Friday, May 28, 2010

Breakfast at Monkey's (and Tortoise's)

I bowed to peer pressure and ended up lifhing today. Except there was no labbing done and one nap taken. The day started off perfectly, a cheesy egg toast (on Ferret-made bread) and a mug of coffee with milk.

Tortoise was the one who kicked off this whole lifhing thing so upon hearing I was taking pictures of breakfasts he quickly sent me over a picture of his breakfast. I promised to post but regretted it when the pictures kept on rolling in. So in addition to Tortoise's breakfast here (black coffee with buttered english muffin):

we also have Tortoise's cat Riley (a nemesis of Tony's, while incredibly large for a cat, Riley possesses the heart and will of a baby mouse. Tony could box him around the block easy despite being half his size):

and finally, Tortoises's dinner (what he calls polenta puttanesca fra diablo, apparently this is not a real dish and he winged it):

Patchy Cat

Right before I left for my first interview, Tony became extremely ill. He lived at the cat hospital for a day and was diagnosed with pancreatitis. Ferret very kindly cared for him for me while I was away and Tony made (I think) a full recovery. About a week after I returned however, I got a call from the vet saying that Tony's blood work results were back and showed that he did not in fact have pancreatitis. I was a bit stunned because he fit the symptoms to a T and then I was worried because they wanted to give him an ultrasound to check for cancer. The mother was visiting so I didn't get a chance to take the little cat in until this week. To give him the ultrasound they had had to shave off most of the fur around his tummy. The test came back more or less normal, but now, in addition to the patch they shaved on his side for a pain patch and the two empty patches on his forepaws for the IV and blood drawing, he now has no fur on his tum. I present the patchwork cat:

I don't believe Tony is much affected by the loss of fur. Given the sweltering temperatures we've been experiencing lately, he may even be thankful. In any case, he is still up to his usual activities. Such as this:

Tony's favorite napping or sitting spot is between me and the computer. I could be using my laptop on the couch and he will oust it and settle into my lap. I could be using my desktop and he will lie over my hands, over my arms or on the keyboard. Basically, there's nothing I can do about this and am completely resigned. In any case, look how cute he is, how can I say no?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wings and Things

This wing recipe is probably the most treasured of any recipe in my possession. I first had these sometime in junior high or high school. Kara's mom would make them in batches and if I was especially lucky, she might send me home with a few. Each wing would be doled out carefully, and eaten with special care. For years and years, these wings were an obsession with me (frankly they still are), but Kerry would never divulge their secret. It wasn't until a few years ago that I unexpectedly earned the right to this recipe, when I helped Kara edit her essays for business school. Since then, I've made this many many times, sometimes for myself, sometimes for others, but always to great acclaim. They're Asian inspired, yet I've never eaten anything close to them anywhere else. Crunchy exterior, juicy interior, spicy, sweet and salty, they are the perfect balance of flavors. The recipe is deceptively simple, but still top secret so there will be no revelation here, but you can see what they look like and dream...

And because I can't gratify with a recipe, here is a picture of the little cat. If you look carefully, you can see his little shaved patches.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

City Bag II

I've been meaning to make a city bag for my aunt forever and bought the appropriate fabric at Joann's ages ago. One thing led to another though and I somehow never got around to it. Since I was a person of leisure these last two weeks and was fueled by the admiration of the Mother for my first city bag, I decided to tackle this project. It ended up being surprisingly enjoyable and simple; I had forgotten how much I liked to sew. I vaguely remembered my first bag being a bit challenging to cut and assemble, but I think it was because I was doing everything on the floor. Since then, I have acquired a slightly wobbly but overall wonderful cutting table and this time around I was astounded by what a difference this makes. Patchwork squares were cut easily and neatly and all the pieces posed no difficulty at all.

This yellow wasn't what I had originally chosen at all. I believe it had been earmarked for a city bag for the Bunny, but I ended up making a rabbit stuffy for her instead. I forget what I had chosen for this bag, but I'm very happy with how the yellow fabric looks against the pinks.

The interfacing gave me a bit of trouble. I don't know if it was because the stuff was cheap, because it was old or because it was creased, but I know that my fabric had some trouble sticking to it. I also somehow ended up getting the glue all over my iron and had to spend some time cleaning it off. I plan on finishing the straps tonight (I will add interfacing to the straps, which was something I did not do for my own bag) and then the bag will be all done.

One thing I always like to do is put in a pocket. The pocket is looking more red and orange than pink, but you can tell by the pattern that it is the same fabric as the outside patchwork. The lining fabric is different of course and the straps will be made from the same material. Unfortunately I had cut out my first strap piece oddly so the second strap had to be cobbled together from two pieces. Hopefully this will not be too noticeable. Overall, a very fun project and I will be making one for the Bunny in the future.

Eating on Easy Street

The mother left this afternoon so I will be focused on eating many leftovers for some days instead of cooking new things. Overall, I felt the visit was a great success, from an eating point of view. I tried to cook things I thought she hadn't had and would enjoy; this was actually quite easy to do because the mother loves to eat and is also very willing to try all kinds of new foods. Lunch one day was salad with candied walnuts and roast beets (from TJ of course, I'm too lazy to start roasting my own beets). The highlight was a Roquefort cheese dressing from The mother was initially "not hungry" but after one bite of this dressing she was soon on her way to a second helping of salad. The salad and dressing is also very tasty if one include some wedges of clementines as well, as I did the following day. I really like it best with romaine lettuce. In fact, I may be generally tired of mesclun mixes for a while.

The night of graduation I fixed a rich man's dinner. Rich man's dinners are composed of filet mignon steaks with red wine sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. This meal is generally fixed for Ferrets for celebrations or repaying of favors. I never have much of a hankering for steaks so I am perfectly happy to make this at home ($) instead of trotting out to some disturbingly priced steakhouse ($$$$).

For the mother's last dinner in town, we went to Audrey Claire. Naturally I forgot my camera, but basically we ate a bunch of things and they were pretty tasty. The end.

Roquefort Cheese Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large shallot, minced
1 tbs Sherry wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar with no problems)
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
3 tbs whipping cream (I used half and half)

Whisk everything but the cheese and cream together. Fold in cheese and cream.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life on Easy Street Continues

I'm beginning to sense that Easy Street for me involves a lot of napping and cooking and eating. And there's nothing wrong with that. While the mother is here I am trying to prepare nice foods for her that she probably doesn't eat much of on her own. So for lunch yesterday, I stirred together a mushroom risotto (see below), which looks kind of gross but is one of my favorite easy meals. For dinner, I fixed my standard pesto/tomato/goat cheese pizza but didn't bother to take any pictures because I already have so many pizza pictures on this blog. Also because I forgot to.

This morning, I got it into my head that a tasty diner breakfast was in order. The first three slices of bacon stuck to the pan and had to be chipped loose, but as more fat was rendered, subsequent slices remained intact and pretty. Naturally, the sensible thing to do is to scramble eggs in the bacon fat, so this was carried out more or less successfully. I'm sure I lost at least one egg to the bottom of the pan, but I had adjusted for this and am pleased to report that my scrambled eggs emerged creamy and full of bacon flavor. Ferret nicely brought over a freshly baked loaf and this together with the eggs and bacon accounted for a marvelous breakfast. (Oh, he also brought over extra eggs because of course at the last minute I realized I only had 3 eggs to serve to 3 people. This would not do).

After breakfast, Ferret was a good sport and tried on a jacket we bought for my cousin Ping while my mom angled her laptop precariously so the image could be sent to Ping's mom in Taiwan. This was not quite successful so I took a picture to send instead.

After a couple of hours in lab for a meeting, I sprinted home (umbrella aloft) and literally threw together a dinner of baked salmon, red quinoa and green beans with candied walnuts. For once I managed to have everything finish cooking at around the same time. This was helped by the fact that I hardly had to prep anything. I believe dinner came together in half an hour. And that's my life on Easy Street.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life on Post-Defense Easy Street

Yesterday was my first day back in lab since my defense. Since I wanted to minimize my hours in lab so I could rush home and spend some time with the mother, I woke up pretty early and had a nice mug of coffee with the Tony. As you can see, the mother is still on California time. Our days are sandwiched between some morning conversations with the relatives in Taiwan (usually about one particular delinquent cousin) and evening conversations with the same relatives (again, about this cousin). I try to stay out of these skyping sessions since it involves a lot of speaking at massive volumes to be heard.

I was able to wrap up my work in 6 hours or so and rushed home to drag the mother out for her daily walk. After some resistance on her part (walking makes me tired!), I successfully bundled her out of the house, although I was unable to get her to wear my cute gray peacoat that fits her perfectly in place of this horrifying baggy jean jacket she brought with her. It's really testament to the mother's adorableness that she can pull this look off at all.

Our first stop was at the neighborhood community garden. It was a lovely day and there were a couple of people out tending their plots. I'd expected to see more veggies and herbs, but perhaps it was still too early in the season for that.

After this little stop the real walk began. By real walk, I mean a nice slow amble about 2 miles long. One mile there and another mile back. We wandered up the Schuylkill River trail to the Waterworks and took a few more pictures. By the end of the walk my mom had somehow broken out in a sweat despite the brisk wind and very moderate temperature. So the walk was a great success!

After a bit of rest and some frantic eating of rice cakes and banana/blueberry smoothies, the mother decided to attempt a yellow pudding. Unlike the Bunny's tasty flan, this pudding consisted of a similar sugar syrup combined with a bland egg/milk custard. The end result was kind of a disaster as the mother burned the sugar syrup and refused to start over but cooked it together anyway. We ended up having to pour it away and eat the pudding with a separate sugar syrup I had previously made for my burnt sugar cake (despite the title, there is NOTHING that is actually burnt in the recipe). All in all, the texture of the pudding was lovely, but the flavor left something to be desired. I think the ideal compromise between the Bunny flan and this recipe may be the use of half a can of condensed milk with a dash of vanilla. Attempt number two will take place this evening perhaps.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Here is my little cat after two different photoshop manipulations. I think the first picture is the soft and faded action and the second is the seventies action (both from pioneer woman). I'm still not sure how much I like the seventies one but I'm really into soft and faded. Mostly, I like the cat and have been blowing kisses into his tum all night long. I'm just glad he's getting better and I hope to still be companions for at least ten more years.
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Tasty Fried Rice Cakes

This dish has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. I would try to order it at dimsum places but whatever they served before me was never as good as my mom's. The last time she was here (3 years ago??) she made them for me but I had since mislaid the recipe. Now that she is visiting again, I lost no time pestering her to make these for me again. They are as good as I remember and this time I will engrave the recipe in as many places as possible to mitigate against potential loss. I had planned on taking an artistic picture to please the Bunny but my mom piled so many on my plate and they were so mouthwatering that all I ended up with was this hastily taken picture. Oh well. A new camera does not a photographer make, obviously. Better luck next time!

Tasty Fried Rice Cakes

Some taro, chopped to small cubes
Some dried onion
Vegetable oil

Cook the above together until soft. add a splash or two of soy sauce for color and a hint of flavor.

1. In separate bowl, mix 1 package of rice flour with 8.5 rice-cups (this seems to be a typical unit of measurement amongst my relatives. i believe 1 rice-cup is about 3/4 of a normal cup) of water. Add this mixture to the pot and cook until thickened (sort of mashed potato looking). Stir constantly during this time.

2. Scoop up thick mixture into containers, cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave. For the containers i used (a 8x8 glass baking dish and another smaller dish) and my microwave it was 15 min.

Sorry about the vagueness of this recipe; this is often what happens when I learn how to make something from my mom. It's all "some of this" check it, add "more of that." Most importantly, I know how to make this dish for myself now. Too bad for the rest of you!

Update: The next time we made this we used 9 rice cups of water and fit it all into the glass dish and microwaved for 18 minutes. Perfection!

Note: The microwave I used here is weaker than the normal microwave.  You basically want to poke the rice cake with a chopstick and see if anything sticks.  When I make this again in a normal microwave I will update the time.
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New Camera!

The kind bunnies generously gave me a new little camera as a graduation gift (yes I successfully defended and am actually a fake doctor now!). It's the Canon PowerShot SD1200 Elph and it's perfect for me and I love it:

In addition to camera, Bunny was here visiting so she also gave me a quick tutorial in photoshop. I hope to be posting better looking pictures than I have previously, but I make no promises. Sadly, I've eaten several meals already since the Bunny left but I kept on forgetting to take pictures. Too hungry I guess. More posts to come, I promise.