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Dear Diary: today my new city's baseball team captured the pennant. Tonight, my city celebrates! GO GIANTS!

While the bars and restaurants and taxis and Muni swelled with waves of orange and black, I made Beef Stew 2.0 with several updates*, served with rye bread, and knocked Roommate Number Three into a food coma. Next round of tweaking will feature much, much more pepper, and larger chunks of carrot.

*Reduced meat and vegetables by about one quarter, hacked rough flank cut into stew-sized pieces, used 1 tsp of salt, swapped olive oil for vegetable oil. My concerns about the cut were justified: the tough tendon-y or whatever parts did not transform into meat. However, chopped into bite-sized pieces, it softened enough to be interestingly chewy.

As suggested by the sudden beef stew, winter is coming to San Francisco. The first real rain in months fell Friday night, and left puddles all over my Saturday morning volunteer gig, a fundraising walk. In practical cities, this sort of walk happens in sensible and (presumably) sensibly priced public parks. In San Francisco, "sensible public park" sometimes means Marina Green, a site of dramatic physical beauty enhanced by the Golden Gate Bridge. So I volunteered, scored a coupon for Sports Basement, and bought rain boots just in time for the first autumn afternoon of cool, soaking rain.

I didn't know I liked volunteering until I moved to San Francisco. It turns out that, if you agree to help people herd other people for partying, parades or fund-raising, they feed you, give you ugly t-shirts, and motivate you to get out of the house before noon on weekends. Awesome.
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I got online to spend other people's money on kitchenware, and ran into a few problems:

1.) Are the $25 cookie sheets really more than twice as effective as the $11 cookie sheets?

2.) Ebay has Pyrex.

3.) Online shopping fails to satisfy my need to touch things before purchase (the size test).

4.) I didn't write out my shopping list!

Due diligence requires me to solve these problems in reverse. Preliminary indications suggest I could drop $100 without trying, and $200 without getting into appliances. The Kitchen Aid will have to wait for kitchen shelf space another day.
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I remember making french toast and liking the results sometime in the past. Either I didn't write down the recipe, or I did and didn't tag it. So it's back to basics! Parentheticals are things I want to try next time.

6 - 8 slices week-old TJ's sliced sourdough bread (or other bread)
2 eggs (thoroughly beaten)
2/3 c Silk vanilla soy milk
cinnamon
(nutmeg)
water as necessary
margarine / better / other oil for pan

Find bread-shaped container suitable for mixing ingredients. Crack eggs into container (beat until homogeneous). Add soy milk and spices, beat until mixed. If too stiff, add water to thin. Use a paper towel to smear oil on pan surface, then place pan on oven burner set to medium-high. Dip 'n flip bread slice, put on pan (depending on the pan and bread, it may be possible to cook two slices together), and flip when it's done: look at the eggy stuff at the edge of the bread for hints. Repeat, re-greasing pan between pieces, until out of bread, or liquid, or hungry people.

Notes: beat the eggs first, or they don't mix well with anything else. Sourdough was okay but needs more oomph in the liquid ingredients. Orange zest, maybe? Salt?

Optional sides: bacon (can be cooked in oven at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes, so start it first), cherries (yum!).
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Brownies come / from a pan

Food made after you're supposed to be in bed tastes better, yes?
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Or, what happens when I am out of work four days running: I get creative in the kitchen.

Recipe under the cut. )

Notes: this was an attempt to combine a bland recipe with rice with a spiced version of lentil soup. If I were going to do this again, I would either reduce the amount of rice and lentils, or I would try doubling the spices (except the garlic and chile de arbol - the chile was doubled, oh my dripping nose) and using more sausage. Also, the picture isn't great. Next time I must remember to remove the soup to an attractive bowl before trying to get a snapshot.

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Today I learned that brussels sprouts fried in olive oil are sweet and delicious. Tomorrow's lunch: brussels sprouts and asparagus with dad's lentil and sausage stew-like soup! Mmmm, food.
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I've been sitting on this icon for a while, and I still don't like the text, but I can redo it later. I have a reason to use it!

Beef Stew, V2.0. Okay, Beef and Vegetable Stew. )

The beef was, indeed, meltingly tender, and boosting the spices was a really good idea. (Some day, I am likely to throw vegetables, potatoes, beef and curry mix into a pot to see what happens.) I didn't add any salt above the salt in the beef broth, which really wasn't enough. I didn't think so, M. really didn't think so - M. made puppy eyes at the cookpot all night, so I did all the work and we both had beef stew for lunch. I will bribe her to take me to the store one bitterly cold January night with the magic phrase "but M., stew beef is on sale!" - so next time I may unbend enough to add a whole teaspoon of salt for flavor. I may also ask M. to donate her wine stash - untouched for many months and counting - to the beef stew cause.
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I think I accidentally reinvented the pan-seared chicken breast tonight. If only all my cooking experiments turned out so juicy and delicious! (Hint to future me: set to 5 / exact middle of your lame electric stove, stop poking at it until it's brown. Go chop vegetables or question your roommates' TV choices or something. Then flip it. Yes, it's going to take more than five minutes for each side, get over your instant gratification complex.) I also did something with the chicken skillet, shallots, bean sprouts, garlic, ginger, broccoli, zucchini, and soy sauce which was okay, except for the zucchini, which soaked up the ginger and soy deliciousness. I want to pick out just the zucchini and eat it until I figure out why it worked so well. Tomorrow, proper write, probably with pictures.
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Game night: check. Apparently I can too feed seven, but I need to remember by table really only seats six.

The electronics plague is back. My cell battery hiccuped Saturday, and I believe I've destroyed the baby laptop's third A/C adapter in 3 1/2 years. I break laptop adapters with depressing regularity; I blame HP's engineering. (I continue to ignore the misappropriation of a desktop replacement as an actively mobile device.) I was thinking it might be time to order a second cheap knockoff A/C adapter, but then Windows stopped booting, and when I unplugged it and put in the recovery disk, magically sensed the disk and booted from the hard drive, just as I was settling in for an evening of sandwich with troubleshooting. Neither of these should have had an impact, but lo: the baby laptop booted. The issues with all things plugged in make me think the baby laptop has a death wish, but if it'll hang on until Windows 7 is out of beta, I will swallow all my usual griping and just buy something.

Between game night on Friday, socializing in Baltimore on Sunday, meeting C. in Crystal City on Monday night (which was really cool, except for the part where I got totally lost finding her hotel), and work scheduling and work baby showers with cookies, I am way behind on my reading lists, so if there's anything that applied to me in particular, please point me at it.

The important point of all this is my continued quest for the perfect butterscotch walnut cookie.

Recipe as of last tonight: )

I think I'm either overbeating the butter, or the eggs, or need to drop the cooking temp another 25 degrees. The butter-sugar temp may also be an issue; it may need to be cooled more before adding everything else. Or maybe sifting the dry ingredients really does make a difference.
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Today I learned that soy chai latte is actually pretty awesome, so now I too can blow $5 and 200 calories at Starbucks. If I can find a pastry that won't try to kill me with butter*, I might actually start hanging out at coffeehouses!

*Dramatic license. "Distress my GI tract in ways you don't want to discuss at the dinner table" is much less snappy.

Roommate M. called about half an hour ago to apologize for her attitude this morning and say she had sushi to split. Since I don't recall her having an attitude this morning - in the cinematic retelling of my life, Act 2009 Scene 02 June AM will be filmed with vaseline on the lens and maybe some rotoscoping in post-processing to emphasize my complete lack of opinion about anything but breakfast and caffeine - I am calling this a culinary win.

Meatloaf for lunch wasn't bad, but by definition was greasier than I like. Someone suggested trying ground turkey, which sounds interesting. I'm really there for the spicing; the exact meat can be tweaked with (relative) impunity. Mmm, fresh parsley.
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Tonight's dinner: Meatloaf! ) I thought this was heavy, but I think meatloaf is supposed to be. The onions and green peppers need the sort of fine-chop TLC the parsley got; possibly they also need to be sauteed first. Finally, next time I do this, different sauce, with more heat. Ketchup covers many sins, but it's not spicy, and it's not a sauce.
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How do you get tea stains off your cups? I dumped my favorite cup in the sink with pork marinade, and I can't tell if the soap, vinegar, oil, spices, or alchemical combination did a number on the stains.

The last time I made my favorite butterscotch walnut cookies, they came out flatter than pancakes. Adding twice as much flour as usual soaked up the grease, but messed with the flavor. I blame that evening's pouring rain, and also the brown sugar, and possibly the butter. The batch before that - made with margarine - turned out fantastic. Obviously, I need to set up a controlled experiment. Yum, cookie experiment! For reference:

Butterscotch walnut cookies )

Having navigated Christmas dinner, I'm getting ambitious: since it's dough and assorted toppings, homemade pizza might actually be free of

Wow, it's truth on the internet! I'm third-gen American, and I still think, "how are you?" is supposed to be answered honestly. Bluntly, even.
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Merry Christmas! M. and I made Christmas dinner, and sat down with my dad and Second Wife to eat it: pork with lime marinade; steamed carrots and green beans with rosemary; sweet potatoes with butter, brown sugar, and marshmellows; gingerbread piping hot from the oven with vanilla soy ice cream. I did the pork, M. stepped up for sides and dessert. Everyone seemed to enjoy dinner, so we didn't muff anything too badly. And M. and I got to do the high-five of "serving a holiday meal to parents".

Pork notes:
Had ground-up spices, so mixed the spice mix cold in a sandwich bag; 3/4 cup lime juice is about 5 limes; used 14 cloves of garlic, not 12; about half a cup lime mojo left over from marinade. Marinade too oily? Next time more limes? Bought 4 lb pork loin instead of 3 1/2 called for: extend cooking time by ~1/8th to match? 30 minutes at 450 resulted in smoking meat, so either less browning time or lower temps the entire time on the next try.

I am out of olive oil. Word from the wise: eggs with margarine are kind of gross.

Happy end-of-December wishes to everyone: eat well and sleep in unless you have to work tomorrow.
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Dear summer: thank you for giving me peaches and fresh corn. Also, thank you for going away. Sincerely, the loyal opposition.

Tonight's cooking experiment: baked pork chops with crushed garlic, rosemary and thyme in olive oil. 350 F, 15 minutes, flipped at 10 minutes. I used a regrettably heavy hand with the spices, so it may be salvage-or-toss time. K. recommended making pork chops into pork-pasta salad, which might actually work. The side dishes - couscous and tomato-ish salad - came out nicely. The couscous just got olive oil and basil. The salad was one cucumber, seeds removed; a green pepper, a red pepper, half a vidalia onion, and several heirloom tomatoes, with a little olive oil and basil and a lemon squeezed over everything. I think I will have a light lunch tomorrow (couscous and salad), or maybe I will declare Culinary Oops Day and see who I can sweet-talk into a sushi run.

September is apparently my month for good intentions. I'm trying to cook, I'm trying to exercise (not 90 degrees every day! I can bike more than five minutes without dying! Awesome!) and I'm trying be mindful of that whole lactose intolerance thing*. Fortunately, Nabisco has removed every remnant of unprocessed ingredients from Oreos, so now they're milk free, hah! That's one junk food snack back on the list.

*Lactase: there are limits, and I still get dehydrated even when the pills are in the right bag and I remember to look for them. Finally, they're kind of expensive on the per diem.

I finally ate my pork chop of dubious character while listening to C-SPAN radio (what's the difference between NPR and C-SPAN? Not that much, when the boombox is on top of the fridge), and decided it's a good day to be me: not in a hurricane recovery zone, secure job, income exceeding expenditures. Health care! If the banks don't collapse under me and my fellow Americans, because some of my fellow Americans are thoughtless people who vote sub-par hooting primates underqualified individuals into national office, I'm going to hang on until the upturn. There's a lot of people who don't have that confidence right now. I was going somewhere with that, but it's, um, really late, so I'll just plug the Red Cross and your local food bank and remind people that when you vote for out of touch and underqualified people, you're voting for recessions.

Yeah, no rage there. Cough.
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If you ever want to see something really funny, watch me try a new cooking recipe.

Now, back to the broiled baked pork chops!

P. S. Broiling pan and meat thermometer added to shopping list.
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SATUDAY MORNING: To really stupid rumors (mightygodking) I bring really basic medical stats. Nail Palin on her political record; if she is raising her grandchild for her daughter, I really don't care that much. (I am waiting with bated breath for some Palin political scandal, because hi, Alaska: home of corruption worthy of the Mayors Daley; stooping to personal attacks makes me ask for people to stop being on my side.) Sunday ETA: huh. Just - what Scalzi said.

SUNDAY EVENING: Did an overnight trip to dad's. Dad just got back from looking at houses in Tucson; he and Second Wife made an offer on a short-sale. Second Wife was doing nothing I wanted any part of, so I didn't see much of her or her dogs. Or the horsies. (If you ever need to be convinced of the fundamental stupidity of a horse, try loading it into a horse trailer. If you ever need evidence of my willingness to judge you by your hobbies, watch my reaction to you trying to move your horse.) So I let dad use me as an excuse to try an Indian restaurant - so much pain there - saw the house-shopping pics, and dad's kitchen garden - why aren't the store cucumbers this snazzy? Why? - we chilled with soccer on HD, and eventually I took the hour and a half back home on car, bus and metro, loaded up with foodie things dad dumped on me.

TODAY: Cooking. Grocery runs. Baking. Food prep. My oven is running hot. Not on, cookie-making machine! Go over-fry my chicken, or something else I only marginally care about!

FOR MANY, MANY DAYS: book log. Er, July's. Watch this space for a special July/August book log double edition!
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Tree shrew lives on beer. The researchers observed seven mammalian species feeding on the [bertam palm] nectar. The pen-tailed tree shrews guzzled the stuff longer than they did any other food source, for an average of 138 minutes per night, in the process helping to pollinate the plants. Yay science!

Sunday I modified a pork recipe to "work" (not be inedible) with ribs, and lo, it was pretty good.

Pork and Potatoes with Rosemary )
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My roommate's prescient ability to tie up the shower five minutes before I'd like a shot at the bathroom - at all times of the day, every day of the week - never fails to astonish me.

Tonight's adventures in food: modified lamb stew with spinach and garbanzo beans and butterscotch nut cookies.

Blah blah blah stew mods. )

Butterscotch cookies: it seems like every time I make these cookies, I reduce the oven temp a bit more. 375 is now down to 300; either my kitchen's way hot (ah, summer) or something else is up. No more scanting the salt for me!
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I will not liveblog House. I will not - Robert Sean Leonard has the "subtle acting" gene, doesn't he?

Last week started with me thawing deli-sliced corned beef instead of two pounds of ham shank. I spent the entire week wondering why I was starving, then I noticed I'd been skipping dinner in favor of anything but rather than eat any more not-ham.

This week I'm grooving on pasta with meat sauce and beef stew. Suddenly, finishing lunch and dinner is much more appealing.

The House-Amber tug-of-Wilson will never, never get old.

Weekend good. Crowded House concert Friday night with [livejournal.com profile] norabombay, then potlatch party Saturday night. The concert was enlivened by me doing some calorie math and inhaling tsebhi doro on injera right before the opener started - see also "corned beef situation" - and tried not to remix the opening act with Richard Shindell ("tell your boyfriend he's lucky" / "and are you-ou happy now?"). Nice thing about old people concerts: they start early and end before midnight. Yeah, I'm never going to make it to the under-30's clubbing scene. Sunday was shopping-and-cooking day. I put too much pepper in the beef stew and discovered that yeah, 20 minutes is about as long as you want to simmer the pasta sauce, but such are the sacrifices we make to have decent meals.

The weather seems to be figuring out that it's really spring, and it's really okay to be 70 degrees more than one day at a time. Even I'm ready for this, and I think 60 degrees is the best temperature ever.

House. House, if you were black, female or really, really gay, you'd never be able to pull these stunts. Though the casual sexual harassment thing you do to Cuddy could not be more objectionable if you tried.

Today I used my thermo-fu to program the thermocycler 90% of the lab doesn't know how to use. (One of the other 10% deserves cookies.) So I am reasonably certain I won't have to repeat the six eight-strips in that thermocycler for mechanical error. My own stupidity is another question entirely.

Finished The Sharing Knife: Passage Friday, then left at work. Discussion post sometime tomorrow.

Allison Cameron, have you grown a spine since S1? Go you, girl!

I'm looking at pics of someone's drive down the Skyline drive and Blue Ridge area, and oh, can it be car-and-travel time now please? I have Blacksburg crash space! An August trip is totally feasible, gas prices or not! It's just three months from now, sadness. Until then: work! And... more work! And in July... three and 3/4ths days in Boston!

I lead such a thrilling life. But at least my thrilling wonder stories don't land me in Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.

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