Monday, November 19, 2012

Reading for Fun

I have not had much time over the last few years to read for fun.  Lately, I have made a point of reading more at bed time and on planes and on the weekends.  It has made me happy.  The most recent book I gobbled up was The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  I did not read his Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex.  But I may have to go back and read that one, too.  The characters in this book drove the plot.  And I liked them from the very beginning.  Smart and funny college students.  The locations were also stars, though to a slightly lesser degree.  Brown University, a research lab on Cape Cod, a family home in NJ and a few bits in foreign cities.  It is written from the points of view of the three main characters and I found characteristics about each of them that fascinated me.  From the somewhat lost Mitchell with his travels and fascination with religion, to Madeline's struggling to find herself and pursue her dreams, to Leonard's quick wit, science smarts and struggles with bipolar disorder.  It is all written brilliantly.  I would give it 5 out of 5 stars if I rated it.

Another book that I read recently and greatly enjoyed was Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.  Again, I didn't read her earlier novel that you might have read: Girl With A Pearl Earring.  A little slow paced for me at the beginning, it took me some pages to start breezing my way through.  Again, there is a tie to science as the book is about early fossil hunters in England.  (By early, I mean before scientists and the general public understood dinosaur fossils, before some creatures were known to be extinct.)  This novel again focused on the characters.  And interestingly, many of the characters were based on real people.  I enjoyed the time period setting and the descriptions of the English coast line where the fossils were found.  I would give this one 4 out of 5 stars - mainly because it started a bit too slowly for my tastes.   

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dinner with Friends

Yesterday evening, D and I made dinner at our place for some friends.  I have two new favorite tools in the kitchen.  The slow cooker and the bread machine.  My sister gave us this wonderful cookbook for our bread machine when we were using it a lot last fall.  The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger has just about every type of bread you could imagine!  There are about 50 recipes I want to try.  Our machine hibernated a bit in the spring and summer as it was warm and we realized how much weight we had gained.  It has reappeared.  And I have found out new uses.  I have started making pizza dough and find it incredibly easy to do (more on that another time).  I decided to try the naan recipe when I made the plan to serve Indian food last night.  The recipe was super easy.  Add the following to your bread machine:

1 T peanut oil
1/2 c plain yogurt (this was a challenge for D to find - we used Oikos Greek yogurt and I diluted it slightly with milk to equal the above quantity)
1/2 c milk
2 c bread flour
1/4 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
2 1/2 t yeast

Set the machine to the dough cycle and process (ours takes 1.5 hours, so you have to plan ahead a little - thanks to D for running out at the last minute to get the necessary yogurt).  When it's done, divide the dough into 6 portions.  Flatten the bread on a whole wheat floured surface using a rolling pin.  Put the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let them rest covered with a clean towel for 20 minutes.  Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Once the resting time is over, brush the dough with melted butter and bake in the oven for ~ 8 minutes.  (Each pan separately.).  Serve immediately.  These were even surprisingly delicious today for lunch.  I may try to add some whole wheat next time along with some gluten.

I used the slow cooker to make vegetable and chickpea curry from Cooking Light.  This is packed full of vegetables.  I use frozen green beans, but that's about the only modification I made.  I've made the curry before and it's delicious.  I used a spicy pepper that friends grew over the summer to add a little kick.  The kick is a little stronger today but is nice.  The addition of coconut milk makes a creamy finished product.  The slow cooker is great because you dice things and pile them in hours before you eat.  This frees up time right before you eat to do other tasks.  In this case, prepare the naan and socialize with guest.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Catch Up

What do you do when friends give you a huge bag of tomatoes?  Make ketchup, of course.  I have a little bit of a fear of canning tomato sauce after reading about it in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where the idea of balancing the acid is discussed so as not to get sick from the sauce.  I could, no doubt master this with my science-y background but sometimes I don't like to think so much when I cook.  I did end up making a small amount of sauce but froze it instead.  Plus, we just don't eat that much pasta at our house.  So, I was looking for something else.  D eats a lot of ketchup with his breakfasts, so it seemed perfect.  I found a recipe in Home Made by Yvette Van Boven.  You can see the results above.  It's quite delicious.  The flavoring came from red pepper, onion, vinegar, sugar plus some ginger, paprika, nutmeg, coriander and a bit of clove.  I believe the balance of the tomatoes and vinegar in this recipe addresses the acid issues.  This was one of my first canning efforts of the year and really ever.  I think it turned out well.  And I did have to share some of my wares with friends, especially the friends who shared their tomatoes.  But we will continue to enjoy it this winter.

I was thinking about catching you up on what has been happening in my life this year, but it seems a bit too daunting.  Very briefly, I will say that D and I started a new chapter in our life together with a big party, I moved twice, and I taught a large (>100 students) course for the first time.  It has been a busy time with lots of excitement and changes.   

Sunday, October 7, 2012


How do you restart your blog?  The same way you restart your morning.  With a delicious muffin.  D&I found this recipe nearly a year ago and I have made it so many times I can't count.  It appeared in the Nov 2011 issue of Runners World and is originally Mark Bittman.  I have now modified the recipe to be lower in fat and sugar and include more superfoods!  What could be better in the morning?

Blueberry Sweet Potato Muffins
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour (pastry is recommended in the original recipe but I've been making them with regular and they seem to be fine)
1/2 c sugar
2 t baking powder
1 t ground ginger (sometimes I add a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg, too)
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 T butter (melted and cooled)
2 T veg or olive oil
1/4 c applesauce
1 c pureed/mashed sweet potato (you can easily use canned pumpkin in this recipe or cook the sweet potato in the microwave)
1 beaten egg
1/2 c buttermilk (we use the powder stuff that you keep in the refrigerator and add to water otherwise we don't use the whole container in time and it seems like a waste).
1 c frozen blueberries

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 12 muffin cups.  Combine dry ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) combine the wet ingredients (through buttermilk).  Now add the wet mixture into the dry and stir until just combined.  Fold in the blueberries.  Bake for 20-25 minutes and enjoy.

One of the amazing things about these muffins is how moist they are for a 100% whole wheat bread.  I have never successfully done 100% whole wheat tea bread or muffins before.  This recipe gives me faith that it is possible.  They are definitely hearty.  Also, you could add nuts but A doesn't like walnuts or blueberries, for that matter, in her baked goods.  I always make a couple of muffins with her name on them by adding the batter to a few muffin cups before folding in the blueberries.

Now, in answer the the question I left you with last year.  The pancake was meant to be a monkey.  I guess I need to work on my pancake art.  :)

What is coming up... my adventures in canning, microwave potato chips and low fat dip, some fall favorites, and book recommendations.  Hopefully, I'll stick to a once a week schedule.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Good and The Bad

My untapped talent... pancake art:
What is it?

And the bad... I finally broke my favorite mug at work.
Any suggestions on if this can be fixed and how to do it?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Good Things

No posts in February... such a shame. I have been observing good things and thought I'd share some of them.
1) A grown woman in a strawberry hat. Yes, with seeds and all observed this morning as I walked across campus.
2) A lovely spa day at Buttermilk Falls Inn. Thanks for spending a relaxing day with me, Beth. It was great to catch up!
3) A newly painted dining room. Good bye mint green, hello bark brown. It looked a bit like mint chocolate chip in process. And thank you for low/no VOC paints for allowing us to do this in the dead of winter!
4) Longer days! Yipee! Although Brrrr to today.
5) Good Mexican food... hard to find east of the Mississippi River.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Update

Two posts in one month! Last weekend was great. D and I were out on Saturday at a local field with our:
It was a lovely day with lots of sun!

We made salmon burgers... sorry no pictures of this, they weren't necessarily pretty, but they sure were delicious. The recipe is a compilation from several locations:
2 (6ish oz) cans salmon (no bones or skin) - TJoes is a great source for this...
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped tarragon (fresh)
1 T dijon mustard (ours was specialty with a bit of maple syrup in it, you could add that separately)
1 zested lemon + the juice of the lemon
1 finely chopped shallot
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Mix this all together, form 4 or so large patties, and cook over med-high heat for about 4 min per side or until browned. You can finish these in the oven if you want, but we ate them off the stove. We used buns, tomatoes and lots of mustard. We ate these with roasted potatoes, carrots and brussel sprouts.

We also worked on some wedding details. Our photographer has been amazing and we've got some great photos of us in the snow. Speaking of the snow, it is getting very old - of course the above wouldn't have been possible without all the snow. But we have no where to put it. I need to shovel down some of my piles this week before more arrives. It gets very hard to lift a shovel above about chest high. Some of the banks are over my head! D was on the roof of his house today with his dad trying to get some of the snow clear so the roof doesn't settle any more and so there aren't leaks come the spring or warmer weather.

This weekend has been great, too. A good workout on Friday night, pesto pizza when I arrived at D's fairly late (after talking to a friend on the drive... Ole), karate with D's daughter, a relaxing afternoon, good dinner, a Trader Joes adventure with D's daughter, fun with snow (some experiments complete with lab notebook notes... what temperature is snow, what temperature after 10 seconds in the microwave, etc). And a fair amount of sleep to try to stay well while D is fighting a cold.

The week between was good as well. I have been able to get a good bit of writing done lately. Need to continue to work over the next few weeks to get several grants done. And the good news is that my graduate student's paper is just about ready for submission. Plus, I have a new grad student and an undergrad will work with us this summer, too. Things are going well, just need to keep the momentum going.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy New Year!

Okay, okay, I know this blog has been suffering. Last semester was very busy, but I survived and have been trying to get caught up. Last weekend, D and I had a granola adventure. I've been meaning to try a recipe from John for some time. Finally...
We added dried cherries and toasted almonds plus sunflower seeds (the later a recommendation from John). It is delicious.

I have also been messing with ways to prepare oatmeal. There is a place nearby that serves the most amazing oatmeal in the mornings - or I supposed you could get it for lunch if you wanted. It's just a little salty and a little sweet and seemingly a little underdone. I couldn't get it right. It tend to buy the old fashioned oatmeal - or irish style. So the secret is to use 1/2 cup of oatmeal to a 1/2 cup of water and milk (about 1/4 cup of each). Add a pinch of salt and then cook for 2 minutes in the microwave. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and a little maple syrup. Top with fruit if you have it. We made a surprise fruit salad on Friday night for after dinner and had the rest the next morning on oatmeal. Two apples, one banana, two clementines, one mango, blueberries (thawed frozen). Delicious.

Here's to a healthy new year!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Is it so hard to grow parsley and cilantro? I have beautiful basil, rosemary, oregano (though a little worse for the wear) and mint. But my parsley looks sad. Am I doing something wrong? Suggestions??

Friday, September 10, 2010

Good Things

Over the summer, I was lucky enough to finish two books. These are books I read for the pleasure of reading. I wish I had more time to read. This does in no way make a dent in my pile, but it was enjoyable. D is reading the first one I finished and I think he will read the second because he read something else by that author. So, here they are for your reading pleasure.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Amiee Bender
(I read this book because of a review on npr)
Not the best reviews on Amazon, but the story seemed very original and had some nice twists. I read a book by Amiee Bender a while ago that I also liked.
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
There was a lot of academic humor in this one. It was fun to read.

I also have a movie recommendation. It's a little off beat - not your typical chick flick (not that I only see chick flicks because I do love a good action movie!)
(500) days of Summer
An out of order (sort of) love story with some strange twists.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


oh my! I complained a few weeks ago to the higher powers that I thought there had been a mouse in my desk drawers at work. I keep food and tea in one drawer, so all of that has gone into plastic containers. But he was also interested in a drawer that is filled with papers and office supplies. I followed up once and thought that would be enough. Today, a little brown mouse had the nerve to pop his head out from behind a bookcase. Not once, but twice. I don't know what makes you move your feet off the floor when there is a rodent around. But there was some standing on desks. Good times...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reminded of...

time spent in two other locals. I was reminded of white bikes and a Thursday night bike ride (bonus points to you if you know what either of these refers to). It also reminded me of formations in college. I traveled today to bbq at a friend's house. Lovely location. Good food. Good friends. And a mini adventure that involved riding an old bike about 20 minutes (up a big hill on the way there) to see some really fast things. Otherwise it's been flat out work for many weeks. Thus the lack of blog posts. Fortunately, this lack does not correlate with the lack of anything being written. Now, back to work.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Summer is my favorite time of year for eating! I love the fresh berries (blueberries and blackberries for lunch this week, yum!). Tomatoes, peaches, corn, fresh herbs, what could be better? When I was down in Delaware a few weeks ago, I got to share some bounty with my dear friend. We invented our dinner that evening. After having happy hour complete with delicious cheese and crackers Yea for mango and ginger stilton! (This cheese has been know to bring to people with completely different tastes in cheese to agreement!) We wanted something a little less grand than the original plan. So, we made an amazing salad.
What a lovely place setting, too. The salad you see consists of:
kernels from two ears of corn
1 chopped organic tomato
1 chopped peach
a small bunch of chopped basil
(I'd recommend adding rosemary or mint, but I was too lazy to continue chopping)
lemon juice
olive oil
pan cooked scallops in lemon and lime juice (I don't think they were added yet when the photo was taken.)
and a touch of salt and pepper all served on a bed of greens
I wouldn't have guessed the corn didn't need to be cooked, but since it was such fresh bounty, it was fine.

Friday, July 30, 2010


It's been a rough few weeks. In short, I haven't been home for a single weekend in July and there was a good bit of work for each trip. And sometimes I didn't do my research and we ended up driving around the Adirondacks until 1:15 am and not getting back to the inn until 2:30 am. I can't remember the last time I was up that late. Did you know it's really hard to get across Lake Champlain in the middle of the night? This has made me somewhat unsettled. I have a weekend day at home tomorrow and I'm going to savor it... how, you ask, well, I'll go to Pilates and then the Farmers Market. A few other errands and just some time at home.

The other problem is related to work. A number of things have conspired against me this summer and I haven't come even close to meeting my goals. I had to pick up and move my lab, office, teaching lab and various other things I'm supposed to oversee. And all of this into space that wasn't really ready for us and is compressed (meaning less space). Then, I've had a visiting student in my group this summer who has not turned out as expected.

But with all of this, there have been some good highlights.
These arrived at my office on Wednesday! Lovely! And they smell divine! Thanks D!
2) We had an incredible dinner out last Saturday. I got all dressed up - something I haven't done in a while. Have you ever seen me wear makeup? And the bonus was we could walk to the restaurant. We shared a bottle of Lange Pino Gris. And enjoyed a cheese plate to start. The chevre was drizzled with lavender honey. Amazing. I have to try this at home. Funny thing is that I just bought some organic dried lavender on a trip to Delaware/Pennsylvania to visit a college friend a few weekends ago. Now I really have to try it. And D's main dish was lavender encrusted tuna. Amazing.
3) I have new music. The New Pornographers are incredible. Thanks to another friend from college for the recommendation.
4) I'm moving up in the world and I have 2 followers. Sorry to disappoint you all with my lack of posts recently.