More Food

I've been doing a lot of cooking this summer.I've included some pics of the recipes that were fairly successful below.

We begin with Ropa Vieja a Cuban dish of shredded beef, spices, peppers and onions. I serve it over rice with tortillas. It takes about 4 hours to make this, but it's delicious and very hearty. You start by boiling about 2lbs of flank steak with celery, onions, carrots, garlic and a couple of bay leaves. After that, you take the beef out and let it cool - you need to make sure it's cooled completely or you'll burn your fingers when you shred the beef. You reduce the boiling liquid, saute some garlic, onions, green peppers, jalapenos, add some cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper. At that point, you add the beef back to the reduced liquid, stir in the sauteed veggies and add a can of tomatoes, let simmer for an hour or two and enjoy.

Next we have a very simple dish. This is a homemade pizza that the kids like to call "spaghetti and meatsauce pizza." There is no spaghetti on this pizza. There is the meatsauce that I normally serve over spaghetti on top of the pizza with pizza cheese and viola! spaghetti and meatsauce pizza. There were no leftovers of this dish.

This poorly taken picture is of spinach and mushroom ricotta stuffed chicken. No one liked this dish so I probably won't make it again. I thought it was pretty tasty so if I lived alone or only cared about myself, I'd make it again. I also ended up with a metric buttload of the ricotta mixture left over and have no idea what to do with it...so I bought some phyllo dough and am going to layer it for a spanakopita kind of thing. No one will eat that either. but I think it'll look pretty and I know I'll eat it. Go me...I like food.

This next dish was a huge success. This is my Four Cheese Stuffed Shells dish and this was devoured by the family. It was crazy easy to make. I also think it will be replacing my lasagne dish that I normally make for new parents as a gift of sorts. What were the four cheeses? I thought you'd never ask, thanks. I used low fat ricotta, parmesean, mozzarella and (here's the kicker) asiago. I also came up with a recipe for a simple tomato sauce to accompany the shells. It's pretty simple - saute onions and garlic (with salt and pepper) in a little bit of olive oil till they're translucent, add a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, allow this mixture to steep for about 20 minutes, then add some chopped fresh oregano and you've created a pretty tasty marinara type sauce all your own that will taste 100X better than prego or ragu. The Rapunzel Barbie cup is John's. He loves drinking his milk out of that stupid thing.

The next dish was really fun to put together and will definitely be a "do-over." This is shrimp etouffee. I made a nice chocolate-colored roux, added the celery, peppers and onions. From there, I added some clam juice, spices and then the shrimp. We served this over rice. Next time I make it, I'm going to try it with chicken and andouille sausage instead of the shrimp. Not because I don't like shrimp, but because shrimp is expensive, time consuming and the things are bottom-feeders that look like cockroaches on the bottom of the ocean floor. More and more shrimp are kinda starting to disgust me and I don't serve them nearly as often as I used to...

And...that's it for now. I'll cook again. There are people who live in my house who expect it from me. I try not to disappoint them...


Summertime...and the cookin' is easy...

I've been doing a lot of cooking the past couple of days, well, weeks really. I invented a recipe for keylime shortbreads (too popular to keep around long enough for pics), made homemade doughnuts, a festive 4th of July trifle/parfait type of thing and took a basic recipe for chicken tetrazini and made it low fat and a little healthier than usual.

Here is the parfait. I made a white cake mix, folded vanilla pudding into homemade whipped cream, made a berry compote and added fresh uncooked berries to layer in this recipe. We'll add sparklers to it on the actual 4th of July and celebrate.

Here's the tetrazini and I'll quickly admit the photo makes it look like it was a little dry. It was not. It was delicious. Instead of adding cream or milk to the bechamel sauce, I instead used lowfat chicken stock and it was very good. I also grilled the chicken breast for added taste and sauteed the mushrooms with minced garlic. This was freaking delicious and with the exception of one modest lunch-sized portion for the next day was gone within minutes. I was very happy with the outcome of this dish.

I'm planning to make a few new dishes for the family this summer. I'm thinking we'll go for a nice and spicy shrimp etoufee next. Because I feel like taking pics and posting stuff right now, you'll probably get to see the stuff soon, assuming I keep posting stuff. Stay tuned!

PS. There is no beef sauteed with peas and onions in the parfait.


Oh Come ON!

So, we're going to Chicago with the kids to catch a Cubs game(bc they're playing the Reds) in early August and we're planning the trip and places to eat and such...a trip to the Field Museum, Wrigleyville, probably walk along Michigan Ave.

And, I'm trying to find the best breakfast in Chicago. I Googled "Chicago Breakfast" and found a site with the Ten Best Breakfast's for the area and was very disappointed with the result.

Original Pancake House? Really? A chain restaurant gets the #1 vote? I can go there while sleeping in my own house.

So - anyone know of a great breakfast place in Chicago near Wrigleyville that isn't Lou Mitchell's?


The food really has been good...(tldr)

It's a long read and I'm fairly confident only one loyal follower will read this in its entirety, but here's the email that was submitted late last night to present the issues we've been having with this camp....

Mme. President,
Greetings from the 2011 Gainesville Camp! We felt that we needed to report to you the current situation at the camp so that you can be fully aware of what is going on as well as we felt if we didn’t start writing this stuff down as we went we would never be able to adequately capture the true atmosphere of the working environment.
FIRST: The positive notes…..
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for paying for us to stay in a hotel! We have had rather challenging couple of days and have needed the opportunity to unwind and relax in a comfortable setting with reliable Internet service. Also the quality and quantity of the food being provided by the University support personnel has been wonderful so far. They decided to also provide lunches for us and the participating teachers (this may not seem as impressive after you read the rest of this report) in addition to providing breakfast snacks. In addition, the people in the Materials Science Department with whom we have worked have been very cordial and the graduate students (especially Jessie and Nigel) have been outstanding with helping us when needed (once they were made aware that we needed help). The lecture room is a nice size with working technology and the lab (room 115) is a bit small (probably could only really accommodate about 14 participants) but located just around two corners on the same floor as the lecture room. Did I mention the food was good?.......

SECOND: Our challenges so far……
Amy, Becky, and I have worked hard to heed the feedback provided by Jim and Margaret (last year’s teachers) and satisfy all of the logistical and procedural requirements of the University (all that were communicated by Tinkerbell to us) and have tried to make sure that you were copied on our email communications. For example, I pressed for the correct procedure to get a rental car for us and Tinkerbell made our reservation with the negotiated provider, Avis, and took care of the requirement to have a special voucher prepared for me so give to the Avis counter so that the University would be billed directly. However, I still had to remind Tinkerbell on June 9th that I had not received that voucher. Tinkerbell had the voucher overnighted to me in CA and I received the voucher the day before I flew to FL for the camp. We have also submitted all paper work prior to arrival at the camp (by a few weeks) as requested by Tinkerbell in order to secure payment of our salary for the week.
• I had requested to Tinkerbell that we meet on Saturday afternoon so that we could look over the past supplies and get a few things organized prior to the arrival of participating teachers on Sunday. This request was denied because we were told that they have always met up with the lead teachers on Sunday prior to the start of the camp and that seemed to work. For the record: THIS DID NOT WORK nor should this practice be continued in the future. If you are going to have a camp that starts on Sunday, the University must make arrangements to have at least a 3 hour work session on Saturday to complete a local shopping list based upon the final inspection of the current stock of chemicals and consumable items. We were not able to get into the building of the camp until 1pm on Sunday afternoon (participants were scheduled to arrive at 3pm). When we arrived, we opened up the lecture room the lab room and proceeded to locate the past supplies. The location where the past supplies had been stored was empty. [A new faculty member had joined the department in Jan. and had taken over the lab where the supplies had been stored. That individual wanted them removed and another professor was asked to remove them. The faculty member who was asked to remove the supplies is on vacation in another state and has also accepted a position at another university for the fall so there didn’t seem like there was a strong motivation to attend to such details.] After a few phone calls the supplies were finally located strewn in various boxes on the floor, on a counter, and randomly placed in a metal storage unit in a lab (room 264) across the hall from the previous location. We finally secured access to the past supplies around 4:30 pm (that was 1 ½ hours AFTER the scheduled start of the camp). Moonblossom informed Tinkerbell to take photos of the condition of the supplies and we assume some feedback will be given to the out-going professor that this type of movement should not happen again (I guess this out-going professor will be strongly encouraged to not to do something like this again at his FUTURE university???? Not sure this will help future ASM camps). FYI. The supplies were labeled as “MSE Teacher Supplies” so if you have groups here in the future they will need to ask for the supplies by this name NOT by “ASM Teacher Camp” supplies.
• Amy had been informed by Tinkerbell that that Moonblossom, the department advising director, was going to give a short presentation on Sunday night as part of the opening meeting. Amy was informed at 2:30pm on Sunday that Marsha was NOT going to present to the group (30 min prior to arrival of participants) because she was going to reschedule to a later day. However, Moonblossom showed up to eat with the group at 5:30pm on Sunday and only interacted briefly with Amy and Bruce but did not talk with any of the participating teachers. Tinkerbell informed us that they usually do the oobleck on the first night. This news came as a surprise to us since we had been told that the participants only got a brief intro to University procedures etc, had a meal together, and then checked into the dorms. We were still unaware of the location of the past supplies and had not be able to do ANY local shopping because Tinkerbell had to be with one of us at WalMart to make the purchase on the department p-chard, but Tinkerbell couldn’t get away because we were all looking for the missing supplies (are you starting to see the pattern?).
• Since we discovered that we were expected to actually DO something with the participating teachers on Sunday night, we located the supply of Raku clay and thought we could also do the cement pucks activity. Upon further investigation the raku clay was too dry to use that night (we needed to re-hydrate the clay overnight) as well as the fact one of the teachers didn’t arrive until about 4:30 so prior to that we only had 2 participants.
• Now for the big shocker….. As just mentioned we only have 3 participants at this camp. One participant was encouraged by Tinkerbell to come down to the Gainesville camp (but this teacher lives in Atlanta), one participant has done the year 1 camp 3 times prior to this year (this is his 4th time at a year 1 camp and he says he is coming to the year 2 camp –name is Westminster , and the last participant came from Australia [after further questioning though he had flown in two days earlier to spend time with friends in San Francisco so if ASM had known such information, the foundation could have re-directed him to another camp, even if you needed to pay a re-booking fee for him). We are not trying to be conspiracy theorists but it seemed to us if ASM had been adequately in the loop on the registration list, the foundation could have easily accommodated the three participants through other camps and not needed to run this camp.
• After the meal, Daylily, another member of the Department support staff who was assigned to help us during the week, took the participants to the dorm to sign in. The 3 of us and Tinkerbell went up to the location of the past supplies and decided to use that room as our staging area and began to pull out supplies for Monday’s agenda. We worked to make the sodium acetate demo solutions as well as the copper (II) sulfate solutions and finally left the University at about 9pm.
Monday (things continue to be interesting)
• Monday morning a grad student by the name of Nigel was located and, we later found out, had helped out previous camps (there was a large group sigh of relief upon this discovery of personnel). When we got to talking to Nigel, he informed Becky that he had not been called until 11pm on Sunday night and asked to help us out. Nigel had no idea that we were coming this week even though I had asked Tinkerbell on more than one occasion (both verbal phone communications and written email communications) to try to ask if any graduate students were available because we had been informed by past master teachers that these students were a huge help to the program. This gets even better. Guess who called Nigel to ask him to help? It was the professor who is out of state on vacation and not returning to the university in the fall (this request we assume was initiated as a result of Tinkerbell calling the professor to try to find the missing moved camp supplies). Regardless of how he came to help us….there continues to be much rejoicing at his presence among us!
• Another day in the life of the Gainesville camp…. At one time during the day there began to be a gathering of high school and graduate students outside of our lecture room. Come to find out, this other department faculty member had followed department procedures and reserved our lecture room on the on-line room scheduling site. Our program was NOWHERE on the master schedule. This faculty member graciously worked to find another location so the six of us could continue on our journey through the curriculum in the same room.
• We had provided Tinkerbell with a list of our local shopping items on Sunday night before we left the building. However, at about 12:30 pm on Monday I had to inquire of Tinkerbell if she had gotten the local supplies on the list. She told me to give her the final list and she would go. A bit confused, I went back to the lecture room to find the list right where we had given it to her on Sunday night. I handed it again to Tinkerbell and said that I really needed the balloons for the afternoon session to do an activity on bonding. She called to the campus book store and was unable to find a close location to purchase balloons. She also noticed that we had ziplock bags on the list and proceeded to go over to the department supply closet and see how many bags they had. I was finally able to convince her to just purchase everything on the list and if we didn’t need all of the bags, they could use them up over time for normal department use. We finally got our list of local supplies about 3pm on Monday afternoon (I had already gone through the bonding demo and we used tennis balls for the activity which kind of worked -- we made due).
• Also to note: we have NO tours confirmed of the department (we were able to get a lead through the efforts of Nigel. Amy is going to follow up on this tomorrow), we have NO field trip planned, we have NO ASM contact at all, we have NO faculty contact or greeting other than Moonblossom who never ended up talking to the participants yet and who is the department advisor and not an active teaching/research member.
• On a positive note…. I realized once I got here that I had worked with Dr. Appamattix Stonwall in the MSE department through the POGIL national meeting two years ago and he had helped me get some resources for teaching materials science. I’ve contacted him and he is scheduled to share with the group on Thursday morning. I also am scheduled to have lunch with him on Thurs. to talk about his POGIL work as well as I am planning to probe his take on the teacher camp at UofF. Come to find out, Appamattix is the Assistant Department Chair so he is in a position of leadership for the department.
So What Now….
We are all doing well so don’t worry about us (did I mention we are REALLY thankful for being able to unwind in a comfortable hotel room?). Becky and I are learning a lot about the pacing and preparation for the week’s activities and feel this experience will prepare us well for our next camp. We honestly are feeling very concerned about the magnitude of financial expense the foundation is incurring for this learning experience for us. As mentioned earlier we feel that the needs of these teachers could have been adequately met with an earlier intervention and much less money spent. We all talked about the items shared above and I somehow got elected to put them down in writing to you but I believe I have captured the main ideas we had discussed tonight at dinner.
My suggestion would be for you and Chuck to discuss how you would like to use us while we are here on site. Obviously we are going to deliver the curriculum to our 3 participants (who we feel are extremely engaged with the material and are having a very positive learning experience) but I thought you might want to have one, two, or all three of us try to get a quick meeting with the chair of the department to ask a question like, “We have enjoyed working with the teachers this week but we were wondering how you (as the department) envision this teachers’ camp fitting into your vision for outreach to the K-12 community?” I think we would just want to hear from their perspective and then if they asked, provide feedback like, “Well, we didn’t get a strong sense that this program with a priority or even an interest to the department. In other locations we are greeted by at least one faculty member as well as some representative of leadership in the university as well as having a “go to” faculty member who wants to see more materials science introduced at the middle and high school level. We didn’t feel such an interest here. We are not leadership with the ASM Foundation but we would like to hear from your department’s perspective what could be done to better fit into your outreach priorities and improve the camp in the future.” I think this location struggles from (and we have some personal thoughts on why this might be) marginalizing the perspective of the leading teachers and thereby not acknowledging that this camp has some severe challenges which need to be addressed.

Bottom line….. we think you at the foundation need to take a long look at how you want to proceed with this site in the future. I think this department is a strategic partner due to its prominence in the national materials science community but you may need to re-think what the best way to partner with them looks like. The department here might need some help re-casting a vision for impacting the K-12 education community.

I know this communication is rather long but we felt we wanted you to be fully informed of the situation so you can make some immediate decisions on how you want to use us while we are here.


Not Just Yet...

The saga of Material Science Camp continues. I'm not going to go through the bullet points of a
ll the crap we're dealing with yet because it's being composed in an email right now and I plan to copy and paste/remove names, etc. and then share it with you.

Right now, I'm in a hotel room listening to the girls in the room next to me open the adjoining doors to my room and talk about how they can't get in my room. I'm considering opening the door and just standing there to freak them out next time they open the door.

See you tomorrow...


Settling down...

Moments after I finished writing yesterday's blog post, my phone rang and the lead teacher for the Material Science camp was asking me if I wanted to meet to plan the next couple of days of the camp in the lobby of our hotel.

Plan? Are you kidding me? Hellz yeah I wanted to plan...I needed to do something to stop obsessing...

So, we met and I took some notes and felt scads better. I went back up to the room where the boys were all still asleep. I showered and got ready to go out to dinner and grab some Diet Coke and a bottle of wine for the week. The boys followed suit and we were out on the town.

We found a fun sports bar on campus called The End Zone and were fully immersed in University of Florida fun. In fact, we got to watch Florida play in the college world series while we ate. And while no one opted to take the Gator Cup Burger Challege...we did eat alligator.

So, pretty complete Florida experience for dinner. The female wait-staff at The End Zone dressed in Hooter's style attire, tights, royal blue shortie shorts, an orange Gator's t-shirt cut into a v in the front and tied up in the back to reveal their stomach and back a little, and some bizarre variation of woolen knee socks with royal blue, orange and white colors. The boys were bummed we happened to get the only male waiter in the place.

From there we went to Publix for groceries, and then to some cross bt a Dick's Sporting Goods and a Deveroe's for the boys. We got ice cream and called it a night. When I got home, Return of the King was on TNT so I was able to drift to sleep dreaming of Aragorn jumping of the Corsair's ship with the men of the mountain and all was well.

Till we got to the University of Florida this morning, of course...but that's for another post. Stay tuned till tomorrow...


It's Been A While...

Today, I find myself in a hotel room in Gainesville, Florida the day before I get to teach my first Material Science Camp.

Had I written this post earlier in the week, I'd have mentioned how excited I was to get to camp and how much fun I was planning on having at The University of Florida working with teachers so that they can bring Material Science into their classrooms.

I started teaching Material Science this past year and it's a great class. It focuses on Metals, Crystals, Corrosion, Composites, Ceramics and Polymers. It's just a semester and it's lab intensive.

ASM International funds classes each summer for teachers like me so that they can recruit more high school students to become Material Science engineers...you know, people who make stuff. Making stuff drives the economy and is important and there are a lot of different jobs out there in this field so spreading the word is a good thing.

Anyway...now I'm a fit of nerves. I'm in the hotel room with my husband, son and son's friend. They're all asleep bc we drove through the night after the boys played a baseball game last night at 8:15. I'm wearing the same clothes I wore all day yesterday still. I tried to sleep for the past hour but couldn't seem to drift off completely...kept rousing thinking about the events of the past 24 hours:

  • The little one was supposed to come with us
  • At 2:00 yesterday U of Florida said she wouldn't be allowed in the lab
  • I had been upfront about bringing her since I was assigned this camp and suddenlythey decided she couldn't come yesterday.
  • My car was in the shop and wasn't ready till 1:30 yesterday afternoon
  • None of our phones worked for some reason for about 5 hours yesterday afternoon
  • We scrambled to get my mom to take care of the little one for us while we were gone
  • The oldest and his friend are going to Florida State tomorrow for a week long baseball camp - my husband is taking them and flying back home on Monday evening
  • While I was in Gainesville, the little one was in my mom's car as it got rear-ended
  • I talked to the other two teachers from the ASM camp and they have heard reports of 13, 8 or maybe as few as 3 teachers for us to teach at the camp this week
  • I haven't slept for more than 90 minutes in a row in the past 33 hours
  • I haven't eaten anything more than a bite of my husband's breakfast sandwich since midnight last night
  • I'm about as much of a wreck as I think I've ever been in my life...
I know sleep will help once it comes as will getting through the first couple of days of camp...but until then, I'm a lunatic.