TVP!

Aug. 15th, 2012 09:42 pm
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A friend of mine just blogged about his experiments with textured vegetable protein (TVP), which brought back memories.

My mother's father was in the Air Force, and at some point in his life, either during his career or after, he acquired cans and cans and cans of various survival food items.  When he died, we inherited somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 gallon-sized cans of whole wheat, and a much smaller number of more sensibly-sized cans of other things: dried apples (tasty), vanilla protein powder to be added to milk (vile), and some TVP.  My mom tried cooking with it precisely once, if I recall; it just didn't work very well in whatever she was trying to make.  It and the vanilla powder got discarded quickly.

The wheat was a different matter.  My mother inherited, at approximately the same time as all this canned stuff, a hand grinder which was probably her grandmother's.  We tried to use it to grind some of the wheat, but I think it was probably meant for meat more than anything else, as it was just really hard work to grind the grain.  My parents also had a little electrical coffee grinder, colored beige and that shade of orange peculiar to the '70s.  It ground somewhere between a quarter and half a cup of stuff at a go, and my dad used it occasionally to grind up batches of the wheat.  He then added the wheat flour to muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc, and quickly learned to use some white flour as well as wheat, as the baked goods would come out uncomfortably heavy and dense if he used 100% wheat flour.

After storing the twenty-some gallon cans of wheat for something over twenty years (including taking them with us when we bought a house), my parents finally decided to get rid of the wheat.  I think they gave the wheat to a local food pantry.  I hope the food pantry was equipped to deal with the donation!

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Last night I put together the basic recipe for chocolate sorbet at epicurious.com. Preparing the recipe is ridiculously easy, though you end up with a lot of dirty dishes at the end of it. After blending the final mix, I left the mixture in the blender and stuck it in the fridge overnight. As the recipe warned, it didn't seem terribly liquidy this morning, but stirring it up with a fork produced a potentially useful stopping place: chocolate syrup! If you make this recipe with chocolate that doesn't have any milkfat in it, it's vegan- and allergic-to-milk- friendly. And given that it's (in my case) Ghirardelli cocoa powder plus Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate, plus some water and sugar and a little salt and vanilla, it's really tasty.

The stuff seemed to freeze pretty well, perhaps unsurprisingly; chocolate likes to solidify when it's cold, after all. (Note to self: if the opening of the container you plan to store the ice cream or sorbet in isn't all that big, knock the sorbet off of the paddle while holding the paddle over the freezing cylinder, not the final storage container. Otherwise you have a mess to contend with!) A small taste indicates that the final chocolate sorbet product is of reasonable smoothness and very chocolatey - what's not to like in the list of ingredients?

We'll do this again at Christmas for my husband's family, using a brand like theo or Scharffenberger that doesn't have any milkfat in it.
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I was given a spiffy new electric ice cream maker for my birthday back in October, with the (joking) condition that I use it to make a sorbet or two for the family gathering at Christmastime. (There are a couple of people who have dairy allergies, so ice cream, ice milk, and frozen yogurt are right out.) So I'm trying out recipes.

Lemon-Basil sorbet: recipe and notes )
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Well.  The ginger syrup I made last night is... strong.  I think I probably had more ginger than the original recipe, and the whole shebang sat on the stove cooling overnight, then in my fridge all day because I didn't have a good container for it, so the various herbs sat in it for quite some time.

If you add it to your seltzer expecting ginger ale, you're going to be disappointed... but only in that it's so concentrated, you get a great deal of ginger without a lot of attendant sweetness.  But it *is* pretty tasty.  (If you taste it straight, take just a fingertip's worth.  Really!)
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Right now I am simmering together a bunch of ginger, some cardamom, star anise, allspice, and peppercorns, a la FormerChef.com, the blog on food, recipes, and travel written by [livejournal.com profile] orichalcum 's sister-in-law. 

My mom would have LOVED this.  She was a huge seltzer drinker for a sizable chunk of her life (guess who got me started?) and, as I've mentioned once or twice before, she really enjoyed cooking.  She would have thought the SodaStream was the best thing since sliced bread, and would probably have made three different syrups already.  :)

SodaStream!

Apr. 2nd, 2011 09:40 pm
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With a 20% off coupon in hand, we visited Bed Bath & Beyond this evening.  They had the Genesis model of the Sodastream in stock, and I purchased it.  It seems to work!  I installed the cartridge, and have made my first bottle of fizzy water.  The kit comes with one CO2 cartridge, and two plastic bottles (NOT dishwasher safe), as well as some flavoring things.

The enclosed soda syrups are generally considered to be foul.  I will not bother trying them.

The enclosed myWater(tm) orange seltzer flavoring smelled like alcohol and not like orange, and the bottle was difficult to close.  I will not bother trying it or the other two flavors.  A drop or two of orange extract seems to work fine to flavor a glass of seltzer.

We have a water filtration pitcher, and it's generally full of water in the fridge; it seems to work quite well for seltzer water.  (The manufacturer recommends chilling the water before use.)

Anyway... Yes, at the moment, I'm pleased with my purchase.  No more running to the store to get more!  No more remembering to put the next bottle in the fridge when I open a bottle!  Yay!
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There is something to be said for really excellent cake.  (I've been lucky enough to have pieces of two different excellent cakes in the space of the last day.) 

But there's also something to be said for an honest, simple sandwich, made of whole grain bread and fresh fillings.  'Specially when it's past one's normal lunchtime.  Yay!

---------------

On another note, it is NOT FAIR that Huz and I both have ANOTHER cold.
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My aunt asked me:

"I would like to explore online kosher meat companies that ship nationwide.

Can you recommend such a company?"

I told her that neither we nor any member of Huz's family was practicing Jewish, so we had no first-hand knowledge of any such company, but that I had friends who were and would ask them.

Any ideas, recommendations, dis-recommendations?

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We saw these for sale today at our local Whole Foods:


Yup.  Ostrich eggs.  I kid you not.  Huz took this photo as we stood and stared at them.

If you want to know, here's how you prepare them.  Me, I'm not spending thirty dollars just for curiosity's sake.  Plus, the equivalent of TWO DOZEN chicken eggs is... kind of a lot.
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Ganked from myfoodlooksfunny.com in the So... Wrong... category:



According to the site, these are pineberries.  They're a variety of strawberry, generally smaller than the usual ones, are quite fragrant, and have a mild pineapple flavor. 

My brain might just go asplode now.  Goodnight!

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I learned today that hotel restaurants get a little nervous when you start talking about a dinner for 14-17 people.  I hadn't thought about the matter at all from their point of view, but it turns out that that's above whatever their magic number is for turning a meal into a Function. 

I have been given daily and dessert menus for the hotel restaurant and asked to select 2-3 dishes from each main category, so the restaurant can put together simplified menus for people in my group.  This makes life easier for the kitchen staff, it happens.  Appetizers are pretty easy - New England Clam Chowder and house salad; main course selections will be the roast chicken, the single vegetarian option, and a seared salmon.  Dessert is tougher... How am I supposed to narrow down from a list of key lime cheesecake, triple berry shortcake with raspberry sauce, Boston cream pie, fresh berry pavlova and Grand Marnier whipped cream, Midnight Madness (I assume a very chocolate cake), and locally made fresh ice cream?  I want one of each!  Ah, decisions, decisions..
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Here's that lasagna recipe I promised people last week, courtesy of our college friend Desiree Henshaw:

1 lb ground beef (can easily be lowered to 1/2 lb)
32 oz red spaghetti sauce (I don't think it's possible to get a 32-oz jar anymore.  Just get a standard size and increase the water a bit.  Play with the variety of the sauce!)
1.5 cups water
2 C (15 oz container) ricotta cheese (we always use the lowfat kind)
3 cups (12 oz) shredded mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese (reserve some for the top, if desired)
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/2 C parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
8 oz uncooked regular lasagna noodles
(optional: 1 package frozen spinach)

Preheat oven to 350°. 

Brown the beef and drain grease.  Add spaghetti sauce and water, and simmer till hot.  (Tip: use the water to rinse out the jar of spaghetti sauce.)  Optional: add 1 package frozen spinach.  This helps lighten the final product somewhat.

In a large bowl, mix ricotta, mozzarella (~2 cups if you want some on top of the lasagna), parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Layer the ingredients in a 9x13" pan as follows:

• enough sauce to cover the bottom (~2 cups)
• lasagna noodles
• sauce to cover noodles (~1.5 cups)
• 1/2 of the cheese mixture
• more noodles
• more sauce
• the rest of the cheese mixture
• remaining noodles
• cover with the remaining sauce
• top with remaining mozzarella, if desired

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for an hour.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake an additional 15 min to brown the top.  Remove from oven and allow to cool and set for at least 15 minutes before eating.  Makes a LOT, but keeps pretty well in the fridge.
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We finished watching our DVD of Ratatouille Saturday night. It was the perfect thing to see before visiting Straits Cafe, a marvelous and amazing restaurant specializing in Singaporean cuisine. They are more than happy to serve their dishes to a group family-style, encouraging everyone at the table to sample every dish. That worked out extremely well last night: the four dishes we had complemented each other very nicely indeed - and completely by accident, too!
What we ate and how good it was )

I can't recommend Straits heartily enough to anyone who likes really good Asian cuisine.  Overall, it's about the same price as or slightly more expensive than, say, Max's (main dishes range from around $10 to $36).  Well worth it if you live in the area and want something a bit different and extremely tasty, and worth spending a meal here if you're visiting the area.
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Thirteen years ago today, many of you watched as Huz and I became, well... Huz and I.  :)  Thirteen years later, and we're still crazy about each other.  Who'da thunk?  ;)

To celebrate, we've bought ourselves season tickets to Broadway San Jose.  (Minus one - we're neither of us interested in Legally Blonde, and they had this nice Buy Four option.)  Mind you, the tickets haven't shown up yet, and I need to bug the company about it. 

Huz has also been working with some sort of Langevin equation(s) in his programming.  I couldn't remember exactly what sort of Langevin he was fiddling with when I asked him about it, and referred to it as a Langevin whatsit.  A day or so later, he asked me what flavor a Langevin whatsit should be; after a moment's thought, I declared it should be lemon.  (He thought it would be nice to get me a  lemon-flavored Langevin whatsit for our anniversary.)  After some consideration, we decided on what exactly a lemon-flavored Langevin whatsit was:


Which we shall sample tonight.  Happy anniversary, Huz!
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I stayed home today, as I guessed yesterday I would.  I slept better than I had the previous night (the cold had largely moved from drippy to stuffy), but nowhere near enough to make up for the sleep I'd lost the night before.  After breakfast and Huz leaving for work, I went back to bed and slept for something over an hour.  It helped.  As did the Peach Pleasure with Immunity boost that I went and fetched myself at lunchtime.  I'm still not healthy, but I feel a great deal more alert than I did for most of yesterday evening.

I finished Phantom Hourglass.  Last boss battle is HARD, had to look up a second walkthrough to find out how to deal with his nasty spin attack.

I acquired a package of beef jerky at lunchtime too, figuring that something I could chew on without lots of calories might help my sinuses stay clear.  Don't know if it really helped, but it tasted nice.  However, I just noticed that the nice folks at Whole Foods probably paid someone to write the following jingle I found on the back of the package:

Sing this little song the next time you're "home on the range."
  Oh give me a snack
  I can fit in my pack
  Made with beef that's organically raised
  It's seasoned just right that when you take a bite
  By the flavor you will be amazed
  Our jerky's superb
  Low in fat and with protein so high
  That when hunger is strong just remember this song
  Eat beef jerky - it'll satisfy

I can just about hear Garrison Keillor singing it as a parody on Prairie Home Companion.

Finally, I know I've been nattering way too much about Scribblenauts and how much I'm looking forward to it.  But I think I've found a demo of it that will appeal to this crowd.  You can write "Cthulu" and "God" and they fight!

Back to work tomorrow I expect.  Mooooooooore minipreps!

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- The Ginger Peach Tea jam sold by Republic of Tea is really quite excellent.  (I ordered some for my mom, in the assumption that it would arrive sometime while we were visiting.)  There's a strong ginger flavor to it that really makes the jam.  I can't taste the tea in it, but that's okay.

- There's a free iPhone app specifically for browsing and downloading Librivox titles called Audiobooks.  From what I've heard, it's got a fantastic interface for browsing, downloading, and listening to LV books.  Go to the App store, or visit this website for more info.

- We spent time with animals the first few days here.  Sunday night, my brother and his family (two nephews, age roughly two and five) visited us, and Monday we saw a muskrat and a heron.  (Tuesday we got hopefully passable pictures of the muskrat.)

- Watched the Star Trek movie Tuesday night (had lots of fun as promised by virtually everybody) at the Somerville Theater.  Yay for old-style movie houses with front-row balcony seats!  Though it would have been nice had my seat bottom not parted company with the rest of the seat several times.
     - Adjunct 1: there will be a Star Trek movie post later with amused snarkiness
     - Adjunct 2: the crepe place 2 doors down from the Somerville Theater knows how to do strawberries and dark Belgian chocolate.  Yum!

- My bro lent us the Get Smart movie on Sunday, which we watched Wednesday night.  Apart from a few moments that were Absolutely Not Necessary (e.g. upchuck in the fighter plane), it was surprisingly enjoyable.  It was rather refreshing to have Agent 86 be really quite competent as a field agent!  It was a good choice, I think; it would have been difficult to carry off an entire movie-length period of bumbling-incompetent-somehow-saves-the-day-anyway.

Ahhhhhh..

Feb. 15th, 2009 03:58 pm
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There is nothing quite so civilized, so pleasant, as sitting down to a cup of really nice tea (Stash green chai), a plate of chips (we had no cookies), and a good book on a cold and rainy afternoon.  Pure heaven, that.

Being thus fortified, I will now go do vacuuming.
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• I got back DNA sequence data that confirmed that I have FINALLY finished making a particular expression vector that we've been working on for what feels like ages, and which will allow us to forge ahead on our experiments.  (That's what the bizarre "5mer-Gateway-AP" message in my Gmail chat profile was referring to, for anyone who wondered.)

• There was a box with See's chocolates in the lunchroom.  Not only that, but I picked out what was either a raspberry or a blueberry-filled chocolate.  Yummy!

• After clearing out a lot of the trees in my first two attempts on Inner Yoshpet to the Spirit Gate, Huz was kind enough to finish the run for me.  Thank you, Huz!!!!!! (I could probably have done it in another trial or two, but I needed a break.)

• Bedtime now!  Hope we sleep well, while it rains.  Yay rain!
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We live within easy walking distance of a Whole Foods grocery, and (until recently, for reasons completely unconnected to this post) have done most of our grocery shopping there. For fresh goods, both the price and quality regularly beat the local big-box grocery contender Safeway. The same is even true for some prepackaged things: Traditional Medicinals tea is a fair chunk less per box at Whole Foods than in Safeways organics section for no reason that I can imagine. Boxed cereal and canned goods, on the other hand, tend to be cheaper at Safeway. None of which has much to do with the discussion at hand, but is here anyway.

There are also some things that Whole Foods just does better than Safeway: their fresh-baked stuff, for example. In-house breads and (in particular) cakes at Whole Foods range from very good to fantastic. Perhaps with this information in mind, we've tried a few of their house brand of prepackaged baked goods - alas, with much more mixed results.

Sandwich bread, English muffins, naan, and pizza crusts )

So... overall, Safeway is better for prepackaged baked goods too.  Oh well!

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