Saturday, January 30, 2010

The view out my window this morning:

We've got about two inches on the ground, maybe a little more. The Tennessean is reporting 82 traffic 'incidents' so far today, and apparently there were 148 yesterday by some point in the afternoon. This is why I'm not leaving my apartment all weekend: 1. Tennessee does almost nothing to combat snow on the roads, and 2. no one here has the faintest idea how to drive on anything white or frozen.

I think Nashville's relationship with winter weather can be pretty well summed up by an interaction I had in December 2008, when approximately 1/4" of wet snow fell one afternoon. I was leaving my job to drive home, and one of the other tutors stopped me and said (completely seriously), "Are you sure you want to leave now? It's a blizzard out there!"

Monday, January 25, 2010


I've been getting braver with my gluten free baking experiments. I tried making the Joy of Cooking's banana bread recipe with GF flours instead of regular flour, just off the cuff as it were, and it wasn't a total failure! Just a semi-failure.

I've also been making pancakes with various GF flours to get a feel for them. Turns out that buckwheat is quite tasty and sorghum is possibly magical. I made entirely successful - delicious, even! - pancakes both with a buckwheat/millet/potato flour mix, and with straight sorghum flour. Sorghum might be my new favorite thing. (Of course some good, grade B maple syrup doesn't hurt either.)

But there's one thing I've been dreading, been avoiding like the plague, been doing research to see if I can do without. Xantham gum. (insert scary music)

Xantham gum and guar gum are the two things generally used to give GF baked goods a gluten-like texture. They are also, as I understand it, to blame for the gross, gummy texture of many GF goods. In fact, at a GF bakery in NJ the owner let me sample some bread made wtih the xanthan gum she normally uses and then a loaf made with a different brand of it: the second loaf was gummy and not so good. BECAUSE OF A DIFFERENT BRAND. This is why this stuff scares me. Guar gum, for no reason whatsoever, scares me less and is supposedly much cheaper to buy... but I haven't yet found it in a store. Xantham gum, on the other hand, sits right in the baking aisle in Whole Foods... and costs $12 for a bag that I think weighs a pound. Granted, a recipe generally uses only a teaspoon or so, but still. $12! For a little bitty bag of powder! I'm not generally in the habit of buying the kinds of things that carry that sort of cost-to-weight ratio. However, the majority of GF recipes I've been finding include the damn stuff, and the blogger/cooks I've started following (who seem quite knowledgable, based on lots and lots of experience) all include it in their recipes.


So this weekend I bit the bullet and bought some. ($12!!) Then I had to convince myself to use it.

Well, since store-bought GF baked products are hit-or-miss, I haven't bothered buying any pre-made cookies, cakes, or similar. It just didn't seem worth it. But for most of the last week I've been craving something starchy and sweet, warm from the oven. So I picked out two possible recipes to bake - both including xanthan gum. The one I really wanted to try was for GF monkey bread - a sweet, yeasted bread - but between getting home from the gym and leaving for work today I wasn't going to have enough time for the rising and baking, and I sure wasn't going to wait until next weekend when I'd have time to bake again. Instead I made a berry coffee cake kind of thing. (It's billed as a blueberry crumb cake, but I used the frozen mixed berries I had on hand, and was too lazy to make a proper crumb mixture so I just sprinkled brown sugar on top.)

It started smelling delicious about a half hour into the baking, and - miracle of miracles! - it tastes delicious, too!

I'm now at work with a piece of it in a plastic container and as it finishes cooling I keep taking little tastes, hunting for any hint of gummy, gluey grossness. None dectectable so far. This is good news, people. There may be some delicious baking in my future.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The best thing about being gluten free? All the amazing food I get to eat!

For someone who historically has staunchly claimed "I don't cook," I seem to be doing a lot of cooking lately.

Last night I made a Thai-style curry with broccoli and baked tofu over brown rice. As you may recall I don't usually do so well with the stove top. I knew the rice would be fine, because I bake it in the oven. ( - it comes out perfect every time.) I also had faith in the tofu, for the first time ever, because I've finally given up on frying it and just bake it in pieces on a cookie sheet instead. But putting it all together, and getting the curry sauce to taste good... I wasn't sure how that would go.

I oversteamed the broccoli slightly, so that wasn't a great way to start. And the sweet potato that I'd been planning to include got so soft when I cooked it in the microwave that it was hopeless. Awesome. But then some sort of minor culinary miracle occurred, and when I cooked and onion with some ginger, poured in coconut milk from a can, added some fish sauce and tamari based on a recipe I was too lazy to follow, and assembled the whole megillah in a bowl... it was delicious! Success!

After that came the recipe I knew would be problematic only in my desire to eat its entire product in one sitting: flourless chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. - about halfway down the page is the version I made, using agave nectar. And adding chocolate chips, of course. Spectacular. I will have to make rules about how often I'm allowed to bake these.

That was where I stopped last night, but this afternoon there's gonna be more fun. I'm making crustless quiche cups and stir fried cabbage with carrots and bean sprouts.

As soon as my brand new immersion blender arrives (I had too much to carry on the plane back from NJ), I'll be starting on my list of soup recipes, and I've got a stack of other rice and/or potato based recipes to try. Plus I have to investigate the whole quinoa situation...

I foresee one major problem in the near future: running out of freezer space.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Office, v. LRC

I've just started a new part time job, and for the pay-to-effort ratio it's one of the best jobs I've ever had. Maybe THE best job. Not when you consider other factors, of course, like contributing to society or helping the human race in some fashion, but I'm enjoying what I've got.

I sit and surf the internet. Or read books. Or get work done. And maybe once every two or three hours I walk into a room, put a DVD in a player, and press play. Or take it out, put it back in the case, and turn off the lights. Does it get any better?

This has gotten me thinking about other jobs I've had, both good and bad. I don't think I'll do an in-depth study of each, but here's a bit of a highlight reel of the last however-many years:

- I served wine in tiny plastic cups and scooped brownies out of a tray.
- I played a 16 year old track star (trust me, this is hilarious) in a touring, anti-smoking propaganda play.
- I worked for a maniac.
- I worked for someone who barely spoke.
- I worked at a place where I had nowhere to sit for a week so they put me in an office with no phone and no computer, where all I could do was sit and wait for someone to give me papers to file.
- I've taught calculus. Oh yes.
- I once learned a programming language so I could write scripts for the web pages I was learning how to build.
- I babysat for a lot of children - some lovely, some definitely not.
- I stood on a street corner handing out pamphlets to passersby.
- I stood on a different street corner handing out water and energy beans to marathoners in training.
- I sat for eight hours a day and read. (Mostly.)

...and I'm sure there are more that aren't immediately coming to mind. But for my age, I feel this is a decent list of odd ways of having made a paycheck.

What are some good, bad, or just plain weird jobs you've had?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More pencils, more books...

The night before the first day of school. Didn't this used to be exciting? Didn't it - once upon a time - involve elaborately planned outfits and freshly filled pencil cases?

I'm celebrating the night before the first day of school by washing my sheets (mmm clean, flannel sheets!), drinking tea (apple cinnamon spice), and watching Food, Inc. on Netflix streaming. (It's very good. And horrifying. Watch it.)

This does not seem a proper celebration.

And yet... I feel like it's a pretty awesome way to spend a Tuesday night...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

May you live in uneventful times.

Back in Nashville just in time to catch the tail end of the cold snap. It's been even colder here than in Jersey the last week or two, which I guess means I picked a good time to be out of town. Today the temp was about the same in both places... but somehow the cold in Nashville doesn't feel quite as cold.

Fortunately it's due to warm up in both places this week, and of course a bit more here than there. As much as I love my down coat, I'll be very happy to leave it hanging in the closet.

Meanwhile, the highs in San Francisco are nearly 60 all week...

The best thing I can say about the traveling I've been doing the last year and a half is that TRAVEL has finally stopped seeming like a BIG DEAL. You just get on a plane. Well, you stand around the airport for a good long while, and let people invade your privacy pretty thoroughly, and then sit around a while longer, and THEN you get on a plane. But still. Not that big a deal. All it takes is money. ("All." Ha!) And so (as I try to find some magic money tree seeds) the list of places to travel to continues to grow.

As for today's travel, the best thing I can say about it is that - except for the unexpected extra hour of sitting in Newark airport surrounded by college students who apparently all think leggings are the same thing as pants (THEY'RE NOT) - it was uneventful. That's my favorite kind of travel: uneventful.

In fact the whole day has been monumentally uneventful, and right now that seems about perfect. Kroger was uneventful. Whole Foods was uneventful. My Netflix DVD and frozen (gluten free!) dinner were entirely uneventful. And now I'm going to get into my uneventful bed and have some (hopefully) uneventful sleep so I can be ready for what I can only pray (to any god who might be listening) will be an uneventful week.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hello, 2010! It's about time you got here!

Hello, Interwebs. It’s been a while, I know – sorry about that.

2009 was an interesting year, and by “interesting” I mean it involved at least 6 courses of antibiotics, the making of 4 or 5 short films (depending on how you count), the writing of 40 screenplay pages, the designing of a water slide… Yes, suffice it to say that 2009 was an interesting year, and that’s why I was in hiding for most of it.

But I’m back! In case there’s anyone out there reading. And there’s so much to say, about so many new adventures! (Don’t the exclamation points make those adventures sound fun and exciting?! See, like that!)

I’m supposed to be sleeping, but I’ll just give you a brief preview of some of the adventures of the moment. We have:
- the documentary film making adventure.
- the writing songs for a musical adventure.
- the gluten free diet adventure.
- the where-will-I-be-for-the-summer adventure.
- the learning to love Tennessee/the South/Middle America adventure.

As you can imagine, some of these adventures are more fun and exciting than others, but I think they all have potential. It all depends on how you look at them… and now that I’m no longer eating gluten or dairy, I mostly look at them from a very optimistic point of view. Except for bread. I’m having a hard time being optimistic about bread. But I’m trying.

Anyhow – more on bread, and all the rest of it, soon. No, really. I might even post some photos! (See? Exclamation points! Exciting!)

For the moment, I hope you’re all keeping warm, wherever you are. And if you’re in a place where keeping warm in January isn’t an issue… can I come visit?