28 December 2010

home is where the mortgage is.

We're back in Austin.  I just stood barefoot on my front porch and I'm not contemplating which hospital has the best ER to treat frostbite.  This makes me very sad, but it's okay because my best friends in the world are about to descend upon my house and we're going to celebrate Christmas and New Years like it's no one's business.

On the road again

I'll update about the rest of my break when we stop moving, but I wanted to say hello from the road (i think we're near the  illinois/missouri border). Hello. :)

In the spirit of being efficient, I've been menu planning  new years eve dinner while I'm not driving. Thus far it looks like this:

Cheese plate from antonelli's
Antipasto salad
Detroit style pizza
Prosciutto, fig, and goat cheese pizza
Meatball stromboli

German chocolate cake (because I'm a bad wife and never made the 'sband a birthday cake... But shh, don't tell Colby.)

Also, I have a sleepy puppy on my lap.

27 December 2010

What I Did on My Christmas Vacation Part 1: The Anniversary

I got back from Boston on the 18th, with orders to finish up my paper draft and relax because another onslaught of work would be awaiting me on the other end of Christmas.  The past eight days have been anything but.  I spent the rest of the 18th cobbling together some figures for the paper and frantically packing.  I ended up with two suitcases filled with a lot of clothing that I haven't worn, some essential missing items that had to be bought on the road, and a bunch of encapsulated postscript figures that had some horrible artifact appended to the end of the files, thus rendering them unLaTeX-able.  We left at about 8:45 AM on the 19th, which was, indeed, our second anniversary.  The 'sband, the dog, and I spent the day getting out of Texas and driving through most of Arkansas, until we reached West Memphis.  We were pretty tired by then, but we found a pet-friendly hotel, unloaded our car, and then two of us (the tall ones) left for our anniversary dinner reservation in downtown Memphis, TN.  On the way we listened to this, because a roadtrip isn't a roadtrip until you listen to a little Paul Simon.  We arrived at the restaurant, Flight, a bit early and were seated immediately.  
See? Way tired. 
Our waitress was named Colby, marking the first time that the 'sband has ever met someone with the same first time.  We laughed, we ordered the carpaccio flight (beef tenderloin w/basil, lemon, parmesan; seared lamb loin w/blue cheese ice cream; tuna w/ wasabi sauce, seaweed salad) as an appetizer and I got the Tiny Bubbles wine flight (Veuve De Vernay brut, Gloria Ferrer brut, Lunetta prosecco).    I really enjoyed the Veuve de Vernay brut, as well as the Lunetta prosecco, though the Gloria Ferrer was forgettable.  The carpaccio plate was amazing.  The beef carpaccio was good, though it was basically what I expected.  The lamb wasn't so much "carpaccio" as it was just rare, which was also good, though underwhelming by itself.  The blue cheese ice cream was interesting and played well with the lamb, which is why I suppose they were served together.  The tuna was probably the best tuna I've ever eaten.  It wasn't just that it was a really nice cut of tuna, but it was completely balanced in flavor.  The combination of the smoky notes of sesame oil in the seaweed salad with the wasabi sauce and the tuna, was basically the perfect bite.

Between the appetizer and the entrees, I noticed that I had three missed calls from some random number I vaguely recognized.  It dawned on me that it was the hotel and I made Colby call them back.  I turns out that the babydog had been barking for about 45 minutes nonstop and that our neighbors were complaining.  We tracked down Colby (the waitress) and had her box our meal to go.  Everyone at Flight was completely gracious when we explained the situation and they offered to get our car from the valet early.  We went back to the hotel and our dog calmly (and happily) greeted us.  We then proceeded to eat the most expensive meal we've ever had in pajamas.  

Flight is called "Flight" because they offer the option of ordering small portions of each part of their menu.  The wines in the Tiny Bubbles flight were all 2 oz pours and the carpaccios were each tapas-sized.  The entrees are offered in the same manner, though you have the option of ordering an entire serving of one thing.  We both opted for flights.  I got the filet mignon in a red wine sauce with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and crispy onion rings (though these were delicate and not of the gross variety); the muscovy duck breast in a pomegranate sauce with butternut squash; and the Maine lobster in a lemon-butter sauce with asparagus in hollandaise and roasted purple potatoes.  It. was. awesome.  Colby got the tenderloin flight, which was comprised of pork with roasted root vegetables, veal with roasted carrots, and lamb chop with yams.  I tried the veal and the lamb and they were both quite delicious.  In order of deliciousness: filet mignon, veal, lobster, duck, lamb, pork.  Except, I don't know what the pork tasted like because I don't really eat pork.  Since Kimchi demanded our presence, we included her in the dinner as well: she got to lick the carry out containers after we were done with something. :)
Since we were robbed of the cupcake (cupcake!) dessert flight, we went to the local Waffle House, which was only place left open in West Memphis at that point, and ordered slices of chocolate pie and  pecan pie to go.  They were both pretty terrible and we didn't even finish them, but it was a nice way to try to round out the meal.  I think that this was one of the best meals that we've ever had.  I wish that we had a reason/way to go to Memphis alone to go back and experience an entire meal there, but if we do find ourselves in Memphis, we'll definitely be back.

18 December 2010

Boston



Astronopalooza is over though I still have some things to do when I go home. It was a really productive week, so I'm definitely ready to come home. Though it was not all work. I got to hang out with Ry and Michael tonight and I got to hang out (and got a cold from) Dave earlier this week.

08 December 2010

296

My goal was to have 300 posts by the end of the year.  This will be 296.  Hopefully between now and 2011, I'll be able to breathe, but I'll be doing anything I can to survive astronopalooza between now and the 18th.  Wish me luck.

06 December 2010

Stress


If you find me slumped over my desk dead, you'll know why.

Christmas Party Sneak Peeks!

I have the most talented friends!  Lauren, Chalence and Randi came over tonight to help me set up the house for my Christmas party on Thursday.  Colby and Chalence were on kitchen duty and Lauren and Randi put together some fabulous decorations.  It's going to be sooo much fun! :)




Can you guess the gift giving theme of this event?  Lauren drew this awesome picture of a Christmas elephant.  You know, because elephants are totally the go to animal of the holiday season.


Randi made this adorable penguin and igloo out of card stock, construction paper, and a whole lot of tape and then made paper snowflakes to match the wintry theme.  I made the North Pole sign.  Clearly my friends are far craftier than I am.  :)

02 December 2010

Hello, December.

It's been awhile.  It seems like I've been blogging a lot lately, but that's just because I've actually kept with my research blog posts.  Thanksgiving was a blast.  It was only Colby, the babydog, and me and we never left the house.  Our turkey was delicious and I highly recommend heritage breed turkeys for those of you who actually like to eat turkey with flavor, not to mention the fact that these turkeys have pretty okay lives for something bred to be eaten.

Since Thanksgiving, though, we haven't been cooking much.  Our kitchen is still recovering.  It's kind of a sad state of affairs.  We've either been eating out or eating things that require little to no effort.  I'm under the gun on this paper that I'm trying to write.  I need a draft in the next two and a half weeks, so it's going to be kind of nuts.  In addition, I've started to try to run again and let's just say that there's a reason why I run at night when everyone else is asleep.

And now my new goal is to have either a picture or a link in every post.  This might get challenging for my recipe posts, but it might also mean that I figure out how to use my camera phone to its fullest potential.  Or something.

Found on facebook: Medical Researcher Discovers Integration

24 November 2010

A Tale of Two Turkeys

So as mentioned before, we went to Central Market to pick up our heirloom turkey.  I was pretty sure that it was going to be about $6/lb.  I wasn't stoked about the price, but resolved to cook the hell out of it and make every bit count, from the pan drippings (gravy), to the bird itself (oh my, the leftover possibilities!) to making a really amazing turkey stock (stock!) to the rendered fat (perhaps the best part of all: schmaltz!).  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the turkey only cost about $25.


Fast forward to when we brought everything home and actually looked at the turkey, to find that it was actually a free range turkey and not the heritage turkey that I had been planning for months.  This made the price and the unexpected plumpness of the turkey make sense.  I called Central Market right away to find out how to swap it out and they graciously offered to bring the heritage turkey to my house since it was their mistake.  I expected them to charge me the difference between the two birds and then take back the free range bird because, you see, the heritage bird actually *is* $6/lb.


So the dude came, handed me the bird, and was about to leave and said that we could keep the turkey because they had a bunch extra.  So instead of charging us $62.30 for our 10.4 lb heritage turkey, they charged us $24.32 for both and now I have 22.62 lbs of amazing turkey in my fridge for the price of one large Butterball.



Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! :)

Thanksgiving menu for two.

I've been compulsively writing lists lately.  I think it's my coping mechanism for trying to get through life at the moment.  It's not just TO DO: lists, it's everything from stuff to get at the grocery store to imaginary playlists to amusing stuff I've been reading.  It seems only appropriate to share my favorite kind of list now (menu, duh. ;))

Thanksgiving menu

shallot and lemon green beans
mashed potatoes
sausage dressing
apple+cranberry sauce
heritage turkey
apple pie

Yes, I know we're lacking a pumpkin pie, but I've had a couple so far and I need to use up some of the apples we got as part of the CSA we joined.  We're also not actually making anything I've never made before.  Some of this is because I was too busy/lazy to figure out anything new and the other part is that it's just the two of us this year.  The only new aspect is the turkey.  I've read about heritage turkeys for the past couple of years and  I finally ordered one in time.  My plan is to not brine the turkey and then use the roasting method from Martha Stewart's Cooking School.  I'll post how it turns out.  And now we're out to battle the throngs of people at Central Market to go pick up the turkey.  Wish us luck!

22 November 2010

Stuff I'm doing that's not related to food.

Hey, so it's been awhile.  I've managed to come down with the sniffles, start a new blog, and lack a third interesting thing to mention. 

The congestion is pretty straightforward.  After having to administer late tests to a bunch of different undergrads that missed the test because of illness, I've seemed to have caught something.  Orrr I'm just having allergies.

The new blog is less interesting than the premise of a new blog sounds.  Basically, I'm using this as a notebook.  Most scientists keep some sort of notebook to remember what they've done or, in cases where people run experiments, document their work for posterity.  I can usually manage to take notes for about a week, two if I'm really motivated, but then I forget, or get lazy or something.  I've tried keeping them electronically, but the same happens.  I'm hoping that by keeping a blog, it'll be easier for me to keep up with them and then they're searchable.

In light of my missing third "interesting" thing, here are some links to stuff I find interesting that I've found from facebook, twitter, and random internet surfing.

Winter Squash Warts and All. (NY Times) This is more than you'd ever want to know about winter squash, but now I want to grow my own.

Gold and the Periodic Table of Elements. (NPR) Too cool!  As someone who deals with the periodic table on a daily basis, this is a neat (and different than neutron capture) take on why gold is so interesting.

America's Worst "Chinese Meals". (Angry Asian Man) As a food blogger and a pseudo-Asian, I found this hilarious.  But sometimes you just gotta have the orange chicken.

The United Plates. John Holcomb has a set of prints that represents each state with different food.  And of course I want the Michigan one.

How Smartphone Users See Each Other. (Android and Me) This is almost entirely accurate, but I see myself more as a Marie Curie type than an Albert Einstein. ;)

Lemonade, Detroit. You can buy a frame of Lemonade, Detroit for a dollar and become a producer.  This film is about the people who are in Detroit and working to turn it into something more than just abandoned buildings and the national mascot of the recession.

Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography. (video!) This is super fun to watch.  The words are from Stephen Fry on language.

15 November 2010

Savory squash bread

I was invited to a potluck dinner party on Sunday and was asked to bring bread to accompany dinner. I settled on pao de queijo and "zucchini" bread. I wanted to make something savory to go along with some of the soups and chili that other people brought, but all the recipes I'd ever seen for zucchini bread were sweet. We had some summer squash from the CSA left, so a quick google search of "savory zucchini bread recipe" led me here, and an idea was formed. I added in some extras, like a jalapeno from my garden as well as subbing in the summer squash for the zucchini and everyone seemed to enjoy it, though we almost didn't make it.

Our puppy had some sort of terrible allergic reaction to *something*. She got all these bumps on her face and body that became quite swollen. One trip to the emergency vet and $165 later, Kimchi was less swollen, but we're still not sure what it was. Colby gave her an oatmeal bath to help with the redness and the itchiness. How dedicated!



Squash bread

3 c AP flour
1 t salt
4 t baking powder*
1/2 T dried dill
1 T dried parsley
1 c grated yellow (summer) squash or zucchini
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 c green onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 c buttermilk (or 4 T cultured buttermilk powder with 1 c water)

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, salt, herbs, baking powder, and buttermilk powder if using.

Toss in squash, 3/4 of the cheese, jalapeno, and green onion until all are coated and evenly distributed.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat together eggs, olive oil, and buttermilk (or water).

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones gently until combined. Don't overmix. It'll be kind of like a really wet dough.

Place dough in a well greased loaf pan and bake for about 40 minutes and then top with the remaining cheese. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted and then cleanly removed from the center.

*The recipe in the link also includes 1/2t baking soda, but I didn't so that's not an accidental omission.

11 November 2010

Foolishness Teeth

Dear my wisdom teeth,

Right now, when I'm in the middle of writing my first paper, is NOT the time for you to decide to come in some more. I have neither the time, nor the resources available to deal with all four of you. Please quit it.

Kthxbai,

Julie

10 November 2010

CSA bounties



At some point in October, I convinced myself that Colby and I wouldn't go out to eat for the month of November. This lasted all of one day because I forgot to bring a lunch on November 2nd. Then, I decided that we wouldn't go out to eat for *dinner* during all of November. This lasted until last Saturday, because there was a pizza place that I just *had* to try. (It was good, not great, but I prefer Chicago-style pizza to thin crust.) Yesterday we resumed our Central-Market-Cafe-dinner-with-grocery-shopping-Sunday ritual and I disabused myself of all notions that this "no eating out in November" thing had any traction left.

Part of the reason I even wanted to try this was because we joined a community supported agriculture (CSA) and it seemed like a really great way to support local farms, eat fresh foods, and try new foods that we never even thought about buying at the grocery store. The first delivery included green beans, green peppers, spring mix, cabbage, zucchini, green onions, butternut squash, sweet corn, turnip greens, oranges, and a grapefruit that looked like the Freakonomics apple/orange.

The first meal we ate with the CSA goodies was grilled steak with sauteed turnip greens, mashed butternut squash, and roasted corn. It was terribly delicious and everything was super fresh. I've never cooked turnip greens, but found them to be incredibly bitter. I sauteed them in bacon drippings, with spring onions, garlic, and some tomato and those helped to cut the bitterness, though not completetly. The corn was great and the butternut squash was awesome. I'm definitely looking forward to future CSA bushels. The head of napa cabbage we got was so green that I didn't recognize it as such, so I treated it like normal green cabbage and cooked up a really awesome side dish for dinner last night.

Really Awesome Cabbage Side Dish for Dinner Last Night
1 head napa cabbage, washed of all grit and roughly chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1/2 small onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil (or some other fat, I actually used chicken schmaltz)
s+p, to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to boil in a large stock pot. Boil cabbage leaves for ~6 minutes or so and then drain cabbage.

In a sauté pan, heat up evoo (or whatever fat you're using), add a pinch of salt and cook the onion and jalapeño until the onion is translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic for about 30 seconds or until fragrant, careful not to burn.

Add in the cabbage and stock and cook until most of the liquid has boiled away.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.

This is awesome and garlicky and even better the second day. I think it'd be really good served atop polenta.

06 November 2010

Apple Bread

Last Christmas we stole a juicer from Colby's mom. They never used it and I really wanted one, so it was a win-win situation. We made a bunch of different juices, most of them revolving around apples and pears, but I never knew what to do with the remaining pulp. We don't compost (yes, I know, this makes me a bad person but I can't convince Colby to do it), so we mostly just threw it away.

Since it's fall and there is an abundance of really good apples shipped across the country, I've been craving apple cider. No, not the alcoholic kind, the stuff that's made from pressing apples into, quite possibly, the most delicious beverage ever. I've posted about making apple cider at home before, but Colby wasn't so much a happy camper about the large amounts of work and extended amounts of clean up required. Enter the Jack LaLanne Juicer. We used some odd combination of apples (Granny Smith, Gala, Empire, crabapple, Margil, King David, and Pinata), which resulted in a really sweet, drinkable cider. I was a bit disappointed that it lacked sharpness, but next time I'll tweak the combination. I should also note that for whatever reason, this doesn't taste exactly the same as pressed cider, but it was a lot easier than doing it by hand.

This left me with a whole lot of apple pulp (or pomace), so I decided to make maple apple bread.

1 c rolled oats (not instant)
2 c AP flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 T cinnamon
1 t kosher salt
1 c vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
2 c maple syrup (the real deal)
3 large eggs
2 1/2-3 c apple pomace
1 c chopped walnuts (optional, but encouraged!)

Preheat oven to 350 and generously grease two loaf pans. In a large bowl whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl whisk the syrup, oil, eggs, and apple pomace (and walnuts if you're adding them) until well mixed. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in. Pour into the loaf pans and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until you can cleanly remove a toothpick from the center.

02 November 2010

candidate!

They liked my proposal! Yay! I'm officially a doctoral candidate now, so to celebrate, here's a recipe for the best roasted chicken ever.

1 2 1/2-3ish lb brined* whole chicken
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt+pepper
bread
2-3 ribs celery, chopped into 1 in pieces
inner celery leaves
3 carrots, chopped into 1 in pieces
1 smediumish yellow onion, cut in eighths
1 small lemon, quartered
optional: fresh herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary do well)
1 stick butter, melted

Heat oven to 375. In a small roasting pan or a 13x9 in cake pan (guess which one I used... yeah, that'd be the cake pan because our roasting pan is stupidly large) place the chopped celery, most of the chopped carrots save a few pieces, 6 pieces of the onion, and then chunks of bread on top of the vegetables. I used hoagie rolls, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 2x2x1 pieces.

Rub olive oil over the outside of the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

In the cavity of the chicken place lemons, celery leaves, a couple pieces of carrots, a couple pieces of onion and herbs if you want. If there's not enough room in the cavity for all the vegetables, just toss them in the roasting pan.

Set the chicken atop the vegetables and place in the oven for ~30-35 minutes, basting with butter every 10 minutes and then using the drippings once they're available.

Increase the oven temperature to 450 and place a probe thermometer in the breast.

Once the breast reaches 170 F, remove the chicken from the oven, tip the accumulated juices out of the cavity and take out the stuffed vegetables and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.

In the roasting pan, take out the bread and either toss it or eat it with the chicken. The bread will be toasty on one side, buttery, and full of pan dripping goodness. It might be the best part. om nom nom.

Remove vegetables from the pan as well and set aside for stock. You can use the drippings as the base for gravy, if you're into that sort of thing. :)

Once the chicken is carved and eaten (save the bones!), place the carcass+bones and reserved veggies into a stockpot, cover with water, and turn on overnight. In the middle of the night, when you're in the fridge for leftover chicken, move the lid of the crockpot to allow it to vent and enjoy your tasty midnight snack.

In the morning, remove from the crockpot, strain and refrigerate. Take off the layer of fat at the top and save it to roast vegetables in.

*To brine

1/2 c uniodized table salt (or 3/4 c kosher salt)
1/2 c brown sugar
1 quart hot water
2 1/2 c cold water
1 cup ice

In a sauce pan, mix hot water with the salt and sugar. Stir to dissolve. If you're impatient place the pan over low heat until all is dissolved. Add in cold water and ice. Pour this into a gallon sized ziplock bag and slide in the chicken. Put in the fridge for at least a 30 minutes and up to ~2 hours. If it's less, it's not so effective and if it's more, the chicken is too salty. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.


30 October 2010

Pro Tips from a Pro

I'm spending the first part of halloween weekend writing up my Ph. D. Thesis proposal. I might post parts of it here later if it gets approved. If it doesn't get approved, I just might quit astronomy and open a food truck. I don't see how I can lose.
So before spending the next half hour proofreading and just finishing the damn proposal, I've decided to bestow upon my awesomely large readership of like 2 people some life lessons (that they probably have already figured out).

Pro tip #1: Turning the slow cooker *ON* is a crucial step in making slow cooked anything.

Pro tip #1.1: Plugging it in also helps.

Pro tip #2: Just because you can make a plot (oh snap, it's an infographic... run and hide!), doesn't mean you should include it in, say, your PhD proposal

Pro tip #3: Feeding your dog ice cubes as treats == giving your dog excessive amounts of water returns true.

Pro tip #3.1: You have to expect peeing on the carpet to follow.

Pro tip #4: The only thing on your computer that works with the emacs command system is... dun dun dun... emacs.

Pro tip #4.1: ctrl+x ctrl+s will cut whatever you have highlighted and then save it in most text editors... unless you're in emacs. Remember this.

Pro tip #4.2: ctrl+k usually does nothing.

Pro tip #4.3: but no matter what emacs >> vi.

Pro tip #5: When choosing a wedding band, the prettiest is usually the most uncomfortable.

Addendum:

Pro tip #6: Just because you can add in white space with abandon in LaTeX, doesn't mean that you can do that with any other text publishing software you want. *ahem*

28 October 2010

my dog is brilliant, my tummy is not, and heyyy here's a recipe

Sometimes I think that my real calling in life is to cook professionally. And then I get a terrible stomach virus and food sort of seems like a cruel joke. I've spent much of the past day and a half curled up on my couch, hoping that the babydog doesn't do something stupid again.

Like this:

Usually she'll just curl up on the couch and nap with me, which is infinitely preferable to finding her attempting to get her head out from under the gate. I think she is totally surprised by the fact that she's still growing.

And here's a totally unrelated recipe from my dinner party:

butternut squash gnocchi
2 lb butternut squash
1 T butter
1/2 t nutmeg
2 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper (or white if you have it)
3-4ish c flour
1 egg

Split the butternut squash in half, scrape out the seeds, rub with butter and then season with 1 t salt and 1/2 t pepper. Roast until it's soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Scoop out the insides and puree in a food processor with the remaining salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Or you can mash it by hand if you're a masochist.

In a huge bowl, add the egg to the squash and gently combine.

Stir in the flour a cup at a time for the first 3 cups and then see if you need more. Add a 1/4 cup at a time from there. The gnocchi needs to be able to stay together, but you don't want to put too much in because they turn into mini rocks if it gets overworked. At some point I read that if you do this while the butternut squash is still hot, you can get away with using less flour, but it also depends on the humidity. The best way to test is to roll out a little piece and then boil it and see if it stays together.

Once you've incorporated the flour, grab tennis ball sized chunks and role into tubes on a WELL floured surface and cut off the individual pieces. Roll with a fork for the cute little grooves.

To cook, boil in salted water. You'll know that it's done when the pieces float to the top.

Serve with sage brown butter sauce:

1 stick butter
2 T fresh sage, minced
juice 1/2 lemon

In a pan, heat butter and sage over medium heat until the butter browns (~3-4 minutes). Take off heat, strain, stir in lemon juice. Try not to eat it all.

18 October 2010

Dinner Party Menu

I can't focus to save my butt right now, but that's probably because I have so much to do that I'm trying to do everything at once. It turns out that this doesn't work so well, so instead of making progress on any of my work-related things, I'm going to share the menu from the fantastic dinner party that we threw last Friday.


first course
apple - cheese pairing:
granny smith - blue cheese
Cox's orange pippin - moses sleeper
pink pearl - tomme crayuese
sweeTango - dante

One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to have this menu was to convince everyone to eat sweeTango apples. They're a cross between the Zestar and everyone's favorite, the honeycrisp. We got the cheeses from Antonelli's Cheese Shop in Hyde Park. That store is dangerous for waistlines and wallets. They were super awesome and helpful when we came in there with newbie cheese questions.

second course
chipotle sweet potato soup
fig, prosciutto, Lincoln Log goat cheese pizza
butternut squash gnocchi with a sage brown butter sauce
Link
We also go the goat cheese for the pizza from Antonelli's. Lincoln Log is a bucheron-style cheese that's made at Zingerman's Creamery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ew. I mentioned Ann Arbor on my blog. My inner Spartan feels icky.

third course
roasted chicken with sage butter
mashed potatoes
risotto
green beans with shallots and lemon (recipe below)

I wanted to get fancy with the second course, but it's usually the simple foods that are the most delicious if they're well prepared hence the main course is pretty much a really nice home-cooked meal.

fourth course
pumpkin pie with sweet cream ice cream
maple cupcakes with a maple cream cheese frosting

This is the pumpkin pie that I've made a zillion times before and it never disappoints. I wanted to do something different than the standard whipped cream for the pumpkin pie, so we made sweet cream ice cream that was tasty, but didn't have competing flavors with the pie. The maple cupcakes were made from a recipe from the new book Baked Explorations by the same guys who wrote the Baked: New Frontiers in Baking book.

I'll be posting the recipes for most of the rest of the stuff later, but here's a really nice, simple way of making green beans less boring.

Green Beans with Shallots and Lemon (serves a lot... like 20 if you're doing a 4 course meal... so you might want to quarter this)

2 lbs green beans, trimmed, cut in half and blanched
1 large shallot (or two medium ones), chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3-4 T olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
s+p

Heat up oil in a large frying pan. Add in shallots and cook until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add in green beans and cook until warmed through. Make a small well in the center and add in garlic and stir until fragrant (~1 minute or less). Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

12 October 2010

Chipotle sweet potato soup

Yeah, I know, I need to post about the cheese-beer-food pairing dinner, but I've been busy measuring how much iron exists in the outer layers of some of the oldest stars in the galaxy. (Wow, that sounds so much more interesting than it actually is.) For now, here's a recipe for chipotle sweet potato soup. I started with the Homesick Texan's recipe and modified it slightly. I'll be serving this at a dinner party I'm throwing on Friday, but more on that later.


chipotle sweet potato soup
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 t ginger, minced
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t smoked sweet paprika
6 c stock (chicken or vegetable work well)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 chipotles in adobo, diced
2 1/3 T brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
evoo, salt

1) Heat evoo in stock pot over medium heat.
2) Add in onion, celery, carrots and a pinch of salt. Sweat.
3) Add in spices and stir to coat vegetables.
4) Add in garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant (~1 minute).
5) Add in stock, sweet potatoes, chipotles and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender.
6) Stick blender it.
7) Add in brown sugar and lime juice and stir until dissolved.
8) Taste for seasoning

Serve with honey butter croutons* and a sprinkle of sea salt.

The chipotles are a bit smoky, but they're way hotter than they are smoky. I think that the sweet potatoes match well with spicy, smoky flavors (see Thanksgiving 2008) but too much chipotle renders the soup inedible to delicate tongues, thus I added the smoked sweet paprika. I played with adding fleur de sel at the end, but it melts really quickly (and it's really freaking expensive) so I found a smoked sea salt to finish that doesn't dissolve so fast.



*Honey butter croutons= Bake[Toss[Mix[1/2 T honey+1/2 stick melted butter + 1/8 t vanilla extract + 1 t smoked sweet paprika] + Drizzle[extra virgin olive oil]+ Cube[day old bread]],350,~10 minutes]

and if you can't read the Bakematica scripting language:

mix 1/2 T honey+1/2 stick melted butter + 1/8 t vanilla extract + 1 t smoked sweet paprika. combine with evoo. toss with cubed bread. bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. :)

04 October 2010

more menu madness and tortilla soup redux

So last week I went to this fabulous dinner, but I never ended up posting pictures or a review because life got busy. Not soul-crushingly busy, but "why isn't my science making sense" busy. I'll post about it this week, though. As for now, I just wanted to post another set of menus. We've been eating in a whole lot lately, so I'm trying my hardest to keep it interesting.

For lunch this week, I made tortilla soup. I've made it before, but in the most horrible cheater-y way possible.

Tortilla Soup Part Dos:
4 chicken thighs
15+32 oz chicken stock
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
2+ T adobo sauce
1 ear of corn, kernels stripped and "milked"
1 zucchini, chopped
0.5 c tortilla chips (or you could use corn tortillas.)
juice of 1 lime
oregano, cumin, s+p

In a large sauce pan, place chicken thighs, 15 oz of chicken stock, and water to cover. Bring to a simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Shred said chicken meat and reserve. Put the bones, skin, bits of chicken still stuck to the bone back in the pot and continue to simmer. In a dutch oven or stock pot, saute onion, carrots, and celery and about a tsp of salt in olive oil until the veggies are softened. Add in jalapenos, garlic, and whatever amount of cumin that you're using and stir until fragrant (like 30 seconds). Add in canned tomatoes, adobo sauce (which is hot! so adjust accordingly) and oregano and let that cook for ~10 minutes or so to let the flavors meld. At this point, turn your attention back to the stock and skim the fat off the top. Add the skimmed, strained stock to the soup, as well as the additional chicken stock, and crushed tortilla chips and bring back to a simmer. Add in the corn and zucchini and cook until soft. Add in lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with cheese, sour cream, avocado, more lime.

Monday
lunch: chicken tortilla soup
dinner: old bay shrimp, mushroom* risotto, green beans

Tuesday
lunch: chicken tortilla soup
dinner: mustard dill salmon, wilted spinach+roasted garlic, quinoa

Wednesday
lunch: quinoa+veggies
dinner: Slow-cooker Texas chili

Thursday
lunch: chili
dinner: habanero chicken, jalapeno mac'n'cheese, carnival squash

Friday
lunch: chili
dinner: homemade gravlax, prosciutto, goat cheese, capers, olives, crostini

*The mushroom part will be sauteeing a bunch of wild mushrooms that need to get eaten and then the addition of truffle oil at the end that I really need to use up.

19 September 2010

spinach and tomato tortellini soup and some meal planning

It's Austin Restaurant Week again and we're about to head out to Sullivan's Steakhouse for their ARW prix fixe menu. I promised Colby that we wouldn't eat out for awhile after this and I'm sort of trying to think about starting to eat healthy, so menu planning was in order.

Monday
lunch: spinach and tomato tortellini soup
dinner: chicken with mustard sauce, steamed broccoli, quinoa

Tuesday
lunch: broccoli + quinoa wrap
dinner: habanero chicken, spanish rice, grilled zucchini

Wednesday
lunch: spinach and tomato tortellini soup
dinner: spaghetti squash lasagna

Thursday
lunch: chicken fajitas
dinner: Korean tacos

Friday
lunch: bulgogi wrap
dinner: salmon and potato hash with poached eggs

And since, it seems, it's been forever since last I posted a recipe, here's how to make my stupidly easy (and cheater) spinach and tomato tortellini soup.

1/2 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium celery stalk, diced
2 T olive oil
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
32 oz (or so) stock (I used chicken, but vegetable stock works well too)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
9 oz package tortellini
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 c lightly packed baby spinach
salt+red pepper flakes, to taste

In a large sauce pan or stock pot or some sort of cooking vessel heat olive oil.

Add in onion, celery, and carrots with about a 1/2 tsp of kosher salt. Sweat until the celery and onion become translucent and the carrots soften (about 5-6 minutes).

Add in tomatoes (liquids and all), crushed garlic, and stock and bring to a boil.

Add in the tortellini for however long they need. (I used a refrigerator package, so they only needed 4ish minutes.)

Reduce heat and add in the cannellini beans and spinach and stir until the spinach has wilted.

Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste.

So okay, fine, I've sort of semi-hoed this up, but it's better than going out for lunches this week .

13 September 2010

Hudson's on the Bend

Last night Colby and I made use of our Hudson's on the Bend Groupon deal. The coupon cost $50 for two three course tastings, which would normally be $100. Not a bad deal for one of Austin's most expensive restaurants. We made a reservation for 7:30 and were a bit late because we couldn't find the entrance to the parking lot. Oops. It didn't matter though, because they couldn't seat us right away anyway. They offered complimentary cocktails as we waited, but we declined. Actually, Colby declined and then the hostess ignored me.

When we were seated, the waiter asked if we were here for the Groupon deal. I thought it was pretty tacky. No, we're not 1000 years old and millionaires so, yes, it's likely that we're here for the Groupon, but let *us* tell you, don't assume. I suppose it didn't help that the biggest hipster douche evAr was sitting behind us with his scantily-clad girlfriend. Guilt by age-association, perhaps?

Anywho, first came the complimentary parmesan garlic bread in a tiny cast iron skillet.
The bread was surprisingly sweet. It was served with two flavored butters, one of which was some herb that I can't recall and the other was a chipotle tomato butter. The second one was really good and if you used enough you could ignore the faults of the bread, but the first one wasn't so memorable because it was overwhelmed by the sweetness.

We ordered the lemon saffron lobster risotto with asparagus tips in addition to the tasting menu and that came out next.
This was arguably the best part of the meal. The risotto was cooked perfectly, and the sweetness of the butter poached asparagus and the lobster balanced the lemon with the saffron tying everything together.

The first course came out. Colby got the salad, excuse me tossed garden greens, with a poblano-lime dressing. It was probably overdressed, but the bite I had was good. I got the chipotle lobster bisque, which came to the table disassembled. The waiter poured the bisque into the dish which contained a teeny tiny parmesan puff pastry "crouton" and a pitiful amount of lobster. It was a little awkward and unnecessary for a unremarkable soup.
My lasting impression of this soup was that it was terribly sweet, but still enjoyable.

The main course then came out: espresso rubbed smoked elk with green chile mashed potatoes and a pecan-encrusted ruby trout with like a corn-bread pudding.

The elk was served with a beurre blanc that the waiter brought to the table in a little pitcher which he then poured for us. Again, odd. The elk was, well, smokey. It was good and it wasn't at all what I was expecting. There are few meats I hate more than venison and I was expecting something like that. Instead it was beef-like in texture, but just tasted smokey. The beurre blanc was tasty and paired well with the elk. The green chile mashed potatoes were excellent. There isn't anything about that combination that's not absolutely delicious though, so... :)

The trout was served atop a mango jalapeno aioli and covered with an ancho sauce. The aioli was basically glorified tartar sauce and it was, out of all the out of place sweet aspects of the meal, the most oppressively sweet item. The ancho sauce, however, was very tasty and paired really well with the pecan crust. It's actually a shame that the trout was plated *on* the aioli because the skin+crust was actually really good. The trout was Colby's favorite part of the meal. The corn bread pudding was also sweet, but I guess that's not all that surprising.

The dessert course was next and Colby ordered the Chambord chocolate mousse with legs of fudge. I opted for the warm berry flambe atop homemade vanilla bean ice cream.
The mousse was served in a wine glass and the "legs of fudge" were just hot fudge smeared down the sides of the glass. It tasted like chocolate and that's all I can really say about it.

The ice cream was brought to the table in a martini glass with the berries in a little ramekin that the waiter then poured atop the ice cream. Pour count is up to 3... out of four courses. I guess five if you count the bread. Even still, if you were to hit .600 in a season, you'd be the MVP of the league. Except that pouring soups and sauces isn't the same thing as getting hits in baseball and it doesn't actually make things taste better. Pouring the berries certainly didn't help the fact that the ice cream was... icy. Ice cream should never have ice crystals in it. Either the ice cream wasn't properly chilled when it was made or, more likely, it was allowed to be melted and then re-frozen. Tsk, tsk.

Overall, it was a good dining experience; however, I don't think we'll be returning. Before the Groupon discount, it was a $180 meal for two people. I am totally willing to spend that much on a really special meal, but that meal better have some come-to-Jesus moments instead of instances that just make you go "oh, god".

10 September 2010

Say Ya to da U.P.! Also pasties. Say hells ya to them.

It's just past midnight and I should be doing something productive say, for instance, determining the surface temperature for a star that I've been working on. Instead, I'm eating dinner. Or rather, second dinner, but who's counting? ;)

Taking cues from this recipe (from a Yooper, no less!) Colby and I made a whole lotta pasties. No recipe here, but follow the link and you can't go wrong. We used 4 yukon gold potatoes, 1 medium-ish rutabega, two small carrots, a small yellow onion, and about a pound of round steak for the filling. Season with generous amounts of salt and pepper and stuff in some pie crust and you get these:

No, they're not so pretty (though, this is partly because the picture was taken with a camera phone in the middle of the night), but they're hot out of the oven and smell like heaven. And the taste? Well, they taste like Up North and being a kid. Served with a little brown gravy and some sour cream, it's like I'm 12 again and I don't even know what an existential crisis is.

02 September 2010

I fail

Ugh. This nablopomo thing is hard

01 September 2010

Cupcake Telescopes

Last month I spent a week in Boston working with my collabadvisor, Anna. Whenever I come to visit, it's sort like an astronomy boot camp. That week's highlights included figuring out the surface temperature of a few of the oldest stars in our galaxy, sitting in a Herman Miller Aeron chair for a few days, and baking cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes, mind you, but cupcakes that were appropriate for astronopalooza.

I posted a teaser of what was to come a couple weeks ago, but here is the whole spread, plus an explanation of the assembly. If you look at a cupcake and squint a whole lot it starts to look like a telescope dome. If you use Wilton nut cups, then they totally look like telescope domes. The only thing that I can think of that's better than an observatory is an edible observatory. Nom nom.

To assemble the domecakes, you must first to bake cupcakes and a half sheet cake. This is enough for about 12 domecakes.

Soft+Hardware
Enough white cake mix (from scratch is best, because there's no reason these shouldn't taste good in addition to being totally cute) to make two 9x9 cakes
Wilton Nut & Party Cups
frosting (I used this recipe)
icing tubes (like these)
red wine glass

1) Preheat the oven to whatever it is that your recipe calls for. Grease ONE square (8x8 or 9x9 would work best) cake pan and prep the cups by placing one in each section of a muffin tin (or really, you can just put it on a sheet pan)

2) Prepare your cake mix and pour half the batter into the 9x9 cake pan and divide the other half among 12 or so of the cups. Fill each cup a little more than halfway. No more than that!

3) Bake the cupcakes and the sheet cake. The cupcakes will likely be done before sheet cake.

4) Allow the cupcakes and sheet cake to completely cool and prepare your frosting

Photo credit: A. Frebel

5) Once the sheetcake has cooled, crumble it and combine with ~6-8 oz of frosting. Start out small and add more if you'd like. This is basically a recipe for cake balls.

6) Take a scant 1/4c of the cake ball material and cram it into a wine glass. Don't fill it too high, or else it won't come out (see below). Take a spoon and loosen the edges such that you can use gravity to get it out the rest of the way.



7) place the dome of cake ball goodness atop each of the cupcakes and then generously frost



8) Decorate



9) Put them into formations of different observatories because you have 12 cupcakes that look like telescopes and, really, what could be more fun than that?

Now, pop quiz! Which observatory is which?









Photo credit: A. Frebel

Photo credit: A. Frebel


Photo credit: A. Frebel

Answers

29 August 2010

Menu planning returns


So the school year is now underway and I have no excuse as to why I'm eating out all the time. In order to remedy this I'm doing menu planing again.  In no particular order here is this week's dinner menu

Gumbo w/shrimp and spicy hatch sausage w/homemade hot sauce

Chicken parm w/spaghetti squash

Baked  whole wheat ziti

Central Market hatch chile and chicken dinner

15 August 2010

nerdcakes

this is a mere taste of the sheer awesomeness that is going to be found in an upcoming post.

06 August 2010

DroidX Camera > BlackBerry Camera

DroidX picture of peppers from my garden



BB picture of peppers from my garden

05 August 2010

adventures in gorgonzola part 1

We had extra gorgonzola and cream cheese from the dip earlier this week, so I wanted to find something to do with it. I settled on barbecue bleu cheese burgers.

1 lb ground beef
1/4 c barbecue sauce
3 oz gorgonzola, crumbled
4 oz cream cheese, softened
salt+pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and gorgonzola until smooth and creamy. Pop it in the microwave if it's still too hard to combine.

In a separate bowl, work together ground beef, salt+pepper, and barbecue sauce until thoroughly combined.

Divide the meat into four equal parts and then take one part at a time and divide that in half and create little balls



Smush these balls into patty-like things



Smear ~1.5 T of the cheese mixture in the center (being careful to leave a generous border) of one of the patties and then place the other on top and seal closed.



Grill and nom... and then contemplate about what you're going to do with the remaining cheese mixture. My first thought was cheese + spoon, but the crushing reality of lactose intolerance make me quickly abandon that idea. My second idea was jalapeno poppers, but that's a post for another day.

04 August 2010

Michigan Eats

So, we're not dead. Hooray! We made the drive up with only one stop to make sure that we didn't die and we make the drive down without any such stops. The only hiccup happened when Colby tried to kill us by telling me that I needed to accelerate to get on the freeway in Texarkana, but actually it was super swervetastic with a separate lane for those coming out of the rest area and I almost drove into the barrier. This was totally his fault. :) Thank jebus for those little reflector things.

Our trip to Michigan began with my dad's wedding, then a couple days at home to hang out with some friends and introduce the babydog to my grandma and great aunt, followed by a stint in Stockbridge to visit Colby's family, and then finally the real vacation... Traverse City.

Now let's begin with a meal-by-meal breakdown of the trip.

Just kidding.

Here are some of the high and lowlights from the trip:

Colby, LeeAnne, LeeAnne's boyfriend, and I hit up the Blue Nile in Ferndale that weekend for some Ethiopian food. The injera was tastier than I expected and the food ranged from mediocre to tasty, but the service was atrocious. Even if I lived in Ferndale, I would be hesitant to ever go back for bitchy waiters and (expensive) unmemorable food. Definite lowlight.

We went to Colby's house after the weekend and stopped by Zingerman's Deli on the way there. Fortunately for us, they have a dog friendly patio, so the three of us sat outside and ate some very memorable food. I had the #48 Binny's Reuben, which is basically cat reuben | sed 's/corned beef/pastrami/g'. For all of you non-losers out there, it's a reuben with pastrami instead of corned beef. This was definitely a highlight. I also picked up some Crunchy Koeze Cream-Nut Peanut Butter as well as Cascados Olive Oil. There will be much nom-ing in the future. Highest light.

Once we made it to Stockbridge, we had a conduit to East Lansing. We went to Pizza House and Cosi for a couple different lunches and brought back deliciously nostalgic (or perhaps nostalgically delicious) memories of late and date nights in college. We also ended up at Bubble Island, B-dubs, and Espresso Royale. It was fun and I got to see my friend Franny. Highlight.

Finally, we were on our way to Traverse City. The first stop was the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. It. was. fucking. spectacular.

After a few hours of climbing dunes, hiking in sand, and playing on the beach, we headed to our hotel and then to a late lunch at Jenny's Gourmet Cornish Pasties. We got there at 4 and both had a traditional steak pasty with potato and rutabega baked in a delicious crust and served with brown gravy and sour cream. I think one of my new culinary quests is going to be to perfect a pasty recipe. Super tasty and super highlighty.

We met up with Ms. Maciolek/Mrs. Herrold later that evening at the North Peak Brewery. We all started with a Gorgonzola, pecan, and cherry dip served with pita chips. It was really delicious and one of the first things I did when I went home was to try to replicate it (the recipe's at the bottom). I also had the white cheddar ale soup with mustard pretzel croutons and the fried walleye sandwich with fries. The soup was disappointing. It didn't have much flavor on its own, but the "house made" mustard pretzel croutons were strongly flavored and tasted just like the ones from Snyder of Hanover. The walleye sandwich was tasty, although I had a couple pin bones in one of the pieces and their fries are pretty good.

The next day we went wine tasting up Old Mission Peninsula. That alone deserves its own post because we went to seven in the span of 2.5 hours. I was pretty drunk by the end of it... which makes me kind of sad at myself, but we ended up buying 6 bottles of wine+cider by the time we were done with TC. We then ate at The Boathouse Restaurant from a twitter recommendation and it was really amazing. We started with duck wings which were served with a blackberry ale sauce and a Traverse City Cherry hot sauce. While I wasn't huge fan of the blackberry sauce, the hot sauce was incredible. I probably could have drunk it by itself, but it was sort of a fancy lunch so I restrained myself. Colby got an Italian sandwich with pasta salad. It was an assemble yourself feast and I tried some of the different meats, including the prosciutto, which was tasty. But I generally think that prosciutto is tasty. I had the Lake Victoria perch with pomme frittes. Oh. em. gee. So good! I love coming home to Michigan because I can't find lake perch down here. It's all ocean-y fish, which is good, but nothing beats lake perch in my book. Highlight.

I spent the rest of the afternoon pretty sick, but pull myself together for dinner. Since it was a Friday night during the Traverse City Film Festival, it was nearly impossible to find a restaurant that either had reservations or could seat us in a reasonable amount of time, but we did find one place called Hanna Bistro. It received kind of mediocre reviews on Yelp and it was not so busy that they couldn't seat us right away. This should have been a clue. It was highly mediocre and way overpriced for how underseasoned ALL the food was. The waitress was a bit rude, which is forgivable if the food doesn't suck. This was not the case. We started with a charcuterie plate that came with cold brie, pate, some other cold harder cheese, salami, mustard, onion relish, olives, and water crackers. Cold cheese is not the optimal way to eat it... and even when the hard cheese warmed up a bit, it still didn't taste like anything. I'm not sure that I'll ever like pate, but it was okay when it was smeared in mustard or the onion relish... but that was mostly because it tasted like mustard or onion relish. The salami was good and probably the tastiest thing that we had during the entirety of the meal. We also got a Manhattan clam chowder, which seemed like it should be delicious except for the extreme lack of salt or any other discernible seasoning. I generously used the salt and pepper shakers and it ended up okay. Colby ordered the shrimp and grits which were unremarkable and gummy respectively. I got the NY strip special topped with some sour cream sauce and served with mixed vegetables. Holy crap. The last time I ordered a steak and asked for A1 steak sauce I was in Outback. I expected way more and it totally didn't deliver. The best part of that dish was the mixed vegetables. After all the disappointment, we skipped dessert and ended up getting slushies from an oldschool ice cream stand. Lowlight for sure.

The next day we stopped by Paesanos for some tasty pizza and then went to the Toolshed Party. It was kind of a waist-expanding trip but totally worth it.


Gorgonzola, pine nut, and cherry dip
4 oz cream cheese
3-4 oz gorgonzola, crumbled
3 T pine nuts, toasted
1/4 c dried (Michigan!) cherries
~1 T milk (optional)

preheat the oven to ~350. combine all ingredients, except for the milk. If it's too thick, thin with a little bit of milk. put into a small ramekin and bake until the top starts looking a bit toasty and brown and delicious (maybe 15-20 minutes... but I honestly don't remember because I wasn't paying attention to the time). Serve with tortilla chips or pita chips or, you know, just a spoon. This is also incredible the second day.


20 July 2010

Pandora FAIL

Something is amiss. See if you can spot it. I've added some hints...

click to embiggen

And when I asked Pandora why, exactly, they chose this particular "song", this was its response:




This would make more sense if Lady Antebellum and all the other artists I've added to my station (you know, like Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, and Josh Turner) were known for their best selling hip hop albums... but when you mix country and rap, generally you just get crap.

19 July 2010

Road Trips and Buffalo Dubs

I can't concentrate on work right now because all I can think about is all the fun I'm going to have when I go home. A week from now I'll be at Zingerman's Deli and a few days after that, I'll be making my way to Michigan foodie haven, Traverse City. Between now and then, I have a paper to um... ameliorate and a 23 hour road trip to complete.

Even though I vowed never to make the drive from Austin to Michigan in one fell swoop ever again, necessity dictates that we make the drive in a day. Colby's got a grown up job and can't leave at will and my dad's wedding rehearsal is on Friday night. We're leaving sometime on Thursday, likely in the late afternoon and need to make it to Port Huron by 6:30 PM on Friday. The rapidity with which this trip is to occur dictates that we'll be eating our meals in car. Thus I've been "menu planning". Or at least, I've been trying to think of more creative meal plans than granola bars, potato chips, and pop. Loads and loads of caffeinated pop. (The last time we made this trip, I was hallucinating by the time we got to Indiana... and I was the one driving.)

My thoughts for the "meals" on this trip (likely a dinner, fourth meal, breakfast, and lunch) are to make sandwich-y things but in wraps since one of us is going to be driving and eating. Tuna salad in pitas, chicken parm "dubs", buffalo chicken dubs, and then I ran out of good ideas. Suggestions are mucho welcomed. The buffalo chicken dub, though, is wonderful.

Buffalo dub, a la Menna's Joint

4 chicken tenders*, cooked and cut into bite sized chunks
4 taco-sized flour tortillas
2 T ranch dressing (or bleu cheese if you're adventurous)
1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Buffalo sauce
1/2 stick butter
1/4 c hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)

In a small sauce pan melt butter, add hot sauce, and then let it boil for at least 20-25 min. The longer the better/hotter. In the end add in a couple splashes of hot sauce if you like it hot.

Toss the chicken tender chunks in the buffalo sauce to coat. In each tortilla, place 1 chicken tender's worth of chicken, 1/2 T ranch, 2 T mozzarella and then fold like a mini burrito. In a hot pan, grill on both sides until the tortillas are GBD.


*Homemade is best, but even I'm eschewing that for the frozen kind because I need to get a whole lot done in the next four days.

15 July 2010

Staunch moderates make the best drivers

Some jackass with a McCain bumper sticker cut me off.

TWICE.

I think that she needs to move towards the center... of the LANE.

Even a crazy liberal like myself knows that going so far right (or left, even) that you're in the other lane isn't the best DRIVING policy.

Keep your politics off the road, people.

08 July 2010

Scubbing Bubbles != good seasoning

My house has been invaded by the dreaded musca domestica, the common housefly. I've killed about 20 today alone. At first it was slow going because I was using junk mail laying around on the kitchen table as fly swatters. Since junk mail doesn't have the requisite holes that allow for quick and efficient fly swattage, I knew I had to up the ante and bring in the big guns: Scrubbing Bubbles.

Scrubbing Bubbles is deadly to anything with a thin exoskeleton and paint. It's also apparently crazy toxic if eaten. I sort of wish I had known this before I sprayed it all over the painted surfaces in my kitchen. Oops. So in order to avoid self-inflicted poisoning, we're eating out tonight and cleaning up the kitchen upon our arrival home... because sometimes my puppy licks the walls, many of which are now covered in Scrubbing Bubbles.

And here's a little snippet into my marriage and restaurant decision making:

me: do you want to go to Kerbey Lane or 24diner?
he: tonight
me: yeah
he: i'd rather go to 24
me: okay. is that okay instead of like mighty fine or panda?
he: :( but its more expensive

because for Colby, no food tastes as good as free food.

07 July 2010

Boston Eats

I made my glorious return to Austin on Saturday and spent that afternoon with Colby and the babydog. We made a quick jaunt to North by Northwest Brewery for lunch and then Central Market for some necessities since Colby managed to make it two weeks without eating a meal outside of the house and without going grocery shopping. He figures that if we rationed well, we have enough food for about 6 months without one trip to a grocery store. I'm glad that one of us can be thrifty.

Upon my arrival home, I was extremely grateful for air conditioning, my kitchen, and my dog. It's starting to feel like home now and things that I associate with a place that should be home (e.g. familiar haunts) are starting to accumulate. This is not to say, however, that I did not enjoy my time in Boston. Quite the opposite, actually. Foodwise, it was pretty awesome. Sciencewise it was absolutely incredible. I could tell you all about the progress I'm making on my paper and the new science-y things I'm learning, but we all know that you're (and by you, I mean the two of you who read this) here for the food.

The Boston Must Eat list included the clam chowdah at Turner Fisheries, a burger from Bartley's Burger Cottage, and cannoli from Mike's Pastry. I was not led astray in any case (thank you to Kyle, Alexis, Jim, et al. for your suggestions!) although, I must say that my favorite was Turner Fisheries. It's one thing to be tasty, it's another thing to border on a religious experience.

I went for lunch since it was a) cheaper and b) less awkward since almost no one was there. I ordered the chowder because it was highly recommended and voted as Boston's best clam chowder by Boston Magazine. Now, I'm not really a clam chowder fan. Usually it's presented as goopy potato soup with little rubbery, gritty pieces of overcooked clam and if you're unlucky, it reeks of a fishy aroma which makes even seafood lovers turn away in disgust. Perhaps my experience comes from living far, far away from New England, but I approached this with an open mind. And wow, what a treat. It was not potato soup with extras, but rather a rich, velvety smooth soup with an underlying clam flavor that ties it all together. And the clams! Never again will I assume clams are the seafood equivalent of pink pencil erasers. I'm just going to blame everyone who has ever made me clam chowder before for the crime of overcooking. They were tender, slightly chewy, and delicious. Served with (house made!) oyster crackers, it was an enlightened chowder experience.



I followed this with the lobster roll with fries and mixed greens and it never had a chance. It turns out that not even lobster can salvage mayonnaise for me. Mayo belongs in the background of only a select group of salads and lobster salad is not one of them. Regardless, it wasn't bad, but I'm unlikely to order it from anywhere else any time soon. I'm glad that I tried it and the fries were quite excellent, so that was a nice treat as well.



After stuffing myself at Turner's I navigated my way through Boston's transit system and went to the Museum of Science. So. Freaking. Awesome. I have a ton of pictures, but that's for another post (soon!). I ended up spending like four hours there or something ridiculous and so I was sort of hungry again... at least, I was hungry enough for a cannoli, so it was off to Mike's Pastry.



I don't understand how everyone in Boston isn't like 400 lbs, because the CANNOLI. Wow, it was so rich and creamy. I got a pistachio cannoli, which had a sweet ricotta filling with the ends dipped in nuts. My only complaint is that the pistachios were dyed green. It almost ruined it for me because I'm weird about food coloring, but I just closed my eyes and dug in. I'm going back to Boston in a month from now, so I'll definitely be bringing a cannoli kit back for Kyle and Colby (and yes, myself).

A few days later, I found myself with no lunch plans, so I made my way to Harvard Square for a burger from Bartley's Burger Cottage. It was tasty, but perhaps I've been spoiled with Texas beef because I didn't find it life changing, as had been suggested. I ordered the Ted Kennedy, a burger served with cheddar cheese and mushrooms. I think the biggest problem with it was that the mushrooms were clearly canned. I vowed to never eat another canned mushroom after leaving a home in which they were regularly served with steak. Ew. No pictures of this meal because I walked from Harvard Square back to the Center for Astrophysics with it in a bag before eating it, so it was a little worse for the wear after. Despite not being bowled over, I managed to eat almost the entire burger with about half the fries.

More Boston stories in later posts. And now, it's back to writing that paper that I started.

03 July 2010

Growing up in a time zone in which you had no right to be in sort of screws with your head. It turns out the Michigan should probably be in central time, but it's not so right now it seems obscenely bright for 630 AM. Granted, I'm in Boston so it's super east, but I'm not used to dealing with this much daylight for such an ungodly early hour. And this state of being awake for 24 hours probably isn't helping.

Alas I am leaving the great state of Massachusetts for the comforts of home and excessive air conditioning, but I'll be back in August to finish up this paper that I came to work on. More posts later on Boston, the restaurants, and the Museum of Science after I get home and sleep for about a day.

30 June 2010

I'm not currently dead

I've been working hard and playing hard and eating lots of tasty food. I'll post more when I get home, but so far, I've been to Armando's Pizza, Turner Fisheries, Simon's Coffee Shop, the Otherside Cafe, Le's Vietnamese Restaurant, and Bartley's Burger Cottage.

Pictures, reviews, and stories to come!

28 June 2010

Letter to Myself

Dear Past Self,

Way to not write down that radial velocity. It's not like you'd actually remember it two months later. You would have been really screwed if Midas didn't have such a good memory, but kudos on remembering which session you last used.

Cheers,

Present Self

24 June 2010

Woo.

Greetings from Cambridge, MA. This will be a quick update, but I wanted to say hi and thank all of my Bostonphile friends for their suggestions. I've been on a run through Harvard, which was sort of interesting, although I didn't mean to make it so long. I ended up getting lost. Oops. I may make that run again tomorrow when I know where I'm going. I've also been to the CfA a lot, but so far haven't been to any restaurants yet. This will change shortly.

Tomorrow I'm going to lunch with some people, including a guy who studies abundances in damped lyman alpha systems from Pomona College. I doubt it will turn into a foodie extravaganza, but later that afternoon there's a wine and cheese gathering on the roof of the CfA.

Saturday is going to be my big day to explore. I'd really like to go to Turner Fishery to try some of Boston's best clam chowder and have my first ever lobster roll for lunch and then I'm going to make a stop at the Museum of Science and then perhaps a jaunt over to Mike's Pastry on the way out. I'm also hoping to go exploring in the morning, but I need to re-read everyone's emails to see what I'm going to do!

22 June 2010

Boston!

I'm headed to Boston in a mere 5.25 hours. I'll be spending the next almost two weeks working with an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics. I'll be staying in the Cambridge area, so if anyone who maybe reads this and is familiar with Boston, please please please leave comments about what/where I should visit while I'm there. I won't have a car but plan to make use of the city's apparently good transit system.

And in a quick update about the layout, I'm working with my friend Naomi on redesigning the background and stuff. I'm thinking cartoon-y and cute because it was sort of boring before. Here's a preview:



Cute, no?

17 June 2010

Cheesecake Cupcakes

It's apparently dairy week, which has sort of wreaked havoc on my lactose intolerant gastrointestinal system, but it's been rather delicious. I decided to make cheesecake cupcakes for a picnic that I never went on, but here's the general idea.

I used the cheesecake cupcake recipe from Cooking for Engineers so I won't reproduce it here, but instead of using a Nilla Wafer as the crust, I combined 1.5 T of melted butter with 1/4ish c of crushed Teddy Grahams to fill 6 cups. I then topped each with a blackberry. For the others, I used crushed chocolate cookies and topped with a chocolate chip. I think in the future I may try oreos.

These turned out wonderful, were super simple and quick.

15 June 2010

tomato basil soup

I've been fighting with horrible data ever since I passed my defense. I often complain about the general quality of the data that I work with in my project, but right now I'm dealing with the "problem" stars and they are quite problematic. Instead of chucking my laptop across the room in frustration, I've found that cooking helps quite a bit. Today I made tomato basil soup because a) it's delicious b) Colby likes it and c) I bought a thermos for it specifically so I could take it to a picnic with me tomorrow.

Tomato basil soup:

3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced (I used a Texas 1015, which is by far my favorite onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 28 oz cans of tomatoes (I used San Marzanos, but anything works here)
15 oz chicken stock
1/2 c heavy cream
3 T butter
2 T tomato paste
lots of basil, chopped (I used about 2.5 c, loosely packed)
salt+pepper to taste

Heat the evoo in a large pot. Once hot, add in the onions and a good pinch of salt and cook until softened and a bit brown about 5-10 minutes. Add in garlic and stir until fragrant, ~30s or so. Add in chicken stock and tomatoes and stick blender until mostly smooth...ish. Bring to a boil. Bring to medium heat and add butter, cream, tomato paste, and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread.