Thursday, December 23, 2010


No, there is still no snow in Boulder, but the mountains are getting hammered. 2.5 feet in Crested Butte. In one day. How is that possible? We were up for an epic weekend at Vail and ABasin. Previous trips to Vail have been pretty frumpy, but we paid to park in the garage to avoid waiting and hour for the stupid bus, and were glad that we did. The back bowls were big, epic, and very fluffy. I think a day like that on my birthday excuses us from not having snow this Christmas. Matt and I both forgot our alpines at home, so we got a serious thigh workout (on my new fat teles!) Looks to be a good season ahead.

Even though the weather hasn't been festive down here, we're been having a lovely time making ornaments, baking cookies, and being with friends. I had a group of ladies over for a cookie baking party, and was pretty impressed with our output. Cornflake wreaths were the most photogenic, though the mint-frosted red velvets were lovely too. We've recently become enamored of a four-person board game called Blokus, which consistently challenges our spatial skills and our friendships. Somehow, we got the hairbrained idea that we should try to fit all the pieces on the board following the game rules. The boys were enthralled for about an hour until we got this final result:

Pooped from exertion

I'll admit, I'm not really into Christmas. I love spending time with family, but the materialism really gets to me, and the religious appeal blows right by me. It does usually mean empty slopes. We've been trying our hardest to get people to NOT get us presents because our 700 sq. ft. apartment has about reached is carrying capacity. Our tree (which lives in a box of rocks because we don't have a tree stand) adds to the festivity, but it will be alone for Christmas. Off to Australia tonight! We're hitting Tasmania for some backpacking, Cairns for some diving, and Sydney for city culture. And food. Packing camping equipment into two small backpacks has eluded us, so we'll be taking the huge ones. We're bringing 10 pounds of dried foods (hooray for the bulk aisle), as we'll be arriving on Christmas and are not confident that we'll find fuel before we hit the trail.

I've been sending family delicious things in lieu of more formal gifts this year. I've always thought fruitcake was kind of gross, but my sister and dad think its heavenly, so I made a batch to send Amanda for finals week. Even though I'm not usually a fan, I found this recipe pretty delicious (maybe because I accidentally doubled the sugar. . .). Have a lovely holiday.

  • 1 (8 oz) tub candied cherries
  • 1 (8 oz) tub candied citron
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup delicious booze of your choice (brandy, rum, etc.)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup almond meal (or grind your own almonds)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 5 cups pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 275F
  2. Grease two 9x5 loaf pans and line with parchment paper. Grease the paper too.
  3. Soaks fruits in your booze and let sit overnight or longer.
  4. Mix together flour, almond meal, powder, salt, and spices. Pour onto fruit and mix in until coated.
  5. Beat eggs until frothy and beat in the sugar and molasses. Add to the dry mixture and stir until incorporated.
  6. Stir in the pecans.
  7. Spoon into the prepared pans and bake for 1.5 hours.
Finally the season for our plates,
though we use them all year round.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas

The snow has been a little disappointing down here this year. We've only had snow on the ground for a couple of days so far, and this week has been pushing 60 degrees. Unfazed, we took a trip into the woods this weekend to search for the perfect Christmas tree. Matt and I hadn't planned on getting one, but once we got there, all the trees were so charming, we couldn't resist. And thankfully, there was snow. Getting our picture taken with Smokey was a highlight. Amelia is in Uganda, so we had to add her in later.

Our tree is little.

It is a little odd having only two classes, as everyone else is scrambling to get things done and I'm lazing around as usual. We're looking forward to 2 weeks in Australia over Christmas and New Years. Which means no White Christmas again this year. We had a good time at home over Thanksgiving, and visited a lot of family. Amanda is living on the same dorm floor that I lived on my freshman year, so we paid her a visit and enjoyed nostalgic Middlebrook cuisine.

My parents vacationed in Istanbul last month and brought me back some saffron. I haven't used saffron much, but it's pretty and smells good, so I figured I'd better find something to use it in.

I'm not big into raw vegetables. Maybe it's my Chinese side coming out. Unless it's a very well-made salad, I avoid raw vegetables as often as possible. I like my veggies soggy, salty, and warm. So in honor of that sentiment, I made this dish. I served mine with sauteed spinach and a little mushroom sauce. Mmmmm, comfort food.

Creamy Saffron Polenta
adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dry polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Saute the onions until golden.
  2. Add the broth, saffron, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in polenta and whisk constantly until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes (5 if using cornmeal), whisking occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, process the corn in a food processor until chunky. Stir into polenta after 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thermos envy

Matt has had this thermos for years. It's the perfect size to bring a hot beverage to work in, and it keeps your drink warm all day. I have to admit, I've been a little jealous. Until one of my early weekend morning garage sale runs this fall, when I found an epic thermos for $3. This baby holds over a quart of warm deliciousness and probably will keep it warm until the apocalypse. The weather forcast for my Ultimate games last weekend was not too favorable, so I decided it was time to bring the big guy into service.

I've always had a sort of love/hate affair with hot chocolate. As a non-coffee drinker and only occasional tea drinker (because I feel like its good for me), hot chocolate has always been my drink of choice. I grew up drinking Swiss Miss out of the huge carton, and frequently ordered hot chocolate when my family went out to dinner. But unfortunately, there is a wide range of qualities. There's the gas station hot chocolate that tastes awesome for the first half, until you get to the cloying, grainy bits. There's the chalet hot chocolate that tastes good because you're freezing. And there's the hot chocolate at home from a mix that you stir into hot water. I didn't realize just how chocolate-confused I was until I lived with some French girls in Beijing, who were appalled that I made hot chocolate from water and a mix. My friend from Brittany then proceded to make me hot chocolate with whole milk. Epiphany! Milk from dried milk powder is nasty. Thus, hot chocolate made with milk powder (i.e. those from a mix to stir into water) will be nasty as well. My second epiphany occured in a Swiss grocery store, where the only hot chocolate mixes instruct the user to mix them into milk. So mix + milk is ok.

On another note, I think it's a scam that food companies can sell some things in boxes when it is so easy to make them yourself. Salad dressings, brownie mix, spaghetti sauce. Same for hot chocolate mix. So I set out to make my own hot chocolate mix to be mixed into milk for steamy cups of deliciousness. I made this recipe this weekend for my Ultimate tournaments, and it's a winner.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • dash cinnamon and/or cayenne
  1. Muddle it all up in a bowl or bag and store
  2. To serve, mix 2 Tbsp into 1 cup warm milk.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A change in seasons

We had our first snow of the year this week. I love the snow. It's peaceful, silent, and it reminds me of home. We went up to the mountains and took one run at the resort last weekend. Four of us up from Boulder on our teles. Bunch of hippies. I'm looking forward to ski season this year with the hopes that the snow doesn't suck like it did last year.

Matt started a new job this week, and is happy to be working with better people in a more positive environment. And in a field that people actually give a damn about. I guest taught two lectures to a roomful of young engineers, which was quite rewarding and entertaining.

I will be home for a whole week over Thanksgiving. As I get three different food magazines and religiously peruse food blogs, I've come up with a lot of new-fangled holiday recipes to test out on our 30 or so relatives who pop in. I love this hobby.

I've been baking every week for seminar (it beats buying the crap from the supermarket) and have the enviable task every Tuesday to bake anything I want for 30-40 people. It's been great for my stress levels. We had some stout leftover because no one actually likes stout. It turns out that stout and chocolate are a delicious combo. And as an added bonus, we got a new camera in the mail, so I don't have to turn it off and on between every photo. Score! I got an awesome new camera and was so excited to put up pics from it, but the SD card was bunked. So here's a lovely pic from my building to make you jealous that you don't live in Boulder.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 20-24 cupcakes
  • 1 cup stout
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour cupcake tin.
  2. Bring the stout and butter to a simmer over medium hear. Whisk in cocoa powder. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Mix together dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. Whisk together eggs and sour cream in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Whisk the chocolate stout mixture into the eggs and cream. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until combined.
  5. Spoon into greased pan (3/4 full) and bake for about 18 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely before frosting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fun with fondant

I've been neglectful. And my excuses are lame. I went up to my friend Jen's house last night and learned to make arepas (Venuzuelan corn cake/sandwich things) while she photographed and blogged it. So here I am, inspired.

Life has been a little rough, as I try to get my PhD project started while not really having a good reason to do one in the first place. Whatever. I'm here, I'm having fun and learning. What else do I need? Sometimes, all I need is an attitude adjustment. Or baking therapy. In the meantime, I've been playing video games, sightseeing Denver, elk bugling listening in Rocky Mountain National Park, and running with a group of lovely ladies.
My awesome running pals, post-half

I made some fondant in August, and it's been sitting in my freezer pondering its fate for the last two months. The original plan was to make a "wedding cake" for our first anniversary of Colorado life, a la common-law marriage, but that didn't happen. AP is having a birthday potluck tomorrow, so I figured the time is now. For fondant, that is, not weddings.
I asked AP what kind of cake she was into, and she said "all kinds." So I consulted my ridiculous baking book by Marcy Goldman which has absurdly decadent recipes. Perfect for sharing with a house-full of party-minded people. Flipping through, I was entranced by her Italian Cream Wedding Cake. Maybe it was the long name with the pleasant associations. Italy. Wedding. Cream. Maybe it was the pastry cream, which I am particularly partial too. Actually, this is a fake-out. My co-baker and I decided that the fluffy, divine creamy layers wouldn't stand up to the abuse of fondant, so we changed to chocolate layer cake. You can make this with just frosting, or top it with fondant afterwards.
Chocolate Layer Cake
adapted from A Passion for Baking
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat to 350F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Whisk together dry ingredients in separate bowl and add alternately with buttermilk and sour cream. Blend together until incorporated. Pour into pans
  3. Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan
  4. When cool, frost decorate
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • milk as needed for consistency
  1. Mix everything together, and adjust consistency with milk and powdered sugar.
  2. Frost middle, sides, and tops of layer cake.
if looked really nasty before the fondant went on. eiw.
but better after, if a little baby-showerish.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just Peachy

My family came to visit me last weekend, so I showed them the joys of Boulder before we went up to the mountains. He hiked Chautauqua, ate at Brasserie TenTen, went to the library book store, and explored vintage clothing stores. I think they like it here.

We were planning to spend the weekend in Summit County, but as the timing worked out, I suggested we take a day to go to Palisade for their peach festival. Palisade is on the Western Slope of the Rockies, and might have the best peaches anywhere (take that, Gerogia!). It was a beautiful drive out there. I did somehow expect the Western slope to be green and lush, and it turned out to be just as arid as the East. There's something about the wind coming down the canyon that makes for mild weather in Palisade and ed the proliferation of so many orchards and vineyards. We visited an orchard with beautiful tasty peaches and took a tour on their horse-drawn carriage. Buff horses. And they had peach ice cream for us as we finished.

The festival in town was also a delight. They had a fair with booths and hot dogs (they seem necessary for a fair atmosphere) and various peach products. There was a recipe contest in which contestants submitted a peach food item that was judged. And the best part: they sold sample tickets so that bystanders could taste the goodies. We definitely got five each. Amanda went for the cakey items, so her plate looks gorgeous and appetizing.

I, however, went for the gooey, cobbler-like treats, so my plate looks a little vomitous, but was amazingly delicious.

We got a half-bushel (25 pounds) of peaches on our way out of town and are still eating our way through them. I've been meaning to bake with them, but haven't gotten around to it/haven't figured out who is going to eat it. But I'll make something peachy soon.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hobbies and hole hweat

I've come to the conclusion that I need a hobby, as Matt spends most of his free time playing with making mobile games. Knitting came up as a likely candidate. I've knit in the past, but usually find myself to restless to take pleasure in it. So last night I decided to knit a cabled hat, and throughout 5 hours of BBC Pride and Prejudice, I started and finished it. (pattern here) Pretty good, eh? Other candidates for hobby include guitar and painting. We'll see what I actually get to.

A friend had us up to her house in the mountains the weekend to watch the meteor shower. I thought I'd bake something to share for breakfast, but in my laziness refused to run out to replenish our supply of white flour. So the only option was whole wheat. Or flourless chocolate cake (why didn't I think of that at the time?) Marcy Goldman's "A Passion for Baking" has become my go to book when I need to make something ridiculously delicious for a crowd who isn't watching their calories (there's a brownie recipe with marshmallows, raisins, dates, oreos, chocolate chunks, pecans, crisp rice and almost as much butter as flour). There's also a section in the back with recipes that may or may not be actually healthy, but they usually lack something considered unhealthy or include something considered healthy. This is one such. She definitely goes for the kitchen sink approach, but these guys definitely garnered some compliments.

Breakfast Scones
from A Passion for Baking
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oil or butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sesame or sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup frozen berries or chopped apple
  1. Heat oven to 400. Line a cookie sheer/baking pan with parchment paper or grease it.
  2. Blend zest, bp, bs, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and flour in a bowl. Drizzle in oil or cut in butter.
  3. Add honey, syrup, eggs, and 3/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk. Mix halfway, then fold in granola, oats, cornmeal, seeds, nuts, and fruit. Stir and add more dairy if it does not hold together.
  4. Pat half the dough into a 3/4 inch thick round and cut into six scones. Repeat with other half. Arrange scones on baking pan and bake them for 17022 minutes. You can brush with milk or beaten egg to make them more shiny if you like.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The most ridiculous cake you've ever seen.

I'm in the middle of nowhere at a lab in Illinois for a relatively lame conference that is causing me to miss yet another summer weekend in Colorado. On a scale of 1 to excited, I'd say I'm hovering around a -2. The security is pretty stupid and they have to escort cabs into the premises with these fancy official black escort cars. And we need to have a badge and photo id at all time. Oh, the things we do for funding. I did get to see some cool stuff though, including an electron microscope with 1/2 angstrom (10^-12) resolution and a supercomputer with 5 petabytes of disc drives and 160,000 processors. Scientists get the coolest toys.

Last week was my first week back and work. Things went really fast. The postdoc who was partly in charge of me left for good, so I spent some time frantically figuring out what she got done in the past 2 months while I was away. Colorado is still beautiful, and I got out on my bike a few times to enjoy the (somehow still green) scenery. And I can now get my puppy fix as someone with a dog moved in with my friends.

My friend E e-mailed me this recipe last week, and I was immediately convinced that we needed to make it. Soon. I had planned to go to a band concert on Monday night, but when we got an invite to T and E's for dinner, I decided to bail on the concert and make this cake instead. And what a good decision that was. E was even borrowing a super fancy Nikon from a friend, so I got to play with taking fun pictures of the cake and of everyone eating it.

It's pretty much a flourless chocolate cake topped with hazelnut and chocolate studded meringue. I don't know why I haven't though of that before. Yum.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted over double boiler
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp rum
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  1. Toast hazelnuts in oven for 10 minutes at 350 and rub when cool to remove skins. Chop the skinned nuts. Melt chocolate over boiling water in double boiler or metal bowl placed over a saucepan.
  2. Preheat oven to 350. Butter sides and bottom of a 9" springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper too.
  3. Whip butter and brown sugar in stand mixer until pale and smooth (3 minutes). Add 6 egg yolks one at a time and beat until smooth. Add melted chocolate, rum, vanilla, and salt. Beat until combined.
  4. Carefully clean the mixer bowl to ensure not fat particles remain. Beat the 6 egg white until soft peaks form. Fold a third of the whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.
  6. Beat egg whites on medium until frothy. Increase to high and slowly add sugar. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form (about 4 minutes). Don't overbeat!
  7. Combine chopped chocolate, hazelnuts, and cornstarch in a bowl. Fold into beaten egg whites.
  8. Remove cake from oven. Spread meringue mixture atop warm cake, being careful not to deflate it. Bake for another 25 minutes.
  9. Transfer pan to cooling rack and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the outside ring of the pan. Let cool another 30 minutes before cutting.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Home for popovers

After a hectic last week filled with more tears and laughter than I have ever experienced in a four-day period, I am finally home. My summer course hit me like a train and left me just as fast. I feel like I've gained two years of experience and emotional maturity while see-sawing back and forth between love and hate of science and myself. I have redefined my concept of what can be achieved in a day. My esteemed compatriots from the course were (are) an outstanding, driven, hilarious and inspiring group of people that I feel blessed to have met and cursed to have to leave after 7 short weeks. Everything experienced at summer camp was about three notches more intense than it would have been anywhere else, and perhaps because of its surreality, it is already fading away into a dreamlike memory. What a ride.

Our T-shirt design pretty much sums up the experience (Thanks, PH!)

Now that I am home, I feel like I have to re-learn the actions of normal life. (What's a grocery store? I have to drive? I can sit around and not think about science?) And it feels glorious. I have the weekend to relax, recupterate, watch some sick Ultimate. Next week, I have to figure out how to move forward intelligently with the knowledge I've gained. But that's three days from now.

the culture I brought home in my suitcase arrives unscathed. Isn't it pretty.

I had expected that upon returning home, I would be whipped into a frenzy of baking to make up for my months of oven-deprivation. But I still feel so exhausted that I don't really want to do anything. So I'm starting things off simple.

lovely summer produce after 7 weeks of apples and bananas

First a prequel: during the course I mostly ate dorm food, which seemed perfectly acceptable for about three weeks. After that I started craving the simplicity of fresh, simple foods that taste like what they're made from. Luckily, a small group of us started sneaking off to a local bakery with divine popovers and real crusty bread. These popovers were enormous crackly affairs filled with luxurious custardy bits. Divine with a pad of butter or honey. Or just plain. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo, but imagine the biggest baddest popover you can conceive of. I knew I had to make some when I got home.

These didn't turn out nearly as good as Pie in the Sky's, but the texture was pretty fantastic and they come a close second. I think I left my pan out of the oven for too long during filling as I groped around for my missing camera. This is for all my lovely summer course peeps:

from the New Best Recipes Cookbook
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole or low-fat milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Oil for the pan
  1. Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium bowl until homogeneous, about 20 seconds.
  2. Add flour and salt and mix with spoon until combined
  3. Add melted butter and whisk for about 30 seconds
  4. Let batter rest for 30 minutes
  5. While batter is resting, prepare your pan by measuring 1/4 tsp oil into each of 10 indentations in a muffin tin (1/2 oil into 6 if you're classy enough to own a popover pan).
  6. Heat oven to 450 and place pan in oven to preheat.
  7. When batter is rested, pour into a liquid measuring cup or other container with a spout. Remove pan from oven and, working quickly, divide batter between greased wells and return the pan to the oven.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 3 minutes before removing from pan. Serve immediately.

just before going back in

my busy bench. goodbye and thanks for the good times, MBL.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adventures in microbial ecology

I arrived at my summer course on Saturday. Not sure how many people are interested in microbial diversity, but this is my life for the next 6 weeks. It's odd being back in dorms and eating in a cafeteria again (metabolism is definitely not as intense as when I was 18). Sunday was pretty chill, but since then, things have been pretty swamped. Lectures in the morning, lab in the afternoon and evening, done for the night around 11PM. Almost every minute is planned out with exciting microbiology things. Monday night, the entire class walked out to a nearby swamp with significant methane production, waded in chest deep, and stomped around in the sediments releasing the biogas. The gas was collected in large stoppered upside-down funnels, which we used to make large (as in 5 feet high) flaring infernos. Unfortunately, the experience came with some very unpleasant odors. Tuesday, we went out to some nearby salt marshes and sampled sediment and water. There were a lot of really interesting microbial consortia, including lots of purple-pigmented bacteria.

The lab experience for tonight was making beer from kits. This also involved imbibing for most of the class. My classmates come from diverse academic and societal backgrounds, and are very entertaining to talk to. It's amazing. We do microbiology all day and all night, and when we have free time to talk, we mostly still talk about microbiology. Nerds all.

There is a beach nearby which has bioluminescent dinoflagillates that you can swim with, so that may be the next big adventure.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I've been at my summer course for over 4 weeks now. How time flies. We've finished with organized laboratory procedures and have moved on to conducting our own projects as we see fit. Everyone is really energized and the atmosphere is amazing, but the long hours are beginning to wear on me. I feel guilty if I leave the lab before 10PM. Everyone gets along well, and we have entertaining conversations about science and life. It's good to learn that everyone in academia has issues. It's not just me.

There is a "secret" beach near the site that is reached by a long dark path through the woods. If you go on a good night, the path is lit only by fireflies. And in the waves, the bioluminescent dinoflagellates turn the water to stars when you move. The stars in the sky are significantly less obscured by city lights than in most places I've lived, so the double luminescent effect above and below is enchanting.

Cafeteria food is monotonous, but could definitely be worse. Like undergrad dorm food, for example. We go out on weekends, so there's a little bit of variety. My parents and sister were in town for the fourth last weekend, so I got to sample all the local restaurants with them. The town has a fourth of july parade which is largely populated by scientists from the courses in town. Each course has a theme, and participants dress up as nerdy things. I was Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans, the bacteria I might study for my Ph.D. I also helped dress a friend's 3-year old as a phage.

Eggplant Lasagna
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • basil and oregano
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup milk
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 lb. lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 pound cheese of choice, grated (mozz is classic, but I prefer co-jack)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and cut into thin slices. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes until squishy.
  2. Heat butter over medium heat in a dutch oven. Add onions, and cook until brown, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and spices and cook together for 30 seconds before mixing in the crushed tomatoes. Stew for 10 minutes and salt to taste.
  3. Melt butter in medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in flour. Cook the roux together for a minutes or two, then slowly whisk in milk. Simmer for 20 minutes until thickened. If you're going to store the white sauce, press plastic wrap on surface so it doesn't get filmy.
  4. Boil noodles according to package directions.
  5. Line a 13x9 pan with foil and spoon 1/4 of the red sauce over the bottom. Place a layer of noodles on top. Scoop on 1/3 of the white sauce and some eggplant then another 1/4 of the red sauce. Continue layering as you see fit, and cover the last layer with red sauce and shredded cheese.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.
If you can't eat it all in one go, you can store single pieces in ziploc bags with no air bubbles and freeze. Re-heat by placing the bags in boiling water.

Off to summer camp

Lovely Santa Fe adobe architecture

I leave in two days to go to Massachusetts for a summer class. For 7 weeks. No oven. I am excited to learn lots of stuff and work my butt off, but sad that I won't be able to bake. Matt suggested that I make him lasagna for when I'm gone so that he can have easy dinners. So in the past few days, I have stocked the freezer with lasagna, chicken pot pies, enchiladas, cinnamon raisin bread, and sourdough bread. I must be nervous or something.

We spent the weekend visiting with some friends in Santa Fe. They were coming from Switzerland for a conference, so se made the (much shorter) 6 hour trek down I-25. Did you know there is a town called Wootton? And a Watraus. Go New Mexico. Our car does not have AC, which was less of a problem on Friday night that on Sunday afternoon. As engineers, we refused to submit to fate and bought a large styrofoam cooler that we filled with gas station ice and left uncovered to absorb heat in the car. When it got really desperate, the person in the passenger seat could even put their feet on it. Good thing, because it was about 95.

beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the farmer's market

We were supposed to eat amazing food there, but rather failed. The dinner place we went to was mediocre at best (and they wouldn't serve my friend's beer on their Swiss ID cards). We did have decent tamales from a food stand and granola at the B&B, but no huevos rancheros. And no green chile. I know, it's pitiful. I did really love the granola, and decided to try to replicate it at home. The lady said she used a mixture of honey, maple syrup, and molasses to get a dark flavor and winter spices for warmth.
Granola from Casita del Toro B&B. Delicious

So here is how nerdy I am. I used my muffin tin to try out 12 different variations on a basic granola mix. I tested spice mixes in varying amounts (cinnamon+nutmeg and cinnamon+nutmeg+ginger) and four liquid mixtures (1/1/1: oil/honey/maple syrup, 2:1:1, 1:1:1 plus vanilla, and 1:1:1 plus one part tahini). I toasted some oats and almonds and mixed two tablespoons with one teaspoon of whatever liquid mixture I was using.

I had twelve lovely variations on granola. And I am embarrassed to say that they all tasted about the same. Experiment failed. So much for my scientific method. That said, I do make some pretty good granola, so here's a recipe.


  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 T molasses
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
*The ingredients are pretty malleable. Replace almonds with a mixture of other nuts (pepitas?). Try different spices. Use different ratios of the sweet liquids. Replace some of the oil with peanut or apple butter.
  1. Preheat oven to 300. Mix oats, coconut, and almonds on a baking sheet and toast in oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent burning.
  2. Increase heat to 350.
  3. Mix spices, salt, and liquids in a small bowl. Pour over oat mixture and mix well. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Cool the granola completely, then stir in the dried fruit. Cranberries are my favorite, but cherries and raisins also work well. Just make sure you don't bake the fruit, or they'll be bitter.