Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pizza Bianca (except not)

This was the first recipe I tried from Cook's Illustrated (not counting the French Potato Salad because I borrowed that issue from Pug). Poodle got me a subscription as more thanks for wedding activities and I have been enjoying them very much. This recipe was pretty easy and would have been easier if I owned a stand mixer. As it was, I just kneaded it vigorously with a rice paddle and hoped for the best. It's probably the best texture and flavor I've ever gotten from homemade pizza so I was quite pleased. In Cook's, they gave a variation using canned tomatoes and mozarella as toppings so that's what I tried. In my second attempt (pictures posted here), I added some handfuls of chopped parsley as well and that was fantastic.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Adventures in Gardening (Are the plants getting enough light?)

Here are some pictures of the plants. I lost two sagelings and am contemplating planting a couple this weekend. I see the true leaves of the remaining two sagelings emerging though. I think the lettuce is doing all right and the parsley looks a bit leggy but quite green. I am going to get some fluorescent lights this weekend to help them out a bit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Adventures in Gardening (puffed with pride)

Yesterday morning I had to leave for work before 7am to start an experiment. I inspected the plants; all seemed to be doing well although there was no sign of the lettuce yet. I touched the soil and it seemed a bit dry on the surface so I gave it a good drink of water (it's nice when you know there are drainage holes) and went off to work. After lab happy hour, I wandered home and there they were! several tiny green sprouts sitting in my strawberry container! I wish I had been home to see them come out but I'm so thrilled they did. They still look good this morning so I think I am providing adequate air circulation plus moisture plus drainage this time. If only my camera was able to take pictures of the tiny things without coming out all fuzzy. Ferret swears there is some setting on my camera I should be able to use to take closeup pictures but I have yet to find it.

This morning I saw another strawberry container outside in the trash pile when I was tossing my own garbage and seriously contemplated taking it in with me. But the saner side of me won out; plus, I recalled I have my own box of strawberries sitting in the fridge, soon to be eaten....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

ASME 2008

This happened ages ago (about two months) and so I'm just going to make a quick list of events:

Tuesday (June 24th): Algy, Ferret and I go to Florida a day early due to accidental booking of plane tickets. We stumbled across a Thai restaurant and had a nice lunch and then stocked up on alcohol. Upon arriving at our hotel (which took a bit longer than expected because Google Maps led us astray), Ferret and I took a nap while Algy called everyone he knew. We had dinner at a seafood place and then went to bed. We stayed in Naples at a charming little hotel that served free breakfast.

Wednesday: Enjoyed the free breakfast and then checked out of hotel and headed toward the summer home belonging to someone Algy knew. The person was not there, but he had arranged for us to get the key and we camped out at the private beach. Algy and Ferret went for a swim while I practiced my talk. For lunch, we went to Kona Grill (some Asian fusion chain) and was stuck there for a bit while it rained. Had lots of food and I had a margarita. Later, we headed toward Marco Island and met up with everyone else. Attended the welcome reception for a little and then Ferret and I went to pick up Pug from the airport. I had my first Wendy's chicken sandwich.

Thursday: Gave my talk in the morning. It went well. :o) The rest of the trip is actually a bit of a blur. I remember hanging out by the beach and wading into the water. The sand was amazingly fine and the water was so still and warm. I remember going out to dinner at another seafood restaurant with another lab and enjoying many crab legs. I also remember going to an Italian restaurant and having a very tasty pasta. Food was generally yummy this trip. I gave another talk on Sunday...and we returned that afternoon.

Ok, here are some pictures:

Adventures in Gardening (doing well)

I took this picture of my chives a couple of days ago. I tried to take an updated picture right now but the sun is too bright and my camera is kind of crappy so it didn't come up well. But let me say that my chives are looking good and there are sprouts in each well except one. In other news, I planted a fresh crop of lettuce today because I was worried that my bread pan was not providing any drainage and my seeds might have rotted away. I've been reading about damping off and feeling extremely alarmed. I think I'm going to get a little fan today to provide some circulation to my seedlings. The white mold on the toilet paper rolls that my sage seedlings are sitting in worries me in particular. So far, the sage seedlings seem to be doing well and there is one seedling in each roll (4 total). Anyway, I planted the lettuce in an old strawberry container and made a tiny greenhouse. I hope this works.
I also finally planted the coriander seeds Tortoise gave me earlier this week. I soaked them overnight (none of them sank, again a worry) and planted several seeds in two plastic cups. I didn't take a picture of that because it is not that attractive.
In compost news, there is no smell so far, but everytime I open the lid to throw stuff in a bevy of fruit flies fly out. I hope it's not a problem. I need to collect some more leaves to toss in this weekend. It's too bad ferret is busy with the ORS deadline or else I would make him come with me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Adventures in Gardening (bragging post)

Today I counted three baby chive sprouts and two (and possibly a third, it's hard to tell) baby sage sprouts. Sadly, there have been no more lettuce sprouts and I worry that my bread pan may be the problem (it lacks drainage holes). No sign of parsley either, but I rather expected that since parsley is supposed to take rather long to germinate. This weekend I will plant more lettuce and some cilantro (Tortoise gave me coriander seeds to plant). One thing that worries me is the appearance of white mold on the sides of the toilet paper cardboard rolls. I read somewhere though that this shouldn't be a problem if the plants look healthy. We will see...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Adventures in Gardening (baby post)

Sigh. I was so excited yesterday when I woke up to find one tiny little green sprout in my lettuce bed. However, by the time I got home yesterday, the poor thing was lying on its side, shriveled and brown. I have no idea what happened. Did it get too hot? Plants are mysterious things...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mr. Cat

How cute is little old man Tony. I spotted him a few months ago sitting in the corner, hanging out. Best cat!


I learned how to make samosas a few weeks ago from a friend. Watching him, it didn't seem so hard but when I set out to do it myself I started running into all kinds of problems. However, while my samosas might not be as good as his, they are still pretty darn good. I made 17 little samosas and have already eaten 2...

First I made the filling with potato, cauliflower and peas and lots of spices:

I think my filling could have benefited from a non-stick pan because early on I started having issues with the potatoes sticking. And then I wasn't able to cook the cauliflower as long as I probably should have because I was worried about the sticking.

While the filling was cooking I started making the wrapper dough using flour, oil and water:

Then each ball was rolled out and cut into two wrappers. I was basically really terrible at this part. You are supposed to make an elongated oval and cut that in half, but I had a hard time making good shapes. Oh well:

Then it was time to fill samosas. Since my wrapper shapes were a little suboptimal, it was hard to seal the edges but I managed by stretching out the dough in places and maybe patching here and there when necessary. In any case, the samosas looked pretty cute at the end:

And after that, it was time to fry up in oil and eat! I didn't have tamarind paste so I couldn't make chutney, but I hope to pick some up next weekend. This samosa was pretty tasty dipped in a little chili garlic sauce:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Adventures in Gardening

I still have to post about the ASME conference, Poodle's wedding, Blood+ and a movie I watched recently but today was so exciting for me that those other posts will have to wait. For the last week or so I've been completely obsessed with the idea of growing plants and composting. I think there was an article in the New York Times maybe that led me to this blog: You Grow Girl. And I started reading through the posts and becoming enchanted with the idea that I too, can grow edibles in containers and compost on my roof area!

My original plan was to get a basil plant just so I can have something already growing and make sure I can tend it properly and also get some cilantro seeds to try to start some plants from scratch. Tortoise recommended a plant shop on 9th and South (it was actually on 10th and South), so after eating freshly made donuts at Reading Terminal Market today (it was the Dutch Festival), I headed there to execute my plan. Sadly, this shop was in late summer mode and there were few plants in the outdoor area. To cap it off, they did not have any seeds either. The lady who owns the place was very nice however, and pointed me to the Whole Foods across the street. There, I got some parsley, sage, lettuce and chives seeds. I then headed to my neighborhood hardware store and got a bag of seed starter mix. I was sad that they only carried Miracle Gro brand mix, but I was desperate to get started this weekend and did not know where I could find nice organic stuff so I shrugged it off and went on my way. Stopped at the Dollar General to get a plastic container for composting. On the way home (there was quite a bit of walking done today), I stopped to grab some free newspapers and scoop up dead leaves from the street.

To assemble my compost bin, I followed the directions here. The directions were really simple to follow, basically:
  • Cut holes in bin and lid for drainage and air circulation.
  • Shred newspaper and line the bottom.
  • Add leaves.
  • Add kitchen scrap wastes (plant only, no meat or dairy).
I thought I had a nice full bin until I added the kitchen scraps and some water and the whole thing kind of shmushed down. I think I will just gradually add to it this week by picking up more leaves whenever I'm outside and putting in my scraps. There is supposed to be a carbon: nitrogen ratio that is 30:1. Leaves and other "brown" matter are mostly carbon and the kitchen scraps are mostly nitrogen. At least that is my understanding. Tomorrow I will also have to get some kind of shovel at the hardware store so I can turn the compost and make sure it is aerated. The internet said that turning often helps to break things down faster so I think that's what I will do. Here are pictures of my bin so far:

After accomplishing this (and feeling totally pleased with myself), I started planting my seeds. I did the best I could - planted the sage in toilet paper roll containers (described here), the lettuce in one of my bread pans and the chives in egg cartons. The parsley seeds had to be soaked in water overnight so I will plant them tomorrow. Here are my babies:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Dark Knight

I saw this movie a couple of weeks ago with SS and Ferret. We went to the Sunday matinee showing. At this discount price, it was still $9. It's kind of insane. I decided a couple of years back, when the price of movies started rising insanely, that I would only watch certain movies at the theater. These movies would be eye-candy types with enough entertainment to max out the big screen. With this criteria, I've been fairly safe in feeling satisfied at getting my $11.50 worth, even if the movie itself is not too spectacular (ie. Spiderman 3, X-Men 3). Basically, what I am trying to say is that even if Dark Knight was 1/20 as great as it was, I would have been pretty pleased. As it was, I was amazed. I went in with pretty high expectations already and felt even better walking out (albeit a bit dazed). I don't have any more praise to add to what's already been said; I just look forward to watching this again sometime. Rate: *****