Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chicken and Broccoli

That's right.  You read the title correctly.  This Wilde girl is heading home to Buffalo this weekend!  I'm very excited.  There are plans in the works for lunch at my parents house (it is rumored to involve apple cobbler), breakfast at my favorite local restaurants with boyfriend and dinner with the in-laws.

This visit was only planned last Saturday, as we were groggily trying to acclimate ourselves to the eastern time zone.  Did you know that Alaska is in it's own time zone?  One hour further west of pacific standard time!  Couple that with the fact that the sun gets up much later in our New Jersey apartment than it did in our cruiseship stateroom and you've got two people waking up at almost 10am.  This is a huge deal for me.  I'm usually up by 7:30 on the weekends.

I suppose that the idea for the visit was hatched a few weeks ago, when I said "we could go to Buffalo for labor day weekend."  While on the cruise, boyfriend said "I looked at flights for next weekend, we should book tickets soon."  Come Saturday, boyfriend was sitting at his computer and booking the 8pm flight for Friday night.  Why the ticket says we take off at 8:01 and get to Buffalo at 10:05 is beyond me.  The flight is only an hour.  Those airlines are padding their time to make me feel better when we land "early" at 9:45, even though we took off 45 minutes late.  I'm not fooled airlines!

Moving on...  Other than spending time with my parents (who I haven't seen since Christmas) and boyfriends parents (who I can't remember when I saw them last!), we have no plans for our little weekend getaway.  It will probably involve getting a Ted's hotdog while drinking an overly sweet loganberry, chowing down on some John and Mary's chicken tenders while eyeing up Nina's ice cream across the street and driving by the now empty lot that used to hold the Swiss Chalet, wiping a tear from my eye.

Oh yes, there will be cobbler too.  I have a text message confirmation.  Bring on Friday!

And...  I get to see these little ladies.  They're one year old now!

And they're pretending to be little old eastern European ladies...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Marinated Tomato Pasta with Gorgonzola

I'm finally back from our weeklong hiatus in the great white north.  No, not Canada.  Alaska!

Boyfriend and I spent a week among the seals, bears and whales, sailing the chilly Pacific on the Celebrity Infinity.  What can I say about Alaska?  It's just plain majestic.  We cruised by, hiked through and flew over some of the most beautiful landscapes that I have ever seen. 

Towering mountains with blue glaciers clinging to their sides.

Green hills, peeking through an early morning layer of clouds.

Huge boulders, floating on a river of flowing blue water and ice.

Our trip through Alaska was also one of the most active vacations we've taken.  Thankfully we had a day at sea to recover from all the activities.


Rock Climbing...

White Water Rafting...

I'm a little tired still.  That's why I went with a simple pasta dish from my new Alaskan cookbook, even though this dish seems like the least Alaskan dish I could find.  No salmon to be found!

But here's a bear...

And here's the pasta!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Sandwich Bread (Part 2)

I have been eating whole wheat bread since I was a little Wilde one.  Our freezer was always stocked with loaves and loaves of bread.  Sandwiches were always a part of my daily school lunches. 

These days I rarely make myself a sandwich for lunch, but I do like a slice of toasted wheat bread, topped with a thin layer of peanut butter. 

The recipe that I went with for my whole wheat experiment came out just like the bread from my childhood days.  With a hint of sweetness and a whole lot of whole grains, this bread may tempt me to head to the deli and make a sandwich.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Sandwich Bread (Part 1)

I really enjoy making bread dough.  I love kneading the dough and the final texture of it.  It's so much fun to play with!  Then there's the science of the yeast and the rising dough.  Making bread is just like a little science experiment in your kitchen.  Just ask any biologist, yeast is very important to science!

The only problem with making bread, I have to find someone to eat it!  I just don't eat that much bread these days.  Since I moved to New Jersey (over a year ago), I have bought one loaf of bread.  Since I got my braces put on (six months ago), I haven't bought a single loaf.  I decided it was too much work to eat sandwiches with the hardware on my teeth.

When it finally came time to the Why Bother? sandwich bread challenge, I decided I had to try something a little different.  You can buy so many different varieties of bread at the local grocery store, farmers market, local bakery or Panera.  I even live equidistant to all four of those places!  I had to make a bread that I would want to eat.

After looking through my five bread-making cookbooks, I settled on two very different loaves.  Today I present to you a pesto swirl bread!  Swirls of freshly made pesto in between airy layers of white bread.  While it came out delicious, I wouldn't suggest using it as a sandwich bread.  The swirls of pesto made the swirls of the bread pop out when the bread was sliced.  Each piece of bread was like a little slinky.

The slinky effect was the exact reason I decided to make a cheese sandwich out of my bread.  The idea came to me in the mid afternoon and I was thinking about it all through my long train ride home.  Two slices of pesto bread, filled with fresh, homemade mozzarella cheese, grilled and melty.  There was no way it couldn't be amazing.  And I was right.

Come back on Sunday for part two of sandwich bread!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tortellini and Artichokes in Walnut Sauce

I'm not here right now, I'm in Alaska!  Please leave a message!  Beeeeeeeepppp...

I left you some pasta to eat while I'm gone.  Don't burn the house down!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wegmans Buffalo Chicken

I'm ready to go on vacation, it's been a long few weeks at work!  Yesterday was another long day in the lab and at my desk.  Before we sail away into the Alaskan wild tomorrow, I have a few things to accomplish at work.  I'm always responsible for doing chemistry and making new compounds every week.  In addition to that, this week I have to finish making a presentation so that it's ready for when I return from vacation.  Since I don't want to do too much work while on vacation, I'm working long hours this week!

At least I've finished packing my suitcase!  I keep going back to it and trying to decide if I have enough layers, socks and workout clothes.  Boyfriend was very jealous that all of my stuff fit into my suitcase, with room to spare.  That's the bonus of being a girl, our clothes are smaller so we can pack more! 

The cameras are charged, lenses are cleaned, my Kindle is stocked with new literature (chick lit and fashion magazines) and the apartment is almost ready for us to go away.  Just a few more turns around the house to clean up and empty out the fridge.  Not that we have much in the fridge this week anyways, I bought bananas at the grocery store this week, but I don't really want to return to fuzzy limes and milk that is more yogurt than milk.  Luckily, dinner was made up of items that I always have in the house.  And it's one of boyfriends favorite meals (minus the carrots).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gorgonzola and Leek Risotto

I'm counting down the days of work left this week.  Why do I only have three days left?  The reason is simple, come Friday at 8:00 am boyfriend and I will be winging our way to Seattle!  After a five hour flight from JFK to the west coast, we'll be heading to the port and boarding another cruise ship!

It's like 2012 is the year of the cruise vacation for us.  I'm thinking of booking us a Greek Isles cruise in the fall just to round out the year of sailing.  This time, boyfriend and I are heading north into the chilly waters off the coast of Alaska.  We will be floating through iceberg infested water, sailing with humpback whales and watching glaciers slowly creep toward the sea.  I'm looking forward to hearing my first glacier calf, does it really sound like thunder?

We are almost ready to go.  This weekend I went out and bought a winter coat.  With the blanket-jacket retired and sent to Goodwill and only my plum-colored wool coat hanging in the closet, I really needed something that would keep me warm and dry in the Alaskan summer.  While the middle of summer isn't the best time to search for a great winter jacket, I managed a great find at Century 21!  A sleek lime green, waterproof, hooded parka!

Now, if I could only decide what else to pack...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Mozzarella Cheese

After my success with ricotta cheese, I was very excited try my hand at a little more involved cheese - mozzarella.  However, there was one problem.  New Jersey was conspiring against me in this particular challenge. 

After much reading, leafing through multiple cookbooks and cruising the blogosphere, it was the general consensus that you should use raw milk to make your mozzarella cheese.  Unpasteurized, non-homogenized, raw milk.  There was just one problem to my obtaining said raw milk, it is illegal in New Jersey to commercially sell raw milk. 

I couldn't find it in my supermarket, at any of the small co-ops or sitting in a cooler at the farmers market.  Raw milk is a precious, and apparently illegal, commodity.  Over the past few years, groups have brought bills to the state senate to legalize the sale of raw milk.  As of right now there is a bill with the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that would allow the sale of raw milk under certain conditions, whatever that means.

Due to the current laws of the Garden state, the only way for me to get raw milk would be to cross a border into either Upstate New York or Pennsylvania.  I know there are lots of dairy farms upstate, but I thought it would be a little excessive to drive over seventy miles just to buy milk.  That would be one expensive gallon of milk.  Instead, I went to Whole Foods and bought a gallon of organic, pasteurized milk.  If you can get your hands on raw milk, I'm a little jealous of you!  If you can't, just be sure to buy milk that isn't homogenized.  That won't work at all.

With the raw milk drama behind me, I was able to get down to cheese business.  Along with my organic milk, I got out a big (non-reactive) pot, my jar of citric acid (not from the lab!) and my rennet tablets.  Sounds a bit like a science experiment, right?  Here's a breakdown of what everything is doing.

You need a non-reactive pot, which is any pot made of clay, enamel or stainless steel.  Do not use your fancy copper or aluminum pans.  Copper and aluminum will react with the acid you will be adding to the milk and impart a metallic taste on your cheese.  I used a stainless steel Dutch oven.

Citric acid is one of the most common acids found in your house.  Those oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are sour because of their high concentration of citric acid.  You need to use it to sour the milk.  What you are actually doing is changing the pH of your milk.  As you lower the pH of the milk from nearly neutral (around 6.8) to slightly acidic (roughly 4.6), the proteins in the milk precipitate, separating from the liquid whey.  I got my citric acid from the King Arthur Flour online store.

Hi, I'm citric acid!
Rennet is a bunch of enzymes that we use to coagulate the milk and completely separate the curds from the whey.  Chemically, rennet is a protease.  This means that it breaks down the proteins, breaking bonds of the amino acids and making the proteins smaller.

All these sciency things come together to make delicious cheese.  And it was a very fun and non-sciency process.  I'd recommend making mozzarella cheese to everyone.  Does it taste much different from store bought fresh mozzarella?  There isn't a huge difference, especially if you get yours at a farmers market or Italian deli, but yours will definitely be fresher!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Curried Chicken with Coconut Rice

I have been cohabitating with boyfriend for just over a year now and while we have lots of fun and it's great to see him every day, there are some things that I miss...

My mess.  When living on your own, any mess you make is your own mess.  It's your own responsibility to clean up, or not clean up, your living space.  My apartment was tiny, so it got dirty and cluttered pretty quickly.  During the week, I would treat my apartment as a landing pad.  I would throw down my stuff, eat a bowl of salad, change into my PJs and go to bed.  Things would pile up.  Dishes, clothes, books.  Come Sunday I would clean it all up and start fresh.  Now there is my mess and boyfriends mess.  You don't even want to see our apartment right now.

My big fluffy bed.  I bought a grown-up bed my second year of graduate school.  It was a full size, double-pillowtop cloud of a bed.  I had to climb into it at night and jump down in the morning.  I piled it high with pillows and covered it in a white, king size, down comforter.  While it was the most amazing bed ever sewn, it would be a little cozy for two people.  I sold my beautiful bed to a fellow grad student and moved my fluffy pillows to New Jersey.

My all day cooking sessions in my tiny studio kitchen.  When living in 300-square feet, with a kitchen that took up half of that space, the cooking took over the entire living space.  I would have marshmallows setting on my TV stand, a cutting board on my tiny cafe table and two burners running on my stovetop.  With working long hours in the lab all week long, I had to cram all my cooking into one day.  These days I can cook dinner every night and spend my weekends with boyfriend.

All in all, I'll take the two-person mess, less fluffy bed and spread out cooking schedule.  Boyfriend is a pretty fun roommate.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Oreo Cupcakes

Did you know that New Jersey is actually quite hilly?  Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't realize this either.  I came to this revelation after boyfriend and I decided to take a ride to the zoo on our new bikes.

This was a few weeks ago, just after boyfriend and I had assembled our brand new bikes.  Personally, I like to just go out and ride my bike.  Boyfriend is more of a destination rider.  He likes to have a goal, rather than an open-ended ride.  It helps him strive to get there faster, since he knows there is an end in sight.  It was a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon and boyfriend suggested we head to the zoo for an afternoon of animal watching and llama petting.

The ride looked totally feasable, just over five miles, pretty direct route and wide sidewalks, this would be a breeze.  Too bad we didn't plan properly for the ride we were about to take.  First, the temperature quickly topped ninety-five degrees over the course of our ride.  Next, to make the extreme heat even worse, we managed to leave our water bottles on the counter. 

Things only got worse as we continued biking away.  With the mercury in the thermometer bursting out the top, our final right turn brought us onto a freshly black-topped road.  Heat was emanating off of the dark road, you could see waves in the air.  And there was one last bit of torture for the ride...

That's right, a big, scary hill.  I just about died.  We kept thinking that the hill would eventually come to an end.  Or that we would find a convenience store where we could buy some water.  Or that someone would be watering their lawn and we could lay down in the sprinklers.  Sadly, the hill went on and on. 

Yet when we made it to the top (not without stopping to walk our bikes for a good portion!) we were proud to make it to the top and happy to see a McDonalds.  These days we are sure to bring lots of water with us when we hit the road and to check a topographical map before we leave home!

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