ByteNight and Batman and other non-B adventures

I was supposed to get some work done today, but my computer has decided that today is a good day to throw a temper tantrum and refuse to connect to my linux desktop at work. My computer is like a child that I have to placate with kind words and loving pats in an effort to console it and make it work properly half of the time. Apparently my consoling hasn’t been up to par.

I haven’t been up to anything too crazy this week. I geeked out on Thursday night and went to an event called ByteNight at the Computer History Museum. I was a little disappointed because we were told food and drinks and the food was MIA (yes, I know, it was terrible), but the museum was kind of interesting. I feel like it was cool to go but I wouldn’t have paid money for it. It could’ve also been that I’d already been at work all day and wasn’t quite in a museum-going mood, but I saw some friends and had a good time overall. One thing I remembered, though, is how much I hate making small talk when I’m tired. It’s exhausting trying to think of interesting yet not invasive things to say to a stranger you met five minutes ago. There were a bunch of interns there and I met a few nice people, but I was a little relieved to escape away with my friends and wander through with people I already knew. Perhaps I’m just lazy.

I was going to have a quiet Friday night evening at home and do some work, but my internet decided to die completely so that was a bit of a fail. I managed to finish season 3 of Community instead, which was amazing. (But totally unproductive on my part). I also tried experiment two of cooking with polenta, and this one turned out to be much better. I like to think of it as pizza polenta, and it was ridiculously easy.

Pizza Polenta (for one)

Ingredients:

  • Half a package of prepared polenta
  • Marinara sauce
  • Cheese
  • Meat of your choosing, chopped into small pieces – I used sausage, but this could easily be changed

Directions:

  1. Cut the polenta into 1/2″ rounds. Lay them out on a baking pan (or in my case a casserole dish, because I don’t have a baking pan in this apartment).
  2. Spoon generous amounts of marinara sauce on top of each round, covering it fully. Sprinkle your meat on top.
  3. Add a layer of cheese – I like lots of cheese so I was pretty heavy handed with this.
  4. Bake in oven at 375 for about 25 minutes.

Yesterday I went to go see the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. I liked it, but I wasn’t too impressed with the character development of the bad guys. I spent a lot of the movie trying to figure out why the bad guy was so pissed off at the world, and what kind of fashion statement he was trying to make with his mask. It’s worth seeing, but I felt like that part could have been fleshed out more.

Today I made my customary trip to the farmers’ market, did some laundry, skyped my parents – nothing too exciting. I will leave you a picture of the tomatoes we saw this morning though. If a fruit can be beautiful these ones definitely were.

 

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California fights back

On my time, that is. It’s been insanity over here – I feel like I haven’t stopped moving long enough to breathe lately, let alone blog. Let’s see, what’s been happening. It seems like so long ago already, but I had a really great fourth of July holiday: Google is awesome and gives us five days off, so my boyfriend came down to visit and we did fun touristy things. One of my favourite parts was the fireworks in SF on July 4th – they were beautiful! I love fireworks, and I’m sad that I miss the Celebration of Lights ones in Vancouver because I’m in California, so it was really nice to see some this summer. We also had a really cool experience when we went for breakfast the next day – we went to Dottie’s, which has amazing food but an even more incredible line, and ended up chatting and eventually having breakfast with the couple behind us. They were really nice people and it was really fun to randomly meet someone and like them enough to share a meal. The food was totally worth the line too, but I’m a foodie and might not have the most sound opinion on these types of matters. I also went to my friend’s place for a BBQ and made some amazing potato salad, so if you want a light tzatziki-like potato salad, I highly recommend making this one at smittenkitchen.

I went to go see Les Miz last night, and it was amazing. I didn’t know all of the music (only the biggies, like I Dreamed a Dream and On My Own) but the singers were really talented and the musical is excellent. It was so sad though! I cried twice. I feel like I’ll have to add the book to my infinitely growing reading list. We also went for dinner at a really random resturant located right smack in the middle of the Nordstroms in Westfield Mall in SF. It’s a little odd to go for dinner in the midst of a bunch of clothing, but we trusted Yelp and it turned out to be really good! I had sweet pea risotto with scallops.

Then today I did some interview prep at work (which made me realize how awful I am at interviews), hung out by the pool and cooked some dinner. I tried making polenta, which was really interesting. I’ve had it at work a couple of times now and I was intrigued, but I’m not sure the best way to make it – I’ve seen polenta all mushy and soft, and I’ve also seen it grilled and in a more solid form. I tried sautéing it and it turned out pretty well, so I’ll have to experiment a bit more. I think it’d be good with some kind of sauce, so I might try that.

I was fighting off a cold this past week and so I’ve been kind of walking the line between sickness and health. I think I’m finally veering towards the latter, though, which is good because I really can’t afford to be sick right now. If this is even possible, work is starting to ramp up – I’m realizing I only have five weeks to go, and the amount of things I need to accomplish is definitely still a long list. There will definitely be some late nights this week. I’ve just made plans for my birthday, though, and I’m going to Disneyland and seeing my sister and parents in two weeks, so there’s that to look forwards to!

Why I love American grocery stores

I went grocery shopping this morning. Sounds like a pretty mundane, ordinary way to spend your Saturday morning, right? Not that fun? Wrong! (Or at least wrong if you’re anything like me).

During the school year at home, I’m not in charge of the groceries so I usually make do with whatever shows up in my fridge or cabinet. Admittedly, I don’t need too much food here because I eat my weekday dinners at Google, but weekends are a time for me to wander aimlessly through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and happily indulge in the illusion that it’s wise for me to fill up my fridge. When I’m talking about grocery shopping, though, I’m really talking about Trader Joe’s and Sprouts and Whole Foods – all of the kind of hippy places that we don’t have at home. Reasons I love these places include:

  • The variety of things you can get, including items that you wouldn’t normally think of. One of my favourite purchases from today was coconut oil, which made my squash DELICIOUS. Which also leads me to my second point:
  • It’s reasonably priced. I’m not saying we don’t have a lot of these foods at home, but they tend to be way more expensive. Case in point: Greek yogurt. I’m addicted to the stuff. At home there’s maybe one or two kinds that cost twice as much as normal yogurt, but here I’m confronted by shelves and shelves of cheap probiotic goodness.
  • It’s easy to find healthy options! I really do try to keep an eye on what I eat and not ingest too many heart-threatening things, and there’s always tons of options that let me feel better about what I’m eating and enjoy it at the same time.
  • Last, and this is kind of a silly reason, but the stores are pretty. Er. Yeah. I’m a girl, alright? The labels are all so cheery. I love it.

Anyways, I actually really enjoyed picking up food and my foray to the farmer’s market afterwards. It’s definitely a first world problem, but sometimes I wish I had more opportunities to cook.

I fit this all in my backpack and biked back. Be impressed.

I did make an amazing dinner for myself, though. My mom’s been advocating going wheat-free for a month now, and really pushing me to try it. (She read this book about how we’re all going to die because we eat wheat. Er, maybe not that extreme. But it’s something to do with how wheat is genetically modified and making us fat). She keeps on telling me how much better it’ll be for me, etc, etc. Anyways, I’m a little skeptical, but I’ve decided I’m going to give it a chance and cut out wheat from my diet. I’m not going to be uber strict: if I’m going out on the weekend and I order a bowl of pasta, it won’t be the end of the world. But in my everyday meals, I’ll be veering away from wheat and eating corn, quinoa, rice, that sort of thing. The hardest part will be bread, because it’s one of my favourite things. To try and stick to this rule, I bought quinoa linguine – and was amazed and happy when it tastes exactly like normal pasta! I also got to eat the squash I bought at the farmer’s market. Yum.

Squash and Salmon Pasta (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • Two small yellow squash (by small, I mean a couple of inches), cut into rounds
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt
  • 1 small pack of smoked salmon
  • Pasta of your choice (I used quinoa linguine)
  • Marinara sauce

Directions:

  1. Set water to boil, add some salt, and cook pasta to al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, add some coconut oil to a pan (probably about a tablespoon). Add squash and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until the squash is tender – about five minutes or so.
  3. Add marinara sauce, smoked salmon, and drained pasta to your squash. Stir them all together and inhale when it’s all piping hot and delicious.

My favourite part about this was the flavour of the coconut oil and how the smoked salmon added a hit of saltiness. So good.

I also got to try out a restaurant on Thursday called the Boiling Crab, where they basically plunk your food in a bag on the table and you eat with your hands. It’s all seafood – crab, shrimp, clams…it was absolutely delicious and absolutely cavelike.

Wow, this has been a very food-related post. Hope you’re all hungry now!

Breakfast (ice cream) of champions

I really can’t believe how fast time is going by. I was booking a hotel tonight for San Francisco and I realized that I’m leaving in less than two weeks. I feel like I’m in one of those shows where they speed up the time and the characters begin to talk in extremely fast high-pitched mouse voices. All around me things are starting to rev up and I’m like “Wait! Hold up! My little legs can’t go that fast!” On the bright side, my outreach event on Saturday went smoothly without a hitch – 71 girls and all was well! I was exhausted by the end of the day but all that hard work planning paid off. Now it’s just a few more meetings and some wrap-up and I am done my school commitments until September!

I can’t deny though that I did a happy dance with the hotel that I just booked. It’s very swanky. (I’ve always wanted to use that word). Before I start at Google, I’m spending a few days in SF with a friend I haven’t seen in two years. We met at a Google thing a few years back and have kept in touch ever since, but he lives in Atlanta and I live in Van so our postal codes don’t exactly match up. I was really beginning to doubt that I’d ever see him again, so I’m really happy that we’ll be able to hang out before I immerse myself in Googley-ness. I think with booking the hotel, though, it started to hit me that I’m actually leaving again for the summer, and I got super conflicted about it. Don’t get me wrong – I know it’ll be amazing, just as it was last time, and I’m going to have a great time. But being out there does mean that I miss out on people who are here, people that I’d rather not miss out on. I suppose you can’t have it all. This would all be solved with a person-sized suitcase, I swear.

To stave off any melancholy, my friend came over yesterday and we had an adventure in ice-cream making. Specifically, we made french-toast-chocolate-bacon ice cream. Yes, you heard me right. We were trying to think of a snappy name for it, but the best we could come up was breakfast of champions ice cream, which really doesn’t capture it well. It was very interesting to see how different people reacted to it though; my friend and I loved it, my dad and sister were indifferent, my mom and boyfriend were very undecided. It’s definitely interesting.

French Toast Chocolate Bacon Ice Cream (adapted from various sources, including David Lebovitz)

Chocolate Bacon

  • Bar of your favourite chocolate – we used dark and added some chocolate chips in
  • 6 pieces bacon

Ice Cream

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 3/4 cup half and half
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons rum
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

1. To make the bacon: Cook the bacon in a frying pan and cool on a sheet with a paper towel. Melt the chocolate in a bowl.

2. Dip the cooled bacon into the chocolate until it’s coated. Try not to make the chocolate too thick, or the bacon taste won’t be that strong. Butter wax paper on a cookie sheet and place the chocolate bacon onto it. Stick in the fridge until hard, and then chop into little pieces.

3. To make the ice cream: melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and half of the half and half. Pour the remaining half and half into a bowl in an ice bath and put a mesh strainer on top (you’ll need it later).

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Pour in brown sugar mixture, whisking as you pour, and then pour it all back into the saucepan.

5. Cook over low to medium heat until it’s thick enough to coat your spatula. It’s okay if it’s still runny. Strain into the half and half in the ice bath, stirring constantly, until the whole thing is cool. (This part was a little strange if your custard gets a little too thick. We just took a spoon and pressed it through the strainer). Add vanilla, rum and cinnamon. It looks a little strange. That’s okay.

6. Freeze in your ice cream maker; when it’s done stir in chocolate bacon and drool.

Blogging in the wee hours

…is equal to procrastination at its finest.

I have tooooo much stuff to do, but I also need a bit of a break because my mind is starting to go insane, so it’s time for a very-early-morning-post.

I’ve been a bit absent – the last week has been good, but busy. I feel like the last bits of the semester are just trickling through my fingers like sand – I thought there was so much more of it, but it’s just all falling through the cracks and slipping away faster than I could believe. Not that I’m complaining – as far as I’m concerned, the sooner school is over the better.

As for notable events of the last week or so: I went to a information session for the field school in Italy that I want to do this upcoming fall, and I am so incredibly excited for it. It sounds so amazing! You essentially spend eight weeks in Prato, Italy, studying the literature, art history and history that comes after the Black Death. It’s actually interesting, because I’m studying some similar things in my Medieval Lit class right now, so I might know a few things about the time that we’re looking at. You stay in little places around the town, you learn Italian, you take classes at a palazzo and field trips every Thursday – it sounds like a dream come true. I’m practically hopping with anxiety to sign myself up. (You think I’m kidding? You want to know how often I check the SFU International page to see if applications are open? It is sad, I tell you. Sad.)

I also saw the Hunger Games on Friday, which I was pleasantly surprised with. I’m one of those people who always likes the book better than the movie (except, perhaps, for Lord of the Rings. As much as I love the books, the movies are – well – epic), but I think they did a really good job on it. The actors/actresses were spot on in their characters, they stayed mostly true to the plot, and it was a well-done movie overall. I really enjoyed it – so go see it! (But read the books first).

I also feel like I’ve done a ton of cooking in the last few days. I made cookies on the weekend as a way of warding off my homework:

The recipe was originally for oatmeal raisin cookies, but I changed them to oatmeal blueberry pecan. Variety is the spice of life, y’know. Also I ran out of raisins. The recipe is from smitten kitchen – I just changed the raisins to dried blueberries and walnuts to pecans.

I also made truffle pasta for dinner. Basically, take some pasta, add some alfredo sauce, sundried tomatoes and peas; then add the magic – one part truffle cream to two parts olive oil, drizzled over the pasta. Drool. I only had whole-wheat spaghetti in the house, though, which I think ruined it a bit. When you’re eating something like truffle oil, you need the unhealthy amazingness of normal linguine.

Then today, I had to make MORE food for a potluck tomorrow (which I forgot about). I managed to get myself into a rice-krispie disaster: I think the marshmallows my mom gave me were really old, so they wouldn’t melt properly, so I just ended up with this gigantic marshmallow that looked like a life form. It clung to the sides of the pot and I could practically hear its tiny voice going “noooooooo” as it reached out its tiny marshmallow-y tendrils to grasp frantically at the edges of the saucepan. Kind of like a weird marshmallow fiend. Anyways, that failed, so I just made cookies but was way too tired by that point to even care what they taste like. They’ve got butter and chocolate and sugar, so it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

I’ve been feeling really weird lately – happy but also stressed out at the same time. Somehow the things that are making me happy are kind of stressing me out – how does that work?

Anyways, if I have any hope at all at getting to bed in the next while, I should go back to my homework now. Sigh.

How to regress to childhood in a baked good, or pb&j muffins

I’ve been having a very peaceful and lazy Sunday. It’s been great actually – slept in a bit, had a leisurely breakfast, got some homework accomplished (cleaned my house so my parents wouldn’t take my head off when they get home today…)

Since I was on a pretty good roll with getting things done, I decided I was making too much progress and had to interrupt myself somehow.

Yeah, that means mini-muffins. Yes, I have an obsession with taking perfectly normal-sized things and miniaturizing them.

I wanted to make something but I wasn’t quite sure whether I wanted to try to make something relatively healthy or whether I should just give in and make something heart-stopping and drenched in chocolate. I compromised with peanut butter and jelly muffins, telling myself that technically they do have nutritional value. I love peanut butter – I could probably eat a whole jar of the stuff in one sitting. I was going to make a simple peanut butter cookie, and then it occurred to me that there must be some way to put the second-best peanut butter combination (chocolate being the first) into a baked good. Hence, I fiddled around and made pb&j muffins that have the magical ability of turning you into a five-year-old. The peanut butter flavour is pretty light, but in a good way because the jam’s sweetness sets it off well.

These are not going to last long.

Peanut butter and jelly muffins 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Roughly 1/3 cup of whatever jam you like; this is a very rough estimate because I was just spooning it out of the jar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease your muffin tins well, because the jam tends to leak out the sides and make them sticky.
  2. Mix flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in peanut butter and cold butter with knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (just like you were making scones). Add milk and eggs, and stir until just combined. It’ll be lumpy.
  3. Fill half your muffin tin with batter – for normal sized muffins, this is probably a few tablespoons, for mini muffins, one small tablespoon. Add a teaspoon of jam on top of the batter. Spoon more batter on top until the muffin cup is full (this way you get nice tops).

    Before adding more batter

  4. Bake for about 13 minutes for mini muffins and about 17 minutes for normal-sized muffins. I made 24 mini muffins and then 3 normal-sized because I had some leftover batter and I was too impatient to wait for the first batch to finish. I would guess this should make around 12 normal-sized muffins. Let them cool a bit and then take them out of the pan and stuff your face.

 

Oh herro, Shannon-sized apple crisps

My friend mentioned to me recently that most of my posts are about food. This is true. It is also true that I love food, so it makes sense that my life centers around it. Wait, did I say that out loud?

I always have such a hard time motivating myself to do work on Saturdays – hence blogging instead of homeworking. Friday nights too, for that matter. It’s something about how I work all week and so I want my day off, so I want to be useless on Saturdays – but then again, the less I do on the weekend, the more I have to do during the week. It’s a weird balance. My week has been pretty uneventful – quite a bit of homework (what else is new) and nothing much more than that. I did buy a really cute t-shirt yesterday from a friend of a friend – it says “herro?” on it in a speech bubble. Living in an extremely Asian city (and having Asian heritage) means I think it’s hilarious. All it needed was a smiley face and it would be me down to a T.

It was pouring rain yesterday and by the time I got home and had dinner I was exhausted. What I really wanted was dessert, but the terrible weather and lack of any energy on my part made me reluctant to venture outside. So I made do with what I had on hand.

I love individual sized things. Or maybe it’s because I think they’re cuter when they’re mini. I’ve decided to call these Shannon-sized apple crisps because .. well … they’re small, I’m small, you get the picture. They were really easy to make though with things you have in your cupboard. I made four – one for each of my family members – but they’d be great if you’re home alone and are really craving something warm, apple-y and droolworthy.

Individual Apple Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, peeled and sliced into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons quick cooking oats
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place the apple in a small ramekin, or small serving bowl. Anything really you have on hand.
  3. Mix together the rest of the ingredients. I found it easier when the butter was soft. Sprinkle over the apple.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the apple is soft.

Yum. Best served with ice cream and eaten voraciously. I think next time I might toss the apples in a bit of brown sugar first before putting the topping on to make them a bit sweeter.