Monday, November 28, 2011

Post Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope you all had a great time! Mine was awesome. I spent a lot of time just simply relaxing. It was very much needed and wanted.

Only bad part: the MiniSpaceship (my car) had a window malfunction again... this time the driver's side window fell in to the door. :( The honda place was able to fix it in the next two day, so it was not horrible, it just was lame.

In other news: Had a lovely Turkey Day dinner at Krissy's house (same place as last year, but very different people!). Learned a new game. Started Listening to Christmas music (some of you know how much I love Christmas music... ). Made it through the entire first season of Dexter. Worked on Christmas gifts (almost all done!) Took care of a pissy cat. Got to joy ride in Gwyn's mother's Batmobile. Visited a number of my favorite PGH restaurants.

It was a good break! I just need to stay focused for the next two weeks and get this thing done! I am really exctited to come home, but I am also a little sad as this means I am leaving Pittsburgh :( but... 10 days till I am home!! Yay!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dessert Pierogies (Part Two, Sweet Potato, Cranberry, Apple)

I have done it again! I have mixed the cute and bite-sized nature of a pierogie with the sweetness of pie! This time, I have truly embraced the PIE-rogie nature of this.

The Yadgrad group does an annual Thanksgiving dinner. I was asked to bring some dessert, I thought this would be a perfect occasion.

If this is your first time reading about my dessert pierogies, you should check out this page first. They were my first attempt, and this time I more-or-less followed the same procedure, just with different fillings.

So to start:

Sweet Potato!

I don't know if sweet potatoes are just getting more popular, or if they are a staple here in Eastern PA, but I have become a little fascinated by them. They are that weird unknown thing to me. Ever since Chelsea and I made Sweet Potato Pancakes, I have just been interested.

There is a problem. I went to the store, looking for 'Sweet Potatoes.' Giant Eagle was not selling any sweet potato, but they had pallets of yams. Yams are just as foreign to me. I had no idea what to do, so I decided to get a few yams, and I eventually found some (expensive) organic sweet potatoes.
The Left: Sweet Potatoes The Right: one Yam

Peeled Yam
So after some internet research, turns out in America they are basically the same thing. There are hard flesh sweet potatoes, called sweet potatoes, and soft flesh sweet potatoes called yams. Then in other parts of the world there is something completely different that is a yam, that only bears passing resemblance to what we call yams. I am still confused... but oh well. This does not really have anything to do with dessert pierogies... just a weird anecdote.

So for this filling you will need:
2-3 Sweet Potatoes (whatever that means)
Brown Sugar
Corn Syrup

Wash and Peel the potatoes. Cut the potatoes in to large cubes of equal size (6 to 10) per potato, just to help with cooking. Put in a pot of boiling water. Cook in boiling water, stirring occasionally, for 20 or so minutes. They are done when you can, with little effort, stick them with a knife.

Remove from water in to a large pot or bowl. Add butter (2-4 tablespoons), milk (2-4 tablespoons) and Brown Sugar (1/4 - 1/2 cup). Start mashing. Add more butter and brown sugar as you think is needed. Let this cool a little.
Potatoes and Cranberries!
Roll out the dough, cut some circles:
It is like an empty canvas
Place a small spoonful of smashed potato on a circle:
Then fold, press, and set aside.

Seeing as I only had one sheet to cook them on, I cooked everything on wax paper, to aid in moving around of product.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350. Once heated, put pierogies in. Let them bake for 20 or so minutes, once they start to just get a little brown, remove them from the oven. Using the syrup as glue place a few marshmallows on the outside. Once everything is covered, put back in the oven.

I forgot about how marshmallows puff!
When pierogies are golden brown on the edges, and the marshmallows are golden, remove and let cool.
Just out of the oven


Cranberry Tarts!
Gwyn suggested this one, kind of a Nantucket pierogie. Surprisingly, not as tart as I was expecting.

For these you will need:
a bunch of cranberries
Almonds or Walnuts (depending on what you want/have)
Brown Sugar

In a pot, put cranberries(2 cups) , smashed almonds (3/4 cup) (ziplock bag, then take a hammer to them) and brown sugar (1/4-1/2 cup). Heat this on medium, stirring often. Cook until the cranberries have all opened up. You should end up with a relish looking thing. Taste it, it should be great! Let cook.
See above, for picture of cranberries on stove

Same as before, cut circles, fill with spoon full of cranberries. Fold, pinch, set aside.

Cook these bad boys for 25 - 30 minutes at 350. Garnish with brown sugar.

Apple Pie
These are my favorite, but I also really like apple pie. Very similar to the mini apple pies.

For this you will need:
4-5 medium apples (the greener and tart-er the better)
Apple Pie Spice

Start by washing and peeling the apples. This was super exciting for me! Gwyn gave me an early Christmas present:
One of the most useful kitchen gadgets ever invented.
As you all should know, this made peeling and slicing the apples a piece of cake (or pie...). I love this thing. I have always thought it was an amazing invention.

When you are processing the apples, you eventually want the apples in very small slices. Smaller than normal apple pie slices seeing as you need to fit it in a pierogie.

Once you have your apples ready, in a large bowl add sugar (enough to over all of the pieces) and as much spice as you want (I prefer a lot). Mix well and let sit for a little.
Already look tasty!

Roll, circle cut dough, prepare to fold. Add a small pile of apple to the middle. These ones are hard, all other pierogies I have made, the filling is plyable. Raw apples are not. This means it is really easy to poke through the dough. Just be gentle, and work the pieces to fit. Fold, pinch, set aside.

These were baked along with the cranberry pierogies, 25-30 minutes at 350. Garnished with Raw Sugar.

So all in all I made 65 dessert pierogies. My personal favorites were the apple variety, but again, I love apple pie. They were a big hit... and by that I mean that there were none left! Another successful pierogie making experience.

Oh and a very rare picture of me cooking... I normally have my hands full:
In my PJs!

Chicken Paprikash

I was first motivated to make this after visiting Catacombs in Spokane. If you are a Spokane resident, and have not been to this fine establishment, you need to go. There is no reason why you should not. The food is glorious, and the atmosphere is so unique! Anyway, they have a great Chicken Paprikash over spatzle.

Chicken Paprikash

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves: 3-4

2 or 3 chicken breasts (you could also do whole chicken pieces)
some salt
3 tablespoons of Butter
2 medium to large Onions
black pepper
2 tablespoons Paprika (you can get super fancy and get Hungarian Paprika, or Sweet Paprika)
1 teaspoon Hot Paprika or Cayenne Pepper
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1/2 cup sour cream

Cut up Chicken. Add a little salt (garlic too if you want) rub this around a bit. In a large pan, add butter on medium heat, let melt, add chicken. Cook chicken until all sides are white, but don't cook all the way (we are going to stew the chicken later to fully cook it). Get it to about 75% done. If you are really paranoid, you can cook it all the way in this step, but you might dry it out. Remove and set aside.


While the chicken is cooking, slice onions. From top to bottom, in fairly big wedges (16-20 per onion). Once chicken is removed, add onions in to pan. If the butter is mostly gone, add some more. Cook onions until just getting light brown. Remove from heat, add the paprika, black pepper, and hot paprika or cayenne. Stir well. Add chicken broth, stir some more.

Yes for Asparagus!

Add chicken. Cover pan, let simmer for 20 minutes. This can be extended longer, this should only make the chicken tastier.
At this point, your kitchen will smell amazing.
When ready, remove from heat, let cool a little bit (4-5 minutes) mix in sour cream.

Serve on top of spatzle or pasta. For those of you who don't like it really hot, you can add sour cream at this point to dull down the spice.

Enjoy with a friend!

Thanksgiving Week!

So this week I am taking care of the Rohrer household as Gwyn and her mother are in Alaska for the holiday. This means I get to interact with Aerona. one on one. Mano a Gato. Aerona and I don't have a very good history. It might be that she picked up right away that I don't like cats... or it might just be she is a mean cat. Her favorite activity around me: hissing. Awesome. When Gwyn and her mom are around she just keeps her distance, and oddly likes to sit in my shoes (nothing else, she just sits). So yesterday morning I woke up around 6:50, and quickly heard her meowing outside my door. This would for be the ritual-istic morning feeding. When I opened the door, she meowed and ran downstairs, I followed her to the kitchen. While I was getting out her food, she was all cute and cuddly, rubbing up against my legs, quietly meowing. As soon as I set the food down, her head cocked back and out came the fangs with a nasty hiss. So I walked out of the kitchen, and went in to the living room. A few minutes later, I went in to the kitchen to get some water, at this point Aerona ran out of the room and hid under the coffee table. This is where the fun started. When I walked back in to the living room, she started hissing. As soon as she did I yelled at her: "WHY ARE YOU A MEAN CAT!" This apparently startled her, she flinched and stopped hissing. But shortly started hissing again. We had a little yelling/hissing match, when I was getting tired of yelling, I just threw a pillow in her direction and she ran away...

Oh well. In other news the Mini Spaceship took a hit. The driver's side window mechanism is damaged, and thus my window is stuck in the down position. Shadyside Honda was able to fit it in to their schedule on short notice yesterday. Only problem being that they don't have the part, so it is going to take until this morning for me to get it.

So last night Skanda and I had diner plans. I needed a car. Gwyn and her mom don't mind me using their cars, so I went on a trek to get a car from their house. The only issue is that their house is 6 miles away. This means that I could take advantage of our great bus system. I knew it was raining, I put on my rain jacket, bundled up, and walked outside. The very first step I took on the sidewalk, a giant truck drove by, creating a tidal wave in the 5 or 6 inch standing water on the road. From that point on, my boxers were soaked.

Short explanation: I live on 5th ave. This road is a major thoroughfare in to Oakland. This is great for getting arround if you are driving, but walking... eh. The sidewalks are barely wide enough for two people to walk on, then you add to that, that a lot of people walk up and down this street, so it is busy, and careless bicycle riders ride on the sidewalk (I used to jump out of their way... now I just keep walking. I have made contact with a number of bicyclists in this way.) I should say now, that I have not, and will never ride on a sidewalk in Pittsburgh when on a bike. That is just irresponsible. I am getting off topic... so the sidewalks are narrow, and the street is busy. When it rains there is no drainage, so the water builds up. I think you can all see where this is going. It is impossible to walk along the street without getting soaked.

So after a long trek I made it to Aspinwall, completely wet. I retrieved the mail, pulled the garbage in, glared at Aerona, and jumped in to a very dry and cozy car.

Skanda and I, our destination: Max's Allegheny Tavern. I had been there once before. It is amazing. I think it is the best German food I have had in the states. I had to go back one last time before I left, and Skanda had never eaten German fare. It was a great evening, food was great, Skanda loved it.

If you were all worried, I have two new recipes that I need to post. A new set of Dessert Pierogies and Chicken Paprikash!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Picture for Thought

I know some of you will have already seen this, but check this out.


I spent a good 50 minutes going over it and did not finish. It is astounding to see the differences when they are graphically represented.

Randall Munroe,Thank you for enlightening the internets.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Family: You heard it here first!

I would just like to bring to the attention of my family (in particular Chelsea) that Mom is now easy to shop for:

"I am VERY easy to shop for!!! I love Zag things, WSU things, things to decorate with, fun serving dishes and things for entertaining. I like unique children's picture books and fun stationary and note pads. I love pictures of my children and collections of music playlists that meet my tastes (which you know). How hard can it be???!!!" -Mom
Now that we know that! It almost seams easy...

(Mom: Chelsea and I like to joke about this, I am not trying to be hard on you. I am absolutely sure that Chelsea is going to fall off of her chair when she reads this. I love you mom! And I already know what I am getting you for Christmas!)

Job Choice done.

First, get this playing in the background.

Now, if you know me and my music, you will understand in about 4 notes what I am about to say ;)

I am going to Boston! I finally made a choice, and most of you know I hate making choices. So this is a big relief. Ill be working for MIT's Lincoln Laboratories, I am super excited!

So if anyone was wondering (or wanted to plan on hanging out with me) Ill be finishing up school on the 7th of December, sometime between then and now packing up my stuff, Flying home the 8th, celebrating Chris' wedding the 10th, then enjoying a long and relaxing Christmas break. Sometime after my paper clear I can take a trip to Boston to look for a place to live, then (hopefully in the begging of February I can start work!

So, as to my Christmas break I have a few idea of 'projects' I want to work on, but I will take suggestions from all of you. Here is my potential list:
- Making a kilt (patterned off of my Utilikilt.)
- ReTeaching myself the Star Wars CC game. (I have a boxes (and I mean boxes and boxes) of cards in my closet)
- Making another Ginger Bread House
- More Experimentation with Food (ill finally be back in a decent kitchen.)
- I still need to pick a Christmas break TV show. I think it might be Dexter, any thoughts?
- After becoming a Java protege with the robot, I am going to hammer out the Bohnanza game.


Monday, November 14, 2011

RedditGifts Secret Santa

It is a long story of why I know about this, and I apologize if this is short notice, but I think you should all check this out.

RedditGifts Secret Santa 2011

The basic idea is taking your workspace Secret Santa events and making it huge. Like across the world huge. People sign up, they write about what they like, being as specific or unspecific as they want. And by November 25th everyone gets a person to gift to.

You should all do this!

Also this should explain the link above that is going to make it easy for my soon-to-be Santa to find me and what I like! I guess you can use it too if you cannot come up with anything for me.... but I genuinely think I am easy to shop for. Very unlike Mom.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


A while back I decided that I have made fun of Twilight way too much for never actually reading/seeing any of the story. So Gwyn, Skanda and I sat down to watch through all of them. In one sitting. For those of you counting at home that would be 3 movies or 6 hours and 14 minutes.

I would have to say that I am plesently surprised. I thought it was going to be horrible. If you ignore the lame parts, and the very odd vampires and somewhat weirder werewolves, and you get over how lame and just horrible Bella is, it was a fun movie to watch.

For the record. I am all on Team Edward.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Day in the Life...

So I am going to take a break from the halloween posts to do an actual post about current life! I know! Something that has not really happened all that much this semester!

Job stuff: I had an interview last Thursday in town that went really well. I have another one coming up this next Thursday in Baltimore (too bad the Stillers lost..). I am thinking that come next Monday or Tuesday I will be able to sign in here and post about a decision I have made in this regard. And then I will have a bunch of time on my hands as well! and Ill be a lot less stressed!

Life stuff: I have recently taught Gwyn how to play Magic. It is a card game I played with Russ and Karl and others at Mount Spokane before school started on block days. We were always 'those kids,' but we loved it. And I still do. It has been fun to see Gwyn get supper excited playing it. She is picking it up fast. Last week was movie night 3 for this semester, we watched UP. And this coming Friday is a game night that I am super excited for.

School Stuff: I have a test coming up on Wednesday in my MEMS class. I need to study a bit, but it is going ok. The robot worked like a camp this morning meaning that I don't have to wake up early tomorrow to try to save it last minute before the lab. This week we implemented an adaptive path generation of gold pickups. The idea is that the robot will be in a maze of gold locations, and will have to pick up gold at each location and return to a drop off point. The gold is actually angle iron with blue construction paper attached (this makes the vision algorithm orders of magnitude easier). My part in this week was the 'collectGold' function. It looks to see if the gold is there, then it approaches the wall and sees if it has collected the piece or not. It is working beautifully. I think that I am going to bring in my camera and record it tomorrow or the next day so I can just show you what I am talking about.

Then my other class is soso... but it is starting in 7 minutes, so I need to go!

Halloween Party Post the Third: Decorations

Two weeks before the big day, my mother sent me a lovely box of Halloween goodies! There were cookies of Pumpkins and Ghosts, so Oreos, a few really cool plates, an awesome kitchen towel, a table covering, some 'fright tape' and best of all a pumpkin carving kit. Needless to say this was an awesome box to open.

I got to work right away getting the apartment decorated.
The Most Decorated Door in the Apartment Building.
Most Decorated table in the Apartment.
In preparation of the up coming party, Gwyn and I busted open the pumpkin carving kit the Thursday before. It should be noted that my mom sent the 'vintage' kit. Which was awesome! Basically it was retro designs, but awesome because they were Halloween themed. I picked out right away my favorite: Skelvis. Gwyn went for a Moon and Owl. Here is the process:
Scary, I know...
The Transfer.
Lots of Cutting.
And All lit up!

The day of the party, I ventured out to get some dry ice. What party is worth going to the weekend of Halloween with out dry ice? I found out very quickly that Pennsylvania has very different laws surounding the sale and storage of dry ice than in Washington. Back home, you can go to the local grocery store and get some pellets of dry ice. Sure not every store has it, but a lot do. Here you have to get it from a distributor (kind of like beer). So I had to track down this place to get the ice. But, as you all know, dry ice is amazing, so it was well worth it...
Our lovely spread, made even better by the layer of fog.

So other decorations included portraits that Gwyn made. I can not really do them justice. They were great. She took old black and white photos and made them all creepy... My favorite was a lady in a white dress, who had apparently just been bitten by a vampire as she had two puncture marks and a bit of blood on her dress. Maybe if I am lucky she will let me post them here. They were so cool!

There was lots of spider webs and festive bats and jack-o-lanters all over the place.
Madame Curie Bottles and one of the portraits.
Other goodies.
It was great. I love Halloween. I know that I really like just about every holiday, but I really had fun this year! And I have not even talked about the actual day itself! (Don't worry, that is coming up later....)

Halloween Party Post Two: Party Costumes!

Every Halloween party has to have costumes. That is essential. Here is the run down of the attendees. I apologize if the pictures are less that good. Sorry.
Mrs. Rohrer as 'Cereal Killer'
Alex as an 'Iron Chef' and Mike as a 'Companion Cube'
Caitlin as a Hipster Mouse
Jane was Dug from Up, and you can see Denise as 'Fruit Punch'

Before going in to the rest, I need to make a bit of a defense for my own costume. Gwyn introduced me to a great show called 'Pushing Daises.' The story is about a pie maker who can bring people back to life after being dead. I was Ned, the pie maker, and Gwyn was Chuck the Dead Girl.

So this means I needed to make a pie!
After (I am getting good at this pie thing...)
Chuck and Ned (or Gwyn and Scott if you prefer)
I am not sure what Andrew was supposed to be, but Sam was "the 50's"
Tracey supporting the flappers.
If anyone was wondering, Denise one the contest with her Fruit Punch, sadly I did not take a picture of it :( The grand prize? Oh, it was my pie!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween Party Part the First: Food

Last Friday (the Friday before Halloween) Gwyn and I hosted a party in honor of the event at Gwyn's house. Costumes were required, Ghoulish food was suggested, and festivities were expected. There are going to be a number of posts about this, but first here is the food!

This Is also going to work as a recipe page, as I don't want to write up every single thing.

Werewolf Fingers:
Gwyn and I made these the afternoon before the party. They were great, nothing weird about them, just Peanut Butter Sandwiches. They were all gone by the end.
Prep Time: 20 minutes

1 loaf of Whole Wheat Bread
1 cup of peanut bitter
1/4 cup of honey
20 or so Almonds
2 cups Red (Strawberry, Raspberry... ) Jelly/Jam

Cut the crust off of the bread. Cut bread in to 3 long pieces per slice. round the ends of the pieces. Using a toothpick, or knife, press in to a piece of bread to make the knuckles. Spread peanut butter on an unpressed piece, pair with pressed and knuckled piece. Add a drop of honey to rounded end of 'finger' attach almond.
Gwyn's finger was a good reference.
Once on presentation plate, heat up jelly/jam in the microwave to make liquidy, then spoon over 'stubs' of fingers to make them look like they are bleeding. Place rest of jelly in cup for dipping.

Vampire Fingers:
Mrs. Rohrer made these, they were a perfect contrast to our Werewolf fingers!
I think these were made by placing a small mount of cream cheese on the back side of a green pepper 'nail' and attaching it to a piece of string cheese. These were also a hit, they were gone before I could get one.

Demon Eyes:
I wanted to try this twist on the normal potluck staple of deviled eggs. This was the first time I had ever made deviled eggs, so I modified the tried and true due to a lack of certain ingredients. The food coloring made this happen. I boiled the eggs two days before and made the filling the morning of.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
1 dozen Eggs
1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise
1/2 cup of Spicy Mustard (I used Steel City Mustard Co.)
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Salt
A few dashes of Lizano
Lots of food coloring.

Boil the eggs. After cooled, peel, cut in half lengthwise. Reserve the cooked yolks in the fridge. In a large seal-able container, place egg whites, and cover with water. Add food coloring to make the desired color. As you can see I made a red-ish blend. This worked really well. The eggs did come out a little pink, but that worked fine for this. Let sit in refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

When ready to make, mix the rest of the ingredients with the yolks. Blend well. If you have a food processor or blender, use that. When I did this it was very much to taste and consistency. Once you are happy with the filling you have, set aside a 1/4th cup. Add food coloring to mixture to make desired color. I went for green. Place green mixture in a zip lock bag, cut the corner and fill the 'cups' of the egg whites. When all filled, do a similar process of adding color to the reserved mix, place in a different bag, cut corner (really small) and place eye slits. You can add paprika at any point for artistic effect. Next time, I am going to try to get a blood shot look.

Dexter's Blood Slides:
Gwyn and I had our first foray in to sugar sculpting with this one. If you don't know the referance: Dexter is a serial killer serial killer (he kills serial killers). As a trophy, he keeps samples of the people he has killed on microscope slides. We aimed to recreate these slides, to surprising results. Becarefull, everything gets sticky with this one....
Prep Time: 30 - 40 minutes.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup Light Corn Syrup
2 tbspoon Water
Red Food Coloring

Put everything but the food coloring in a pot, stir well to mix everything together. This will be a gooey mess, but it is ok. Put on medium/high heat and boil. Don't stir, but keep the sugar from crystallizing on the edges by shaking the pot every once in a while. Once the mixture has been bubbling for a few minutes (5-7) and is clear with a slight tinge of yellow/gold, remove from heat.

Pour out on to a flat surface. You were supposed to use wax paper, but I didn't have any, so I used saran wrap. This caused a little bit of a problem, when the hot sugar touches the saran, the saran shrinks. This caused little ripples in the bottom of the sugar... it could have been better, but oh well. Either using a knife or just tipping the surface it is on, spread out the sugar. Let cool for a little bit (5-10 minutes). You want to put a pot of water on the oven and get it boiling right about now.

Then the fun begins. Place a pizza knife in the boiling hot water. You are trying to heat up the blade to make cutting easier. Using the pizza knife, shape the sugar. Press hard, and go fast. If you leave the knife in place for too long the sugar will melt to it. After every cut, place the knife back in the boiling water, this will keep the knife warm, and clean off any sugar. Be sure to pat dry the knife to prevent water from getting on the sugar. This may see like a big ordeal, but it was really easy.
 Once you have your 'slides' place them in the freezer/fridge. Let them harden (20-30 minutes). Then place a drop of red coloring in the middle of each. Voila.
I would have to say that these are not really edible. They are pure sugar. If you are providing coffee, this would be a fun way to 'add some sugar.'

Swamp Samples
One of my favorite things of Halloween parties are the drinks. This one looks wonderfully gross when in a clear glass.If you want to make it a little more 'adult' you can add some citrus vodka. I was told this addition was great.
Approx Time: 30 minutes

1 Package of Tapioca (the pearls, not the pudding)
Gummi Worms/Fish
2 Limeaid Concentrates
2 liters of Sierra Mist/7 Up
Food Coloring

Sometime before (like the day before) boil the tapioca. Follow the dirrections on the box, something like 20-25 minutes. After cooking, divide in to two containers. Add food coloring to the batches. Make one blue, and one green.

Sooner to the event, in a large bowl make the limeaid as directed. Add the Soda. Add some ice to keep cold. 

When making the drink, spoon in some of the pearls, pour in the soda/limeaid mix, then add a few fish and worms.

Ghoul Bile
This one was Gwyn's idea. And most people preferred this one. It might have been the cupcake vodka that was added if people wanted. Best part of this is that it changes color as you let it warm up.
Approx time: 15 minutes
20-30 maraschino cherries
Cranberry juice
~128 oz Orange Juice (two cartons)
2 liters of Sierra Mist/7 UP

With ample time before, in a ice cube tray, put one cherry in each 'cube,' then fill the tray with cranberry juice. Freeze.

Time of the party, mix soda and orange juice. For each drink place one or two cubes.

Mike's Cake
This was a cake that Mike brought. It was made with beets. Dad you would have loved it.