Monday, January 30, 2006

Fantasy Fulfilled Flashback

I played three games of Scrabble on Sunday!

Kim was in town, we made deep dish pizza in my cast iron pan, and played three games of scrabble. They just kept wanting to play, I couldn't believe my luck. I only have this one strange picture from any of the games, but it captures by best scoring word to date that was not a BINGO. The board is upside down, so you have to look closely, but the word is "OPAQUE" and the Q was on a double letter score, and the O was on the triple word at the top center of the board, so I scored 86 points. NICE.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Planets chasing stars

The semester (the last semester!) is well underway. I've got a fairly decent schedule this semester, I'm only assisting in one class, Research Methods, and I've had this assignment before, so I'm overly prepared. In addition, I'm only taking one structured class, an environmental sociology course, and my other credits are made up in directed readings and independent studies that will help me prepare for the preliminary exams next fall.

So, I only actually go to school two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, and I have two regularly scheduled meetings every other Wednesday. I now have huge pockets of time with four day weekends and Wednesday's off. What will I do with my time? Well, I will need to be doing a lot of reading, I think Gretchen and I just picked out about 16-20 books that I should try to tackle this semester! Oh sheeot...and it's not like these are novels, man, I could read a dozen novels in like a week, but 20 medical sociology books? It sends shivers down my back, and this is what I want to do with my life.

In other news, Andy I talked about what we should make this weekend. Kim will be back in town, so that will be fun. Andy wants to make arroz con pollo, which I've seen made a few times, but haven't exactly made myself. A few times last summer I made a chicken and rice dish I saw in Rae's African cookbook, it looked like arroz con pollo does, but it had a lot more spices (cinnamon, curry) than arroz con pollo does, so we'll see how it goes.

I want to make Italian wedding soup! It's definitely soup weather, right now it's like 23 degrees.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Angelino's

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lasagna! Lasagna!

I was feeling adventurous enough to attempt a big food project earlier this week. My schedule this semester is loaded on Tuesday and Thursday, so I have 4 day weekends and Wednesday off. This past Wednesday I was hit with the comfort food stick and decided to make lasagna. Now, I've made baked pasta dishes before and my mother's spinach lasagna which is nothing like real lasagna, but I'd never attempted a whole lasagna or homemade sauce!

I don't really use recipes so much as I try to remember things I've seen on the Food Network. Once upon a time, my favorite host, made a basic tomato sauce. He did a bunch of things to it, some of which I did to my sauce. I remember he started with carrots and onions and garlic (maybe celery too, but I didn't have any, so I didn't use it)chopped finely and added to olive oil with salt and pepper.

I cooked it for a bit and then added tomato paste and red wine followed by two big cans of tomatoes with their juices, oregano, thyme, basil, sea salt and cracked black pepper.
After a few hours of simmering, here was my sauce. Yummy.

I love Trader Joe's, but unfortunately they don't always have everything that you need to make lasagna. In my case, there was no ricotta cheese to be found. I had two options, cottage cheese or marscipone. The latter had the right texture but not the right taste, and the former had the right taste but the wrong texture. I bought the cottage cheese.

I put the cottage cheese in the food processor with some Parmesan and about two tablespoons of cream cheese and pulsed for a few seconds. The end product was something that was right on texture wise but slightly saltier than ricotta.

I added spinach and some more Parmesan as well as two beaten eggs. I now had my sauce and filling ready, and it was time to cook the pasta.


I watched Giada, the hot italian host on "Everyday Italian" make lasagna once. To keep the pasta sheets from sticking together while they cooked she only put two or three at a time in the water, and instead of using a large pot, she used a skillet with high sides.

The box instructed me to cook the sheets for 8 minutes, but I only cooked them for four minutes because they were going to have an hour in the overn to soak up the juices from the sauce. The noodle process was probably the most annoying part of the whole lasagna experience. I had to cook two noodles, place them on an oiled jelly roll pan so they wouldn't stick, while I put two more noodles in the water. When I had four I could start the whole layering process.

A layer of sauce on the bottome of a 13X9 glass dish helps to keep the lasagna from sticking. I started with sauce, noodles, cheese and spinach mixture, mozzerella and more sauce before adding another layer of noodles. On the second layer I did exactly the same thing, with the addition of soy meatballs from trader joe's that I had previously heated up. I finished with a final layer of noodles, the remainder of the sauce and the remainder of mozzerella.

Here you can see the lasagna nearing completion. If you look closely you can see some meatball peeking out.


After all the running around and about an hour and 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven, this is the result of all my hard work. Looks like Martha made it, huh! Seriously, it's gorgeously browned and succulent looking.

Here's an up close and personal shot. I'm drooling looking at it days later.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Best Picture: Florida

Vacation Part II

Just a few more pictures from Florida. Blogger was being an ass and I couldn't post them on the last post. Jerk, blogger.

Alison and I actually went to Chuck's twice on our stay in Ft. Pierce. Here we are after a particularly sunny day on the beach.

Alison: "Don't take a picture of me when I look like a stop sign!"

I took the picture.

Here is me after fucking up my toe. I was trying to keep myself from falling off my chair and the balcony, and sacrificed the bottom of my toe to the railing. Ouch. I'm not one to get squeamish, but I also passed out and had to sit in the bathtub while two strange men put in new carpeting and Alison went to Publix for first aid stuff. Oh geez, Margie. I felt much better after a smoke and a few lagers.

Here is another view of the beach and the dune, but slightly north of the previous photos. So pretty. And for 4 days I was lucky enough to constantly hear the waves hitting the beach. I need the beach.

The beach around noon with high sun.

We had to drop our rental off about three hours before our flight was scheduled to leave, so sat in the airport bar for a little while and Alison had like...the hugest beer ever. Not quite as big as the Bikestop, I hear, but still big ass big.

I'm poor because I vacation

I know right, I was home for three weeks, and then took a break from break and went to Las Vegas, but there was just enough time to fit in a small vacation to Florida last week.

In order to make it to Ft. Pierce we had to leave Philly at some god awful hour in the morning, so god awful I don't remember what time it was, only that I had arrived at the airport the night before at like 6 and it was less than 12 hours later and I was back, this time wearing sandals.

It was all worth it when we got to Florida and stepped outside to 79 degree weather. Alison and I celebrated by having beers on the balcony.

The balcony had two comfy chairs that were high enough to look over the dune and kick your feet up on the railing. Seriously the view was amazing, at night the moon reflected on the curling waves and it was beautiful. My camera is not sophisticated enough or I'm not sophisticated enough to figure out how to get good night shots, so you'll just have to take our word for the whole poetic moon reflection thing.

There was an injury, my toe, and an illness (alison's tummy) but we still went out. This is us our first night on Hutchinson Island, dining at Chuck's I had a combo thing with fish, oysters, scallops and shrimp. This was only after the waiter tried to bring me something I didn't order for dinner, but quickly fixed it, and hell, I didn't care, Alison and I were on our second pitcher of beer after having a calamari appetizer and a salad.

I have very strong feelings about pie. For the most part, I don't like it. I can really only think of two pies I like. The first is my mother's lemon meregue, not clear and jelly, but opaque and creamy. It's not about the fluffy top, I could care less, it's definitely the filling that makes or break it. Oh, and normally hate crusts on pie, but I'll deal with it as a means of transport for that lemony filling. The other kind of pie I like, I actually love. Key lime pie. It normally has the creamy opaque consistency of my mother's lemon pie, but substitutes a graham cracker crust for the dough crust, a substitute I totally support. Anwyay, Chuck's had key lime pie on the menu, and I asked our waiter if it was good, he said it was the best, so I ordered a piece despite feeling like exploding. Worth.every.excrutiating.bite. mmmmmm

e

Monday, January 16, 2006

BMOC

Yup, I talked to Adam Weiss last night on the phone! He called, I didn't recognize the number, so of course I didn't pick up, but he left a funny message, so I called back. He called me out on screening my phone calls, as he should have. That guy is a trip, he's back from Ghana like two weeks, and he's leaving again on Thursday. He's employed for a while at the Carter Center working on a program to improve access to potable water.

Hopefully I'll get to see him the next time he rolls back through the U.S. But to tide me over he sent a picture of the last time we saw each other. I had just moved to Philly in 2003 and he was here for three days of Peace Corps training. I got us lost in University City trying to find a Mexican restaurant that wasn't even that good. But we had good conversation, as is typical with Weiss, and then he left for Ghana. I would like to post the picture, but it's embedded in a word document and I'm not sure if I can just cut and paste it on to blogger. I'll try at a later point when I have more time. But for those of you that know and love Adam Weiss and read my blog, he's safe and happy to have spent some time with his family, but is looking forward to going back to work.

e

Monday, January 09, 2006

So, Joel got a dog. I posted a single picture a week or so ago, but now that I'm in Philly again (for a mere 12 hours before I take off for Florida) I could upload all of my Alice pictures and choose among the very best for posting.

Here is Alice looking adorable sitting on Joel's lap. Happy coincidence he's wearing my school's shirt. I need to get him a new one though, this one is full of holes, gross.

Alice does a lot of three things, sleeping and playing. Here she is doing the former. When she's really tired her tongue hands out. The lion was formerly mine, but she requisitioned it from the basement closet within a few hours.

It's like incredibly cold in Nebraska, so it's smart to bundle up.

Alice has like, super short thin hair, so anytime she needed to go out she instantly started shivering. Claire would have none of that sort of suffering, so Christmas Eve we went out and bought her two things the pink argyle sweater she has on here and one to grow in to that is a blue and grey baseball jersey. She's so adorable!

Especially when she's sleeping.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

It was a holiday party, not that anyone at the 884 collective is particularly religious, but we did decorate a bit.

Here is our cigarette/candy cane tree.

Alison liked dinner, she kept chewing then saying "It is so good, so good" over and over.

Here is practically everyone sitting down for dinner. We had to drag a table up from the basement and use old camping chairs to accommodate everyone, but it was worth it to get such a great group together.

Later, Kim led half the party in a game that consisted of clapping and chanting "Zumi Zumi"...don't know much more about it than that.

Jon came over with some friends after dinner, they helped us finish off the keg by playing drinking Jenga. Fun times. Then everyone was out, and I went to bed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

When I was a Donal's for my 2nd Thanksgiving dinner, I enjoyed his cornbread and sausage stuffing. I decided to give it a try for our holiday party.

I made homemade golden cornbread using the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook. It's gorgeous, I wanted to cut a piece and slather it with butter, but I maintained a little self control.

After the cornbread cooled completely, I crumbled it, spread it on two cookie sheets and dried it out in a low (200 degree) oven for about 45 minutes. Then it had to cool again, and I put it in a bowl and poured half and half over it and let it soak in the fridge.

I cooked quite a bit of country sage sausage and then sauteed some onion, garlic, celery, sage and thyme in the remaining fat...so bad..yet soooo good. The veggies and sausage were then added to the soaking cornbread in the fridge. It had to sit for a good four hours to let the cornbread absorb all the half and half and flavors from the meat and veggies.

After the soaking process, I dumped it all in a big casserole...it barely fit, and threw it in the oven.

Once everyone was seated at the table, I realized I'd forgotten the dressing in the oven, hence the slightly more black than brown crust on top, but it was absolutely delicious. See Carrie and Marissa like it too!

Friday, January 06, 2006

This post has been a long time coming. Right after Alison and I turned in our last papers the 884 collective threw a holiday party, complete with a massive dinner. The main component of this dinner was a free turkey from Liz P. Andy made a brine, taking some direction from Alton Brown.

The brine consisted of stock, salt, sugar, herbs and water. The turkey sat in this salty concoction for two days.

After two days, we took the bird out, put her in the roasting pan (also provided by Liz P.) and Andy buttered her up. Looks like he's having fun, eh?

We cut up an apple, a few carrots and a few ribs of celery as well as some thyme, sage and rosemary and stuffed the bird.

We turned the oven as high as it would go, about 450, and set the bird in to get nice and toasty brown on the outside. This of course set off our smoke alarm periodically for about 20 minutes, but it was worth it, look how yummy!

After the desired caramel color on the skin was reached, we turned the oven down to 325 and roasted for about 3 hours. Here is the finished product!

Andy let the bird rest for about 40 minutes while we prepared the other dishes and then set about carving her.

Andy did a magnificent job carving the turkey and arranged it all beautifully on this plate. For sure, some of the best turkey I've ever eaten.

Stay tuned for side dishes!

Oh Sheeot kids...long time no blog posts.

This year marked the first Christmas in my family's history that Joel wasn't a complete asshole. I think it's Alice's influence, she has a total calming effect on him. So the holiday was nice. I brined a turkey and we had it on Christmas Eve, and my mother made a beef tenderloin for Christmas day. No pictures, sorry. Besides, Natalie made me feel self conscious about the food blogging...so I may try to cut it out for a while.

I got a new pair of slippers, a beautiful pink argyle sweater that I love, and some other nice stuff including a little spending money.

All of which I spent on my trip to see Brad in Las Vegas. I have to say, New Year's Eve in Vegas was much cooler last year, not that I didn't love seeing Katie E and hanging with B-rad, but the crowds were less friendly, and it was just a different mood. It was nice to be in Nevada and enjoy some weather that was a bit warmer than Nebraska or Pennsylvania. Ironically, on New Year's day, we drove up to Mt. Charleston and went sledding and then I poured half a root beer in my crotch. That last part wasn't ironic, just silly.

I have pictures, I'll choose a few when I get home to post up here, but for now...it's bedtime.