Showing posts from August, 2009

Up They Go

For the first time in what seems like forever I woke up to a cool day that was going to stay that way. It's been months since I'd aired out the house and I lost no time in throwing open all the windows on my second story and many of the windows on my first floor. Please don't let any burglars know!

It's so nice to have the temperature not leave the 60s and 70s. From when I woke up this morning to right now, 11pm, it's been warmer in the house than outside. Gotta love it. And in a few hours September arrives with Fall weather. LOL Actually here in North Carolina we don't get real Fall weather for a while yet but it's nice to have this down payment hanging over us for a couple of days.

Sunday and Food Network

I watched the Food Network trifecta of young stars today. Melissa d'Arabian, Brian Boitano and Aaron McCargo. Two of them won The Next Food Network Star contest and the third is a famous ice skating Olympian. All young (40, 45, and 38 respectively) and good looking---especially Melissa. She's a cutie!

I thought Melissa had a very good show today (her third episode) but since the food was salmon and asparagus, I had no interest in duplicating her dishes. Blech. Boitano's second episode wasn't nearly as good as the first but even so it was far better than your average cooking show. That guy is a natural in front of the camera. However every one of his dishes used bacon. I'm the one person in the world that hates bacon. Nasty stuff. So that show, while interesting to watch, held no culinary appeal. Bacon martinis? Yikes. And Big Daddy did his routine of big BBQ type flavors which I don't like. Damn. I went 0 for 3 in the food inspiration department. But it was ni…

Ode to an Eve

I didn't watch the first 3 seasons of Top Chef on Bravo but I wish I had. This is a very interesting reality show.

The second episode of the 6th season aired tonight and even this early it's quite apparent that this is the best season I've seen yet. The only downside is that I've liked both chefs knocked off the show in these first two episodes.

In fact I thought the chef kicked off this week is adorable. Just something about her personality and looks. You could probably figure out a lot of things about my personality from this. LOL And little of it complimentary to me. But there weren't many chef skills demonstrated so being kicked off the show was no surprise. The weird thing is that she has a great pedigree in the culinary arts and owns and operates her own restaurant with earned honors in her field. Maybe there was something going on that had her distracted...

Switching gears a bit, this past Sunday the final episode of Top Chef Masters was aired and I was VERY im…

Meatballs from Morocco

Last Monday I posted about a Moroccan themed dish that Melissa d'Arabian's prepared on her new show Ten Dollar Dinners (Food Network). Well, I finally got around to making it myself. You can get the recipe by following this link.

Here's all the ingredients it takes to make the meatballs and the sauce:

Let's tackle the sauce first. So, you want to chop up some garlic and onions and then saute them:

Then add in around 4 ounces of olives plus lemon zest:

Next up add a half cup of white wine and let it reduce by half:

Now we add a quarter cup of chicken stock along with 14 ounces of diced tomatoes plus all the spices and such:

Ta-dah! That's the sauce. The cumin and ginger give it some bite. Now let it hang out while we move on to making the meatballs.

First mix an egg into 2 TB of tomato paste and then add spices:

Then add in the meat-- 12 ounces or so of hamburger:

At this point grind up a third of a cup of oats and add to the hamburger along with salt and pepper:

Looks yummy…

Brian Boitano

Food Network premiered a new show today, "What Would Brian Boitano Make?", and if the first show is any indication, this is a major league home run. Please forgive my using a metaphor from the wrong sport.

Seriously, which might be the wrong attitude to use when discussing the show, everything works here. Boitano mixes deadpan humor with almost slapstick asides and his personality pervades every minute of the show. And that's a good thing.

Now don't get me wrong, while the food on the show is good and Boitano seems to know his way around the kitchen, this show is not about food. The show uses Boitano's celebrity from the ice rink and from the Southpark "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" song to great effect. The first episode was really a work of art and I hope they can maintain this quality level across multiple shows.

There was irony--like when they show a chef stand-in doing the nut chopping then Boitano exclaims about how difficult it was to chop them--num…

Metastatic Cancer

In a weird and deadly twist, cells thought to protect against cancer may actually promote it. Macrophages, a component of our immune system, should help fight and kill cancer cells. Instead there's recent evidence that these macrophages, or at least a subpopulation of them, actually help malignant cancer cells spread to distant sites in a process called metastasis.

According to a press release from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Jeffrey W. Pollard, Ph.D., one of their research professors, has shown that macrophages can act at the primary tumor site to enhance tumor progression and malignancy. So they've shown that macrophages can essentially become traitors, enhancing the worst aspect of cancer... metastatic tumor growth.

According to the press release:
Dr. Pollard and his colleagues propose that their discovery offers a potentially useful new target for anti-cancer therapy. What they've found is a vulnerable step in the cancer process that might be blocked by drug …

d'Arabian in Morocco

I was watching some Food Network this weekend and I caught one of those biography shows they have (Chefography) on the Pat and Gina Neely. It was quite good. They're such a great couple and I enjoy watching them interact. It's surprising they don't have more Chef-duo shows like that on. I just wish I liked barbecue more. That's pretty much all the Neelys do, and I just don't like the taste.

The other show I really enjoyed this weekend was the second episode of Melissa d'Arabian's new show Ten Dollar Dinners. If you'll recall, Melissa defeated Jeffrey Saad to win Season 5 of The Next Food Network Star. Anyway, the first episode was Perfectly-Priced Parisian and I didn't like the recipes very much and Melissa seemed a bit jumpy. Okay, she's always high energy--I should say she was jumpier than usual. But always cute as can be!

Yesterday's episode was titled Less Money, More Moroccan and the food really looked good. I plan on trying out the three…

A Walk in the Woods

I went to Little River Park in north Durham today on a group hike. The weather was great. Humid but not that hot since we got started early in the morning.

Most of my pictures in the woods didn't come out great because of the low light levels but the one below is an exception. I love the effect of the light dappled leaves and water.

Since we started at 8:30am and the park is quite a ways from me, I had to get out of the house by 7:40am. On a friggin' Sunday! As you can imagine, my system isn't used to that crap. My itchy ankles were particularly annoyed at this odd change in routine.

I'm glad I went but I doubt I'll go back to that trail. It's just a little too far from me to go there when I can get to Eno River, Duke Forest, and Occoneechee Mountain in 25-30 minutes.

The picture below is our first approach at the Little River. Due to the lack of rain, the name was quite appropriate. From the way the bank looked, I'd say the river was only a fifth of its normal…

Do you want your change?

There's been a bit too much change in my life the past couple of days.

It started off with a call from my boss at the end of the work day on Thursday. It seems a set of experiments that we had intended for the summer had finally been approved. One of those good news and bad news things.

The experiments had been originated to be run by a med student we had in the lab for the summer. He was between his first and second years and wanted exposure to clinically oriented science research and was willing to invest a lot of his time over his 10 week summer break for that goal. Perfect.

Well, not quite perfect. We ran into several unexpected bureaucratic and supply problems that kept delaying the start date. To make a long and painful story short, the med student started back up with his classes on Wednesday and like I said, the experiments got approved the next day. So it's me that'll be doing this experiment. And it requires dosing mice twice a day, morning and night, every day of t…

Creme is the one

Way back when, in the days that I was a little kid, my Mom would buy the generic soda at the Grand Union ---as I recall, the symbol on the cans was a penguin--- and my favorite flavor was the creme soda.

Every once in a while I get a jones, if you will, for the taste of that creme soda. Not many companies make that flavor anymore so when I happened to notice Creme Soda from Jones Soda Co in a Food Lion yesterday I couldn't resist buying it.

I think I've mentioned on here that I'm often on the frugal side. So my first criteria was price---and the Jones Soda was the same price as the generic, surprisingly enough. As soon as I picked it up I discovered why. Instead of coming in a 12-pack, the cans were packaged in an 8-pack. So in reality the soda cost 50% more per can. But it was worth it to scratch that psychological itch. Since my legs are still driving me nuts with physical itchiness I certainly don't want psychological itches bedeviling me as well.

Above you could see w…

Bread is Dangerous

The other day I was looking up the phrase "bread and water" plus "punishment" on Google. I seemed to recall once reading that the reason the British Royal Navy used that particular sentence was not simply depriving their sailors of food, rather that diet caused horrible constipation. The bowel disorder was the real punishment.

In any case, while searching for that I came across a funny page, Dark Roasted Blend, that made fun of people's preoccupation with environmental dangers. The following is their take on bread:

1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.

2. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.

3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged whole nations.

Ankle Biters

This is a follow up to yesterday's post about the hike in Harris Lake Park.

What can I say? These pictures say it all.

The sandflea bites itch like crazy. I read online that it hurts when the buggers bite you but I didn't even notice. The biting was going on between 8:30am when we started hiking and 11am when we finished the hike and brushed off the fleas before getting in the car. Cheryl was bothered by the bites immediately but I didn't feel any itching until around 3pm, hours after I'd gotten home.

I might have started late on the itching thing but I'm making up for it with longevity. Damn but these things itch. I'm typing this at almost 11:30pm on Tuesday, two and a half days after getting bitten and the bites are still horribly itchy. And that's with lots of 2% creme on the bites and antihistamine tablets in me.

Evil, nasty sandfleas!

But even with all that, I'd still love to do that hike again. The next time I go there I'll wear something that the…

Biting Females

I was hiking yesterday at Harris Lake Park. A number of times I was walking along the lake shore, on sand, or in lake weeds at the water's edge.

Apparently that was a very bad idea. Even though I had sprayed my legs with insect repellent just before commencing the hike, by the time I had finished the hike I was infested.

Sand fleas. Just the girls, mind you. Like with mosquitoes, only the female sand fleas bite you and suck out your blood. They need the serum proteins in blood for laying eggs. And there's going to be a lot of new eggs 'cause I had the little suckers all over my ankles and lower legs.

By the way, that's another picture of the Harris Nuclear Plant's cooling tower.

Yesterday the sand flea bites didn't bother me all that much, at least not until around 11pm. But today? Today is bad. My legs are itching constantly. Damn crustaceans! (sand fleas aren't really fleas at all, how odd) I can't wait to get home from work so that I can ice down the b…

Harris Lake

I went hiking today at Harris Lake Park. It's down in southwestern Wake County and features a 4,100 acre man-made lake which serves partially as a cooling pool for the Harris Nuclear Plant.

That's the cooling tower from the nuclear plant over there on the left. Kinda pretty in a concretey way. Of course all the greenery and blue water in the picture make for a nice setting.

The 3 pictures below were also taken on this hike. I met up with my hiking partner quite early in the morning since the temps were slated to hit 100f by afternoon---and I melt at that kinda temperature. By 8am we were at the lake and started the 5 mile trail that circle around on the eastern side of Harris Lake.

My favorite spot on the hike is shown in that picture below. The two trees shown in that picture were magnificent. Not huge, but very serene and moving to the spirit. I don't know why they had that affect but we both felt it. The picture, of course, can't do justice.

The other two pictures are o…

Two Things

I wanted to do two things today and oddly enough, I did them both. Usually I'd procrastinate long enough to at least discard one of my goals.

That fellow up above (or girl--I have no idea how to tell the difference (in turtles, that is)) was encountered while hiking up a small mountain in Hillsborough. I was over a mile from the closest water and pretty far above any free flowing water. I have no idea how long that turtle had been walking to get to the path I saw him on but it must have been quite a while.

We haven't had much rain this summer and no doubt the small creek --which has dried up-- down the slope was his former home. Since it was over 90 today and is expected to be around 100 for the next 3 days, I don't think he's going to do well on his journey. Poor turtle.

Below you can see the risotto I made tonight. Usually when I have risotto Julie makes it and I, at best, assist a little. This time it was all me. It wasn't as good as hers but that was probably lar…

Got Beetjuice?

I don't like the taste of milk but I do admire the marketing ability of milk producers. The Got Milk? campaign is a good one. I can't see the same thing being done for beet juice though. Having a foamy red mustache would look more like an advertisement for one of those vampire shows like HBO's True Blood.

What brings this up is recent research by a group over in England at University of Exeter. It seems that beetroot juice leads to an enhanced ability to exercise. They claim that it boosts your stamina and could help you exercise for up to 16% longer by reducing oxygen uptake.

What's the downside, you ask? Well, the treatment isn't topical, it's internal. Yes, you have to drink the beet juice. Ickkers!

Maybe this is a British thing. Eat mutton and drink beet roots. Cover everything with mashed potatoes and hope for the best. Shepard's pie and beet juice. What could be better?

Here's the central core of the research study:
The research team conducted their st…


My Roadrunner was out all day yesterday (I changed the date stamp on this so it'll appear as having been written on Wednesday). I noticed the lights were out on the cable modem when I woke up but figured that it was an interruption in CATV service and it'd be back soon.

Nope. When I got home from work 9 hours later the modem lights were still out except for that one flickering light that should be steady. Not a good thing. So... I started a phone call that just kept going and going and going. It was like that EverReady Energizer Bunny but even more annoying---if that's possible.

I ended up talking to three people, from the accents they seemed to be in different countries, and each time I had to go through the whole trouble shooting spiel. Very time consuming. The end result is a diagnosis of "dead modem" and a service call between 1:30 - 3:30pm today (Thursday) to swap it out.

That was at 8pm my time. Wednesday. At a few minutes before midnight the cable modem just …

Conventional Wisdom

We've all hear the old saw about how we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Of course this doesn't explain the Bush family nor why the Democrats can't seem to profit from GOP miscues. But it does make a recent study published in the July 30 issue of the journal Neuron very interesting.

The article is titled Learning Substrates in the Primate Prefrontal Cortex and Striatum: Sustained Activity Related to Successful Actions And according to this article, from Earl K. Miller's lab at MIT, single behavioral outcomes influence future neural activity and behavior. Later behavioral responses are more often correct and single neurons will more accurately discriminate between the possible responses when the previous response was correct.

Neat stuff, huh? Their research indicates that we only receive positive feedback from being right. Being wrong doesn't change the subsequent choices we make. Of course this research was conducted with monkeys, not people. But that…

The Next Food Network Star

As most people who watch the Food Network know, the fifth season of The Next Food Network Star has been going on for the past few months. Tonight was the final episode.

**Spoilers Follow**

I didn't watch the first 3 seasons of the show so I don't know how well it played out in the past. I can only judge by the shows that have been hosted by past winners. And I'm not very impressed. But this season gives me a lot of hope.

The two finalists, Melissa D'Arabian and Jeffrey Saad were both great. I wish both of them had their own shows---or one show with both of them. They complement one another well. I did think that Jeffrey was a little better on his demo show than Melissa and Julie agreed with me (not an altogether common thing)--but we also both thought she had the advantage of having a better demographic to pull in. Something a cable network would obviously consider extremely important in deciding to whom to award a new show.

Congratulations to Melissa D'Arabian for bei…

Zen and the art of Fridge Maintenance

Do you want to live a calm life, full of soothing thoughts and introspective moments? Like one of those commercials we see all the time on tv talking about zen?

Well, then keep your refrigerator cleaned out 'cause when you come across something like this (see picture to the left) it makes you want to barf! Yes, right then and there.

I really have to pay better attention to what's going on in the back reaches of my 'fridge. That dish was nasty---beneath the fuzzy stuff was some baked beans. Ewww! There were 3 other containers with, let's just say "expired," products in them. In fact one of the containers is going to have to be trashed. The plastic just looks "infected" even after washing.

The amazing thing is that we were able to sit down to a pork dinner just an hour after cleaning out that nastiness from the 'fridge. Maybe there's still a little zen left here, but it was shaky for a while. And it helped that most of the serious contact with …