dancingyel: (Shadow couple :))
I saw a few friends doing this, so I'm copying -- this year has been kind of insane on that front! Let's see if I can remember everything.

San Francisco, CA
Philadelphia, PA
Durham, NC
Albuquerque, NM
Los Angeles, CA
Tucson, AZ
Houston, TX
West Palm Beach, FL
Baltimore, MD
St. Loius, MO
Orlando, FL
Gainesville, FL
Miami, Fl
San Antonio, TX
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Seoul, South Korea
Chicago, IL
Minneapolis, MN
Odessa, TX
Texarkana, TX
Nashville, TN
Harrisonburg, VA
New York, NY

I think that's all, though I may be forgetting Mountain View, CA in there somewhere. Also, the first 14 all happened last January...
dancingyel: (Default)
Although I've been doing a few big canning projects (the results of some of which I've shared here), I've had a hard time sticking to a cooking plan and budget in the last few months. The combination of a full-time job and my dissertation has made it difficult to have energy for anything more complex than throwing a few things in a pan. Even that doesn't always come together, so we end up going out more or eating random stuff. Mu has done a lot to pick up the slack, but he also has a full-time job, so take-out happens more frequently than we'd like.

I will be defending my dissertation in less than a week (weee! eeeeeek!), so I think and hope that starting next month, I'll be more able to get back to cooking regularly. I think I'd like to do a challenge of some sort, since that kind of structure helps me stick to a plan, but I haven't decided what exactly. There are a few options that other people have done, and of course I can always create my own.

Eating Rules, one of the food blogs I enjoy, does a yearly project called "October Unprocessed," which encourages people to pledge to eat only unprocessed foods, with no ingredients that can't be reasonably made in a home kitchen, for the whole month of October (or for as much of it as they can manage). I did part of it last year, but it just wasn't happening this year, between the dissertation and work and all. However, I'm wondering if this might be a good project for me to do next month. It would help me focus on cooking and also combine with my desire to eat more locally anyways. I'd have to cut out my red bulls (or make a specific exemption for them) and figure out a few other substitutes, but it shouldn't be horribly difficult. It wouldn't be super easy, either, so it may be just the balance I need. The downside would be that I wouldn't be able to use anything with sugar, which includes my own canned goods. I could make a specific exemption for that, of course, but the point of the challenge is to not make too many exemptions!

Another project I'm contemplating, though this seems like it would take more planning and perhaps more effort than I'm able to give right now, is the Snap Challenge (very brief summary here). Since I would be doing it less to raise awareness and more as a personal challenge, I would probably modify it a bit and make some exceptions to allow for more flexibility. Still, I'm not sure I can do it in November -- not enough mental space between now and then for the necessary planning. Also, given that Thanksgiving is coming up and we're probably hosting people, this wouldn't be very reasonable.

Alternately, I could always do what I attempted when I was starting this blog several years ago, which is to cook a certain amount of new dishes over the course of the month. I had originally tried to do 30 new recipes, but I don't think that would be feasible given my work schedule. I could set a goal of 15, perhaps, and see how it goes. The upside of this challenge is it would get me experimenting in the kitchen again, which I enjoy. The downside is that I do like the ease of cooking old favorites. I suppose I could make the goal more broad, like cooking 15 different dishes rather than 15 brand new ones (or make it 20 if I'm not doing the brand new thing).

Anyways, that's what I'm contemplating right now. Suggestions are welcome!
dancingyel: (Default)
My haul of tomatoes

Saturday, I went to another canning workshop, this time on tomatoes. I've been both excited and scared about tomatoes -- they seem to be some of the most useful and versatile things to can, but also the most associated with the possibility of botulism. So, I've been reading and doing research (there's a super handy infographic here if anyone is interested), but I also wanted to go to an actual class so I could ask specific questions of a knowledgeable person.

The class was great for a couple of reasons. First, as expected, I got to ask specific questions and get some food safety reassurance. Second, I learned that canning tomatoes can actually be super easy! I was expecting to have to spend a lot of time pre-cooking or making sauce, but it turns out that, while you can do those things, you don't have to -- you can just pack whole tomatoes (peeled and cored and with added acid) and then turn them into whatever you need later. Both methods have upsides and downsides, of course. This way is quicker on the front end, and a little more versatile, but does require more work and thought on the back end. The trade off was worth it for me, though.





Coring and scoring!

So, on Sunday, I went to the farmer's market in search of tomatoes for canning and found a farmer who sold me 27 lbs of tomatoes for $15, which comes out to about 55 cents/lb! That was great, even though I had to lug it all home, uphill. :) I spent pretty much the rest of the day, on and off, working on the tomatoes. It was about 3 hours of hands-on work spread out over about 9 total hours. Lots of time, but I got 25 pints out of it! I just learned that I could've used the peels and cores to make a few pints of thick tomato sauce, but I didn't know that at the time. Ah, well, next year. I think it was worth it, despite all the effort.

I have some more observations about the whole canning thing. :) Some of these are from the tomato canning, some are from things I'm reading, and some are just thoughts from the past month.




Mountain of peels and cores, and some peeled tomatoes waiting to be packed



Tomatoes are a lot less scary than they seem. From the reading I've done (and the info from class), it looks like there are 2 main things to worry about -- botulism due to acidity levels not being high enough and general spoilage from not having a good seal. The seal bit isn't actually that worrying -- mold and other nasty things of that nature are easy to notice, so if your seal is bad, the outcome is annoying but easy to see. Your food will have issues you can see or smell, so you can avoid eating it. The botulism risk is scarier since it can be invisible, but it's actually pretty easy to solve -- make sure your tomatoes are sufficiently acidic! The official USDA recommendation is to add either citric acid (which I didn't have) or bottled lemon juice to make sure it's a standard acidity. I went for the latter, but I really don't like the taste of the stuff. In the future, I think I'll get litmus paper so I can use fresh lemons and just make sure the juice is acidic enough. The other strategy is to use a pressure canner, but they're expensive and take up space, so I'm unlikely to get one any time soon.
There's a lot of conflicting information out there! One reason I'm not putting any recipes here is that I'm by no means an expert, and I don't want to add to the amount of random-seeming stuff that exists when one searches for canning (or tomato canning specifically). My take away has been to use recipes developed and tested after the mid-80s because that's when the USDA issues its home canning guidelines. The USDA itself has good resources, as does the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I think canning is a lot like baking -- you have to be relatively precise, but once you know what you're doing (and really understand the process on a deeper level), you can do some improvisation.
Tomatoes take a long time to process. In the class, we did raw whole tomatoes packed in water, and those needed to be processed at a boil for 45 minutes (that doesn't include the time spent in the water as it gets up to a boil). At home, I did raw whole tomatoes packed in their own liquid, which means they were more densely packed and had to be processed for 85 minutes! It wasn't too bad, since I had other things to work on while the tomatoes processed, but it's certainly not a quick activity.
I don't know about tomatoes, but jam makes for great host gifts! Mu and I have stayed at several people's places and brought them jam, and everyone seems happy about it (though I suppose they could be faking, heh). I suspect it may also make good holiday gifts. ;)
Wide mouth jars are more convenient for whole tomatoes than regular jars. The class used the former, and it was messier and more difficult to pack the tomatoes in, especially without squishing them. I had the latter at home, by accident, and I intend to keep using them in the future. The only downside is that the half-pint jars I've been using are regular mouth, so I can't use the same lids for both sets.




Final outsome: 25 pints!

I'm done with tomatoes for the season -- while I could probably use more (I use a lot of canned tomatoes when I cook), I simply don't have time to do more canning before they're gone. Next up is a workshop on apples!
dancingyel: (Default)
So, um...it's been a while. I'm in a different part of the country, doing different things, and working a full-time job like a real adult (except without the real adult salary, but there we are). Anyways, I make no promises about the keeping of this blog, but I've discovered a new set of projects for myself, and it seems sad not to write them up. My latest thing? Canning!

I'd been thinking about learning how to can for a while, and then there was a local (to Baltimore) kickstarter for a series of canning workshops, and the rest was proverbial history. There, I learned some basics about how to can and practiced making blueberry jam (which I haven't tried yet because it seems sad to open it now). Since then, I've done peach/nectarine jam twice, and have plans to do more workshops and more canning in the fall. I want to learn how to do tomatoes and apples, and also how to pickle things.

I figured what I'd do here is write about what I've learned so far, both as a reference for myself and in case anyone else is interested. I'm keeping fairly detailed notes in a google doc (which I'm happy to share with anyone), so this will be general observations.

So, then, what have I learned about making stone fruit jam so far?


The bigger the fruit, the easier to deal with it (and then less is wasted when it's peeled and pitted)
What the recipe thinks the yield should be isn't necessarily what the yield will be. We've made the suggested amount for 10 half pints each batch, and so far, the batches were 7, 8, 7, and 7 half pints.
Peeled stone fruits are slippery buggers! Not a surprise, that, but I hadn't really thought about the logistics of chopping a peeled round thing with a pit inside. Heh.
It takes a lot of space to can! We had to be really creative in our tiny kitchen, using every possible surface to hold things. I knew, distantly, the amount of stuff necessary, but it hadn't really registered what that would look like in real life.
Although it feels like it takes a long time, it doesn't really -- we made 3 batches in about 3 hours. It's not a minor project, but we didn't actually use the whole day, either.
At this point, it's unlikely that we'll do more stone fruits this summer. We have a lot of jam as it is! I think tomatoes are next, after another workshop and some more reading. Perhaps I'll put up a list of resources I've been finding helpful, if anyone is interested.
dancingyel: (Shadow couple :))
We're off on our delayed honeymoon/anxiety-management trip to Thailand, with a detour to Seoul for 12 hours on the way there and back! So excited! We're blogging about this over at our travel blog from last time, here: http://elainemutravel.blogspot.com/

Follow along if you feel like it, and we'll see you in a few weeks, with an update about internship. I will know on February 21st. Fingers crossed!
dancingyel: (Default)
I'm still looking for suggestions for the 2nd half of my list! I've gotten a few, but I'm not quite at 30 yet, so there's room for more. Thanks to all my friends who came up with interesting things for me to try, btw.

Anyways, since I've already done two things on the TaT (Thirty around Thirty, yeah?) list, I figured I should post about them here. The first one, baking bread, happened before I actually created the project, but since it was something I'd been wanting to do for a while, it seemed to fit.

So, why baking bread? Well, I love bread, and you can get really great artisanal bread, but it's so expensive! Plus, I had just gotten a dutch oven (this lovely one, for a fraction of the price of a Le Creuset and with great reviews!) and I needed something to do with it. When I googled "vegetarian dutch oven recipes," one of the ones that came up was this one for no-knead bread.



I won't retype the recipe here, since it's a pretty clear original, but I'll tell you my modifications and results. First, the bread came out great! As you can see in the photo, it looks like real bread from a store! The only thing I would change about the recipe itself is to add more salt, or some flavorings. There just wasn't enough salt in it, even for me, and I don't like things very salty. From a bit more googling, it sounds like other people had similar comments, so I plan to try something slightly different next time.

A few other caveats/impressions. First, although the recipe is easy and takes very little effort, it does take time. The dough has to sit for 12-18 hours, and from what I read, 12 is not actually great. I let mine sit for about 16. Then, however, you do 15 minutes of stuff to it and then it has to sit for another 2 hours! I was glad I noticed that when I did, otherwise I would have been unpleasantly surprised and rushed. I ended up letting mine sit for about 3.5 hours on the second rising, and it seemed fine (when I told my hair lady about the second rising, she exclaimed, "zombie bread!" It was awesome.). So, it seems that the timing is flexible, but definitely long. Second, you can use active dry yeast if you don't have instant yeast, but if you do, you have to stir it into water first, then add water and yeast to the other dry ingredients. I suppose I don't know what would've happened if I hadn't done that, but according to the internet, it would've been sad. Finally, next time, I will use a little less flour on the outside, because it didn't need quite that much not to be sticky, and I don't like how it got everywhere.

So, overall, a definite success and a recipe I will certainly use again!
dancingyel: (Default)
OK, the "30 around 30" list is now half-complete! Here's the first half, I'll do another post when it's all done. I'm still looking for more suggestions! I'll link to the individual posts once I've got the master list up. Cindy suggested that things I've done since about October or so can count for this challenge, since it's "around 30," so if I can't come up with enough things to fill out the second half, I'll add a few of those. I'd really like to come up with more, though!

1. Bake bread (done on 1/28/13, post to come)
2. Try aerial silks (ongoing, started on 1/28/13, post to come)
3. Sew a skirt
4. Bake meringues
5. Write a fantasy short story (let's say 10,000 words-ish)
6. Learn how to play the wooden flute
7. Learn Italian!
8. Knit a scarf
9. Make an origami moose (apparently, it's possible!)
10. Run a 5K (maybe? I'm scared of this one...)
11. Host a sit-down dinner for 6-8 people (this would require having a place to do so, though)
12.Try Bikram yoga
13. Have a real Do Nothing But Read day
14. Create and keep up a sleep-related website/blog/thing
15. Paint an accent wall (if we move and it's allowed)

PS If you're reading this in my LJ, I'm sorry if you're confused! I think I forgot to mention that I have this blog that I sometimes update, and now I've set it up to cross-post!
dancingyel: (Default)
Well, obviously, I've been not so good at the whole blogging thing. I think part of it was a lack of time, and part was a lack of projects that I wanted to share. I'm still cooking, and sometimes it's new stuff, but somehow, it just hasn't seemed that exciting. But, I have a new set of projects and some new ideas about keeping the blogging going, so maybe it can work!

What is this new thing, you may (door may not) ask? Well, inspired by Cindy's "30 before 30" project for this year, she and I decided that I should do a "30 around 30" project of my own. Since I'm turning 30 in March, the whole "before" thing wasn't gonna happen, but this seems like a good compromise. So there we go! I'm also going to try and get back into the blogging thing in addition to this project, but at least it'll provide some structure,

So, what 30 things am I going to try this year? This is where you come in! I'm looking for suggestions for new projects to attempt! So far (and yes, these will be their own blog posts), I've baked bread and taken an aerial silks class. What else should I do? I've taken trapeze and I've gone both skydiving and bungee jumping, so those are out. Already on my to-do list are sewing a skirt and baking meringues (which I know isn't supposed to be that hard, but has always felt terribly intimidating to me). But now I need 24 more items to do! Thoughts?
dancingyel: (Default)
I haven't updated in a long time, have I? This isn't really a real update, but I wanted to point you all to [livejournal.com profile] dircery and my travel blog for our upcoming trip. We've posted a few pre-trip things already and hope to keep it going while we're traveling.

I will try to do my year in review stuff on lj, but it'll probably come in January, after we return.
dancingyel: (Default)
I appear to not have time this year for my customary year in review post, which, if I remember correctly, happened last year, too. So, have an interim post, and I will do the in review one in early January, since I enjoy doing those.

It's been a crazy year for me, and for some of you from what it would seem. I hope everyone has a wonder New Year's Eve and a great 2011. I wish you all whatever you wish for yourselves in the coming year!
dancingyel: (Default)
Are any Bay Area folk planning on having a New Year's party? [livejournal.com profile] dircery and I will both be in town and would love to go to something with friends, but I'm not really feeling like hosting my own...
dancingyel: (Default)
There's an xkcd book now! Look! And part of the proceeds go to charity! And it starts with volume 0, which is typical and should amuse many of you. :D I haven't yet purchased it, but I'm going to do so shortly, once I decide if I want an xkcd shirt, as well, or not.
dancingyel: (Default)
...have my yearly yom kippur post!

yom kippur starts in a few hours, so i'm busy in preparations -- hydrating, eating a biggish lunch, contemplating which lights need to be left on, telling people i won't be reachable...and, of course, trying to get into the yom kippur mindset. as always, apologizing to people is hard. i try to be a good friend, and a good person in general, but i know i fall short of that. so i'm sorry to everyone i have (or may have) wronged -- especially, i apologize for not being good at keeping in touch and for neglecting people when i feel too busy. it's easy for me to get wrapped up in my own stuff and whine and complain and forget to be there for people. so, i apologize for that.

going into this yom kippur, like the ones for the past several years, i find myself a little on the fence. on the one hand, there are things i'm repentant for, of course. on the other hand, there are things religion would tell me to be sorry for, but i'm not. it's always a tough balance for me, so we'll see how the day goes this year. and, on a less spiritual note, it's supposed to hit 101 tomorrow. full fast, no water? meep.

logistics: i will be unreachable between 6pm-ish today and 8pm-ish tomorrow. i'll check my email before services start, and then again as soon as it's sundown tomorrow.

if you're fasting, i hope you have an easy and meaningful fast.

quick PSA

Aug. 2nd, 2009 09:56 pm
dancingyel: (Default)
was out of town all weekend, with no internet. yay! so nice to have been disconnected! i owe lots of people emails, comments, and other manner of replies, and will definitely get to those over the next day or 2. also, updates. :)
dancingyel: (Default)
for those of you who haven't seen this already on facebook, here is me, flying!

scary and awesome trick! )
dancingyel: (Default)
"What have I always believed? That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right."
dancingyel: (Default)
any bay area folk wanna go to a free concert in the park tomorrow afternoon? radio alice, 97.3 fm, is holding a concert tomorrow, noon-5. more info is here. i was thinking of going around 1pm, even though it starts at noon, and hanging out for however long it was fun. text me or send me an email (or leave a comment, same effect) if you're interested!
dancingyel: (Default)
i realized, to my dismay, that my list of things to do over the summer doesn't include any books! i have found a few while browsing amazon, but i need more! so, wise friend list, what books should i try to read over the summer? suggestions of all genres are welcome!

books i think i might want to read:
on food and cooking (harold mcgee)
the legend of sigurd and gudrun (tolkien)
godel, escher, bach (douglas hofstadter)
how doctors think (jerome groopman)
on the line (eric ripert)
blue shoes and happiness (alexander mccall smith)
stumbling on happiness (daniel gilbert)

as you can see, it's a short and eclectic list and could use many more suggestions!
dancingyel: (Default)
so, i wanna take an aerials (more specifically, trapeze) class this summer. the circus center in sf offers such things and is conveniently located, but they're kind of expensive and they won't let me take an actual trapeze class as a beginner -- it's an "intro to aerial skills" thing, which sounds fun but not perfect. on the other hand, trapeze arts in oakland has specifically trapeze classes on the flying trapeze, is cheaper, and seems willing to take complete newbies. they are, however, in oakland. this is problematic...palo alto would've been better, since i'll be working at stanford 3 days a week, but oakland? i wish cindy still lived in san leandro, then i could stay at her place overnight once a week, or something! meep. what to do?

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