Friday, December 31, 2010

Jerked chicken

Tonight's dinner was jerked chicken.  I got the recipe from the chicken cookbook my mom sent me a couple of months ago.  It was tender, juicy and tasty.  I definitely recommend this recipe and I'll make it again, probably for my Super Bowl party.

The recipe:
10 thin scallions (white and tender green parts), coarsely chopped
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
2T distilled white wine vinegar
1T fresh thyme leaves
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
1.25t ground allspice
1t salt
0.5t ground pepper
10 chicken drumsticks (3.5lbs)

In a food processor or blender, pulse everything, but the chicken until it forms a thick paste.  Transfer the paste to a large bowl, add the chicken and toss to coat.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the broiler on high.  Line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil and replace the perforated top part of the pan.  Oil the pan or coat with cooking spray.  Arrange the chicken on the broiler pan.  Season generously on all sides with salt [optional in my opinion].

Broil the chicken in the center of the oven, turning once after about 10 minutes, until fully cooked and nicely browned in spots, about 20 minutes total.  Transfer to a platter and serve.

This recipe makes 85 so just 15 to go towards my challenge.

Day of Atonement

Tomorrow is the first day of a new year which means an opportunity to turn over a new leaf.  I guess, then, today is a day of reflection for most, but it's more a day of atonement for me since I can be a dirtbag sometimes.

I repent all my sins of 2010 and beg the forgiveness of anyone I might have wronged.  It was not intentional since I think I'm an all-around good guy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gonna travel

While I was shoveling snow this afternoon, I got to thinking about 2011.  I just made a pact to myself to be out of the Albany area for every holiday next year.  I had already planned to go to Portland for Thanksgiving and Christmas so I just need to figure out what to do for Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day.

My brother's "ceremony" is going down on June 4 which is the Saturday after Memorial Day so I'll be out on the West Coast then.  He wants to do something before the ceremony so maybe we'll go down to Black Butte.  I might also drive down to Crater Lake since I haven't been there yet.  I'd also like to go to Las Vegas and the Bay Area.  Hmmm...maybe I'll go to Vegas for a few days in June and then hit the Bay Area in July or around Labor Day.  I don't think I want to be in Vegas in July.  Or I could go to DC in July.  I guess it depends on my cousin's deployment schedule since I'd like to visit him and his family and finally see DC proper.

I think planning now will help me properly budget out my vacation days and will let me know about how much money to save up.  I know lodging will be covered for about one-third of my vacation days so I just need to posse up some scratch for the other two-thirds.

I also had plans to hit the Caribbean, but the summer is hurricane season and I'm not sure I can afford to go during the peak season in the winter/spring.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

I went back to Portland for Christmas again and had a great time. I saw the Falcons destroy the Seahawks in Seattle, I played a shit ton of cribbage, I ate a lot of good food, I saw True Grit and spent some quality time with the family.

I took a bunch of pictures with my Droid. It doesn't have a great camera and I'm not much of a photographer, but it's all good. Yeah, I took a picture of the outcomes of all my cribbage games. I'm weird that way.

I ate too much sugar and too much dairy so I'm sure I chunked out, but who doesn't over the holidays? My parents are good cooks and we always eat well when I'm there.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fettucine with leeks, peas and cream

I finally made a pasta recipe from my pasta book.  I was going to type out the recipe, but I'm feeling a little lazy and it was just ok.  It was definitely creamy, but didn't have enough taste.  The main ingredients are cheese, cream, leeks and peas so I'm not surprised since those ingredients are all subtle.

It does count as my 84th new recipe.

If I were to make it again, I'd add some grilled chicken or seafood.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

50 questions that will free your mind

Continuing to answer 50 Questions:

#6: If happiness [were] the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

I'm the happiest when I'm making something tangible. I think I went into engineering because I like to make stuff. Lego bricks were my favorite toys growing up and I also liked putting stuff together. I was pretty good at math and solving equations, but I also preferred applying those equations. A lot of people ask about the difference between applied physics (my PhD is in applied physics) as opposed to regular physics and I tell them that applied physics is generally in the engineering school and is just what it advertises. The goal is not just to learn how stuff works, but to learn how to make stuff work. Anyhow, I think I could become "rich" being a carpenter or contractor or whatever if I get to produce something real and something people could enjoy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Slow cooked pork chops

It's Sunday which means a slow cooker meal for dinner.  Tonight was pork chops using a recipe found online.  They were definitely tasty and tender, but a little too salty even though I used low sodium soy sauce.  I would suggest cutting the soy sauce in half and using barbecue sauce, more ketchup or perhaps some honey instead. I'd also double the recipe for more sauce.

I've now polished off 83 recipes towards my challenge.  Sweet.

Macaroni and cheese

Last night I made macaroni and cheese using a recipe from "The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles" which is an awesome cook book.

Here's the recipe:

6T unsalted butter
1C fresh bread crumbs
8oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
1C grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
12oz evaporated milk
0.25t hot red pepper sauce
1t dry mustard, dissolved in 1t water
12oz elbow macaroni
4oz sliced ham, finely chopped
1C frozen peas, thawed
Ground black pepper

1. Heat 2T butter in a large skillet over medium heat until the foam subsides.  Add the bread crumbs and cook, tossing to coat with the butter, until the crumbs just begin to color.  Season to taste with salt.  Cool completely, toss with 2T Gruyere and 2T Parmesan and set aside.
[The bread crumbs will soak up the butter pretty quickly so make sure to shake the skillet frequently.]

2. Adjust the oven rack 6" from the heating element and heat the broiler.
[Broilers don't take long to warm up so there is no rush.  I'd also use a low broiler setting if you have one.]

3. Mix the eggs, 1C evaporated milk, hot pepper sauce and mustard mixture in a small bowl, set aside.

4. Meanwhile, bring 3qt of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add 2t salt and the macaroni and cook until almost tender, but still a little firm to the bite.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot over low heat.  Add the remaining 4T butter and toss to melt.
[Subtract 1-2 minutes off the recommending cooking time found on the box.]

5. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta along with three-quarters of the remaining cheese; stir until thoroughly combined and the cheese starts to melt.  Gradually add the remaining milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until the mixture is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the ham and peas.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Pour the cooked macaroni and cheese into a 9-inch square baking dish pan.  Spread the crumbs evenly over the top.  Broil until the crumbs turn deep brown, 1 to 2 minutes.  Let stand to set a bit, about 5 minutes and serve.

As you can see, I broiled just a bit too long.  I also used a 9x13 pan because I used 16oz of macaroni since I didn't feel like leaving just 4oz in the box.

It turned out well and I would definitely make it again.  I think the mustard is a nice addition because just cheese and noodles can be a little bland.

I've now banged out 82 recipes towards my challenge.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ramblings on a cold Saturday morning

It's been pretty cold lately so going to work has been a whole barrel full of monkeys kind of fun.  For some reason, the third of my house where my bedroom is is much colder than the rest of the house.  It is the farthest from the furnace, but I think something more than just proximity is going on.  My house is definitely drafty so I need to get an energy audit next spring to identify the culprit and get it fixed.  I had a tankless water heater installed to save a bit on energy, but I think the gas used to heat water is dwarfed by that used to heat my mostly empty house.  I'm not a fan of carpet, but it does help keep the floor reasonably warm.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not regretting my tankless since the water is always hot for the shower or any other thing I want to do.  It does take a bit to heat up at the faucets, but I'll fix that problem in one bathroom with an Ariston 4g POU electric heater.  I ordered one earlier this week and it fits under the sink.  It should because I measured everything out, but you never know.  Hopefully my plumber can get back to me on a quote for the fat guy toilet so I can get both of those taken care of.  The toilet in my main bathroom sucks so I'm going to replace it with a water conserving Toto bad boy.  I think he can get a pretty good discount, but we'll see.  I poked around online and the prices aren't too bad anyhow.  I've definitely budgeted enough money so there'll be some leftover to use for Xmas presents.  Some people really like this time of the year with all the decorations and caroling and whatnot.  I'm kind of luke-warm on it.  It's a good chance to see family and to get some stuff, but I can get stuff anytime I want thanks to my job, my credit card and the internet.  I find the excessive consumerism pretty depressing though I'm as guilty of it as the average American.  One of my biggest fears is that I'll turn into an average American who's 50lbs overweight with diabetes and a huge pile of consumer debt.  Heh.  I'm already halfway there.  I just need to eat some more crap and spend a bit more money.  All this tax bill talk is starting to piss me off though.  We should be more concerned for the future since our current economic strategy is broken.  The future is going to be crippling since we'll owe trillions and trillions of dollars to foreign governments.  Why?  So we can buy too much crap.  Stuff rarely makes you happy and the acquiring of stuff is even more empty.  Only people can make us truly happy and we can hang out with them for free.  I'm ok with having a much higher tax rate on the richest Americans because I think a good fraction of them trampled on the rest of us to get to where they are now.  Not all of them, but certainly some.  It's a zero-sum game and the true cost of our actions is not always monetary.  The Republicans seem hell-bent on enriching as many of their donors as possible while the Democrats seem hell-bent on handing out whatever they can.  Both are trying to buy goodwill, but from different people.  Obama has become next to useless with his endless and unnecessary compromising.  I'm finding him to be nearly on the side of dishonesty.  He's pretty much done, but it's possible he could win in 2012 if the Republicans run a dumbass like Palin against him.  I know a fair amount of people would vote for her, but I'm sure even more would vote against her.  Better the devil you know eh?  It would be nice if more parties could be involved in government.  They could help dilute the influence of the two major parties and could better represent the middle of America.  Maybe I'll start a new political party.  I think I'll call it the Rational Party because I want to restore reasoning and rationality to governing.  Truth #1: you can't cut taxes without increasing the incoming money some other way (invading a rich country and robbin' their asses) or by cutting services.  Politicians are always going on about how they're going to cut taxes and then cut some spending.  But what?  I'll vote for the first person who actually details what current spending their going to cut.  The big problem is the US spends a buttload of money on the military, Social Security and Medicare.  The military seems untouchable for some strange reason and the other two would be tough to go after as well.  Hmmm...there are some crows in my front yard cleaning themselves up in my pond.  Anyhow, we've got to approach the situation logically or we'll further bankrupt future generations.  How long can America be on top with its current policies?  We waste billions of dollars protecting people in Iraq and Afghanistan nearly against their wishes.  Why?  Are we any more secure now?  Iraq never had WMD because Clinton blew that mess up with some surgical strikes.  Solid intelligence and surgical strikes are all we really need.  We don't need ground troops to secure anything because we just want to reduce others' ability to wage war on us.  It's a lot trickier in Afghanistan because we're trying to find specific people, but I still think we've failed miserably there.  I don't feel any safer and now I've got the choice of getting cancer or getting groped when I fly.  Flying used to be a cool experience because you could go crazy distances in just a short time.  Now it's a pain in the butt and a lot of the novelty has worn off.  I much prefer driving, but my family is too far away for me to drive back for a visit.  Bum deal.  Flying is always too much like riding the bus.  You're squashed in with the unwashed masses.  I flew first class a couple of times last year and it was nearly tolerable, but it's expensive.  Last year, first class tickets were cheap because the airlines were trying to attract customers.  Now it seems like every flight is full.  Demand has picked back up, but the airlines aren't adding new flights.  I don't blame them because they can't afford to fly people around the country at a loss, but it does complicate the situation for me.  I guess Americans got greedy and came to expect being able to fly anywhere they wanted for peanuts.  I actually wouldn't mind if flying became more expensive to help filter some of the white trash out.  Long term readers of my blog know white trash is my nemesis.  They are the antithesis of everything for which I stand.  I'm not sure how this country would function without them, but I wouldn't mind finding out.  I'm sure we could find teenagers and old people to man the shifts at fast food restaurants.

Blogger's editor kind of sucks

I'm too lazy to switch to a new host, but there has to be a more efficient way to create blog entries.  Sure you can drag pictures around, but it doesn't always float them the way I'd like.  Oh well.  This blog is mainly a place for me to capture my thoughts though I haven't done much rambling lately.  Perhaps I need to change that.

Fitness update

Well, the chunkening continues. I kept up with my morning exercises and I seem to be getting stronger, but I think I'm just building muscle under fat as the numbers don't look good this week. I ate decently, but I could've eaten better.

I've been making protein shakes for dessert using whey protein isolate. It doesn't taste too bad and I mix up about 50g of protein with a glass of almond milk. My colleague at work says I need to watch for uric acid buildup because too much protein can be hard on the kidneys. Hmmm... I also read that too much protein can leech calcium from my bones. Hmmm... Neither sounds good, but I eat a fair amount of cheese and yogurt so I think I'm ok. It's definitely something to keep an eye on.

The exercises from my Lauren book are definitely working because I feel stronger, as I mentioned above. I'm still thinking I might give P90X a shot with the beginning of the new year since I already bought it. Maybe it's what I need to jumpstart my fitness since I seem to be regressing significantly. I'm going to believe the numbers because I don't think my scale would get the trends wrong. I'm definitely more out of shape now than I have been in a while though people keep telling me I look like I'm in shape. Most of those people are family and they rarely give you the bitter truth. Gah.

The struggle continues.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chicken salad

I can't remember where I found this recipe, but it's definitely not my creation [maybe it's from this Food Source recipe].  I made it for lunch today and it's pretty effin' tasty and seems healthful.  I used grilled chicken and left out the pecans and celery.

Here's the recipe:
Curried Cranberry Chicken Salad

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
4 1/2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
2 chopped apples
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped scallions

1. Combine yogurt, lime juice and curry powder in large mixing bowl.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients.

It counts as my 81st new recipe towards my challenge.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thousand Island dressing

My friend makes her own Thousand Island dressing and forwarded me the Epicurious recipe. I gave it a shot tonight and here's the result:
It smells like it should, but I haven't tried it yet. I didn't have any parsley, but I don't think that's a critical ingredient.

I've now finished 80 recipes towards my challenge. Just 20 more.

Fitness update

Well, well, well.  I kept up with my morning exercises and I feel stronger.  I also thought I was eating pretty well, but the numbers seem to indicate otherwise because I'm chunking out.  If I don't eat properly, I'll just build muscle under the fat which is what seems to be happening.  Weak sauce.

Of course, I've been sick for more than a week, but I don't want to use that situation as an excuse.  I need to buckle down, eat right and get active.

As promised by my poll, this entry brings back the shirtless photos of me to track if my exercising and diet is working properly.  As you can see from the picture, there is a significant amount of chunk around the middle, but that chunk will be the last to go.  When my navel circumference gets down around 32-33 inches, I'll know I'm in shape.

My shoulders have pretty good definition and I think my neck is getting thicker.  Most of the chunk is concentrated between my armpits and waist.  You can see the hint of some definition in my upper abs, but perhaps that's just wishful thinking.

For those who are worried, I'm not body dysmorphic and I have a good sense of humor.  I see getting in shape as a life long challenge.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

El bandito and fun with facial hair

We were having a beard competition at work, but only as an intermediate step towards a handlebar/fu manchu contest.  One of our colleagues has had a handlebar/fun manchu for something like forty years and we thought we'd see if we could match him.

Here I am with the beard.  Notice the white hairs:
It doesn't look too bad though I definitely need to clean my bathroom mirror.

After some nifty work with my clippers and shaver...blao!
I don't think it looks too bad though it seems a little asymmetrical because the hair near the edges of my mouth is really blond.

Anyhow, I think I'll keep this look for the foreseeable future.