Thursday, September 27, 2007

Morning Glory Muffins (Page 643)

  • Date: Thursday, September 27, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I haven't been having great luck with the cookies from The Book lately, so I decided to try my hand at some muffins instead. These muffins were ok. I like morning glory muffins a lot, and these had all the necessary components: carrot, apple, coconut, raisins, pecans... Despite all the components, my main complaint is that the muffins didn't have a lot of flavor. Certainly there was a lot going on, but the cake base didn't taste like much. Maybe it needed more salt? I also found the muffins to be rather oily. Normally I am a big fan of baking with vegetable oil, since it pretty much guarantees moistness in muffins and cake. But in this case there was just too much, which gave the muffins a greasy feel to them. They were still good, but it's not the best morning glory muffin recipe out there. Strangely, it also made more muffins than the recipe said it would (that very rarely happens). I ran out of full-sized muffin tins, so I made a bunch of mini-muffins with the leftover batter. I am a big fan of the mini-muffin. It's less of a commitment, but with the same yummy muffin taste!

This recipe isn't online.

Tomorrow in lecture, while I am handing out the weekly pop quiz (which is less of a surprise when I give it on Friday -- process of elimination tips them off), I am also going to hand out mid-semester evaluation forms. Exciting! I will get to see what my students really think of me! I can easily predict comments like, "Assigns too much Webwork," and "Should let us use calculators." But beyond that, who knows what they will say?!? I really like doing evaluations during the term though (rather than just at the end) because it makes it possible to actually effect change that the students can see. I am certainly not going to assign less Webwork because they want me to (or let them use their calculators!), but if they have constructive comments about the lectures, for instance, I would love to know that.

I think I may have been a little too adamant at the beginning of the course about not wanting my students to be reliant on their calculators. This week we have been talking about approximate integration (Midpoint rule, Simpson's rule, etc...) and several students asked me if it was ok if they used their calculators to add up all the numbers. I tried to instill in them that there was a a difference between multiplying and adding on the calculator (which is ok!) and using the calculator to do definite integrals for you (not ok!), but apparently that didn't come through too clearly.

I had to laugh when I got my teaching assignment for next term -- I have only one class, which, as I understand it, is basically calculator-based calculus. I guess this means I will have to acquire one of these calculator things...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sesame Honey Lace Cookies (Page 675)

  • Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: C+


I picked these cookies to make this evening because I was in the mood for something sweet. It's a rare cookie that doesn't appeal to me at all, but The Book has managed to come up with a couple of them lately. These cookies are delicate and beautiful (ok, well mine didn't turn out as beautiful as they might have -- more on that in a second), but they just don't taste very good. The sweetness from the honey is pleasant, but the cookies are so overwhelmed by the number of sesame seeds that the flavor of the seeds overpowers that candy quality from the honey. The savoriness of the seeds was just too much for these cookies. I also found the textural contrast between the almost brittle-like honey mixture and the chewiness from the sesame seeds to be rather unappealing. Basically: I am not sold on this recipe. They would have been cute though, had I spaced them out properly. Carelessly, I skimmed the recipe and was somehow under the impression that I was meant to bake all the cookies in one batch, on two baking sheets. So, my little balls of dough were spaced close enough together that when they spread (which they did!), all the cookies in each sheet melded together. So, instead of 5 dozen cookies, I ended up with 2 huge cookies! It wasn't such a problem -- it was easy to break the big sheets into pieces. But they would have been cuter of course as perfect little circles. Whoops.

Here is the recipe.

At some point in my project I started cooking big meals every few days (or once a week) rather than one thing from The Book every day. And I remember thinking to myself after making this change, "Why did I ever think it was a good idea to cook the recipes one at a time?" Now I remember: when you are just cooking for one, it makes no sense to make big meals! Big meals mean big leftovers. If I make a salad, a meat dish, a vegetable, and a dessert, how will I ever get through it all before it goes bad? One at a time is easier -- especially if I try to make things that will freeze pretty well. But it is inefficient.

I am also missing having people to cook with! Despite the fact that I have been to dinner at the homes of many different people in my department, I haven't yet invited anyone to my place to eat, let alone cook. Obviously I should -- I love having people over. And I especially love cooking with friends. But somehow the prospect of explaining this crazy project to a bunch of new people seems unappealing.

So in the meantime I will stumble along, one recipe at a time, cooking and blogging in the same day...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Herbed Spaetzle (Page 241)

  • Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


When left to my own devices, it is the Pasta, Noodles and Dumplings section of The Book that calls to me the most (what can I say, I crave carbs!). This recipe was... well... interesting. The Book promised me exceptional lightness with these little dumplings, but it wasn't to be. What I ended up with were dense little dumplings, still delicious, but not light in the slightest. I think the problem was that they were overcooked. It was inevitable though, because the directions for cooking them were so awful that the first spaetzle to hit the water were hugely overcooked by the time the last spaetzle went in. The problem: the spaetzle dough was supposed to be forced through the holes in a colander into simmering water. But the dough just wouldn't go through. As I was attempting to push the sticky dough through those tiny holes, I thought, "This seems familiar." Then I remembered: Kevin from the other Gourmet Project had similar issues when he made this recipe. I think I didn't have quite the disaster that he did, but it was pretty bad. The spaetzle went through the colander so slowly that the first ones in the water got way overcooked. In the end I ended up just using a fork to put strings of dough into the water. All that said, they tasted delicious. The herb butter was lovely. The fresh dill really made the dish. My recommendation: if you don't have a spaetzle maker, avoid this dish. The colander is not a good substitute. It will only make you crazy. But the herb butter would be delicious on pasta, or different dumplings.

This recipe isn't online.

I am starting to feel very settled into my life in Bloomington. My classes seems to be going fine. I gave my first midterm. I made my first trip to Boston. I have been working on my research and talking to my colleagues. I have even found some time to cook!

Mission: Make New Friends is also going pretty well. The math people are great, of course, and I have made friends with another person who is new to Bloomington, in the Fine Arts department. She and I went out for a beer tonight, which was a nice way to relax mid-week. Honestly, I haven't made much of an effort to meet people outside the department yet. This is something that I would like to do, but I have just been crazy busy. Hopefully in the next few weeks, as I continue to get more and more settled, I will have more time to meet people in Bloomington.

Now though, it is time for a bowl of ice cream, and a good night of sleep!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Veal Marsala (Page 457)

  • Date: Monday, September 24, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I have been thinking about making this recipe for a while, and tonight seemed like as good of a time as any. Truth be told, I didn't eat it though. I put it on a fancy plate, I tasted a couple bites, and then I ate Smart Start (my cereal of choice) for dinner instead. I have no explanation. It wasn't bad. I just didn't want to eat it. I carefully packaged it up and put it in the freezer, for another day, or another person. Perhaps this sort of dish (rich, meaty) requires a certain mood, and I just wasn't in it. A few comments from my few bites though: The meat was tender and complemented the sauce nicely. The marsala sauce had a nice depth of flavor and was intensely meaty. Tempered only by the mushrooms, this made for a very rich dish. It would be best paired with a simple salad or vegetable preparation.

Well I am back in Bloomington after a short, but lovely weekend in Boston. My trip didn't start out as smoothly as I would have hoped on Friday though. I was exhausted after grading 120 midterms Friday afternoon and had fallen asleep laying across three seats in the Indianapolis airport when they announced that they canceled my flight! I woke up just in time to hear them explain that it was canceled due to weather. Note: the weather in Indianapolis, and Boston, and everywhere in between was PERFECT. I was so upset (and tired) that I cried. I was that crazy lady, crying in the airport because the last flight of the day to Boston was canceled. They offered me a 6:30am flight on Saturday, through New York, arriving in Boston at 1pm. Since my flight back to Indianapolis was on 1pm Sunday, that prospect wasn't too appealing. I explained to the man behind the ticket counter that I needed to get as close to Boston as I possibly could that night. In the end he put me on a flight to Hartford (does it seem strange to anyone but me that we couldn't fly to Boston all night because of weather, but Hartford was fine?!?!). In the end all was well. A certain someone drove 2 hours to Hartford to pick me up, and we got back to Boston by 1:30am Friday night. It was worth it though for a lovely weekend back in Boston!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Carrot Puree (Page 529)

  • Date: Thursday, September 20, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I chose this recipe to make tonight because I know from experience that making the purees with a big crowd is a bad idea since no one likes pureed vegetables. So I figured I would cut the recipe in half and make it just for me. Somebody who selected recipes for The Book must be really into pureed vegetables (Carrot Puree, Cauliflower Puree, Pureed Limas, Parsnip and Apple Puree, Maple Squash Puree, Sweet Potato and Parsnip Puree...). Perhaps he or she has a baby. I can't think of any other explanation. Pureed vegetables have a place: in soup. But thick pureed vegetables as a side dish? I just don't understand it. This carrot puree was about as good as carrot puree could be. Carrots taste good, so it tasted good. The recipe didn't call for nearly enough salt to bring out the carrot flavor, but other than that I had no objection to the taste. However, I just don't see the appeal of food this texture. Thicker mushed up veggies foods (e.g. mashed potatoes) can be appealing. And thinner pureed vegetables (e.g. butternut squash soup) can be marvelous. But baby food texture? Why do that to a perfectly good carrot (or lima bean, or sqaush, or parsnip, or cauliflower, etc...)? It remains a mystery to me... Maybe I will thin out the leftovers and eat it as soup. That seems like a decent idea.

This recipe isn't online.

Tomorrow morning my students have their first midterm! I am nervous to see how they do. It's hard for me to judge if my exam is too short/long, easy/difficult. We shall see. After my two classes I am meeting with my teaching assistants for a few hours to frantically grade the 120 midterms. I have to leave the department by 3pm though to drive to the airport. It's a secret (shhh... don't tell anyone), but I am flying to Boston tomorrow. Ok, ok, it's not really a secret, but my trip is ridiculously short -- flying in late Friday night and out early in the afternoon on Sunday -- so I am trying to keep a low profile. Hopefully I won't have to spend my whole time in Boston finishing the grading on those exams!

Speaking of my trip, I should go pack. Tomorrow is going to be really hectic so everything needs to be ready to go tonight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vanilla Confectioners' Sugar (Page 674)

  • Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: B+


This sugar is a component of a cookie recipe that I hope to make later this week. There is not much to this recipe. It has two ingredients: powdered sugar and a vanilla bean. Directions: chop up the vanilla bean, stir into the sugar. That's it. It's hard to even call that a recipe. It's also hard to grade. I don't know. Sugar tastes good. Vanilla tastes good. Sugar infused with vanilla tastes good. I suppose I will have more comments about this once I make the cookies.

This "recipe" is not online.

Today was one of those days... My classes this morning were just awful. I didn't eat my usual breakfast, so by 10:30 I was starving. Since I teach from 10-12, this was not a good thing. I am usually very careful to not make mistakes on the board, but today I was just off my game. It made me realize very concretely how difficult it is for me to think when I am hungry. Oh well! What is done is done...

I left work around 4pm this afternoon to come home and rest for a bit. After my little nap (and a big lunch!) I felt a lot better. Tonight I had dinner at Mike and Teresa's which was fun! They have adorable dogs, and I had a great time just sitting around talking with them and Tricia. It was a nice evening after a lousy day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cauliflower with Cheddar Sauce and Rye Bread Crumbs (Page 530)

  • Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I have been eying this recipe for a while now, so I decided it was about time to make it! It was fine but it wasn't as delicious as I had hoped it would be. It's hard to go too wrong with cauliflower (one of my favorite vegetables!) topped with cheese sauce and bread crumbs. I had two complaints though. One, the cheese sauce wasn't as cheesy as it could have been. I was hoping for a deep cheddar flavor, but it was very mild. Two (and this one is more serious), the sauce was very soupy. I had imagined a thick, creamy cheesy sauce. Instead this cheese sauce was very liquidy, which I found much less appealing. It was especially disappointing because as soon as the bread crumbs touched the sauce they became soggy. Crunchy bread crumbs: delicious. Soggy bread crumbs: gross. That said, this dish still tasted good. I wouldn't make it again, but it made a perfectly good dinner.

This recipe isn't online.

After several weeks of not getting any exercise, I have started running again. I feel a lot better, but I am also really tired. Whenever I start exercising after a long hiatus it always exhausts me for the first few weeks. I am trying to run outside for the first time in years. I had problems with shin splits in college, and have been running on a treadmill ever since. But I haven't joined a gym yet here, and the weather has been beautiful, so I am trying running outside once again. So far my shins aren't bothering me, so hopefully that will continue. It's especially nice to run outside because there are still a lot of areas of campus (and Bloomington) that I haven't seen yet. So every time I run I take a different route, into an area I am unfamiliar with. The only downside of running around campus is that I keep running into students from my class. I think it is a little unnerving for them to see me doing something other than teaching calculus!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Peanut Butter Cookies (Page 663)

  • Date: Monday, September 17, 2007 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: C-


Truth be told, I made these cookies once before. It was November 2004, long before I started this crazy project. I had recently acquired The Book, and I was anxious to make something from it. So, I made these cookies. I didn't have the chunky peanut butter called for, so I used regular old smooth peanut butter. The cookies were awful! I wrote in the margin next to the recipe: "These were seriously horrible. Had to throw them away. True, I used creamy peanut butter, but still..." Now that I am bound by my stricter rules for my project, I needed to remake these cookies, using the proper peanut butter. I had hoped for better results this time. But no, these cookies too found themselves in the trash. I just don't understand it. There are so many delicious recipes for peanut butter cookies. Why would you print such an awful one? These cookies are chalky, dry, and floury. Horrible texture aside, they don't even have a good flavor. They taste of peanut butter, but there is nothing else to it. They aren't very sweet. They don't have any vanilla to add depth and contrast. Really, a true failure of a peanut butter cookie. At least I have no need to make them again...

If you are a glutton for punishment, here is the recipe.

The last time I made these cookies I was also living alone. It was my third year of graduate school, and due to quite complicated circumstances I ended up living by myself even though I had always hated the idea of living alone. And indeed, I didn't particularly enjoy it. My apartment was lovely (small and pretty), but as soon as I had the option to move someplace bigger, with a roommate, I did. Now here I am, living alone again. I haven't decided yet whether or not I want a roommate here. I certainly have space for one, and when I looked at apartments here I only looked at two-bedroom places for just that reason. But actually, I am enjoying living by myself so far. I would love to have a great roommate (Emilee and Rachel have been the all-star roommates of my life! Unfortunately they have stayed in California, with their husbands, so I think it may be difficult to convince them to come live with me...). Not knowing many people here makes it difficult though to find someone who would be fantastic to live with. And I think I might prefer living by myself over living with a random roommate... Only time will tell I suppose!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hearty Goulash Soup (Page 126)

  • Date: Saturday, September 15, 2007 -- 10pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I chose this recipe because I was looking for something that could be frozen easily and transported to Boston to feed a certainly hungry mathematician. This goulash was pretty good. The recipe started from lots of ingredients that I love (beef, bacon, potatoes, red bell peppers, etc...) and put them together in a way that enhanced these already delicious foods. I am always a fan of cooking beef in bacon fat. It is a great way to build layers of flavor into a hearty soup or stew. I cooked this longer than indicated in the recipe because my potatoes were taking their time cooking through (maybe I cut them bigger than I was meant to?). My only complaint was that it came out thinner than I would have liked. If I make this one again I will cut back on the amount of liquid added. I was hoping for a hearty beef stew consistency, but instead it ended up very soupy (which is a mystery to me -- with a roux in it made with 1/3 cup of flour, it should have thickened?!?). Consistency aside, it was good. Nothing fancy, or show-stopping, but just good, solid comfort food.

Here is the recipe.

I wrote my first midterm exam today. I've never written an exam before (well, that's not strictly true -- I wrote exams for the girl I home-schooled in Boston, but that was a bit different). The exam is in-class on Friday, so we will see how it is received by my students!

After my exam-writing fun I went to a picnic for new faculty members. Aside from the joy of eating an enormous hot dog, followed by a huge sugar cookie with blue sprinkles, it was also fun to meet some new people! I even met some people from other departments! Shocking, I know! After the picnic I rushed back to the math department for some movie-viewing. One of the profs in the department runs a Sunday night movie series. There is a HUGE projection screen in one of the classrooms in the building, so it feels almost like being in the theater (minus the scary fake butter flavoring and the Icees). Tonight we watched parts 5 and 6 of Kieslowski's "The Decalogue" (thou shalt not kill, and thou shalt not commit adultery). They were quite good, although a bit dark.

Now I am preparing my class for the morning and getting ready for bed. Good night!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cheese Blintzes (Page 649)

  • Date: Friday, September 14, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Teri
  • Recipe Rating: B


My mother chose these blintzes for dinner last night (yes, blintzes are my mother's idea of dinner!). They weren't bad, but I wasn't crazy about them. Cheese blintzes are just crepes, filled with a sweetened mixture of cottage cheese, farmer cheese, lemon, vanilla, and raisins. Farmer cheese was nowhere to be found, so I improvised my own by mixing some drained cottage cheese with some ricotta. The resulting filling was pretty tasty. It would have been tastier without the raisins and with less vanilla. I am almost always a believer in increasing the amount of vanilla in everything, but in this particular case the vanilla flavor overpowered the cheese in the filling. So these blintzes tasted more like vanilla cream filled crepes than cheese blintzes. They were still good, although I'm not convinced they were worth the effort. We had leftover filling, which should have gone in the blintzes, but there was a bit of a dilemma: those that were more filled tended to burst in the last stage of cooking, which resulted in all the filling oozing out. Those that were less filled cooked easily but didn't taste as good as those that were more filled (and didn't burst). So it was a careful balance. I think we erred a little bit too low on the amount of filling we used. My recommendation if you make them: try to jam in as much filling as you can while still allowing yourself to roll them up tightly and securely.

This recipe is not online.

Tonight is my first night alone in my apartment. Matt was here my first week, and the day he left my mother arrived. But my mom left today so now I am here all by myself... After bringing her to the airport in Indianapolis, I had a very relaxing afternoon. I did more of the many administrative things I still haven't finished (e.g. benefits enrollment forms -- fun, fun!), then I made a trip to the grocery store, followed by a nice long run. Now I am cooking! I have a huge pot of ghoulash simmering on the stove.

Because I have had visitors here since I arrived, I haven't made any effort yet to meet people outside the math department. It would probably be good to know some non-mathematicians. Tomorrow I am going to a university-wide picnic for new faculty -- perhaps I will meet some new people there.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rosti (Page 566)

  • Date: Friday, September 14, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Teri
  • Recipe Rating: A-


My mom chose cheese blintzes for dinner tonight, so I chose this shredded potato cake to go with them. It was pretty good -- definitely an improvement over the other shredded potato pancake in The Book. In this recipe the potatoes are cooked before they are shredded, which means that shredding essentially turns them into mashed potatoes. They are then seasoned and fried in a big pancake until golden on both sides. Very, very simple. What you end up with is fluffy mashed potatoes with a crust. Yum. It was impossible to slide it onto a plate, as suggested in the recipe, so I flipped it directly out of the pan when it needed to be moved. My only real complaint about this recipe is that it was a little too buttery for me. I love butter as much as the next girl (probably more!), but still, this recipe had more oil and butter than it needed. Aside from that: delicious! It would be an excellent accompaniment to either a brunch or a dinner.

The recipe in The Book is almost exactly the same as this one.

I had a bad day once in college, and I went to Fry's and bought myself a TV to make myself feel better. It was little (13 inches I think) and Emilee and I hardly ever watched it, but it improved my attitude that day. Emilee kept waiting for me to have another bad day and buy a DVD player so we could watch movies, but I never bought one.

Now, more than 8 years later, I still have that little TV. It never really occurred to me to buy a bigger one. But Vigleik and Shihchi just upgraded their TV, so when V came to visit on Monday, he brought me their old one. It's huge compared to the one I have had all these years (25 inches!). I just set it up this evening. Although I had never thought to buy a bigger TV, it's pretty exciting to have one. I can see everything so clearly from so far away! Shocking! Now I can watch my favorite TV shows (Top Chef and The Closer) in style! I may have to buy that DVD player after all...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions (Page 476)

  • Date: Sunday, September 9, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Teri and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My mom picked this recipe for dinner one night last weekend. This pork was quite good. It was braised with caramelized onions and apple cider, which gave the meat some lovely flavor. The sauce and onions were also delicious over the meat (and over potatoes, and over broccoli...). It's hard to go too wrong with slow-cooked pork, but this recipe was even better than most. It required very little work, and had a lot of flavor. It would have been nice to have a good loaf of bread with the meal to sop up some of the delicious sauce!

Here is the recipe.

You can tell my mom is in town because there are 5 different kinds of ice cream in my freezer right now. I have to admit, I picked out one of them (raspberry sherbet!), but the other four were all my mom. First she picked out super-loaded chocolate peanut butter cup. Then she got mint chocolate chip because she wanted something to put chocolate sauce on, and the chocolate peanut butter cup with chocolate sauce was too much. Next: vanilla to go with the blueberry pie. Finally, Neapolitan, because she was worried about running out of ice cream! Add that to my raspberry sherbet and there are five half gallons of ice cream in my freezer (plus some fudgsicles of course!).

The thing that is curious to me is how different both mine and my brother's tastes in food are so different from my mother's. Spencer eats mainly fruit. I crave carbs and vegetables. My mother like sugar (ice cream for lunch, cupcakes for breakfast, etc...)! I suppose it just goes to show, there is no accounting for taste!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blueberry Pie (Page 760)

  • Date: Saturday, September 8, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Teri, Chuck, Lynn, David H
  • Recipe Rating: A-


We had a blueberry pie in Maine a few weeks ago, and ever since I have been craving it. So, I decided to make this recipe to bring to Chuck and Lynn's last weekend. It was quite good. The crust was the pate brisee-type pie crust that is used throughout The Book. It uses a combination of butter and shortening for great butter flavor while still maximizing flakiness. The filling was very nice. It had a deep blueberry flavor, and the perfect blueberry pie texture: thick, but still runny enough to create a beautiful purple mess on your plate. I made one error in judgment, which was that I added too much sugar. The recipe gives a sugar range, depending on the sweetness of your berries. I went a little above the center, but it was too sweet. When I make this one again (someday!) with similarly sweet berries, I will add less sugar. Other than that, it was delicious. Note: vanilla ice cream to accompany it is a must!

This recipe isn't online.

Things here are good, although busy! Vigleik drove down on Monday so we could do some work for a couple days. It was fun to have him around and it seems that we actually made decent progress on something we have been working on!

For some reason a lot of topologists are concentrated in the Midwest, which is great for me now that I am in Indiana! It was so nice that Vigleik was able to drive down one day and back the next. It simplifies traveling a lot when you can just drive. There are also frequent conferences where many of the midwestern topologists get together for a weekend at one of the various universities with big topology groups.

In the 10 minutes that I have been writing this, I have received 4 webwork emails! I suppose I haven't explained webwork on here yet. Well, that's a story for another time!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Croque-Monsieur (Page 190)

  • Date: Friday, September 7, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Teri
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I picked this recipe for dinner on Friday because it was quick and easy, and I am all about quick and easy cooking these days. These sandwiches were quite good, but they weren't the best croque-monsieur sandwiches that I've had. A croque-monsieur is a lovely French concoction where a toasted ham and cheese sandwich is covered with a rich and creamy layer of Mornay sauce. In theory the cheese in question (both in the sandwich and the sauce) should be gruyere. I admit begrudgingly that I substituted swiss cheese due to the limitations of the grocery store I was soliciting while shopping for dinner on Friday. Actually, the swiss cheese was good. I dare say that gruyere couldn't have been much better. Still, the sandwiches weren't perfect. My main complaint was that the bread got soggier than I would have liked. This is an obvious risk when you cover bread in sauce, but I have had versions of this sandwich that were less soggy. I don't know if it reflects the choice of bread in this recipe, or the toasting procedure, but I would have preferred a method that produced more crunch and less sog. Still, the Mornay sauce was lovely, and the sandwiches came out rich and delicious. My mother oohed and aahed a lot as she ate hers. Granted she's an easy audience, but indeed they were pretty good.

This recipe isn't online.

I had a very relaxing weekend. I shopped and cooked with my mother, wandered around Bloomington, went to dinner at Chuck's, worked, etc... My mother has a talent for making interior spaces look nice, and she has been working her magic on my apartment. My favorite new addition since her arrival is a white rug. I wasn't sure about it at first, but sitting here now with my feet snuggled up on it, I can't imagine parting with it.

Speaking of things I can't imagine parting with, I am continuing to love cooking in my new kitchen. I am even (reluctantly) adjusting to the electric stove. After filling the entire apartment with smoke making a frozen pizza last week, I was having doubts about my oven too. But, the stove and oven redeemed themselves today by joining forces to produce a lovely piece of braised pork. The dinner my mother and I made tonight was so midwestern I had to laugh: pork, mashed potatoes, and broccoli, with blueberry pie for dessert. It was delicious!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Orange Cumin Vinaigrette (Page 171)

  • Date: Friday, September 7, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Teri
  • Recipe Rating: B-


This one came off the list generated by the random number generator. Although the picture may be a little deceptive in this respect, the recipe was just for a dressing. I wasn't particularly a fan of said dressing. I like every ingredient quite a bit, so I was optimistic. But the cumin was completely overpowering. Even the strong citrus flavors of orange juice and lime juice couldn't stand up to the flavor of the toasted cumin seeds. I like cumin, but I didn't want every bite of my salad to taste of nothing other than it. This recipe definitely had potential. With about half as much cumin I do think it would be good. But as written, it was just too aggressive.

Anecdote from math 212 yesterday: The room my second class is in is pretty big -- it probably seats more than a hundred, and it has tiered seating. Yesterday I am slowly going through an example on the board, explaining in great detail how to solve some trigonometric integral. I have my back to my class when suddenly I hear someone whisper (quite loudly!) "I think she's crazy." I couldn't help but laugh. So there I am, in front of my class, laughing (which may actually be evidence in support of my student's claim). I turned to where I knew the whisper had come from and said, "You know I can hear you." Then the whole class laughed, as most of them had also heard his not-too-whispery whisper.

After class the student, deeply blushing, came up to me and offered his sincerest apology. He had some excuse about not understanding why I was writing down something in such detail, etc, etc... I told him it was fine. He made me laugh and that's not such a bad thing.

So it's confirmed. My students do think I am crazy. It makes me feel very professional in a way. I have officially become that crazy calculus professor!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Shortbread (Page 687)

  • Date: Thursday, September 6, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My New Apartment!
  • Dining Companion: Teri
  • Recipe Rating: B+


In all honesty, I chose this recipe tonight because it had the winning combination of being both incredibly fast and requiring only ingredients I already had in my kitchen. I have so little time to cook lately that quickness is of the essence. What can I say about a shortbread recipe? Shortbread tastes good. How could it not? Most things consisting mostly of butter by weight taste good. This shortbread seemed very standard to me. It required superfine sugar, which isn't super easy to find, but is easily made using regular sugar and the blender, as I did this evening. The shortbread did have a nice melt-in-your-mouth property to it that was probably due, at least in part, to the use of the superfine sugar. Plain shortbread isn't my favorite -- it's so rich, and not terribly exciting. But if you like shortbread this is a perfectly good recipe for it.

Here is the recipe.

My project has suffered a dramatic slowdown since my move. I figure this is just my adjustment period. First I had to adjust to my 130 calculus students. Then I had to adjust to getting my own research done while teaching the 130 calculus students. Now I just need to adjust to cooking, while doing my own research, while teaching my 130 calculus students. As part of my new effort in that direction, tonight I made cookies (while planning my class, writing a Webwork assignment, responding to emails about the Webwork due tomorrow, and trying to explain to a student that she shouldn't decide to transfer into my class without ever having attended it...)!

Really I can't complain though. I like my new job (a lot!), and this week my mother is visiting, which has been almost like having a personal assistant. Today, while I was at work for many hours, she was at the brake shop getting the front brakes on my car replaced and the oil changed. Now, as I am typing this (half asleep) she is busily analyzing different ways of hanging curtains in my new apartment.

I think it's bedtime...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Lemon Thins (Page 670)

  • Date: Friday, August 31, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My New Apartment!
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Paul K, Beth, Jeremy, Chris J, Tricia, Teri, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I was in the mood for cookies, and I picked these because they looked simple and tasty. They were pretty good. I think whoever wrote the recipe was making a different kind of cookie though. For one thing, the preface to the recipe says that these cookies will have "slightly crisp edges," when in fact these cookies are completely crispy through and through. Also, the directions tell you to roll teaspoons of the dough into balls and then gently flatten them with your palms. This dough was approximately the consistency of peanut butter. Imagine trying to roll peanut butter into little balls and then flattening it with your palms -- needless to say it was not pretty. On the upside, the cookies tasted good. They had a serious lemon kick, and the crispy texture was quite nice. I liked them quite a bit. Six year-old Jeremy disagreed. After one bite: "I don't like it." I guess it goes to show that you can't please everyone!

Here is a recipe very similar to the one in The Book, however the one in The Book calls for rolling in little balls rather than making a log, chilling, and slicing.

Things have been so crazy lately that I flew right by the 500 recipe mark on my project without even noticing. It's hard for me to believe that I have made and blogged about 500 recipes from The Book. Crazy! I haven't yet really gotten into the swing of cooking in Indiana though. Hopefully that will happen soon. Matty left today though, so I am without my favorite dining companion...

Indiana University has classes on labor day, so I taught all morning today (today: integration by parts). I more or less forgot it was a holiday until I got in the car to go to the airport and every radio station was wishing me a happy holiday weekend. At the airport in Indianapolis I dropped Matty off and picked up my mom. She flew in today for a visit, which will be fun. I spent the evening showing her the various sites of Bloomington (or at least the ones that I know about!) so that she will have something to do while I am working. Now I think I might need a nap. It's only Monday and I am so sleepy!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Spaghetti with Handfuls of Herbs (Page 204)

  • Date: Friday, August 31, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My New Apartment!
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I picked this recipe for dinner on Friday because it was quick, and we had a bunch of leftover herbs in the fridge. This dish was extremely simple: just spaghetti tossed with some olive oil, butter, shallot, and whatever herbs you have in your fridge, then topped with bread crumbs crisped in oil. I used thyme, parsley, and basil, which tasted good, but most combinations of herbs would have similarly produced something tasty under this preparation. My only complaint is that the dish came out pretty oily. The pasta was oily, and the bread crumbs were oily. It was a bit much. I will certainly make dishes of this concept again, although in my execution I will cut down on the oil.

There is no recipe for this one online.

Yesterday Matty and I rented a canoe at Lake Monroe (Indiana's largest lake!) and spent much of the afternoon out on the water. It was fun to paddle around, jump out of the canoe, swim, and the try to figure out how to get back in the canoe without tipping it over! The lake was really beautiful. There were a lot of motor boats, which ruined the rustic nature of our canoe trip a bit, but they did provide large waves for added canoe excitement.

The unpacking also continued yesterday. Finally there are a few things on the walls, and at least the main room is free of clutter and boxes. My bedroom: still a disaster. In fact, I haven't yet unpacked the suitcase I have been living out of all month as I have been traveling. My intention was just to unpack it as I wore the clothing in it. But it turns out that my pseudo-professional clothes I wear to teach overlap very little with the Maine-vacation clothes in my suitcase. Oh well. Today one of my many goals is to turn my bedroom into a room without boxes and clothes strewn everywhere!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (Page 354)

  • Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My New Apartment!
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


Matty and I picked this chicken for dinner on Tuesday because it was simple and garlicky! The recipe was ok. The roasted garlic cloves were tasty spread on baguette and the chicken was moist, but surprisingly bland given that it was cooked in 40 cloves of garlic. I also never like skin on my chicken unless it is crispy, which this wasn't. The highlight of the dish was the pan sauce, which had a lovely garlic and thyme flavor. It was delicious sopped up with some bread. Strangely it took much longer than indicated in the recipe for the meat to reach a safe internal temperature (at least one and half times as long). If you're going to cook a whole chicken, I would recommend roasting it rather than making this recipe, but it was fine.

I meant to post this last night, but then I accidentally fell asleep at 10:30pm -- whoops! That was my wild Friday night! I was so exhausted after this first week of classes that I just needed some good sleep. This morning I am feeling deliciously refreshed! I gave my first-ever pop quiz yesterday. I am sure my students hated me for it -- a pop quiz the first week -- but actually I think they did pretty well. I just glanced through the papers before handing them off to my teaching assistants, and it seemed that most people more or less knew what they were doing.

Last night (before my unexpected nap that lasted the whole night) I did something I haven't done in a long time: I made dinner from The Book just for myself. Matty is still around, but he was off somewhere yesterday, giving a talk and visiting a department. So I was on my own for dinner. I thought about just grabbing a sandwich, or ordering myself a pizza, but I couldn't resist the temptation to make a real dinner just for me. So I wandered to my nearest grocery store (only 3 blocks away!), bought some ingredients, and threw together one of the remaining pasta dishes from The Book (when left to my own devices, I almost always make pasta!). It was tasty, and I enjoyed sitting in my new apartment, eating by myself on my new table. Even more enjoyable: cleaning up by just throwing everything into the dishwasher!

Now: off to the Farmer's market!