Fun with iPhoto

I like to play with the "enhance" button on iPhoto, especially when it darkens things. It makes them so pretty!

But it can also make them look really different - usually good, sometimes too much light, and sometimes, weird.

A regular sort of "blue" shot of Lake Erie becomes electric blue:

A similar "blue" water shot,

that secretly has more colors inside:

This next one was taken in a crowd of people facing the stage during the evening concert at Lola last weekend:

I love that this was taken at a concert with a lot of electronic music. The weird gray fuzz in everyone's silhouettes looks like the "snow" when your TV is on the fritz.

This one hasn't been "enhanced" at all. It's just the sunset on a night when John and I were driving around Indianapolis. He doesn't need iPhoto's help to take a good picture.

Strawberry Muffins

Behold, the latest addition to Waterloo Street:

PUNCHO 3000!!!!!!

Actually it's just a 3-hole punch from Staples, but what with its fancy arm and all, I like PUNCH 3000!!!!! better. And no, I don't normally keep it above my fridge, but the light was better in there.

We have so many articles to print and haul around all the time that I've started over-flow binders at home. After weeks of missing Sarah's hole puncher I decided to invest in my own. It's my favorite new toy.

Another fun, random fact: I saw this frightening magazine cover at Shoppers Drug Mart.

She had kind of a nuclear green hue when you view it in person.

Unrelated to both PUNCHO and Shoppers Drug Mart, I made strawberry muffins on Saturday.

Mixing the berries into the flour was my favorite part. Something about the texture is so satisfying.

I'll be frank: these were a little bland. After studying the recipe again I wished I'd payed attention to the comments - other people added brown sugar, vanilla, or cinnamon. I wish I'd done the same.

But they're good with tea. Bland muffins are better than none at all, and they confirmed my new theory that muffins are almost as good as cupcakes and more practical for my busy schedule this semester. I'm now on the hunt for the best muffin recipes there are. Any suggestions?

Strawberry Muffins
Source: All Recipes
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped strawberries.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oil an 8 cup muffin tin, or use paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine oil, milk, and egg. Beat lightly. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Toss in chopped strawberries and stir to coat with flour. Pour in milk mixture and stir together.

Fill muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 25 minutes,** or until the tops bounce back from the touch. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pans.

*This originally yields 8 muffins, so the measurements here are doubled to yield 16. If you only want 8, just halve them.

**I actually made 24 medium-small muffins. 25 minutes was too long for that quantity. I'd try 20 minutes instead.

Spicy Crock Pot Beans

This is the 2nd time I get to reference Kira on my blog! John and I recently made Spicy Crock Pot Beans for dinner, a recipe I made over and over again last fall after reading it on her blog.

Finding ingredients for this at the Canadian Superstore was harder than we expected. After searching fruitlessly for Rotel I've decided I need to bring things like canned chiles, chipotle en adobo, and Rotel back after Christmas break. All of those are either hard to find or expensive - there's no Mexican aisle like in American grocery stores. In a store the size of Wal-Mart they only had one size of tortillas and one brand of refried beans.

While looking for the beans, I saw these:

Mmm maple beans.

Is this Canadian Spam?

Also, they don't sell 15 and 16 oz cans of bean. They sell them in a size of grams that's about a can and a half. The good thing about this meal is that it doesn't matter - more red beans are just fine.

This recipe, like my favorite Julie-Schap-style taco soup recipe, can be made lots of ways. I like adding an extra chile en adobo for more flavor. It doesn't call for meat, but I've made it several times with chicken, and this time with strips of pork.

I made it in the 70s crock pot that my grandma (I think?) got for me at a church rummage sale. It's small but it holds more than you'd expect.

It doesn't make for the most beautiful picture after it's cooked.

But they are so delicious.

A dollop of sour cream goes nicely on top. Notice that Canadians sell cream cheese and sour cream in the opposite sized containers as in the U.S.

Spicy Crock Pot Beans, from Food alla Puttanesca:

2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (4-ounce) cans green chile, diced
2 chipotle chiles from adobo sauce, minced
1 (0.85 ounce) package chicken gravy mix
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tomatoes, chopped, or ½ (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked white rice

Add first five ingredients to crockpot and cook on low for 3-5 hours. Stir in tomatoes 30 minutes before serving. Serve over white rice. (If you use chicken pieces as well, add them skin side down on the bottom of the pot and cook for 6-8 hours.)


Made us feel like home

Western does a lot for its international students like us. The international student office holds social events, orientation activities, and sets foreigners up with native English speakers for conversation practice. If one of us was not a student here, then we could attend the weekly Tea for Spouses of International Students (another opportunity for English practice).

As Americans, John and I are in an odd position. We're foreign enough to see obvious differences between Canada and the U.S. But we speak English and there are still a lot of similarities between our cultures. Usually this sort of foreign position turns into the opportunity to poke fun at our well-meaning Canadian friends.

For example:

Today we got an email about the North American custom of leaving a porch light on to let visitors and neighbors know you are home (John pointed out that we do this now to make people think we're home when we're actually not). You may be asking, "What North American custom? What porch?"

"In every culture, there is a place in one’s home of welcoming and gathering. Historically in North America, this place was often the porch (the outside entrance area of one’s home) where a home owner welcomes their neighbours,* friends and families. "

I'm picturing the South, people plucking absentmindedly at banjos, sitting on rocking chairs, pieces of straw in their mouths. Either that, or a scene out of Barber's Knoxville, Summer of 1915.

"Traditionally, when the porch light was on, it meant the home owner was at home and was providing a light to show the way up to their porch and inviting people in."

Well, we did this in Indiana, but only on Halloween.

"We would like to extend this feeling of welcome to other women through this traditional concept of the 'porch light'."

Oh, so this is just for women. Sorry, John.

"By participating in the Porch Light Program, a group of women international students will have the opportunity to meet Canadian women living in London and to be a part of their families, communities and neighbourhoods. They can share conversation, practice English (if needed), and have fun talking and doing activities together (e.g., Canadian seasonal events, making homemade food, etc.)."

Homemade food!

Here are the quotes from the '08-'09 participants. Remember, they were partially participating because English is not their first language (part of me always feels bad making fun of people for this, especially since I've been living in Canada. I felt really out of place for the first month or so...but I was raised by cynics, so I'm sharing these quotes with you anyways).

“I did learn a lot about Canada, and I sensed the feeling of home.”

“I had a smooth adaptation and now know Canadian custom better. I not only learnt a lot from the hosts but also from other international students from different parts of the world.”

“I think I had been accepted by Canadian society.”

“Hosts and even their families are really friendly and they treated us like family members, which made us feel like home. The relaxing atmosphere helped me get away from the stress from the school.”

To be fair, all of that sounds really nice to me, too. But it's also safe to say that we don't exactly fit in with the other international students since we re a) white and b) speak English. Maybe, instead of making fun of them, I'll go do my homework by the glow of our porch light, in hopes that another foreigner will walk by and feel welcome to come in.

*Note the Canadian/British spelling of neighbor. American Blogger's spell check doesn't like it.


Sounds like Lola

It turns out that a blog and the beginning of my PhD don't go together as easily as I'd hoped. The food posts require a lot less text so they will probably be frequent. But lest you think this is just a food blog, here's a post about the Lola Festival.

Lola is a festival of concerts and art installations, held downtown in Victoria Park. I was there for two concerts - the Steve Reich program and a performance by Final Fantasy. There were exhibits and concerts in different parts of the park and other concerts on the main stage.

Don't untie it, or it'll get away!

John, enjoying the Reich concert, maybe the moment when the (homeless?) shirtless, barefoot man walked slowly in front of the stage during Six Pianos.

Right next to Victoria Park is a wonderful Lebanese restaurant, where we had dinner.

We tried shawarma and it was so. good.

This was one of the most delicious meals I've had in Canada so far. The hummas - oh! - the hummas!

We walked around the park some more before the concert started and came upon a balloon-animal spider web. People were taking pictures of it, but I heard someone say that it was not an art installation after all. It was part of a kid's birthday party in the park that afternoon. Oh well!

Back at the main stage, Final Fantasy was about to perform.

Final Fantasy is this guy, Owen Pallett, who plays violin and sings and uses electronics. John saw him two summers ago at the Bang on a Can Marathon. He's kind of an interesting bridge between the "classical" new music scene and "popular" music.

I'm so glad we went to this, I really liked it!


I got 99 problems, but a peach ain't one.

[I've been waiting for months to use that, ever since I posted briefly on the Blue Bottler with another rap line]

Peaches are on sale! I've been wanting to try a peach muffin recipe but hadn't found one I was in love with. I went to make Kira's tonight when I realized I had no oats. So I made one from All Recipes instead.

This muffin experience was the kind that makes me value other people's food blogs: several things went wrong, and I'm here to tell you that everything was alright. First, I didn't notice that I was supposed to skin the peaches until they were in the oven. Next, the recipe was for 16 muffins, but I was optimistic that I could fit all the batter into 12 muffin cups because I've accidentally done it in the past. But the batter was a lot thicker than I expected and I ended up making 16 muffins anyways. But more muffins does not equal more problems (another rap line! Bonus!) My one comment is that I might have baked them a little longer, since the centers started to sink after a few minutes of cooling.

Making these made me think that muffins are awfully similar to cupcakes but without nearly as much work (well, they're sort of similar). I think muffins may be my new food experiment of choice. I'll be looking for a new pumpkin one in a couple of weeks.

My other comment is that using kosher salt really made these taste great. Sort of nice salty-sweet combination.

Look, the bird is going to eat one!

My muffin tops are huge. I'm the only one whose allowed to say that.

Peach Muffin Recipe, from All Recipes

3 cups all-purpose flour1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups white sugar
2 cups peeled, pitted, and chopped peaches

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease 16 muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs, and sugar. Stir the oil mixture into the flour mixture just until moist. Fold in the peaches. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups.

3. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Breakfast for Dinner!!!

My roommates past and present will attest that my all time favorite, most comforty-comfort food is Breakfast For Dinner.

Just like Breakfast for Breakfast, Breakfast for Dinner can go in a lot of directions. There's Sweet, like French toast. There's Savory, like grits. There's balanced, like a proportion of meat, grains, fruit, etc.

And there's bacon.

Before I ruin the idea of a Breakfast for Dinner without 5,000 calories, this is turkey bacon. Or, as the French Canadians say, Turkey in the Genre of Bacon.

No, it's not as bacon-ee as regular, thick cut, make-you-fat bacon, but it does the job and it's way less bad for you.

My brother says the "scramble" is the clumsy man's omelette. Myself, I'm not big on omlette's because they always seem like too much egg.

In a scramble, the additions (re: bacon) can keep the egg from being the main idea.

The theme of this scramble was "caprese."

Bacon (faux bacon, or, facon), tomatoes, mozzerella (which you cant see because it's already melted in), and basil from our basil plant.

Dinner in 10 minutes!

Dinner that Bridges the Seasons

Last week we had a dinner of foods that bridge the seasons.

The Christmas stuff is in the stores already, so, you know, it's almost fall.

But that also means that it's almost Halloween. Holidays seem kind of confusing in Canada. Thanksgiving comes really early (Oct. 12), which means the holiday shopping season would start before Halloween (but it doesn't really). But then there's a huge stretch of time until Christmas. Both types of holiday crap are in the store at the same time!

Those weird guys are especially creepy.

But back to our Bridge the Seasons Dinner.

First we had acorn squash. Simple "recipe:"

- Cut an acorn squash in half, either length wise or...short wise.

- Put on a baking dish and pour just a small amount of water, a 1/4 inch or so.

- Put 1 tbs butter, 1 tbs brown sugar, 1/2 tsp salt in the center of the squash.*

- Put the whole thing in the oven at 400 degrees F. for an hour.
*If you'd like, you could also use honey or maple syrup (we're not that Canadian yet).

They become beautiful and soft as they bake, and they come in their own serving bowl.

The squash was the part of dinner that looked forward to fall. But the weather hasn't turned cold yet (except at night), and sweet corn was on sale...

So we had corn and pork chops in bbq sauce!

Being from Indiana, I've had a lot of delicious corn. But wow - this corn was grown in my new province, and it was some of the best. I've. ever. had. And I don't even like corn that much! Not even one of my favorite veggies, except in the summer.

We just cooked the pork in a pan on the stove. It made for a lovely summer/fall...fummer....meal.

One last chance to use our corn-cob holder things before it's really fall and Christmas candy goes on sale.