Sunday, February 27, 2011

7 Days of Salads recap

Happy Sunday blog friends (or Monday to those doing their catching up after the weekend...)!

Yesterday I showed you a picture of my pathetic fruit bowl. Well, after a couple hours of grocery shopping (no kidding), we managed to improve the situation.
It was an epic grocery shopping trip. We were out of everything and surviving on leftovers and frozen packets. The receipt was as long as my leg.

I won't even tell you the final cost, but we did manage to save $16.00 with coupons and by recycling a few months worth of soda cans and beer bottles. In Iowa we get a 5 cent deposit return if we recycle any carbonated beverage. We don't drink a lot of soda or beer, so it takes a while to really make an impact on our budgets.

We also save money by buying a few things in bulk. But when we have to buy the bulk items, it gets spendy.
2 Liters of extra virgin olive oil for $15.00. We then aliquot it into the smaller jar on the counter. The big bottle lasts several months.
Over 2 lbs of Smart Balance.
1 lb of Organic baby spinach. This is a perfect example of cost effective bulk purchases. This was on sale for $4.50 and is Organic. The regular bagged spinach was $3.00 for under 1/3 lb. 3x$3.00 is $9.00. As long as we eat it all, we'll come out ahead.
After 1 year, I finally ran out of protein power. This variety is cheap and effective. I'm not vegan, so I don't mind whey protein. It costs $20.00 for a 2lb bag, but a 1 lb bag is $13.00. As long as it gets used, then it's a great purchase.

Enough about groceries. Salad Challege recap. The original challenge was 2 salads/day for 7 days. I did pretty well and started with an 'extra' salad, which I ended up using as a freebee while I was babysitting one day. I then extended the salad challenge 4 extra days, but ended up calling it quits after only 2. Here are the salads we enjoyed.
 Monkfish on Fennel/Orange/Spinach with Orange/Soy Vinagrette
 Tuna Salad on Greens with Balsamic
 Salad topped with crushed tortilla chips and salsa verde
 Gangsta Salad with pickled beets!
 Fennel Apple Salad
 Curried Cauliflower Salad (brown)
 Salad Bar style meal: (clockwise from front) Gangsta Salad, Curried Cauliflower, Risotto, Mini grilled cheeses
 Broccoli Salad

 Taco Salad Progression

 Mediterranean Roasted Veg Salad

Crab Cakes on Greens with Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette

There were many renditions with leftovers so I didn't waste food.

Hope you have a good week ahead of you. I have an interview Thurs-Fri and then a fun weekend in Minneapolis with friends. I'm super excited to see friends and have some fun.

What are you looking forward to?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bad Blogger!

Sorry friends, I've been a bad blogger this week. I even left you on a down note, which was tacky of me, wasn't it?

Lyra is busy being tacky to try to make me look better.

My lack of posting also means that I broke my New Year's resolution of having more regular posting. I'll try to make it up to you, but I'll warn you that I expect to be traveling a lot in the next few weeks, so posting might be a little erratic.

So, where did we leave off? Oh yes, the dreaded job search. Well, I didn't get the job. I was 2nd choice at my top choice school. Honestly, that's not bad at all. I feel a lot better just knowing what is going to happen there and being able to regroup and focus on the next options.

I had a terrible phone interview (in my opinion) two weeks ago, followed by that school having several follow-up calls to my references (ummm, never a good sign) and lo-and-behold they want me to come to campus next week and do a campus interview. Honestly, I think it's a little strange, but I'm going. I also had an amazing phone interview with another school on Tuesday. They were so much fun and I hope to hear positive news next week. All in all, I'm looking forward. I know I'm close!

Other things that are making me happy this week:
Green smoothies and juices. It wasn't so cold that they were unbearable. My skin was happy about that. Something about the minerals and hydration in the greens makes my skin so much better!

1 apple
1 orange
2 carrots
1 in ginger
2 broccoli stalks
2 cups spinach 
(serves 2)

1 banana
1 c frozen peaches
1 orange
2 cups spinach
protein powder

Late Valentine's Day Flowers! They were beautiful, but the fiance has announced that he won't be using 1800FLOWERS ever again. They screwed up my birthday flowers (misdeliver) and I didn't get anything on my birthday. They refunded the fiance and he then bought V-day flowers, which were supposed to come in on Feb 14th....then they were delayed a day, and then another day, and then another day. I got them 1 week late, and they were cold and sad when I got them. These pics are from 3 days of hanging out by a heater and getting flower food. The good news is that we  will be shopping local from now on!

Food hasn't been too interesting. I'll do a Salad Challenge recap, but I'll admit that the 4 extra days that I was going to do went down in flames. On day 9, we ate shrimp and grits for dinner. I just couldn't take any more salads. This week we were both busy and crabby and had a lot of roasted or sauteed veggies in some kind of sauce (usually tomato based), the one above was in a lemon vinaigrette. The dish above is pretty representative of what we're eating...which is good because this is what our fruit bowl looks like as of today:

Yes, I said fruit bowl. Yes, those are pretzels. We'll be shopping later tonight.

Finally, my weekend plans are to take it easy. After two weeks of unseasonably warm weather, we woke up to snow.
That's ok with me. I think it's creepy to have no snow in February. Plus, snow is better than freezing rain. Last weekend, I did a 9 mile run outside when it was 30 degrees and raining. Ugh! I came back inside after 6 miles to change into dry clothes and did the last 3 miles in those. Today I tried to run. I got about 3 miles in, but it's like running on rusty ball-bearings. You get some traction, but it's not reliable and it starts to hurt your hips and ankles after a while.

Instead, I did the short run and then this bodyrock workout. Zuzana handed my ass to me, but in a good way. I'll do some yoga later. The fiance requested some stretches, so I've got some good yogadownload classes that I bought a while ago. They also have awesome FREE 20 minute classes that are great if you're new to yoga or want to try another style of class. Highly recommended.

Recovery drink as of late is Ovaltine and protein power. Yes, all the classy kids drink their recovery drinks in American Chemical Society water bottles!

Ok, coming up - Salad Challenge recap and FINALLY the USDA GMO ruling. I know it's touchy, so I am double fact checking!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Staying Positive

I was talking to my good friend Maggie recently when I finally came to terms with some things that are having a pretty strong impact on my overall happiness right now. Being in 'professional limbo' this year has really put a dent on my attitude. I am in a position that leaves me rather powerless, in a bad job market, and I am playing the most epic waiting game ever while I wait to hear back about applications. Ugh.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I earned my Ph.D in biochemistry last spring, and I'm in a temporary position as a postdoctoral researcher this year. I am supposed to have another year in the lab if I can't find another job, but our lab is having some money troubles. Right now it'd be safer if I could get a new job...and one that at least gets me back in the classroom. The ultimate goal: Professor of (Bio)Chemistry at a 4 year institution, primarily working with undergraduates.

Because of this waiting game, I feel like I can't move forward on anything in the near or far future. I am constantly distracted and overwhelmed, and I release stress in unhealthy ways (ummm...too much wine and chocolate, not enough running!). This is seriously so hard for me!

Instead, let's focus on the good news:

1) I had a great interview at my top choice school. They will let me know sometime soon. I was one of four finalists. If I am #1 or #4, I should hear really soon. If I'm in the middle, I will have to wait until the higher choice(s) make their decision. 

2) Of the Biochemistry positions, I have 100% success on at least getting a phone interview. I am considerably less successful on the Organic Chemistry positions that I am also entertaining. I have three more applications for biochemistry positions to go out, so the options aren't at their end yet. 

4) At this point, the game is about availability and 'fit'. I am confident in my research program (which is REALLY cool and teaches undergraduates critical thinking and chemistry techniques while developing more efficient methods for making new antibiotics!). And, in Chemistry, I'm confident that I have enough experience/expertise in teaching. This is coming down to things like age, personality, gender, and other preference based items. I can only show up and be myself. 

I hope to have good news to share with you soon, but in the meantime, I am trying to do a better job of taking care of myself and staying motivated at work. I'll let you know as soon as I know!

Anyone else on the job market? How are you managing?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Extra Post for an Extra Important Cause

This says it better than I ever could:

What you can do about it:

Your voice needs to be heard on Capitol Hill! During the next few days, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate and vote on passage of H.R. 1, the continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011 (FY 11), which includes cuts as high as 29% for federal research and development in sciences agencies including: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Science Foundation (NSF), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE OS) and other vital science agencies.
What can you do? Let your Representative know that you do not support cuts to science, by calling now and telling him/her to vote against passage of H.R. 1. How? Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative's office. If you do not know who your Representative is, you can look him/her up here:

Note to Federal and University employees: Please be advised to check with your supervisor about any regulations concerning citizen advocacy prior to taking part in this action alert.
What to say:
When you call your Representative’s office, a staff assistant will answer the phone. When he/she answers, say:
  • "Hello, my name is and I am a constituent from (Name of your town).”
  • "I am calling today to urge to vote against H.R. 1 when the bill comes up for a vote on the House floor.”
  • Make sure to request that they personally report your message to your Representative.
  • The message above should be adequate for the call. However, if asked, you can say that:
  • We understand the need for fiscal restraint, and we agree that government needs to live within its means. Spending cuts, however, need to be smart and strategic. We should not make counterproductive cuts in areas like scientific research that are essential to American innovation and to our efforts to grow our economy, remain competitive in the global economy, and build a better America.
  • Cuts to government-sponsored scientific research and critical research facilities are not the types of strategic cuts we should be making at a time when we are seeking to facilitate and spark economic growth. Such cuts are unwise and would only hurt our long-term competitiveness, especially at a time when emerging economies such as China and India are ramping up their investments in scientific research and education.
  • Background: H.R. 1 cuts federal research and development budgets up to 29% in some areas. Additionally, because federal agencies have been operating at FY 2010 levels for five months, and the proposed cuts would be crowded into the seven months remaining in FY 2011, the impacts of these cuts would be considerably more severe.
  • Magnitude of the proposed cuts:
    • Department of Energy Office of Science would be funded at $4.017 billion, which represents a cut of $886 million, or 18 percent, from the FY 2010 funding level of $4.903 billion.
    • NSF would be cut by $359.5 million, or five percent, from the FY 2010 level of $6.87 billion.
    • NIST would see a reduction in its overall budget of $159.5 million, or 19 percent, from its FY 2010 funding level of $856.6 million.
    • USDA would see a reduction of the REE budget of $415 million, with NIFA decreasing by $217 million and ARS by $185 million. (Please see:
    • EPA’s budget is cut by $3 billion, which is 29% below fiscal year 2010.
    • For a full list of the FY 2011 cuts over FY 2010 enacted, please view the table posted here:
  • Impacts:
    • The proposed cuts would cause the layoffs of thousands of scientists, engineers, extension agents, support personnel, and contractors at universities and national laboratories.
    • A sharp reduction in the operation of facilities that enable U.S. scientists in industry and universities to perform cutting-edge research.
    • Elimination of current government support for hundreds of PhD researchers and graduate students in university research programs all across the country.
    • Further declines in the already-low grant success rates at NSF and USDA.
    • Cuts to important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs at the K-12, undergraduate, and graduate levels.
    • Reductions in DOE OS, EPA STAR, NSF, and USDA NIFA graduate fellowships, traineeships, and young investigator awards.
Thank you for supporting science.

Spring Fever

The snow has melted here in Iowa, and the weather is beautiful. I officially have spring fever, and I'm making my spring/summer race sheet. I'm well on my way to making 2011 the Best Race Year Ever.

The 7 Days of Salads Challenge ends today, and in case you missed the previous posts in the series, here they are:
Sneak Peak: 7 Days of Salads
It's the freakin' weekend!
Salads Continue

Let me tell you, I saved the best for last. But wait, it's not over. I'm announcing a temporary extension of the Salad Challenge. There is still time to jump in! I'm going to continue salading 2x per day until Sunday. That is how successful the salad challenge is! The fiance has even agreed to allow to eat salad for 4 extra days!

I've realized that my original goal of eating a different salad at every meal was a little extreme, so there have been some repeats. Especially the tuna salad. We made a little too much of that.

Leftovers aren't bad, I mean it's kind of like going to the salad bar and taking a small portion of every available salad. It's quite satisfying.

Mixed salad greens with broccoli, tomato, red pepper, julienned carrot, and balsamic. Leftover curry raisin and cauliflower, a smidge of mushroom risotto, and a mini grilled cheese sandwich.

And then there was the old standby, taco salad:

And don't worry, there are new recipes...and they are epic.

Broccoli salad is a treat around here...because it requires bacon and I don't like bacon and somehow I am the only person on earth who manages to burn bacon. So, I need to convince someone else to cook the bacon and yet not eat it all. The fiance likes broccoli salad enough to comply.

 Fresh broccoli, fined chopped red or white onion, raisins, sunflower seeds, bacon crumbles, and poppyseed dressing.

Basically, for every bunch of broccoli you buy at the store, you need 1/3 c raisins and 1/3 c sunflower seeds, 1/2 a small onion, and 2-3 strips of bacon. I add about 1/3 bottle of poppyseed dressing and I like Newman's Own.

I ate this for lunch with the rest of the tuna salad on spinach. I am also taking it with a ham sandwich and some cherry tomatoes for lunch tomorrow.

Valentine's Day is typically eat-at-home, and the fiance was nice enough to make most of the dinner for me while I went on a quick run and did my first bodyrock workout. I did the 'hot mess' workout, and it was AMAZING. I'm already planning on pairing my short runs with those workouts during my training this spring! So intense!

Dinner started with an appetizer:

Pretty, eh?

Then we had baked flounder with roasted Mediterranean vegetables (the 'salad') and cheesy asparagus rice.

All I did was make the veggies, and I really want to tell you about how I spiced them. They were hands-down the BEST roasted veggies I've ever made! I had 1 zucchini, 2 red peppers, 1 onion, cloves from 2 garlic bulbs (we like garlic, ok!), 2 roma tomatoes, one can of quartered artichoke hearts, and about 20 kalamata olives. I cut everything bite sized, but I left the cloves whole.

Garlic hint: They actually have less 'bite' the less you process them. Their distinctive smell (kind of sulfurous, like a skunk for some people) is caused by a chemical reaction that happens when you crush the cells, which releases gases with sulfur molecules (volatile allicins). If you cook them whole or just barely crushed, the taste is much milder.

I added about 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tbsp parsley, 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tbsp thyme, the zest of one lemon, and salt to taste. Roasted at 400 for about 30 minutes. Oh wow! It was incredible. I got seconds on that part!

Finally, the piece de resistance was tonight! I made crab cakes on salads with homemade lemon vinaigrette.

I honestly didn't think this was going to be good enough to post, and now I'm so sorry that I didn't take pictures of the step by step on the crab cakes, but it was so good, and it was reasonably healthy, that I really feel strongly that you should try this.

 Crab Cakes on Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
2 cans fancy crab meat, drained
1/3 brick light cream cheese
1/3 c light sour cream
1/2 c bread crumbs
2 green onions, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp thyme
1 egg

Mix and coat in 1/2 c bread crumbs with 2 tbsp flour and spices from above.
Set aside on bread-crumb coated plate. 

1 bag spinach
1/2 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
10 kalamata olives
1 red pepper, chopped small
3 green onions, chopped

1/3 c olive oil simmered or roasted with garlic (or garlic olive oil)
Juice + pulp of 1 lemon
1/4 c water
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp stoneground or dijon mustard

To cook the crab cakes, we fried them in a small amount of oil in a nonstick skillet. You can also brown them, but I would at least spray them with olive oil to get a nice crust. They take about 1 minute per side and then I held them in a warm oven until ready to serve. 

Assemble salad and set aside. In blender or food processor, add together ingredients for vinaigrette. Blend until smooth. Taste...if it's too strong, add more water. Should be mellow lemon with strong garlic taste. Hold at room temperature. 

Assemble salads on plate, add salt and pepper (very important), top with warm crab cakes and drizzle with vinagrette. Serve immediately. 

We got 8 crab cakes out of this recipe, and you can see that I ate two. Because of the lowfat dairy, they aren't that bad for you and have a high amount of protein. Especially served on a salad, they are both filling and balanced. I also ate some leftover mushroom risotto on the side (maybe 3/4 c).

Ok, tomorrow will be leftovers and another amazing salad! Plus, the fiance and I really are excited to have some of our favorite salads - Roasted Beet Salad, Asparagus and Egg Salad, and Cobb Salads!

What is your favorite salad?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Special Holiday

Happy Valentine's Day! Whether you are celebrating your love for another, or your love for yourself...I hope your day is filled with...

chocolate cupcakes.

And of course, love. :)

 Yes, there is a recipe involved. It's at the end. And if you are in my lab, you get cupcakes. Just come find them. 
While my friend Ethan and I were playing yesterday, we set to work on a special project. It involved pudding, a carrot, some posterboard, spoons, and a sweet message. 

Sorry for the blur. The idea was that since babies like to eat everything, pudding wouldn't be bad to eat if he took it upon himself...and that worked out alright for both of us. Then, I was sneaky and changed his clothes. They are currently being laundered. Good babysitting? to friends...I charge everyone else an arm and a leg...or some chickpea curry.

I also have to make today special for my super special room-mate...aka fiance. 
His request: Reminder whiteboard detailing the contents of the fridge.

Secrets! I try to make him happy....and I think this will deliver!

He also likes very public and very obnoxious displays of affection. So, I'm sorry friends, here goes nothing.

Oh fiance, you're cute. 
Your curly hair is a beaut. 
 But what I like best is when you wear a suit! 

I'm glad we are friends. 
We even start trends!
It won't be long before we're wearing Depends! 
(I'll still love you!)

This poem is lacking, but it's not cause I'm slacking.
I am just enjoying our life! 

We're poising to jump,
over the hump (called grad school)...
and trying to move up the rungs. 

I'm glad to report,
despite your retorts...
I'll scream at the top of my lungs:

I love you, bro
And you I'm glad to know...
and I hope we have years left to explore!

Love, Me. 

I'm a scientist. Poetry is not my strong point. But hopefully he's nice and embarrassed. 

Ok, you've survived the post. Here is a rich, chocolate cupcake recipe for your troubles....

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
 1.5 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c baking cocoa
4 eggs (or 2 eggs + 2 egg whites)
1 c butter (or 1/3 c + 1 tbsp oil)
1 c sugar (or 1/2 c + 1/2 c sugar substitute)
1 tbsp instant espresso
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c mini chocolate chips

1 package cream cheese
1/2 c margarine
~1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract

Mix dry ingredients and be sure to sift to remove lumps (cocoa powder is prone to lumping!). Seperately mix wet ingredients. Blend together and add chocolate chips. Portion into cupcake papers and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. 
Allow to cool. Cream together cream cheese and margarine. Add vanilla and almond extract. Add sugar slowly, stopping when the desired texture is obtained. Frost cupcakes liberally. 

Enjoy your valentine's day! And keep your eyes peeled...I am about 8 posts from an awesome giveaway celebrating something special for the blog. Any ideas what big blogeversary is coming up?