recent fun things

Lately my life has been so enjoyable. How lucky am I, dude?! I have just experienced another delightful weekend and have yet to chronicle the previous one.

Let’s start with my adorable hairy nephew. I had a slumber party with him (a slumber party in which I had to boot him out of my room because he wants to party too much). The next morning he came in my bed for cuddles/crazy eyes.

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Malindi and her boyf are trying to train him *not* to attack everyone’s hands all the time. I am ostensibly trying to help them in this effort (though it’s tough because it’s SO CUTE when he nips you and doesn’t hurt!) The current goal is to encourage him to bite his unicorn rather than his human friends.

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As always, I’ve been taking a billion long walks. I’ve already had to bust out the Claritin but allergy season is not yet unbearable in NC (as it will be in April, when everything ever gets coooooooooovered in yellow pollen- essentially tree sperm- and it’s super gross).

I went to visit the field where the UNC mascot and his sheep friends live.

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That phrase “black sheep” is no joke. It’s very cliquey in the sheep world.

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An extremely fun Saturday night:

First, I cooked for my friends (I felt like Myra and Alex had been feeding me a ton and I needed to reciprocate- and also felt like cooking something ambitious!)

Sauteed carrot matchsticks and creamed kale:

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AS WE WERE SITTING DOWN TO EAT, in a magical moment, my neighbor brought over DELICIOUS homemade fried rice as a thank you for driving her kiddo to school one morning when she had car trouble which she did NOT EVEN HAVE TO DO but was very nice.

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So it turned out to nicely round out what I’d cooked: the homemade polenta with which I’m currently obsessed, those veggies, and Tofurkey sausage.

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THEN we were off to a talent show birthday party! The emcee had EPIC stilettos he borrowed from a drag queen on whom he’d written an ethnography (gosh people are so interesting in this town!)

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Talents were myriad. Some highlights included a demonstration of this cat keyboard

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Which you can try for yourself here: http://byrondevonwall.github.io/cat-keyboard/#

Just try typing any of the letters on the left side of your keyboard and enjoy 🙂

Myra and Alex, who I’d brought along, had fortunately cultivated an AMAZING talent earlier in the month for a Burns Night celebration: Alex memorized Robert Burns’ ode to the haggis in a semi-convincing Scottish accent and Myra translated it into common language. So they recreated it at this talent show, borrowing a few more drag queen props (that “haggis” in Alex’s hand is actually a fake boob). It was super silly.

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Alli told the story of the Three Little Pigs in spoonerisms (so the Three Pittle Ligs) with the help of some friends to act out the story (pictured at left is the Wig Bad Bolf).

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Jeslyn and Karin played Kiss from a Rose on kazoos and did a dance with LED lightup gloves. Wearing turquoise leggings. It was amazing as it sounded (unpictured was the person doing rhythmic gymnastics in the background)

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My roommate’s ex boyf, who’s quite bearded now, did a semi-homoerotic performance of Starman by the late (*sniff*) David Bowie with his buddy.

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It was a super cool night! I love hanging out with talented people!

The following week (as we now catch up in real time) also featured the birthdays of Colton and Steph, two of my favorite people. A bunch of us went to the delicious Al’s Burger Shack to celebrate.

I got a mini of the classic burger (they do local, no hormone, no antibiotic beef, sweet!) and split what turned out to be a MEGA portion of sweet potato fries with my friend Sam.

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Colton is my work wife/school spouse/biochem boo. I like biochem boo because we’re the TAs for biochem together. Clearly we are deeply in love.

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(ugh, don’t I kind of have Donald Trump’s facial expression in that picture?!)

Helena was adorable and figured out a way to recreate birthday candles with only savory foods around:

  • poke a french fry in the top of a burger
  • put a ketchup flame on top of it
  • the birthday celebrant makes a wish and bites off the ketchup tip

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Also, the manager came by and I went IT’S COLTON AND STEPH’S BIRTHDAYS and got them free ice cream sandwiches, which is always nice.

Then the midweek fun continued! I went to the snazzy new theater to see The Witch with the dude I’ve been hanging out with.

The fancy new theater is SO NICE!

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Ahhh, leg room.

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The Witch wasn’t jump out of your seat scary, as I was sort of hoping for… it was more psychological. But good. And the evil goat was excellent, as all the reviews have been saying, hahahaha.

And then the week ended on a joyful note: after class on Friday Colton, Helena, and I scampered to downtown Carrboro to celebrate the opening of the newest branch of Rise.

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Rise has these things:

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And these things:

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Ahhh.

I confess to feeling slightly heartbroken that the huevos rancheros biscuit has yet to make it onto the Carrboro location’s menu (both Helena and I had read it online and really wanted it!) but I persevered.

This was a biscuit with scrambled egg, cheese, and tomato. It was really really good- the biscuit was fluffy, the egg was cooked just right, the tomato actually tasted fresh, the cheese was nice and melty. There’s something to be said for simplicity done right.

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Colton got a biscuit with sausage gravy, which looked real good.

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And Helena got the biscuit with fried green tomato, pimiento cheese, and arugula (!!!!!!) which as you can see was beautiful.

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Natch, we got donuts too. Everyone’s first choice was out (no creme brulee, no carrot cake, alas) so Colton got an old fashioned and Helena and I split an apple fritter.

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And then I made myself a very serious donut mustache.

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foodstuffs

I eat food.

I try to eat healthy food.

Here are some of the foods I have recently eaten.

As I look at the pictures, I realize that they indicate quite a love affair happening with avocado.

The variety plate, heavily contributed to by Trader Joe’s:

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Whole wheat sunflower toast topped with tomato basil hummus, a hard boiled egg, a reduced fat organic string cheese, and on the side the frozen cauliflower I’ve been crushing on.

It’s in a buttery basil sauce and is yummy.

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This was when I had some cold or other (what else is new) and was pounding tea and Airborne. This is the first of many incarnations of a chicken I roasted, below. I made a nice lil rosemary gravy to go with it, and on the side I had some buffalo cauliflower.

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It’s the recipe for the buffalo cauliflower I’ve made before and I used a new kind of hot sauce and it ended up being MUCH MUCH MUCH hotter than the Texas Pete style stuff I’d used in the past and even with plain Greek yogurt on top it was kind of too hot and killed my tongue. So I did not eat all of that. I bequeathed the rest of the batch to Malindi, who really loved it and is clearly a tougher woman than I.

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Reappropriated roasted chicken take one:

– whole wheat penne
– REALLY YUMMY kale pesto with nuts and kale and lots of garlic and such
– shredded roasted chicken (hidden among the green pesto)

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Alex had made kale pesto earlier in the week and thus I must credit him for this dish’s inspiration.

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Then I took a chicken break and a detour to childhood: ants on a log! Plus my friend’s DELICIOUS homemade bread (it had cardamom in it) and DELICIOUS homemade hummus.

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Back to the chicken! I made a curry. I wrote about it on Facebook so this is a nice lazy blogger copy paste of a recipe-ish:

I took the chicken meat off the bone and used the chicken bones to make stock (threw them in a crockpot with some onion tops, carrot tops, and a celery heart). I sauteed about a cup each of diced onions and celery in coconut oil, then added some chopped ginger and garlic, then added maybe a tablespoon of Madras curry powder (nice stuff from the Indian store, no weird crap in it) and let it get toasty and aromatic. Then I added maybe 4 cups chopped butternut squash and tossed it around in the spices. Then I turned off the stove and went to the gym while the crockpot did its thing on the chicken bones. Now I have put some of the newly-made chicken broth into the pan with the veggies and curry powder and am going to simmer the butternut squash until tender. Then I added a can of coconut milk and my cooked chicken, heat all that up, and tasted it

I finished seasoning it with salt (I hadn’t added any to the stock so it was much needed), fish sauce, and rice vinegar (it would’ve been lemon but even though I swear I bought some it was MIA). The curry was AMONG THE MOST DELICIOUS THINGS I HAVE EVER MADE..

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Another classic meal: tomato soup and grilled cheese. Terrif.

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Also sometimes I buy things when it’s all TOO MUCH.

I think even though all the things above were fairly virtuous I also went through a phase where I was eating poorly, probably around my biochem test, as these things tend to go.

When studying stress is at maximum level I tend to go to Weaver Street Market to get a plate of vegetables to hold off scurvy.

This was mushroom rice pilaf, curry broccoli, sauteed green beans with shredded turnips and carrots and coconut, yellow lentil dal, and baked tofu.

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I really love avocado toast and was making it when I was home over the holidays and my sister called it “hipster nonsense” hahahahahaha.

WHATEVER. I got a Whole Foods gift card for Christmas from my dad (yessssss!) so I bought fancy yogurts and avocados and things. This was a delicious meal. Siggi’s 2% pumpkin spice yogurt is legit.

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Also, wow, #basicwhitegirl.

Oooh oooh this was good and pretty.
– corn tortillas, toasted
– smeared with black bean hummus
– topped with shredded cheese
– topped with sliced avocado
– topped with diced bell pepper tossed with red pepper flakes and oil and vinegar

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This was when I wanted to eat something junky but was too lazy to leave the house (which was probably a good thing)
– quesadilla (corn tortillas, shredded chicken, spinach, goat cheese)
– oven sweet potato fries
– horseradish mayonnaise awesomeness I stole from Arby’s lord knows how long ago

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More hipster nonsense. Plus eggs for protein.

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I have a close friend who’s preggers at the moment and she can’t have runny yolk and it just sounds awful.

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What yummy things have other people been making?

restaurants, babies, and goats!

Restaurant Week is one of my favorite holidays 🙂

I celebrated it by going out on a sister date! Clever Malindi made us a reservation at the always-lovely Kipos.

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Hello, delicious bread and olive oil.

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Their restaurant week meal meant paying a preset price for an appetizer, entree, and dessert.

In the appetizer department Malindi got these BOSS fritters (she gave me most of one, pictured on the lower right) and I, thinking I was going to get a little mezze sampler, instead got a giant portion of tzaziki, hahaha. But it was SMASHING.

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We also each got a glass of the house wine. I love Greek wine. It goes down easy!

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As for the entrees, Malindi got the veggie sampler which included… spanikorizo! (This is hilarious to our family and no one else. Long story short, our mother OD’d us on it about ten years ago and while Malindi may enjoy it now…. it’s still a little soon for me, hahahaha).

Also, Malindi gave me like all of her leftovers for some reason so I was eating imam bayildi, gigante beans, and yes, even a little spanikorizo, for days.

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As for me, I got a piece of perfectly cooked North Carolina trout with gigante beans and almonds. Delicious! I had already eaten a hilarious amount of bread and dip so I didn’t make it that far but this was good enough it was even tolerable as leftover fish, which is ordinarily of course a little grim.

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Then for dessert I got the semolina cake with the yummy honey syrup. It was very good. But what was I really doing with my life because why go to Kipos and get dessert and not have it be the chocolate mousse with olive oil and sea salt? Sigh. I had already had it once and tried to branch out. Malindi got that and was real blissed out.

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Other fun things!

One of my best buddies turned two. She got a Thomas the Tank Engine balloon over which she nearly lost her mind.

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There was also a train on the cake, and “train tracks” on the cupcakes around it (poor Bethany, baby T’s mom, made the cupcakes and people kept being like, “Oh, are they footballs for the Super Bowl?” cause the party was the day before the Super Bowl)

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We hung on the playground and the kids kept a steady stream of cuteness and hilarity going. It was nice.

The next day was Super Bowl Sunday but whatever it was also OPEN BARN at Celebrity Dairy which means BABY GOATS. BABY. GOATS. WHEREVER THE EYE COULD SEE. BABY. GOATS.

I think this would really be an ideal place to teach your kids about the facts of life. Lots of beautiful breastfeeding. Childbirth. Eating of placentas (which is, uh, startling to observe).

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There are also really chill cats just hanging out with the goats. Cats, you are just so reliably awesome.

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And then you thought you’d figured out where all the baby goats were and then you’d like, look down under the food trough and be like OH NOOOOO HERE IS ANOTHER REALLY CUTE CUDDLE PILE HELP HELP MY HEART IS EXPLODING.

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AGAIN WITH THE CUDDLING AND FRIENDSHIP.

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We had to take a lunch break because we were so overstimulated (plus also I was hangry). Soup was on the menu. Not goat soup.

I opted for a bowl of split pea soup (like my mama makes!), a piece of really yummy spelt focaccia, and a hot cuppa tea cause it was really rawther cold out.

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Oh did you think I was done NO I haven’t even shared the best part which was that there were just baby goats you could CUDDLE.

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We encountered this little guy as he was being held by a dude and was like “BAHHHHH THIS IS THE WORST” and then Myra and I each held him and he was peaceful and tranquil. Because baby goats know that girls rule and boys drool. (And also we probably smell different and are potential milk holders).

Look at his EYES. Look at his EARS. It was the BESSSSSST!

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food science lab!

This semester I am taking food science class, which also has a lab. That lab is essentially home ec for grownups. It is deeply exciting.

Every week we do a different topic. Thus far we’ve had four.

First, egg day!

You can tell how fresh an egg is by how tall the yolk is and how far the thick part of the egg white  spreads (it should stay close to the yolk, like the one on the upper right). Color does not equal freshness- people can cheat the system by feeding their chickens marigolds which makes their eggs golder.

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Different hard cooking techniques: I’m always team start with cold water.

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One group made these Indonesian eggs that were really good. You hard boil eggs and then coat them in cornstarch and pan fry ’em.

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Then make a spicy tomatoey gingery sauce to go with ’em.

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Meanwhile, my group was making souffle. Taylor was a badass and beat the egg whites by hand (she used to do crew so she has STRONG ARMS).

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Carolina smiled adorably and made the white sauce.

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Our professor was a little flummoxed about a container in which to bake our souffles, since we did not have a souffle pan. However, one of my group members went to culinary school (yes, our group is extremely lucky, since we incur much less of our professor’s wrath as a result) so she suggested we use plain old muffin tins. This was successful!

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This photo sort of captures them as they deflate. Sad. So that was our finished dish…

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The Indonesian eggs…

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A frittata that doesn’t look like much but which was DELICIOUS! It had onions and potatoes that had been sauteed together all beautiful and golden, and broccoli, and lots of cream cheese.

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Gougeres, in a pretty ring!

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Part of the goal of food science lab is to learn how to write about food, so we use a hedonic scale to rate the foods we’ve eaten and write a few sentences about the taste/texture/aroma/temperature/appearance/etc. of the food.

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Noms! I probably went back for a little more of all of these. Wednesday afternoons I never go hungry now!

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Oh did you think they were done? HAHA NEVER.

The last group made a chocolate custard pie with a nut-meringue crust.

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It. was. bliss.

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Starch day! Yall know I love me some carbs.

We started by making white sauces with varying amounts of flour and then comparing their viscosity via a spread test.

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It probably would’ve gone better if the table were flat, but you get the idea. The one the farthest back has the least flower, and they have increasing quantities.

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Next came polenta, which was so good I later made it for Valentine’s Day brunch. Stirring it was quite soothing and nice.

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It was finished with butter and real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and was so so creamy and dreamy. And full of umami (from ribonucleotides attaching to glutamate, obviously :D)

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Another group made pasta puttanesca. It smelled so good cooking I kind of almost lost my mind. The taste was a letdown, but that’s probably because our sense of smell is 10,000 times stronger than our sense of taste (!!!)

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This group made a barley salad with edamame and corn that was REALLY good, mainly because of its judicious use of fresh dill.

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And because this class is ridiculous, there was also more chocolate, via pudding.

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Again, this plate was all really really good.

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Another group had a dish that took a little longer, so we concluded our meal with a bit of quinoa and spinach salad, which was just okay (but I don’t love quinoa). I also went back for more tastes of the barley and puttanesca!

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Plant protein day!

Our group pressed and then marinated tofu (sesame oil, soy sauce, lots of garlic and ginger).

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Made a good peanut sauce (good but not great; the best peanut sauces, IMO, have coconut milk).

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And here was our final assembled dish: soba noodles, the tofu baked and chopped up, fresh red pepper, scallions.

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(OMG, who is that hot mess wearing flip flops in a test kitchen?! I am silly. It is now really really really cold and I am back to boots).

Another group I think wins Most Beautiful with their tostadas.

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Here’s my friend Steph’s arm as she removes their caramelized onions from their pot.

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They made mujaddara, my love: Lebanese lentils and rice and caramelized onions. So simple, and so delicious. Sorcery.

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Rounded out with another group’s Greek salad with chickpeas, and another group’s chili. I really don’t need to bring lunch on Wednesdays, ever.
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Finally, last week we learned about two of my favorite things: fish and fats.

My friend Camille’s group made this flounder crusted with almonds which was PERFECT. PER.FECT. You should definitely only cook founder this way. You dredge it in flour and cook it really fast (two minutes per side) and the texture is exquisite.

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Another group made this Chinese-style steamed fish with spinach and green onion. OH MY GOD THIS WAS REALLY GOOD TOO. It’s hard to tell in this picture but the salmon was this deep orangey red. Beautiful!

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At my request, my group made mussels. I wasn’t heavily involved in the cleaning/debearding/checking for dead guys because I was involved in another project (oh just wait) but my group members did an excellent job. Threw ’em into the pan with the aromatics, and cooked them real fast.

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Okay so while they were doing that I was EXHAUSTING MY POOR ARMS taking care of our contribution to the *fat* portion of the day’s activity, in the form of… homemade mayonnaise! Different groups did different things with fat emulsions: one doctored Hellman’s mayonnaise with fresh herbs, one made a homemade vinaigrette with shallots and capers, one made a homemade mayonnaise in the food processor, and I… I went “OH GUYZ IT’S COOL WE’LL MAKE THE HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE FROM SCRATCH IN A BOWL WITH THE POWER OF OUR ARMS.”

So I whisked and Lesley poured and we took TEN THOUSAND YEARS to make homemade mayonnaise and I thought my arm was going to fall off by the end.

It was really good.

In fish week instead of serving everything at the same time we just ate stuff as it was ready because fish sitting around is no bueno. So plate one was the flounder, the steamed salmon, and the four fats: from the left, that’s the green mayonnaise, the food processor mayonnaise, my homemade mayonnaise (we used lots of olive oil which probably is what accounts for the color), and the homemade vinaigrette.
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After that tasting we wrapped up our mussels. Strained them out into the serving bowl…

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Then bulked up the broth with heavy cream (!) and reduced it a bit and poured it over the top.

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There’s something a little dirty looking about shellfish, eh?

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The groups that finished last were well worth the wait: my friend Jenna’s group made the most lovely fish chowder. The cod and scallops were cooked PERFECTLY and were so tender! And the broth was so flavorful and rich and delicious! (There was pancetta in it, I later learned… oops). And the secret to the texture, IMO, was the corn, which was added near the end and added a nice toothsome pop.

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And finally, in more Valentine’s Day brunch inspiration, the last group made hollandaise sauce (their fat contribution) to top baked salmon (their fish contribution) and asparagus.

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NOT BAD AT ALL.

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Finally, readers in the wise about eggs may ask, “But Ileana, you made all these things using egg yolks… what happened to the whites?”

Never you worry, readers. What happened with those is called MERINGUES.

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Culinary School Grad Lesley saved the day again- she and Nate (who is himself a pretty excellent cook) whipped up some egg yolks with sugar and *swoon* crushed pecans and made the most tiny, dear little meringues.

My love of cooking is HUGELY influenced by the women in my mom’s family, especially my grandmother, and she was constantly making meringues (to use up egg whites, which were left over from her other baking endeavors with egg yolks, what with the creme caramels and the bechamel sauces and so on). I don’t think I’d had a meringue like hers- with the slightly chewy middle- since she died. It was really, really excellent.

valenweekend

I am so, so indifferent to Valentine’s Day. My relationship status is irrelevant to this indifference. I think it’s stupid when I’m in a relationship, I think it’s stupid when I’m single.

However, I am always in favor of fun, non-Hallmarky fun things happening in February, because February is an otherwise pitiless and depressing month. So I was delighted when someone told me about Shimmerfest!

It was way cool. Art and light and dressing up in a variety of dollar store glowstick items.

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There were a whole bunch of installations to see. I wish they’d shut down at least some of the street, because there were a LOT of people (especially families with kids) and it got a little scary with the narrow sidewalks and heavily trafficked streets.

This one dude was a little ridiculous with his costume, and a little attention-starved, IMO. But I got a picture with him, along with the very large Lite Brite (!!!!!!!)

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This installation, with the ice, is my favorite. I don’t know how they made these beautiful shapes!

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It was cool having them all dangling like that. And then this little girl came along and started swaying them back and forth, and then they looked REALLY cool, and we were all, “Ah, that’s the artist, then.”

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“Stand there for a minute and let me take your picture; your shadow looks really cool”, I said to that boy.

This one had fun show mirrors that wobbled your perspective as you walked around them. The lights interacted with the trees in a cool way too.

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Hello!

So after Shimmerfest there were tacos and cider and playing with cats and then it was 2am? Who am I?

The next day, Saturday, I had many important tasks to which to attend, chiefly meeting my new nephew:

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Ugh, stop it, he’s so cute. My sister and her boyf Eric got a kitten together. Eric’s dog Billie Jean REALLY REALLY wants to be friends but is not sure how to love right now so they both are kind of busy taking turns freaking each other out. We’ll give them a little time 🙂

Then Saturday evening was my roomie Alli’s annual CUPCAKES AND LINGERIE GALENTINES DAY PARTY! It was epic. So much female wisdom. Such great outfits (my roommate’s outfit consisted of pants and PAINT, so there are obviously no photos).

Also, so much delicious food.

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We honored our femaleness in our cupcake decorations.

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Then sort of at the last minute, sort of because I’d recently learned how to make hollandaise sauce, sort of because brunch is my favorite meal and I never have it enough, sort of because there were people I wanted to see, I had brunch.

There are a lot of challenges making eggs florentine for 8 people. I can’t totally in good conscience recommend it. I was simultaneously:
– toasting English muffins
– slicing tomato
– sauteeing spinach
– making batches of hollandaise sauce and frantically trying to keep it from cooling down because it CANNOT BE REHEATED
– poaching eggs, which I could only do three at a time
– assembling the final layerings of muffin, tomato, spinach, egg, sauce
– trying and failing to make coherent conversation with my guests!

I can however say they were delicious, and instrumental to that was using a mesh strainer to fish out the poached eggs, and following Serious Eats’ recipe for two minute Hollandaise.

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I also made polenta (which was SO SO GOOD- recipe from my food science class involving delicious real Parmigiano Reggiano) and fruit salad to round out the meal.

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Oh also boxed wine cocktail 🙂

Fun fact: in high school, my girlfriends and I always watched zombie movies on Valentine’s Day. I’m pleased to’ve continued the horror movie tradition, watching The Babadook with a friend on Sunday night. It was scary, though slightly less so since the cat kept snoring during the tense parts.