logisticslad: (Default)
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to become more comfortable with cooking and to create occasions for me to cook for others. I had recently gotten a new set of KitchenAid cookware and a new set of dishes when I thought that I might be hosting Thanksgiving for my family. Since I didn’t actually do so, I realized that I haven’t even used them, yet. So to support me in this, [profile] puzzld1 gave me one of her favorite cookbooks, The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. This one has lots of recipes with explanations of how to execute various techniques and judge when things are done – just what I need! So I stopped at Trader Joes and bought the ingredients for my first attempt at cooking for the New Year. I decided to make Macaroni and Cheese, and here’s how it went.

Ingredients:
1 pound penne
4 cups milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 Tbsp unbleached flour
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the penne and cook at a roiling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and set aside in a large bowl.

Ok – water is set to boil in my new pot. I decided to use filtered water since Philly water is choc full of minerals that can affect the taste of things. Ooh, my pot has insulated handles that should allow me to move it without hotpads! We’ll see…

2. Preheat the oven to 350 oF

Done. Even I can turn on an oven ☺

3. Bring the milk just to a boil in a heavy saucepan and set aside.

Okay, I’ve added the milk to my new large saucepan and turned on the flame (I’m using a gas stove, which is what I’m used to, BTW). Check the conversion table: 4 cups = 1 quart, which is what I bought. Good. I used nonfat Lactaid milk – will that matter? I guess we’ll see.

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another heavy saucepan. Add the flour, and whisk over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat.

Ok, that’s 3 things on the stove at the same time – I’m getting a bit nervous. Oops, the butter is frozen. Well, it will melt… Yes! It did. Now to add the flour and whisk. Yes, I actually do own a whisk, thank you. Ok… my wrists are hurting. Who the hell can whisk for 5 minutes? This is supposed to make it fluffy, right? Ow, it’s been 2 minutes and I’m tired. It looks mixed – I’m declaring it good enough. Oh look, the penne looks done – I’ll fish one out to taste it. Ok, that was harder than I thought – note to self, hot penne does not always stay on the fork. Done! Try the insulated handles – hey they work! Drain and rinse. Place in large bowl. Wait – check the milk. Ok, it’s just started boiling. Whew!

5. Add the hot milk to the flour mixture, and whisk well. Add paprika, salt, pepper and return pan to heat. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. 5 minutes. Add to the penne, and toss well to coat completely.

Hold on – I used the large saucepan to the milk and the small one for the butter, so I’m going to add the butter to the milk instead. Whisk again! Crap! Ok, here goes… Whew, that’s a lot of whisking. Aren’t there machines to do this? Now to add it to the penne. Yum, that actually looks pretty good.

6. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch flameproof baking dish, and fill it evenly with penne and sauce.

It’s a good thing that they reminded me to use a flameproof dish, no really. But the one I have is square, not rectangular. Well, it looks like it’s about 12 or 13 inches long and wide, so that should be big enough. Cool, it all just fits!

7. Distribute the grated cheese over the top and add pepper and paprika.

Ok, now to grate the cheese. Crap, I only bought a wedge of it. It says it weighs 0.44 pounds – how much is that in ounces? Check the handy conversion tables – convert pounds to grams, then grams to ounces. Ok, I have about 7 ounces of cheese. Will that be enough? The recipe calls for 12 ounces. Wait, I’ve got some mozzarella in the fridge… oh good, it says that one can use that, too, and even mix it with the gruyere. Well, let’s see if I’ll need it…

Ok, found my cheese grater and it’s a bit rusted. Stop laughing! I’m scouring the rust off of one side. There, now to grate the cheese. Can one eat the rind of gruyere? Yes, I think so. Wow, grating is almost as tiring as whisking. Really, stop laughing!! There we go. There’s absolutely no more room to add extra cheese in this baking dish, so I’ll hold off on the mozzarella and hope for the best.

8. Place the dish on a baking sheet, and bake until hot, 20 to 25 minutes.

Why do I need a baking sheet? Is that in case it boils over? Well, it's right up to the top of the dish, so I’d better do it. It doesn’t say to cover it, so I won’t. In it goes. Now to feed the cats, who have been wondering why I’ve been spending all this time in the kitchen without giving them their food. Done. Now I had better clean up all the used posts and utensils. I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t do it now, then they’ll be sitting there all week. Done.

9. Place the dish under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat, until the top is slightly golden and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes.

Broiler? Do I have a broiler? Ok, it must be this shelf at the bottom of the stove. Hmm, it’s not hot down here. Wait, there’s a broiler button on the controls. I can set it for Low or High. I’ll try Low.

10. Serve immediately. Makes 8 portions.

Wonder of wonders, it actually worked!!! It even looks like mac and cheese. And it tastes pretty good, too. I think next time, I will buy some fresh spices, since the ones that I had were pretty old. I may also try a different cheese or a blend. The gruyere works pretty well, but it doesn’t have that familiar comfort food flavor that I expect from mac and cheese. Although, I’ve got a lot of leftovers, so I may come to like it after I get more used to it. But I did it! I actually made something for dinner that I had never made before! I’m ridiculously proud of myself! Go me!

Vacation!

Jul. 29th, 2008 11:46 am
logisticslad: (Default)
Now that my summer course is done, I've decided to take a vacation. Actually, it will be mostly a "staycation," since I plan to spend much of it working on house projects and catching up on reading for fun and watching Dr Who, as well as visiting with family and friends. So far, I've gone to a birthday pool party, helped my brother take the kids to two kid birthday parties, seen Dark Knight (it was wonderful, but it did give me nightmares), played bridge, bought light sconces for the bathroom, mowed the lawn, noodled around on facebook, and played with the cats. I received a clean bill of health at my dental check up, and I got myself a haircut. My major house project will be finishing all the fine detail touch up painting in the upstairs bathroom. I do have a bit of work to do during my time off (final grades, getting pieces of a new grant together, writing some recommendation letters), but I can fit it in at my leisure. After lunch, I plan to do battle with the strangling clematis vine that is clinging to my lilac and butterfly bush. In the meantime, I am trying to remember what relaxing feels like.
logisticslad: (Default)
I was able to do the pose called Half-Moon in yoga class tonight for the first time:

http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/784

I'm very proud of myself!
logisticslad: (Default)
Yesterday, I went with some friends for a nature walk in Peace Valley in Chalfont, PA. We saw a lot of wildlife and I found it to be very centering. Here are some photos:



Canadian Goose Canadian Goose
Bunny Bunny
Raccoon Raccoon
Could be tasty Could be tasty
I can haz birdseed? I can haz birdseed?
Cardinal Cardinal
Woodpecker Woodpecker
Red Breasted Gosbeak Red Breasted Gosbeak



We also saw bluejays, goldfinch, titmice, a hummingbird, a grackle, a cowbird, wild turkeys, cormorants, and a bald eagle circling in the far distance over the river.

logisticslad: (Default)
Despite several obstacles, I made myself return to Monday night yoga class at my gym. The teacher had been out on maternity leave and I hadn't clicked with any of her subs. I recently heard that she was back after having had a baby girl. I was a bit rusty, but was very glad to be back. I was pleased to see that the upperbody work that I have been doing at the gym has allowed me to hold the Downward Dog position for much longer. I felt great after the class and plan to keep going. It's good for my spirit as well as my body.
logisticslad: (Default)
I went to the eye doctor today for my annual checkup and everything is fine. I have been having a bit of trouble while reading and he confirmed that my eyes are indeed changing. The problem is that I really enjoy having extended wear contacts and the options for correction are more limited than for daily wear. So he gave me a sample of extended wear contacts that are designed to correct far vision in one eye and near vision in the other. He suggested that I try them and see how I adapt (apparently most people who use them can still drive, but have reduced night vision). He also gave me samples of my current contacts, with the prescription updated and suggested that i try a pair of reading glasses with them. If none of those options work for me, then he suggests that I return to be fitted for daily wear lenses. Needless to say, I am not thrilled with this, but I do enjoy seeing. This was brought home today as it took many hours to recover from the eye drops and I simply could not read anything while I was at work.
logisticslad: (super)
I feel like I am in the midst of many long term projects this year, both at work and at home. Taking [livejournal.com profile] yesthattom's advice about time management to heart, I have been trying to break them down into manageable portions that I can accomplish each week. That way, I can always feel like I am making progress.

So today I returned to the task of painting my bathroom. Some of you may recall my story about how hideous the original bathroom had been with three different kinds of wallpaper, a sponge painted ceiling, and wooden molding. Over the last three years, I have removed the wallpaper, covered the plaster with drywall, sanded everything down, primed and painted the ceiling white and the walls a light blue color that Benjamin Moore calls "sapphireberry." I liked it, but I didn't like the contrast that it made with the wooden molding. So I decided to paint the molding a darker blue. Actually, since I had left the painter's tape up for so long, I realized that I had grown attached to that color, so that's the color I've chosen to paint the molding! Today I primed an painted the bottom molding, and I think it looks great! I've also painted the rims of the hideous metallic green light fixtures the same color and may even get around to reinstalling them some day. The next steps are to remove the tape from the upper molding and paint that, and then take a tiny brush and work on smoothing out the transitions between the dark and light blue paint.

It felt good to accomplish this today and the cats helped by staying out of the way while the paint was drying.

My next house task is to decide whether or not I'm actually going to replace the gas forced air heater this year, and possibly get a central humidifier and air conditioning. I've obtained several quotes and I feel like I'm close to making a decision. The hardest part will be planning out how to afford it. Since I don't truly know when my potential salary increase will take effect (that will come whenever my promotion happens and the earliest would be end of January), I am trying not to count on that in my plans.

Another long term task that has been going pretty well has been my weight management program. I've been eating more mindfully, keeping a food journal and documenting my increased exercise in order to figure out how to reverse my creeping weight gain. Success! I have lost 5 pounds over the last three weeks, and I am very glad to feel like I am finally getting a handle on managing this.

I've been working from home one day a week starting this summer and that has allowed me to make progress on a number of backlogged work projects. Because of that I have been able to submit three manuscripts, get four others to the point of being submitted soon, and submit four abstracts for conference poster presentations. That's excellent productivity for the summer!

So by focusing on what I can accomplish on a daily or weekly basis, I am avoiding feeling overwhelmed with all of these long term projects. I'm proud of myself for making it happen and look forward to keeping it up through the upcoming rollercoaster ride that the Fall often is for me. Stress reduction through progress is a wonderful thing!
logisticslad: (Default)
Following my doctor's advice, I've been keeping a food journal and being mindful of what I'm eating. Over 3 days, I calculate that I've been averaging 1600 calories/day. I've worked out twice for 30 min on the elliptical, burning about 300 calories each time. Today I'm playing D&D, and I've given myself permission to indulge in the usual snackfest, which I will balance by increased workout over the next few days.

I realized that I have an LJ tag for "sick" and a tag for "exercise," but no tag for being healthy. So I've created "wellness" as a new tag for me :-)

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