Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Miso Soup (Page 91)

RECIPE #1031

  • Date: Saturday, September 19, 2009 -- 12pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I picked this recipe because I have been trying to make some progress on the Soups section in The Book. This recipe was quite simple. I took some wakame (a type of seaweed) and soaked it in warm water to soften. Then I drained it. I stirred white miso into some dashi (see post below). Then I heated the remaining dashi, stirred in cubes of tofu and the wakame. I simmered it briefly, then added the miso mixture and some sliced scallion greens. That was it! This miso soup had exactly one flaw: there was WAY too much wakame! The seaweed completely took over the soup (as you can see in the picture). I have had many, many versions of miso soup in my life, and never have I had one so overrun with seaweed! Other than that, the recipe was lovely. The flavor of the dashi broth with the miso made a perfect base for the soup. The cubes of tofu and scallion greens were in perfect proportion to the broth. If only there had been about 1/4 as much wakame it would have been a fantastic miso soup! I will certainly make this recipe again, with that slight modification!

The recipe is here.

When I signed up to teach 330 students this fall, I had the idea that it wouldn't really be that much more work than the 150 or so students I have had in previous semesters. It turns out I was wrong about that. The lecturing itself isn't really any more work. Standing in front of 250 students is certainly different than standing in front of 80, but it isn't any more time consuming. The administrative part of teaching, however, is definitely magnified by the larger number of students. At 9pm tonight I was still in my office, more than 12 hours after I arrived in the morning, responding to emails and filing academic progress reports to the advising office. The extra work doesn't bother me -- in return for the 330 students this term, I am not teaching in the spring. It's a deal that definitely works out to my benefit. But as I was filling out this paperwork for the advising office, indicating which students are currently failing my course, I realized something that bothers me a bit. My 330 students are divided into two classes: a class of 80 and a class of 250. In the class of 80 I know each student's name. Many of the students I have talked to individually on a number of occasions. I have a good sense of who is struggling and who finds the class to be easy. I know the students, at least to some degree, and I enjoy that about the class. In my 250 student class I just don't know the students. Sure, I know the couple dozen of them that come to office hours, or talk to me after class. But I'm sure I couldn't put names to faces for more than 40 students in the lecture hall. Filling out the paperwork, I realized that I didn't even know who most of these failing students were. It would be very difficult to learn all 250 names, and I decided early on in the semester that I wasn't going to do it. But this is the first time I have ever taught students whose names I didn't know. And I don't like that about it. If I wasn't already at work until 8 or 9pm half the time as it is, I would just suck it up and learn the names. But between the 330 students, and moving into a new house, and my research, I am swamped. So I guess this will be the semester that I don't know my students' names. Hopefully the only such semester...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dashi (Page 92)

RECIPE #1030

  • Date: Saturday, September 19, 2009 -- 12pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This Japanese stock was a component recipe for the Miso Soup in The Book, which will be my next post. This recipe was very simple. I added some konbu (dried kelp) to cold water, then brought it to a boil. I removed it from the heat, removed the konbu, and sprinkled bonito flakes (shaved dried fish) over the liquid. I let it sit for a few minutes, then poured the liquid through cheesecloth to strain out the bonito. That was it! This dashi was extremely flavorful, and had the perfect flavor for the base of the miso soup. Dashi is used frequently throughout Japanese cooking, and I would certainly use this recipe again for any of my dashi needs. It was quite tasty, with a great balance of flavors.

The recipe is here.

I am exhausted, but in the most delightful way! My special gentleman and I had an absolutely wonderful weekend moving into our new house! We closed on the house early Friday morning, and the closing went off without a hitch. On Friday afternoon we took my special gentleman's things out of storage, where they have been sitting for the last year, and we moved them into the house! We spent the rest of the weekend cleaning, unpacking, arranging, etc... Most of our things are actually in storage in Indiana, and we aren't moving them into the house until Friday. So the house is still pretty empty. But we absolutely love it! We spent the whole weekend saying over and over, "I can't believe we live here!" It really is a dream house for us.

Aside from how much we love the house, the neighborhood also seems great! The neighbors are incredibly friendly. All weekend people were stopping by to introduce themselves. So many people came by that we started making a list so we would remember who everybody is. Several people even brought us bottles of wine to welcome us!

This morning I woke up to the sound of kids playing football in our driveway, which happens to be the bus stop for the elementary school. It just warmed my heart seeing them outside waiting for the bus. When the bus came the kids all lined up in a very serious manner, each of them with a backpack half the size of their body. My special gentleman and I just watched and laughed!

I drove back to Indiana today and now not only do I miss my special gentleman, but I miss our house too! I am looking forward to being back there on Friday and moving in the rest of our stuff. It just doesn't even seem real -- a little over three weeks ago we went through that house with our real estate agent, and now we own it! Crazy!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chilled Lemongrass Tomato Soup (Page 87)

RECIPE #1029

  • Date: Saturday, September 19, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C-


I made this recipe because I wanted to make some progress on the Soups section in The Book. To start, I made the Tomato Water from the post below. Then I boiled finely chopped lemongrass stalks in a bit of the tomato water. I strained out the lemongrass and stirred in some powdered gelatin. I warmed it until the gelatin was dissolved then I stirred the mixture into the remaining tomato water. I refrigerated for 8 hours, then I stirred in some chopped watermelon. I was supposed to garnish this with mint and chives, and indeed I bought both mint and chives. The grocery people bagged the fresh herbs with my raw chicken though, so I didn't use them for fear they had been contaminated (yes, I am a little crazy about food safety!). So our soup, as you see, was garnish-less. I really did not care for this soup. It looked appetizing enough, but it tasted bad. Frankly, tomato water just isn't my thing. And although tomatoes and watermelon go well together, even the watermelon couldn't save this dish. I took one bite, and actually I spit it out into the sink. It just didn't sit well with me. My special gentleman fared a little better: he took 3 or 4 bites, and managed not to spit them out. But even he didn't like this soup (and he likes almost everything!). It's hard to imagine who would love this. A person who loves, loves, loves tomatoes might like the flavor ok, but then he or she would probably miss the tomato texture. And for anyone who isn't over the moon for raw tomato flavor, this is much too intense to be enjoyable. This recipe, unfortunately, ended up down the garbage disposal.

The recipe is here.

I was bubble-wrapping ramekins and putting them into boxes earlier tonight. It seemed to me at the time that the worst part of this cooking habit of mine is that every time I move I have to move a huge number of cooking supplies. Whenever I move, almost every box is labeled "Kitchen." Generally speaking, I don't have a lot of possessions, but when it comes to kitchen supplies... that's a different story. So I was bubble-wrapping a ramekin tonight, thinking about how I don't like bubble-wrapping ramekins, and then it occurred to me: that might be the last time I ever bubble-wrap that ramekin!

It's so exciting -- 36 hours from now my special gentleman and I will own a home! And we will move our things into it, and we will likely stay there for years and years and years. This may not sound like a huge triumph, but to me it feels like one. I have moved 18 times in my life. The idea of not moving any more sounds almost too good to be true! The idea of owning the place in which I live is also almost unfathomable to me. If I wanted to have a cat, I could get one! It wouldn't violate any lease. No landlord would come and hunt me down. I can put all the nails in the walls that I please. I can even paint the walls. This is absolute craziness!

I am not really going to be living in our house until June (since I am finishing my job in Indiana before starting my job in Michigan). But we are moving most of our things into the house over the next few weeks, and my special gentleman will be living there. I am so excited! Although I have been entrenched in the home-buying process for the last several weeks, it is just now starting to seem real. Forty-eight hours from now I will be getting ready for our first night in our very own house! High on my agenda: taking my first bath in our jacuzzi tub! Whoo hoo!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tomato Water (Page 88)

RECIPE #1028

  • Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009 -- 2pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I am trying to make some progress lately on the Soups section of The Book, and this recipe is a component for one of the recipes in that section. To make this tomato water I took 5 pounds of tomatoes and pureed them with salt in a food processor. I poured the puree into a sieve lined with cheesecloth, suspended over a big pot. I gathered the ends of the cheesecloth to form a sack, then I tied the sack to a wooden spoon and suspended it in the pot. I let the cheesecloth sack-of-tomatoes sit like that for 8 hours in the refrigerator. Then I discarded the sack containing the puree. What had dripped out of the sack into the pot was the tomato water! It's hard to grade this recipe. On the one hand, if your objective was to capture the essence of tomato in something with the texture and consistency of water, then this recipe certainly does that! On the other hand, I'm not sure exactly why you would want to do that. This tomato water had a specific purpose, which I wasn't too impressed by (that will be my next post). I can imagine that the tomato water could be used for other purposes with more success though. For instance, if you wanted to incorporate tomato into a martini, or other drink, this could be the way to do it! My special gentleman's reaction upon seeing the finished tomato water made me laugh. He looked into the pot, took a little taste, then said, "Ten dollars of tomatoes turned into that?" He was not impressed. So, did I enjoy eating this? No, not really. If I needed tomato essence in water form, would I make this again? Absolutely. The recipe, without a doubt, captured the flavor of tomato. It was shocking actually to sip something with such a thin consistency that tasted so overwhelmingly of tomato. Really, shocking. In that respect this recipe was very impressive.

The recipe is here.

I had chocolate pudding for dinner tonight, and I ate it in bed. That pretty much summarizes how my day went! My 340ish business calculus students have an exam on Thursday, which meant that I spent much of the day today writing the exam (ick!) and another big chunk of the day helping students review for the exam (much more fun!). Add to that two and half hours of lecturing, and the day was jam-packed. At 7pm I was sitting in my office, starving, and desperately wishing that my special gentleman hadn't eaten the emergency ramen supply in my desk. I couldn't leave until the exams were finished though. Cheating is a big problem in this class, so there have to be four versions of everything. Writing one exam is painful enough, especially when it includes multiple choice (which is much harder to write!), but the process of modifying one exam into four is particularly painful. By the time I got home I was dysfunctionally hungry and just wanted to eat the first thing that sounded good. That thing turned out to be chocolate pudding. So I had chocolate pudding for dinner. And although I wouldn't try to argue that it was a balanced meal, it did improve my mood considerably! There's nothing like a big bowl of hot chocolate pudding to put everything into perspective!

Now it's time to make answer keys for all four versions. I only hope that I don't find any mistakes in the exams! I went through each version carefully, twice! But I don't really trust myself when I am in the state of hunger that I was in...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Apple Butter (Page 916)

RECIPE #1027

  • Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009 -- 2pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Since I was already digging out my canning supplies and sterilizing jars to make the plum butter last weekend, I figured I would go ahead and make this apple butter too! I started by sterilizing jars and lids in my boiling water canner. Then I combined wedges of peeled, cored, apples, apple cider, lemon juice, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice in a pot. I boiled until the apples were tender, then I put the mixture through a food mill (read post below to hear how I felt about that!). I put the puree back on the stove, and simmered, stirring frequently, for about an hour and a half. Then I ladled the apple butter into the sterilized jars, sealed them, and processed them in the boiling water canner. Ok, that's not actually true. Although this recipe claimed to make 4 cups, it really made only slightly more than 1 cup. That meant I had only one full jar of apple butter. So I did not process the jars but rather just the jar of apple butter. It was a shame too because this apple butter was tasty! I would have liked to have four jars of it around rather than just a smidgeon more than one jar. But I knew this would happen when I read the recipe. The recipe only called for four apples. Anyone who has ever canned fruit will tell you that one apple is not going to make enough preserves to fill a half-pint jar. So there was no way those four apples were going to fill four jars. That issue aside, this recipe was great! The apple butter had a wonderful fall flavor to it: apples and cinnamon! It wasn't too sweet, but rather had a lovely sweet-tart balance. The texture wasn't quite as smooth as that of the plum butter (see post below), but it was still very nice. Overall, a solid recipe -- I only wish it had made more!

This recipe isn't online.

Yesterday after my 18-mile run, I napped for a couple hours. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the sun was barely peaking through an otherwise overcast day. I was laying in bed, mostly asleep, while my special gentleman sat in bed next to me watching a B movie about aliens. It was absolutely perfect. I love to sleep. I find it to be a great joy. In particular I love to nap. I rarely do it though, as I rarely feel justified sleeping in the middle of the day. Sometimes I sleep for 15 minutes in my office in the late afternoon, when I am desperate for a pick-me-up, but usually I only take long naps when I am sick. It's a shame -- napping is wonderful. There is something so luxurious about sleeping in the middle of the day, with the sun streaming in the windows. Luckily after a more-than-three-hour run I feel justified getting some sleep. My Sunday afternoon post-run nap has become a weekly tradition that I very much look forward to!

Today, unfortunately, was not the type of day that involved a relaxing mid-afternoon nap in bed. Rather, it involved exam writing, and talking to students about academic misconducts, amongst other things. Ugh. It was exhausting day. In fact, I feel like going to bed at this not-so-late hour of 9:30pm!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plum Butter (Page 921)

RECIPE #1026

  • Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009 -- 2pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Terry and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Today is my dad's birthday (Happy Birthday Dad!), so I made this plum butter last weekend to send to him as a birthday present. He is trying to reduce the high fructose corn syrup in his diet (a noble cause that I don't think I could adopt -- I love candy too, too much!). Early in his efforts to cut out high fructose corn syrup he noted that one place it appears very frequently is in jams and jellies. There are a few brands made with good old fashioned sugar, but most of the jams and jellies at the grocery store are full of high fructose corn syrup. So, I figured I would make him some plum preserves, sweetened the homemade way: with sugar!

First I started by digging out my many canning supplies. I go through phases when I can frequently and phases when I don't. As of late I have been in one of the latter phases. Once I dug out all my supplies I went through the process of sterilizing the jars and lids in my boiling water canner. Then I scraped the seeds from a vanilla bean into a large pot, then added the pod, pitted and sliced plums, sugar, and lemon juice. I boiled the mixture until the plums were tender. Then I removed the vanilla pod and forced the plum mixture through a food mill fitted with a fine disk. I will admit, I don't like using my food mill. I love that thing because the results it produces are so fantastic, but it's a pain to crank and inevitably whatever I am trying to put through it doesn't want to go through so it takes forever! So I was cranky (haha!) using the food mill, but the results were wonderful: fantastically smooth plum puree! I returned the puree to the stove and simmered it, stirring often, for two hours. Then I ladled the plum butter into the sterilized jars, sealed them, and processed them by boiling them for ten minutes in my boiling water canner.

The result: yum! There have been some jams/jellies from The Book that I haven't liked so much (Nectarine Preserves with Basil comes to mind) and they eventually ended up in the trash. After my special gentleman took one taste of this plum butter he said, "Well, this one won't get thrown away!" Indeed it will not. The preserves are rich with plum flavor, and the vanilla is an excellent complement. The texture is also perfect: smooth and thick. My only complaint is that the preserves are a little on the sweet side. This bothered me when I was eating this stuff by the spoonful on the day I made it, but actually on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich it doesn't seem so sweet. I don't dislike plums, but I also never seek them out. This recipe, though, gave me a whole new appreciation for the flavor of the fruit. Yum!

The recipe is here.

When I called my dad today to wish him a Happy Birthday he was making bread. I imagine this plum butter would go well with a nice hot piece of homemade bread! I hope he enjoys it. Happy Birthday Dad!

Chicken Club Sandwiches (Page 188)

RECIPE #1025

  • Date: Sunday, September 13, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Finding the perfect meal to make after a long run is tricky business. It's good to eat something substantial, with a nice balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. But I also usually want to make something that is quick, since after running 15 or more miles I rarely feel like standing on my feet for much longer. I have settled on the following routine. I do my long run on Sunday morning/early afternoon. When I get home I eat take-out (e.g. Taco Bell) or something that is easy to make (e.g. Kraft Mac and Cheese). I follow lunch up with a nice nap. And when I wake from my nap I am usually hungry, and feeling recovered sufficiently to stand up long enough to make something to eat! This recipe was the post-run selection from last week.

I started by poaching some chicken breasts, then slicing them into 1/4 inch slices. My special gentleman browned some bacon, then stirred together mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. He toasted some white sandwich bread, then assembled the sandwiches with three pieces of bread, herbed mayo, bacon, tomato, Boston lettuce, avocado, and chicken breast slices. The resulting sandwich was pretty tasty. I have to admit, chicken clubs are not my favorite of all sandwiches, but for a chicken club, this was quite good. My special gentleman likes chicken clubs and he was very taken with this rendition. He thought the herbed mayo was too heavy on the lemon and parsley though. I thought the parsley was unobjectionable and I liked the burst of lemony flavor, so it seems that was a matter of taste. The bacon-avocado-tomato-lettuce combination is a tried and true recipe for deliciousness, and it worked well here. I didn't think the chicken added too much to the sandwich, but it wasn't bad either. There was nothing particularly special or grabbing about this sandwich, but it was tasty and I would certainly eat it again.

This recipe isn't online.

This morning when we started our long run it was cold and thunderstorming. There were four cars in the parking lot at the trailhead: mine, my husband's [we brought both cars in case someone needed to bail early], our friend Paul's [who my husband runs with], and another car with a bumper sticker that just said, "26.2." Paul, Matty, and I looked around the parking lot and all had the same thought: only the crazies are out today! Indeed the trail was empty except for people who were clearly in training. I was not super excited about the weather for the first 10 miles or so. By mile 2 my clothes were soaked, and by mile 6 my shoes were saturated with water too. Around mile 10 I began to appreciate the weather more. Since the trail was empty and I was running alone, I sang along to the music on my iPod as loud as I could. In the 16th mile it started to really pour, and the pouring down rain was exactly what I needed to get me through those last two miles. When I hit the 18 mile mark I was tired (and very, very wet!) but I felt pretty ok. My first 18 mile training run was about a month ago now, and it was brutal. I collapsed in the grass and my special gentleman had to pick me up. During the car ride home I had tears in my eyes from the pain (blisters, and chafing, and angry joints) and I remember doing a lot of whimpering. But I have learned a few things since then. Generous and intelligent use of Body Glide and bandages goes a long way towards preventing post-run pain from chafing and blisters. And I suppose my joints are getting used to the realities of marathon training. Today there was no collapsing. I drove myself home after the run and there were no tears. Also no whimpering. It was a hard run (of course!), but it's getting easier. And I am starting to believe in the possibility of 26.2.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shrimp Dumplings with Dipping Sauce (Page 59)

RECIPE #1024

  • Date: Sunday, September 13, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

This recipe was on the list generated by the random number generator. I started by pureeing some shrimp in the food processor, then finely chopping the remaining shrimp. I combined the shrimp with chopped water chestnuts, egg white, scallion greens, ginger and soy sauce. I used wonton wrappers to form dumplings, filled with the shrimp mixture. I pan fried these dumpings to brown them, then added some boiling water and steamed the dumplings until the filling was cooked. I served them with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and scallion greens. These dumplings were pretty good. I prefer some pork in my dumplings, rather than just shrimp, but the filling still had a good flavor. My special gentleman complained that there was too much water chestnut and I think he was right about that. The dipping sauce was nice, and added a necessary punch of saltiness to the dish. These dumplings were very simple to make, and for such simple dumplings they weren't bad.

The recipe is here.

Two weeks ago this evening I was driving up to Michigan to visit my husband. Little did I know that the next day we would go through two houses with our realtor (we had probably seen 25 or 30 already!) and decide to make an offer on a house. One week from this evening I will be again driving up to Michigan. And one week from tomorrow, my husband and I will be home owners! It has been a crazy few weeks! After we made our offer, the sellers countered our offer. We countered their counter to our offer. They countered our counter to their counter to our offer. We countered their counter to our counter to their counter to our offer. And they accepted! So after much back and forth, we had a purchase agreement. Since then I feel like every waking moment that has not been spent on teaching or research has been spent either on the phone (with our realtor, or our mortgage guy, or the inspectors, or the insurance agent, or....) or at a fax machine! Man, there is a lot of paperwork and logistics involved in buying a house! I have actually been on my phone so much that it broke! (Addition to my to-do list: But new phone). But it looks like we are in the home stretch. Our closing date is set. I think (hope!) that I have done everything I need to do until we close.

I just can't wrap my head around the fact that we are actually going to own a home. We have moved around so, so much. The idea of settling into a space that is really our own is incredibly exciting. Plus, I love our new house. It's completely lovely. So, keep your fingers crossed that the next week goes smoothly for us!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coffee Almond Ice Cream Cake with Dark Chocolate Sauce (Page 868)

RECIPE #1023

  • Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike M, and Teresa
  • Recipe Rating: B+


Mike's birthday was this weekend, and to celebrate Mike and Teresa invited us over for some grilled meat! I offered to bring a birthday cake, and when I gave Mike his options from The Book, this was the one he chose! To make the cake I first crushed chocolate wafer cookies, mixed the crumbs with some butter, and pressed the mixture onto the bottom (and 1 inch up the sides) of a springform pan. I froze the crust for 30 minutes, then I spread softened coffee ice cream into it. I put the pan back in the freezer for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I crushed amaretti (Italian almond macaroons) then whipped heavy cream with vanilla and folded in the crushed cookies. I spread this mixture on top of the coffee ice cream, sprinkled the top with toasted sliced almonds, and returned the cake to the freezer. Before serving I let the cake thaw in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, then I sliced it and served it with dark chocolate sauce. This cake was pretty good. The crust was delicious (mmmm... crushed up cookies!), and the ice cream and whipped cream layers both had a good flavor to them. I prefer ice cream cakes that have more textural contrast though. For instance, I would have liked a fudgey layer of chocolate sauce inside the cake as well. There was sauce served with it, and that helped, but I think ice cream cake with a saucy layer inside is quite nice. The cake was quite pretty, however, and I think everyone enjoyed eating it. There are better ice cream cakes out there, but for a simple and quick to throw together ice cream cake, this was a good recipe.

The recipe is here.

Lately I have had extremely intense and specific food cravings. When we were in England two months ago I had an overwhelming desire for desserts consisting of baked apples and some type of pastry (apple pie, apple crisp, apple crumble, apple dumplings....). Luckily these types of desserts are easy to find in England and I ate them every day. About a month ago I developed a taste for Taco Bell and for weeks I was craving beef tacos and chips with nacho cheese sauce. After Taco Bell it was SweeTarts -- particularly the purple ones. Last week I wanted Cream of Wheat, and indeed I ate it for dinner three days in a row. Right now I am sitting at work at 7pm, thinking about making some of the ramen that is in my desk. I don't even particularly like ramen -- I only have a stash in my desk because my special gentleman keeps one there for when he visits (he keeps an emergency stash of ramen anywhere where he spends a lot of time!). But right now, ramen sounds so good!

So I have been trying to figure out, why all the cravings? (No, I am not pregnant!) It has gotten pretty bad. Underlying all the other cravings has been an ongoing sugar craving. Specifically I have been craving candy. Now, if I kept any candy in my apartment, I would eat way too much of it. I love, love, love candy -- particularly anything that is truly empty calories: gummy bears, SweeTarts, sour patch kids, etc... I actually prefer that kind of candy to candy with chocolate in it! So, to stop myself from consuming all my calories in candy, I don't keep any candy around the house. The sugar cravings are so intense though that I have had to take some desperate measures. I have started eating Aunt Jamima syrup by the spoonful. That's right -- I am drinking fake maple syrup. And when the syrup hasn't sounded good I have resorted to another old standby: spoonfuls of brown sugar straight from the canister. It's a little pathetic.

The only explanation I can think of for my strong an inexplicable food needs is that lately I have been doing a lot of running. The food cravings hit around the same time that my weekly long runs hit the 15-mile-or-longer range. I can't help wondering if my body is responding to the abuse I am putting it through. Maybe it is trying to store calories, knowing that in a few days I will run for more than 4 hours straight, without eating anything. Or maybe it is trying to make up for the calories it depleted the last time I did that. Who knows! But for now I have decided just to go with the cravings. I figure, if my body wants these foods so badly, there must be some reason!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cold Curried Carrot and Coconut Milk Soup (Page 88)

RECIPE #1022

  • Date: Thursday, September 10, 2009 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+
The other day I was looking through my project statistics at the bottom of the Project Index site that Alex set up for me, and I was surprised to see that the Soups section is one where I am starting to fall behind. It seemed crazy because I love soup! I love making soup. I love eating soup. How could the Soups section be going so slowly? But a brief flip through the section in The Book reminded me: the first 15 recipes in the section are for cold soups. I love soup, but I love my soup hot! Aside from cold sour cherry soup (which is pretty awesome) I have never met a cold soup that I really loved. It's been hot in Indiana lately though, so I thought I should take this opportunity to make some cold soup. I started by cooking scallions, onion, ginger, curry powder, salt, and pepper in a saucepan. I added carrots and chicken stock, covered, and simmered until tender. Then I added coconut milk and pureed it with my immersion blender (I love that thing!). I seasoned with lime juice and chilled until cold. The verdict: it was pretty good, but my first thought was, "I would like this better served hot!" Carrots and ginger always make a nice combination, and the pairing was well balanced in this soup. The addition of coconut milk rather than cream or milk gave the soup a bit of an Asian taste, which the lime juice enhanced. I would have liked it quite a bit as a hot soup. As a cold soup I could take it or leave it.

The recipe is here.

What a lovely weekend! This weekend it was my special gentleman's turn to travel, so instead of driving to Michigan I stayed in Indiana and he came to me! On Friday night we celebrated the three year anniversary of our first date with a delicious dinner at Restaurant Tallent. We ate until we were ridiculously stuffed, and everything we ordered was completely wonderful. Since we have been traveling so much we hadn't been back to Tallent since we had our wedding reception there -- it was fun to be reminded of that celebration.

On Saturday we had a relaxing day -- I did a bunch of cooking. It's going to be a busy week, so I wanted to get some cooking from The Book out of the way this weekend. Then on Saturday night we went over to Mike and Teresa's to celebrate Mike's birthday. They grilled tons of delicious meat, and we had another huge meal! It was really fun. Hamburgers, lamb, guacamole, beer, ice cream cake... Yum!!

After a weekend of eating, this morning we went for a long run. I cut back to 16 miles this week (I wasn't in the mood for another 20 miler this weekend). The run went really well. It's hot here, but 16 miles still felt pretty easy, and even at the end I wasn't suffering too much. It gives me hope that in a month and a half I will be able to make it 26.2! After my long run I ate some Taco Bell, took a shower, and then a nap. We ate another big dinner tonight -- this time one we made ourselves: chicken club sandwiches and shrimp dumplings.

Now I am feeling refreshed and ready for the week ahead!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shredded Pork and Lemon Coleslaw Sandwiches (Page 192)

RECIPE #1021

  • Date: Monday, August 31, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


New love often blossoms out of common interests. Since my husband and I are both mathematicians, one might guess that math was the common interest that our romance blossomed out of. True, we met through our jobs. But I think the common interest that really brought us together was our love of food. We lived in the same neighborhood in Cambridge/Somerville, Massachusetts, and many of our early dates involved exploring the restaurants in the neighborhood together. We quickly developed some favorites, and many of our later dates in Massachusetts involved going to our favorite neighborhood restaurants over and over again. When we had the, "Where should we go to dinner?" conversation, my vote was almost always for East Coast Grill, an awesome restaurant with a national reputation, which happened to be down the block from where we lived. Most people who have eaten there would describe it as a seafood place -- not me. I would describe it as a place where you can get an absolutely amazing plate of pulled pork, cornbread, coleslaw, baked beans, and watermelon. Oh my gosh is it good. It's so good that it has almost ruined all other pulled pork for me.

So, last week I made this recipe, and at the first bite I thought, "This isn't nearly as good as East Coast Grill." And that pretty much summarizes how I felt about the recipe. It wasn't bad. Pulled pork is delicious. But the sauce didn't have a slow-cooked depth to it (probably because it wasn't particularly slowly cooked), and the pork wasn't melt in your mouth tender. On the up side, it was fast and simple to make. I cooked some onion and garlic in oil, added cider vinegar, ketchup, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, water, salt, and pepper then cooked for ten minutes. Then I added a pork tenderloin and cooked until tender. I took the pork out, shredded it, and pureed the cooking liquid. I returned the pork to the sauce and served it on hamburger buns, topped with lemon coleslaw (see post below). As I ate it, sauce dripped down to my elbows and I was pretty happy. But at the same time I was wishing that I still lived down the street from the most awesome plate of pulled pork I have ever enjoyed. That's how I felt about this one.

The recipe in The Book is the same as this one, except that the one in The Book calls for these sandwiches to be served on hamburger buns, whereas the one online calls for them to be served as wraps.

Three years ago this week my special gentleman and I went on our very first date. We ate Korean barbecue in Cambridge, MA, then sat on the porch at his place eating ice cream. It was perfect.

One year ago this week my special gentleman proposed during my business calculus lecture, in front of my 80 students. Afterward we had a very celebratory dinner at the wonderful restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana where we later had our wedding.

Tomorrow we will be dining there once again. And once again it will be in celebration. We will be celebrating not only three wonderful years together, but also the fact that we are buying a house! We don't close for another couple weeks, but we signed our names at the bottom of a purchase agreement yesterday! And we are so very excited!

What an exciting few years we have had, with so much to celebrate: our engagement, our marriage, new jobs, a new house (!)... We are very, very lucky. And luckier still that we have had the opportunity to toast all of these blessings over some delicious meals!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Lemon Coleslaw (Page 193)

RECIPE #1020

  • Date: Monday, August 31, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


This coleslaw is a component recipe for some pork sandwiches I made last week. I started by making the dressing: whisking together sour cream, mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, sugar, salt, and pepper. Then I added thinly sliced cabbage, grated carrots, sliced scallions, and chopped parsley. I tossed this all together and let it chill for one hour before serving it on the pork sandwiches. I wasn't a huge fan of this coleslaw. The lemon was refreshing, but the dressing was too watery. I also didn't find it rich enough for a coleslaw dressing. With only 2 tablespoons of sour cream and 2 teaspoons of mayo, it didn't have the creaminess one typically thinks of in coleslaw dressing. I would have preferred it had the dressing had less water and more mayo. My main complaint though was that the flavor of the coleslaw was overpowered by the scallions. One cup of sliced scallions is quite a lot -- the scallion flavor was certainly dominant and I didn't care for that. My special gentleman thought the parsley flavor was also too strong. Typically you want to bring out the flavors of cabbage and carrot when you make a coleslaw, but that was definitely not the case in this recipe. All that said, this slaw was perfectly fine served on the pork sandwiches. But eaten alone it left something to be desired.

The recipe is here.

I am feeling, at this moment, a little overwhelmed. Normally my life has a nice balance to it: research, teaching, running, cooking, hanging out with my special gentleman and other friends. It all seems to fit together just fine, and since I love both my job and my hobbies (and of course my husband and my friends!), I am generally quite happy. The last few weeks, though, my balance has been a little disrupted. Typically I have about 130 students per semester -- this semester I have 330. So teaching is taking more time than usual. And training for a marathon is definitely more intense than my usual running schedule. A 20 mile run takes up a good chunk of time -- add the recovery time and it can eat up half a day! Of course I am also commuting to Michigan every other weekend, where my special gentleman is getting settled. Meanwhile I am still unpacking in my new apartment in Indiana. And we are buying our first house. So basically things are a little crazy. I am going to bed early and getting up early these days -- trying to jam as much productivity as I can into each day. But it's not entirely successful. There are dishes in the sink, and wedding thank-yous that still desperately need to be written. I will be happy when I can check a few things off my list. Hopefully we will soon own a house. In a couple months the marathon will be over. And once I get settled into the rhythm of the semester the teaching will be more manageable. In the meantime, I will attempt to keep my head above water!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mu Shu Vegetables with Barbecued Pork (Page 489)

RECIPE #1019

  • Date: Saturday, August 29, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

It's a mystery even to me that I hadn't made this recipe yet, since mu shu is one of my favorites. It is my standard order at any Chinese restaurant. Before making this, though, I had actually never made it myself. In a way I am disinterested in learning to make the things I like to order most in restaurants. I already know just where to find excellent paneer makhani, for instance, so I don't need to make it at home. Or maybe more accurately, I worry that if I made those things myself the restaurant versions would lose their mystery and appeal. Before making this I had never thought about exactly which vegetables were in my mu shu -- it was just a mysterious and delicious blend. And I have no idea what is in the sauce that my paneer sits in when I order paneer makhani, but I like it that way. So perhaps I put off making this recipe for so long simply because I didn't want to ruin the mystery of mu shu forever. But the time came, whatever mystery there was is now gone, and I could still go for some take-out mu shu right now, so perhaps I needn't have worried!

Anyway, I started by coating pork loin in a mixture of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sake, ketchup, sugar, and garlic. I roasted the pork to 150 degrees then cut it into thin strips. I added vegetable oil to a hot wok, then stir-fried strips of leek, minced garlic, minced ginger, red pepper flakes, and thinly sliced shitake mushroom caps for 2 minutes. Then I added thinly sliced cabbage and some sake and cooked another 2 minutes. I added a sauce of cornstarch, chicken broth, soy sauce, sake, sugar, and pepper. Then I added thinly sliced snow peas and the strips of pork. I cooked it another 2 minutes, then served it with Mock Mandarin Pancakes (see post below) spread with some hoisin sauce. This mu shu was good, but not as good as my favorite Chinese take-out versions! The pork had a good flavor to it and the composition of the vegetable mixture was nice. The recipe called for the leeks to be cut into 2-to-3 inch long strips. I cut mine about 3 inches and they were much too long. Because leeks are rather stringy, they made the dish difficult to eat. If I were to make this again I would cut them into 1 inch lengths at most. As discussed in the post below, the mock pancakes were not as delicious as the real thing, but they were super quick to make, which was a plus. My special gentleman liked this mu shu quite a lot, in particular because it was much less greasy than what you typically get in restaurants. I appreciated that too, but I think I will still be ordering mu shu rather than making this version in the future!

This recipe isn't online.

When we were growing up my parents never forced my brother and I to eat when we weren't hungry. This is something that I believe strongly in, and when I have kids I will certainly not be telling them to eat when they don't want to. I very much dislike the feeling of eating when I am not hungry, and I pretty much only do so when politeness in a social situation requires it. So today it was very unusual to be having the following conversation with my special gentleman:

Me: "I don't want to eat it. I'm not hungry."
Him: "It doesn't matter. You need to eat it."
Me: "No thanks."
Him: "You are going to finish that bowl."
Me: "But I'm not hungry."
Him: "It doesn't matter. Just eat it."

It went on like this for quite some time. Finally I caved and ate the bowl of macaroni and cheese that we were discussing. I pouted and complained throughout -- hating the feeling of eating when I really had no desire to. He was right though -- it was important that I ate it. This conversation occured about 30 minutes after I finished a 20 mile run. For whatever reason, I never feel like eating after a long run (this, I am told by other runners, is very unusual!). Since I don't feel hungry, I don't eat. Then, several hours later, I feel terrible. My special gentleman, excellent at seeing patterns, learned this long ago. He has since tried to force me to eat post-run. And eventually I cave, as I did today, and force some food into me. And of course he is right: three hours post-run instead of lying in bed feeling like I wanted to die, I felt pretty ok this afternoon. And I was genuinely hungry for more food. One thing I have learned about distance running is that my normal eating habits don't apply. Last night at dinner I forced myself to eat until I was tremendously full (another thing I don't like to do), knowing that I was going to run 20 miles first thing this morning. It definitely helps to do that (just as the post-run mac and cheese helps) but I don't like the way it feels...

On the upside, my first 20 mile run ever went pretty well! The first 14 miles felt great, the next 3 felt sort of ok, and the last 3 were rough. But that's to be expected. Now I only have 6.2 more miles to go! Whoo hoo!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Mock Mandarin Pancakes (Page 490)

RECIPE #1018

  • Date: Saturday, August 29, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

This was a component recipe for a Mu Shu dish that I made last week. This recipe was super simple. We took flour tortillas, brushed them with sesame oil, and heated them in the oven, wrapped in foil. The net result was perfectly fine, although I am not going to lie -- real mu shu pancakes would have been better. Flour tortillas are a decent substitute, but they are much thicker and different in flavor than the traditional wraps for mu shu. For dinner at home I was happy enough with this substitution, but for the real mu shu experience the traditional pancakes are a must.

The recipe is here.

It has been a crazy few days! On Thursday I taught my classes then drove up to Michigan where my husband lives. It's about a five hour drive, and since I teach until 5:15pm I didn't get on the road until about 6pm. The drive was easy enough, though, and I was there by 11pm. Yesterday we worked most of the day, and then did some house-hunting in the afternoon. We saw a couple houses we liked a lot, including a second visit to a house we had seen a few weeks ago. The second visit convinced us that we should make an offer on it -- and we did! So at 8pm on a Friday night we were sitting in our realtor's office, writing an offer on a house. Now we are just waiting -- supposedly we should hear something by tomorrow night! It's very exciting!!

Today we started the day by meeting our friends Corbett and Mary (and their adorable baby Allison!) at a county park. They also just moved to East Lansing, so we thought we would explore a bit of what the area has to offer together. It was a beautiful day -- we hung out for a few hours at the park and then my special gentleman and I headed over to the Michigan State Football game. I love college football, and we had a great time eating hot dogs and cheering our team on to victory. After a long day in the sun, I took a very relaxing nap and then we ate tons of Mexican food! It was a lovely day.

I am not so excited about tomorrow, since it will be my first attempt at a 20 mile run, and I have a feeling it is going to be brutal. Hopefully, though, tomorrow will also include good news about the house! I've got my fingers crossed!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yuca Fries (Page 589)

RECIPE #1017

  • Date: Saturday, August 29, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


This was my fourth attempt to make this recipe, and I am happy to say that this time I actually made it. The previous three attempts were foiled by the fact that the yuca I bought was not fresh. yuca spoils quickly, but it is difficult to detect whether it is spoiled or not from the outside (it might have an ammonia smell...). In any event, my previous 3 yucas had many black veins through them when I cut them open, indicating that they were not so fresh. I suppose yuca doesn't fly off the shelves in small town Indiana. In any event, my fourth yuca was fresh enough, so I went ahead with the recipe. I cut the yuca crosswise into 3 inch pieces and then peeled it. I cooked the yuca pieces in boiling salted water until tender. Then I cut them into wedges and deep-fried them until they were golden brown. Then I salted them and served them with ketchup. These fries were fine. Deep-fried vegetables rarely taste bad. I didn't particularly care for their texture however. They were starchy like potato fries, but substantially denser. Consequently they didn't have the light fluffy interior that makes French fries so delightful. They were interesting to try once, but I wouldn't make them again. French fries are just as easy (or easier) to make and I find them tastier.

The recipe in The Book is similar to this one, but without the chipotle mayo and the yuca fries in The Book are thicker.

When I got home from work this evening I sat down on the sofa, exhausted. It was an easy day -- I don't teach on Wednesdays, so I was just in my office all day, working on my research. But after a day of thinking hard I was tired, and the last thing I felt like doing was going for a run.

My marathon training is not going so well. I have not been injured -- I have just been lazy. I found it hard to stay on schedule while traveling, and I traveled pretty much all summer. So by the time it came around to my 18 mile long run last week, it kicked my butt. At the end of the run I ended up collapsed in the grass, unable to even walk the quarter-mile to where my car was parked. This is not good. So this week I tried to do a better job of training, in hopes of getting back on track for these last two months before the marathon.

To that end, this evening when I was sitting on the sofa feeling tired and lazy I forced myself to get up anyway, put on my running shoes, and get out of the house. As I stood at the trailhead, I thought, "Well at least it's only 7 miles." Better to be miserable for 7 miles than for 18! But much to my surprise, as soon as I started running, I felt great. It was a comfortable run and at a nice pace. So maybe I am getting into the swing of things. This weekend will be my first 20 miler. I am both nervous and excited about that milestone. You often hear people say, "If you can run 20 miles, you can run a marathon!" Who knows if that's true, but since I have never run 20 miles, it never applied to me anyway. Now it just might...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Fried Artichokes (Page 519)

RECIPE #1016

  • Date: Saturday, August 29, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


This recipe came off the list generated by the random number generator. Conceptually, this recipe was very simple. Prepare artichokes. Simmer then in oil for 15 minutes. Deep-fry them in hotter oil for 45 seconds. Sprinkle with salt. Serve. In practice, most of the work was involved in the "Prepare artichokes" step. It involved a lot of tearing, cutting, paring, scraping, etc... to get the leaves off, the green fibrous parts trimmed off, and the choke out. Once the artichokes were ready to fry there wasn't much to this recipe. The fried artichokes were certainly not bad, but neither of us was terribly excited about them either. When I saw the title "Fried Artichokes" I had some hope that they would be breaded and deep-fried (yum!) but there was sadly no breading to be found in this recipe. So the end result was just artichokes, fried. Even generously seasoned with salt they were a little bland. That said, the texture was interesting. The leaves had a delicate crunch to them while the heart was nice and tender. I didn't dislike them at all -- I just didn't find them interesting enough to want to make them again. The recipe would have been better had it contained a nice dipping sauce for these fried artichokes.

The recipe is here.

Well the first day of my classes has come and gone, and so far both my classes seem great. The students were friendly, they participated, and they generally seemed to have a positive attitude. I have a good feeling about it. And although I wasn't feeling too sure that I would like standing on a stage and wearing a microphone while I teach, the big class (250 students) was pretty fun.

Other realities of the semester are also starting to set in though. In other words, I miss my husband. I have been sitting on the couch for the last 45 minutes, nursing a headache and trying to rally to take a shower. Instead of getting up I have been thinking about how I miss my special gentleman. Of course I chose to stay in Indiana another 8 months rather than moving with him. So I have no right to complain. Further, we are only going to be apart 3 nights a week. So, I am really whining about nothing. We have lived much further apart before, and I was just fine. But since we got married it has been so nice being together all the time. I am sad to give that up. If there is any downside to having a really great husband it's that when he is not around, I miss him a lot. So I'll pout tonight. And maybe I'll pout tomorrow night too. But Thursday night I will be headed up to Michigan for the weekend, and hopefully by this time next week I will have adjusted a bit.