Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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PNE Donut Dash 5 km

And speaking of race medals, another race that I’ve signed up for is the PNE Donut Dash 5 km race on August 23rd. And while getting to have mini-donuts and cotton candy throughout the race course is appealing, I’m really signed up for it because the race medal has a picture of a smiling donut running on it. And who doesn’t want to add a medal with a picture of a smiling donut running on it? Look how happy that donut is!

Of course, now that I think of it, he’s probably running because he knows that the people in the race are going to try to eat him, so he’s actually running for his life! So it’s actually a little weird that he’s smiling.

Another thing that is weird is that in this race, you don’t get a timing chip unless you pay an extra fee of $5. Usually, when you sign up for a race the cost of the timing chip – which records when you start and finish the race so you know how long it took you – is included in the registration fee. But that’s not the case for this race and, being that I’m cheap, I rationalized that it wasn’t really worth even $5 given that  (a) my running watch will tell me how long I took to run the race and (b) they are giving you donuts and cotton candy along the course, so I’m not going to be expecting to set any land speed records that day. As long as they give me my adorable medal, and I get a mini-donut or two along the way, I’ll be a happy camper.

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15 New Food Items That I Made This Year

As previously mentioned, I’ve already completed my goal to Make 15 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before  in 2015 – in fact, I’ve actually surpassed my goal by making *16* new items. I got myself a nice head start by having a birthday party where I made 6 new items that I’d never tried before. Then I racked up a few more items by having made a batch of home-brewed beer that ended up suboptimally carbonated, but since I didn’t want it to go to waste, I looked up recipes that involved beer – those, plus making dog biscuits from the spent grains of another batch of beer totalled another 5 items, which meant I only needed to make 4 other things to hit my goal of 15!

So, for the record, the new things I made so far this year that I’d never made before were:

15 Food Items Made Date Comments
1 Chocolate buttercream frosting (for Daniel’s birthday cake) 1-Jan-2015 I got a lot of compliments on this!
2 sweet and spicy pecans and cashews 12-Jan-2015 Very tasty!
3 caramelized onion, mushroom, apple and Gruyère puff pastry bites 12-Jan-2015 These were a HUGE hit!
4 cucumbers with salmon whip and dill whip 12-Jan-2015 No one seemed all that into these
5 slow cooker gingered chickpea and tomato stew 12-Jan-2015 Pretty good!
6 cheese puffs 12-Jan-2015 Got this recipe from my niece. They were amazing!
7 homemade sour mix 12-Jan-2015 Needed this for a drink I wanted to make, but couldn’t find it in any store
8 Swiss cheese beer bread 4-Feb-2015 Really easy and super tasty!
9 potato, cheddar & beer soup 4-Feb-2015 This was OK (though I’m not a huge soup fan, so YMMV)
10 beer marinated pork chops 4-Feb-2015 Pretty good!
11 brown ale potato galette 12-Mar-2015 Pretty good!
12 black bean & mushroom tortilla casserole 12-Mar-2015 I quite liked this
13 spent grain dog biscuits 28-Mar-2015 made these from spent grains from home brewing. My brewing buddy’s dog loved them!
14 rice pilaf 29-Mar-2015 I didn’t really like this.
15 BBQ short ribs 14-Jun-2015 These were amazing!
16 grilled potato skins 4-Jul-2015 I’d make these again!

I’ll continue to keep track of any other new things I make for the second half of 2015 and see how high a number I can hit!

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Here and Gone

So remember that time I told you about howall thehouseguestswere on their way to my place? Not only did that trip whizz by in the blink of an eye, but it’s been a week since they left and I’m only just now blogging about it!

In no particular order, our adventures included1:

  • wenttoBowen Island2, where we had some amazingly delicious food at the Old Orchard Grill3
  • delicious dinner atForage– I’ve been there a couple of times before, but omg, is their food ever fantastic. And their wait staff is amazing!
  • delicious breakfast at Angelina’s
  • went to my hockey game – well, my mom did. My sister was busy at her conference that day.
  • went to Daniel’s hockey game
  • went to Granville Island, where we did some shopping4 and enjoyed some Lee’s Donuts5and some drinks at Liberty Distillery. I also bought myself an herb garden to put on my balcony6 – it contains parsley, sage, chives, marjoram, and peppermint and it only cost $13!
  • my sister and Dan got to meet my kitties! My mom had already met them on her last trip, but was happy to see her grandkitties again!

Pursuing my phone, I realized that I was a delinquent in taking photos, so I have no proof that anyone actually visited me. But I did take this photo of me stopped in front of a “no stopping anytime” sign on Bowen Island, in my ongoing project to chronicle people disobeying signs.

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So there’s that.

  1. “Making a delicious meal onmy BBQ” didn’t end uphappening and “trying my delicious home-brewed beer” happened for Dr. Dan, but not my sister (my mom and Dan’s student don’t drink beer, so I wasn’t expecting them to). []
  2. which just so happens to be onmy list of 101 things to do []
  3. Best. French fries. EVER! []
  4. I bought a new dress and got FOUR compliments on it the first day that I wore it! []
  5. Dan and his student agreed with me that Lee’s Donuts kick the butt of Cartem’s Donuts! []
  6. which just so happens to be onmy list of 101 things to do. []

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Happy 4th Birthday, Thomas!

Saturday was a lovely day for an Ironman-themed 4th birthday party. My nephew, Thomas, has recently become obsessed with Ironman (which he pronounced “eye-ron man!!!”), so he decided that he wanted an Ironman cake instead of his previously requested Superman cake. My sister had borrowed my aunt’s Superman cake pan, and fortunately, it’s quite easy to cut the cape off of the cake to turn it into basically any other superhero. So there was an Ironman cake, complimented by a giant Ironman balloon, and Avengers table cloth, Avengers Happy Birthday banner1, Avengers plates, etc. Sadly, I didn’t get photos of any of that because although we decorated inside the house, everyone went outside because it was a nice day out, so the whole party ended up taking place in the backyard.

My Aunt Eileen got some great photos though2:

Ironman cake. The icing didn’t turn out quite as red as we would have liked, despite putting in a full container of concentrated red food colouring (!). Thankfully, it was the no-taste red food colouring:

Thomas, taking the candle off the cake:

Thomas, with his entire piece of cake on his fork:

My niece Madeline, and my mom:

The only decent photo of me from the entire party, which I’m posting just to prove I was there. Uncle Harry and his dog Frosty also look good in this photo:

I like this photo because it looks like that glass of wine is Madeline’s. (For the record, it is not.):

My Uncle Harry & Aunt Arlene’s dog, Frosty:

Thomas:

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Happy 4th birthday, little buddy!

  1. Thomas is very into reading out any letters or numbers he sees, so upon seeing the banner, he proclaimed “H-A-P-P-Y-B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y! That spells Avengers!” []
  2. All photos in the posting are courtesy of Aunt Eileen. Used with permission – All right reserved! []

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Making Dinner With A Little Vitamin Beer

A friend of mine and I have taken up home brewing, because science. It’s a long story that I’ll blog about later, but suffice it to say that we recently finished our first batch and it was, shall we say, suboptimally carbonated. Tasted quite good for a first batch, if I do say so myself, but one can only drink so much undercarbonated beer, so I came up with the idea that I should look up some recipes for things you can make with beer, because beer. And I came up with the following, all of which tasted pretty darned good, if I do say so myself!

Swiss Cheese Beer Bread:

Swiss Cheese Beer Bread

This was really quick to make and really tasty, if you are in the mood for a dense bread. I had read the comments on the recipe before I made this and noted that someone had commented that it didn’t take nearly as long as to bake as the 50-60 minutes stated in the recipe, so I made sure to check on it early and it ended up only taking about 35 minutes to bake!

Savory Beer Pork Chops:

Savory Beer Pork Chops

These pork chops were also pretty delicious. As well, when I put the brown sugar into the beer to make the marinade, the beer foamed up and looked like real beer!

Homebrewed Beer

Potato Beer Cheese Soup:

Potato Beer Cheese Soup

This was a pretty good soup – and I generally don’t even like soup!

And so I was 3 for 3 on delicious tasting recipes. Can’t say that this was the healthiest meal I’ve ever eaten – pro tip: when you meal is all beige, something is drastically wrong in the nutrition department.

In addition to finding a way to not waste beer1 and making a delcious dinner, I also managed to bring the number of new food items I’ve made this year to 10 and so I’ve officially completed 67% of my goal to make 15 new food items in 2015 and it’s only February!

  1. Which I’m relatively certain is at least a misdemeanour, if not a full out crime. []

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New Foods I Made in 2014

Another item from my goals for 2014 list that I figured deserved its own posting was make 14 new food items that I’ve never made before1. And this goal I not only achieved, but I actually surpassed!

This year, I made:

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Salad rolls that I made with my friend Kim

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Homemade pasta that I made with my friend Linda. Topped with pesto and feta!

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BBQ chicken, corn-on-the-cob, roasted potatoes, and grilled zucchini

I also made guacamole devilled eggs a couple of times this year and I think the first time I made them was in 2014, but I’m not 100% sure I didn’t make them the previous year, so I’m not going to count them just in case. As well, I made *5* new drinks that I’d never made before – The Suffering Bastard, The Leveraged Synergy, and the Value Added Leveraged Synergy (all at my “I’m finished my MBA” party!) and the Mortgage Margarita and strawberry lemonade (for my housewarming party) – but I’m not counting those since the goal stated “food items”, but not beverages. But I don’t need to since, as you can see from the list, I actually made *19* food items this year! Hopefully I won’t regret using up extra new ideas this year when it comes time to try to come up with 15 new food and/or drink items to make in 2015!

  1. I see now that I look at the goals that I said that all the items “must be blogged about”. And while I didn’t blog about them all at the time I did them, I did keep track and now I’m blogging about them, so that totally counts! []
  2. This one has a back story. I was having a bunch of friends over for dinner and decided that I would try my hand at Baked Alaska. When I told Kalev, he got upset, saying “What are the vegetarians supposed to eat??” And I was confused and said, “What’s not vegetarian about ice cream and meringue?” It turned out, he was thinking of Beef Wellington, not Baked Alaska! So another time when he was coming over for dinner, I decided to make a vegetarian version of Beef Wellington, which turned out to be quite delicious! []
  3. I’ve made lasagna before, but not with tofu in place of ricotta cheese. It actually was quite tasty! []
  4. I wasn’t too big a fan of these myself. []
  5. I had a bunch of limes leftover from margarita making, so I tried this recipe, but it turned out that I much prefer the honey mustard dressing that I first tried making earlier and which is now my staple. []

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Christmas Baking 2014

Sadly, this year I did not get to cyber-bake with my family, as my sister et al decided to spend the past week in Jamaica. Before they left was too early to do Christmas baking, so they will be doing their Christmas baking in the next few days. I have to work until Christmas Eve, so I can’t do my baking when they do theirs. And so I did my Christmas baking on my own, spread out over a few different evenings, instead of one giant 12 hour baking day like I usually do.

This year’s holiday treats included a few new recipes and a couple of classics.

Biscotti

My first ever batch of biscotti
My first ever batch of biscotti

I’ve never made biscotti before and I was surprised how easy it was to make. It’s a simple dough, baked in a loaf shape, cut into biscotti shape, then baked again. And then you drizzle some melted chocolate over them and omg, so delicious! And fancy looking! Here’s the recipe that I used.

Chocolate Peanut Clusters

Chocolate peanut clusters
Chocolate peanut clusters
Chocolate peanut clusters

I chose this one because it was an extremely simple one. Throw various types of peanuts and chocolates into a crock pot and let everything melt. Spoon melted goo onto parchment paper and let it set. The end.

Here’s the recipe I used for these.

Fudge

I also decided to make some fudge, basically because fudge is made using sweetened condensed milk and Christmas baking is not complete unless I get to lick the lid from a can of sweetened condensed milk1. However, my first attempt at making fudge this year was an epic, epic, delicious but gooey failure.

Attempt at maple fudge

Fudge attempt #1: FAIL!

I decided to try making maple fudge, the recipe for which was basically sweetened condensed milk (read: sugar sugar sugar and a wee bit of milk), brown sugar (i.e., sugar), and maple syrup (also known as sugar). Sadly, the fudge never set and, in retrospect, I realize I probably should have used a candy thermometer instead of being lazy and just cooking it for the length of time mentioned in the recipe.

So instead I decided to go back to tried and true chocolate fudge, which started to set pretty much as I melting the chocolate with the sweetened condensed milk.

Chocolate fudge

Fudge attempt #2: Tried and true!

Shortbread

And since it’s Christmas, I am obligated to make shortbread cookies because I was long ago entrusted with my Great Granny Snow’s shortbread recipe, which makes the best shortbread in the world, according to people who like shortbread2. I didn’t bother to take any pictures of it, since it looks the same as it does every year.

While I definitely missed virtually hanging out with my fam while we baked, I can say that splitting up Christmas baking across a few evenings is way less exhausting than a marathon baking session. Also, based on feedback from those to whom I have given some of these baked goods, the quality of said baked goods did not suffer3. At any rate, Christmas baking is done and everyone who gets some of this baking will probably gain 5 lbs because it’s 97% butter and/or sugar. Hooray!

  1. Usually this is accompanied by my mother going “You’ll cut your tongue if you do that!” and me never cutting my tongue. And I’m happy to report that I have successfully made it through my 37th year without actually cutting my tongue on the lid from a can of sweetened condensed milk. []
  2. Which I don’t, so I can’t really verify personally. []
  3. Maple fudge failure notwithstanding. []

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A Spicy Situation

As I wrote my goals update post last week, I realized that though I’d long ago come up with a solution to my spice situation (item #14 on my list of goals for 2014) and I had promised Stacy that I would blog about it, I have been delinquent in actually writing said blog posting. But better late than never, right?

To give you a little background, I own about eleventy billion types of spices because spices are awesome. What was not awesome was that I had spices in all sorts of different containers – some were in bags, some in jars/bottles – of all different sizes and I basically just had them all thrown haphazardly into plastic bins that I kept in my cupboard, which meant that whenever I wanted a certain spice, I had to pull all the plastic bins out of the cupboards and dig through them all to find what I wanted. Not very efficient and rather annoying when you are trying to enjoy some cooking! Hence, why I decided I needed to figure out a useful way of organizing the damn spices.

My first step was taken care of, as I long ago had made a test tube spice rack out of surplus lab equipment1. I don’t have enough room for all elevently billion spices, but I was able to put the 13 spices I use the most often (or which just look really cool) into test tubes, labelled them, and now they sit on the counter, within easy reach while I’m cooking.

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For the eleventy billion minus thirteen other spices, I decided to use a drawer to store them, rather than the cupboard, because I’m short and I need a step stool to reach things in my cupboards. True story. For any spices that were already in a jar/bottle, I just laid those down with the label facing up. For all the ones that were in bags, I went out and bought a bunch of little jars and labeled them. Hence, I now have this drawer full of well-labeled spices:

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The metal thing on the right is a grater that I use to grate nutmeg. Because my sister taught me the joy of freshly ground nutmeg.

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I have no idea why I inconsistently capitalized the spice names on the labels. I only just noticed it when I looked at this photo. Omg, that’s going to drive me crazy.

So there you have it – my spice storage solution!

  1. There used to be a lab equipment thrift shop at UBC, where you could buy cast off lab supplies. They even had an electron microscope in their inventory at one point! So I got a test tube rack, which was actual white plastic (which is the kind we usually used in the lab), but I painted it metallic silver to make it look cooler). []

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Bikes and BBQs

Apparently I wanted to spend this weekend past covered in grease, because I spent the lion share of my time biking and cleaning my new BBQ.

On the biking front, a friend of mine recently got a new bike and was wanting to do some biking this weekend, so we decided to bike over to MEC to pick up some bike stuff, then we tested out the route he would ride to work if decided to do that1, and then we decided to try out the Central Valley Greenway, a cycling/pedestrian route that runs basically underneath the Skytrain’s Millennium Line. In total, we biked more than 26 km!

Now, I should point out that I didn’t bike to MEC from my place – that would be crazy. When I bought my bike, I made sure to buy one that I could fit in my Smart Car trunk. In order to do that, I have to take off both wheels, but they are quick release wheels to make the process easier. Unfortunately, since I haven’t taken those wheels off in about a year, the “quick” part of quick release wheel would be better described as “trying-to-remember-how-the-hell-these-wheels-come-off-and-then-how-they-go-back-on-and-now-I’m-all-sweaty-and-covered-in-bicycle-grease” release wheels.

Bike Tangent: I biked to work for the first time about a week ago and have been totally remiss in blogging about it! At Christmas, my mom gave me money to buy a rack and panniers for my bike and somehow it took me until July to actually buy them. But buy them I did and I biked to work and it was super fantastic. I’m very fortunate that the building where I work has a free gym, which means that I have a place to shower when I bike to work. It also has a locked bike room in the parkade to keep your bike in – and the room is in a high traffic location and there are regular security patrols of the parkade, so I feel safe locking my bike up there. And my panniers are like the purse that Hermione has in the 7th Harry Potter book where she fit in all their supplies, including a tent, into a tiny handbag because she put an Undetectable Extension Charm on it. That is to say, I can fit a ridiculous amount of stuff in there2! Sadly, I didn’t bike to work at all last week, as I had a few days where I had to go to offsite meetings and thus needed to have my car, and then it rained. But I did bike to work yesterday and it was just as awesome.

Pannier

Pannier!

Bike

My bike locked up in the bike room

Before I went out biking on Saturday, I went down to Point Roberts to pick up some BBQ grates that I ordered on Amazon.com and had to get shipped there because they don’t ship to Canada. I needed new grates because I acquired a BBQ with my new condo from the seller of the condo, but it turned out that he didn’t clean said BBQ and a few weekends back I tried to clean the existing grates and once I got down past the 87 inches worth of charred grease, I discovered that the grates were completely rusted. Seeing as I prefer to cook my food on something that isn’t likely to kill me, I opted to get some new grates. Before I could use said grates, though, I had to clean the rest of the BBQ. And let me tell you, that was quite a task. Like the old grates, there was about a million inches of charred grease inside the BBQ, which took lots of scrubbing and scrapping to get off. Which did result in my being pretty covered in grease. But in the end, I got it clean enough and then I made some delicious chicken and all was right with the world.

Brand new BBQ grill

Brand new stainless steel grill.

BBQ chicken

My first BBQ’d food!

Greek Salad and BBQ chicken

Delicious Greek salad and BBQ’d chicken breast.

BBQ Tangent: While talking with my mom about my BBQ, she told me about this news story, where a woman ate meat that had been cooked on a BBQ that had been cleaned by a BBQ brush from which wire bristles had broken off and ended up lodged in her throat. Which lead to her needing several surgeries and “12 days in hospital, including eight in the ICU hooked up to both breathing and feeding tubes”!!! So instead of having a BBQ brush, I have a grill stone for cleaning my grill. Which works amazingly, FYI. Also, the previous owner also left behind a BBQ brush, from which half the bristles were either completely missing or broken:

BBQ brush left behind by former owner.

Don’t worry, Mom – I didn’t use that brush. It went right into the garbage after I took that photo!

I have to say, after seeing that brush, I’m *really* glad I decided to buy new grates!

  1. His commute to work is sooo much nicer than mine. Part of it is along the seawall! Jealous! []
  2. For example, I fit my giant bike lock, a dress and shoes, a towel and soap, my make-up and jewelry, my wallet and keys, my breakfast and my lunch… and had plenty of room to spare! []

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Pasta Perfection

A long, long time ago in a galaxy that is right here, my friend Linda noticed that “make homemade pasta” was item #43 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days and was all “I have pasta making attachments for my KitchenAid mixer. We should totally get together and make some pasta”. And I was all, “Totally!” And then for a long long time we were both all, “Hey we should really pick a date to make some pasta” and “Yeah, we totally should” and repeat. At some point we finally got our act together and set today as the big pasta making day!

We decided to make some spinach fettuccine, mostly because many of the other recipes called for semolina flour, whereas the spin-fet called for all purpose flour and we figured we didn’t want to go and buy special flour in case we discovered that we hated making pasta and then we’d have a useless bag of flour sitting around.

As it turns out, pasta making is not nearly as complicated and scary as I thought it would be. We basically just blended up some spinach, mixed in eggs, water, and flour, kneaded the dough for a bit and then, in small batches, ran it through the pasta roller attachment several times, making it into successively thinner and thinner sheets:

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Linda rolling the dough!

Once you have a sheet of your desired thickness, you run it through the cutting attachment1:

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Linda displaying her freshly cut pasta!

And viola!, you have homemade pasta:

Homemade Spinach Pasta

We learned a few things from this our first pasta making adventure, the first of which basically can be summed up as “Follow the instructions!” Lesson #1: You should probably let the pasta dry while laid out flat. We were planning to cook all the pasta once we had it all cut, so we sort of just piled it up on a couple of plates. At the time we put it on the plates, the noodles seemed to be holding their shape and not sticking together, but by the time we got all the batches done, we discovered that the noodles on the bottom of the pile were rather smushed together, just from the weight of the pile and the amount of time that they sat together. (In our defence, the instructions did say you could make the pasta into little “nests” for freezing, but upon closer reading of said instructions, we realized it said that you can do that *after* you dry it and also it said “little” nests, not giant pile o’pasta.)

From the above, we learned lesson #2: This dough is very forgiving. Given the smushedness2 of the remaining pasta, we decided to re-roll and re-cut the noodles. The dough seemed rather dry and stiff at first, but Linda managed to work a bit more water into the dough and after much kneading and re-rolling, it returned to its fantastic pliable yet sturdy consistency that allowed us to cut more noodles, which we cooked immediately so as to not allow them any opportunity to re-smush together.

Lesson #3 was more of an idea for next time rather than a “lesson” per se. While making the pasta, we would roll out a few sheets and then switch from the roller attachment to the cutter attachment and then back again when we were done cutting and ready to roll the next few batches. We realized that it would be way better if we had two mixers, one with the roller attachment on and one with the cutting attachment on and not have to do all the switching back and forth. Given that both Linda and I own this type of mixer, that’s totally doable3.

Because we wanted to be able to taste the pasta, we opted to serve it with a bit of olive oil, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, and feta:

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Verdict: Not only did this taste amazing, it was really quite simple to do. I think that you should probably buy me a present and it should be this.

  1. Linda had one for fettuccine and one for spaghetti. You could also just use the sheets to make lasagna or stuffed pastas, like ravioli or cannelloni []
  2. Is so a word. []
  3. There may or may not be a pasta party in the works now. []