31 October 2007

Coffee issues

I didn't really drink coffee before I started my doctoral program. I mean, I used to drink it once in awhile, and so splurging on mochas and lattes was no big deal. Now, I drink coffee almost everyday though and I keep trying to figure out how to save money.

During the week, I mostly get free coffee in the office. And I've also developed a taste for Americanos and brewed coffee so I don't mind paying for a cup or two every now and then.

I also bought a coffee maker last year though. My current problem is that we don't make coffee fast enough. The grounds always lose their taste when I'm not even halfway through the bag. I Googled and tried different ways of storing--in the freezer, in the fridge, at room temperature, in an air-tight container... it's not working. I guess I don't brew coffee often enough to keep my own grounds. Even on the weekends, most of the time we are restless and looking for an excuse to go out to the coffee shop so it's sort of rare that we actually use the machine. Still, I like the idea of making my own to save money!

So, what should I do--give up on making my own coffee or invest in a bean grinder, buy whole beans, and grind my own? Does anyone do this? Will it do the trick? Or is it actually a better financial decision for me to pay others to make my coffee? Do you think Ryan could make a formula for me to figure this out?


Buying oatmeal

You'd think
buying generic oatmeal would be no big deal, wouldn't you? Or maybe it is just me. In case you are wondering, brand matters. I usually buy Quaker--in bulk from Costco. Besides oatmeal is so cheap anyway that even the big brand is still cheap. The box is sort of unwieldy though so I decided I'd go with the supermarket brand. It was probably like a dollar for the standard round box.

And it was sooo nasty. I could tell before I cooked it that the grains were smaller. And after it was cooked, it was glue-y. So... I guess we will use it for cookies or something. Just wanted to share my experience... beware generic oatmeal...

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Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

This was my first time making pork loin and Kea and I settled on this recipe because he said he likes pork with gravy. We ended up buying this huge, nine pound loin because it was a dollar cheaper per pound. So we used a third of it and froze the rest.

I'm used to making things like stews, soups, and casseroles, and I was surprised at how easy this recipe was. We basically just salt and pepper the loin and through it in the oven. Actually, we used seasoned salt since we had it, which may have added a little extra boost.

The garlic roasted at the same time and then I threw the cloves along with the other ingredients together and mooshed them with our immersion blender. That was it!

(Oh, we did set the smoke alarm off a few times though. So maybe make sure your oven is clean first. We're not really sure what happened... something must've overflowed last time we used the oven... and our smoke detector is really sensitive...)

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21 October 2007

Ina Garten's Mexican Chicken Soup

My husband has developed an obsession with cumin. He puts it in everything. I'm very opposed to this. I think that some flavors match and some don't and you can't go throwing cumin in everything. I also think that cumin smells a bit like body odor, but I still like it--when appropriate.

Anyway, I bookmarked this recipe for him. Well, not only for him. Also because it's easy and it's soup, which it sometimes seems we pretty much live on. Anyway, it turned out great--nice and spicy. I even subbed some pickled jalapenos for the fresh ones because our market had run out. I think because of this I didn't have to add any salt at the end.

I also may have salted the chicken a bit too liberally. I don't know. I can never tell what's what when seasoning chicken. I also considered stewing the chicken rather than pre-roasting it, but the roasting actually turned out to be not that big a deal. I even used boneless skinless breasts and the flavor was still good.

I even like the flour tortillas in the soup, which I was a bit worried about since I am not a big fan of them. I don't know if it is the lard or if I have a mild wheat allergy, but they sometimes make me nauseous. Here though, they are like noodles! (I have tried tortilla soup before, but never met one I really liked.)

Anyway, this one's going into the rotation--especially for when one of us has got a cold.

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15 October 2007

Little Rock, AR

What!? Yup. Seems like I only travel for conferences, thus you get food reports from the random places I end up.

So, Little Rock. True to (some) stereotypes of the south, people were really nice, for example, the shuttle drivers and everyone at the hotel (La Quinta). Seriously, this woman walked by me, I shifted a little, and she apologized for being in my way. It was ridiculous.

But anyway, the shuttle driver recommended we eat at Rumba. It is sort of Latin-ish, with tapas and stuff. Anyway, the best tapas dish we had was this chimichurri beef thing. Yum!! The plantains were also good, but the pork was a little bland. I also ordered enchiladas, which were fine. I don't know... I wasn't too excited about the other things on the menu. There were a lot of sandwiches that sounded good, but I'm not big on sandwichees for dinner. And then there was a lot of adventurous stuff--like fruit in savory dishes, which... I don't know... I guess I wasn't in the mood for... or I didn't necessarily trust the place with that kind of thing. It seemed like a very hip restaurant and... I guess I didn't feel like being the audience for their hip experimentation.

We also had drinks. Three of us had a drink with sugar cane liquor, which was very strong! Another girl had a mojito, which probably was not as strong and probably tasted better. We also sat on the porch, which was awesome, except when the mosquitoes came out.

We also had two meals at The Flying Fish. Mostly fried stuff, mostly seafood, really excellent. Other folks were really excited about the catfish and seafood sandwiches like the lobster roll. I tried my friend's catfish and learned that I don't like catfish, but even the chicken strips were good. The batter was just excellent. I think one kind of food Hawai'i may be missing is southern-style fried chicken. Of course Hawaii's got Korean fried chicken and all that, but as far as the southern-style, I think the best we have is Popeye's, which I am a fan of, but I can see that there is room for growth.

Our meals also came with hush puppies, which were so awesome! The only other place I've had these were at that New Orleans-themed food court restaurant. Needless to say, these were completely different. The texture was like andagi, with the crispy layer on the outside, but of course with a more savory flavor.

We also got side orders of fried okra and pickled green tomatoes (not fried), which were both awesome. The shop also offers fresh lemonade and lots of hot sauce!

We had drinks at The Flying Saucer, where my friends realized how much I like beer. I had a UK/Ireland flight that ended with the lovely Young's Double Chocolate Stout. I think there was a Harp's in there. I forget, but they were all excellent. The beer menu was super long. There were at least a few other flights to choose from, plus Snakebites and other combos. And even a wheat-free beer.

The one down-side to this place (or up-side, depending on how you look at it) is that there were way too many guys. In fact, this whole town seems to have way too many guys. Just walking down the street, guys unabashedly check out any woman who walks by. In the bar it seems even worse though. Maybe cuz it's a bar? Maybe cuz all the hostesses are dressed like school girls, which seems like it would sort of encourage the gawking?

We also spent some time in a coffee shop. Of course I can't remember what it's called. It had "bread" in the name. Anyway, the coffee was awesome as were the sandwiches and soups. It was sort of a fancy soup and sandwich place. I had a tomato-based soup which was really yummy and a huge vegan sandwich with hummus and all kinds of yummy veggies on really good bread. Of course. I got a half sandwich, which was still pretty big, and it also came with potato chips. Huzzah!