Food and garden talk

Sunday, January 31, 2010

We've been cooking like crazy lately and haven't eaten much at all that we didn't make ourselves. It's sort of a goal of mine. I say sort of because I know it isn't realistic to do that 100% of the time. With my lazy schedule this semester, I do have plenty of time through the week to do stuff like make bread or peanut butter. How can you not feel good about having a piece of homemade bread with homemade peanut butter as a snack? I've felt really good about our diet the last few weeks, just by virtue of eating better food.

Speaking of cooking, I am IN LOVE with my new cookbook, All About Braising by Molly Stevens. Please get this book and be as happy as me! It is beautiful. There are plenty of recipes with everyday ingredients, and some with special ingredients if you want to try something new. Here is a sampling of recipes from the book that I found online.

This is a boneless leg of lamb I'm probably making for Valentine's Day:

Creamy Braised Brussels Sprouts:

Vietnamese Braised Scallops:

Whole chicken braised with pears and rosemary

Short Ribs braised in porter ale with maple rosemary glaze:

Heather, this goes out to you: have I been doing any gardening lately? Not really! My last garden was LAST winter, when we did cabbages, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. It was pretty late yielding, and we didn't start eating much of it until March. Then, Tom's accident happened, and I hadn't touched the beds at all until earlier this month. We finally got out there and cleaned out the beds, uprooting the old fall veggies from last year. The word "cabbage patch" only begins to describe what we experienced. That stuff was so overgrown and intertwined. But now the beds are cleaned, and in March, we'll replace the weed barrier and plant some spring veggies. This year, we are sticking with what we know we can grow easily: peppers (bells and jalapenos), tomatoes (will grow them in 5 gallon buckets), and okra. Maybe some garlic and onions.

Next fall, I want some blueberries!

One more book recommendation for the road: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I just started it this weekend, and I also have The Omnivore's Dilemma waiting for me, but so far I like it. So far, it's about how most of what is marketed as "food" really isn't food. Interesting read.

How long can you focus on one thing??

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I have a hard time writing research papers. Not really for class - those are normally pretty easy, you can follow a formula and go for it. But, I started working on a research project about 1.5 years ago. I guess you could call it a few semesters of "pilot" testing, since now that I've been working with the data for quite a while, we have brainstormed some changes to the research design, and we're rolling it out for summer and fall and hoping to publish it.

At this point in the research process, I should be able to write the introduction and methods section of the paper. Heck, I should be able to write the whole dang thing about the 4 semesters of pilot work, including results/discussion. The whole shebang. I run hot and cold with this project. I love it and hate it. I hate running the not-really-an-experiment experiment. I hate writing about it. But anytime I'm forced by deadline to make a presentation or write about the study, I am always reenergized when I realize that people are actually interested in what I'm doing!

Once I FINALLY sat down last week and wrote up the changes I want to make to the research design, now I am ready to cash in on my excitement and start writing this puppy up! Enter: new deadline. Got an email about a deadline extension for graduate students to submit papers about their research for some kind of award at a conference. Decided not to do it because conference attendance (in New Orleans in 3 weeks) is mandatory. Was talked into doing it anyway and figured out a way to keep the trip fairly inexpensive. So, now I have a deadline (Tuesday) for writing this stuff up.

But for some reason, it is so hard for me to sit and write a paper like this! I wish it didn't take a real deadline to motivate me, because the quality would probably be better if I would just meet my own deadlines. So anyway, I am about to open this paper again and try to write UNDISTRACTED for one hour. The second I have any brief writer's block, I'll have to fight the urge to click on Facebook, Words with Friends, my phone, etc.

How do people like me ever finish dissertations? I guess they don't! I'll have to figure out how to be like someone else once the time comes for me. :-)

UPDATE: I did it! 1 hour undistracted. And I typed my butt off the whole time!

TRYING to end on a positive note...LOL

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

OK I guess I won't try to end on a positive note...I'll end on a positive note!

There was a bit of a job switcheroo last week, when I was given an assistantship. Typically, when grad students are given an assistantship, it means they work with professors in their program and get some kind of compensation, usually money, health insurance, and tuition. Which I should be really excited about, but honestly, it happened so fast that it's left me reeling in shock. And I didn't love the way it happened either. For example, my boss, the woman who took me in for no good reason and gave me a great job, supported me through what was the hardest year of my life last year, was told I accepted the assistantship before I even knew it was on the table. I don't know if it was some kind of misunderstanding, but it felt kinda wrong to me, like there was a lot more going on than I know about.

Ideally, the offer would've been on the table last month, giving me, and my boss for that matter, time to consider our options. One thing that kinda chokes me up (and I so hope I'm not mistaken) is that even with all this hooey, she seems to be looking out for me. I know I'm a good employee - I don't mean to sound like this is all a one way street, but I also know I have a good thing at school. So, what IF the offer had been on the table earlier? I guess there are two options. My boss would find a way to match it. Or, we'd all have time to mull it over, and even if it was decided that the assistantship really was the best offer, I'd take it but be able to feel good about the way it went down.

Instead, I feel pretty uncomfortable about leaving my old, comfy job and starting a new one. My old boss said, and I really hope she meant it, that I made the right choice taking the job. Apparently, the wrong here wasn't in my actions but in the way this all went down. But tell that to my guilty conscience. This kinda thing eats me up.

One more gloomy paragraph. This morning, I got a headache in my class and couldn't shake it all day. I took Tylenol and everything. What the heck kind of headache doesn't go away when you take medicine? Ugh! But it wasn't a terrible headache, so I toughed it out and went to the gym after I left the office. When I got home at almost 6, I was totally miserable. My head hurt so bad! It was maybe the worst, most stubborn headache of my life. Tom was precious, bringing me ibuprofen, water, and peanut butter on whole wheat bread. I laid down til 7 and did feel a little better, but my head is hurting again. How much drugs can I really take in a day?? I will take another dose of ibuprofen real quick before bed. This is for the birds. On one hand, I hope it's stress related so I'm not getting sick or something. On the other hand, I don't want to be stressed out enough to get a headache like this. :-S

I need to focus on some positives and quit worrying about things I can't change (anymore).

I really am excited about getting to work with other professors, it's just buried under the hooey. I have a task to do for one of them tomorrow (I was assigned to 2, 10 hours/week each), and I'm looking forward to working on something different than I'm used to.

I got up early today even though I had an extra 45 minutes to sleep if I wanted.

I cleaned off my desk at the office. :-)

I got to catch up with my friend Twila and schedule a happy hour.

My husband was really sweet about my headache. And he put together our salad for dinner.

I worked my butt off at the gym today. Plan to tomorrow also.

I rented a new locker at the gym and asked for one in the back because last semester, I was right by the door, and it was like, "Hello and welcome to the locker room, from me and my boobs." Apparently, the girls in the back of the locker room like to walk around completely naked, which is kinda awkward for prudish me. But hey, at least I can change in relative privacy without going into a bathroom stall. *thumbs up*

On the radar for tomorrow:
1) Make my lunch.
2) Work in the office
3) Possibly meet 2nd new boss who I haven't met yet?? Guess I better brush my hair...
4) Gym
5) This for dinner.

Good night! I feel better having written some stuff out...

Cheesy inspirational quote

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Today I'm not going to try, I'm going to do!" LOL

I do quite a bit, but this goes out to all the stuff I try to do every day. So, tomorrow:

I'm not going to try to eat breakfast at home...

I'm not going to try to fix my hair right and wear makeup...

I'm not going to try to make my lunch before I leave...

I'm not going to try to make it to the gym...

I'm not going to try to throw my bike in the back of the pickup...

I'm going to do it!

As for tonight, I'm not going to try to put away the laundry...sigh, I better get after it.

Yes!!! Moment of GLORY

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On New Year's Day, you may remember my quest to make it to the end of Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism. I was determined to see the end of the DVD no matter how many breaks I needed to take. And I did.

Every day since, I did Level 1 on the 30 day Shred (which continues to kick my butt no matter how many times I do it). I took a break on Tuesday to rest my poor sore muscles. So, today I figured I'd try BFBM again, hoping to make it through 4 of the 7 circuits before taking a break. But I did the whole thing this time with no stopping! It probably helps that I am not suffering from too much sangria, cheese, and ice cream syndrome like on NYD, but who cares how, I am just so glad I made it through. This workout is 40 minutes long, compared to the Shred's 20 minutes. I still have plenty to work toward though: 1) Doing the advanced versions of all the exercises - I can only do about 1/3 of them all the way, if I want to make it though and not hurt myself, and 2) Alternating this every other day with the shred, instead of just occasionally.

Since I'm off work, you know we've been eating some tasty food, so here are a few new recipes we've tried:

Quinoa and Pistachio Salad with Moroccan Pesto - finally, a quinoa recipe that Tom liked! Or at least, said he liked and ate it anyway. This could handle more veggies easily. I would definitely dice some cucumber and throw it in next time. And cooking the quinoa with chicken stock and orange juice was delicious alone, without ever mixing it with the pesto. I loved the OJ in there! Next time I want just a plain grainy type of side dish, I'll make quinoa with OJ and chicken stock.

Cider Braised Pork Shoulder

Creamy Veggie Fondue (new year's eve fare, not 2010 fare)

Braised Short Ribs - AMAZING, worth every second spent preparing it. Used my new dutch oven to make it. If you missed it on Facebook, isn't it beautiful? Thanks to my parents' giving me a graduation gift card, I was able to pick up this beauty! And short ribs are sort of the quintessential dutch oven recipe, so I had to try it out right away.

Which reminds me, I haven't blogged about this exciting adventure, making no knead bread in the dutch oven. Check out this video to see how I did it. And this is how it turned out. Gorgeous huh?

It was crusty and perfect. The only thing is, it called for a dusting of wheat germ, cornmeal, or flour, and I used flour since I didn't have the others. The flour end up with a burned taste and smell cooking in the dutch oven, so I would definitely opt for the wheat germ or cornmeal next time. I did get a bread machine for Christmas not long after trying this recipe, but while I know I'll get a ton of use from the bread machine, I can't make something this pretty in there.

I will say, it wasn't QUITE as easy as they show in the video. I couldn't keep the dough from sticking to me no matter what I did, and I feel like I probably lost 25% of the dough along the way! But this was my first homemade bread (other than quick bread), ever - I'm sure there is a learning curve even for the easiest recipe.

Simple Whole Roasted Chicken - still love this recipe even though it makes my kitchen smell smoky. Do cover it once you put it on 425 for the last 30 minutes. I'm finally going to make my own chicken stock from the bones. Will do that tomorrow and use it Friday to make chicken noodle soup.

The breads I've made in the bread machine are Apple Pecan Cinnamon bread, which was supposed to be a sweet bread, but it just had the tiniest touch of sugar. We ate it for breakfast for a few days, then toasted it for the fondue on NYE, and it was REALLY awesome with the cheese. I made a cheddar beer bread, which wasn't out of this world because it didn't have much cheddar or beer flavor in it. And, I made a whole wheat loaf which is pretty tasty, but my quest for 2010 will be to find the best whole wheat/whole grain bread machine recipe. So, we'll be going through a lot of bread in the coming months! I'll have to get creative for using the leftovers without just stuffing our faces with bread constantly.

And with that, I am really hungry so I'm outta here. 6 more days til I go back to work. Boo!!

Banish fat, boost metabolism

Friday, January 1, 2010

This DVD is hard!! I could make it through the 30 day shred in one piece today, but no, I had to pick this one. I have only tried it once before, and I only made it about halfway through. Of course, a difficult cardio workout is probably not the best idea when you had too much sangria last night and have only had coffee, deadly cream cheese bars, and a little water so far today.

There are 7 brief circuits, which is nice because you won't ever be doing any one thing for too long. I just made it through 2 circuits and nearly died of nausea and sharp pains in my side. I have never seen the end of this DVD. So, I'm taking a break, gonna start it again in a few minutes and make it through another few circuits, take a break again if I need to, and FINISH it. I have to set a good precedent for the year. But doing 180 squats is a bit much. I won't lie...I was doing 90 degree squat jumps and I still nearly died. LOL

OK, back to it!

Update: made it through the next 3 circuits. Just two more left after this break. WHEW. :-)

Update: Finished! Need a shower. Wonder how long it will take before I can do the whole thing in one shot. Think I'll do the Shred tomorrow and alternate between the two.

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