Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Road trip: Washington to California (and back up)

It's wedding season! Are you excited? I just finished planning our trip to California for my sister's wedding, here's the plan, represented in pictures! Also I have to mention that future-hubbs is being a good sport about camping, I think because I want it so badly. (Also $200 per night at the lodge versus $15 for a camping site helped...)

Mostly it'll be fun to see all of the family and hang out with my sister and her fiance in a giant party.

Here's the trip, on the way down:

PORTLAND, OREGON.

DIAMOND LAKE, OREGON.

CRATER LAKE, OREGON.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA.

WEDDING!

On the way back up...

REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK.

a bit of the OREGON COAST.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pantry Challenge: Day 2

I admit these are going to be the easiest couple of days, but I thought I'd share what we've done to "use up" some of the food in the fridge/pantry. We also used up the daikon radish by incorporating it into the kimchi (noms).

Introducing, kimchi soup:


Updated pantry list, as of 4/2/2014:

In the freezer:
1 lb blueberries
1 mango
4 bananas (sliced) for smoothies
1 lb potatoes, sliced
1/2 loaf whole wheat bread
3 cubes pesto
2 servings crab dumplings
8 pork dim sum dumplings
2 frozen whole chickens ("happy" chickens that were raised sustainably, I know "hippie yuppie bark")
10 chicken sausages
3 lbs bacon (sliced) 2.5 lbs bacon (sliced)
5 lbs peas (I LOVE peas)
5 lbs corn (that was a recent impulse buy)
2 lbs mozzarella, shredded in baggies
2 frozen hamburger buns (we couldn't eat them all)
1 lb frozen butter
4, 8oz packages cream cheese, for cooking

In the pantry:
1 can refried beans
2 cans garbanzo beans
3 boxes whole wheat pasta
4 lbs flour
1 lb sugar 
2 lbs chocolate chips
8 lbs of potatoes
4 onions
2 cups dried cherries
10 lbs rice 9.6 lbs rice
3 jars pasta sauce
10 lbs oats (I make my own granola)
1 lb honey
2 lbs corn meal
1/2 lb quinoa
1/2 lb pink lentils
1 bunch grapes eliminated!
4 anjou pears 1 anjou pear

In the refrigerator:
12 eggs
2 lbs pecans
1 lb carrots
1 lb bok choy eliminated!
3.5 mason jars of homemade kimchi 3.5 mason jars of homemade kimchi
1 daikon radish eliminated!
milk
1 jar pickles
1 package tofu eliminated!

I hope you're enjoying April, the sunshine was marvelous today!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pantry Challenge

You know how you squirrel away food that's on sale, that you use frequently, or that you stuffed in the back of the cupboard and forgot about? Yeah, that stuff. Inspired by my blogger friend Erica over at PNW Edible, I decided it was a good time to clear out everything in the "larder". Before the bounty of the garden comes in (hey, a girl can dream) let's get rid of the stuff that's already in our pantry. This is what I'm going to do: for the month of April, only cook with food that we already have in the pantry, freezer, or garden. We will supplement with milk from the grocery store and possibly eggs. Things are going to get creative in the kitchen, we'll feel super practical that we can survive if something terrible ever happens, and we'll make sure that no food is going to go to waste because it expired and we forgot about it. I also feel like we'll be eating as I would if I had my own farm (again, dreaming here), with the "hunger gap" and looking forward to fresh peas and radishes and leaves from the garden. I'm also moving in the fall, and don't want to take this all with me. Ready? I'm not, it sounds really crazy to me. But that's what life's all about! And it's only for one month. Let's jump in...

First I'll start by taking stock of what we have (this feels awfully personal):

In the freezer:
1 lb blueberries
1 mango
4 bananas (sliced) for smoothies
1 lb potatoes, sliced
1/2 loaf whole wheat bread
3 cubes pesto
2 servings crab dumplings
8 pork dim sum dumplings
2 frozen whole chickens ("happy" chickens that were raised sustainably, I know "hippie yuppie bark")
10 chicken sausages
3 lbs bacon (sliced)
5 lbs peas (I LOVE peas)
5 lbs corn (that was a recent impulse buy)
2 lbs mozzarella, shredded in baggies
2 frozen hamburger buns (we couldn't eat them all)
1 lb frozen butter
4, 8oz packages cream cheese, for cooking

In the pantry:
1 can refried beans
2 cans garbanzo beans
3 boxes whole wheat pasta
4 lbs flour
1 lb sugar 
2 lbs chocolate chips
8 lbs of potatoes
4 onions
2 cups dried cherries
10 lbs rice
3 jars pasta sauce
10 lbs oats (I make my own granola)
1 lb honey
2 lbs corn meal
1/2 lb quinoa
1/2 lb pink lentils
4 anjou pears
And dried condiments, spices, etc. 

In the refrigerator:
12 eggs
2 lbs pecans
1 lb carrots
1 lb bok choy
3 mason jars of homemade kimchi
1 daikon radish
milk
1 jar pickles

Growing in the garden:
Lots of radishes (watermelon and french breakfast) - too small to harvest
8 pea plants - too small to harvest
10 kale plants (green leafy jack and red russian kale) - too small to harvest
3 tomato plants (under grow lights)
1 lettuce bumper crop
3 brussels sprouts plants that are going to seed, but we'll eat their leaves, don't worry. (Have you ever tried the flowers of brassicas? They're delicious.)
3 different blueberry bushes
Oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, lemon balm, chocolate mint, common mint, parsley

First recipe on the block: kimchi soup! I'll try to update as we go along. 
Are you doing any pantry-clearing this spring? 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tribute to 2013

I'm a little behind on reflecting on 2013, but I figured it's better late than never. Things of particular importance or excitement this year (in no particular order):

I don't know about you, but I also like to look back at my previous year's spending habits to identify where the money went and which areas might need reevaluation. I'm a huge fan of Mr. Money Mustache, a guy who writes about personal finance and "badassity", where you can hone your skills by doing things yourself or helping others. He features case studies and helps people sort through ways to invest better, live simpler, and be more happy. Here's my spending showcase for 2013, all are estimates on average for two adults (I used mint.com to categorize these):

  • $407 per month on food/dining out
  • $175 per month on travel (obviously composed of less-than monthly trips)
  • $28 per month on clothing (I'm terrible at shopping and only replace clothes when necessary)
  • $135 per month for utilities/internet
  • $230 per month for insurance/doctor's visits/health in general
  • $150 per month for gifts/charitable giving
  • $230 per month for tuition (robbery!!!! I'm a grad student!)
  • $19 per month for gas (prefer not to drive if I can get there any other way)
  • $100 per month for car insurance
  • $x for rent. I'm a little embarrassed about this category (very high) and hope to move soon.
  • $9 per month for coffee shops (not coffee made at home)
There are obviously some things that I can scale back on, but I'm still saving, so I'm pretty happy with the spending outcome. Except for that rent category. What about you? Have you looked back at your spending to figure out where it all went? Does it align with your priorities?

Here's to hoping for a wonderful 2014.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chemistry Update - March 2014

Don't worry, I won't actually be featuring any real chemistry here, I just thought I'd share a few exciting photos relating to chemistry that have happened recently. The first is that I was recently trained on the XRD (powder x-ray diffraction) instrument, and went with a colleague to run TEM. XRD sample prep is pretty boring, but TEM sure is adorable. If you look carefully at the picture below, you'll see tiny copper circles, "grids" as we call them. We place a tiny drop of our sample onto them and look with the fancy microscope for nanometer-sized things. Pretty cool right?
 My university is also in the middle of hosting perspective graduate students. I like to say that this is the time to relax as we wine-and-dine the students into attending, but it certainly has a few pluses for current graduate students. The Inorganic Division usually puts a big dinner together, and current graduate students cook a seasonal or regional meal for all of the division. I usually cook a fair amount of dishes for this, but this year I decided that I'm too busy and tired, so offered just to do something small. A friend and I did volunteer to do the periodic table of cupcakes though, we couldn't help ourselves. Although note to self : putting buttercream in ziplocs and then attempting to frost with the corner cut off does NOT work if the frosting is still cold. We just poked holes in the bag and had to frost with a butter knife (!?!?!), no fun or style involved. But, taste is key.


We also woke up at the #*$&crack of dawn (before dawn, actually) to meet the perspectives on a snowshoeing adventure. Lucky for us, one of the assistant professors organized everything and had our equipment ready to go. It turns out you just strap them over your shoes. Here are a few shots from us wandering around a lake, just 45 minutes outside Seattle.


Been up to anything interesting recently?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Baking

Alright folks, I'm very much behind on blog posts. Looking back through the pictures is a wonderful stroll through memory lane, and I thought I'd share these special moments.



Don't you just love that wonderful Maillard color? I could actually eat these all day. The next treat that happened over this holiday season were sea salt caramels. My mom loves caramels, and I always wanted to make them. I also like having some kind of baked good to come with me over holidays. What's Christmas with Carolyn without some cookies or treats? Hrm, I really am very grandmother-ly. In a fashionable way of course. Making the caramels was fairly simple, but rolling them up in parchment paper was a giant pain in the tushie.



And of course, Christmas cookies. I've perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe, fairly close to the most popular recipe on allrecipes. 1/2 white sugar, 1/2 brown sugar. Cream butter and sugar together first, chill before placing on cookie sheets, the usual baking tips.


Last and my favorite, orange cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. This was a pretty spectacular team effort - my sister and I made the dough and zested the oranges. They were half white flour and half whole wheat. Oh boy, was it worth it. I'm pretty sure I ate four of them that day.


Anything fun going on in your kitchen?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dreams

Waking up to a snow-filled Seattle was pretty magical. Over the night a blanket of white had settled on cars, fluffy trees, and sleepy coffee-addicted people excited for their last day of work for the year. Ahem, that would be me. I sat on the bus on my way to work and looked longing as we passed the p-patch, all covered in snow. This vegetable garden is dear to my heart, as Ben and I frequently walk through the raised beds to admire the success of other gardeners. My mind instantly wandered to days where I can have a row of raised beds somewhere in my back yard to grow all of our own vegetables. Just think of it, we could grow our own potatoes, add to our own compost heap rather than contributing to the city-wide compost. (The city-wide compost is actually pretty awesome - the city's utilizing food scraps to make compost for growing more crops, pretty cool. But still, I want my own). You get the picture, this magical snowy day filled my mind with sleepy garden dreams.


Trellises. I'm excited to build my own garden trellis. The materials and location are already pre-prepared in my mind. It would look like this: (taken from one of my favorite blogs, NW Edible).

And I would grown green beans, and stand in the trellis to collect the bounty. The height would probably be only 6-7 feet tall, that way I could reach everything. (Sorry if any of you come over and are over 6 feet!).

Compost. Maybe worms, maybe just a mixture of leaves and food scraps. Enough said. Moving from apartment to apartment doesn't exactly facilitate the adequate waiting period for a proper compost. If you have a house and a garden though, you should think about it!

Raised bed (grow majority of our own food). And I would practice crop rotation to make sure we never leech out nitrogen (or other nutrients from the soil). Kale, beans, tomatoes, squash, corn, potatoes... the list goes on and on. Bacon production would have to be outsourced.

Grow tomatoes to make homemade tomato sauce. Normal tomatoes, purple tomatoes, Brandywine tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, I would try them all. Then I would cook and can all of those tomatoes to store for the winter, like a squirrel. But a sophisticated squirrel. I've already bought reusable canning lids - so reality is slowly catching up with this dream.

Contribute leftover vegetables to food bank. Use what we need, donate what we don't. Maybe the neighborhood would also have a veggie swap, that'd be awesome!

Endless kale. Imagine yourself in a forest of kale. Lacinato kale, red russian kale, green leafy jack kale... and you can pick whatever you want anytime of the year. It's so hardy it'll grow just about anywhere that isn't too hot. Yes, I want that.

Mostly, a permanent place to put down roots. Then that kumquat tree I grew from seed can go in the ground. Blueberry bushes would have a home (I have three kinds - can't help myself), and could start to settle. I could grow apples, figs, lemons, and plums (all depending on the region of course).

What do you dream of?

Monday, December 9, 2013

My hippie ways (no judgment here), part 1

I hesitate to use the term "hippie" to describe a few "green" habits that I've adopted. As my mom and I discussed, there are (1) "tree-hugging" hippie ways, like recycling and repurposing; and (2) "free-love" hippie ways, like, well, I won't go into it. For my purposes it's just an affectionate, common term I use to describe my efforts to conserve energy and resources in everyday life. For reference: I love the book Cooking for Geeks, which is where many of my food habits originated.

       The outside refrigerator. I don't have a picture of this, but imagine you just made dinner. You dished out delicious goodness onto your plates, and you have hot food sitting in tupperware, ready to eat tomorrow or for lunch sometime in the week. Your choices are to leave it out at RT (room temperature) on your counter and wait for it to cool before putting it in the ice-box, or put it into the refrigerator while it's still hot. I really don't like either option, because at room temperature you're creating the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow in your food (yes, even for a couple of hours), or you're warming up everything else in your refrigerator, warming up the milk (eiw) and forcing your machine to work harder than it needs to.

My solution: it's 30-f'ing degrees outside. Take that tupperware and put those suckers right outside your front door while you're eating dinner. Before you go to bed, bring in those (now very cold) tupperware and put them in your fridge! Boom, problem solved. This obviously only works if it's less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

       Homemade laundry soap. My love-hate relationship with Tide needed to end. I love it because it works so well, is familiar, and smells so yummy. I hate it because it's expensive, and all of the surfactants that go down the drain are probably bad for the fishes. (That's complete conjecture, but I still worry about all of the soap that goes down the drain). I use this recipe, and soak the laundry for a few hours before running the machine, and our laundry comes out exactly as if we were using Tide. It's also cheaper and I know everything that's going down the drain. For reference, I also buy baking soda in bulk from Costco and convert it into washing soda (sodium bicarbonate to sodium carbonate) by heating it up in the oven when I'm baking something else (might as well utilize that heat). This is necessary, because washing soda is significantly more basic than baking soda, and therefore cleans much more effectively.

       Homemade dishwasher detergent. Will go into this later.

       Homemade dry shampoo. Mix 2/3 baking soda and 1/3 cocoa powder. I sprinkle some on my hair, mix it in with my hands, and then comb. It smells wonderful and is perfect for dark hair. (tip: I also use this as a face scrub, add a little water and let it sit. My face feels so soft after this!). Try not to lick your face when you use this as a face scrub, it's still basic.



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thankful

On Facebook many of my friends are posting "what I'm thankful for this month", and I don't want to force you all to read my thoughts, so I'll do it here where you come in voluntarily, ha. I'm stressed out about my general exam and so this is just a quick update.

       I am thankful for all of my friends and family.

       I am thankful for the three pumpkins that grew in my garden this year.

       I am thankful for the 70 Mason jars I bought on Craiglist for canning and wedding crafts.

       I am thankful for leftover halloween costumes from my undergrad years so I can quickly put something together. Working pirate?

       I'm thankful that the Red Sox won the world series (I guess?), because then Ben was really happy.

       I am thankful for pumpkin cider. So thankful for pumpkin cider...

       I am thankful that I get to play volleyball this year and for everyone that comes out to play.

       Finally, I am thankful for baby kale plants. I hope they grow up and become very tasty. I have Leafy Jack kale and Red Russian kale growing - so excited.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Make your own granola

No, seriously. It's easy and delicious. If you think all of my other harebrained ideas are crazy, way too hippie, or too difficult for you, this is definitely not. My friend Johanna first told me that I should try making homemade granola, and after some googling I found a recipe I liked. The basic way to do it: mix oats, nuts, whatever spices, and a coating. Stir it up. Put it on a flat pan in the oven on low (300-325 F), stir it (or maybe don't), and then eat it. Add dried fruit if you want. The recipe I really like involves brown sugar, honey or maple syrup, and olive oil as the "coating".

Get all of your stuff together: This time I used hazelnuts, cinnamon, cardamom, and dried currants (added at the end).

Mix the dry stuff.

Add the olive oil/honey mixture and stir to coat. Stir it up real good, as I like to say.

Admire the delicious mixture of whole-grains and protein/fat bit globules of nuts.

Spread on some flat pans. They might stick, but it's coated in olive oil, so usually not too bad.

After roasting - look at that beautiful brown color.

Om noms.

Another angle of the delicious roasted-ness.
So now, try it if you want. It's not scary, it's delicious. And the probability of others in your house exclaiming "That smells wonderful! Can I have some?" is extremely high. Also it's much healthier and cheaper than store-bought versions, and you can customize to your taste. I was recently at a bakery and saw one pound of very similar granola going for $16! Seriously!? Each batch (lasts me about a month) costs between $5-$10, depending on what nuts or sugar I use.