Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mommy Visits Portland: Part I

I like to write "Part I" with very good intentions of there being subsequent parts, but we will have to see if I ever get around to it.  My mom is about halfway through her visit and since she's very occupied with a sudoku right now, I thought I'd take the opportunity to update the ole blog.


Her arrival was kind of a fiasco, through no fault of my own.  What should have been a very straightforward pickup ended up being stressful and prolonged.  First, that Saturday turned out to be the day they were fixing some segment of tracks on the Max Light Rail.  So I had to take the rail, transfer to a shuttle bus, transfer back to the rail before I got to the airport.  What is normally a 30 minute trip took over an hour.  My plan to get there before her plane landed was a complete fail.  Second, my mom's phone was possessed.  Therefore, my calls didn't get through to her and her calls didn't get through to me.  It was a disaster.  However, we managed to find each other in the end and took ourselves home (and took some pictures on the way).  

After some snacking and resting and a quick grocery trip, we met her friend Henry and his family for dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant, the Golden Horse.  They were all extremely sweet people and after dinner we headed to their home for a little dessert and tea.


Sunday was a bit of a close call.  Henry wanted to take us to church for easter services, followed by some kind of tour (??) and then back to church for a religious musical.  My heart and head felt faint at the thought but we managed to get out of it (ok, it was all me, I'm a brat).  So instead, on Sunday I fixed a hearty Easter brunch of steelcut oatmeal, baked eggs with herbs and cream, apples, and homemade toasts.

The poor mother was then dragged off to lab with me so I could end an experiment.  We stopped at Kenny and Zukes on the way home for some pastrami sandwiches and cream of asparagus soup.  Unfortunately, we didn't bring cameras so there are no pictures to show.  The rest of the day was spent in a flurry of domesticity - kimchi making and muffin making and general cookery.  All very pleasant.  (A new phone was also ordered for the mother).


We were to meet Henry for lunch, so after a morning at work, he picked me up at lab and then we grabbed my mom from my apartment.  Of course, her phone didn't work so I had to race up and fetch her.  We traveled out of state (to Washington) to a Japanese buffet place for lunch.  It was cheap and tasty and I ate a bunch.  

After that, Henry took us to see the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls.  I could have done without the rain and the hail (!!!), but it was incredibly lovely all the same and worth being damp for.  We also went to look at the fish hatchery and sturgeons.

I'm really glad I told my mom to bring her red coat because it's photographing really well in gray and green Portland.  And here we will end Part I.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU

2 Spring Raabs: $5
Pheasant and Garlic Shoot Pate: $6
Fiddleheads: $3
Fruit (Red Anjou Pear, Fuji Apple, Honeycrisp Apple and one other kind of apple I don't remember name of): $7
Eggs: $6
Italian and Curly Leafed Parsley: $1.25
Watercress: $3
Chives: $2
Asparagus: $4
Kale: $2.25

Total: $39.50

This is actually quite good because my mom is visiting me so I was buying for two.  It's crazy but the Farmer's Market is a much better deal compared to Safeway, at least in terms of fruit.  Today I popped into Safeway to pick up non-expensive eggs for baking and saw the price for Red Anjou Pear was $1.99 (compared to Farmer's Market price of $1.25) and the Fuji Apples were also quite a bit more.  So now I have the satisfaction of knowing I'm getting the freshest produce I can, for what turns out to be a very reasonable price.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If you recall last week's Farmer's Market post, I bought a whole lot of kale.  In addition to the basic kale, there was also kale raab and purple kale.  Under ordinary circumstances, this would have been far too much kale for one girl to eat, but the kale purchase coincided with my discovery of brown sprouted rice.  I had no idea you could sprout rice until I read about it in the nytimes, and then I did a little googling and found out it was as easy (actually even easier) as sprouting beans.  I took a picture of a sprouted rice grain so you can see what it looks like; basically, once there is a little root at the top it is ready to be cooked.  (The lighting makes it look like white rice, but please note, you cannot sprout white rice.)  Sprouting brown rice is supposed to make the nutrients in brown rice more available to you and is therefore healthier.  I just enjoy sprouting things and I think the texture is actually a little nicer after sprouting.  

So a good amount of kale has gone into brown sprouted rice and chickpea dishes (sometimes I mix in some cooked roasted buckwheat groats too.  this all sounds way too healthy to taste good, but believe me, it tastes good).  And then by fortunate chance, use real butter (one of my favorite food blogs) posted a recipe for baked kale chips.  I didn't even measure anything, it was so extremely easy.  And after converting to chip form, I managed to eat an entire bunch of kale in one sitting.

Fried Sprouted Brown Rice With Kale
(I'm really sorry to say this "recipe" is mostly vague directions)

Heat a glug of olive oil in a pan.  Add some chopped garlic and roughly chopped kale (or kale raab or purple kale or whatever you want).  When edible, add as much cooked sprouted brown rice (and whatever other grains you want) in and fry a bit.  Drizzle soy sauce in and add a couple of pinches of sugar.  Take a small bite and adjust the seasoning as needed.  Sometimes I also put in a small drizzle of sesame oil.

Kale Chips
(Ditto.  See use real butter's tutorial for real directions)

Chop some kale up or tear into bite sized pieces.  You can remove the thick stems in the middle of the leaves or you can be lazy like me and leave them on.  Those parts will not get dry crispy though, be warned.  Add a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle some salt.  Toss together with hands to coat the leaves.  A little olive oil goes quite a long way.  Spread out the kale on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Remarkably good.

Sprouted Brown Rice
(Real directions!)

3/4 cup dry brown rice (I have been using short grained rice)
Water to cover

Rinse the rice once and then cover with plenty of water.  Change water once every 8-12 hours or so.  The weather has been quite cool here, but I imagine if it is warm you might have to change it more often.  So far, the rice has sprouted after ~24 hours for me.  The rice expands 1.5 times so adjust accordingly.  I cook in the rice cooker the way I would white rice and that has worked quite well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happiness (Number Two)

This was supposed to be more of a regular thing, but I found I had other things to babble about and this fell by the wayside.  Since I have two hours left to go on my incubation, now is as good a time as any to tackle happiness: number two.  (It seems that science is sometimes good for blogging, especially if one is a little hungover and thus unable to focus on reading.)

There are obvious things like friends and family, but I feel maybe that goes without saying.  So with spring in the air, and the sky covered with rainclouds, I will choose gardening as another source of intense happiness.  About a month ago, I planted many little seeds in egg carton cups and have greatly enjoyed checking up on them every day (and sometimes every hour).  At these early stages you can almost SEE them grow.  First a bit of green pushes up from what used to be just a blank of soil.  Then the seed leaves unfurl and finally the true leaves start to show.  I've been watching my lettuces particularly closely, waiting for a few more weeks to pass before I start pulling some of the outer leaves for tiny salads.  I love the feel of the dirt (not really dirt, potting mix) in my hands and watching the small green things grow.  It's such a miracle an entire plant can come out of these tiny plain seeds.

Little seedlings in repurposed milk cartons (clockwise: parsley, sage, radish, cilantro)

I started another little box of dirt but I've already planted some white icicle radishes in there (are these similar to daikon radishes?  I certainly hope so.  I had no intention of planting any radishes but a maturation period of a mere 25 days bowled me over and I had to have some.) and today I transplanted a leggy desperate looking sage seedling in.  I mean to use whatever space is left for a basil plant or two.  I think what this really means is that I need to start a third box soon!  Once the lettuces are spent I should have more space again, although maybe by then the strawberries will have taken off.  

(Left) Closeup of lettuces (Right Top) Overview of one of my boxes (Right bottom) Closeup of nasturtium

This post is sort of getting away from me.  I meant to speak generally about growing but my mind is all caught up in the specifics.  Whenever people tell me they're not patient enough to grow things from seed I always nod but privately I marvel.  It's such an amazing thing to see the whole process play out.  That's the best part about gardening for me; to see plants grow and help them along.  I'm still very much a beginner, but it's a very fun learning curve and best of all, the products of happiness number two intersect very well with happiness number one...

Strawberry flowers starting to form!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bread and Butter

I think there are few people in the world who could turn down a piece of fresh bread, covered with a layer of silky cool butter.  Some people like to melt butter onto toast but I much prefer the texture of solid butter.  The only way I'll eat melted butter on toast involves an additional sprinkling of sugar, and now that I'm halfway terrified of sugar thanks to this article, that won't be happening anytime soon.  Toasted everything bagel with melted butter though, is something I'm totally on board with.

So the project this weekend was to make some cultured butter (my first time making butter since 4th grade!) and to try out the Almost No Knead bread recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  I can't post the Cook's Illustrated recipe, but here is a quick tutorial on butter-making (so easy).  

Cultured Butter

Day 1: Combine 1/4 cup buttermilk with 2 cups of heavy cream in a bowl, cover and leave overnight.  During my research, it seems that people were advising against using ultra-pasteurized cream.  I'm still not sure why that is, because that's what I used and I got a nice tangy thick cream less than 24 hours later.  It will look like this:

Creme fraiche (that's what you've made!)

Day 2: If your cream is not thick I imagine you'd have to wait longer, but mine was, so onward!  It could not be any easier.  Using an electric beater or food processor, beat the thick cream mixture until it passes through the following stages: whipped cream, broken (you'll see bits of solids come out), butter (the solids start sticking together to form large clumps).  This takes only a few minutes.  I used my electric beater because I don't own a food processor, and the later stage got a little messy as drops of buttermilk kept flying out at me. A small price to pay, I promise.  

Pour out the buttermilk into a bowl for another use.  Then start washing the butter in batches of cold water.  You basically just want to mix the butter around in the water to get rid of any remaining buttermilk, which will spoil your butter.  So just smack it around with your spatula and press against the side of your bowl.  Keep changing out the water until it runs clear.  Here's a picture mid-process:

Washing butter
Try to press out as much water as you can from your butter.  Then mix in 1/8 tsp of salt.  Store your butter in fridge, I think it's good for a couple of weeks or you can freeze for three months.  It has a wonderful tangy flavor.

As for Cook's Illustrated's version of Mark Bittman's No Knead bread, I have to agree with their adjustments.  The bread I made this weekend is superior in flavor to last week's attempt.  The only drag was trying to track down a single bottle of budweiser.  Apparently, it is easy to buy these things in six-packs, but who wants to be stuck with a six-pack of nasty beer when you are only using 3 oz?  In any case, after trekking all over my neighborhood, I finally acquired one can, which was still far too much.

Since this was only added for flavor though, I ended up freezing the rest as ice cubes to save myself some trouble in the future.  And also so I won't be embarrassed to be caught buying budweiser.  Here is my finished loaf.  It was torture waiting 2 hours for it to cool, but a slice was much enjoyed with freshly made butter.  Can't wait to have some with my newly acquired venison pate!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU

I think this might be a weekly post from now on because I so enjoy buying things from the Farmer's Market.  It's one of the highlights of my week.  The produce this week is much the same as last, still heavy on the winter greens and no fruit to be seen other than Anjou pears and apples.  But that's all right because I found everything to be quite delicious last week.  So what was my haul?

Spring Raab: $2.50
Turnip Raab: $2.50
Shiitake Mushrooms (in bag, a few taken out to see): $5
Venison Pate: $5
Havarti Cheese: $3.50
Kale: $2.25
Red Anjou Pears and Fuji Apples: $3.20
Leek: $1.50
Purple Kale: $2.50

Total: $27.95

I think things were under control until I passed the mushroom stand and all of a sudden I imagined eating sauteed mushrooms (maybe with a bit of balsamic vinegar) atop a slice of homemade bread.  That kind of did me in.  You can see that my one protein per trip rule was violated too...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mark Bittman's No Knead Bread

I think I'm probably the last person in the universe to get on board with this recipe, but in my defense, I DID give it a try when it first came out and it was a disaster.  I think I was using a pot that was too big for the bread or something, but what came out was less than appetizing.  However, in the back of my mind, I always knew the bread had to be something special and indeed, over the years I would revisit the recipe and the article and dream of crackling crusts and airy interiors.  After I picked up a little slab of pate from the Farmer's Market on Saturday, I decided to give it another go.  Pate would go much better on a more rustic bread than the sandwich type breads my bread machine turns out (not that I'm knocking those breads, they're damn delicious).  Second time must have been the charm because lo!

The lighting on this came out weird, and I probably patted an excessive amount of flour on the surface because the dough was so sticky, but all in all it turned out well I think.  I do agree with Cook's Illustrated that the bread itself was rather flavorless so this Saturday I will mix up another loaf using their adjusted recipe.  It will be perfect with the next little slab of pate I pick up.

No Knead Bread adapted from Mark Bittman (I made half of this because my pot was smallish)

3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 cup water
cornmeal or bran if using (I didn't have this so I just used flour to dust)

Combine flour yeast salt.  Add water and mix into shaggy dough.  Cover and let rise at room temperature (70 degrees) for 12-18 hours (I forgot about it so it went for about 24 hours).  

Flour fingers and work surface to keep dough from sticking and shape the dough into a ball.  Put dough seam side down on a floured towel (I regretted doing this bc now my towel is all floury.  No need for towel I think).    Cover with another towel and let rise for 2 hours.

Half an hour before baking, stick your pot in the oven and heat to 450 degrees (the article actually says 500, so I will try that next time).  When dough is ready, drag pot out from oven, plop dough in, put the lid on and stick back in oven.  Bake for 30 minutes, remove lid and bake for another 15-30 min (so top is brown).  Cool on rack.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TV No Longer On Milk Crate

I think this is a pretty self explanatory title.  After many months I finally buckled down and got a tv stand from Ikea.  It's kind of crazy how I'm actually really fond of Ikea furniture, I know I'm not supposed to, but the slightly higher end items really fit into my personal aesthetic well.  I'd have to spend far more monies at little boutiques to get the same things I think.  Here are some before and after pictures for maximum contrast.

Before: TV on milk crate, DVD player on floor, crazy mess of wires

After: A piece of proper furniture housing TV and DVD player and hiding wires from view

I really like it.  Not only does it offer extra storage (always a plus) but the white goes well with the white frames of the windows and french doors (not shown).  Very pleasing!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU

Since I knew that things could rapidly get out of hand at the farmer's market, I decided to limit myself to $20 spending monies and see how things go.  I have a feeling with time this limit is going to gradually go up, but since the really tasty summer produce is not out yet (tomatoes, strawberries, etc), I felt safe with $20.  And as it turns out, $20 is more than enough to collect a pile of tasty things.

Leek: $1.50
Red Wattle Pork Pate with Prunes and Shallots: $5
Kale Raab?: $2.50
Potatoes: $2
Chard: $2.25
Red Anjou Pears: $1.40
Steelcut Oats: $3.50

Total: $18.15

I was super tempted by the mushroom stand, but I really had nothing in mind for them so they will have to wait another day.  I think I will limit myself to one protein each trip (proteins are pricey!) so this week it is pate and perhaps next week will be cheese or eggs.  Now I will go bake up a batch of no knead bread so I have something to spread the pate on...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Bunnies Visit Stumptown

A diligent postdoc would probably be reading papers right now while her slides are incubating but I'm just not feeling it.  In my opinion, reading is more efficiently and more pleasantly accomplished in a coffeeshop and if there were any nearby, that's where I would be.  But alas.  So I might as well discuss the Bunnies' visit before I forget all the details.  (Please note, picture taking on my part was sporadic.  Once Bunny has a post up, you can go there for the tasty delicious pictures.)

The Bunnies arrived late afternoon so I dashed home early to do one last quick vacuum and clean (Tony tracks both litter and fur like no one's business).  Being blessed with remarkable navigating abilities, they didn't need my instructions to get to my apartment, but I sent it off anyway, just in case.  Immediately after arrival, we scurried out the door again to catch the bus to Southeast Portland for dinner.  Bunny and I were eager to try Screen Door for two reasons: 1) it garnered great reviews on yelp, and 2) we didn't want to go back to Pine State Biscuits (Mr. Bunny really likes chicken and biscuit for breakfast but I think it's too heavy) so we found this southern food substitute.  And man oh man was it good.

Root beer for the Bunny

Salads to start (I picked off their plates)

Hush puppies

My favorite thing here, fried oysters.  DIVINE!

Shrimp and grits for me

Fried chicken and mashed potatoes for Mr Bunny

I think this was Bunny's pork chop?

Shared chocolate cake with coffee ice cream for dessert
After dinner we tottered a few blocks down to Laurelhurst to catch Black Swan and grab another round of drinks.  This was my second time seeing the movie and I enjoyed it just as much.  The Bunnies were more critical, but what do they know?  It's possible when we got home that we somehow made room for a little bit of my homemade ice cream, but I'm not going down on record as saying we did.

Now that the Bunny is starting to show (it's so cute), it was imperative that we find some appropriately sized clothing.  Since she's taken a firm (and odd) stand against maternity clothes, we focused on her mainstay brands, with an eye toward drawstrings and elastic waistbands.  We were actually quite successful in this regard and managed to find a bunch of things for her at all price points (H&M vs anthropologie).  And most importantly, I also found two summer dresses.  Mr Bunny had taken himself off to the Nike factory store and he also scored big, although I paid little attention to his finds since I have little interest in men's clothing and none at all in athletic wear.  We puttered away a bit at home until Mr Bunny decided to go to a nearby bar to watch basketball (I have about 5 channels) and the Bunny and I went grocery shopping.  She wanted to learn how to make zhong zi, so we picked up some pork from Fred Meyer and I got some more ice cream ingredients (can't get enough!).  The evening passed happily, with cooking, eating and a rousing game of Munchkin.  Bunny took the honors there.

Although the PSU farmer's market reopened mid-March, I hadn't managed to go yet so the Bunnies' visit was the perfect excuse.  We walked downtown and spent a pleasant morning inspecting produce and nibbling on free cheese and meat samples.  I had fiddleheads for the first time and was completely enchanted.  I think it was probably a good thing that we were short on cash because I'm sure I would have gone completely overboard.  Every cheese tasted better than the last and there were some insanely delicious smoked meats.  I looked a little askance at the $6/dz cartons of eggs, but I am a little curious and might splurge on those sometime this summer, just to see what they're like.  As it was nearing lunch, we combined our single dollar bills and purchased two orders of bagels and smoked salmon from one of the stands.  This was shared between ourselves and eaten standing up in a patch of sun.

We then wandered off to knit purl because I wanted to buy yarn for baby booties and a sweater I was interested in knitting.  Could not find the right yarn for the sweater, but found exactly what I wanted for the booties.  Although this will be a separate post, it turns out that booties are extremely fast and easy to knit up.  After I ran my grubby hands through many balls of yarn, we walked over to Stumptown.  I insisted the Bunny try their cappuccino since I'm positive it's the best I've ever had.  Mr Bunny does not drink coffee so he ordered a large mug of beer and we hung out there for a while, taking in the scene.

Back at home, the Bunny and I occupied ourselves with domestic pursuits (aka. knitting) and Mr Bunny took himself off to meet his new friends (I'm super impressed he can go to a bar and make friends with random people) and watch more sports.  We reconvened on the corner of 2nd ave and Adler to catch a bus back to Southeast Portland.  I'll spare everyone the details of what followed, but after much ado, we managed to get a table at Bamboo.  A valuable lesson about making reservations for Saturday night dining was learned by all.  Bamboo ended up being completely fantastic, we gorged on sustainable sushi (spicy scallop and sweet shrimp nigiri, and a few of the specialty sushi rolls) and shared a particularly remarkable appetizer - some kind of ridiculously tender crispy-battered white fish cooked in a sweet soy sauce glaze.  It was such a good dish.  Mr Bunny got a flight of shochu and I got a pear gimlet while the Bunny took tiny sips from our glasses.  There is always a critical moment during a meal out when you want to order more food because everything was so delicious, but somewhere in your head you know this would be an extremely bad idea.  As a group, we overcame this moment, and bused home.  Not to say we didn't have dessert, more homemade ice cream was enjoyed by all (coffee and ginger ice creams).  Our busy, yet relaxing day ended with a movie (the other guys) and another game of Munchkin (Mr Bunny finally wins a game!).

I think this might be the longest post I've ever written.  Onward!  After much eating the night before, I always find it incredible that I can grow hungry again for more food, but that is what happened on Sunday.  To rectify this, we went to an amazing brunch place downtown, Veritable Quandary.  Let me just say, there is no quandary or question about whether I will be returning, everything was absolutely delicious.  It sounds crazy, but my favorite thing there was the apple cinnamon steelcut oatmeal.  I can still almost taste it on my tongue.  We shared a bowl of this, alongside some housemade sausages.  I got the johnny cakes, Bunny got the crab benedict (omg so good) and Mr Bunny got the blackened catfish (also very good, but more lunch than brunch I think).  

On the way home, we popped into a few stores for fun, looking at comics and figurines and apple products.  At 2:30, we marched to Onyx Salon, located two blocks away from my apartment, to keep our manicure (pedicure for Mr Bunny) appointments.  Once normalized to cost, this manicure would not be considered the best I've had, but it's been a couple of days and there's no chipping so far.  What grieves me a little are the bubbles in the topcoat on my left hand.  It's not at all noticeable from a distance, but I know they're there!  I'm quite fond of the color though, I got a dark plum while Bunny got a lighter winey red.

After our brunch, we all agreed that it was best to just eat a light dinner at home before the Bunnies go catch their flight home.  This resolution was completely abandoned at 4:45pm when Mr Bunny drew our attention to Kenny and Zuke's, only a few blocks away.  I was grabbing my coat before the words "homemade pastrami" were fully out of his mouth, and we quickly dashed over.  My god, this place did not disappoint.  I got a simple pastrami on rye, with potato salad on the side.  Everything, but especially that pastrami, was so very good.  Even the pickle.  So so so good.  I'm honestly considering getting some more pastrami this weekend, I might be addicted.  YUM.  

Mac n Cheese

Crazy delicious pastrami

I wish the Bunnies could have stayed longer (or better yet, move!).  This was definitely one of the best weekends I've had in 2011 and hands down the best eating in maybe a year.  Can't wait to see them again in a month!