Sunday, April 29, 2012

April in Instagram

The beach in Rhode Island was chilly but still beautiful.  As a Kansas girl, I doubt any beach will ever seem anything but magical to me.

Back home for a few days, this little fellow came to say howdy while I was making dinner.  He didn't stick around.

If this is your car, let's be friends.

I wonder where my flight to Portland originated that they were stocked with Arabic Coke Light?

I spent my birthday flying but came home to some wonderfully fragrant roses.

This fortune cookies portends a tenure-line in my future (I hope).

I was so proud of my Fiesta Wreath, it took days to fold all those flowers, but a great excuse to catch up with nearly the entire run of Sports Night on Netflix!

Mozart - our neighbor's adorable dog - hopping up to greet me.

We went to two children's birthday parties this month including this little man's first birthday. Such a cutie.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tex-Mex Brunch

Breakfast tacos are to Texas what bagels are to New York - a filling (and often delicious) on the go breakfast, available just about everywhere.  Migas are a lesser-known breakfast staple in these parts, and although they require a plate, are just as quick and delicious.  Ugly but satisfying, migas are a way to use up stale tortillas by scrambling them in salsa and eggs.  You really don't need a recipe to make migas, but here is my version which keeps some tortillas crisp.  You can, as many restaurants do, cover them in a heavy layer of cheese and serve them with refried beans and more tortillas, but you might have to go back to bed after brunch.

serves 2

1/2 onion, chopped
4 oz. turkey chorizo
4 corn tortillas
4 eggs
1 cup salsa ranchero (recipe here)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup grated queso fresco (or Monterrey jack)
2 tsp. canola oil
pickled jalapenos, as desired

1. Cut tortillas in half and then into half-inch strips.  Bake at 300 until crisp.
2. Saute onion in oil until just translucent, then add chorizo and cook through.
3. Add 2/3 of the tortilla strips and the salsa to the pan and cook until the tortillas are softened.
4.  Add the eggs and remaining tortilla chips, folding occasionally.
5. Just before the eggs are set, stir in cilantro and cheese.
6. Serve topped with as many pickled jalapenos as desired.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Feeding Friendship: Tex-Mex Lentil Sloppy Joe's

As a child, I loved the taco burger at Taco Tico.  I'm not sure why since it was just lightly seasoned ground beef on a bun.  But love it I did.  That taco burger was certainly not what I was thinking about when I picked lentils as the ingredient for this round.  I think that thought process was something like "huh, I have four bags of different types of lentils in my pantry."

But back to taco burgers.  The taco burger, is really just a sauceless (and therefore sadder) version of the sloppy joe, so I was excited to see Homesick Texan's Tex-Mex Sloppy Joe which takes the oddly sweet sauce of a traditional joe and turns it into a spicy, smoky very adult meal.  I pretty much never buy ground beef, and, while I'm sure that ground bison or turkey would be great here, I decided to take a vegetarian route and replace the ground meat with a combo of brown and red lentils that I had on hand.  This is a brilliant substitution in my mind because it cuts meat out of a meal where really what you care about is the sauce so you don't miss the meat a bit and you get an extra boost of fiber.  These are fork and knife sandwiches, or even open-faced ones.  Don't try to pick these up unless you are looking to ruin your shirt.

Tex-Mex Lentil Sloppy Joe's
serves 4-6
Adapted, broadly from Homesick Texan

1 1/2 cups lentils, any type
1 T canola oil
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c sliced, pickled jalapenos
15 oz. tomato sauce

2 T ketchup
2 T BBQ sauce
1 T Worchestershire sauce

1 T cumin
1 T hot chili powder
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp salt
2 avocados
1 lime, juice of
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
Hamburger buns

1. Simmer lentils in 4 cups of water until al dente, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, saute onions in canola oil over medium heat until translucent, add garlic and jalapenos and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
3. Add tomato sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and salt.
4. Simmer 10 minutes to thicken.
5. Add lentils and simmer an additional 10 minutes until lentils are tender.
6. While the lentils are simmering in sauce, mash avocados with lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste.
7. Smear the avocado on the split buns and top with big spoonfuls of the lentils.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fiesta Flower Wreath

San Antonio has an annual week-long festival called Fiesta! (I'm pretty sure the exclamation point is required) with all sorts of events.  Last year I ran the Mission 10K and this year I'm hoping to make it to the blues festival.  Fiesta wreaths are a popular decoration around town for the month or more leading up to Fiesta.  They tend towards the brightly colored and kitschy, always with streaming ribbons.

My version, inspired by Earth Day last weekend and my inherent cheapness, is made from entirely recycled or previously acquired materials.  I had an idea that it would be fun to make paper flowers and found this simple tutorial from Striving to Be More.  I decided to use ads torn from magazines headed for the recycling bin instead of the scrapbook paper called for in that tutorial.  Martha Stewart Living has great, colorful adds, Runner's World ads are - unsurprisingly - mostly close-ups of people running.  I went for colorful, but maybe sweat works with your decor.

I tried to minimize text on the strips I cut, but you don't really notice once you get to the final flower.  The tutorial is easy to follow, so I won't add much here except to say that if you use magazines, you'll want to cut the strips to twice the width you want (I used 2", 3", and 4") and then fold them in half "hot-dog ways" to increase the paper's strength.  (Did other people grow up with "hot-dog" and "hamburger" folds or are you all totally confused right now?)  You can probably figure out the remaining steps from the photo above.

This is a great project to use up buttons you may have lying around.  Ugly mauve and beige buttons look quite nice against cheerful flowers.  The backing for my wreath is cut from the lid of a pizza box and I laid out the flowers as I made them to make sure the color balance worked.  Then I just hot-glued everything into place.  All told, I made 37 flowers.  At around 7 minutes per flower (I timed myself), this was not the quickest project, but an easy one to spread over multiple nights.  If you aren't up for hours of paper folding, just one would make an adorable bow stand-in on a present.  Feliz Fiesta!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Heart Disease Research

The first paper on my postdoctoral research came out this week - "Novel Associations of Nonstructural Loci with Paraoxonase Activity."  It's my only article thus far focused exclusively on biomedical work after years of anthropological genetics and evolutionary work.  It appeared in a special issue of the Journal of Lipids that focuses on paraoxonases, an enzyme related to heart disease.  The Journal of Lipids is an open-access journal so you can read my article for free here.  Briefly, I did a study to identify genetic markers associated with variation in that amount of enzyme produced by different individuals.  Paraoxonase is interesting to researchers and physicians because it appear to protect people from developing heart disease, but the mechanism in unknown.  The hope is that by identifying the genes that regulate paraoxonase, we can determine the pathway through which paraoxonase protects against heart disease.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Ultimate Birthday Cake

I spent my actual birthday on an airplane heading back from Portland so we had some friends (and their adorable children, above) over last night for a cookout to celebrate.  We had a great time (and a rousing game of trivial pursuit), but really the reason for the party was to give me an excuse to bake myself the ultimate chocolate cake.  Nearly a foot tall, this cake made me very, very happy.

I know to some people, making your own birthday cake seems a little sad.  To me, this is my chance to have EXACTLY the cake I wanted.  I find most store-bought and restaurant chocolate cakes disappointing, with all sugar and almost no chocolate flavor.  I had been planning to make a chiffon cake and improvise a whipped chocolate ganache filling with a poured chocolate ganache icing when I came across almost that exact recipe in a Food Network magazine by dad gave me.

The chiffon cake is made with oil in place of butter so it has a supremely light and tender texture.  This particular cake is also made with strong coffee which brings out the dark chocolate of the cocoa powder.  I used a 70% cacao chocolate for the ganache so both the filling and icing had an intense and slightly bitter quality which  kept the cake from being overly sweet.  That, combined with the tartness of the raspberries I beat into the whipped ganache made for the sort of cake you could eat a big ol' slice of.  Which is exactly what I did.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chicken and 28 Cloves

Happy Garlic Day, Everyone!

Oh, you didn't know it was Garlic Day?  Well, you really missed out, then.  Dessert is pretty much the only thing I don't put garlic in, so I'm a bit surprised that I have never made Chicken and 40 Cloves.  There are a lot of recipes for Chicken and 40 Cloves out there, but I decided to go with chicken-guru Ina Garten's.  I used 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of the whole chicken and scaled the rest of the ingredients down by a 1/3.  This is what two heads worth of garlic looks like:

I cooked the garlic really slowly in the butter-olive oil-chicken fat mixture to get a deep, sweet garlic flavor in the end sauce.  It takes a while, but it was so worth it.  At this point, I seriously considered smearing the cloves on crusty bread and calling it a meal.  But I held strong, believing the white wine and slightest touch of  cream could only make things better.  I added an extra cup of chicken stock and I was glad to have the extra sauce soaking into the couscous.  After simmering the chicken, I pureed the sauce to maximize the garlic flavor in each bite.  I know, 28 cloves of garlic seems like an overwhelming amount, but the result is a mild, delicious sauce.  If you are looking for a way to mix up your chicken, this is a great way to go.  You won't even need a breath mint afterwards.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Coast to Coast

Over the last two weeks, I've traveled to both coasts, beginning with a state I've never had the chance to visit - Rhode Island.  Geoff and I flew to Providence to see our friends Holly and Kevin.

The actual purpose of the trip was a pair of presentations I gave at the University of Rhode Island.  I loved the opportunity to get back in the classroom and the students seemed to enjoy the lectures.

Holly and Kevin took us down to the beach to get clam chowder and clam fritters from Iggy's.  The clam chowder was amazingly good and dipping fried dough in them - I mean, genius.

We stayed through the weekend and got a chance to explore Kingston, which is the quintessential New England beach town with clapboard houses on every block.

The weather was cool but sunny so we got in some beach time (and a round at the nautically-themed miniature golf course) before we left.

After two days back in Texas, I flew to Portland for the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.  The first two days were mostly spent in the conference hotel.

On Saturday afternoon, I got a chance to get out of the hotel to explore some of Portland's famous food courts en route to Urban Fiber Arts which had a whole wall of locally produced yarns to choose from.  I picked out some lovely green sock yarn for my first pair of socks (I'm keeping my yarn stash updated in the tab above).

We stopped by the 24 hour Church of Elvis, an art installation which married Anne and Rohina for 75 cents (quarters only).

Obviously, no trip to Portland is complete without a trip to VooDoo Doughnuts (or, ahem, two).  The maple-bacon doughnut is no gimmick - it's really tasty.  I brought one and a classic rasberry-filled voodoo doll home for Geoff.

Since we were in the Pacific Northwest, a stop for pho was obligatory!  With my friends from both my undergraduate and graduate programs dispersed across the country, this is sometimes the only chance to see   them all year and I'm always sad when it is over.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Announcing My 30 by 30 List!

I've decided to continue my tradition of setting annual goals on my birthday to help me be the woman I want to be and make my life into the life I want to live.  Several of the items on this list will be very demanding with a focus on shaping my career  trajectory.  However, I don't want to be so focused on the future that I forget to enjoy the here and now.  What follows is a list of work goals balanced with creative endeavors, athletic pursuits and just plain fun things that I want to do in the next 365 days.  So who is up for a trip to the beach???

Work Things

1. Find a time management system that works and stick with it
2. Five Publications
3. Three Grant Applications
4. Stats (1 hr/wk = 50 hrs or about 1 semester-long class)
5. Programming (1 hr/wk = 50 hrs or about 1 semester-long class)

Fun Things

6. Go on a picnic
7. Go camping
8. Go to a local festival
9. Go to the beach
10. Go to a professional sporting event
11. Participate in alumni association events
12. Use the library
13. Visit the zoo and botanical garden
14. Watch classic movies

Crafty Things

15. Crochet a throw
16. Sew 6 garments for myself
17. Knit a sweater
18. Knit a pair of socks
19. Own no yarn that moved from PA
20. Put all photos in scrapbooks
21. Learn to take better photographs
22. Learn to draw

Yummy Things

23. Bake through Bread Baker’s Apprentice
24. Make brunch once a month (even if it is for dinner)
25. Try out six new canning recipes
26. Cook with a new ingredient a month

Strong Things

27. Run a half-marathon
28. Compete in a 1 mile swim race
29. Complete two triathlons

Last Thing

30. Purge things we don’t need from each room of the house

Saturday, April 14, 2012

29 by 29 Recap

On my 28th birthday, I came up with a list of 29 goals to accomplish before I turn 29.  I turn 29 tomorrow and I've finished nearly all of them.  A few just fell by the wayside and some are still on my to-do list.  Here's a recap.

1. Master 10 Indian Dishes  DONE!  And now I have a well-stocked Indian pantry.

2. Master 10 Mexican Dishes DONE! It was easy considering you can find just about any Mexican ingredient in San Antonio.

3. Master 10 Asian Dishes DONE! And oh so delicious.

4. Monthly Baking Challenge Very Nearly Done! I'm saving number 12 to make my self a RIDICULOUSLY awesome chocolate cake for my birthday.  Stay Tuned.

5. Pick my own Berries, Apples and Pumpkins - I didn't end up doing this for one very important reason.  It is HOT here in south Texas.  I have these lovely memories of picking apples on crisp Autumn weather in Kansas.  Unfortunately, crisp weather shows up here in late December and I melt in the heat like a jolly rancher.

6. Take a Charcuterie Class - You snooze, you lose.  My local charcuterie closed down!

7. Sew 1 Item of Clothing/Month - Disappointingly, this one didn't go so well.  I've bought many patterns (on sale) and enough fabric for quite a few pieces.  I have spent quite a bit of time taking in clothes I already own, but next year I'm determined to make more from scratch.

8. Make a Quilt - I made this one for Clara and she LOVES it!!!  I'd like to do a pieced quilt, but they are a lot more exacting.  Good to work on my patience, I guess.

9. Make Seasonal Decorations - I've got Springtime, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's DaySt. Patrick's, and Easter covered!

10. Blog 50 times - Knocked that out forever ago!

11. Learn to Knit Continental - I did, but I can't prove it because the recipient hasn't gotten her gift yet.  You'll have to take my word for it.

12. Knit 3 Things for Myself - Yep!  Trudging through my yarn stash.  I did learn the other day that I don't have a SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy), so my yarn hording isn't too bad.

13. Decorate the House - Ugh.  I'm sort of embarrassed that I still haven't finished decorating the house after more than a year living here.  It is still on my to-do list, though.  I did make this really awesome trundle bed with my mom!

14. Take One Photo a Day - All 366 days this year!

15. Create 3, 5, 10 year plans - I did, but once they were finished, I realized how personal they are and felt weird about sharing them.  If you are looking to take inventory of where you are career/budget/life-wise,  I found Jenny Blake's templates really helpful.

16. Improve My Web Presence - I've cleaned up my google hits (luckily they all point to me), updated my CV everywhere it appears, created a Google Scholar citations page, and bought (and parked)

17. Actively Maintain Networks - I've done some of this, but not enough.  I get so busy with the work, I forget about the awesome PEOPLE in my life!

18. Publish 3 papers - Done, with a fourth in press!

19. Take a statistics course - In lovely Seattle!

Friends and Family and Home
20. See a play, opera, ballet, and/or musical - We saw RENT! on Valentine's Day.

21. 2 day trips around San Antonio - We've been to Comfort, San Marcos, Lockhart, and Austin (several times).

22. Visit 3 museums in San Antonio - We're members of the Witte, and live near the McNay. We visited the LBJ library as well, but it was a brief visit and I'd like to get back!

23. Organize Finances, Save More - The saving is going slowly, but at least I know where all the money is going thanks to

24. Read a Book a Month - Only 7/12.  I've realized that I only read when I'm traveling.  Why is that?

Physical Challenges
25. Climb a Rock Wall - I can't find a rock wall in San Antonio!  Anyone know of one?

26. Run Entire Fourth of July 4-Miler - I woke up sick on the 4th of July, but ran 5 miles on Halloween and a 5K with Geoff last month.

27. 4 Hikes - Only, one.  But it was one that brought back great memories!

28. Weekly Yoga - I haven't been great on this one.  I was really on a roll for the first couple months but I have gotten off track.  I just downloaded a yoga app so maybe that will help!

29. Begin Swim and Bike Training for Triathlon - Not just started training but completed one!

Wow.  As fast as this year went, I made a lot of my goals.  Back tomorrow with my 30 by 30!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Feeding Friendship: Chard, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Pizza

I was so very excited to see that Veronica's pick for this round of Feeding Friendship was pizza.  We've always made homemade pizza fairly frequently (In fact, I made Pizza Bianca with Balsamic Caramelized Onions for a previous round of Feeding Friendship and have shared pictures of my Kale, Pancetta, and Grape Pizza and  Turkey Pepperoni and Black Olive Pizza as part of my Photo365 project) and over the past several months we have settled into a Friday night pizza and Netflix routine.  I am not a cook who has a go-to list of recipes that I make week in and week out.  In fact, the vast majority of recipes I make - even ones I like - never get made again.  Yet, Geoff and I are both happy to have pizza every week - with unlimited topping options, we never get board.

I've tried a number of different crust recipes, sticking with one until I find something better or easier.  I prefer a thinnish crust - not paper thin, mind you - but I still want it to have some flavor.  The best (in my opinion) way to get flavor into pizza dough is a nice long ferment.  You can get your dough to rise quickly with more yeast and a warm environment, but the flavor just isn't as good.  This long rising time seems like a drawback, but actually it means that you can make your dough in the morning before you leave for work, or even the night before.

This recipe is super quick because it is no-knead - just stir, cover, and leave it for 12 hours or so.  It's been my experience that the wetter the the dough, the more of those great bubbles you get in the crust, so I tend to make sure that this dough is on the wet side when mixed together because as the flour absorbs the water, it will tighten up a bit.  It is still pretty loose when I start to work with it, but I just put down a good amount of flour and it's fine.  I like to work directly on a sheet of parchment so that if the dough sticks, it's not a problem - the whole thing goes in the oven and the bottom browns nicely.

The inspiration for this pizza started with a pizza I liked from the local pizza place in State College.  It was a simple combination of just mashed spice black beans and mozzarella cheese that was served with salsa and sour cream on the side for dipping or smearing.  I decided to pile some more stuff on top, because I can.  I like black beans with sweet potatoes and chard as an enchilada filling and I came across a similar combo at Foodie Bride with the addition of goat cheese.  It was a winner!  The dough recipe makes enough for two pizzas and the extra crust can be rolled out, cooked for about 2 minutes and then frozen.  It should be thawed before being topped and cooked.

If you are in the mood for something different, Holly and I made this Easter Egg pizza last weekend featuring garlic oil, cheese, mushroom walls and eggs cooked right on the pizza for the last 3 minutes.  Let me hear your favorite pizza combos in the comments - I'm always looking for new toppings.

Kale, Sweet Potato, and Black Bean Pizza
Serves 4

For the Dough:
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups water

For the Pizza:
1 sweet potato, cubed and roasted
1 bunch swiss chard, sliced
4 oz goat cheese
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 can Goya black beans in sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil

1.  Ten to 12 hours before dinner, combine all bread dough ingredients in a large bowl.  The dough will be very loose, this is good. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise at room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 500 with pizza stone on lowest rack for about 30 minutes before cooking pizza.
3. Cook down and mash black beans until they form a thick paste.
4. Saute onion in olive oil until translucent, then add chard and cook just until slightly wilted.
5. Split the dough in two and roll out with plenty of flour.  Cook each crust about 2 minutes before topping one with the black beans (otherwise you can't spread them easily on the soft dough).
6. Top with chard, sweet potato, and goat cheese.  Bake an additional 8-10 minutes or until bottom crust is brown.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Huevos Rancheros

I've made quite a few variations on huevos rancheros.  My quickest and easiest version is a heated can of Goya black beans in sauce, warmed tortillas, sunny side up eggs, and herdez salsa verde.  All done in about 5 minutes.  This version, from Rick Bayless, is a bit more complicated, but not much. I cooked the black beans from scratch, but they never reached the degree of tenderness you get with the canned beans.  Any suggestions?

Nevertheless, I persevered and made them into chunky refried beans.  The ranchero sauce was much easier.  Just toss a can of charred tomatoes, 1/2 an onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and chipotles in adobo to taste into a blender.  When it is thoroughly combined, cook it down for about 5 minutes to thicken while you cook your eggs.  Plate the whole mess on top of some tortillas and your ready to go with dinner or a very hearty breakfast.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Indian Grilled Chicken and Okra

Grilling season starts early in South Texas (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say grilling season never stops).  Heating up the oven or even the gas burners on the stove really heats up the entire house, so with temperatures in the upper 80s, it was time to start cooking al fresco.  I love the flavor of yogurt marinaded chicken, so we tried this recipe which yielded extremely juicy legs with nice crispy skin.  The spice flavor isn't very prominent, but I topped it with a quick mint and cilantro chutney I mixed up.

I love the flavor of vegetables charred on the grill, not to mention keeping the kitchen cool and a pan clean.  I had seen a recipe featuring grilled, skewered okra last summer but never had a chance to try it.  As luck would have it, there was some fresh at the market so I sent Geoff out to grill it while basting with a spiced butter.  The only part of the meal that I cooked inside was kheer for desert.  The cold ending to this meal was perfect and completely addictive.

Cilantro-Mint Chutney
Makes about 1 cup

1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch mint
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic
2 inches ginger
1-2 tbsp. pickled jalepenos

Blend until smooth with just enough water to keep things moving.

Grilled Okra with Indian Spices
Makes 1 lb

1 lb fresh okra
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. corriander
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper, to taste

1. Thread okra onto two bamboo skewers, for stability.
2. Mix butter and all spices.
3. Grill 3-5 minutes on each side, basting with spice mixture.

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