Saturday, February 28, 2009

Broccoli potato onion garlic corn Cheddar soup

I like to cook, a lot. Sometimes I use recipes, sometimes I don't. I don't often use recipes when I make soups or stews, I just wing it. Sometimes they work really well, sometimes they're just okay. Yesterday, I made a fantastic soup, so I thought I might record the process for prosperity.

broccoli stalks (coarsely chopped--approximately 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick) (2)
bay leaves (2)
potatoes (pealed and chopped) (4)
chicken broth (one Oxo package, 1 tsp of regular broth powder)
potatoes (pealed and finely chopped) (3)
onion (finely chopped) (1)
garlic cloves (thinly sliced) (5)
flour (1/8-1/4 cup)
milk powder (1/8-1/4 cup)
frozen corn (1 cup)
Cheddar cheese (grated) (1/2-3/4 cup)
other cheese (I used Tete De Moine--a type of Swiss) (1/4 cup)

1) Place broccoli stalks in a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the stalks (sorry this is really fuzzy--I'd guess around 1L). Add in bay leaves and simmer on low heat for 1/2 hour.
2) Add the potatoes and continue to simmer for another 1/2 hour.
3) Once the broccoli stalks are a sickly green (i.e. all the nutrients have been leeched out) remove them and the bay leaves from the stalk.
4) Mash the potatoes in the stalk water and add the chicken stalk. Add potatoes and onions. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
5) Add garlic and cook for another 10 minutes.

**At this point I had to leave my apartment so I turned the stove off and let the soup cool. I worked directly with the cold soup so I have modified the method to how I think it would work if you just worked on the soup continuously.**

6) Remove approximately 1/2 cup of soup and allow it to cool completely. Add 1/8 cup of flour and 1/8 milk powder (I didn't measure this, so I'm guessing here) to the broth to make a roux. Mix thoroughly and add back into soup. More flour and milk powder may be required for your taste. Remember that you need to make a roux first, otherwise the flour and milk powder will clump in your hot soup.
7) Add frozen corn and cook until corn is heated.
8) Add in Cheddar cheese, stir until melted.
9) Add in second cheese, stir until melted.
10) Add pepper to taste.
11) Serve when hot.

I also served this soup with fresh homemade (Whole wheat with sun dried tomato and garlic) bread--very delicious (both the soup and the bread).



Balcony garden 2009: Day 8

So far, so good. Our radishes (the bottom row of the planter) are doing well. According to the seed package they should only take 2 weeks to grow, which means that next weekend we could be munching on home grown radishes!

Our peas are starting to come up too, although it will be sometime before they're ready to be eaten. They're still pretty short, but eventually we'll have to start training them to grow onto the trellis behind them.

We have a teeny, tiny carrot starting to grow!



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Balcony garden 2009: Day 1

Last year Andrew and I attempted to grow stuff on our balcony. It worked, somewhat. We had a lot of delicious green onions and various other herbs. Our peas grew well initially then got fried in the sun and nothing else worked. We decided that we would try again this year and, perhaps foolishly, expand the operation.

Above are our strawberry plant starters. The seeds are minuscule and they have to grow indoors for 10-12 weeks before we can move them outside. We planted thirty-two seeds altogether as we have planters that hold thirty-two plants. I hope we have enough crop so that I can try making jam. The three cartons at the bottom of the picture are tomatoes--for Andrew. Although, if we have any success I might try making some tomato sauce or something.

These planters contain peas (in the back row), carrots (they fill up the planter in the back, and just the middle row in the one in the front) and radishes. The variety of radishes we purchase are suppose to grow in two weeks, so we could harvest our first vegetables in just fourteen days. Carrots take 50-60 days, but if they work out, we might be able to grow a second crop.

I'll report on our garden as it progresses.



Saturday, February 21, 2009

The things you learn at the symphony

Andrew and I are subscribers to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. I really enjoy being able to do this because a) I love classical music b) it supports the arts; and c) gives us the occasion to dress nicely and go out once every couple of months. Yesterday we also ate out at the Mikado before hand (I actually order sushi instead of whimping out and getting the teriyaki chicken), which made for a very enjoyable evening.

Last night they had a number of special guests, including a guest concert master, who played on a Stradivarius violin (I would have really liked to hear her play solo, alas she did not); a guest conductor, Gary Kulesha, who conducted his own piece; and pianist Jon Kimura Parker. The program included Bach, Kulesha and Beethoven.

You can learn some very interesting things from reading the concert programs, such as, Beethoven went back and re-wrote the cadenza sections in his piano concertos. The cadenzas we heard last night could never had been played on the piano of 1795, when Beethoven's first concerto (what we heard last night) was originally published.

This is the second interesting thing we learned last night during After Thoughts, a open-panel discussion, which took place after the concert:

At an earlier point in their respective careers both Bill Eddins (conductor of the ESO) and Jon Kimura Parker use science-fiction themes (i.e. movie and television themes) to incorporate into their improvised cadenzas. One of their favourites was Star Trek. However, at one point Jon Kimura Parker was preforming in the Sydney Opera House and decided that the Mozart he was playing was just the right tone to sneak in a little X-Files. He figured, being in Australia, that the X-Files probably weren't all that well known and he could get away with it. As it turns out, at the time the X-Files was the most popular show in Australia and after the concert he had a number of very confused patrons come back stage and want to know if Mozart had written the X-Files theme.

Andrew and I got a kick out of that story. I hope you, dear reader, did too.



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Life's slow right now: very exciting post options

I think I should post about something, just so people don't think I've given up on blogging, but I'm not sure what. I could write about:

1) What I did this weekend, (cleaned apartment, shopped [new skating clothing and equipment to try to grow more stuff on our balcony], ate and drank lots of delicious things for Valentine's Day, watched Get Smart [it was okay], had guests for Sunday dinner)
2) Some of the resent plotting going on with my UFO MS
3) Describe some of my recent and unusual dreams, or
4) How I plan to spend reading week doing homework

Hm. Very exciting options, I know. I suppose I could also lie. Make up something super fabulous to make my life sound more interesting, or I could try to find a just cause to rant about and make this blog more than just chatter on the internet. I'm not sure I'm ambitious enough for that last option.

I'll think about it.



Sunday, February 8, 2009

Peds Gala Dinner = nostalgic fun

On Saturday night Andrew and I attended the U of A, Pediatrics Annual Gala Dinner. For some reason my department is provided with free admission and it's hard to pass up complementary $60 tickets that include a full, four course dinner and dancing. Granted last year's gala was not so...awesome. It was the first time I went and I purchased an absolutely gorgeous dress from BCBG Max Azaria (it was 50%). The food was okay, but the entertainment was not so entertaining. A Star Wars/Star Trek theme had been selected (it was primarily Star Trek with a little Darth Vader thrown in for fun). The skit dragged on and on and was not funny at all . The dance didn't start until late, probably 10:00 p.m. or so, by which time many people were tired and went home.

This year's gala was a drastic improvement. The theme was "Sweetheart Swirl" and was meant to be reminiscent of a high school Valentine's Day dance. When we arrived we were offered 80's paraphernalia, such as funky sunglasses, a single sequenced glove for the men, neon-coloured fingerless fishnet gloves for the ladies, etc. Since I'd taken the trouble to gussied myself up, I wasn't really interested, but Andrew grabbed a hair-thingy with feathers--it duplicates nicely as a cat toy. The ballroom was decorated with red and pink (including balloon arches), I was actually quite impressed.

Dinner was good, the highlights being at the beginning and the end of the meal. It started with a phyillo-wrapped bree/onion confit thing and ended with a delicious raspberry mousse served in a chocolate bowl. The comedienne was actually funny (imagine that!). She'd clearly done her research so her jokes were full of doctor/medical references, which pleased the crowd. The best part of the evening was definitely the dance, lead by a live band. The band included a keyboard, saxophone, trumpet, guitar, bass guitar and three singers who took turns on lead vocals. They performed covers from the 1970's and 1980's. I think Andrew and I got onto the dance floor for the first dance and stayed out there the whole night.

I used to dance a fair bit in undergrad. I probably went out either in Kitchener or Toronto a couple of times a month and generally my goal was to stay on the dance floor all night. I haven't done that in years. In fact, I haven't done that since the Canada Day weekend of 2004. I went out with my friend Josh in Waterloo and it was the first and only time I wound up sick from drinking too much. At any rate, during the past five years I've had the occasional chance to dance here and there, either at the U of A social dance club, or at a couple of work-related events, but never to dance from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., taking breaks only when the band did. As a result my legs and butt are sore, still (this is Monday)! But it was fun and it was worth it. It makes me miss going out, but now that I'm almost thirty going out to bars would probably make me feel really old.

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures, but I think the event organizers had a professional photographer there, so if I find any online, I'll post them (Because Andrew and I have a basic competency in swing dancing we tend to get our picture taken at these types of things).



Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Post fumigation party

Buffy: What's the difference between the pre-fumigation party and the post-fumigation party?
Willow: Heartier cockroaches.

~Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1 (I think)

Well, let's hope that's not the case for our apartment. We haven't seen any cockroaches period and hopefully it will stay that way. We got back into our apartment shortly after 7:00 p.m. last night. We've got it half put back to normal, but we're going to try a little furniture re-arrangement while we're at it, so chaos may reign for a few days longer.



Monday, February 2, 2009


Our apartment is being fumigated tomorrow. This is seriously uncool. We received a notice yesterday, which Andrew found half-hidden under our front hall mat. One of our neighbours found "dead" cockroaches. I've put dead in quotations since the notice was a pre-made form and who really knows what was really found in the offending apartment. So now we have to move everything in our apartment away from the walls, remove all of our dishes from the cupboards and cover them, and empty all closets. We have to be out of our apartment by nine tomorrow morning and we can't return until after six, possibly not until eight in the evening.

Neither humans nor animals can be in our apartment for at least nine hours. Thankfully Mandy has agreed to help us out here. She's permitting us to sneak Tabitha into her apartment for the day. This also means that one of us needs to stay with our kitty while she's in Mandy's apartment to make sure she doesn't destroy anything. Andrew's going to stay in the morning while I'm at class, then I'll take over in the afternoon so he can go to the University and try to do some experimentation. I have to miss work--but on the upside I can spend sometime on homework. At least this will make up for some of the time I've lost due to preparing our apartment.

Things could be worse, I know. But it still sucks. We've got a ton of stuff in our apartment and we have to pack it all up. It's like moving, except we're not.

Oh and to make things even better, last night one of our neighbours came over and asked to borrow our vacuum cleaner. Andrew lent it to them, he is a nice person after all. We discovered this morning that those neighbours were the ones with the infestation. Nice huh? Now we could have cockroaches in our vacuum cleaner or worse, they could actually be crawling around our apartment. Seriously, who thinks it's okay to borrow someone else's vacuum cleaner when they had cockroaches in their apartment. Grr. It's very uncharitable of me, but I kinda hope they get evicted. They're smokers too.

That's all for now,