Tuesday, April 29, 2008


When this movie first came out, I had absolutely no interest in seeing it. I didn't exactly have a change of heart or anything, but I was in the mood to see a fun movie on Sunday and certainly this one didn't seem like an "issues" movie. And was I glad I watched it! I really don't even know where to start. Rasputin (Russian with ambiguous/no accent) was working with the Nazis (German with British/no accent) to open a portal into hell to bring forth an army or something to defeat the Allies. The Professor (British with tweedy voice) was working with the Americans to stop him. Rasputin manages to open the portal, but was defeated. However, a little baby demon made it through and was thereafter called Hellboy. All of this happened within the first ten minutes of the movie. So awesome. Anyway, of course Rasputin comes back (his resurrection seemed awfully simple) to wreak more havoc and Hellboy must choose which side he wants to be on as well as deal with the throes of love (in a manner more suited to a teenage boy than to a supernatural hero). The plot is quite straightforward and all of it was extremely entertaining. One particular highlight for me was the presence of that actor who played George Bluth on Arrested Development. The man is crazy hilarious, no matter what he is doing. How he makes comedy of dour is beyond me. At the end of the movie, I felt a few years younger and ready to see Hellboy2. Rate ***** (awesome meter)

Cafe Au Lait

I made this! This is only the second one I've ever made. Had it for breakfast this morning and it was delicious. I can't wait until tomorrow. :o)

Weekend Update

I felt I'd had a particularly good weekend so time for another laundry list:

Friday night:
  • Poodle and her main squeeze (MS) brought over furniture.
  • Ferret fixed a tasty sweet and sour pork with rice dinner. I made a side dish of tofu (note to self: still need to ask mommy exactly how she makes it).
  • Helped Poodle move! The weather was perfect, cool and cloudy - although it appeared like it was about to rain, it never did. Poodle nicely provided coffee from La Colombe and glazed donuts from Dunkin' for breakfast. Ferret and Tortoise and David wrestled down various heavy pieces of furniture while I ferried down little boxes. It was a nice time.
  • After the move, Poodle treated us to lunch at Banana Leaf. I decided to play it safe this time and get the Beef Chow Fun. It did not disappoint. Next time though, I will take a cue from Tortoise and get the Beef Rendang. Good stuff good stuff. For an appetizer we tried the crispy squid; after eating several pieces we all declared it was awful.
  • Shower and a two hour nap.
  • Labbed it! I was actually pretty productive. Autoclaved bottles and tips, made CM (with a dash of trickery), fed cells, washed dishes, split cells.
  • After a hasty dinner of leftover Beef Chow Fun and a large bowl of yogurt with honey, I sped off to Ferret's house to meet SS and AN for games. One round of Settlers of Cataan took about two hours. It sounds nerdy (and I guess it is, actually) but the game is bunches of fun. The basic premise is: you are a settler (of Cataan) and the goal is to build as many settlements and cities as you can. And to build, you have to collect resources from lands. Distribution of resources is governed by two things: the roll of the dice and whether or not the resource is adjacent to your settlement. Anyway, there is a lot of trading and strategizing involved. We hope to meet again next weekend for another round.
  • After SoC, we played a couple of rounds of an Italian card game called Bang. This is also a fun game. For each round, one person is the sheriff, one is the renegade and the other two are outlaws (for more players there would be more outlaws and one deputy sheriff). The goal of the sheriff is to kill everyone else, the goal of the outlaws is to kill the sheriff, and the goal of the renegade is for everyone else to die. Again, lots of moaning and groaning and glee.
  • Since I had received another disc of Ergo Proxy, Ferret and I watched that after playing games. The series continued to make no sense. We haven't lost hope that eventually we'll understand what is going on. Unfortunately, we've already watched half the series without additional comprehension. Perhaps something is getting lost in translation?
  • I started off my day correctly by going to TJ and making several key purchases.
  • I went for a pleasant run outdoors on the trail by the river. That day, I managed to pass one chubby girl and one skinny girl who was running very slowly. Go me!
  • I experimented with making a cafe au lait using my little frothing wand. It would have been more successful if I had added more sugar. But it was still enjoyable.
  • I made a dauntingly large batch of jambalaya with chicken chorizo sausage and some plain chicken pieces. It's been a source of sustenance for me for a couple of days now. Somehow I'm not sick of it yet. Which is good because I've barely made a dent in it.
  • I visited the new food store on my corner. It was instantly charming because of all the gleaming wood shelves, but it became a dearly loved store after I discovered panko crumbs in it. At less than $2 for 7 ounces, I was sold. Ever since TJ discontinued their panko crumbs I've felt discombobulated.
  • After a few loads of laundry, I went over to Ferret's to watch Hellboy. Post on that later!
And that was my weekend. I've discovered that the weekend actually feels longer if you do more stuff during it. Weird but true.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tony Living Large

A few days ago, Poodle and her main squeeze brought over a tall round table and its matching chair. They are to live with me for a couple of weeks while Poodle is homeless. As you can see from the picture, Tony has already welcomed them to my home. There is another picture I took of him lounging on the chair, but I haven't gotten around to uploading that yet. Mr. cat is the best.

Update: Here is that other picture of Tony.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Voting Madness in PA

FINALLY Pennsylvania got to vote! Go Hillary! I will be updating my NYT page incessantly for the rest of the evening.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Romeo and Juliet

I remember watching this movie when it first came out. I was 16 years old and watched it in the theater with Kara, my best friend. I'm not sure why we went to this movie, maybe because Leonardo diCaprio is cute? In any case, I didn't remember too much about it, so when I recently watched and enjoyed that other modern shakeup of a Shakespearean classic, Titus, I thought maybe I should give this version of Romeo and Juliet another try. Sooooo, it wasn't as good as Titus. Baz Luhrmann always does that sped up annoying camera thing and he was just trying a little too hard to be hip. Overall, it felt too glossy and shallow and unreal; the music was jarring. Leo is a good actor but even the most emotional scenes felt a little comical because it was so hard to take anything seriously. That was the problem, nothing felt quite serious enough. But it is difficult to completely mess up material this good, and a bit of the feeling did come through. Rate **

Stovetop Mac N Cheese

Bah!! In an attempt to follow through with New Year's Resolution #5 (Cook something new once a week, or at least twice a month), I decided to try Alton Brown's Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese. If you follow the link you'll see that the recipe had achieved rave reviews. Rave reviews, coupled with my own fondness for AB and the simplicity of the recipe led me to premature confidence that the recipe would yield fantastic results. :o( Unfortunately for me, this was not so. I wish I had taken a picture, but the result was very heavy with too much sauce sticking to each bite of pasta. I guess maybe it wasn't the best recipe to try on such a hot day, but I hadn't expected such a gooey mess! I mean, rave reviews!! Are these people all obese? In the end, I couldn't eat more than a few bites and opted for a crisp cool salad with some tasty French dressing:

3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
a little dollop of dijon mustard
some salt and pepper

Whisk ingredients vigorously until emulsified. Eat with TJ bagged salad with some parmiggiano shavings and perhaps a handful of walnuts and dried cranberries. Delicioso.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I didn't really have high hopes for this movie. I thought it was going to be like that other save the earth movie, The Core, except for the sun. Superficially, the plot elements for the two movies were similar: a large bomb must be detonated in the core of the earth/sun to reignite it. As one might also expect, in both movies, the full crew does not make it to the end credits. The similarities ended there though; Sunshine was very interesting to look at with its careful attention to colors and space. The plot ended up being a coagulation of many other space movies, but for me, these hodgepodge elements worked. I was pleased to find some Asians in the crew and that romantic subplots were almost nonexistent. Everyone stayed professional and focused on their mission. It is pretty refreshing actually, that men and women could be trusted to save the world together in a movie without falling into bed. Overall, the biggest surprise was the amount of action and tension present in this movie. I'm not sure what I expected, but for a save the world sci fi movie, there was quite a bit of creeping unease and disquiet, more akin to what you might find in a horror flick. Compared to Danny Boyle's actual horror movie, 28 Days Later, I have to say I preferred this one. Rate ****

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mexican Wedding Cakes

I think it's obvious that I've given up on trying to take attractive pictures. These cakes (really, cookies) were inspired by Bunny's post. I was intrigued because of their outward resemblance to these amazing Egyptian cookies Poodle gives me from time to time. On Sunday then, I decided to try my hand at these. Now, baking is not really my thing but with such a short list of ingredients I really couldn't resist. And they came out wonderfully! The picture, again, does not do them justice, but you can spot that hole in the middle of the cooling rack where I stole several cookies while they were still warm from the oven. Basically they taste like pie crust dipped in powdered sugar. I will definitely be making these again, assuming I stick with my running regimen.

Mexican Wedding Cakes (from Epicurious)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used more cinnamon per Bunny's recommendation)

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then pecans. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.

Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)

Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad

Yesterday I decided two things: 1) I was sick of roasted broccoli with garlic, salt and pepper (my favorite way of cooking broccoli for the past 2-3 months) and 2) it's been ages since I tried a new recipe. So with that and a bag of TJ broccoli florets in mind, I attempted the NYT's Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad. The picture is awful but it is a wonderful dish. I have just been eating this straight out of my mixing bowl and the urge to snag one every hour is irresistible. Prepared this way, the broccoli stays maximally crispy yet not raw-tasting and has incredible amounts of flavor. Next time I make this, I will try adding cubed tofu pieces for a nice lunch.

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets (or 1 bag TJ broccoli)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 fat garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.

1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.
2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

Yield: 6 to 8 side-dish servings or more as an hors d'oeuvre.

Liver with Cilantro and Lemon

I finally uploaded my recent batch of photos and realized I was overdue for a food post. This was dinner a couple nights ago. I have a thing for calf liver and whenever I go to Fresh Grocer I succumb and buy some. My favorite way to prepare them is:

Remove thin membrane from around the liver slices. Pat liver in flour until evenly coated. Heat some butter and olive oil in pan and throw in liver. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Douse with lemon juice and eat with plenty of chopped cilantro. If you must, make a side of couscous.

I believe I learned this way of cooking liver from MFK Fisher. Prior to this, my only experience with liver was the way my mom used to make them, which was to boil them in a soup with ginger and scallion and a generous dollop of rice wine. It was good, but the liver was always a bit on the tough and chewy side. And the soup always came out gray. Pan-fried, liver becomes tender and buttery with a tinge of blood-taste (I like the blood-taste). The lemon and the cilantro freshen things up.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bridesmaid Dresses & Panera

On Saturday, Poodle and I made the trip out to Willow Grove to look for this dress:

We met another one of her bridesmaids, Nicky, and headed toward some bridal shop. We all really expected to like this dress because it seemed so simple and basic, but somehow it was extremely unflattering on both me (no boobs) and Nicky (lots of boobs). Physically, Nicky and I look very different, so once this dress was out of the question, it became tricky as to what style would look nice on us both. Any dress that looked good on me looked horrendous on Nicky and vice versa. Eventually we managed to find a consensus on this one:
All of the dresses we tried on was in the Belsoie line, but this was the only one that looked good on us both. Since Michelle sits somewhere between me and Nicky on the body continuum, we decided it should look pretty good on her too. The color pictured here is black, but Poodle wanted the color to be Bordeaux. This posed a new set of problems because the material was some kind of crepe and did not come in Bordeaux. In the end it was fine, because the dress material can be altered and they will probably be made up in chiffon (which does come in the correct color). For anyone interested enough, the style number is 9020.

After dress-hunting, we had lunch at Panera. It was my first, and hopefully last time there. Panera is some kind of sandwich chain, probably a bit more ghetto and of lesser quality than Cosi. You get the idea. I'm not sure how these places can charge so much for a poorly assembled sandwich but there you go. I got some kind of chicken and cheese panini and I'll admit I devoured it. That is more testament to my level of hunger rather than quality of sandwich. Oh my god. I went to the panera website to see if I could get a picture of my sandwich and clicked on the Frontega Chicken Panini (the one I got). For such a mediocre sandwich, it packed 800 in calories and contained a horrible amount of fat and salt. ACK. That was definitely my last time there.

After we got back to the city, Poodle and I labbed it for a couple of hours before gymming it. Overall, it was a productive Saturday.