Archive for August, 2009


Burlington, VT

   Posted by: Livia N    in Food, travel

Okay, Burlington People:

So I’m having trouble getting student coverage at work for the week of vacation. Because instead of starting the first week of September, this school has decided to start classes two days before I had my vacation planned (what do you mean it’s my fault for not checking since the academic calendar is posted three years ahead?). Erm… so I might be trimming my vacation a little.

Here’s the plan. I’m taking off work on Friday. And we are driving up as far as Connecticut and staying the night.

Saturday (9/12), we are driving to Burlington, and I’ll be checking into my swanky B&B. My parents and I will be going out somewhere delicious for dinner, if you have any recommendations and/or want to meet up then. I’m also taking sight seeing suggestions for that day. After dinner (say by 7-8pm-ish), my parents will probably turn into pumpkins, and I’ll be free.

Sunday (9/13) – Sunday brunch with parents is a must. Noon to 5pm, we’ll take a bus tour of close bits of Vermont. 5:30-10:30pm – there are various opening ceremonies and mediocre cocktails parties with the conference. I can go or skip.

Monday (9/14) – I think I want to find somewhere to do fancipants yoga on Monday morning. And my mother and I are free for an excursion. I’m thinking King Arthur Flour over in Norwich (1 hour away, if we don’t get lost). What else is out that way? Want to come with/guide us? And then we have to be back by 5pm because there’s a dinner cruise on the lake at 6pm. It’s my mother’s birthday.

Tuesday (9/15) – will I have had time to hang out with you by then? If so, I’m going to go ahead and book a 9am train back to philly. If not, I’ll spend Tuesday socializing and go home on Wednesday. Let me know so I can adjust train/hotel reservations as necessary.

Other things to do:
Shelburne Museum
Vermont Country Store

So I called out sick from work on Friday. Yeah. It was lovely.

Basically, I had a food blogger potluck, no food, and performance anxiety. And a plethora of sick days available.

Plan A for food: Pita chips and tzatziki.
I’ve started taking that to almost every pot luck type thing, and I wasn’t feeling it this time. I drained the yogurt, but I didn’t even work up to buying the pita.

Plan B for food: Salsa
I’ve got a butt load of tomatoes from my garden, but, again, I didn’t work up enthusiasm. (It’s okay – I think I’ll work up to it next week or so and then can/jar some)

Plan E for food: So I had a two-week old plan to use up eggplants in my fridge in imam bayildi… and two week old eggplants, which ended up in the compost because they were a little fuzzy. But it was a good plan – and one that would help me with my tomato backlog. So I drove off to one of the big Asian supermarkets in south philly to acquire eggplants (of the variety often found near me, but not when I’m looking for them).

food bloggers potluck
Okay, so let me tell you the genius of using Asian (long, skinny) eggplants for this Mediterranean dish: bite-sized imam bayildi!

Not a big pile of mush! No, these were 4-5cm long segments, each one with it’s own little pocket-forming slit and awesome deliciousness. It turned out just as well as I had planned (and better than I’d feared, the big pile of resulting mush would still have been delicious, though, so no worries). And I got the portion right (about 30 pieces) for the gathering, so there was just enough let over at the end of the evening for a lunch-sized portion for me.

And what do you know – someone else had brought chips and homemade salsas and another person has pitas and dip. No one else had mysteriously delicious eggplant with tomatoes and onions and parsley.

Oh, and I also took a fruit salad which I loved

Fruit Salad

watermelon, hand-picked blackberries, and banana slices that had been dosed in lime juice and ginger juice.

I loved it and thought it needed more of the sauce throughout! Those bananas were yummy.

What else was there?

Teagan brought a pasta salad with mint pesto and an indian string bean and carrot dish with mustard seeds. Oh, and she also had a pumpkin and coconut pudding.

Marisa brought a big jar of pickles with delicious onions.

Someone had a plate of traditional pimento cheese sandwiches. Up here, that is an exotic gourmet treat. Yum!

Messy & Picky brought a tasty and simple corn salad.

North Port Fishington Vegan Cookie Factory brought donuts

Someone made little caprese salads on a stick with grape tomato halves framing little mozzarella lumps and basil

someone brought carnitas

There was a fruit tart.

And the host made tasty peanut butter cookies.

There was socializing.

And then I left.

farmers market! – where I achieved my primary goal of acquiring a lot of dubious peaches.
looking at potential houses…

Meeting up with friends for a game night
I took some more of the same fruit salad (but with a slightly higher ratio of lime/ginger to fruit that for the potluck), but the people trying it this time thought it tasted a bit wonky.

then dinner
a failed quest for ice cream
and home

first there was kick ass yoga.
then I went on an emergency quest for pectin (only to be found in solid form at the whole foods)
and did laundry

and then I made jam
and then I made a tonne of peach jam.

I started cutting up and sugaring peaches while I boiled the jars.

first project was re-cooking the white peach with lime and ginger from last time that did not set up properly. I just cooked it down more and added some more pectin from the last packet of liquid pectin. I think it turned out better, but I haven’t tried. it. (yield: 4 – 4oz jars)

second project – was making a non-spicy jam for geeksdoitbetter, but I think the 2 parts fruit to 1 part sugar recipe is a bit too sweet for me, and I like spicy to balance that. Also, I’m actually not a bit jelly person, and I quite like jam from the supermarket. I’m not trying to make something I will enjoy from any ole source, so I might as well get wacky. So a simpler recipe was hard. I ended up adding about 1/4 cup of the cherries we’d picked together and that she’d dried with quite a lot of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and possible allspice. When those cherries were finished, she was quite sure they were way too heavily seasoned, so I only used that many for about 6 cups of fruit and 3 cups of sugar – and then I added cranberries when I decided it was a little too sparsely populated with fruit (if you are going to have random dried fruit chewy bits, then there should be enough to pop up reliably, instead of as surprise chewy). No other seasoning. For this one, I added 3 teaspoons of dried pectin, and it seemed like it was going to set up rather solidly. (yield: 3 – 4oz jars; 3 – 8oz jars)

third project – so then I went looking for savourier options, and started with 5 Spice Powder. A lot of 5 spice powder. And then some ginger juice. And a wee little bit of black pepper sauce. Stir cook stir. And then it didn’t seem to have a distinctive enough flavor, so things went a bit wacky. I added a little rice vinegar and some soy sauce, and then I added some sambal oelek for kick, and the hot version finally tasted right. (yield: 5 – 4oz jars; 3 – 8oz jars)

Fourth project – So I have a coconut, and I was thinking of adding shredded unsweetened coconut meat to one, but at 10pm it was a little much work to start on. So I went for a peach masala theory. I added a lot of Penzey’s garam masala. And I wanted a few more savory notes, so I added a shake or two of Penzey’s Rogan Josh. Oh, and this one got just 1 teaspoon of solid pectin for about 6 cups (maybe more) of peaches. Cook cook stir cook. And then when it was near thick enough, I melted some coconut fat in another pan and fried up a generous quantity of mustard seeds and nigella seeds (and added three drops of mustard oil when the coconut fat seemed to be toasting more quickly than the seeds). Add to jam. This one tasted awesome hot, and I have high hopes for it being my favorite. yield: 6 – 4oz jars; 2 – 8oz jars; and 2 wee tiny jelly jars because I couldn’t bear to leave the little scrapings in the pot to be washed down the drain)

Fifth project – And I liked the peach chipotle jam I made in the first experiment so much, that I tried to replicate that batch. By this point my tastebuds were so blown with sticky peach that I suspect I made it spicier, but hey. Same ingredients at least. (yield: 6 – 4oz jars; 1 – 16oz jar)

project 4.5 and while I had just started cooking down the peaches for batch 5, I threw my Green Tomato Salsa in a pint jar and boiled it for the entire length of the cooking process and all because I couldn’t bear a 6th round of heating stuff before canning it. I’m storing it in the fridge in case that wouldn’t be sufficient to make it shelf stable, but it should at least slow down the aging process. (yes, there’s lots of vinegar in the salsa)

Oh, and I went out to dinner
Oh, and I went out to dinner. With a boy. Yeah, it’s my co-worker on whom I have a vague crush, but I’m pretty sure it’s doomed.

So we tried out the new Tampopo near me. The dumplings were exceptional – with a light skin and filling with flavor. Pan fried to deliciousness. He ordered the hot, spicy tofu – which was tasty. The tofu had nice crispy edges. I ordered hot, spicy squid, and my tentacles were not too chewy. Same sauce really was used for both. And the portions were small, but it was a full meal’s worth and sized right for the price. No service and free water.

And the place was chock full of the most stereotypical west philly people, and I kept getting distracted from my barely coworker level of intimacy conversation by the wacky west philly people discussing their accupuncture and tattoos.

a little more house shopping before work…

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I had Jury Duty. Only I called the night before and was told they didn’t need me. So did I go to work like a responsible citizen? No! Of course not! I took today off work. Whee!

Plan a: wake up at 6:30am, get on the road by 7:15; get to a pick your own farm in New Jersey by 8am; pick stuff; drive to a pick your own farm in Pennsylvania; pick more stuff (they have late season strawberries!); have lunch with my parents; drive home; pick up two yoga classes that I usually am working during and have never tried these teachers.

How did that work?

Well, I got out of the house more like 8am. Still pretty darn perky.

Got to the PYO farm in New Jersey. I really like this place; it has a huge variety of things to pick. I started off with slips to pick blackberries and blueberries.

blackberries I love blackberries more than any other fruit-type thing. When I was little, we had blackberries growing in our backyard: tight, little fruits full of flavor. And I’m always a bit disappointed by these lush, overflowing things that have been selected as the ideal blackberry. Well, it looks like the breeding of grafting or whatever you need to do to make the big berries, isn’t 100% because I could find more compact berries on the same brambles as the juicier ones. \o/! So I went down a row and back up and had filled my two containers-worth of blackberries. (and then there was a moment of ick, when my feet, wet with the lingering dew of the humid summer morning, hit the sandy driveway… and there was unexpected sandiness of unpleasantness.)

blueberries I caught the trailing end of the blueberry crop, but I’ve always had a fondness for smaller berries, here, too. So it just took a bit more patience to pull a berry here and there until … well, the container wasn’t full, but I was done.

(side note: that’s twice now this week that I have seemed to be overheated without feeling hot at all. I’m a little worried by this development, but I figure summer won’t last too much longer and my body can figure out its issues if I give it time)

So I decided not to pick peaches or white grapes or anything else on offer, but I did buy some peach and nectarine seconds. (and, yes, a doughnut – they were making them on site)

And then I drove straight to my parents’. We went out for lunch. I suggested the little Mexican shack that had opening up fairly close to their place, but my mother said there was a place in town that was better… turned out to be Qdoba (WTF parents?). Apparently, they’ve started doing their regularly because it is right next to the social security office. (awww… old parents) But they were paying, so I only hassled them a little about it.

Gave them some blackberries and drove home and took a nap.

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Dubious food – vintage caviar

   Posted by: Livia N    in dubious, Food

So I got two small jars of cheap caviar from my mother (*cough*about 5 years ago*cough*) because she hadn’t gotten around to using them (*cough*for about 5 years before that*cough*).

Do you think it’s a fair experiment to open them up and poke at them a bit to see if they are okay?

Needless to say, if there is an expiration date on these, we are way past. But sometimes those are purely hypothetical.

(no, there’s no bulging. Yes, I know to abort the plan if there are funny smells (what is a funny smell when you are talking about fish eggs? Yes, I know to abort if there is a large growth of mold.)

ETA: received following comment;

And, okay, so the glass is dark, but they’ve been packed in water and salt…you know, I’m still saying you should dump them. Salt’s great and all, but if the eggs’ve been packed in it that long then I’m thinking the salt’s had time to dissolve, and regrow around and inside the eggs…either way you’re looking at inedible.

Removed jars from cardboard packaging and saw that one of them had definite green colors going on. Disposed of them, jars unopened.


productive but sleepy

   Posted by: Livia N    in Food, weight/exercise

I have been almost as productive as my ideal schedule of me! Wow.

I made it to karate both Monday and Wednesday (though I’m a bit hobbled by it still, and I’m glad I have a while between Wednesday and next Monday for my body to recover).

I made it to yoga Thursday night.

And I’ve cooked everything except the imam bayildi! So there was tasty beef & kohlrabi stir-fry last night, and I made a leftover quiche this morning. That’s what I’ll grab for dinner tonight! Quiche! In my fridge!

So tonight I am swapping fresh roma tomatoes for dried ones and grey yarn for tall storage jars.

Tomorrow, I shall offer up fresh regular tomatoes and fresh basil in exchange for buschetta. Also exchanging vanilla, parsley, and mint for other delicious foodstuffs and socializing.

Sunday, I shall receive ginger beer as an exchange for jam.

YAY food!

Oh, and I also did laundry this morning. Only one load, even though I had two loads’ worth of clothing because that was all I had in currency. But I got the stinky gi washed, and all of my underwear, and a few other things. And all of the mentionables are hanging out on the line to dry.

And I got to work by 9am. (so I had to catch a cab in order to be timely, but I was totally in on time)

I can haz nap nao?

So yoga at 5:30? Mmm… probably not.


update – food planning aborted due to pantry moths

   Posted by: Livia N    in dubious, Food

So I punted on Tuesday’s dinner plans – hopefully the eggplants will still be okay by Sunday.

Did not acquire more free peaches in a rare act of prudence (even if they would have been free again, I just don’t have time to even cut them up and sugar them this week. Maybe next week)

Came home last night to realize that I had a few kitchen moths so I did a pantry purge. Luckily, I grew up with a mother who was terrified of having kitchen moths, so most of my moth-friendly staples are in the fridge (all of my flour and most of my rice). But since I am sans-internet at home these days, I got all of my moth information from Meghan and my mother, each of whom has only dealt with them once. So I threw out the spices I had in plastic bags from the indian market because they are kinda floury (curry powder, ground coriander, etc.) and no one knew for sure either way, though both guessed they’d be fine. It’s cool – they were getting old. And I threw out my baking soda (the baking powder is in a canister) and corn starch and the bag of corn meal I bought 5 years ago and only used 2 Tablespoons of. I threw out my opened, but tightly clipped, bags of legumes but I did not throw out the new bags, which I suppose are just as likely to be permeable and/or infested, but meh! I did not throw out the oatmeal in a sealed plastic container, nor the basmati rice in a screw-top plastic jug. I threw out the tail end of a box of rotini, but I did not throw out the open spaghetti or lasagne noodles. And, without opening it, I think I figured out that the one thing most likely to have moths in it was the canister of bread crumbs, which hasn’t been opened in 6 months or so. So is there anything I haven’t thrown out that you think I should? What about the string of dried chilies hanging from the ceiling? Ooh, and the internet says they eat candy – I guess I’d better polish off my two fancy chocolate bars tonight.


food planning

   Posted by: Livia N    in Food, lists

I have three meals of food in my fridge – if only I have three nights of energy to make them.

Meal #1 – stir fry
beef, already cut in strips (but I haven’t added a marinade)
snow peas

Meal #2 – quesadillas
Mexican chorizo
leftover sauteed onions & peppers
summer squash
salsa (not yet made)

Meal #3 – imam bayaldi
olive oil

food in fridge not accounted for:
chicken leftovers
the rest of the summer squash
green beans
more tomatoes

Tuesday, August 4
9pm go home promptly
line a baking sheet with foil
split green tomatoes in halves and set to roasting (350F)

clear off sewing table and pull out sewing machine

turn roasting pan

get out sewing machine, plug it in, and find white thread

wash japanese eggplants. Peel in strips and place in soup pot until the base if covered, no more (if there is eggplant left over, it’s going in the stir fry). Add olive oil to the soup pot and brown the eggplant, turning as you go.

Mark up the pants, and pin them while you are standing around turning the eggplant.

put roasted tomatoes in a container in the fridge.

Microwave cooked leeks, chop up tomatoes, chop garlic, chop parsley, squeeze lemon into a teacup and mix in sugar and some water

fill eggplants, pour liquid over, close up pot, lower heat, and let cook for 45 minutes.

hem pants

Wednesday, August 5
If pants are not hemmed yet, hem them OMG!
if pants are hemmed, vacuum floor.

breakfast: slice up the rest of friend’s bread and toast it. Mix together diced fresh tomato, roasted garlic, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Eat bruschetta.

toast some blueberry muffins and top with blueberry jelly.

set out work clothing

pack to take to work: peach chipotle jam

on way to karate, see if the thrift store has a bit canning pot

10:20am – karate!

1pm-9pm work work work

2pm – pop head out to the farmers’ market and offer to trade jam for more free peaches

9pm – leave work promptly (hopefully, lugging peaches home)

wash and slice all the summer squash, sautee it with fajita seasoning

pull the green tomatoes out of the fridge and remove the skins. Make salsa out of them.

stir a marinade into the stir fry beef

Pull the squash out and sautee the sausage. Add the onions and peppers in at the end.

make a salsa from fresh tomatoes?

pre-treat laundry?

make quesadillas and eat them – nom nom nom

save leftovers bits that didn’t fit in quesadillas.

Thursday, August 5
remove pie crust from fridge

8:30am take laundry to laundromat

slice open melon and eat it.

put pie crust in pie plate and prick

retrieve laundry and hang to dry

bake pie crust

plant cherry tomato plant?

buy dairy product?

put into crust:
– leftover chorizo
– leftover cooked squash
– parsley, lovage, thyme, savory
– leftover chicken
– any leftover cooked leek
– cheese
– eggs
– dairy

Make a quiche!

Don’t have time to eat the quiche, so pop it, loosely covered, in the fridge

go to work

work work work

9pm – come home promptly

remove clothes from line and put away

make stir fry!

read book for book group

Friday, August 7
cut a slice of quiche and take it to work for breakfast! Be smug.

pack to take to work: exercise clothes, grey yarn, roma tomatoes, a few regular tomatoes

9-5 work

5:30-6:45 yoga

7pm – dinner – of quiche!

8-11pm book group

come home and cut up some peaches and sugar them – put in refrigerator

Saturday, August 8
wake up early and cut and sugar the rest of the peaches

10-11:30 yoga
11:45-12:45 pilates

1pm go home and bathe, OMG! (yes, theoretically this has happened a few more times in the schedule, but still)

possibly eat – bagel and cream cheese? With a fried egg? Or maybe, just maybe, there might be some quiche left.

get character sheet and take a jar of peach sauce over to gaming group for hanging out and experimental food.


Chances of all of that happening with none falling by the wayside? Approaching 0%, but we’ll see.


Jam update

   Posted by: Livia N    in experiments, Food, Recipe, sauces, vegan, vegetarian

Peach Chipotle Jam

Ended up including:

4 cups of cut up yellow peaches
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 lemons (zest and juice)
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp (dipping the spoon in gently twice) adobo sauce with chipotle peppers
1/4 tsp (2 generous shakes, really) ground chipotle
8 whole allspice berries
once boiling – 1/2 packet of liquid pectin

Directions: Cook cook cook. Stir. Stir. Cook Cook Cook. Remove allspice.

Take sanitized jars, fill with jam, clean rim, add lid, return to boiling water for 30 minutes, remove and let cool.

Jam of awesome!

yield: 4 – 8oz jars

result: Has a loose consistency, but still holds together enough to be called preserves. Tastes delicious! Tingles my tongue without burning – must remember, however, not to offer to my more heat-sensitive friends.

Ginger Peach Jam with lime

Ended up including:

4 generous cups cut up white peaches
2 cups white sugar
4 limes (zest and juice)
pinch of salt
2 healthy glugs of ginger juice (1-2 Tablespoons?)
3/4 inch of fresh ginger, minced
4 – 2″ stalks of lemongrass (for cooking, and then stood up in each jar)
1/2 packet of pectin

Directions: Cook cook cook. Stir. Stir. Cook Cook Cook.

Take sanitized jars, fetch out a lemongrass stalk and put it in the jar, fill with jam, clean rim, add lid, return to boiling water for 30 minutes, remove and let cool.

yield: 5 – 8oz jars (yes, I was 1 lemongrass short)

result: Didn’t jell at all. It makes a very tasty sauce/syrup, but it’s not jam. I am considering popping these back open and recooking them – possibly even turning them into chutney.

Plum and Nectarine Jam

Ended up including:

1.5 cups of assorted plums and nectarines (and one white peach that was in disguise as a nectarine)
3/4 cup of sugar
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt
10 black cardamom seeds, ground
the last squeezings from the pectin packet

Directions: Cook cook cook. Stir. Cook Cook Cook. Go, “Oh shit! It’s burning to the bottom! Best can it right away!”

Take sanitized jar, gently fill with jam without scraping the bottom, clean rim, add lid, return to boiling water for 30 minutes, remove and let cool.

yield: 1 – 8oz jars (and just a wee bit extra)

result: Firm and solid like real jam (like you can buy in stores). Managed to take it up without getting any burned bits in – so it still has a nice, clear flavor. The cardamom, which I was expecting to be nigh overwhelming, it only faintly noticeable if you are looking for it. I think this is the one I’m giving to my parents because they like a fairly traditional (i.e. simple flavors) jam.

The two people who kept me company and loaned me a big pot each took home a jar of jam. One opted for the chipotle one, and the other wanted the ginger peach one even though it was loose: she plans to put it over ice cream.

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