Sunday, June 19, 2011

Well that was an unexpectedly long hiatus

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy but (for the most part) a good way.  I was in Texas for a graduation, went morel hunting, saw Spokane, and visited family and friends.  At the same time, I'm also finalizin my plans for pursuing further education, taking some classes and trying to learn more about my career prospects.  It is really a shame that there are very few graduate programs specific to autism and the few that are tend to be special education-related rather than psychology.  It is also hard to find psychology programs that involve clinical and research experience relevant to the field but now that I've identified a few it will be more than six months before I know whether I'm in or not.  With all of these big questions and decisions looming in the winter ahead, I'm really trying to enjoy every road trip, every chance I get to see someone, every sunny day, every morel sighting.  Staying mindful and in the moment will hopefully keep me from worrying unnecessarily.

It is small and hard to see but there is a morel in my hand.

Although I am nearsighted, usually wear dark glasses without corrective lenses, have an astigmatism, and my eyes don't seem to cooperate with one another, this does not seem to impact my ability to find morels.  At the University of Nottingham I learned about research that indicates autism is associated with better performance on certain kinds of visual discrimination tasks-particularly those that involved picking a slightly inconsistent image out of a large visual range of similar, consistent visual stimuli.  It seems like this would definitely come into play as morels often look like and can be found near pine cones.

The morels were very good fried in a beer batter.  I experimented with sweet onions first.  The batter definitely stuck to the mushrooms better.  Using a darker dunkelweizen complimented the mushrooms' slightly woodsy flavor.  They were also very good with shallots and butter in a creamy sauce over cous cous.  Hopefully we will get a bigger haul next year and be able to experiment further.

We finally had some nice weather and I was able to get out and grill.  We used honey teriyaki marinade and turned out really well for the my first attempt of the season.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Catching up

The last two weeks have been very busy and I have been/currently am under the weather.  Several times, at particularly difficult moments, I called my mom for a mood boost.  Now, with Mothers Day approaching I hope that I want express my gratitude to my mom for being there and supporting me in everything - big and small, good and bad.

This week for IHCC I made Jamie Oliver's chicken salad.  I added an avocado and a celery heart that were hanging around.  Without fresh basil (and there was no way I was going to the grocery store in my sickly state) I substituted cilantro instead, it went very well with the cumin flavored almonds.  

Below is my first attempt at banh mi with fried tofu and hoisin sauce.  It was ok but next time I need to get more flavor into the tofu.  Cutting it more thinly might help as well. 

I want to wish everyone a Happy Mothers Day!  

Monday, April 25, 2011

My first pizza from scratch

I was really impressed last Christmas when my brother made pizza - even the dough - and managed to cook it perfectly on the grill.  The difference between homemade and even very good delivery/restaurant pizza was shocking.  Baking has always freaked me out a little but after that experience it was clear that I would have to overcome that particular aversion.  The dough was easy to make and fun to play with!  I used regular flour instead of cake and played with the toppings and sauce a little based on my preferences and availability, the results were still great! 

Recently I've been converted from a thin crust to deep dish fan.  I love how the sauce, meat and vegetables meld together into a savory pie.  The emphasis on herbs is amazing and probably a big part of what sets it apart from mass produced pizzas.  Using turkey pepperoni instead of bacon probably lightened this recipe up considerably but still gave it meatiness and flavor.  I got some veggies in too by adding yellow bell peppers, mushrooms and arugula.  Put your spin on the recipe below!

Deep-Pan Pizza by Jamie Oliver
for the dough
scant 2 ¾ cups lukewarm water
1 x ¼ oz envelope dry yeast
1 Tbs sugar
1 level tsp salt
8 cups white bread flour, extra for dusting
for the tomato sauce
swig white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled
handful of fresh basil leaves
1 x 14 oz can diced tomatoes
sea salt and black pepper
for the toppings
olive oil
3 red onions
fresh thyme
4 pork sausages
dried red chile
1 tsp fennel seeds
pinch of oregano
¼ cup buffalo mozzarella
handful of fresh basil
2 fresh red chilies
2 large handfuls grated parmesan
12 slices bacon
for the dough pour water into bowl and use fork to stir in yeast and sugar.  Let stand for a few minutes then add salt and flour, bit by bit. Dust surface w/ flour and knead.  Place in flour dusted bowl covered with a damp cloth.  Leave in a warm room until the dough has almost doubled.
Meanwhile put a glug on oil in large frying pan on medium high heat.  Add sliced onions and thyme.  Put all tomato sauce ingredients in a mixer and blend.  Add chili and fennel seed with dried oregano to pork.  
Preheat oven to 400F.  Divide dough, oil pans.  Roll push dough to form crust, about ½ in.
Divide sauce and add toppings, bake 20 minutes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Starting the day with an egg and ending with an easy chicken dinner

In honor of the IHCC chicken/egg theme, I made an adaptation of Jamie Oliver's rich/green grits.  The rich grits recipe involves using shrimp with the sausage but eggs are easier, local, less expensive, and just seem more breakfasty.  I did the shrimp version last week for dinner and it was very good too.

The final product was good but I ran into several bumps along the way.  Initially I wanted to poach the eggs but the pods kept turning upside down (they've worked before, I may have been using a different pot or a harder boil?).  Without many eggs to spare I resorted to frying instead.  Then, right as everything was needing to come together, the blender decided to lock up and it had to be dismantled to retrieve the kale and garlic mixture. 

For the green grits you just cook some kale and garlic separately with oil (or drippings from sausage) and water until tender then blend and add to cooked grits with a handful of grated cheddar.   I used jalapenos and cilantro instead of parsley with the sausage (which I crumbled instead of forming it into balls).  The spice really seemed to compliment the pork, egg and kale combination.

With the chicken I regained some of my confidence.  It was a fast and super easy recipe that I will definitely have to bring back as a week night regular.  You just toss together:
  • sliced leeks (about 1 to 2 per breast)
  • a glug of oil and pat of butter
  • half a glass of white wine
  • salt, pepper and thyme
Then place the mixture on a foil-lined tray, creating a bed for the chicken breasts.  Wrap each skinless, boneless breast in pancetta (this part reminded me a little of Lady Gaga's meat dress, pancetta would have been a much more flattering material in my opinion)  and line them up on top of the leeks.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with sprigs of thyme.  Bake at 400 until the chicken is done.

I served it on top of spaghetti with a little bit of butter, lemon juice and parsley.  The leeks absorbed a lot of flavor, next time I will definitely double the amount!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunny side up smoothie and faux key lime pie

Several years ago I had jaw surgery and, for a month, was stuck trying to get a liquid-only diet "Through The Wire."  Instead of boost and ensure, all I wanted to drink was cream pie shakes from Sonic.  This is a much lighter version with real fruit, nuts and frozen yogurt.  Adding the faux key lime pie, particularly the crust, makes it crunchy and seem more like dessert.

I added the following to the blender in about equal parts (using slightly less of each going down the list):

  • frozen mango
  • ginger green tea
  • low fat vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mango Tango smoothie
  • pistachio ice cream (with whole nuts)
  • faux key lime pie

I used a dollop of frozen yogurt and the Mango Tango to try to make something vaguely resembling an egg on top.  It made a very good breakfast, the ginger green tea gave it a spicy kick and cut the sweetness a bit.  

Faux key lime pie is easy and fun to make.  You just need the following :

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 container cool whip
  •  1 frozen can limeade
  •  graham cracker crust
Combine first three ingredients, put mix in crust.  Freeze.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another Mycological Society outing

 Nothing edible seemed to be out in the area we were searching but it was still fun to get out and poke around in the woods.

After doing a bit of research I have come to the conclusion that the fungi above are golden jelly cones.  They tend to come out right after the snow has melted and may indicate that it is unusually cold this year.  I believe the mushroom below to be a common laccaria.  They are common in bogs and under/on fallen trees.  My book says that they last through the winter in California so they seem more cold tolerant than other mushrooms.  Apparently they are edible but I was not confident enough in my identification to actually try one.

A cinema landmark happened to be on the roadside we were searching, scenes from Harry and the Hendersons were shot here.  I will have to rewatch the movie and try to identify the scenes shot at this particular location.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dim sum and Mariners game the perfect combination

Dim sum at the Jade Garden was perfect for pre gaming.  I had never had scallops in shrimp dumpling before, it was great and I'm not sure why it is not more common!  We got a table next to this gold cat and I thought he would bring us good luck...

The Mariners were ahead for awhile but the opponents suddenly pulled ahead.  We had a great time in spite of the loss.  As you can see, we met the moose mascot in his den.  The seats were pretty close and attendance was at a record low so there was no crowding at all.