Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy New Year

We made wonton soup in celebration of the oncoming Year of the Ox.

Last night, I made roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli, gravy. The chicken was undercooked. The mashed potatoes undermashed. I dropped the whole pan of gravy on the floor. Erik mopped while I ate potatoes.

So I had a lot of leftover chicken. I made stock with parsley, celery, onion, carrot and lots of pepper. Then, Zoe and I made wontons stuffed, following recipes from both Cooking Light and the Frugal Gourmet's Three Ancient Cuisines) with ground pork, sesame oil, super chopped (perhaps by that I mean minced?) carrots (substituting for water chestnuts. Why don't I have water chestnuts in my cupboard), green onions, and rice wine vinegar. Zoe painted the edges of the wontons. I pressed them together--hoping I actually got most of the edges sealed.

We tossed the wontons in the stock (into which I followed no recipe and added ginger and star anise). I also sauteed some shitakes and cut up some bok choy and added that.

Z tried a wonton, ate a ton of raw bok choy, and sipped the broth.

Super delicious happy New Year making up, somewhat, for last night's gravy disaster.

My new new year's resolve: Make my own stock. That seems like a hard times, more delicious recipe for a happy future.

To the year of the ox.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Top Chef Too Mean?

Maybe it is too mean. My poetry/nonfiction class version goes like this. The students break into small groups with their writing and a ballot that lists the criteria for the writing. They vote in their small group for who the winner is. The winner goes into the ring of fire, also known as the vast expanse in the middle of the room when all the desks and chairs are in a circle. Then, they read. We vote. In the first poetry class, I had them vote by ballot and didn't have time to tabulate the winner. Last night, in nonfiction, I had them vote by raise of hands (making it seem, I hope, a little bit less official). But then when girl yelled out, this is hard and one student only got one vote (his group should have voted for him at least. They as a group seem disengaged).

I like the idea of competition because it makes them, in their small groups, not just be like "I love this. You're so great." And it makes them take the exercises seriously. But maybe the last Top Cheffery bit should go? If I had time, I would have the groups vote and then defend their decision, ala Tom Colicchio. That would be the best student-centered learning option but maybe overly complicated.

To Molly: I don't know about Stefan. I think I like him. I definitely like Fabio and the way that they both add a new edge to the Top Chef. Yes. I'm going to say Stefan rocks. Although he's no Jeffrey. Because blonds can cook! (and he's the best looking of the chefs, in any of the season.

To MaryAnne: No kidding. Isn't a list enough propulsion? I'm about to propel my food book over the cliff.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cirque du so lame

What is the point of Thursday? Nobody does any blogging or emailing. My students are already worn out. I say, make Thursday the new Friday since it's already as unproductive. Then, Friday can be reserved like Saturday and Sunday for productive fun--like skiing and laundry.

Top Chef Poetry went pretty well. The students had to choose the best poem from their groups and then toss those poor poem-writers into the center of the room where they had to have their poems judged and rated based on the sound, image, turn and line on a scale of 1-5, 5 being best. The only problem came when I tried to tabulate. Too many numbers to add up without a 10-key. So, next time, I'll probably have the groups judge as groups and then defend their judging, more like Top Chef. And then the loser can pack his or her knives and go home! Or, rather, go on to write another day.

Top Chef Nonfiction will be trickier because the criteria can be a little more wobbly but we're going with image recurrence/evolution, narrative propulsion, voice, and place/space rootedness. That's tonight. We'll see how that goes.

Then, Friday can commence after class at 6:00 p.m. Until then, it's a workday. I expect to see you on Facebook or blogging or emailing me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day

It has been a long, long, long eight years.

It will take a lot to repair all the damage. I have enough hope to think maybe there will be enough good well and good energy to turn the tide. But having that much hope makes me nervous.

There's amazing images on the TV. One of someone holding a picture of Lincoln next to a picture of Obama, the millions of people with tiny flags, a very strong looking Jimmy Carter, an oddly hobbled George HW Bush, Bob Bennett (that guy is huge) towering about George W.

They're already 15 minutes behind, the announcers keep announcing. Which reminds me that I can't watch all day. I have to go in to the office so I'm off to take a shower. But I will be streaming all day at the office. And the Dean has it on in his office, he promises.

It seems like a different world today. I know it's not but it seems like it, for a minute.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


January is trying to kill me. It's making me post blogs in pure list fashion just because my mind can't wrap itself around the greater meaning of why January would have it out for me. I like January. It's my sisters' birthday. The days start getting longer. There's fun snow times. But still. It has it out for me.
Thus far, I got a really bad cold on the day after the drive home from Mountain City. Then Z got it last weekend. As she's getting it and I get worried that it's bad enough to require outside intervention instead of just the 3 hours of nebulizing a day, I find that the letter I sent to Blue Cross Blue Shield telling them we indeed have continuous coverage and that we should not be subject to a waiting period was filed but not acted upon. Apparently, I needed another letter from my old University telling them the exact same thing (which no one told me I needed. I just sent them a copy of my insurance card since that's all this HR dept. told me was required). Happily, my old university was amenable to faxing BXBS the letter and now all is well and Z's cold is moving out of her lungs and out into some other poor child's.

But the viruses don't end there. I'm typing this on Egg's computer. My computer has the worst virus I've ever heard of or seen. When I go to Google something, the search results appear but when I click on them, I'm redirected to a shopping site of some sort. It's not always the same one--sometimes it's "yellow pages," sometimes "ad direct." When the IT guy tried to fix it, the computer wouldn't let it access Ad-aware or lavasoft at all. I tried to download Microsoft's malicious adware/spyware tool and it said "that page doesn't exist." It's very creepy and now they over at IT are reimaging my computer. I'm supposed to be finishing the last 60 pages of the nonfiction book but I'm not. Plus, other writing problems on which I cannot blame the computer unless someone the virus is keeping all the good news stored in some un-openable folder. But the bad news comes through just fine.
Perhaps the computer will be better by tomorrow? Just saying that sounds jinxy.

Also. I think I now get migraines. Last night, I could only move if I put both hands on my temples and pressed really hard.

Also. The snow. It snowed like a million feet right before we left and while we were gone. But it's been 50 degrees here every day in the sun. So I tried to go running in the woods behind my house. The people who walk there every day had not been doing their job, evenly tamping down a trail for me. Instead, there were some deep sinks made from what looked someone fence-poling and then a few smaller foot holes. It was like trying to run on lava rocks. Cleo and I kept sinking and then finding an icy cover and then sinking again. So now we have to run on the road which I do not like nearly as much.

Also. School started but that's OK. Except for that my classes are overfull because I'm a weak, weak person, I'm excited to teach Intro classes. We're doing a reality TV/Top Chef/Survivor contest thing so the first weeks are fun and not just whole-class workshop after workshop or peer group after peer group workshop.

Plus, the economy still sucks and I'm always nervous about my and Erik's jobs.

Still, except for the writing bad news and the headaches, none of this is really getting me down. We're invited to Obamatini's tomorrow night, are going to Phoenix on Saturday to see A & M (and to make a test run to see if it's feasible to go see Dr. Write if she comes down) and a new computer so chock full of anti-virus software (it already had some, but obviously, I need the Fort Knox equivalent of security) that it'll take fourteen "yeses" just to get to anyone's blog. The second half of January begins today. Perhaps January can call off the hit and we can try to be friends.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter Break--A Food Retrsopective

Some of this will be redundant because the people with whom I dined and cooked already blogged about it. The best part was how much we cooked at home and how many of us cooked together.
Thanks to food, the break is memorable. Everything else is sort of a hazy mess of sickness and conflictedness.

In reverse order though, I did eat well enough to sustain me through Mountain Town's semi-bleak cuisine. Highlighting the best parts:

The Sunday before we left, mom and Little Hands indulged me by going with me to the Hong Kong Tea House. As an added bonus, the kids came too. Watching Lil and Z eat rice with chopsticks and Cam and Lil try the sticky buns and Cam actually liking potstickers was the sweetest part. Well that and I got to order pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings, homemade meatballs, homemade dumplings, potstickers, spare ribs, beef wanoki roll, shrimp noodle roll, curry roll in rice noodles, and the half-hour special--fried rice. I think there may have been more food ordered but the blood that rushed to my stomach trying to digest all that food stroked out part of my brain.

Sunday night: Halibut with dill butter. Halibut had a worm. Not a highpoint, but a highlight nonetheless.

Saturday....bleak except for brunch at Red Rock where I ordered a cholesterol sky-rocketer: eggs in a nest with hollandaise instead of red sauce. And yes, I'd like the bacon too.
Cheese at the Paris. Should have made a reservation for dinner.

Friday: Flew down to the New Yorker in the snow. Shared a rib-eye with bernaise will Little Hands. KJ had delicious carpaccio. H-ster ordered the best--some sort of chopped salad special.

Thursday: Delicious spaghetti and meatballs at Little Hands'.

Wednesday: The Pub with KJ, Doug and Egg. Southwest Chicken Salad. Mediocre. More queso fresco please.

Wednesday lunch: ACME burger with HighTouch and Dr. Write. Delicious shoe-string fries and even better conversation about movies, books and academics.

Tuesday day: Skiing lunch. Best pizza in Utah at Goldminer's or was I just hungry from torturing my calves?

Tuesday night: Delicious dinner with Scorpion's Tail (maybe she'll blog again if I link her) and Dr. Write at Cafe Madrid: Red peppers stuffed with white fish, sardines on toast points, manchego, prosciutto, and two other meats whose names I can't remember, a sausage, bacon wrapped shrimp, mussels. All in all, pretty good but overpriced and some problem with paying by threes. Rude.

Monday: Tomato soup and baked potatoes? I think so...

Sunday: Iron Chef Citrus--(mom's choice of "secret ingredient") You can get another angle at KJ's but overall, much more successful than Iron Chef mushroom. Citrus is versatile. Half the recipes I looked at had citrus anyway. KJ made a great halibut ceviche with lime and coconut milk and jicama. The chicken wings were spicy and fruity. Little Hand's roasted red-pepper with tangerine cream was possibly the best soup I'd ever tasted (should have made mushroom soup last time instead of risotto!). Her scallops were perfectly cooked and paired well with the lemon capellini. The caviar was just a huge bonus and El said now she can say she tried it, even if she didn't like it.
The shrimp I marinated for just a half an hour in lemon juice, salt and pepper then grilled and topped with a mango, lime and radish salsa. Sectioning the limes was the biggest pain. Then I made duck breasts marinated in orange, soy, orange zest, white wine vinegar. I also threw the marinade on top of some salmon and the leftover halibut that KJ brought for the fishotarians who don't eat duck. I cooked the duck skin side down in a large pan for a little longer than they said, took them out and let them rest and then reduced the marinade. Braised chicory formed the base and then I cheated by making lemon mashed potatoes.
Overall, a much more balanced and exciting meal--partly again because of the company and partly because citrus is just a note, not the primary ingredient and partly because that's a lot of food and it's easier to eat a lot in the winter.

Saturday night: Dinner at the cousin's with funeral potatoes and ham. Thankfully, mom brought sausage and cream cheese stuffed mushrooms and a turkey.

Friday night: Lugano's with my mom and sisters? Things are getting fuzzy. Either way, everyone ordered badly except Little Hands. Mom and I both ordered prosciutto pizza. KJ ordered clam linguini. Little Hands ordered something so good that I can't remember. It involved pappardelle and cream. And maybe prosciutto.

Thursday: Merry Christmas Meat-By-Val--ham, turkey breast, prime rib, sausage and cream cheese stuffed mushrooms. She made the best prime rib yet!

Wednesday: Christmas Eve. Tomato soup with dill. Cold roast beef.

Tuesday: Dinner at Marshall and Joy's (Egg's sister and boyfriend). They made Tom Kha Gai and spring rolls with peanut sauce and the most delicious skewered mushrooms I'd ever had.

Monday: I roasted a chicken at Val's. Mashed potatoes involved again? I'm sense a them.

Sunday: Erik and I went to Trio after I was mostly cured. A delicious pizza made better with a side of mashed potatoes.

Saturday: Rick's big party. El made nacho cheese green chile soup. I made clam chowder.

Friday: I was sick but I still made halibut and salmon and possibly the best hollandaise I've ever had. Fortunately, no one got what I had.

Thursday: Little Hands made something delicious. Mom was there. Edited to add: She remembered! Tacos. This after we realized that Erik is the Johnny Appleseed of beer caps, leaving beer caps everywhere he goes. Val found three in her ski boot. She thinks perhaps he's hoping for beer trees, she texted. Thank god for texting.

Wednesday: We arrive to a bounty of homemade enchiladas.

Surprisingly, I didn't got to Settebello, Martine, the Paris for dinner, Mazza, or the Metropolitan. I suffer I know. Being sick those first 4 days really cut into my organizational abilities and my food plans. I see already I didn't eat with my mom nearly enough and that mashed potatoes may have figured too prominently in my diet.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bird Count

On the longish drive down from Mountain City to Mountain Town I saw:
Five redtail hawks with their winter-white stomachs.
Two wild turkeys drinking out of a puddle on the side of the road.
One golden eagle the size of my car.
Two turkey vultures smartly following the golden eagle.
Five bald eagles sitting strangely on top of a juniper-looking tree.

And, in non-bird sightings:
One deer leaping right across the road in front of the car in front of us but safely making it to his friends on the other side of the road.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

2009 Wishes and Fishes

First the no's.
  • No trip to the hospital (only one in 2008 and that was for a non-related .
  • No complaining about coming and/or going (for instance, no complaining too much about going back home).
  • Say no to a (every?) student at least once.
  • Say no to a service request once.
  • No moving.
  • No freaking out about pubs (Ha. Ha.)
  • No freaking out about plans changing, especially in regards to food (I get stuck on an idea about what we're having or going for dinner. Also ha.)

Second the yes's in the form of to-do's
  • Go to Italy for June.
  • Drive to Phoenix (the 3rd circle of hell Edited to add: I should also refrain from calling it the 3rd circle of hell until I know it better. Even hell deserves a proper vetting.) for something besides the airport.
  • Go to Sedona visiting and wine tasting with Sam.
  • Make one new friend.
  • Make wonton soup (hankering since I watched Kung Fu Panda. Didn't get to go to Little World this trip.
  • Be ambitious about next writing project.
  • Play lion/witch with Z once a day.
  • Walk/run every day.
  • Send missives to Obama (not just letters of love and adoration).
  • Ski with Egg at least one more time.
  • Read at least one book a month unrelated to teaching/research.
  • I would say be more mellow but then Egg would read this and say you vowed to be more mellow this year, which would make me respond in less than mellow ways.