Tag Archives: cooking

Mushroom Risotto: A Cautionary Tale

I’ve been working, in the past few years theoretically and since moving to Ohio in particular, to expand my cooking repertoire.

It is somewhat easier now, since I work in a library, and every couple weeks I go downstairs and check out a new cookbook. And there have been some successes that I’ll be adding to my rotation.

And then there’s mushroom risotto.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The recipe seemed well within my abilities, and the ingredients seemed to be like they’d taste good together.

The first problem: Risotto is a pain in the ass to make.

There’s a lot of chopping and cooking before the risotto, which is a bit annoying but not the worst thing that’s ever happened. But then you add the risotto, which isn’t actually risotto at this point—just “arborio rice,” which is a polite way to say “petrified Satan’s droppings.”

Then you add a little bit of liquid and stir. For, like two hours.

And then, when that liquid is absorbed, you add more liquid and continue to stir. And you repeat this, and continue repeating it, and then continue repeating it, for a total of about 37 hours.

Seriously. I was watching Netflix on my phone and ran out of Law & Order to binge. I had to turn to The Ranch to avoid going mad from the rhythmic clanging of wooden spoon against pot, after which I yearned for the clanging of metal pot against my skull.

Mushroom Risotto
How delicious does that look? If your answer was, “Not very,” you are right. It looks like something that came out of a cat’s front end and back end simultaneously.

But even things that don’t look good might taste okay. So after two full Netflix series of prep, how does it actually taste?

It tastes like slightly chewy goo, with just a hint of mucilage and a soupcon of mush. The flavor is nothing but texture, and there’s not even much of that. You chew it, and eventually it goes down your throat, but you won’t ever be certain when the transition from “chewing” to “having swallowed” takes place.

It’s also vegan. You could tell that from approximately three hundred miles away.

To sum up: Don’t make mushroom risotto. It will make you sad.


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Monthly Goal Review: Hmm

This was a weird, absolutely-nothing-was-standard month.

There were the two athletic events, the Spartan Super and the DRX-Games, which affected my schedule a bit, especially the Spartan—I was recovering hard-core until about Wednesday the week after, and not 100% for a week at least.

There were a couple of professional stressors as well, including a giant twice-a-year freelance gig that’s nice in that it will result in a nice chunk of spending money and horrible in that it involves working for an organization that’s surprisingly triggering for me.

There was almost no progress on my formal goals. I did add two recipes to my repertoire: Southwest Zucchini Patties and a Crockpot Turkey Breast with butternut squash. Both were decent, although the zucchini patties were a bit more successful. I’ve really never done patties like that before; they were a bit loose so I probably should have added a bit more bread crumbs, but it was certainly not disastrous. The turkey breast was fine, although it’s not really the right season for it. I couldn’t find fresh cranberries and used dried, and it’s a bit over-onioned for my preference. I don’t like it enough for the amount of leftovers; I had the third meal of it today and I’m dreading tomorrow when I’ll polish the last one off.

Weight loss was quite bad this month—my 7-day average increased by six pounds. And yet it doesn’t feel like that. The chaos of this month has meant that my weight has done a bunch of rapid 10-pound swings, which sounds worse than it is (it’s far from unprecedented for me). So the end of the month hit me at the top of one of those swings, which is probably a bit exaggerated.

Despite that, given the good things at the Spartan (Yay monkey bars! Yay Z-Wall! Yay rope traverse thingy! Yay spear throw!) and DRX-Games (Yay tire dragging!) I’m willing to give this month the thumbs-up.

I do, however, want to go back to a bit more formal set of monthly goals. They include:

Running: I did almost no running in June, and I’m feeling it now. By the end of the month, I want to rebuild my endurance up to at least an 8K run.

Skin the cats: This is something from the weird shit workout. I’ve been able to sort of do it from the beginning, but I’ve had to have a lot of support—I needed to pull my legs up to the bar to push myself over, and then I needed a spotter to support my legs once I was over. Since then, I’ve gotten to the point where I can get upside down without the leg support (at least, sometimes; it’s not 100%) and I can get my legs partway over, though I’m still nervous about my shoulders which prevents me from getting all the way over. I’d like to get over that and get all the way down.

Pull-ups: I haven’t given much thought to pull-ups this year; I had some shoulder problems earlier this year that made that a bad idea. But the shoulder is (knock on wood) feeling better, so maybe it’s time to go for it again. I’m doing about three sort-of-suspicious pull-ups at a time now; I’d like to get up to five real solid ones by the end of the month.

Cooking: 1 new recipe to keep me on pace for the year-long goal.

Crow pose: I haven’t been working these consistently and yet one random try I did a couple days ago was my best yet—holding it under control for maybe five or six minutes. My goal is a 15-second hold, and I’m not sure what’s practical, but maybe an appropriate goal will be to do a bit of practice every day on it and see what kind of stability I can manage. At least, after today, since I’m two days into the month. Although I guess I did practice a little tiny bit today and yesterday, so maybe I’m technically okay. I mean, there’s not really a blog goal authority to report me to.

Dad’s Little Book of Rage: I’ve gotten some reviews of my draft and I’ve cataloged the edits I’d like to make. So by the end of the month I want to finish those. And, as a stretch goal, to research the process for submitting to agents with the idea of starting that process in August.

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Goal Update: Mixed Results

April was… interesting.

A lot of the month was really rough—in addition to some general malaise, I had some shoulder issues that made everything pretty tough. Then I had a really good week, and then things kind of fell apart again but maybe not so bad.

Anyhow, the details:

Weight: Down about 2.5 pounds for the month.

Climbing: My tracking document says “#11 turned corner.” That actually means something. One of my current projects is from the recent competition that I didn’t do, but they’ve kept all the problems up from. It happens to be #11 and it’s a long and cool-looking one. You start on the inside of a cave, and then come out of it and turn onto an outer wall, but the grip that you’re holding on when you’re making the 90-degree turn is backwards at first glance. (The key is to swing your entire body around between moves, rather than trying to do it all at once, and I know that doesn’t really make sense, but deal with it.) Anyhow, I’ve got a bit more to do—the route has a few more moves and the top grips are a bit tricky for me, but it’s progress. Not that necessarily “counts”—the route’s just a V1—but I’m okay with it.

Cooking: In addition to the two recipes I already wrote about, I also tried and liked Curried Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes. I’m not paleo, although I think there are principles that are worth taking on board.

Running: Training’s going good, even though I’d like to be doing three runs a week and I usually only get two. My long runs are up to 9K, which I did last week in the aesthetically pleasing time of 48:48.

Crow Pose: I think this is dangerously close. There have been a couple times where I held it for a couple of breaths. Actual breaths, not like the super-quick huff-and-puff-because-you’re-panicking breaths. Before long, I may try timing it.

Other: I’ve started incorporating a small amount of yoga into my life. It’s probably simultaneously too much and not enough; I only do it once a week (in the sense of a full yoga workout, although the moves find their way into other workouts in a small way), and I don’t like it so I don’t want to do more, but I’m not sure I’m doing enough to really get any benefits. We shall see.

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Adventures in Cookery

With that headline, apparently British Greg has taken over the site, but that’s okay. One of my goals for the year was to cook more new things, and I’ve got a couple of recipifications (is that an okay noun for “single acts of cooking”?) to report on.

First is beef and sweet potato stir-fry from Karen’s Kitchen Stories. My report on this one is kind of short and sweet, because it worked really well and tasted good, which is great but it doesn’t make a super-exciting write-up. Although it’s sort of indirectly responsible for the interestingness of the next recipe. This one calls for apple butter as part of a marinade, which is both more and less difficult to come by than you would think. Trader Joe’s didn’t seem to have it, which I found weird—I’d have expected about 12 different varieties of fruit butters that I’d never heard of, but they only had fig. So I tried Whole Foods, which also didn’t seem to have it. But then Jewel, the local big-box supermarket, had it in giant 47-serving jars. Seriously, how am I going to eat 46 more servings of apple butter? Can you spread it on a baked potato?

Apple butter

If Cardamom Watch hadn’t turned out so stupid, I’d be doing a Cardamom Watch with Apple Butter.

The second new recipe—also successful was chili from dry beans from Dessert Before Dinner. It tasted good, but making it… well.

During the Great Apple Butter Diversion to Whole Foods of 2016, I also had my eye out for dry beans, as Trader Joe’s didn’t seem to have all the varieties the recipe called for. In this endeavor, Whole Foods was successful, as they not only had the beans, they had them in bulk dispensers. So, in theory, I could take just the amounts required (ranging from half a cup to 2 cups) and not have any left over. Brilliant! Leftover ingredients can be tricky to use up when you live alone, and even though I’m pretty sure beans last a long time, I only know that in my head and not my heart. Plus, the sweet siren song of those mechanisms where you push a lever and beans just fall into a bag was calling me. Plus, writing a number on a twist tie? Oh, yeah…

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any way to measure the volume of beans I was dumping into the bags better than my eyeballs, and my eyeballs, as it turns out, aren’t terribly accurate. So, when I got home and started filling the crock pot, I really filled the crock pot. Like, up to the rim, ran out of space for the cumin filled the crock pot. (Okay, I actually ran out of space for the corn, but “ran out of space for the cumin” is a much better-turned phrase, so I’ll go with it.)

Someone with wisdom may have stopped what they were doing at this point, but I decided to go ahead and turn the crock pot on. But as beans get wet, they get bigger. So in a few hours, the chili resembled the birth of the curry monster from the “DNA” episode of Red Dwarf (at 22:25 of the following video).

(Was there a similar scene in Ghostbusters? I feel like there should have been, but I don’t recall one.)

Anyhow, that’s a bit of an exaggeration—the chili had grown enough to push the lid up a bit, but nothing exploded, and there were certainly no curry monsters coming out. And it cooked just fine, although at the end I wound up transferring it to a giant pot so I could add and  heat the corn through. The only real problem is that it made a huge amount—probably 10 bowls’ worth. I hope it freezes okay, because I did done that.

Hmm. 10 bowls’ worth. Of course, that’s coming from me, and we’ve already established that I can’t estimate volume well. I smell more sitcom-style hijinx!

(Why, yes, you are now humming the Full House theme to yourself. Thank goodness that got remade. Without it, how would we know Dave Coulier is still alive until Alanis Morissette writes another song about him?)

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Goal Update: I Guess I’m in Training Now

February went well.

I didn’t complete any goals, but there were sudden, almost disconcerting, bouts of progress on a lot of them. I think that might be because this month is when I started registering for races for the year, which starts to make it all real, so there was a bit more motivation to eat right and work out. More eating right than training, really, but still.

Some highlights:

Weight: My weight (on a 7-day average basis) dropped 7 pounds, which isn’t bad.

Climbing: This was the really weird one. I have not been climbing well this year at all. Then, about a week ago, things started clicking—there were about 8 problems that I’ve been trying and not been able to do, and I finished all of them over the course of a couple climbing sessions. And I even flashed (climbed the first time I tried it) a V1, which is above what I can typically do. (Although I might not have; I reached the top grip but it’s possible I was meant to grab the top of the physical wall to finish it, which I didn’t do. It was also a pretty short problem, but I’m still counting it as a win.) In fact, I’m sort of unsure of what I need to be working on next—there are only a couple that I’ve been working on that I can’t now do, so I need to figure out the next routes that I’m want to work on.

Trader Joe's Pesto and Quinoa

Trader Joe’s makes things seem practical that may not be.

Cooking: I added another recipe to the repertoire, Chicken Pesto Quinoa. Although I don’t recommend doing what I did, which is buying pesto mixed with quinoa and using it as the pesto. Just get regular pest.

Handstands: My gym’s got a class that I’ve dubbed “the weird shit workouts.” It entails a lot of quadripedal movement, inversions, jumping, and other nontraditional gym movements. I still can’t do a handstand, and I don’t know how close I am, but I definitely got better.

Running: Not really a goal, but the weather was decent for a couple weekends so I got started on training running a bit earlier than I expected. In 2 runs I’m up to 10 minutes of running endurance without any real difficulty. As I recall, last year it took a few weeks of running before I was able to get any kind of endurance at all. Based on the early runs, I’m planning to get up to a 5K in probably 3 or 4 runs and then build from there.

More weird stuff: The weird shit workout has included a few other things I’ll be incorporating into my goals. One of them is an upside-down pull-up: swinging your body up inside the bar and then doing a pull-up with your legs up and your head down. The other is jumping from monkey bar to monkey bar, rather than swinging—I actually managed a couple of these, but I think more are feasible.

(Edited to add) Stair Climb Challenge: This changed a bit. I originally planned to do a timed stair climb, three times at my gym (21 flights total) as a progress indicator. But that never wound up happening, since just climbing stairs is boring. But one of the trainers at my gym developed another one that fits well: a combination of rowing and stair climbs that totaled 3,000 meters rowing and 20 flights of stairs. My baseline time for that was 19:22; the goal I created after that is 19:00.

Creation: Dad’s Little Book of Rage is going well; I’m up to 43 of an estimated 49 pictures done. Well, “done.” A lot of them need some additional bits that I’ll be adding, or they’ll need some pretty significant changes because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to make things when I started and they need to be brought in line with how I’m doing them now. Still, several I’m pleased with. Or annoyed by. (I don’t know why WordPress isn’t letting me rotate them, so sorry about that.) Anyhow, the creation streak is at 65 days and counting.


Trader Joe’s makes things seem practical that may not be.


A rare four-panel image, involving parkour, watermelons, and persimmon attacks.

Tiger getting tranquilized

Some main characters fantasize about being tigers getting hunted.


It’s a pain in the ass to try to make a construction-paper replication of a stained-glass window of Jesus, with a corpse’s disembodied head being kicked through his stomach.


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Goal Update: The Darkest Month

January is consistently my worst month.

Weather is part of that-it’s the coldest, bleakest, nearly the darkest, and most-trapped-in-my-apartmentest month. There’s also the holiday recovery, the unreasonable expectations of the new year, and the fact that I generally get sick somewhere in there (this year it never got that bad, but it’s lingered like an obnoxious taunting gnome with no legs). There’s also a freelance gig that I generally get that is nice in a cashal way, but also highly disruptive to my schedule, interruptive of my sleep patterns, restrictive in that it tethers me to my computer for several days straight, and stressful in that it aggressively reminds me of all the reasons I no longer work for that organization full time. And the job hunt took a lot out of me-I did an interview for a job that I think could have been as close to a perfect fit as possible, considering that jobs and humans have extremely different parts that really don’t interlock that well, and I thought the interview went really well, and then heard nothing back.

I’m happy to report that fitness- and goal-wise, the month wasn’t a free fall. Not good, but not disastrous. Some specifics:

Monkey bars: I successfully completed the full set while swinging every other bar. At some point I should video it as proof. It had a weird side effect that it’s much harder now for me to do the monkey bars using the typical go-to-the-next-bar style. I think I can do it but it takes a big mental adjustment. I like big brachiations and I cannot lie.

Crow pose: This is the most surprising. I didn’t hold it the 20 seconds that is my goal, but I did do a clear, controlled hold for a few seconds. I actually yelped in surprise when it happened in class because it’s never happened before. It’s surprising because I don’t feel like I’m at my peak, fitness-wise. But it’s also sort of understandable because my gym has been offering a new class that I call the weird shit workout. It’s a lot of quadrupedal movement (a term I picked up from that Horrible Parkour Class that I need to document one of these days) and inversion-y things and other weird shit that’s fun and hard and could, in retrospect, have helped. Still, we hadn’t done crow poses specifically, and I hadn’t worked on it in months, so it’s still a surprise.

Cooking: I’ve tried three recipes, and at least one is (sort of) a keeper. This pumpkin and turkey chili is one I could definitely try again-it’s easy and tasted okay, although I think it could use more of something. Maybe more pumpkin, maybe more heat. Still, close enough to count.

These southwest chicken bites-basically Tex-mex egg rolls that are baked, not fried, were also decent, although they’re a lot of work for the benefit. One side benefit, though: I figured that some bean sprouts would be a nice addition, but the supermarket only sells them in huge quantities that I could never finish. So I tried this mix of clover, cabbage, and fenugreek as an alternative, and I approve-I could definitely see myself using it in other applications. (And no, I don’t know what fenugreek is.)

The third recipe was a disaster. It seemed so simple-spinach, cheese, and an egg in a portobello cap, baked until the egg set. But the egg didn’t set-at least not for about twice as long as the recipe said-and then the yolk was sort of a gel while the white was barely a white. The whole thing tasted slimy and chalky and evil. I still shudder to think of it.

Weight: started at 267, ended at 267.5. I’m hopeful on this front, though. As you can see in the sidebar, I’ve started planning (at least roughly) my race season, which makes training feel a lot more real, even though there’s a long way to go.

Creation: This has gone well. I’m on a 37-day streak, so the month was good. It’s been primarily Dad’s Little Book of Rage, and the progress has been good—I finished 13 illustrations this month, putting me at roughly 60% of what I’m expecting to need.

It’s actually going a bit slower than I expected, given regular effort, but that’s probably a good sign. The reason is that the illustrations are becoming more elaborate, and (I think) funny in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. Like this one (still in progress), depicting the make-out session that is a natural consequence when someone expresses feminine solidarity at a community center songwriting class.


I may not be skilled, but I can at least be weird.

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An Uphill Climb, with Shoelaces

It’s been a rough weekend-plus, mentally and physically. One of the great problems with rough times is that they tend to feed themselves. Or maybe I just get more sensitive to bad things when things aren’t going well. That certainly might explain why the shoelaces bug me so.

Let me explain. There are much badder things that have happened in the past few days. There was the party on Saturday, which was fun but also reminded me that I’m fat and weird and don’t truly fit in with my friends. There was the climbing session, which was fun but where I really didn’t make any improvements, and which left me feeling fat and weak. There was the diet going a bit off, which led to a massive swing in my weight, and even though I know that it’s mostly statistical noise, it still sucks. There’s some back pain, likely brought on by sitting for too long, but it’s worrying and it has affected a couple workouts. And there’s the job hunt—I found a couple jobs open that I interviewed for a few months ago being re-advertised.

(If I may go off on a slight tangent, that practice really pisses me off. The jobs that I’m applying for require certain skills, and not everyone has them, but some people do, and I know for a fact that I do, so the idea that they didn’t find anyone qualified is bullshit. And I’ve heard a lot of biz-types spout off lately about how important it is to find a good “fit”, but despite being weird I’ve successfully managed to fit in professionally with a bizarre menagerie of folks, so it’s not that fucking hard. I get conspiracy theory on this topic—there are HR people who need to over complicate hiring to justify their existence, and there are old people who want my generation to be unemployable to show that they were right all along about how worthless we are, and there are political types who want people to not get hired so they can score political points, and the result of these influences is that I get to waste huge amounts of time and energy and anxiety finding and applying for and preparing for interviews for and interviewing for jobs that don’t fucking exist. People who perpetuate this should be punched a lot.)

The thing is, my main reaction to all of this is more weariness than anger. I’ve experienced it all before, and I’ll experience it all again, and it sucks, but it’s a part of being.

The shoelaces, however…

I went to Sports Authority, which despite its name never seems to be a good choice for much of anything. But I also wanted to get a Swiss ball to try as a sittin’ option for when my back is hurting from being in front of the computer so much, and it’s the most convenient place I knew would have it. I figured they’d have shoelaces too, since shoelaces are required for many sports, and to be honest, they did. Nothing shorter than 54 inches, which are a good foot and a half too long for my 6-eyelet shoes. Which raises the question of, who uses these massively long shoes? I have big feet, size 12, and my shoes have never had more than 6 eyelets. If I had the 9-10 eyelets needed to use a 54-inch lace, I’d need to fit an extension on the front.

Anyhow, the sporting good store didn’t have the necessary sporting good, probably because it’s not a sporting good sporting good store. Never fear, I say, with élan and aplomb that I don’t truly feel. I’ll just try the DSW shoe store across the street.

Elton John in Tommy

Apparently Elton shops at DSW. (Edited Tommy screencap via http://deeperintomovies.net/journal/archives/7014)

They did have smaller shoelaces… Eventually. Well-hidden. They had racks and racks of the 54-inchers, perfectly color coded, plus a thingy of 70s. Seriously. 70 inch shoelaces. Apparently Elton John from Tommy shops there.

But fortunately, while the DSW employees clearly know their colors, they don’t necessarily know their numbers, because behind the 70s, I did manage to find a pair of 45-inch laces. Still too long, but workable, and a lot better than trying yet another store. And by that time, I was actually angry.

Fortunately, I’m hoping it’s passed. I’m feeling a lot better now, mostly because of writing it out.* It’s a reminder that creating something is often a really good antidote for me. That’s something I knew before, but I seem to need reminders every so often.

Anyhow, I’ve been non-pissy during my second run of the year (even though my phone had a massive distance-tracking glitch, claiming that I ran the first kilometer in 3 and a half minutes, which I didn’t, and even though the app paused part-way through), and cooking (curry stuffed sweet potatoes, which were excellent, although next time I’m definitely going to add some extra veggies. And I even added a little shake of cardamom!)

*Specifically the Elton John from Tommy line. I’m pleased with that one. Thanks, Reg!

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