Archive for July, 2011

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regular munchies.

July 30, 2011

And the cooking continues… Finally it’s coming in handy to follow a whole bunch of food sites on Google Reader. It all started when I came across Tastespotting and from there I just kept finding sites to give me pictures and recipes of food.

Kebabs – I made them with yellow squash, red onions, red pepper and beef. Salted and pepper and sprinkled with basil. At least for a first attempt, these came out pretty well. And, they looked amazing! But in the future, I’m going to do meat and veggies on separate skewers or I have to cut the veggies smaller. Otherwise, I was too afraid the meat would overcook. Also, I’d love to do these on a grill, but sadly, my apartment doesn’t let me do that.

Zucchini Carrot Muffins – I was trying to find a way to eat a bit healthier and use up some summer veggies, so I went searching for a zucchini bread recipe and stumbled upon these muffins instead. It’s great since zucchini and carrots are so cheap at the farmer’s markets. And muffin recipes are always really easy and simple to substitute or remove ingredients (ie no raisins, no nutmeg, more carrot). My other favorite muffin recipe is whole wheat pumpkin chocolate chip (just be sure to use a whole cup of pumpkin to keep them moist)

Scallion pancakes –  first attempt, the boyfriend and I made a whole stack. We used this recipe (no sesame oil) and these pictures for rolling them out. Turns out scallion pancakes are pretty easy. Ours weren’t super crispy, so we’ll have to try again.

Upcoming: basil chickpea dip, quiche, chicken pot pie, pancakes of some sort

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movie munchies III.

July 28, 2011

Been spending a lot of time watching movies. In thinking back over the movies I watch, I’ve become severely disappointed in my success ratio. The number of movies that I love is so small compared to the total. Is it because good movies are hard to find or am I being too picky or possibly I just have really terrible taste?

Stone - Edward Norton as a convicted arsonist, Robert DeNiro as his case manager. I was expecting so much more from this movie. But instead, the plot was slow, the events didn’t seem too connected. None of the characters were likeable. Overall, it was incredibly disappointing for me.

Between the Folds – A documentary on origami, only about an hour. Perfect – it shows some pretty amazing stuff and it doesn’t last too long.

The Adjustment Bureau – Matt Damon and Emily Blunt play two people who challenge destiny in order to be together. I liked it. The end could have played out a little bit better – it felt rushed. But I like the plot, I liked the characters. Definitely would recommend.

No Strings Attached – Oh my god, so terrible. I was expecting something cute and sappy and good enough to get a few laughs. It ended up with too many “wha?” moments, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher don’t have very much chemistry, and the montage of them having lots of sex was just awful (and how can you mess that up?). I am hoping for something better in Friends with Benefits.

I also watch movies when I’m cooking. I usually look for something that won’t take too much paying attention to and something that no one else would ever want to watch with me. So those movies are: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Killers, Bring It On Again, When in Rome. The only ones I would even imagine recommending are Killers and When in Rome – but even that’s a stretch. Though they were better than No Strings Attached.

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taxing junk food.

July 26, 2011

A friend asked for thoughts about the recent NYTimes column about taxing junk food. And ultimately, I’m pretty torn on the issue. I’m personally not a big fan of government taking significant steps to tell the public what to eat. It’s a similar feeling to when work would tell me to be healthier (when I’m already healthy). That being said – with the corn subsidies, etc, the government’s already pretty much controlling a lot of the food choices out there. Plus, the healthcare benefits overall could potentially be huge.

I think the key issue that this column addresses is that not only does the unhealthy food need to be taxed, but the healthy food needs to be subsidized. What ends up being difficult is that healthy food is relatively inconvenient. Let’s face it – I’ve got time and money and I still want to make instant ramen and Kraft macaroni and cheese because it’s fast and easy. I’m sure there are a lot of households where the parents don’t have the time (or want to go through the effort) to cook – not only dinner but healthy breakfast and lunches. But if you make the healthy staples cheaper – the effect you could see is in school lunches (it’s Jamie Oliver’s show that totally doesn’t work currently) and restaurant food.

But unhealthy food can quickly become a fuzzy area. Soda’s bad. Is diet soda better or worse? Is an artificial sweetener and zero calories better than high fructose corn syrup? What if the soda’s made with real sugar or honey? Is it worse than if I put three packets of sugar and cream into my coffee? Is the Big Mac really worse than the salad at McDonald’s? Should I really be buying organic? Someone’s going to be unhappy, so the government might as well just pick something and start there.

I do think that a lot of healthy preventative lifestyle changes are education though. And smoking is a perfect example. I grew up a generation that was shown every year in school pictures of lungs and teeth and cancer and people with tubes in their neck and number of deaths caused by smoking. That kind of imagery for a generation so concerned with how we look is priceless. But I never saw numbers for diabetes or cardiovascular disease. I’ve never been taught how to determine on my own if something is healthy (in a restaurant or a grocery store). I only recently learned how to eyeball the size of one serving of meat. From how successful Weight Watchers is, I’m not sure if people know how to count calories on their own. But I guess that all gets filed into life skills that don’t teach in school (like managing your finances and easy home repairs).

Side note – while writing this I was thinking about the corn subsidies. If you get rid of corn subsidies and it results in a decrease of corn based products (fast food, high fructose corn syrup, etc) since they’ll be more expensive, what impact does that have on the parts of the farms and areas that provide that corn? Wikipedia tells me less than 10% goes toward human food (not livestock).

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taste.

July 24, 2011

I feel like the last few weeks has been the longest I’ve stayed in one place in a long long time. And despite being a bit restless, it has revealed the hit that my cooking has taken over the past three years. My ability to put together meals for me and the boyfriend is virtually non-existent now. So I’ve been spending a significant amount of time looking up recipes. This has become my new favorite site.

In general, I’m sticking to the simple dishes – beef and peppers, chicken and bok choy, tomatoes and eggs. I tried making Parisian Chicken – that went ok (I don’t think it’s possible to mess it up too badly). I made chili with biscuits and brats. And my favorite snack of baked chickpeas. My biggest cooking attempt so far has been making home made gnocchi. The boyfriend loves it and it seemed pretty easy (potato, flour, cut it into pieces). You just have to make sure you mash the potatoes really well.

I’m making an attempt at lemon-ginger infused vodka. I’m not sure at all how this will go, so cross your fingers and I’ll be checking it in a week or so.

Upcoming: zucchini/carrot muffins, some sort of kebabs, a minestrone soup, black bean burgers, basil chickpea cucumber dip

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cursive.

July 22, 2011

Just another thing to make me feel old – schools are looking at eliminating cursive from the standard curriculum. They’re not just removing it though; they’re replacing it with more emphasis on typing.

My first reaction was that this is a terrible idea. But I’m probably in the same boat as most people who did learn cursive in school and just think that “back when I was young” everything so much better. But then I thought, how do kids learn to read script (even if it’s a script font) if they never learn to write it? And, possibly more importantly, when did you start learning how to sign your name? Does anyone sign their name without cursive? Others point out that cursive is often faster than printing and the motor skills/aesthetics/individuality developed in learning cursive is incredibly important.

Of course, there’s always the other side of the coin. One of the tumblrs I follow pointed out that this is just progress and cursive is becoming increasingly obsolete and typing is becoming an increasingly relevant skill. Maybe cursive just goes the way of floppy discs and video tapes and dial telephones. Hard to argue with that. My school forced kids to write in cursive – from the time learned it with the dotted middle line to make sure we were doing it just right – until 6th grade. Once we got to middle school – almost everyone switched back to print. I don’t think I’ve written in cursive outside a signature in years.

But my school also forced us into typing classes in 6th grade (ones where we had covers that hid the keyboard so we learned to type without looking). It almost pains me to look at people who “hunt and peck”. What a productivity killer! But these days, kids are going to learn to type and text and all that because they have to in order to communicate with their friends. If you don’t type fast enough, you will be two steps behind the conversation. No kid’s gonna learn cursive on their own.

What do you think – is cursive on the down and out?

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stories.

July 20, 2011

Since I live right by a park, it’s so easy to go outside to read for a few hours. Also, the San Francisco Library has awesome book sales (books are $1), so that makes me want to buy a whole bunch.

Here Lies Arthur – A story of King Arthur from the point of view of an orphaned girl, taken in by Myrddin – Arthur’s bard/advisor. This version takes away a lot of the mystery – painting Arthur as a warlord and making all the magic just fairy tales. In general, I always like putting legends into a more realistic setting, but this book just wasn’t working for me. I’m not sure if it was the style, or the fact that the plot moved along either too fast or too slow or something altogether.

Sandman Slim – A book about a guy who just spent the last decade in Hell, and now he’s back for revenge on the group that sent him there. We’re talking demons, dark magic, angels, etc. I wasn’t terribly impressed. Given the amount of fantasy that I read, magic shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. But mixing magic into otherwise real world settings really turns me off.

SuperFreakanomics – Pretty much exactly what you would expect. I think I read too many of these books and they all start to run together after a while.

A Wild Sheep Chase – This was my first time reading a book by Haruki Murakami. I was a bit hesitant at first, since his books don’t really seem up my alley. The storyline was ok – the end, a bit too unreal for me. Basic plot is about a man who needs to find a mysterious sheep with a star on its side. But, overall, I really liked it and I plan on reading more of his stuff.

Upcoming: A Scanner Darkly, Harold and Maude, Homebody, The Time Traveler’s Wife, the Game of Thrones series, Revolutionary Road.

side note: This whole unemployment/new city is slowing any sort of inspiration for writing in this blog. Things originally slowed down when I was planning to leave my job (didn’t want to write about that), then moving (too busy to write), then settling in. So now, I’m settled in and I’ll be trying to get back in the habit. Be prepared – the next couple posts are most likely going to be about food and movies and books.

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changes pt 2.

July 14, 2011

This is really my first time moving to a new city.

Moving from Wisconsin to Ithaca for college doesn’t quite count. The college environment is different. Everyone’s new. You get there and everyone has the same “talk to strangers and make new friends” mentality. And moving back – well, starting at Epic was a lot like starting at college again. Lots of meeting new people, lots of orientation to a new city. Plus, I already had a few friends there.

I’ve been here almost two weeks. And I realize now that I have no idea how to go about meeting new people in this city. Especially without a job.

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