Monday, January 31, 2011

The sno-calypse is upon us!

Those of you in the midwest and east coast know exactly what I'm talking about. Personally, I'm in a 10-14" snowfall zone. How about you?

So, I am smack in the middle of interview preparation. I had a very surreal moment today when the department chair from the school I'm interviewing at sent me my itinerary for the trip. I witnessed three faculty hires in my department, so I've seen similar itineraries several times....but never one about me!

I am really busy preparing...I have one grey suit, slides for a job talk that is 75% done, and waaaayyyy too many ideas floating around in my brain. I am having trouble focusing!

I took a break to assemble a quick weeknight dinner. It was really good, so I thought I'd share it with you.

The components:

So good.

Sauce ingredients: 

1/2 onion
1 pint mushrooms, sliced
2 turkey bratwurst
32 oz diced tomatoes
4 oz tomato paste
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp fennel
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sugar

I simply sauteed the ingredients and simmered it into a sauce. It was delicious and healthy served with a side salad and pasta.

I have another good recipe up my sleeve...

Have you ever had a potato soup that was so rich, so thick, so heavy that you knew it wasn't even the smallest bit healthy? Well, I covet such soups. I eat them, knowing full well that they are terrible for me. BUT...this weekend I made a soup I could be proud to eat....and it satisfied every desire.

You can have that recipe on Wednesday.

Are you affected by the snocalypse? What are you doing to prepare?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Job Search

That is not the face of a happy camper. I've been sick this week (and sleeping 12+ hours every night) and yesterday I woke up with a blocked sinus, which made my face hurt really badly. There must be something going around because some of the healthiest, strongest people I know are just dying. My boss joked (I think?) that he doesn't want to come in to work on Friday because so many of us are sick.

So, how have you been? I've missed blogging, but I just didn't have anything exciting to tell you. I haven't made any exciting food before tonight. I made some pasta + veggies last weekend, and a bad batch of wild rice soup (too much rice) and neither recipe was worth sharing, but both were completely edible. I didn't have to cook at all until today. That 'recipe' will be at the end of the post...

This is good because I've been trucking on job applications and preparing for an upcoming interview (!!!!!!!). I was just going to blow off blogging for the week, and tell you all that I was once again working on job applications....but then I realized that you probably don't understand why this takes so much of my time!  So, if you're curious, this is what I'm doing:

I am applying for jobs as an Assistant Professor of (Bio)chemistry. I am looking at schools with 4 year programs for undergraduates, and I am also entertaining the idea of working with Master's level graduate programs. My job will consist of mostly teaching and a small research program that I do with undergraduates/young graduate students.

I find these jobs at websites like:

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Higher Ed Jobs
American Chemical Society
Science Careers
Nature Jobs

Once I find a job that I want to apply for, I have to prepare several documents specifically for each one.

Curriculum vitae - Like a resume for the academic world.

Cover Letter - 1-1.5 page business letter. This is very specific to the school and requires me to really sell myself and my skills to their school.

Teaching Philosophy - This is a 1-3 page document written in essay format. It describes my experiences teaching and how I like to lead my classroom and teach students. For the most part, this document stays the same for each application, but some schools require the 'short' version and some like the 'long' version.

Research Interests & Plans - 1-7 page document describing my research plans. My research is REALLY AWESOME, but I have to sell my idea to each school. They have to believe that my research is publishable, that I can do it with undergraduates and minimal funding, and that I can do it with the supplies and equipment that each school has. I also need to tie myself in to existing research at those schools. This document is exhausting. It's actually HARDER when it's short.  

Reference Letters/Contacts - Some schools require letters e-mailed from each of my references along with the application, some just want reference information so that they can contact my references if I make it past the first cut. I have a core group of references and then I have a couple that I switch in and out as I see fit. I always feel so bad bothering them for letters though!

When I am done, I have a 10-15 page document that is specifically tailored to the program and the schools. This takes a ton of time. I have applied to 6 schools and am preparing another 4 applications in the next few weeks. It's paying off though! I am a finalist at one of the top schools on my list, and I have some confidence that if they see something in me based on my application materials, then other schools might as well. I have heard horror stories of people who applied for 50+ jobs to get two interviews and one offer, so I am happy to not be in that boat...yet.

Now that you feel my pain, I'll reward you with a recipe. It's not really a recipe as much as an assembly. One thing that we really like to make at our house is taco salad. It's easy. It's filling. It's delicious.

First, crush some chips in the bottom of a bowl. This is ~1 serving.

Then top with a salad mix.
(Thanks Fiance for the action shots!)
This is a mix of lettuce, spinach, broccoli slaw, carrots, red pepper, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Top with taco meat or seasoned beans, tempeh, or tofu.
This was 1 lb of 93% beef + 1 lb skinless ground turkey. Seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder, coriander, cumin, black pepper, and salt.
I used 2/3 c meat.
Then you top it with the good stuff! I used avocado (about 1/2-2/3 of a whole one), light sour cream, and salsa.
The fiance used cheese, avocado, sour cream, and salsa.

His & Hers.

Ok, I just made some 'healthy' chocolate mousse, so if that turns out, I'll let you know.Time to go enjoy my hard work!

I have a job interview on Feb 7-8th. I am one of four finalists, and I think I interview in the middle of the group. Any advice for me? I would love to hear any ideas on how to land this job!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

All words

In contrast to my last post from Vancouver, this one will be all words. Sorry for any impending boredom!

I'm back in Iowa. I suffered a poorly timed flat tire when pulling out of the airport parking lot - but I got it changed and picked up my boss from baggage claim before he even missed me, so that's good. Tomorrow morning my car will get all new 'shoes' - it was time and if I wanted to replace the flat, I'd have to get two tires to keep them wearing evenly anyway. It's going to be expensive, but I knew it was coming, so I've accepted and moved on.

After being 'on' for an entire week - the whole business trip, and Friday I had meetings and a phone interview (!!!!!!!), I crashed hard this weekend. Yesterday I went to a 1-year old's bday party and then crashed hard (it was an awesome party, but normally it would not be enough to make me go straight to bed afterward :P ). I slept 12 hours without trying. Today I'm excited to DO NOTHING and recharge  my batteries for another week. I'm also scouting a few more job opportunities.

I'm proud to say that I did manage to get all of my scheduled posts in this week, but tomorrow will have to be a break from regularly schedule programming. I should be back Tuesday with a post. I just need to get my car over to the dealership, so I don't want to be pressed for time. Plus, the fiance is being nice and taking me to work/picking me up after work. I don't want to press my luck!

Have a great week! How did you spend your weekend?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(Running) Tour

I hear it's going to be below zero in Iowa when I get back, so I have to go get in my outdoor activities now. See you when I'm back in the Midwest!

Monday, January 17, 2011

I might have saved you this recipe


You didn't think I could go a whole 6 days without blogging, right? I miss you guys!In the last few days I've been meeting new people, rubbing shoulders with some of the most influencial names in my field, and seeing some really cutting edge science. I have to give it up to the conference organizers for highlighting some very new and young research groups.

 I also have to thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and National Institutes of Health Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases for offsetting the cost of my travel expenses with a generous scholarship.

Ok as I said before, Vancouver is BEAUTIFUL. I've been wandering the city in my free time, and it's quite possibly the cleanest modern city I've been in. Plus, there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, bike lanes, public transit, and commerce.

Today we had 6 hours free, and there were options for day trips to ski on the mountain or go on a bus tour of the city, but I didn't come prepared for skiing and I get motion sickness really easily, so I decided to go on a little running tour. I didn't bring my camera, but I went out on this little peninsula where there is a park on the seawall and the view was breathtaking.

 (Thank you Google, for your map!)

I have a little more free time on Wednesday, so I think I'll be using it for another run. This time I'll bring my camera as long as it's not raining too hard.

The only real downside to this conference is that it is very possible I'll lose 5 lbs this week. It's not that the food is bad, just that competition for food is fierce! Plus, I'm easily distracted, so I'll get some food, start talking to someone, and then forget to eat. But, before I left Iowa, I made something for you guys...

Ohhh....what is that? It looks strange, and it also looks like I spent some time trying to make it look pretty on a plate (I'm trying! I'm trying!). It might be bok choy, grilled marinated tofu, and rice. And it might be an easy weeknight meal.

The details? Press yourself some extra firm tofu. I pressed two blocks between two plates and put a heavy object on top for about 15 minutes. With extra firm, you don't have to press too long. I cut them into medium thick strips. Maybe 8-10 per block. I obviously wasn't trying too hard.

Then, I assembled a marinade. The players:
The product:

The bath:

The shake:

15 minutes in the fridge. Shake again and turn upside down. 15 minutes more.

Blog-people: Meet Mr. Foreman. George Foreman. Yes, it's like I'm in college again, but it gets the job done.

George, meet tofu. I swear it works!
2-4 minutes. Done.

In the meantime, chop some bok choy. Add some oil, garlic, and ginger to the pan. Fry it just a minute. Then dump in your bok choy.

 I put a lid on it and just steam it for a few minutes. Stir, add about a tablespoon of oyster sauce (err on the side of caution!) and stir again. It's delicious and low-calorie!

This was a perfect weeknight meal, filling but low calorie!

Some people may be concerned about the relationship between soy and estrogen mimicry leading to cancer. I did a post on it previously (link here), but I'll summarize my general thoughts on the topic again:

Unless you have a sensitivity to estrogen (possibly a hormone linked cancer or a hormone imbalance), soy is a delicious and healthy source of protein in moderation. However, if you are eating a lot of processed foods, you should keep an eye on your total soy protein intake. For instance, I am eating a lot of energy bars and granola bars that contain added soy protein this week, so I'll probably avoid tofu and other soy-based proteins in my regular meals. I think the above post also contains some example daily meal tallys for how much soy the average westerner might ingest. 

Ok, I'll see if I can blog on my layover on Thursday, but otherwise I'll see you all when I'm back in the States!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm out!

You get a weekend post a little early this week, but there's a caveat: I'm out! I have a work conference from Saturday-Thursday this week, which means I'll miss my cycling class (darnit!), my lab, my cats, my blog, and of course, my fiance!

Where am I going? Beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada!
 Yeah, that place looks a lot like Miami, but it's WINTER, and it's going to be COLD. Oh well, it's still going to be warmer than Iowa. Thank you, Ocean!

In my absence, the fiance requested that I stock the fridge with things to keep him fed and happy. Since I buy the groceries and do most of the cooking, this is the least I could do. Plus, since I'm gone, he gets to indulge in a few bachelor-treats. Look at what I got him:
I swear he used to be a completely functional bachelor, but I think he subsisted on a lot of frozen skillet-in-a-bag meals and pizza. I got him some of his favorites and some things that I'm hoping he will use as inspiration to cook (rather than going to Arby's).
Pretzel sticks (2x) 
Corn for popping
Peppers (2x)
Kiwi (5x)
Sliced Ham
Bratwurst (2x)
Cheddarwurst (2x)
Skor bars (3x, I love you honey)
Frz cauliflower
Frz broccoli
Canned pineapple (2x)
Canned ready-to-eat soup (2x)
Pasta (2x)
Spaghetti sauce (2x)
Grated parmesan

This list also serves as a friendly reminder of all the food I left him when he promptly forgets. And it seems like a lot of food, but he really might eat all of that in six days. I might have already helped with the grapes, though ;)

And you know, my friendly blog friends, I wouldn't leave you without a delicious recipe for your weekend. I got this idea from this month's Health Magazine - it's a parmesan potato scramble. I totally didn't follow the recipe, but the idea sounded delicious and perfect for after a hard cycling class.
 Though I can't wear one, I love, love, love the return of these super-cute pixie haircuts!

I digress.

First, you melt butter or your favorite butter substitute in a frying pan:
I used about 1/2 tbsp of smart balance. Then, I added 1/2 a small onion and some minced garlic.
Brown it a little. Then add 2 grated potatoes. I grated these the night before, so they are a little brown.
I smashed these down into the pan to form a nice crispy crust, then I mixed them up and did it again. Total cook time ~8 minutes. Then I added eggs. I used 2 eggs + 2 egg whites, mixed.
It looks gross now, but it gets better! I waited until I was 99% sure the eggs were cooked and added 1/4 c shredded parmesan, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of raw spinach.

I mixed it all together and once again smashed it into the pan to brown. After about 2 minutes, I had a nicely browned frittata-like concoction.
Finally, I served myself some to eat with a clementine.

It was like a diner breakfast - hash browns or country potatoes with scrambled eggs, except you get your veggies in there and way less fat. It also held me over for 6 hours until lunch, so I was really happy with this breakfast!

Ok, I'm off to get some work done and finish packing for my trip. Hope you have a beautiful weekend.