain and produce what is essentially a primitive beer. Whether or not this is true, beer is the impetus for my latest avoidance behavior: beans. Well, maybe beans aren't an avoidance behavior, but playing with them certainly is.

Every Friday the astro grad students take advantage of happy hour at the Crown and Anchor, one of several dirty bars located around the campus of UT. The big plus is that they have Live Oak Hefeweizen, which consistently ranks well on Beer Advocate. They also have these incredible nachos that have black beans, jalepen$^~$os, and cheese. Finding this to be a simple recipe, I started buying cans of black beans in hopes of recreating the nummy snacks of my favorite dive bar.

So several cans of black beans later, Colby and I found ourselves in Costco because he was convinced that we would save money there. In order to justify the fifty dollar membership fee, we started buying random items including beef kielbasa, bagels, aluminium foil (yes, ALUMINIUM, not TIN!), and (dun dun dun) a case of black beans. I used half of a can for nachos, but realized that I needed to find uses for 11.5 other cans.

Much to my delight, thedeliciouslife updated, not once, but twice. The former inspired me to make a go at my own hummus.

1 clove garlic
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
juice of 1/2 lemon
<1/2 tsp salt, kosher

So basically I put the clove of garlic in the blender, grind grind, and then added the beans+lemon juice and some spices and then drizzled in the olive oil as it ran. It sort of worked, but I had to stop a few times to push everything down which kind of sucked. I really need a food processor, but I'm going to hold out until the wedding to get one. My real hope, though, is to get a KitchenAid stand mixer. ANYWHO... It turned out alright. I used too much salt and paprika, but it was still okay. Part of the problem with the blender is that some of it gets really super smooth and then sometimes you just have whole beans left over, but in trying the super smooth parts, it reminded me a lot of mayonnnaise... It makes me want to use chickpea+olive oil puree as a mayonnaise substitute. It seems to me that it's the same concept: unsaturated fat+protein emulsion. It would also be a vegan approximation of mayonnaise. Have other people tried this, or am I just terribly sleep-deprived?

Anywho, I needed something else to do with the black beans (and something else to do. I have important masters thesis things due on Tuesday morning at 8:00 AM, so I need something to procrastinate with, right?)... so I cleaned out the blender and added the following:

1/8 onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic
1.5 cans black beans, drained
5 "shots" of hot sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
s+p to taste
juice of the other half of a lemon

grind grind. then I added in fresh (uncooked) corn kernels. The dip worked surprisingly well even though it's not particularly pretty to look at (think little pieces of corn floating in a grey mushy sea), but it tasted alright. It seemed to lack something, which Colby pointed out was cilantro and I think that's exactly on point. The corn + onion + garlic combination is screaming for cilantro, but we all know that cilantro is gross and don't put it in our food. :) I think next time I'll try flat leaf parsley.

*By "they" I mean Crosby Washburne, my 12th grade European history teacher, which means that this is more of a "story" than fact.

03 October 2008

Excuses and smoothies

HET proposal deadline is eating... my... soul. Oh well, the deadline is on Tuesday at 8:00 AM, which means that I get to sleep after that. Yay! Aside from securing 2 hours of telescope time, I've mostly been not cooking at all. The closest that I've come is that I've discovered the perfect smoothie recipe: strawberries + strawberry Jumex + plain yogurt + ice. I think it's about 2c ice, 2c strawberries, 1 c? jumex + 1/2c yogurt. Or I could be totally off. Guesstimate.

Yay for updates. I sort of want to challenge myself to update more regularly, but this would require a higher rate of cooking and telescopes just require too much time. Sadness. Also, what's double sad is that a terrible-looking jug of apple cider costs like 6 bucks at HEB. Seriously? I need someone to mail me some stat.

Photo credit: Space Today Online