Hello Kitty Darth Vader

February 20th, 2009

This is so very, very wrong. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it.

hellokittydarthvader

Broccoli-Parmesan Pasta

February 17th, 2009

When I saw something like this on FoodTV’s Barefoot Contessa (Brocolli and Bowties from the “Kids in a Candy Store” episode) and decided to make up my own, simpler, variant and give it a try. It’s incredibly simple and, if you use the multicolored rotini, it comes out delightfully colorful. You can also add chicken to this to make it a complete meal.

So, here’s my version:

Broccoli-Parmesan Pasta

1 cup broccoli florets (1 head)
4 handfuls of dry rotini pasta, the colorful kind if possible
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (I use the ready-minced-garlic-in-a-jar for this)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Steam the broccoli for 10 minutes – or until just tender (don’t overcook). Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, in another very large pot, boil a large amount of water, salt well, then add pasta and cook until tender (about 10 minutes, see tip below). Drain and add to the broccoli in the large bowl.

In a small saute pan, heat the butter and oil over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add minced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, letting the butter brown, but not burn. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Pour this over the broccoli and pasta, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add grated parmesan and toss well.

It’s very important to use a large amount of water and salt the water WELL (if it tastes like seawater it’s great) when you cook pasta. Try it sometime – boil some pasta in just enough plain water to cover it, then cook the same kind of pasta in another pot with triple the amount of water and a few tablespoons of salt. Drain, rinse and taste ‘em. Big diff.

Spinning Wheels

February 15th, 2009

I am officially a multi-wheel owner as I recently became the (possibly permanent?) foster mother to another spinning wheel, a Kromski Polonaise. I still want to get an antique Toika wheel like my Finnish great-grandmother used to have, and an antique Great Wheel. I’ve also got a 36 inch  rigid heddle tabletop loom, and I’d like a Leclerc loom. So, you know, I’m officially nuts. I really need to clean out and then do up the shed out back and make it into my own little tea house so I have somewhere to put them all.

The Kromski Polonaise

The Kromski Polonaise

The Kromski Symphony

The Kromski Symphony


My very first spinning wheel was the Kromski Symphony, a present to myself in 2004. I chose the Symphony because it looked the closest to the old antique Finnish spinning wheels that I so wanted. It’s a gorgeous device, all clear lacquered wood, and an absolute joy to use. It’s also a slightly “fast” wheel, meaning that it’s very easy to get it to spin fast, which can be a bit difficult for the beginner. So far I’ve stuck with using the largest whorl and treadling slowly.

The Polonaise is a single treadle wheel and runs a little slower. Even so, it took me a while to get used to because the flywheel can be adjusted at an angle. I didn’t realize this at first and had a really had time keeping it spinning. Once I’d figured it out I was able to get the flywheel inline with the mother-of-all and now it spins smoothly.

Spinning wheel terminology is kind of funny. The various parts of a spinning wheel have specific names, some of them quite … suggestive. There’s the obvious kinds of names, “flywheel”, “bobbin”, “whorl” and “treadle”. But then there’s also the “footmen”, the “maidens”, the “mother-of-all” and the “orifice”. Let no one ever tell you that a bunch of old crones don’t have just as dirty minds as a bunch of old men.

Handspun, handknit, wool.

Handspun, handknit, wool.

I taught myself how to spin, using a book and the video that came with my wheel. I started with some roving from an abandoned craft kit that I had (a dream-catcher I’d never completed) and later some prepared roving that I bought on eBay. By February of 2005 I’d spun up enough – about 4 ounces of natural wool roving – to knit into a small rectangle. First I spun it, then I plied it into a 3-ply yarn using a technique called Navajo-Plying as described on The Joy of Handspinning web site. Finally I knitted a small sampler rectangle.

As I mentioned, I used the wool from an old dream-catcher kit that was falling apart for my first attempt at spinning. I hadn’t finished the dream-catcher and the bit of wool had gotten dirty enough that I was going to toss the whole thing out. Luckily the wool was essentially a coil of prepared roving – perfect for my first try on the spinning wheel. As you can see, I spun really fine and thin in some areas, very thick and fluffy in others and the whole thing is full of lumps and bumps.

The next attempt was with a batch of Corriedale wool roving generously donated by owner Judith and The Lovely Ladies of Sithean at  Sithean Fiber and Gifts. I’d heard that Corriedale wool was an easy fiber to spin for beginners and, now that I’ve tried it, I heartily agree. By this time I was spinning with ease, even though I’d as of yet had no hands-on instruction from any other experienced spinner. It was neat to feel the natural wool slip through my fingers into the spindle in a nice, neat single. The result was a much finer and much more even single ply yarn.

My first attempt at spinning my own wool yarn.

My first attempt at spinning my own wool yarn.

My second ever attempt and hand spinning my own wool yarn.

My second ever attempt and hand spinning my own wool yarn.

The nutmeg handspun yarn, before I turned it into a wiry mess.

The nutmeg handspun yarn, before I turned it into a wiry mess.


I also did a nice little pile of nutmeg dyed Corriedale. I tried ply this one into a two ply yarn, using another technique that involves two bobbins of yarn coming off of a lazy kate, but didn’t watch to make sure than my ply twist was in the opposite direction as the spin twist. I ended up with the kinkiest yarn you’ve ever seen.

A basket full of roving.

A basket full of roving.

Since then I’ve learned already that one cannot have too much roving. I’ve got everything from several different kinds (different breeds of sheep) of wool roving, camel, buffalo, llama and alpaca, Mongolian yak, silk, and various plant fiber rovings, including flax, corn and bamboo. I even got to visit with a really nice lady in Boerne, Texas who owned a lot of alpaca and llama, and came away with lots of raw wool to clean, card and then spin. I also learned that unprotected roving is like crack to kitties – utterly irresistible to pounce on – so it all rests safely inside an antique toy rest.

Want more?

Have a look at the pictures I took at Kid N’ Ewe – a fiber festival in Boerne, Texas, last November.

Here’s a cool video of a woman explaining how to spin on a Great Wheel. It’s such a graceful process – almost like learning a dance – since you are standing and moving back and forth in front of the wheel instead of remaining seated.

Here’s another wonderful video: Amanda shows you how to spin cotton sliver on a great wheel. (Embedding is disabled on this one, but it’s well worth going over to YouTube for a look-see.) I swear I could just watch and listen to this woman all day. I think of her as the Bob Ross of spinning.

Here’s a video of a more modern-style wheel:

And here’s one that explains how the spinning wheel works:

And finally, here’s a video of Andy Pankso’s stunninly beautiful all-glass peice of art. Yes, that’s a fully functioning spinning wheel made of hand blown glass. Be still my heart:

I’m “Earth”

February 13th, 2009

I have a guilty pleasure. I love taking these silly online quizzes. You know the ones I mean. “Which XYZ character are you?” “What color are you?” “Who is your Star Wars Twin?”

I used to post them to my blog: (The originals are from 2002 and most of the quiz links no longer work so I’m not including them here.)

How British are you?
Jolly good, wot! Anyone for tennis? That’ll be ten ponies, guv. You’re the epitome
of everything that is English. Yey :) Hoist that Union Jack!

Find your inner PIE
Apple pie.
[Jeff's favorite!]

Take the Enterprise Quiz!
You’re T’Pol. You are very analytical and logical, as any good Vulcan is, but this makes you stick out like a sore thumb. You’re cold and calculated, but there’s a softer side to you that you tend to keep under wraps.

Star Wars Twin
The test you just took has been broken down into five different categories. For each category, your score has been matched against a database of personality profiles for characters in Star Wars. For example, your openness to new experiences is similar to the openness to new experiences of Wicket.
[ Agreeableness = I'm Darth Vader.]

Where Do You Belong?
You Belong In Hell!! You are bad. No. you are EVIL! You like violence and death. Little children are annoying little shits who need to be struck by lightning, in your eyes.
[Hah! I know it was the "you'd be gluing pennies to the ground at the mall and seeing how many people try to pick them up" answer. Between this and Darth Vader is it apparent I shouldn't be taking these things while under the influence of PMS.]

What Fantasy Race Are You?
Wood Elf
[Yeah. The the wood elf FROM HELL.]

Check out which fruit you are

A peach.
[Well isn't that just peachy. C'mon, You knew I was going to say it.]

Take the non-offensive quiz
Mewing cat-in-a-basket.
[Hrm. Lessee, I guess at this point this makes me a peachy British cat from Vulcan snuggled up in a soft fluffy basket. IN HELL. God I love these tests.]

Which finger are you?

You are the good ol’ thumb! You are the family one, the one who not necessarily everyone loves but the one who everyone can’t live without. Always willing to lend a hand or comfort a friend when they need it.
[Hrmph. Darth Vader is not pleased.]

Which Furry Woodland Creature Are You?
A Chipmunk
[Great, I'm roadki..., er, a chipmunk. ]

I don’t post these to my blog anymore, even though I still enjoy taking the blasted things. I’m making an exception today, simply because the images on this quiz were so darn pretty. And because I seem to have strayed from my earlier Darth-Vader-Kitty-In-Hell persona:

Your result for The Elemental Test…

Earth, The Protector

Your nature is Earth. You are protective and nurturing to those close to you and appreciate nature for it’s own sake. Though violence and morbidity may disturb you, you have become accustomed to them being a part of everyday life and are perfectly ready to protect yourself from being included in these events.

How zen.

Recipe: Coconut-Steamed Mussels

February 12th, 2009

Another recipe from the vault:

Original posted Monday February 10, 2003:

mussels1

Coconut-Steamed Mussels

1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 shallot, chopped
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
a pinch of kosher salt
1 pound mussels
a few grinds of fresh black pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive  oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the  water, wine and coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Add salt and red pepper  flakes. Insert a steamer basket and add the mussels. Cover and steam for 6  minutes. Remove mussels to a lareg bowl, discarding any that haven’t  opened. Add black pepper to broth and pour over mussels. Garnish with  chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

mussels2

Remembering Columbia

February 12th, 2009

Looking through old blog articles written at about this same time each year, I came across several that left me feeling a little blue for a while.

It’s been six years since the Space  Shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas as it was descending toward Kennedy Space center in Florida.

I remember this tragedy as vividly as the 1986 Challenger accident, some seventeen years earlier. I was in high school at that time and living in Houston. The accident hit us all pretty hard but when tragedy struck again in 2003 I felt the additional loss of  a personal hero.

Though reading these makes me sad, I thought they also spoke a lot about how strongly I feel about continuing to explore our world and the space beyond it. So I’ve dug them out, dusted them off and I’m re-posting them here with a few edits.

Ad astra per ardua.



Original posted on Saturday Feb 01 2003 at 10:15:53 a.m.
Subject: Damn, Damn, Damn….

I just woke up to hear the news – Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas as it was descending toward Kennedy Space center in Florida.

Damnit, this is three days after the anniversary of the 1986 Challenger accident! I still remember where I was when that happened – calculus class, my senior year in high school. Another teacher came to tell ours the news. We all thought he was kidding since he had a reputation for pranks.

It was no joke. For weeks, the city of Houston was as depressed as you could ever find it. Houston is fairly invested emotionally in the space program; NASA at the Johnson Space Center employs a lot of people, and the astronauts and their families call the surrounding area home. The Challenger Accident was utterly devastating to the community. I remember my mother driving me to school and listening to DJ’s on the radio sobbing as they played memorials for the astronauts.

My sister was the one to tell me about Columbia. She’d called and left a message early this morning. Apparently debris is being found in Houston, and I can only imagine how that city feels now.

I’d actually been aware (unlike a lot of people who take the program for granted these days) of the launch of this mission; the University where I work had a student science project aboard. It’s enormously frustrating, realizing that our space program is stuck refurbishing 20 year old shuttles. This was the 28th flight for Columbia, which was built back in 1981, making it the oldest of the fleet.

Besides the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, this mission also carried one of my heroines, Kalpana Chawla. Just eight years older than myself and born in India, she went to the University of Texas in 1984 for her Masters and to my parent’s alma mater, University Of Colorado for her doctorate. Her picture has graced my personal web page about India since her first mission. I found her fascinating, beyond the fact that she’d become an astronaut, because she became a naturalized U.S. citizen and was married to a non-Indian (Jean-Pierre Harrison, a freelance flying instructor) something that was personally meaningful to me at the time.

From what’s been said so far, it looks like the re-entry of the shuttle was too fast at the wrong altitude. [2009 Note: We now know that a piece of foam insulation broke off the Space Shuttle's external tank, striking the leading edge of the left wing and damaging tiles which protect the Shuttle during re-entry. ] Given what they’re saying, it’s not  surprising that it would break apart. So far no evidence of terrorism, and I’m not surprised. If it was terrorism I’m sure something would have been done at launch. This is much more likely due to the aging of our space program fleet.

crew

Crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia- photo courtesy of NASA.

Names of the crew

Names of the crew


Original posted Saturday Feb 02 16:49:22 2003
Subject: A whole bunch of news links about Kalpala Chawla

Indian-Born American Astronaut Was Heroine in India

India Mourns Loss of National Heroine

India has lost a worthy daughter

Woman who lived space dream

She said she’d say hello to us from space

Even if they could never figure out what happened and even if there was a huge risk of it happening again as soon as the next Shuttle went up (and we’re going to have to figure out if it will, since there are folks on the International Space Station), if someone asked me tomorrow (or even right now) if I would take the risk and go into space, I’d say yes in a heartbeat. No hesitation; I know the risks. I’d go.

I hope this tragedy doesn’t have a lasting negative effect on the space program. I hope it instead serves to strengthen our resolve to explore and to do the science that reaches into space, despite the risks.


Original posted Monday February 03, 2003 at 10:34:49 a.m.
Subject: More thoughts about the Shuttle

I know I’ve been posting almost nothing else but this for the last couple of days. But dammit, the space program is near and dear to my heart and so I’ve been reading what others are saying on their blogs. There are many that echo the general sentiments I’ve posted her and few that also echo my sentiments about the people who think we should scrap the space program.

The more I think about it, the more angry and upset I am at the supposedly enlightened response I’ve gotten from fellow feminists with regards to recent events. I’m well aware of the work that still needs to be done here on this planet and the kinds of worthy causes struggling for equal time, attention and money. But even so, I just cannot understand anyone who can’t see the inherent value of something like continuing our exploration into space. Why must we feel we have to sacrifice one goal for the other? Furthermore, I’m frustrated beyond belief at the lack of knowledge of the good that has come out of the space program as well as the lack of appreciation for it.

But then, maybe I am in the minority. I’m the kind of person who wants desperately to chase a night-time thunderstorm and view it from a high vantage point so that I can actually witness “red sprites” and other recently discovered lightening phenomenon. I get goosebumps just reading about the discovery of the ceaolocanth, and would love to know more about giant squids. I’d give anything to explore space or live aboard the space station, and I miss science and research after years spent doing other things.

I feel privileged to live in this age, when the technology we’ve developed can increase our understanding of the universe by leaps and bounds. The magnitude of what we still don’t know humbles me, the glimpses into the unknown excite me and the beauty of it all leaves me in awe. And all the while I believe we can, and should, be hopeful and inquisitive. Maybe this kind of attitude is just not fashionable in a post-9/11 world. Even so, I still say that those who insist we should scrap the space program lack any real imagination, sense of awe or desire for adventure in life. You can’t convince me otherwise.


Original posted on Monday February 03 2003, at 08:11:30 p.m.
Subject: Images

Photos of signs around Clear Lake, Texas after the Columbia accident.

Non est ad astra mollis e terris via. (There is no easy way from the earth to the stars.)


Original posted Tuesday, February 04, 2003 at 02:47:30 p.m.
Subject: Finding the Spirit

It’s been an emotionally draining few days, watching television about Columbia, seeing other people’s grief, remembering Challenger, and feeling angry with those who would deem it all a waste.

I got to thinking today, while I noticed more and more news about Kalpana Chawla and Ilan Ramon, that the U.S. could learn something from both Israel and India’s responses.

Both individuals were the first astronauts to represent their respective homelands. (Chawla was the first astronaut for India. In 1984 Rakesh Sharma was that country’s first cosmonaut. One man, one woman, one astronaut, one cosmonaut. India had one of each.) Naturally, both countries responded with great enthusiasm and joy.

Their endeavors didn’t just spur national pride, but also served to encourage efforts to learn about earth as a planet, the solar system, astronomy and science in general. Out of each nation came a sense of excitement, awe and optimism despite the social turmoil and strife in, in the case of parts of India, even crushing poverty.

Even as they now grieve the loss of national heroes, both countries affirm that not only must exploration go on, but that the drive, determination and sense of dedication necessary to do so must go on. This is particularly true for Israel, which had pinned hopes of a boost in morale on Ramon’s venture into space. Neither country feels deterred, even in the face of overwhelming difficulties. There’s a Latin phrase, ad astra per ardua, which translates as “to the stars through hardship”. Both Israel and India seem to know what that really means.

I hope that my fellow Americans can find that same sense of “the show must go on” in terms of the commitment, drive, determination, and bravery needed to reach hard-to-reach goals, and perhaps a renewed sense of excitement at facing the unknown. I know that I and many of my close friends stand firm in that resolve. I’m recommitting myself to my support for space exploration.


Original posted Tuesday, February 04, 2003 at 5:49:29 p.m.
Subject: Interview

I was interviewed on Monday for an article regarding recent events. It went up today, and you can read it here.


Original posted on Friday, February 07, 2003 at 12:54:33 p.m.
Subject: Misc

After such a spate of entries, it feels like I’ve been really quiet in my weblog for days! I’m still here, but I’m kinda swamped at the moment. I’ve got a lot of stuff to say, but I’m trying to catch up with some reading for classes and I’m finishing up a paper for one of them. The last two weeks have been a blur of writing, (for class, at work, online) and with the weather changes the osteoarthritis in my hand has been acting up – it’s either hurting or stiff.

I’ll post more later this weekend. In the meantime, here’s a few things to think about:

NASA’s Response to Columbia More Open than Challenger

International Space Station: Grieving, Imperiled

Russia needs cash to keep ISS aloft


Original posted Monday,  February 10, 2003 at 11:43:05 a.m.
Subject: This Weekend and News Items

It was supposed to snow in my area early Saturday morning, but if it did I missed it. Rats. I was looking forward to that.

On a brighter note, I did finish my paper! Sunday was a spectacularly gorgeous day, so I got outside for a while. I also did some spring cleaning in my closet (I’ve got a few things to drop off with Goodwill now) and bought a few new clothes.

Some interesting news items in my inbox today:

BUSH SIGNS ORDER AUTHORIZING CYBER-ATTACKS
President Bush has signed a secret order allowing the government to proceed with developing guidelines on circumstances under which the U.S. could launch cyber-attacks against foreign computer systems. The directive signals Bush’s desire to pursue new forms of potential warfare — already the Pentagon has moved ahead with development of cyber-weapons that could by used by the military to invade foreign networks and shut down radar, disable electrical facilities and disrupt phone service.

Innovation in the Dead Zone
Devout Parsis have been leaving their dead to be consumed by the
vultures and the elements for centuries. But the vultures are nearly extinct and
the elements don’t always cooperate. So technology takes a hand …

The following was the stupidest commentary I’ve seen in a long while:

Memory Overload
As hard drives get bigger and cheaper, we’re storing way too much.

The author complains that we’re storing way too much information and archiving too much of our lives because we can’t immediately consume it all. How narcissistic. Did it ever occur to this idiot that perhaps we won’t be the beneficiaries of this archived information about our lives? Hey, here’s a novel thought: Maybe future generations will benefit? Geez.

Man vs machine chess match ends in stalemate
Gary Kasparov chose to draw the deciding game of his match with the
computer program Deep Junior on Friday rather than push for a win and risk
defeat.

In pictures: Hajj climax
Some very nice photos from the BBC, along with an explanation of the Hajj itself.

And in news about the aftermath of the Shuttle disaster: Remains of Israeli astronaut go home. *sigh* This is but the first of seven sad homecomings and funerals.

One mini-rant regarding some of the media commentary about Columbia: I’m getting tired of hearing journalists pontificate about how it took a tragedy for us (meaning everyone) to learn the names of the seven astronauts.

SPEAK FOR YOURSELVES and your journalistic guilt at deeming the space program not worth writing about! This individual has been following the space program since she was a kid, and did know the names of those astronauts before they died. Hell, I even knew the name of one of them before she ever went up into space the first time, years ago! I’m not the only one out there. Most of my friends have kept up with the space program, if not in detail, at least more so than most journalists and political pundits have.

It just ticks me off that yet again, journalists ignore the existence of people who have long been fans of space exploration. Show me a Star Trek fan and I’ll show you someone who knows what the space program is doing right now. And what about all those schoolkids following the experiments on board the shuttle? Or the people who wake up early to watch the Shuttle fly overhead as it comes in for a landing? I’ve got news for you “news” folks. There are people out there who care about science and “nerdy” things like the space program, enough so that we don’t take them for granted, ad we’re not living under rocks. We’re not that bloody hard to find, people!

Ahem.


Original posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 at 00:30:40 a.m.
Subject: Challenger vs Columbia

My friend, Kim Allen brought this article to my attention: “Here’s a piece that compares the public and media reactions to the two disasters.

It’s late and I need to get to bed, so I’ll just make this quick comment:

An editorial in the UK Independent claimed the disaster ‘is likely to
mark a further stage in coming to terms with the limits of human endeavor’

Uh-huh. Let’s all just lay down and quit evolving. Some things are just too hard. We should know our limitations and stay put like content little mammals in our present condition. Why strive for more? Why can’t we just be happy with the status quo?

Gag. Retch. Oh please. Somebody stick a couple of corks in this editor’s nose and let’s move on.


Yeah, I was a little annoyed with all the hand-wringing “it’s too risky and hard and it’s not worth it so we should give up and just do other things” attitude that seemed to permeate the atmosphere in 2003. I did write about it all once more:


Original posted, Friday, January 30, 2004 at 10:07:19 a.m.
Subject: Remembering Columbia

This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary the shuttle Columbia exploded in the skies over Texas. It feels much longer than that for some reason. (Maybe because I also got married, bought a house and moved. 2003 was a year of big changes.)

Unfortunately many of the memorial services and remembrances will likely be overshadowed by the Super Bowl. Even so, some have already begun.

JSC employees remember Columbia shuttle astronauts (link no longer works). See the full coverage from Houston (link no longer works).

A final thought:

Recipe: Whole Slow Cooked Chicken, Chicken Stock, Chicken Soup

January 28th, 2009

So many of the people I know online seem to be succumbing to a 24 hour bug that I thought it would be appropriate to repost my expereince with making chicken stock and chicken soup.

Originally posted, July 12, 2002:

I am so proud of myself.

Yesterday I made some scrumptious blueberry muffins and a chicken and potato dish. Yum. Today I made a soup from scratch; I’d just bought some yummy veggies and wondered what to do with ‘em. Yes, I made it up – no recipe or anything! Actually I had been reading several dozen soup recipes the day before, so I guess I just figured out the “soup basics”.

It turned out perfect.

I started with one bunch (with the leaves all still on) of smallish organic carrots. Small and expensive, but wow – what flavor! Well worth the expense. I chopped them up into smallish bits, then diced a clove of garlic and two medium stalks of celery (after I’d peeled all the tough strings out of the celery) into same size smallish bits. Note, peeling out those tough strings made a huge difference. It was a bit of extra work, but worth it in the end.

I then sauteed the veggies in olive oil very briefly – just 3 to 5 minutes – and added about six roughly chopped mushroom caps (no stems). I also chopped the white ends of green onions (about six smallish ones) and added those and a tiny bit of water. I let that saute for another 5 minutes or so.

Next I added about 4 cups of water and three chicken bouillon cubes. (I was out of chicken stock.) I also chopped up the two chicken breasts I had left over from the previous night’s dinner (they’d already been baked with tarragon, thyme and rosemary before) into medium chunks and added those and a half can of (drained) “toovar liva”, otherwise known as Indian bean seeds. (They’re like a firm and smallish black-eyed pea. Lentils or some other smallish bean would substitute nicely.)

Then I tossed in some seasonings: sea salt, onion powder, black pepper, basil, tarragon, lemon pepper, sesame seeds, and about ten dashes of white wine vinegar.

Finally I added a couple of handfuls of egg noodles, lowered the heat a bit and simmered the whole schemer (covered) for about ten or so minutes.

Yum!

Originally posted April 14, 2003:

Sometimes I want to make something really good and home cooked, but not  put a lot of effort into it. This slow cooked chicken is really easy and you get a lot of mileage (chicken dinner, stock and soup) out of one chicken.

Whole Slow Cooked Chicken:

First thing you need is a slow cooker. Most of the models available now have an integrated timer, but if you have an older model you can buy adapters that will give them the same ability.

Take a whole chicken and get rid of the skin and any stuff left inside. I’ll often trim off a lot of the fat too, then rinse the bird. Cut a large yellow onion into big quarters and stuff that inside of the bird with a few springs of rosemary. Place inside the slow cooker, on top of a small rack (if you’ve got one for the cooker). Sprinkle a lemon pepper spice mix all over the chicken and set to the lowest setting for about 6 hours.

You can set the whole chicken ontop of several potatoes in leiu of a rack. This has the added bonus of infusing the potatoes with chickeny goodness. With a little butter and milk or cream they make excellent mashed poattoes.

After dinner I’ll strip the chicken of the meat and and save both that and the carcass (onions and everything) in separate containers in the fridge. I can use some of the chicken for dinner the next night or keep it for soup.

Chicken Stock:

The next day, or immediately after trimming the chicken and putting the meat in the fridge, place the carcass (bones and all the trimmings.) Fill with water enough to just cover and then set your slower cooker on the highest setting.

You’ll notice a huge difference in the bones after three hours and if you let it go long enough they’ll start to disintegrate. When you’re ready, just strain the whole thing through a cheesecloth into a container and refrigerate. The next day you’ll be able to lift off any remaining fat off the top of the stock. (It’ll be a solid layer on top.)

Voila. You’re ready for chicken soup.

Hearty Chicken Soup:

This one does take a little more prep, but it’s still pretty quick.

Take three stocks of celery from a bunch and chop them up into small cubes. I de-string the stuff first, then cut them into strips and chop to get the nice cubed look. Take three or four carrots, peel ‘em with a potato peeler and chop them up into similarly sized bits. Dice one clove of garlic.

In a large pot over high heat, add your home-made chicken stock and a bay leaf (or two) plus 4 to 6 chicken bouillon cubes.

In a saute pan, add a small amount of olive oil and the garlic. Cook for a minute or two. Add the celery and carrots and sprinkle with salt. Cook two or three minutes max.

Scrape all the veggies into the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add small (not wide) egg noodles and cook until almost done.

Roughly chop up the leftover chicken (don’t get it to small) and add to the soup when the noodles are almost done. Add some lemon pepper spice to taste (and for a nifty touch toss in a handful of sesame seeds) or, alternatively, season with cumin and allspice. Cook  until noodles are done and the chicken is heated through.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Dilled Tilapia and Zucchini CousCous

January 22nd, 2009

I tweeted about a successful culinary adventure yesterday and was promptly asked for the recipes. Here they are! (The fish is my dad’s own recipe, and the zucchini is mine, so this is the first time they’ve been written down.)

Dilled Tilapia

4 frozen tilapia fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried dill weed
4 tablespoons olive oil

Lay the fillets on a microwave-safe plate. Zap the four fillets in the microwave for just 40 seconds or less – enough to make them slightly moist, but still frozen. Sprinkle one side with half the spices. Heat the olive oil in a non stick frying pan over high heat. Add the fillets, spiced side down. Sprinkle the remaining spices on the other side of the fillets. Reduce heat to medium-high. Cook for three minutes. Turn fillets over. (Add some olive oil if necessary.) Cook for six minutes. Turn over once more and cook for an additional two to three minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Couscous with zucchini

A pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons hot water
3 medium zucchini, cubed (about 1/2 square chunks)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoons onion powder
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup couscous (for a really nice look, use the multicolored couscous)
1 cup boiling water

Soak the saffron threads in the hot water. Heat olive oil in a shallow saucepan (that has a tight fitting lid) on high until zucchini sizzles when dropped into it. Reduce heat to medium and toss in all the zucchini. Cook until just slightly translucent, but still a bit firm. Add spices and toss well. Add the saffron-infused water and the boiling water. Cover with lid and let sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Another blog

January 22nd, 2009

I just thought I should mention here that I’ve started another blog (in addition to my research/professional-related one, Bits and Bytes) called All About Tea. I still have a couple of design elements to fix, but please feel free to check it out and let me know what you think.

Obama’s Inauguration Speech

January 20th, 2009

I’m sure that everyone who was excited about today’s inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America, has some favorite part – a line, a phrase – of the inaugural speech. Didn’t get to watch/hear it? You can read it here.

My favorite part was, probably predictably if you know me well enough, this:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

It’s a sentiment that speaks to my own multi-cultural background, my optimistic point of view, my love for travel and diverse cultures, and part of what I liked about Obama in the first place. May we, this time, act on such sentiments and move the human race forward, not backwards.

Updated 01/22/2009: Here’s a couple of links to related topics:

In First Family, a Nation’s Many Faces

The president’s elderly stepgrandmother brought him an oxtail fly whisk, a mark of power at home in Kenya. Cousins journeyed from the South Carolina town where the first lady’s great-great-grandfather was born into slavery, while the rabbi in the family came from the synagogue where he had been commemorating Martin Luther King’s Birthday. The president and first lady’s siblings were there, too, of course: his Indonesian-American half-sister, who brought her Chinese-Canadian husband, and her brother, a black man with a white wife.

When President Barack Obama was sworn in on Tuesday, he was surrounded by an extended clan that would have shocked past generations of Americans and instantly redrew the image of a first family for future ones.

[...]

For well over two centuries, the United States has been vastly more diverse than its ruling families. Now the Obama family has flipped that around, with a Technicolor cast that looks almost nothing like their overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Protestant predecessors in the role. The family that produced Barack and Michelle Obama is black and white and Asian, Christian, Muslim and Jewish. They speak English; Indonesian; French; Cantonese; German; Hebrew; African languages including Swahili, Luo and Igbo; and even a few phrases of Gullah, the Creole dialect of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Very few are wealthy, and some — like Sarah Obama, the stepgrandmother who only recently got electricity and running water in her metal-roofed shack — are quite poor.

“Our family is new in terms of the White House, but I don’t think it’s new in terms of the country,” Maya Soetoro-Ng, the president’s younger half-sister, said last week. “I don’t think the White House has always reflected the textures and flavors of this country.”

[...]

The Foreign (Student) Perspective on America’s Historic Day

Charlotte Junius, a German student interning in Washington, saw something she did not quite expect Tuesday during the inauguration of President Obama. Near her vantage point, in the shadow of the Washington Monument, she was surrounded not only by hundreds of thousands of American citizens but also a healthy dose of foreign visitors, all packed onto the National Mall to witness history.