Saturday, April 26, 2008

Immersion Blender: A Love Affair

My love affair with the immersion blender continues, as I once again made soup.

Today I worked on pear and sweet potato soup, which was in my big soup cookbook. I like that cookbook, but it causes me trouble sometimes. I got it at Barnes and Noble on the discount rack (where most of my cookbooks come from), but it’s British and I occasionally have cultural issues with it, like knowing that “pumpkin” actually applies to any variety of squash and that “tinned” means “canned”. I have no idea what “rocket” is, other than that it is green and leafy, and I also have to keep conversion charts handy, as my measuring cups aren’t labeled for liters or grams.

The real problem with it is that some of the recipes are decidedly non-specific, like the one I used today. It called for a “small white onion”. Small? Does that mean smaller than all the other onions in the bin? The size of a half dollar? A tennis ball? A quarter? How small is a small onion? While I’m complaining, what kind of pear is a “firm pear”? They can tell me how many ounces of raw sweet potato I need, but not how many of onion?

If the soup recipes didn’t turn out so I would have taken this cookbook to the used bookstore a while ago.

Between the last time I used onions in a recipe and today, my chopper broke, and I had to throw it away. I like the taste of onions, but not the texture, so I always chop the hell out of them until they are somewhere between “ultra-fine dice” and “wet smear that used to be a vegetable”. Given the option of dragging out the food processor to paste my onion or cutting it up with the knife that I had to use on the pears and sweet potatoes anyway, I decided to just get one thing dirty and chop them myself. After a little experimentation and thinking about “Top Chef”, I figured out how to rapidly get the onion chopped down to the pieces I like, and the only trouble was that my eyes were tearing so badly I had to leave the kitchen to blot them.

Onions are terrible, terrible things to chop.

Pears, on the other hand, are rather easy:


So are sweet potatoes, which were somewhat drier than I expected:

pears and sweet potatoes

Sticking with my “get as few things dirty as possible” mentality even though I have the dishwasher, I put everything in the same container as I chopped. I’m practically an environmentalist with the way I cut down on dishwasher loads.

After cooking the onion down in butter, I added the pears, sweet potatoes, and chicken stock, and then ignored it for twenty minutes or so:


And yeah, I know I need to clean the stove burner cover under that pot. Also, the reason the pot looks so beat up is that it’s 38 years old. I cook in the pots and pans that my parents got as a wedding gift, as my moving into an apartment and needing a set of my own was my mother’s excuse to finally get a new set.

Anyway, after everything was pretty well cooked down, I decided to hit it with the blender. I learned after the apple cheese soup that it works better if everything is in smaller pieces, not in quarter of an apple sized chunks, and the blending was much faster:

immersion blender

Now, having eaten a bowl and put the leftovers in the fridge, I’m already trying to figure out what I can use the immersion blender on next.

Friday, April 25, 2008

life after sassyfins

Even with the loss of my goldfish, I have found amusement in the world. I’m like that, though, since I moved here from the soul-sucking vampire pit I used to work at.

For example, I found a streamer under my car tire the other day when I left work:


Was there a parade in the parking lot? Some sort of event no one told me about? Where do random parking lot streamers come from? And when they flutter away in the breeze as I drive away, where do they go?

Oh, wait, I know that one. Birds eat them and die.

I also fell in love with my immersion blender, using it to make apple and bleu cheese soup. My ingredients went from this:

peeled, cored apples

to this:

finished soup

without any hot soup exploding out of a blender like that time Martha Stewart and I got in a fight. I did manage to cut and burn myself, but at least I didn’t have to wipe down the kitchen again.

In other food-related amusements, Donna brought in this cupcake cake for Debbie’s birthday, and it was wonderful:

cupcake rainbow

I liked it so much that I didn’t mention that spectrums go ROY G. BIV, not VIB G. YOR. People like you more if you keep your super-brain to yourself, which is why I won’t be calling Twisted Scissors at 588-2311 to tell them that I’d like to buy a vowel:


I before E and all that, except after C like in the word “receive”.

Or “recive”, if you prefer.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

death in the family

Mr. Sassyfins, my goldfish, was dead when I woke up this morning.

When I moved here, because I was moving off campus, my friends were all excited about me finally living in the outside world. “You can get a plant! And a pet!”, as if I’d just gotten done with 28 days of rehab and needed to prove I could take care of these things and myself. Still, I got a cactus and a goldfish.

My cactus died four months after I moved here. I don’t know if I watered it too much or not enough or didn’t give it enough light or if it got too much sun or what. It still died.

Now my fish is dead, too, a few months shy of two years.

Should this mean something?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

food, photos, illness, and travel

I have, once again, been sorely neglectful of my blog, but that happens when I get busy at work. For about the past month, we have been busy doing freshmen contracts, which involves printing, mailing, processing, reprinting, canceling, and doing all kinds of other things with multiple thousands of students. It’s fun, but busy.

I have also been down for the past week or so with stomach issues, which turned out to be some sort of food poisoning. I have two different kinds of medication that I have to take for the next two weeks, but hey, I’m not dead or in the hospital, so that’s a plus. In the interests of making food that won’t tear out my insides, I decided today to make a little hummus, because I’m tired of soup.

When I make hummus, I use my friend Renne’s basic recipe:

“2 cans chick peas
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
3-5 cloves garlic, to taste
1 C. vegetable/canola oil.

Throw everything into a food processor and blend the shit out of it.”

It sounds like a lot of oil, but it comes out super creamy, and when I bring it to parties and stuff people seem to like it. I’ve also adapted it a few times. Last time I added a 4 oz can of minced black olives and left out the garlic, and it came out super-olivey and good, if you like olives. Another time I put in a couple teaspoons of red pepper flakes, and after it sat in the fridge it was really, really spice, but good. Today I left out the garlic and added two teaspoons of dried dill. After it sits in the fridge for a couple hours I’m hoping it will be like, “Mmmmm… dill,” and not like, “There’s so much dill I want to vomit!”

I’ve gotten a lot of practice vomiting this week, though, so it still might turn out ok.

I’ve also been doing some urban exploring around town in the past month, and taken a lot of fun pictures. Here are some randoms:

cigar sign

knoxville sunset

coffeehouse mural

starry night

table for two

Clicking will, as always, make them bigger and bring you to my photopage, where there are lots more.

I also took a trip last weekend to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. It’s one of the Vanderbilt family homes, and was nice, but a little annoying. You can’t take any pictures inside the house, because they sell them in the gift shops. I could see banning flash photography, because over time it fades colors and is damaging to paintings and fabrics, but after paying $40 to get in you shouldn’t have to pay ten to twenty more dollars for pictures. I only paid five to get in, because it was a college trip, but still, the principle of it bothers me.

You can take as many pictures as you want outside the house, though:

biltmore exterior

fish fountain

pan statue


more tulip beds

It would have been nicer if it hadn’t rained, but I ended up with thirty or so pictures that I really liked, so it wasn’t a total loss.