Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meteor Shower Tonight

 "PERSEID METEOR SHOWER:  The annual Perseid meteor shower is underway. Earth is passing through a wide stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, and each time a fleck of comet dust hits Earth's atmosphere--flash!--there is a meteor.  Forecasters say the shower will peak on Thursday, August 12th, and Friday, August 13th.  You can see Perseids flitting across the sky at any time between about 10 pm on Thursday evening and sunrise on Friday morning. Observers who get away from city lights can expect to count dozens of meteors per hour, especially during the dark hours before dawn.

Last night, Brian A. Klimowski caught this Perseid streaking over the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona.

BONUS:  If you go outside a little early on Thursday evening, around sunset, you'll see a beautiful gathering of planets in the sunset sky--Venus, Mars, Saturn and the crescent Moon.  It's a nice way to start a meteor watch.  Sky maps may be found at"

It's always fun getting these e-mails!  Hopefully there are few clouds and the insane amount of light pollution where all of us live is at a minimum. 

Sorry for the unpersonalized post.  Dave just returned from a trip to Telluride (think I can get him to write a guest post telling us about his trip?) and I'm in hard core class-prep mode. 

And no, a meteorologist does not study meteors, but you'd be surprised how many people ask me that!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to School

All I want to do is take a trip to Target and pretend that I have back to school supplies to buy, just to be a part of the chaos that is a university town filled with new freshman and their parents during dorm move in.  Yes, we have little kids in this town too, so I'm sure I could enjoy the glue-buying crowd as well.  I really have zero things I need from Target, so I will just stay home and work on my own back to school stuff. 

The week in between my vacations I had a meeting with my fellow professors where I had an "Oh yeah, I have a real job that starts up soon" moment.  The moment lasted no more than an hour and I skipped off to vacation #2 and didn't crack a textbook the whole trip.  Really, this is very unlike me.  During the school year I was working 14 hour days and almost all weekends.  It definitely all caught up with me and slacker/vacation mode suited me better than I ever could have known.  Having a month off was something I don't think I've ever had, ever.  Although I could have been working diligently to make my life that much easier in the future, I really did not do much work in July.

I returned home this weekend and spent the first two days doing everything I could think of that didn't involve actually cracking a book (unpacking, cleaning, figuring out my bus schedule for the fall).  Well, yesterday I finally took a hard look at my calendar and had a little flip-flop in my stomach.  Apparently this is what it takes to force me to get down to business.  I have very few work days left before classes start and for my new, very upper level class, I have only prepped about 1/20th of the semester, and not well.  Luckily, my other three classes I have taught before and spent the beginning half of the summer perfecting my materials for those.  I guess I'm down to the wire and today will be spent not surfing the internet for fun blogs, but actually creating some hard-core lectures. 

Life is good, I feel refreshed, I'm stoked about my new job, but it's time to get down to business so my stress levels don't go through the roof once school starts!

I'll leave you with my last picture taken on my trip to New Jersey.  I'll call it, "Vacation's over."  As we got through security at Newark, we looked out the window and saw the sun rise over NYC.  And now, back to reality.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Soft Pretzels and Doughnuts!!!

Dave and I ventured to a gluten-free food fair in Denver one Saturday last summer where we were treated to gobs of cakes, breads, crackers, and other such gluten-free goodies. One of the ideas that really sold to me was Jules Gluten-Free flour. Rather than buying a $6.00 chocolate cake mix any time I want to make a cake, why not use my grandma's chocolate cake recipe and just substitute the typical all purpose flour for gluten-free flour? Well, normally this is a no-no because you can't just throw in rice flour and expect your cake to actually have the texture of cake, but with the Jules Gluten-Free flour, you can use it in any recipe you want because it is formulated to act like regular all purpose flour!

The next weekend I started experimenting with my new (and pricey) flour after Jules e-mailed me a recipe for soft pretzels. AMAZING!  Try it here: Jules Gluten Free Soft Pretzel Recipe.

My first soft pretzel in years
Okay, so if I can use her flour for one of her recipes and make something that tastes guiltily glutenous, the next test was to see if I could use the flour for a random recipe. Somehow doughnuts came up. Back in the hay-day of eating whatever I pleased, I could easily put back a bag of powder sugar doughnuts or enjoy a Krispy Kreme or two when I was in Milwaukee. I've definitely gone without this treat since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease and I thought I should give it a try with my new flour.

I made doughnuts and doughnut holes and glazed, rather than frosted them.

I found a copy cat recipe for Krispy Kreme-style doughnuts. I cut the recipe in half (something you should always do with caution when baking) and still had enough for about two cookie sheets full of doughnuts. Check out the recipe here:  Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Copy Cat.  Just sub the Jules Gluten Free flour for the flour!  Believe it or not, I don't have doughnut cookie-cutters lying around, so I just used a wide glass and a large shot glass for the doughnut shape.  Also, make sure your yeast is not old!  I tried this at my parents' house and had no success with some yeast I found in the fridge.  This recipe is time consuming, so give yourself a few hours for the whole process while letting the pastry rise a few times.  I started at about 8:00pm and finished just before midnight with this project, so I'm sporting my PJs.  These were delicious!  My mouth is watering just thinking about them!   

Monday, August 9, 2010

Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABTs)

ABTs, atomic buffalo turds, are the ultimate summer hors d'oeuvre.  These are smoked jalapeno peppers stuffed with chorizo and cream cheese then wrapped in bacon.  ABTs are classic party food at Dave’s old roommates’ house.  These friends are the ultimate do-it-yourselfers and boy can they cook!  ABTs are commonly consumed with homebrewed beer (hard cider for me!) before dinner.  Here’s my take on ABTs.

1 package cream cheese
6 jalapenos
3 chorizo sausages, raw
6 slices of bacon

Clean the jalapenos and cut each of them in half.  Get out all of the inner membrane and seeds to avoid overly spicy ABTs.  Wear rubber gloves when working with mass quantities of jalapenos!  Otherwise, the oils get on your skin and your hands can burn for days.  Also, if you touch your eyes, nose, or other sensitive body parts (think about this for a minute), you may regret it.  Trust me on this one.

Chorizo is a sort of Mexican pork sausage.  You want to find raw chorizo for this recipe.  You can sometimes find it in sausage link form, sometimes in a tube of meat, sometimes just set out in a container ground-beef-style.  You won’t need a huge amount of this, so you may want to just freeze half for your next batch.  On the stove, put chorizo in a frying pan and cook.  If your chorizo was in sausage link form, remove the casing and use the meat only.  Drain the grease.  Remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese until smooth. 

Stuff jalapenos with the chorizo and cream cheese mixture.

Put a half-piece of bacon around the jalapeno it bind it together with a toothpick. 

Smoke on low heat until bacon is cooked.  Dave’s old roommates used an actual home-made smoker for this purpose and let them cook for ~2 hours.  I have cooked these on the grill on low heat (watch out for grease fires!) and also broiled them in the oven on a cookie sheet, which works in a pinch, but to really get a true ABT, smoking over low heat is the way to go!  One of the projects on our to-do list is to make a smoker out of terracotta pots and an old stove we got from Dave’s Grandad.  I’ll let you know if we are successful. 

The longer you cook the jalapeno the less spicy they are, so keep this in mind if you have sensitive guests.  If you get a spicy batch, cut the spice by serving some mild queso with chips, glasses of milk, or spoonfuls of sour cream, depending on your degree of desperation.  I have read that vodka cuts the spice, but this has never actually worked for me.  Do you have any secrets to sooth a burning mouth?  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My first garden

After 5 years in a small apartment with no personal outdoor space of my own, I'm spending my first summer at my new digs, complete with community garden!  This is something I've been looking forward to for years!  We managed to get a very small plot and after doing some research (okay, I looked at probably two webpages), I found out that it's best to wait until Memorial Day weekend to plant in Colorado if you want to avoid frost.  I weeded and turned over dirt for an entire day, laid down some organic compost (organic only or the old garden ladies will murder me), and the next day, planted my first garden.  I planted tomato, pepper, and strawberry plants, then used seeds for oregano, basil, dill, beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, beats, and a butternut squash.  This all fit in a plot perhaps slightly larger than a twin bed.  I didn't really know what I was doing, so I just went for it. 

The view isn't too shabby from our garden plot.
Long before finding out we made it to the top of the garden-plot waiting list, we started an indoor garden in tubs and slowly moved them outside as the weather warmed up.  These tubs included cherry tomato bush-types, peas, beans, and tons of herbs.  

And then it hailed the day after I finished putting in all of my plants outside.  The problem was, we weren't home when it happened.  If we were, we could have stood outside with umbrellas over our plants or dragged our tub garden under the overhang.  Unfortunately, we returned home shortly after it finished to find random piles of hail resembling snow covered the area.  I was very upset and somewhat frantically removing chunks of ice from the bases of our tub plants when Dave saved the day with some xmas lights and a plastic tarp.

The next day we surveyed the damage to the garden plot and the tubs.  This hail storm took most of the leaves off of my plants and the leaves that were left were scarred and yellowed.  So, I wandered back to the store and got three more tomato plants, two more pepper plants, and one more strawberry plant.  Assuming the hail-damaged plants would soon die, I planted the new plants in very close proximity to the half-dead ones.  In the case of the tomatoes, all of the plants survived, so now I have six HUGE tomato plants within about a 2 by 2 foot area.  Oops!

We got hail several times after this and one time Dave was able to collect a few hail specimens and save them in our freezer.  Only in a house with two meteorologists would hail in a freezer be considered a romantic gesture!

Anyway, on Friday we took a walk to the garden plot and discovered our first rewards, four ripe tomatoes!  I left for the airport minutes later, and took one for the road.  Not knowing if it would be allowed through security, I sat there at DIA and enjoyed my tomato.   

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vacation #2: Wisconsin

As if 10 days in New Jersey wasn't enough, now I'm on family vacation #2, only this time it's MY family!  I got back to Colorado early Monday morning and flew to Wisconsin Friday evening, leaving Dave to fend for himself back home.  Saturday my parents, brother, and I drove north until we finally reached our destination, a collection of condos conveniently located in the middle of nowhere.  Here we have our annual extended family vacation consisting of somewhere on the order of 40-50 cousins, aunts, uncles, and Grandma.  We spend the week hanging out at the lake, enjoying water sports, swimming in the pool, eating lots of horribly unhealthy food in Wisconsin-sized portions, relaxing, and enjoying the company of family.  We have been coming here for more than 20 years!  

Oddly enough, I can't get a cell phone signal, but I do have wireless internet!  

Here's an old picture of the lake we're staying on.  It really is a beautiful place to relax for a week!