Archive for July, 2009

Grandpa’s 85th birthday: a week of celebration!

July 20, 2009

Last Wednesday, Uncle John, Aunt Martha, and my 17-year-old cousin Evan arrived from Colorado. Since then, it’s been non-stop partying and family time. My grandfather’s 85th birthday is next weekend so we’ve had a lot of guests–Keith, Alan, and Neil (my uncle’s childhood friends who my uncle, mom, and grandfather have known since they were in diapers); Besty, Dave, Allie, and Christina (Betsy’s my mom’s cousin, Allie and Christina are my second cousins); Ed and Marion (Ed is my grandfather’s brother); Carol, Jeff, Teydin, and Parker (they live in the same town as my parents–Carol’s sister is Martha, my mom’s brother John’s wife); and Carol and Martha’s brother, Chuck.

On Wednesday, July 15, a whole bunch of us had dinner at my parents’. On Thursday, John, my mom, and grandfather came to visit my apartment. I showed them around the city–John had never been here before–and we went out to lunch.

Friday, I went to North Beach with Teydin, Parker, and Evan. It was around 90 degrees and sunny until you got a few miles from the ocean where it got significantly cooler, overcast and incredibly foggy. We still went in the water, but it was pretty cold. We got wraps for lunch at Secret Spot, and I got a smoothie.

Evan, Parker, and Teydin.

Evan and me.

Our view of the water from where we set down our towels. While you can't tell from the photo, we weren't actually far from the water. When we were in the water, we couldn't see our towels because it was so foggy.

On Friday night everyone went to my grandfather’s for pizza.

On Saturday, everyone went to Carol & Jeff’s house. David’s brother Brian took the bus from Cambridge so he could come.

We played this "corn in the hole" bean bag tossing game for quite awhile. In this photo are my dad and Jeff.

Chuck, Keith, Alan, and Grandpa.

Siblings! My mom and John.

Mommy!

Mommy!

My grandfather & the neighborhood kids. Neil, Keith, Grandpa, Alan, John.

Brian, me, and David.

Brian, David, and Jeff.

Evan and Teydin with the lacrosse sticks. We went swimming!

Delicious!

On Sunday, Betsy, Dave, Allie, and Christina arrived. We all ate food from the grill at my parents’ house for dinner. I had a lot of fun playing frisbee in the yard with Dave, David, and Evan.

Evan and Grandpa.

Mom and Betsy.

Grandpa and John.

Martha, Alan, Betsy, and Dad.

Grandpa, Evan, Allie, David, and Christina on the back porch.

Evan lights Grandpa's birthday candles as David watches.

Uncle John, me, and Grandpa.

Dave, Uncle John, and David.

Dave, Uncle John, and David.

I have such an incredible family. It was so, so nice to see everyone. Even more relatives are coming next weekend. Unfortunately, David and I bought plane tickets before the party plans had been made. I’ll miss seeing my sister and many other people, which I’m pretty disappointed about, but I am incredibly excited about our trip…

Tomorrow we leave for Seattle. On Friday we’re taking a train to Portland, and Monday evening we fly to LA to visit Bruce and Randy (David’s parents)!!

Brian!

July 20, 2009

Reason #532 why I love summer: We’ve gotten to see a lot of David’s brother Brian! Brian goes to MIT and is in Cambridge for the summer studying yeast & DNA (I don’t quite understand exactly what he’s doing…). In the past few weeks, we’ve gone to see him a couple of times and he’s come here a couple of times. This photo shoot was taken on July 14 when he came for dinner.

At first they were very patient...

Then they thought I was ridiculous...

Then they pretended to be asleep so I'd stop taking photos...

Vegetarian sushi

July 20, 2009

Over the past few weeks, David and I have been eating vegetarian sushi pretty regularly. It’s healthy, low-carlorie, and so tasty!

*Note: The pictures in this entry are from my very first attempt. I’ve gotten a lot better at rolling and figuring out how much filling to put in!*

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked sushi rice (do not attempt to use regular rice–it needs to be sticky!)
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2-3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 sheets of nori (thin, dried sheets of seaweed)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 block of baked tofu
  • I haven’t tried it yet, but I think shredded carrots would be a great addition…
  • Eat with soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger, if you like.

Yields 3 rolls

We bought the sushi rice in the bulk section at Whole Foods. We got the nori at our regular grocery store and the rice vinegar at a nearby Asian food market. You can find rice vinegar at many regular grocery stores too.

Directions

1) Cook the sushi rice by combinding 1 cup of uncooked rice and 1 1/4 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the rice and continue cooking for 15 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the rice is soft.

2) Stir in 2-3 tablespoons rice vinegar (I like 3 tablespoons, David prefers 2). Allow the rice to cool.

3) Slice the avocado, tofu, and cucumber into long thin strips.

Here's David, slicing the avocado, cucumber, and tofu.

David sliced the avocado, cucumber, and tofu.

4) Cover the top of your bamboo rolling mat in plastic wrap–this will make clean up much easier.

5) Place a sheet of nori on the bamboo rolling mat with the shiny side of the seaweed down.

6) Spread out a thin layer of the rice (1/3 of the total rice) onto the nori, leaving a 1″ or so border at one end.

7) Place 1/3 of the veggies and tofu in the center of the sheet.

This is a bit too much rice. It makes it hard to roll tightly.

8) Time to roll! This is the trickiest part, but gets easy once you get the hang of it. I watched quite a few YouTube tutorials before attempting for the first time. The edge of the nori without rice should be farthest away from you. Take your rolling matt and use it to bring the edge of the sushi closest to you over the pile of veggies. Tuck any spilling veggies back in with your fingers. Reposition your mat and turn the sushi over one more time. With your fingers, bring the edge of sushi without the rice on top of the roll. If it doesn’t stick, wet your fingers and run them along the seem.

9) Using a serrated knife, cut into pieces.


Repeat twice–you should have enough rice & veggies for three rolls.

Enjoy with a glass of bubble tea!

bubble tea/boba

July 20, 2009

This Asian drink originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. David and I love it, but at $3.50 for a cup, it can get expensive quickly. We bought the powder and dried tapioca balls (”pearls”) at local Asian food stores. Here’s the recipe I concocted for frozen bubble tea–it’s so good! If you can’t find the bubble tea powder (or want a healthier alternative) there are a number of recipes online (like this one) that use fresh fruit & tea instead.

The tapioca pearls and the bubble tea powder.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons bubble tea powder (we have green tea powder)
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use skim), possibly a little more
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1/3 cup dried tapioca balls

Yields approximately 2 glasses

Directions

1) Follow the directions on the package for how to cook the tapioca balls. (I cooked mine by adding the dried balls to 5 cups of water, over medium heat. When the balls started to float, I covered them, turned the temperature down, and cooked for five minutes, until squishy). If you like them sweet you can add sugar to the water while they cook.

2) Put the ice, milk, bubble tea powder, and sugar in a blender. If it’s too thick and won’t blend, add more milk.

3) Divide the tapioca balls (”pearls”) between two cups, pour the blended beverage on top. Add a thick straw (also available at Asian markets)!

The glass with pearls, before the tea is added.

Students’ internships

July 16, 2009

Yesterday I went to get a haircut. On my way back, looking through the window at our local Public Access studio, I saw two of my students. I waved and they eagerly motioned for me to come inside.

In the spring, to promote our genocide awareness event (the culmination of a six-week interdisciplinary unit on genocide), my co-worker/friend Shannon and I were invited, along with five students, to promote the event on a local radio station. The students were interviewed on air about what they’d learned during the unit, what is currently happening in Darfur, and our event. For three students, this led to summer internships at both the radio station and our local Public Access station.

They met me at the side of the building and, after I signed in, they gave me a tour. They showed me a number of rooms in the studio (which has multiple floors and is a lot bigger than I imagined!), the equipment they are learning to use, and a number of projects they’ve been working on. In addition to interviewing, filming, and editing (using Final Cut Pro), they’ve gotten to go to swanky radio show conferences/events in Boston.

The woman in charge of their internships told me that they are the best interns she’s ever had and it must have something to do with our school. By the time I left, I was beaming–I’m so proud of them! It also made me feel pretty good that they were so excited to see me and catch up.

I have never needed a break from something as much as I did this summer. But I wonder what it means that one of the best moments so far has been the 45 minutes I spent with my students?

Sesame flaxseed crackers

July 11, 2009

I made these delicious crackers on Thursday, after searching for recipes that use flax seed. I used  this recipe (adapted from a recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)  but I changed several things.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 tablespoons almonds, ground finely (you could also use sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or a different type of nut)
  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 cups and 3 tablespoons of water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of agave nectar (you could use honey)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil

Optional: To glaze, mix 2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey) with 2 tablespoons of water.

Also optional: I sprinkled 1/4 of the crackers with cinnamon & sugar, 1/2 with salt, and 1/4 with cayenne powder (sweet, salty, and spicy).

Directions

1) Grind the almonds. Make sure they are very finely ground. I used my nut grinder, then used a knife.

2) Mix together all of the ingredients: flour, almonds, sesame seeds, water, agave nectar and oil.

3) It will take awhile to get all of the ingredients to stick together. Use your hands. Once the dough is gathered, kneed for 3 minutes.

4) Leave the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

5) Preheat the oven to 350 F.

6) Split the dough in half. Cover two cookie sheets with wax paper. Roll out the dough into two thin rectangles (to fit on the cookie sheets), then place on the wax paper.

7) For this next step, I lifted the dough (on the wax paper) off of the cookie sheet and onto a cutting board. Using a pizza wheel or cookie cutter, cut the dough into whatever shapes you’d like your crackers.

8) Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the trays and bake for an additional 10 minutes. After this time, some of my crackers were finished and others weren’t. They should be browned and crunchy, though they will become more crunchy as they cool. Remove the finished crackers, cook the rest until finished (mine took another 8 or so minutes).

9) Optional: Brush the cookies with the agave nectar & water mix.

10) Optional: Sprinkle with toppings (cinnamon & sugar, salt, cayenne powder, etc.)

These are the ones I sprinkled with salt.

Half of these are sprinkled with cayenne powder, half with cinnamon & sugar.

summer…

July 11, 2009

Going out to lunch with my mom and grandfather, heading to The Friendly Toast in Cambridge with David’s brother Brian, finally having time to get an eye exam & deal with things like that, going biking on Plum Island with my mom (16 miles), sunshine!!, making so much food… Today we’re going to RiverFest, tonight I’m going out with Anne, Alexis, and Amanda!

My mom on Plum Island. (We were walking our bikes here--they're only allowed on the road.)

Raspberry & cream cheese stuffed sweet bread

July 9, 2009

This is the other bread I made a couple days ago. It is not quite as healthy as the whole wheat flax seed bread, but it is SOOOO good! David thinks it tastes like challah mixed with coffee cake. The recipe makes two braids/loaves.

The raspberry cream cheese braid comes from the King Arthur’s Flour website. I made the sweet dough by looking at and combining a number of different recipes I found via Google.

Ingredients

Bread

  • 3 1/2 cups flour (plus some extra)
  • 1 package of yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg

Filling

  • 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam, mixed with 2 tablespoons flour

Directions

1) Mix together the 3 1/2 cups flour and the yeast.

2) Over the stove, heat the milk, sugar, and butter for the bread. Do not allow it to boil. Stir constantly until the butter is all melted.

3) Combine the liquid with the flour and yeast.

4) Add the egg. Using an egg mixer, beat the dough for a couple of minutes. *Warning: the dough will be extremely puffy and hard to control with the mixer. Make sure it doesn’t get up inside the mixer!

5) On a floured counter, knead the dough until it is smooth (5 or so minutes), then roll into a ball.

6) Brush a bowl with oil. Place the ball of dough inside and cover with a damp dish towel. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size.

7) Get the air out of the dough and divide it in half. Roll each half into a 15×10″ (or so) rectangle. Cover two cookie sheets with wax paper. If you have cooking spray, I’d recommend lightly spraying the wax paper, though it’s not absolutely necessary. Place the dough onto the wax paper.

8) To make the filling for the bread, use an egg mixer to beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar, and vanilla together. Add the flour, then the egg.

9) Spread half of the jam (don’t forget to mix it with the flour) onto each sheet of bread. You should spread it in a 3″ or so wide strip, lengthwise down the middle of the dough. Leave a 1-2″ border at the top and bottom.

10) On top of the jam, spread half of the cream cheese filling onto each of the doughs.

11) For this next part, I recommend lifting the parchment paper (with the dough rectangle) off of the cookie sheet and putting it on the counter or a cutting board. Cut 2″ long strips every 1″ down the length of both sides of the dough.

12) Starting at the top, fold the strips into the center of the dough, alternating sides. At the top, you’ll also need to fold the dough down so the filling doesn’t come out. Do this to both loaves of bread.

13) Cover the braids with a damp dish towel and allow to rise for 30 or so minutes, until they are puffy. When 30 minutes is up, you’ll want your oven preheated to 350 F.

14) Bake for approximately 35 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

I really recommend eating this warm!!

Whole wheat & flax seed bread

July 9, 2009

Here is the recipe for the bread I made the other day.

This is based on a recipe for Whole Wheat Harvest Bread that I found inMaking Fresh Bread” published by Parragon Books, 2008.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (I used less and it didn’t rise as much as I’d have liked; I’d definitely use a full packet)
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing*
  • 3 tbsp milled flax seed*
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water

*The original recipe called for 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Generally speaking, in most recipes you can replace 1 tablespoon of oil for a healthier 3 tablespoons of flaxseed. If you don’t like flaxseed (which is high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acid!), you can remove it and instead use 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil.

Directions

1) Sift the flour into a bowl. Stir in the sugar, flax seed, and yeast.

2) Make a well in the center and pour the oil, milk, and lukewarm water. Stir until the dough begins to come together, then use your hands to gather the dough.

3) On a floured counter, knead the dough for around 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.

4) Brush a bowl with oil. Roll the dough into a ball and place inside the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour, until it has doubled in volume.

5) Knead the dough on a floured counter for 1 minute.

6) Brush a loaf pan with oil (I used a 9×5 pan, though the original recipe called for a 61/2×41/4×31/4″ pan).

7) Shape the dough into a rectangle the same length as your pan. Flatten the dough slightly, then fold in lengthwise into three. Put it in the pan with the seam down. Make sure that the top is smooth–I wasn’t very careful about this, so you can see in the above photo that my loaf is a bit bumpy.

8) Cover the pan with a damp dish towel. Let it rise for 30 minutes, until the dough has reached the top of the pan. *Note: I had to wait much, much longer than 30 minutes for it to rise, and it still didn’t rise as much as I’d have liked, which is why I recommend using more yeast.* When the bread has finished rising, you’ll want your oven to be preheated to 425 F.

9) Bake the bread for 30 minutes. The bread will appear golden brown and sound hollow if you top the bottom with your knuckles. Place on a cooling rack.

We made veggie sandwiches!

We made veggie sandwiches!

An awesome five days! Oh, I love summer!

July 7, 2009

This is a long post…

July 3

On Friday, I went on a 25 mile bike ride with my mom. I hadn’t been feeling too well in the morning (I woke up with a terrible headache), but it was the first consistent sunshine we’d seen in days and I was dying to try out my new bike. Even though I wasn’t feeling great the whole time, it was awesome! I definitely went a lot faster on the road bike, though my mom still out rode me. I felt like it was easier to push myself really hard–I ended the bike ride more exhausted than I have felt in awhile. It’s definitely going to take a lot of practice. I had a hard time keeping my balance when I stood up to pedal really hard. Afterward, my mom and I went and got peppermint stick ice cream cones.

We then went berry picking at Brookdale Farm. I was supposed to go with co-workers earlier in the week, but it was pouring rain every day. We went to get strawberries, but also picked raspberries and cherries.

The fruit is so delicious–it’s amazing how much different it tastes from what you buy in the grocery store! David was pretty excited about the berries. We’ve been snacking on them and eating them on our cereal every morning.

That evening, we drove to my hometown, where my parents still live, for fireworks. We sat with my parents and grandfather, and a bunch of their neighbors and friends, and listened to the town band play before the fireworks started. I ran into my friend Holly who spent all of last year in Abu Dhabi working with a boy with autism; she goes back at the end of August. She works for the New England Center for Children, a non-profit organization that serves children with autism. It was really exciting to see her and hear about her incredible experiences this past year. I also ran into Alexis’s family.  It was strange, though, how few people I knew at the fireworks…

My parents enjoying the fireworks.

We spent the night at my parents’ because we were heading to the town parade the next day.

July 4

In the morning, my dad drove my grandfather to the center of town and my mom, David, and I walked.  It’s difficult to explain just how charming and quaint the annual 4th of July parade is. There are horses, marching bands, the town kazoo band, bagpipers, floats, every fire engine from several towns over, antique cars, revolutionary war reinactors, clowns, environmental groups, the boy scouts, antique bicycles… In election years, there are always politicians since the event is a great photo op (George Bush shook my hand one year, another year I saw Elizabeth Dole, I heard Bill Richardson speak last year…). As always, we stood in front of Carol, Jeff, Teydin, and Parker’s house.

After the parade we ate lunch on The Green where there are always a bunch of different booths selling food, raising money for various organizations and charities. David bought rootbeer to support the democrats.

Some bicycles on The Green after the parade. I decorated my bicycle and rode in the parade every year until I was in 4th or 5th grade.

My mom and David walking down the dirt road by my parents' house, heading home.

July 5

David stayed home to get some work done, but I headed to Squam Lake to spend time with my friend Sam and her mom (who was my Destination Imagination coach throughout high school and I call “Shmom” because she was like a second mom to all of us). Our friend Cliff, who we met eight years ago when our teams both went to Destination Imagination Global Finals, was also there. Sam’s parents live in a huge, beautiful house that they built way up on a hill (mountain is more like the right word? Their driveway has switchbacks). The house is nestled way up in the trees, with balconies on multiple levels that look down at the lake. Across the street from their long, very scary/steep driveway they have a gorgeous gazebo with a firepit, and a dock. When I got there we ate breakfast and then headed out on the boat.

Their house is about mid-way up, towards the right. They built it so it would blend in with the natural landscape and be hard to see from the water.

Sam and me. Photo taken by Sam.

Sam and me. Photo taken by Sam.

Cliff goes tubing!

Cliff goes tubing!

Sam took this photo of me.

Cliff playing the banjo on the dock.

Cliff playing the banjo on the dock.

Sam took this photo of me on the dock.

Sam’s parents made us an early dinner before we headed off. I had a veggie burger and grilled vegetables (eggplant, red pepper, zuchini, and onions). The grilled vegetables were soooo good. We had grilled pinapple with vanilla ice cream for dessert! It was such a wonderful day in the sun. It was so good to see Shmom, Cliff, and Sam.

When I got home that evening, David really wanted to go see our city’s fireworks, which had been postponed a day because of weather (though the previous evening had been clear?). We tried to ride our bikes, but after awhile the traffic was too scary and there was absolutely no shoulder, so we walked our bikes.

The fireworks were shot off over the river. There was a beautiful full moon.

The fireworks were shot off over the river. There was a beautiful full moon.

We found a sandy shore where we watched the fireworks from.

While it wasn’t quite as quaint as the celebration the day before, the fireworks show was really long and impressive. They had about three “finales.”

July 6

Since David had worked a half day on Sunday, we headed to the beach in the late morning (David worked in the early morning and when we returned). We went to Hampton Beach, which is usually pretty crowded and has lots of tacky gift shops, but I like walking on the boardwalk. We got lunch, played word games while lying in the sun, and then we went swimming. It feels so good to be outside!!

July 7

The sun has gone away… It’s been pouring for most of today. I used the rain as an opportunity to spend the afternoon baking! I baked two new kinds of bread, a whole wheat & flaxseed bread and a sweet dough bread stuffed with raspberry jam & cream cheese. I’ll post the recipes tomorrow!