Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spice Nerds

Yesterday mom and dad took me to some of our favorite shops around the
KC area. We started out at Penzy's Spices where mom sat in the corner
and knitted and dad and I smelled every spice in the store.

Merry Christmas from Lawrence

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I've got a lot of stuff I want to finish before the end of the year, but I took a few minutes the other night to set up our tiny tree complete with newly made tree skirt.



Hank promptly sniffed and swatted at it. Can't you see it in her eyes, that tree is a gonner. Luckily, almost all of the ornaments on the tree are the felt ornaments I made last year and red snowflakes my mom gave me last year that she crocheted to match the ones she made years ago when she and my dad didn't have money for Christmas ornaments. Sweet, huh?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas outside as well. We got hit with about 6 inches of snow over the last week and I don't think it is going anywhere for a while.



I mentioned last post that my CSA is over but I did get an e-mail from them this week announcing that a great local farm had lost their lease on their meat locker. This is unfortunate for them, but great for me since it meant that they had to sell off a huge amount of meat very quickly. So I bought ten pounds of locally produced, pasture raised, organic meat for $40. So I bought pork stew meat for posole, beef stew meat for, uh, beef stew, bologna because I don't like bologna but I want to try really good bologna, bacon because it is awesome, short ribs for braising, and fresh chorizo. Sweet deal and I got to go back out to Tait Farms one more time. They are gearing up for Christmas tree cutting season.



Back soon (I know I keep promising that).

p.s. Notice how the sun is setting over the mountains in that photo? That was taken at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I love Thanksgiving. Cooking, eating, friends and family. What could be better? I couldn't make it home (if I did, I would have been having dinner with 60 people instead of 6), but I did get to spend the evening with this wonderful band of people.

The food was delicious and the company was even better. I am so grateful to have this amazing group of friends when I can't be with my family. (Even better, all my friends are great cooks!)

This week was my last pick up of the CSA. Since we won’t be here come next August, we haven’t signed up for next year. So no more fresh, local, organic veggies for us for a while. I’m sure none of you need to be lectured on the ecological benefits of not using pesticides or eating food transported thousands of miles, but the thing I really got from the CSA was veggies younger and more tender than could ever be kept fresh long enough to make it to the store. My favorite part was the sense of place that I got from it. Plants tend to die when left in my care (anything capable of crying does fine), so I don’t really know what grows when or where. So when I finally sign up for a new one once we move, I’ll get to learn about what can be grown there!

Anyway, the contents of my bags this week clearly show that winter is near:
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (seriously)
Carrots
Potatoes
Parsnips
Kale
Leeks
Butternut squash

From these I want to make:
Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce with Cumin Spiced Carrots, and Chipotle Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Devilish Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks (this is sooooo good, you have to make it)

Since I have left you all without much in the way of menu reports recently, I thought I would mention a couple of my favorite things I made recently with CSA goodies:
Acorn Squash Quesadillas
Barley Risotto with Roasted Squash and Mascarpone Cheese
Pasta with Broccoli and Carrots in Feta Sauce
Potatoes, Escarole, and Leek Soup
Tony Luke Inspired Pork Cheesesteak with Broccoli Raab
Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash with Homemade Tortillas

p.s. Much to Hank’s pleasure, I did not bring home from the farm the adorable orphaned kitten that they were trying to find a home for.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ellen is Blazy

Ak! I knew it had been a long time since I last posted but a month?!? My deepest apologies. I really didn't mean to be away from you for so long but you see, I've been feeling really blazy lately. Blazy, is a word that popped into my head the other day when I was trying to get out of a (relatively unimportant) obligation the other day and had to choose between explaining that I was too busy (true) or admitting that I was also feeling far to lazy to to leave my house (also true). Thus, blazy.

So why have I been so blazy of late? Let me break it down for you. The business comes in large part from the pressure I put on myself when I made a time line for graduating next August. It's good to have deadlines, and I'm not behind yet, but I could be. The timeline looks something like this:
November - Finish preliminary analyses to identify candidate genes. Begin genotyping.

December - Complete genotyping (may include going to New Mexico)
January - Analysis of association with skin pigmentation
February - STR genotyping
March - Analysis of age of mutations
April - Final Analyses
Mary - Dissertation writing
June - Defense!
July - Corrections
August - Graduation

On the advice of everyone who knows me, I have added in some flex time because I always think I can get more done in a set period of time than I actually can. Reassuringly, my really amazing department chair recently told me that she has the same problem and that someone once did a study (she new who and when, I promptly forgot) indicating that people on average think it will take then a little less than half the time it actually will to complete a task. So on her advice, I took how long I thought I needed and multiplied it by a factor of 2.2.

The lazy part came from the end of daylight savings time (well, that is what I'm choosing to blame it on). Once upon a time, before I lived in central PA, I loved this whole "fall back" thing. An extra hour of sleep? I'm there. But now, the end of daylight savings time means that the sun sets before 5pm. That's right. Today, the sun set at 4:49pm and since we live in a valley it ceased to be visible around 4:30. I realize that the sun is setting earlier all across the country, but since the winter cloud cover has also rolled in it means that, on top of 9 hours of daylight each day, we won't see the sun unobstructed again until sometime in March. And, as it turns out, I'm solar powered.

So all of this is a long way of saying I have lots of excuses, but no good reason for being gone so long. I'll try to better, I promise.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pumpkin!

I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween (I scare so easily that I jump at noises I’m warned about), but I do love carving pumpkins. This week at the CSA pickup was a little bit boring: lettuces, peppers, kale, collard greens, and some herbs. There were also some blue potatoes which are so bizarre looking. But the best part is that I got a carving pumpkin! This is what I carved last year:



I was sort of at a loss for what to do this year, but then it struck me that this is Darwin’s 200th birthday so I found a suitable image of him online and will be carving this pumpkin this year.



I’ll be sure to post a picture when I carve it in a couple weeks. I don’t want to carve too earlier. Last year one of mine rotted before Halloween. Anyway, back to the CSA and food for the week. In addition to dinners this week (which we usually also use for lunch the next day), I made/will make some grab and go breakfasts and snacks. I’m working on Geoff’s schedule – 10:30 to 8 – so I’ve found that I either need an afternoon snack or an afternoon nap to make it to dinner. After the first time someone walked into my office and found me “resting my eyes” at my desk, I’ve tried to stay awake at work.

Sunday Lunch: Roasted Red Pepper Grilled Cheese and Salad
Sunday Dinner: Eggplant, Daikon, Red Pepper, Baby Veg Stirfry with Kashi 7 Grains
Monday: Poblanos stuffed with Corn, Black Bean, Tomatoes, Chicken, Cheese
Tuesday: Corn Chowder with Kale, Potatoes, Peppers , and Sausage flavored with Thyme
Thursday: Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens with Cornbread
Friday: Quiche Lorraine and Salad

Breakfasts: Grits Bake, Triple Apple Oat Bran Muffins
Snacks: Yogurt with Blueberries, Whole-Wheat Crackers and Natural Peanut Butter

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Better late than never?

Okay, two blog posts coming today because that is what I promised those of you who are threatening to mutiny if I don’t update soon. Fall is definitely here. The floorboard heaters kicked on the other day because they are set to come on when the temperature dips below 50. The sun is setting earlier and earlier and I’ve taken to keeping a quilt in the living room to curl up under (specifically a t-shirt quilt my mom made – she’s where I got the crafty).

Work has been more than a little overwhelming lately. In part because, as I have realized recently, I tend to underestimate the amount of time that tasks will take me by a factor of between 3 and 5. The last week, I’ve been off by about 10. So that is my excuse for taking three weeks to finally post the pictures from Sarah’s baby shower (note that in my last post on Sept 21 I promised them "tomorrow" - never believe me when I say that). I picked a Very Hungry Caterpillar theme so the guests were greeted by this window display which I put up the day before and got a lot of weird looks from neighbors:



To complete the theme, I made a banner of all the foods the caterpillar eats and my lemon cupcakes with caterpillar green frosting became a caterpillar with help from some construction paper.



Because I am who I am, I foisted my love of crafts onto the guests. Here they are painting onesies and making baby blocks.





When Sarah and Erick told Geoff and I they were pregnant, Sarah said “Do you remember when we made those onesies for Kat? Can we do it again for me?” So of course we had to make onesies again. We used freezer paper stencils and it couldn’t be simpler. The results were soooo cute that I’ve already promised to turn them into a quilt once Sarah and Erick’s little girl outgrows them.








The geisha girl, the lei, and the Yankees onesies are mine. I also made a man-friendly (so that Erick would carry it) diaper bag which was the first time I ever worked with elastic, Velcro, and zippers and I filled the bag with some more handmade gifts.





My favorite is the Humpty-Dumpty which has snapped on arms and legs so he can fall apart and be put back together again. The puppets are actually made out of terry-cloth so that they can be used as washcloths. I just freehanded the designs and they came out pretty well (I can't draw at all, seriously, it looks like I'm missing my arms and learned to hold a pen with my toes). Then there is a tag ball made of scrap fabric and bits of ribbon. Evidently, babies like to grab and suck on tags? The sweater was made by my mom from the pattern she learned from her mom and taught to me. I love the stripes and purple is Sarah’s favorite color. The mushroom thing there is a rattle and the caterpillar has a squeaky dog toy in its head, the red contains a crunchy cat toy, and the orange has a bell cat toy in it. All of this was extremely irritating to Hank because she didn’t get to play with it. The ruby slippers seemed appropriate from a Kansas girl and the little kimono shoes are just so cute that I had to make them. Sarah had a great time and I believe her because she cried repeatedly, which is a sign of happiness in pregnant women.

Speaking of pregnant women, I want to welcome the newest member of my family. My cousin Kimmie gave birth yesterday to Wyatt Eric and I can’t wait to meet him!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Spicy Menu

Yesterday was Sarah’s baby shower and it was so much fun. She loved it and we all had a great time. More details tomorrow (I want to upload photos for you!) but just because I wanted to say hi tonight, here is a quick look at the menu of the week. This week is going to be a doozy. I had big plans to get a bunch of work done by the end of September and all of the sudden it is the 20th!! You know that famous Einstein quote about relativity “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity.” Well this month has been so much fun that it felt like a week. So for the next seven days I’m going to get as much done as I can because next week my mom and dad are coming to visit!! So that is a long winded way of saying that I am going to mostly make simple meals this week so that I can get to work.

This week at the CSA, Geoff picked up leeks, kale, pear tomatoes, a few baby potatoes, zucchini and some crazy-looking 6 inch long peppers as well as some serranos . Since we have so many peppers, we’ll be having some yummy, spicy food all week.

Monday: Zucchini and Spinach Enchiladas
Tuesday: Roasted Tomatoes and Cippolini Onions with White Beans (from smitten kitchen)
Wednesday: Kale, Spicy Chicken Sausage, and Potato Pizza (I love it as a soup, why not a pizza)
Thursday: Devil’s Chicken with Braised Leeks (also from smitten kitchen)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Isn’t Self-Aggrandizement what Blogs are Really All About?

For the several weeks leading up to Sarah’s wedding, I spent my knitting night working on crafts for the bridal brunch. (To clarify, I have a knitting group on Thursdays, I don’t assign each day its own craft - although I should.) Anyway, my knitting companions were curious how the brunch went and I’m quite proud of the results so I thought I would share some more details. The guests seemed to enjoy themselves too.



The centerpieces were a bit of a challenged because I knew that I wouldn’t have time to get fresh flowers in Colorado Springs (especially with the bachelorette party the night before!). So I ended up spray painting Starbuck’s Frappucino bottles silver. I’m not a big fan of the Frapuccino, it is a little sweet, so Geoff drank them. I love how they came out. I got the idea from a blog where they were painted to look like old-fashion milk bottles. Then I added some willow branches and tissue paper flowers in teal. The tissue paper flowers were more than a little finicky and I ended up making about twice as many as I actually used. The tables were adorned with personalized confetti made of pictures of the bride and groom plus silver and teal circles.


My favorite part was the individual place settings. On top are corsages made of fringed strips of teal and white felt sewn into a spiral. Then I used ink-jet iron on transfers to add names and relationships to the ribbons and added those. Because there were high school and college friends of the bride, bride’s family, and groom’s family all attending I wanted to make sure that everyone knew who was who. The corsages also acted as placecards.



You can see that there is a wrapped favor at each place. The favors were lace edged hankies that my mom and I hand embroidered with the first initial of each guest. I embroidered Sarah and Veronica their new full monograms (SMK and VLH, respectively) and I really like how they look. I’m a big fan of monograms. People loved their hankies and almost everyone had them for the wedding the next day. I’m a ridiculous wedding crier (I made it about 45 seconds into Sarah’s) so the hankie idea was pretty much self-serving.




Lastly, I realized that I forgot to mention it in my last two posts but I wanted to give another big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Grandma Cris (who reads my blog) who turned 85 years young last Friday. Here she is last month with my cousins Abbie and Kimmie at Kimmie's baby shower. Grandma, you’re so amazing and I love you and I wish I got to see you more often!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fall Weather = Soup

The weather around here is just chilly enough that our jackets have come out of storage and the tree outside the bedroom window is tinged with yellow. The nights are cold enough I’ve been contemplating a heavier blanket (because I refuse to close the windows) and daytime is crisp and breezy in the shade but warm in the sun. It’s my favorite time of the year. I’m ready for butternut squash, apples and pumpkins. But in particular I’m ready for soup – I LOVE soup and have to restrain myself to make it just a few times a week. This week at the CSA we got: leeks, head of lettuce, lots of red peppers (my favorite), jalapeños, serranos, cherry tomatoes, baby eggplants, baby yellow squash, cilantro, basil, rosemary, and parsley. So this week I’ll be making:
Monday: Roasted tomatoes, squash, eggplant, red peppers, kalamata olives, and feta over pasta
Tuesday: Curried Chicken Soup with Corn, Peppers, and Mushrooms plus kale
Wednesday: Salmon and Leeks in Parchment over couscous with spinach, lemon, and pine nuts
Thursday: Big Crock Pot of Chili because we are having people over
Friday: Double Broccoli Quinoa

I have lots more for you all this week, so stay tuned!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We’re Back!

Geoff and I got back on Tuesday night from Colorado Spring where one of my bestest friends, Sarah got married. The wedding was BEAUTIFUL – right up against the mountains, and thunder rolling in just at the end. It was so dramatic. So we got in on Friday night and Geoff stayed in Denver with his friend Gabe while I attended the bachelorette party. Raucous women that we are, we ate Tex-Mex then holed up in a secluded booth at an Iris pub for the rest of the night. It was so amazing to get to spend so much uninterrupted time with Sarah, Sarah, Veronica, and LeighAnn and our new friend Amanda (Sarah’s roommate from undergrad). We realized we hadn’t spent that much time together in five years or more. So although we didn’t get wild, we did wear some pretty ridiculous accessories.



On Saturday, the other bridesmaids (I was the maid of honor) and I hosted a bridal brunch. Because the wedding was so small, we invited all of the women who were attending. All of Sarah’s friends plus some of the women on both sides came and everyone had a great time. I made a whole bunch of stuff for the brunch which I’ll post soon. Veronica organized everyone to bring photos of Sarah and write out memories and advice which we stayed up that night putting into a scrapbook for Sarah. My favorite photo is of Sarah as a toddler with a classic bowl haircut looking extremely skeptical of some vegetables. It was a great opportunity to spend some relaxing time together before the rehearsal that afternoon.



After the rehearsal dinner, which was at a cute old home in Manitou Springs, Geoff and Mike (Veronica’s fiancé) went to watch the LSU game while Veronica, LeighAnn, Sarah M, and I watched a chick flick in our PJs - just like old times! Veronica and I had to be ready for hair and makeup at 7:30 the next morning so we went to bed early to get our beauty sleep. The wedding the next day went perfectly. Everyone cried (I lost it before Sarah was halfway down the aisle) and looked gorgeous. Sarah asked me afterwards “Did that go really fast, or was it just me? It must have taken a while, because me feet are numb.”










The reception was fantastic. The toasts were all so perfect and sincere. The groom’s brother circulated a photo of him potty-training which was quite a hit and Sarah’s dad Steve gave a heartfelt toast about Sarah growing up and some of the shananigans we all got into. My toast ended up going really well and I stood behind Sarah so I managed not to cry. It is really hard to summarize a twenty year friendship in just a few minutes! Mostly I just talked about how joyful and adventurous Sarah is and how much I admire that about her.

The day after the wedding, the dry mountain air caught up with us and we came down with colds, but we took a quick trip to Garden of the Gods and then headed back to Denver.



I had dinner that night with my friend Dee which was so much fun. I think it has been eight years or so since I saw her so it was great to catch up. She is so amazing, super busy doing a gajillion things at once. Sadly I didn’t bring my camera. On Tuesday morning we headed home and I’ve spent the rest of the week trying to catch up. More posts coming soon! If you’d like to see more photos, there is a whole album here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2371010&id=16803882&l=b2fd0a6816

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rollercoaster Week

I’m sorry for the long delay since my last post, the last couple weeks have been really overwhelming. Briefly, for about three weeks now, I have known that my adviser was considering taking a job at another college starting in January. Thursday the 20th he told us that he would be taking a one-year leave of absence from Penn State effective the following Monday. He can remain my adviser but it means that he won’t be around for the last year of my research and my dissertation writing. Thankfully he can still sit on my committee and we are trying to work out how to keep in good contact during this year. My plan is still to graduate next August but I will have to be extra disciplined for the next year. I’m trying to look at this as an opportunity to really take control of my own research and be accountable to myself rather than anyone else.

To that end, I’m trying to figure out what needs to get done and create deadlines for myself. I have a bad habit of underestimating the amount of work I can get done in a day/week/etc., so I have started using this online to-do list that allows me to estimate how long a particular task will take and how much time it will take. (For example, I needed to prepare a bunch of data for analysis and estimated 4 hours, it took 12 hours, but I’m a much better perl programmer for it.) I’m trying to keep the daily estimate under 8 hours. If you want to keep track of what I’m doing (you probably don’t, and I’m fine with that), here is a public link: http://voo2do.com/pub/EQ_research. This week I am working on developing a set of genetic markers that reliably detect stratification in a sample so that it can be corrected for in analysis. Well, that is the long term goal. Really I’ve just been writing perl scripts to manipulate 2 gigabyte text files into something manageable. It’s a mental muscle that I haven’t stretched in a while and I’m finding it oddly satisfying.

In other good news from this week, our junior graduate student who decided to go with my adviser left a TA opening so I picked up a half TA-ship for Intro to Biological Anthropology which equates to a tidy little bump in my monthly paycheck and my NSF funding came through this week!! Within a week or two I should have the budget number to pay for the genotyping I need to do for my dissertation research.

This may sound like a downer of a weak, but though it has been stressful, it has also been productive. But I’ll be back soon with a bunch of fun stories and pictures from Sarah’s wedding. TTFN!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tortilla Madness is Spreading


Inspired by my post, my friend Veronica tried her hand at making her own. Since Veronica doesn't have a rolling pin, she improvised by rolling the tortillas out with a cup from QuikTrip which I think shows Mission:Impossible levels of ingenuity. She says they weren't as thin as she would have liked, but you will notice that hers are pretty much round, not amoeba-shaped like mine were.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This Isn't What I Signed Up For

Let me start out by saying that I really am not complaining. I do love my job (most of the time) and the fact that I get to be the first person to ever know something about the genetics of human beings is unfailingly cool - even though it is usually something that other people wouldn't find that interesting. But it comes to my attention quite often that the reality of research is very far away from the concepts and challenges that first drew me to science.

Punnet squares transfixed me when I was 12 and I first came to love genetics. Now instead of Punnet squares, I apply statistical algorithms of varying degrees of complexity to determine the likelihood of two brown-eyed parents having a blue-eyed child yet I tell my students that it is 1/4 (just the way I learned it was 14 years ago) even though I know that isn't true. Once I reached undergrad, I got to spend my time running PCRs and determining genotypes by gel electrophoresis. It was like a miracle every time I mixed clear liquids together, heated and cooled them and then ran them through some glorified jello to produce glowing pink bands that told be about a person's DNA. Now I spend my time in front of a computer writing bits of code (with about a 5% success rate) to manipulate the genotype data I payed someone else to generate.

The point is this: I came to grad school because I love genetics and now all I do is statistics and computer programming. While these aren't my favorite things, I have no beef with statistics or computer programming the problem is that I thought I would be doing "Genetics" - amazing things like what I read in my text books. What no one tells you is that the breakthroughs that make it into textbooks are the culmination of an entire lifetime of work boiled down to half a paragraph. Only Darwin and Mendel get whole sections. The reality of any job that we dream of, even ballerina and astronaut, never quite matches the way we imagined it. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor something I'm just now realizing, but it is something that I have seen strike many of my friends and colleagues.

People who loved school and pursued degrees in art history, theater, meteorology, anthropology, English, and so many other exhilarating subjects found that there aren't really jobs where you get to "do" English or art history or anything else. For a few of the lucky ones, there are jobs that use their skills but usually not in the way that they had hoped. For an even more select few, we get to do what we wanted. And because I am one of those lucky few, I am truly grateful. I do get an occasional rush from research that I don't get anywhere else. But it was a knowing smile I gave my student the other day when he came in to talk to me about double majoring in Anthropology and Philosophy. I hope he enjoys writing copy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is it Worth it?

I wish I were making more of my own food. I have friends who make most of their own bread, cheese, yogurt, beer, and other essentials. For the most part, my friends make these things because they find that the quality of the food is better not to mention the fact that you know what is in it. This later issue has had me thinking as I have read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan which was recommended to me by Laurel. The simple premise is that we should be eating food, a radical idea only once you consider how much not-food there is in what we buy at the grocery store. To wit, this list of ingredients in Wonder Bread:
1. Whole wheat flour
2. Water
3. wheat gluten
4. high fructose corn syrup
5. soybean oil
6. salt
7. molasses
8. yeast
9. mono and diglycerides
10. exthoxylated mono and diglycerides
11. dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide)
12. datem
13. calcium sulfate
14. vinegar
15. yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate)
16. extracts of malted barley and corn
17. dicalcium phosphate
18. diammonium phosphate
19. calcium propionate (to retain freshness)

You may be familiar with calcium sulfate because they make drywall out of it. When I make bread, it contains:
1. flour
2. yeast
3. salt
4. water
5. honey (sometimes)

Beyond not putting weird things you don’t know what are in your body, it may actually be cheaper to make your own. I read an article several months ago in Slate magazine indicating that you can make less expensive, more delicious bagels, yogurt, crackers, and granola at home (although cream cheese and jam are about the same). So with all of these things rumbling around in my head, I’ve decided to start a semi-regular series that I’m calling “Is it worth it?” There is a long list of foods that I frequently buy that I want to try making myself. Bearing in mind that I am trying to complete my dissertation within the next year, a major consideration is how MUCH better is something given the amount of effort that goes into it. So without further ado, the first review is here.



Is it worth it to make your own flour tortillas? YES! Absolutely hands down. Homemade tortillas are chewy and flavorful (did you know tortillas could taste like something?) not to mention that their thicker texture saves you from the devastating burrito rupture. I made mine based on this recipe from the apartment kitchen and it was a snap. Mix everything together, wait 30 minutes while you assemble the rest of your fixings and then roll them out and cook them in a dry pan. Super fast and easy – the hardest part is rolling them out. I’ll admit that most of mine looked like a central African country, but they sure tasted like Mexico to me.

Chili in August

Last Friday, Geoff went to the CSA on his own because I was giving my final exam (4:30 on Friday afternoon, thanks Penn State) and he brought back a bounty: tiny eggplant, large and tiny tomatoes, green tomato, hot and sweet peppers, chard, celery, parsley, carrots, and patty pan squash. It was somehow even more exciting to have the vegetables surprise me from inside my own refrigerator. So here is what we are eating this week:

Monday: Yakitori Chicken and Fried Rice with Carrots and Celery
Tuesday: Chard-Stuffed Patty Pan Squash and Salad
Wednesday: Wheatberry Salad with Oven Roasted Eggplant, Tomatoes and Squash (from Laurel’s garden)
Thursday: Veggie Chili (featuring the hot peppers)

So chili may sound weird for August but my dad was talking about having chili the other day and now I can’t get it out of my head. The chili recipe I linked to is the only one I ever use anymore. It is full of vegetables, made in the crock-pot for extra ease and is overall a remarkably healthy chili recipe. I double up on the spices and about triple the amount of jalapeño called for since we like our food on the spicy side. The only thing I don’t like about this recipe is that the result, due to the lack of fat, is more of a bean soup than a true chili (also, don’t use the baked beans, use an extra can of kidney beans). My fix for that is to take the immersion blender to the crock pot once it is finished cooking and puree some of the beans until you get that thick chili consistency you want. At less than 300 calories per bowl and less than 5% of your daily fat intake, I don’t feel bad adding a dollop of sour cream and some cheese.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Blog Roll! or Ellen Wants to Help You Waste Time

I’m sure you all are expecting to hear about my CSA this week, but first something a little different. I have recently been asked what blogs I read and had a couple people tell me they were clicking through the links to find out where I found recipes so I thought I would share which blogs I subscribe to. I use Google Reader so I can flip rapidly through all of the blogs and decide what I actually want to read in detail, but having said that I do look at about 80 posts per day. I didn’t really realize this until I looked at my trend report from Google, some information, I just didn’t need. I usually flip through some while eating lunch at my desk and then some when I get home and need to relax before dinner (yes, I’m trying to justify this to myself, but seriously I only look at some of the posts for two seconds ). So these are some of my favorites divided up into the four main types of blogs I read:

Food Blogs
101 Cookbooks Focuses on natural, vegetarian cooking with really gorgeous photography (the author is a photographer by trade) . I love this blog so much I bought her cookbook.
Bitten New York Times food writer Mark Bittman writes and curates this blog with tons of great ideas for quick, simple food. There has been a run of guest posts lately from a woman at the Times who is learning to cook and it has been endearing, hysterical, and inspirational.
Healthy Eats A blog from the Food Network that points you towards some of their healthier recipes (Paula Dean rarely makes an appearance) and has a lot of helpful tips.
the apartment kitchen My dad pointed me toward this blog by the daughter of a friend of theirs who just finished culinary school. Her recipes are inexpensive but fantastic. My favorite thing is that she tells you the “Leftover Potential” of all the dishes which is important when you are only cooking for one or two.
Smitten Kitchen Gorgeous pictures, yummy food. I really like this blog, although she has a pretty heavy bias towards sweets. She made a wedding cake once, it was insane.
The Wednesday Chef Really classic dishes with a twist. Classic foods like the tomato soup, blueberry buckle and such. Yum.

Craft Blogs
20x200 This isn’t actually a craft blog, but a great attempt by a gallery to get original art to more people. A couple times a week the work of a few artists are featured with limited edition prints available of their artwork. 200 small prints are sold for $20, 20 medium prints for $200, and 2 originals for $2,000. I haven’t bought anything yet but I have thought about it and then decided I would and they were sold out!!
Craft Gossip A ridiculously over the top (27 posts per day) compendium of links to crafts of every sort (including many things I don’t do like polymer clay, beading, fused glass) from all across the web. It keeps me from having to trawl all those other blogs.
CRAFT Magazine I should probably subscribe to the actual magazine, but their blog is pretty great to. Lots of links to other projects with a high proportion of them being really great. Such a high proportion that there is no chance I will ever get to make even a fraction.
Crafting a Green World This blog is focused exclusively on reusing material where you can and buying eco-friendly materials when you can’t use what you already have. They have a lot of cute stuff to do with kids.
CraftStylish Lives up to its name - it is original, stylish craft ideas and I’m a huge fan. I have adapted many ideas from this blog for projects for the upcoming bridal and baby showers that I am throwing. There will be more on those soon, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Design*Sponge Not a lot of crafts, per say, but some really great design inspiration for those with a house of their own and some money. Oh to dream.
Diary of a Crafty Chica It’s glitter-mania, that is all I can say. But she has such a fun, infectious spirit that I can’t resist her, even if my style is a little more subtle.
the purl bee So they are really trying to sell you some really fine but expensive yarn, however to do so, they put together some really great knit and occasionally crochet patterns
Weekend Designer This one is for those of you more fashionable and talented than I, but I love that they show you how to sew really great, fashionable things.

Science Blogs
FemaleScienceProfessor Not a blog about science so much as an ongoing discussion of what it is like to be one of the less than 15% of science professors who are women.
Olivia Judson New York Times blogger about science. She always offers a really great take on unusual research (well, unusual to me since I don’t work in those areas). Always thought provoking.
Xkcd.com and phdcomics.com are both nerd comics that I quite enjoy.

Friends’ Blogs
A Whisper on the Wind This is my friend Jen’s blog about her live in San Antonio trying to finish her dissertation while running a household of four children, a husband, cats, and two of the largest dogs I have ever seen. I stole the idea of posting my weekly menus from her.
Cerises a l’etranger Cherries Abroad is my friend Summer’s blog about traveling which she used to get to do more (I was deeply jealous until she let me come stay with her in France), but now she has an awesome new job helping undergrads get to travel abroad.
Philanthropology This is my friend Phil’s blog. Phil is a post-doc in San Antonio and husband to Jen so sometimes you get to read the same story in both of their blogs which always entertains me. Phil is pretty much always getting more work done that me, which I find very depressing.
Yann Klimentidis’ Weblog Yann is a collaborator of mine who writes about genetic anthropology.
Wow, that is a long list, but I’d still love to hear you all’s suggestions on blogs that you read or if you have a blog I’m not reading, it’s probably because I don’t know about it!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Itty-Bitty Eggplants

This week at the CSA I got some very tiny eggplants, about 1/50th the size of last weeks’ zucchini. I can hold five of them in the palm of my hand. I also got gorgeous cream colored heirloom beans with streaks of purple. I did a little research on the internet and it turns out they are poetically named Dragon’s Tongue Beans. Unfortunately, the purple stripes fade away when you cook them, but my imagination has run away with me and I wish I had the skill to carve a dragon out of vegetables (I’m picturing red peppers) and use one of these beans for the tongue. Sadly, I’m not that skilled, nor do I have that kind of time, so I’ll just show all my beautiful purple produce to you in the raw state.


The rest of my bounty is jalapeño and Serrano chiles, green bell peppers, parsley, celery, yellow squash, basil, cucumbers and tomatoes. To further challenge myself, I am hoping to clear out my freezer to defrost it and my pantry, just because I don’t like things hanging around too long. So that adds to my list ground beef, black beans, chicken broth, and some bananas and other fruit that I froze before they went bad. I’m going to make the fruit into whole wheat, nutritious muffins to freeze for breakfasts. So our menu for the week is:

Sunday: Spaghetti with julienned yellow squash, tomatoes, and basil
Monday: Shrimp Paella with Spinach and Arugula
Tuesday: Turkish Beef and Eggplant with tomatoes and peppers in Yogurt Sauce over
brown rice
Wednesday: Grilled Fish with Braised Celery Gratin
Thursday: Pita (homemade) with Hummus, Feta, Cucumbers, and Olives with Garlicky Dragon Tongue Beans
Friday: Black Bean Tacos (with homemade tortillas) and Grilled Corn with Lime and Chili Powder

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Invite Out of Hiding

I think everyone has received their invitations so I can finally show you all the invitation that I made for my friend Sarah's bridal brunch. I'm hosting it along with the other bridesmaids (Veronica and Amanda) the day before Sarah and George's wedding Labor Day weekend.



I knew I wanted the invite to be silver, white, and teal because those are the colors I'll be using for the brunch table, but I couldn't come up with a design I liked. Eventually I came up with this design and I'm really pleased with it. There were only 15 invites to make so hand-cutting the silhouettes wasn't that bad. Luckily, I convinced Geoff and Logan to play bluegrass while I cut. Then I just tied a ribbon around it and attached the silhouette with foam tape to give it some dimension. I've been working on all sorts of crafty projects for the shower and I promise a full report as soon as I get back from the wedding. Full disclosure, I've been outsourcing some of the crafts to my mom. She's a terrible negotiator, she works for peanuts - just out of love for her daughter and a compulsive need to keep herself occupied (now you know where I got it).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Largest Zucchini I Have Ever Seen

Okay, I have been a blog-slacker this week. Sorry about that, but it is mostly because I haven't been slacking elsewhere. I have several things that I have been meaning to write but haven't had time so I promise to do better this week. For those of you curious (this may be mostly just my dad), here is my menu for the week. I like reading it on other people's blogs (I stole the idea from Jen) so I thought some of you might like to see what we're eating.

Dinners this week, as usual, are inspired by the haul from my CSA (smaller than usual this week, though more variety): carrots, celery, cucumbers, yellow squash, green tomatoes, parsley, mint, dill, and peppers. Plus a five pound zucchini that Laurel gave me after she found 4 such behemoths after returning from 10 days in Mexico. It's the size of a baby. I convinced Hank to pose with it to give you a sense of scale:



Monday: Zucchini Lasagna and Salad
Tuesday: Grilled Cheese and Green Tomato Sandwiches and Cucumber Salad
Wednesday: Steak with Mushrooms, Baked Potatoes, Spinach Salad
Thursday: Fried Green Tomatoes, Eggs, Biscuits
Friday: Stuffed Yellow Squash and Salad

I managed to use up the whole of that zucchini last night. It was the first zucchini I'd ever used that smelled like a pumpkin and it had a surprisingly distinctive flavor in the lasagna. I cut out the seeds and ran the whole thing through the shredder on the food processor, salted it and let it sit to drain off the extra water. Then I mixed it into a spicy marinara sauce and layered it up into a lasagna and it was pretty good!

I do wish I had some zucchini left over to make chocolate zucchini bread. I got a loaf from Logan in exchange for the banjo strap pad I knit for him, I totally knit another one for some more of that bread.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Simplifying

People seemed interested the last time I posted about my haul from the CSA and the meals that I planned based on what I got. Last week we ended up eating out a couple nights because our friend Craig was in town (YAY!) or I was just too overwhelmed to cook and the meals that I had planned were too elaborate. On Thursday and Friday, I had two meals that cost two to three times what I normally spend to cook dinner at home and both of them were really disappointing. So this week I’m going to keep it simple inspired by the list of 101 Simple Salads that Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times this week. I’m going to make everything as simple and healthy as possible this week.

So this week at the Community Harvest I got 1 lb carrots, 1 lb green, yellow, and purple beans, a head of lettuce, a head of cabbage, ½ lb fava beans, 1 ½ lbs kale, ½ lb lemon cucumber, dill, and ¼ lb basil. Over the weekend, I’m going to get a little more elaborate but during the week, I’m keeping it simple.

Saturday: Vietnamese Cellophane Noodle Salad with Pork, Carrots and Pickled Cucumber
Sunday: Kale, Mushroom, and Chickpea Red Curry over Rice
Monday: Salade niçoise (Lettuce, olives, potatoes, green beans, capers, eggs, tuna) with a mustard vinaigrette
Tuesday: Turkey Muffaleta and Three-Bean (Green, Fava, Kidney) Salad with Cucumbers and Dill
Wednesday: Pasta with roasted piquillo peppers, basil, toasted walnuts, basil and goat cheese.
Thursday: Falafel with a Moroccan Carrot Salad
Friday: Pesto, tomatoes, and olives pizza and Salad

I'm really loving the CSA for so many reasons, but particularly because it gives my menu planning directions. Having to use the vegetables I get makes it so much easier to pick what to cook. In the winter, I'm so overwhelmed by being able to cook anything I want that I can't decide what to make. That's probably just me, but what can I say, I'm a nerd in many ways and one of them is food. I hope you are all doing well! I've been working on a bunch of craft stuff but they are all for gifts or showers so I can't show you without ruining the surprise!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

End of the Week Recap...

…in which Ellen teaches life lessons, remembers her sunscreen, and learns the value of a home-cooked meal.

This week has been hectic (as you might have guessed from my lack of posting) but quite enjoyable nonetheless. Monday evening was spent making wedding shower invitations for my lovely friend Sarah who is getting married Labor Day weekend. I really struggled with exactly how to enact the concept I had in my head of a silhouette and ribbon and eventually found that simplicity was the best way to go, as is so often the case. While making the invites, I was serenaded with bluegrass tunes picked out on guitar and banjo by Geoff and our friend Logan. Here is Logan showing off the neck cushion I knit for him to keep the banjo strap from digging into his neck.

It was double knit based on a pattern for a simple flower repeat pattern that I think was meant for a hat. Double knitting is actually pretty easy but requires you to keep track of which side you are on because you are simultaneously knitting two sides where the pattern is the same but the colors are reversed. In this case, the strap can be turned inside out and on the other side are navy flowers on an orange background. Basically you perl anything you want to be on the back side and you knit anything you want to be on the front. It has the added benefit of being I picked out this pattern because I thought I remembered that his strap was navy and rust colored with a (masculine) floral pattern. I asked him “you’re banjo strap is navy and orange, right?” to which he replied, “that sounds right,” at which point I remembered that Logan is color blind. I have assured him that the strap looks good and he has assured me that it has made his banjo playing all the better.

The next few days were spent teaching my students about primates (they love this part because it involves a lot of cute pictures) and on Wednesday my friend Craig was in town for a visit and we all headed to a baseball game to see our local single A team the State College Spikes. For those of you not into shooting furry animals, a spike is a juvenile deer. Yes, that is right, our fearsome mascot doesn’t even have horns. How could we hold out against the infinitely more fearsome Lowell, Massachusetts Spinners and their drop spindles of doom? (Neither of these is my favorite team name in the league, however, that would be the Vermont Lake Monsters.) I am proud to report that I was the only one who remembered to wear sunscreen and the only one (except for Geoff with his inborn sunscreen) who didn’t get a sunburn.

On Thursday, in addition to my regular teaching, I guest-lectured in an Intro to Cultural Anthropology class. This is a lecture I give frequently on the intermingling of our concepts of race, human variation, and ancestry and how these things relate to human evolutionary history and population genetics. For the most part, the students have no concept of the evolutionary history of our species or that natural selection has adapted different individuals to different climates so I have to cover that before moving on to a discussion of the history of immigration to the U.S. which mostly includes individuals from only a few parts of the world. So based on where our ancestors lived we have inherited different skin colors, face shapes, body proportions and even some diseases that were adaptive in the climates in which our ancestors evolved. I then hit them with a little unpacking the invisible knapsack of white privilege by telling them about a study in which having a white name on a resume was equal to an extra 8 years of job experience in the likelihood of getting an interview. A lot of material to cover in 1 hour and 15 minutes and I was pretty much exhausted afterwards (my students learned about sexual selection and primate mating strategies earlier in the day). More on Friday (when I learn the value of a home-cooked meal) tomorrow.
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