Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Goodbye Summer

Thank Goodness. The humidity is finally gone. I can now walk outside again in comfort!

Many of you know that the changing of seasons also means a changing of hair for me. The Amish beard (or Abe beard, or chin curtain) is back! And it is wonderful.
Out with the old...
In with the new. (It has been trimmed a little)
Our windows have been open for the past few weeks, this is great for me. And most of the time good for Gwyn. But occasionally, right before I leave for work I will walk past Fort Gwyn. Under a few pillows and blankets sits a cozy Gwyn, wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants.

I have finished up the bookshelf. It looks awesome and is also very functional... you know... holding stuff. Oddly, there are no books on it, but a lot of boxes that were previously just sitting on the floor.

Life is good. I am getting really excited for a few weddings before Christmas. Ben and Amy in Portland, Yay! And Sam and Andrew back in Spokane, Awesome!

I have been helping out with the Robotics Outreach at Lincoln Labs (ROLL) and the First Tech Challenge (FTC) team. For those of you who do not know about this, it is a group of High School students who are competing in a specialized game. You can find more about it here. I think it is going to be really fun to watch them do this. Last weekend I gave a great lecture on the basics of Electronics (Yeah Ohm and Kirchhoff!)

Also, Nachos:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Next Culinary Mastery

In my home growing up the extent of our fried food consumption was crisp tortillas with tostadas. My mother would stay far away from oil (for good reason) in her cooking. In the past little bit, I have been running in to recipes that require frying food. One notable experience was frying little chicken bits in Pittsburgh. All I remember was some of them were great, some were black and the whole apartment was smokey. So I have been eying fryers for the past little bit. Reading up on them, and seeing what I should look for.

Then my birthday came, and I had some money burning a hole on my desk from my Grandparents (Thanks Grandma and Gramps!). I thought this was a perfect reason to venture out in to the dangerous water (nay, oil) of American obesity. Ok, that is a little harsh, but Gwyn and I made a promise to each other that we would only break out the fryer once a month.

So what was the first thing I fried you ask? TOTS! Dating back to my time at Lockheed, hanging out after work with Steve, Steven, Alan and Brian, I grew a fondness towards Tater Tots. They are just so great. The first basket in the oil was a big ol' basket of golden potato nuggets, and they were awesome! I left them in long, they got super crispy! And super tasty!


 Next up, harking back to Polish Hill in Pittsburgh: Pierogies! The Rock Room, one of my favorite establishments, would only serve one food item on any given night, and Wednesdays and Thursdays were Piergoie night! For a whopping $0.15/pierogie, you could fill up on what I am sure were Mrs. T. frozen pierogies that had been thrown in a fryer. So Gwyn and I decided that we would do a little taste test between two brands that are available here in Boston, Mrs. Ts and Poppy's. The Mrs. T. won. And they were awesome. I did burn my mouth on a hot pocket of potato-y goodness, but such is the battle for food glory.

The last thing, influence by The Onion back in Spokane, Fried Oreos! They were not the first person to bread a cookie and submerge it in oil, but they were my first. Using pancake batter as a coating, these were super easy. I did some of them with a little peanut butter dab on one side. So very tasty.

All about presentation.
All in all, a great experience. I have been researching what to try next. It is going to be great!

LaBOR Day, more like LAWESOME Day.

Labor day weekend, while a little bit ago was awesome!

Started with Ben calling Gwyn and I as inviting us to explore the Charles River via kayak. He had a google coupon, and it was nearing the end of the deal, so this was a perfectly timed trip. There is an outfit that operates right on the water, near Kendal Square. They have you talk a short quiz to make sure you are not going to get in to too much trouble, then life vest on. And you are good to go. The three of us were in an individual boat, and set off in to the wild river. It was a little windy, but other than that, a wonderful sunny clear day. Ben lead us over to the side of the Esplanade, a natural park area right next to Beacon Hill. Lots of people out. Cool environment. And really fun being in the boats. After 1.5 hours out on the water, we made it back through the community sailing lesson and back to the dock.

After the boating we walked over with two of Ben's friends to Ole'Cito (Mexican inspired lunch shop) and dined on the finest Tortas Boston has to offer.

Later in the evening Gwyn and I met up with Krishna (a coworker) and Emilie at the Danvers LazerQuest. You all know that I love LazerQuest. As I told my friends here: It was a staple of my childhood. It was a staple of High School. It was a staple of college. And I may or may not go back whenever I am back in town. Needless to say, I have spent a lot of time in the Spokane LazerQuest. I was really excited when I saw that there were two within reasonable driving distance of the apartment. It was on the backside of a strip mall, kind of weird to get to, but walking in was like a flash to Spokane. It is obvious that the two locations are franchised by the same company, everything was the same, but in a different building. The first game, with 12 or so people, I got up to speed quickly, and dominated. The next round was full of high school lacrosse players, who were super aggressive, heeding not to the players code (no running, jumping, climbing, covering sensors, physical contact.... so on). These guys were amusing to play with, but I did not do as good as I should have, but Emilie got 3rd! The the last game was just the 4 of us. In a speed round (you only go down for 1 second, not the normal 5 seconds after being hit). Gwyn cleaned up. She walked out of there with 600 points! A good 200 points over me, and 400 over Krishna and Emilie. It was a great time, everyone had a lot of fun.

Then, as if my Saturday was not fun filled enough, we went to a Friendly's near LazerQuest. I was not aware of Friendly's before this, but apparently it is a big deal. Basically American food, but with great ice cream! Not like a burger with ice cream in it, but a burger with ice cream after it. It was a great evening, Krishna and Emilie are great!

Then, on Labor Day itself, Gwyn and I were challenged to a culinary competition... more like we were invited to eat a lot of super tasty grilled cheese! Marissa hosted a grilled cheese party, complete with awards! I won the best 'Dessert Sandwich', with an Apple Pie on Cinnamon Toast, and the 'Best Effort, Worst Sandwich" for my completely lackluster Mac&Cheese Sandwich. I got to eat a whole bunch more creations by other people. It was a fun relaxing evening. And a great end to a sweet weekend.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I was just looking at the recipe page while updating it with the Chocolate Maple Cookies: I have not posted a non-sweet recipe in a while. I think this has to do with my lack of using recipes as of late. I have been throwing stuff together and it has been working out... but I should write those down too!

Coming up: recipes that are not based on butter, sugar, and flour!

If there are any challenges out there, or requests, let me know! I love trying to master new things. :) Your name will even be attached to it!

Chocolate Maple Cookies

Gwyn picked these out, and it was a great choice! I really liked them, they were well received. Pretty standard cookie recipe, but great tasting.

Chocolate Maple Cookies
4 dozen

1 1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 squares (1 oz each) Semisweet Baking Chocolate
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together shortening and sugar. Once creamy texture is achieved, beat in one egg at a time, mixing well each time. Beat in vanilla and maple.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add this to the creamed mixture. Mix all of this well in to a smooth dough.

Grease a cookie sheet and drop dough with a spoons with room to spread out. I chose to make them smaller to increase the yield, but you could make these huge cookies and they would work out. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges get dark. The cookies are brown to begin with, so you will have to watch them.

Remove to rack to cool.

Prepare frosting by melting chocolate and butter together (you can do this with great effort in a double boiler... or you can use a microwave). Add sugar and milk, mixing well. If frosting is too thick add a little more milk, mix well. If too fluid, add more powdered sugar, mix well. Frost all of the cookies.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Suprise Skanda

Yesterday at Noon:30 I got a text message from Skanda (old Pittsburgh roommate) to the affect of: "Hey buddy, I am at MIT, have any time to hang out? I leave in a few hours"

This message surprised me as Skanda lives in New York City, and there was no prior notice. Turns out it was his birthday, and his company gives employes their B-days off. So he had a free day. When he woke up, he said "I am going to Boston!" then got on a bus and came on up.

I was able to convince him to stay a little longer and had a chance to hang out with him for the afternoon/evening. We were able to surprise Gwyn (who did not know he was going to be around). The plan was to go watch a new movie that just came out, Sleepwalk with Me the is produced/made by the people who are also involved with This American Life. The plan fell through when driving to the theater, a thunderstorm opened up (possibly influenced by the whole hurricane thing down south last week) causing havoc to the Cambridge power system. When we walked in to the theater the lights were off, and the lobby was full of people. We were able to get passes to come back and see the film at a later date.

We went over to Kita's house and hung out in the dark playing bananagrams. All in all it was an awesome time! Thanks Skanda!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

S'more Cookies Please!

I am not 100% sure why I craved marshmallows. But I did. And I needed an excuse to buy some. These cookies filled the need. And they turned out great.

S'more Sandwich Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups (12 oz) semi sweet chips

24-28 Large Marshmallows

Get your oven ready for greatness by pre-heating to 375.

Cream together the butter and both sugars. Once well incorporated, mix in egg. Beat in milk and vanilla. Get this to a nice creamy consistency.

In a different bowl, mix together flour, graham cracker, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Slowly add dry mix to the creamy mixture, mixing well in between additions.

Once a nice doughy consistency is reached fold in chocolate chips. Mix it up.
Lightly grease your cookie sheets, and drop spoonfuls of dough on to sheet. Try to keep these little mounds small. I made them large... I ended up with fewer cookies. But they were big! These are drop cookies, they will spread out a little as you bake them, so give them some room.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges brown. Remove to rack and let cool.
After cooling has happened, place a few on a plate, and place a marshmallow in the center. You want to put the flat part of the marshmallow down (or up.... marshmallows are cylinders, and symmetric at that). Microwave, on high, for 10-15 seconds or until 2 or 3 of them start to get noticeably larger. Quickly remove from the microwave squish another cookie on top to form the sandwich. Be sure to apply even pressure. Put back on rack to cool and set.
Share with hungry people.

Leaning tower of greatness...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I realized in going through the pictures for the apple cookies, that on that day I also had a little taste of home. My parents brought me a par-baked Rocky Rococo's Pizza when they came to visit. The pie was partially cooked to hold shape, but needed another 30 mins in the oven to complete.

Just like home... just minus the M&Ms.
Needless to say, it was amazing.

Vanilla Glazed Apple Cookies

There was a request at work to make a fruit themed cookie. I thought that apples would be an interesting experiment, and low and behold, my cookie book had a apple recipe. So again, this comes from my cookie cook book.

Vanilla Glazed Apple Cookies

Makes ~ 2 dozen

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup finely diced and peeled apples (peel then dice, it is easier that way)
1 cup raisins (optional)

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
2-4 teaspoon milk

This is pretty standard cookie business. Just add apples at the end.

So pre heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream shortening and brown sugar together. Beat in egg, then beat in milk. Mix until incorporated.

In a different bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Then slowly beat in to creamed mixture forming the dough.

Stir in apples, nuts and raisins.

Plop out teaspoon fulls on ungreased cookie sheet. These are drop cookies, they will settle a little, so give some space. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until brown on the bottom and done on the edges. 

Remove and cool on a rack.

Once cool, mix glaze. If glaze is too thick add some milk. If it is too liquidy, add some sugar. Frost each cookie.


To be honest, I was not a huge fan. The apple taste did not really come through, and the other flavors were muted. Oh well. It just made me excited about pumpkin cookies!