Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tom Collins (Page 10)


  • Date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 -- 8pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Teri, and Terry
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I made this refreshing summer drink when my parents came to visit a couple months ago. I started by filling a cocktail shaker mostly full with ice. I added fresh lemon juice, superfine sugar, and gin. I shook the drink for 15 seconds, then strained it into glasses of ice. I then added club soda and garnished with lemon slices. This drink was simple to make and absolutely perfect for a summer evening. It was crisp and refreshing with just a hint of sweetness. It would be an excelle party drink on a hot day!

This recipe isn't online.

Hello from California! The last few weeks have been jam-packed full of conference activities, so I haven't had time for blogging. My special gentleman and I are in California (at Stanford) for a month. There were two weeks of conferences in my field these past weeks, and there are two weeks of conferences in my special gentleman's field these next weeks.

Conferences provide a wonderful opportunity to present one's research, as well as learning about what other people are doing. But beyond just the research benefits, there is also a social aspect to these things. With so many people gathered in one place, you are surrounded by friends you've made along the way (from graduate school, post-doctoral years, other conferences, etc...). So after long days of mathematics, people tend to gather and hang out. In the last two weeks, I went to a lot of parties: at peoples' homes, at restaurants, at bars, at the dorms on campus... Parties with faculty, or graduate students, or the post-doc/assistant professor crowd. There were a lot of parties and it was a lot of fun. This past Thursday there was a banquet dinner as part of the conference. In math we often have conferences to honor major birthdays of very famous mathematicians. This particular conference was in honor of three mathematicians, for their 60th, 60th, and 70th birthdays. So there was a banquet to honor them, with lots of food, wine, and roasting of the birthday trio. The dinner ended around 11pm and maybe 40 or so of the graduate students, post-docs, and young faculty continued the party at one of the dorms on campus. The night went late, and it was a lot of fun. Well, it was fun right up until the end...

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning we started playing a game called Ninja. I'm still not quite sure if this is a real game that other people know, or if it just something my friend David created. It's a fun game that involves lots of players moving around trying to hit one another's hands. You are only allowed to make certain kinds of moves, at certain times. You are eliminated from the game when both of your hands have been hit. So we were playing this game and it came down to me and one of the graduate students. I had one of my hands sort of near my face and he was trying to hit it. Instead, he decked me in the face. It was an accident (and he felt very bad!), but he broke my nose. I was looking pretty good the next morning with a swollen nose and two black eyes:

The doctor took x-rays and said the break is in a good spot and should heal fine, so that's good. The swelling has gone down in the last couple days, but I am still feeling the pain and looking pretty bruised. Here's a picture of me this morning:

Maybe the moral of the story is that I am too old to party with the graduate students!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Easy Carrot Soup with Toasted Pecans (Page 114)


  • Date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Teri, and Terry
  • Recipe Rating: B

My mom was flipping through The Book and commented that this recipe sounded good, so I made it for dinner with her! I started by cooking onions in butter, then I added carrots, cumin, salt, and water. I cooked the soup until the carrots were very tender, then I pureed it. I topped the soup with chopped, toasted pecans, tossed with butter. This soup was OK. I am a huge fan of pureed vegetable soups. Indeed, homemade potato-leek soup is a staple in our freezer. I also love carrots, so I was optimistic about this one. It tasted fine, but I wasn't wowed by it. The texture was good, and the pecans were a nice addition, but the soup lacked the depth of flavor that I was looking for. I think it would have been much better if the recipe had called for chicken stock as the base liquid rather than water. It certainly wasn't bad though, and it was incredibly quick to make!  

The recipe in The Book is very similar to this one.

11 recipes down, 1095 to go!

The last couple weeks have been a little bit rough. That's not to say that anything particularly bad has happened. We have been at home, which has been lovely, and we have had the opportunity to do lots of work and lots of fun things (concerts, bike rides, minor league baseball, etc). But in certain moments, it has definitely been a struggle.

Generally speaking, I am a pretty happy person. I don't have a history of depression, and any bad moods I have are typically short-lived. I feel very fortunate that my brain chemistry is such that mostly I feel pretty good. But I was taking a medication lately -- different from my usual line-up -- and I had a side effect that was new to me: depression. I have taken a couple of pretty gnarly drugs for my brain tumor over the years, so I consider myself relatively well-equipped to deal with side effects. Certainly fatigue are nausea are old hat to me. I've had some more creative side effects in the past too (I will certainly never forget the first time I saw snow falling from the sky when there was no snow!). But never depression.

And as it turns out, I am incredibly poorly equipped to deal with it. Feeling bad day after day, for no reason, was miserable and frustrating! I had trouble sleeping at night, and trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Even the things that I love to do sounded completely unappealing to me. And although I desperately wanted to just snap out of it, I couldn't. Which was terrifying. What really terrifies me is that a medication can do that to me. That one day I can be blissfully happy enjoying a wonderful summer, and the next day I can be crying at my desk for no reason -- just from a couple of pills. The pills were important but thankfully I am done with them now, and am feeling like myself again. I am also feeling tremendously grateful that depression is not a part of my usual life, and very sympathetic for those people who struggle with it regularly.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Steamed Broccoli with Olive Oil and Parmesan (Page 574)


  • Date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Teri and Terry
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I chose this recipe because broccoli is one of my favorite foods. Indeed, when I was a kid I wanted to open a restaurant that only served cheese ravioli, steamed broccoli, and chocolate cake! It was my idea of the perfect meal. These days my culinary views have expanded a bit, but I still LOVE broccoli. This was a simple broccoli preparation. My special gentleman steamed the broccoli until tender, then we tossed it with olive oil, finely grated Parmesan, salt, and pepper. That was it! The Book claims that the residual heat of the broccoli "melts the cheese ever so slightly, creating a sauce." That was not our experience with this dish. Rather than melting ever so slightly to create a sauce, the cheese just clumped together in a very unappealing way, totally separate from the olive oil. We also weren't sold on the olive oil + cheese on steamed broccoli. It wasn't bad of course, but it also wasn't nearly as good as steamed broccoli dressed with melted butter would have been. This recipe was a let down. Certainly not one that we would make again.

This recipe is here.

10 recipes down, 1096 to go!

We are in Columbus, Ohio today where, like many places in the country, it is sunny and HOT! This is a short trip. We drove down yesterday afternoon and are headed back home after dinner tonight. It's only about 4 hours from our house to Columbus so it's doable as a one-night trip. We came down here to visit my special gentleman's grandmother, Jinx, who has been having some serious health problems lately. We spent the day hanging out with her today. She's recovering really well, which was great to see! She was in good spirits, and we had a very nice time hanging out with her. We even got to try thickened water, which was a new experience! Unfortunately Jinx has to eat a modified diet right now, which includes thickening her liquids before she drinks them. I've never tried anything quite like thickened water before. She has been able to have some non-thickened water in the last few days, and hopefully soon she will be back on her usual diet. It doesn't seem like she is loving the thickened liquids! She told me that thickened coffee was where she drew the line -- it was apparently completely unpalatable!

Tonight my special gentleman's parents are taking me and my special gentleman out for a nice dinner. My special gentleman and I both got grants this spring which are sort of a big deal, and we haven't had a chance to celebrate with his family yet. So tonight we are going to eat some nice food in celebration!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Korean Marinated Beef (Page 443)


Gourmet Today

  • Date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Teri, Terry, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I love Korean food, and it has a special place in my heart since my special gentleman and I ate at a Korean restaurant on our first date, many years ago. My favorite Korean dish is Bulgogi, but I had actually never made it at home. So I was very excited to try this Bugogi recipe! I started by cutting flank steak into very thin slices. I marinated the beef in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, scallions, garlic, ginger, and toasted sesame seeds. I cooked the meat in a heavy skillet with vegetable oil. I topped it with scallion green and more sesame seeds and served it with white rice, lettuce, sliced garlic, and kimchi. This beef was very tasty! Lately my special gentleman and I have been trying out some of the local Korean restaurants. Bulgogi is my standard order, and I was happy to discover that this simple recipe was in fact better than any of the local Bulgogi dishes I have tried. It's wonderful that it is so easy to make at home! I have a feeling that this is a recipe I will be coming back to frequently. Here's a photo of my parents eating dinner with us:

The recipe is here.

9 recipes down, 1097 to go!

My special gentleman and I are both home this week, with no house guests, for the first time since the beginning of May. It's nice to be home. It also means that we are desperately trying to catch up on all the house-related tasks that we have been putting off. We leave again in a week and a half, and by the time we return from that long trip, classes will be starting. So now is the time to get things done! In the last week we have had the electrician out here, as well as the sprinkler people (twice!), and an arborist. We are having better internet installed tomorrow (thank goodness!). I finally did some spring cleaning, resulting in 8 bags full of stuff for charity and another couple bags for the trash. For the first time in a long time you can actually walk in to our walk-in kitchen pantry! And the floor in the coat closet is visible! Last night after work my special gentleman and I did two and a half hours of yard work (weeding, mulching, pruning, watering, repairing a fence, etc).  When we quit at 10pm it was still in the nineties, so we finished off our evening with a trip to the Tasty Twist for some ice cream. It's nice to finally check some things off my list that have been on there for ages. It also makes me realize how many more things I would like to do before we leave again!

I love summer. I particularly love being home during the summer. I don't feel ready yet to leave again, but I am looking forward to our upcoming trips. We are spending a month in Palo Alto, California, followed by a week and a half in Paris and Switzerland. The trips are for work (conferences and workshops) but I will also get to see a few of my best friends while we travel. It should be great! And maybe before we leave I will find some time to check some more things off my list!