The Science Nerd

French Dip – Quick and Easy

November 2, 2012

I love French Dip sandwiches.  I frequently get them at restaurants, but don’t often make them at home.   Well, this week, when planning my menu I decided to make French Dips one day for lunch.  And today was that day!  And they were pretty good – along with being super quick and easy.

Photo by Gayle Tabor

I started by putting some french fries in the oven to bake.  While they were cooking, I sliced an onion, placed it in a fry pan over low heat with a small touch of oil.  I let them cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while. In a sauce pan I put some beef broth, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce  and a few of the onion slices and let it simmer.

When the fries were almost ready, I toasted two sub rolls on a flat skillet   Then I heated up 4 slices of roast beef (2 for each sandwich) I heated them on one side for about 15 seconds, and when I flipped them over I covered them with slices of provolone cheese.  Once the cheese was good and melty, I transferred the roast beef and cheese to the sub rolls and covered with the cooked onions.  Put some fries on a plate and transferred the au jus to ramekins and that was it. Lunch was ready.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 2 Sub rolls
  • 4 slices roast beef
  • 3 slices provolone cheese
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 can beef broth
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • side of choice (fries, chips, salad, etc.)

Prep Time (for sandwiches): 15 minutes

As we embark on the month of November, it seems like the perfect time to pause each day and give thanks.  There is so much I have to be thankful for, but sometimes it’s easy to forget and only focus in on the things I don’t have.  This will be a good exercise in remembering to be grateful, and hopefully it will create a habit to carry over to the next month and beyond!

Day 1 is easy – I am thankful for Gayle.  She pushes me to be a better person, giving me a swift kick in the butt when I need it.  She also supports me in whatever I decide to do; whether it’s racing in triathlons or learning how to crochet.   I know that no matter what, she has my back.  It’s a good feeling!

That is not to say that we don’t have disagreements, (just check out the picture….when the Panthers play the Steelers – watch out!) but I’m thankful for those as well because it’s good to know that you can disagree with someone and not have it turn hateful.  I have a difficult time sharing my true feelings and am learning (slowly) that it’s ok to have those feelings, even if they are different from someone else’s.

I want to challenge you to do the same – find something specific to be thankful for each day this month.  It will change your outlook on life.

 

 

One evening a few weeks ago, Gayle wanted something chocolate.  We didn’t have any of the usual options (Little Debbie Swiss Cakes, mostly), so I turned to Google.  I found a recipe that looked easy and quick, plus I knew we had all the ingredients we needed.  I headed to the kitchen, telling Gayle on the way that if this recipe was good we were in BIG trouble.  It is something that we could make every evening without much fuss.

Well, the recipe was good and it is big trouble!  For the amount of time it takes, it is ridiculously delicious and probably chock full of calories.  Fortunately, it only makes single servings, so we have to make a choice every evening to make them or not.

And without further ado – here is the recipe as we make it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (we use dark chocolate cocoa powder, a friend made the recipe with regular coca posder and said it wasn’t as good as ours with the dark chocolate)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a mug, small bowl or ramekin.  Mix well.  Microwave for 70 seconds.  (This is the time we use, as microwaves vary greatly, you might need to play with the time to get it right.)  This makes a good serving for us, but you can double it if you’d like.

AND THAT”S IT!!

See, super easy.  And it is soooooo good.  Try it tonight.  I can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

It’s a Trust Thing

October 16, 2012

There are many reasons to celebrate.  And there are as many ways to celebrate as there are reasons.  September 15th of this year was a day worth celebrating.  And celebrate we did. We had to work in the morning, but spent the rest of the day just enjoying life.

We started with lunch, and then made an interesting purchase.  We have been talking for a long time about wanting a tandem bike.  We both love riding our bikes, and thought a tandem sounded like great fun for just cruisin’ around at the beach or downtown or wherever.  A few years ago, Gayle even got the frame to a bike with the idea of fixing it up, but we learned pretty quick that the time and money investments would be large.

A few weeks before, we drove by a tandem bike that was for sale….marinated on it for a while, and then decided that it would make the perfect way to celebrate being together, by being together on a bike.

So we bought it!  

 

Our bicycle built for two

It’s a ’60′s Bicycle Built for Two by Columbia.  After all nothing says I plan on sticking around like a vintage bicycle :)

We went on two short rides that first day, the first just to test drive the bike, and the second when we brought it home.  We had other places to go, but just couldn’t resist a short trip through the neighborhood on our “bicycle built for two”.

Because Gayle is the more confident of the two of us (by far), I almost insisted that she take the front seat.  Riding on the back of a tandem bike is an interesting phenomenon.

There is a lot of trust involved, more than I would have anticipated.  From the back, you can’t see what is directly in front of you.  You have to trust the person in the front seat to avoid obstacles and let you know if bumps are coming.  You also are at the mercy of the driver and how well they communicate turns and other movements.

Both riders need to trust the other, as balance can be a challenge.  Both riders have to work together to balance the bike.  You can’t try to do it all by yourself, because that is the easiest way to tip over – hurting both you and your partner.

Don’t get me wrong – the tandem bike is great fun!  It’s a way for Gayle and I to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy this beautiful area that we live in.  We love it!  It just takes some getting used to.

There are a lot of parallels between riding a tandem bike and life.  When you have a partner, whether it’s a business partner, friend, life partner or other family member, you have to trust that person.    It’s critical to communicate with them so you both are on the same page about where you are going and what is coming up.  And you can’t try to take everything on yourself.  You need to work with the other person to solve problems and deal with things together.  Trying to do it all yourself will cause both of you to crash and burn.

These are issues that I have had problems with in the past.  I am a horrible communicator.  I don’t want to cause waves, so I keep quiet about problems or issues which just makes them worse.  I need to remember that things are better if I communicate early and trust that things will work out.

I’m trying to remind myself of this each time I walk past our tandem bike.  Aside from being great fun and good exercise, I think it’s going to teach me a lot about trust in all areas of life.

I have been extremely remiss in posting the second phase of our homemade Chinese Take Out meal.  However, I am finally sitting down to complete the adventure.

If you recall, it all began with egg rolls and egg drop soup.  The soup was good, the egg rolls weren’t.  We decided that next time we would just purchase egg rolls from the Chinese take out place.  Or, if I’m feeling ambitious, I might try to make them from scratch.

Part 2 of dinner was fried rice and General Tso’s Chicken.  The fried rice was fairly easy.  I cooked some rice and set it off to the side.  In my wok, I lightly scrambled 2 eggs and moved them off to a plate.  Then I added 2T of oil to the wok and stirred in my rice.  I let it cook for a few minutes, then added 1T of soy sauce, the egg and some chopped green onions and stirred it all together.  You could add almost anything you wanted to this recipe….meat, veggies – it’s up to your taste.

The General Tso’s Chicken was a bit more complicated.  Here is the recipe:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 cups green onions, sliced
4 small dried chilies, seeds removed (You can vary this according to how hot you want your sauce to be)

Cornstarch slurry
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cornstarch

Sauce
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1 can chicken broth (a can)

Directions:

1  Place 3 T oil in wok and heat to 350 degrees.

2.  Mix cornstarch slurry in a large bowl- the mixture will be strange but trust me it works. It will be VERY thick almost paste like. Add chicken pieces to coat. Using a fork remove ONE chicken piece at a time and let the excess mixture drip off. YES even though the mixture has a weird consistency it will not stick like paste and the excess will drip off. Add chicken to  hot  oil and fry until crispy.

3.  Drain on paper towels. Keep warm- I just put them in the oven with the oven off. Repeating until all chicken is fried.

4.  Add a small amount of oil to the wok and heat to 400 degrees.

5.  Add green onions and hot peppers and stir fry about 30 seconds.

6.  Stir sauce mixture, and then add to pan with onions and peppers, cook until thick. If it gets too thick, add a little water.

7.  Add chicken to sauce in wok, and cook until all is hot and bubbly. The quicker this is done the crispier the chicken stays.

 

The chicken was great – not too spicy, but it did have some kick.  We will definitely have it again.  The rice was good (how do you mess up fried rice?) but it could have been cooked a bit longer – crunchy rice is not my fav.

If you love Chinese take out, but are trying to eat at home, this was a great alternative.  I would highly recommend trying it yourself.

 

For dinner tonight, I thought I would try and recreate one of our take out favorites.  We don’t order Chinese often, but when we do, Gayle enjoys the General Tso’s Chicken.  And that was on order for tonight.  In fact, we did the whole enchilada (sorry to mix cuisines on you).

We started with egg drop soup and egg rolls.  I made the egg drop soup from scratch, but the egg rolls were frozen, purchased at the grocery store.  The soup was very easy to make.  Here is the recipe -

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 -2 green onions, minced
Preparation:
In a wok or saucepan, bring the 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil.
Very slowly pour in the eggs in a steady stream. To make shreds, stir the egg rapidly in a clockwise direction for one minute. To make thin streams or ribbons, gently stir the eggs in a clockwise direction until they form.
Garnish with green onion and serve.
 

Not sure why the soup had to be stirred in a clockwise direction, but I did it.  I don’t know if I stirred too slow, poured the egg too fast or what, but my egg did not look like what you get from take out.  It was more lumpy…kind of like scrambled eggs in broth.  And the broth was cloudy.  It tasted great though.  Next time I’ll try something different with the eggs….probably pour slower.

The egg rolls were not good at all.  We decided that next time we would just get our egg rolls from the take out place and forget the frozen ones.

I don’t want to go crazy with the recipes, so I will save the second course for a later blog post.

Happy eating!

Live consciously and deliberately, with full awareness of what exactly it is you are doing and being.

I read this quote in a blog post today, and it really spoke to me.  It’s something Gayle has been trying to tell me for years, and I think it’s slowly starting to sink into my thick skull.  Actually, that’s not true.  My head gets it, it’s my heart that has been resistant to fully embracing it.

You see, I am an ostrich – through and through.  I stick my head in the sand whenever things get difficult and hope it will all just go away.  And I have lived this way for the past 40 years.  Let me tell you, it’s not the best way to live your life.  It’s not even a good way to live your life.  I can’t believe how much I’ve missed out on….

It scares me to even think about keeping my head out of the sand, but I’m working hard at focusing on the things that I will finally get to see and experience because I’m fully aware.  How much better my life will be and how much I can improve the lives of those around me by noticing them and being fully aware of the impact my actions have on them.

I don’t yet have a concrete plan for living more consciously, but I’m going to start by just being interested and involved in the world around me.  I’m also going to get back to blogging.  It’s impossible to write if I don’t know what’s going on, so hopefully a commitment to writing every day will force me to keep up with life.  I’m also going to get rid of some of those distractions that have allowed me to coast through on autopilot and ignore my thoughts.  I’m turning off the radio when I drive, leaving the TV off when I’m not purposefully watching something and avoiding the fantasies that play in my head that allow me to disconnect from what is truly happening.

We will see how things improve.  I don’t want to go through the next 40 years without really living.

 

Pure Adrenaline

April 3, 2012

As you probably know by now, Gayle and I went to ZipQuest yesterday.  ZipQuest is a 2.5 hour zipline adventure through a North Carolina forest.  Our tour began at 1:30, and by 2:15 I was happy to be there.  I did not start out super excited about this trip.  It was something Gayle really wanted to do when she recovered from having major surgery in December and I wanted to be supportive – I really did.

So I stressed and worried and went back and forth about participating in her recovery zip.  For a while, I told myself that if she got enough people to go with her, I could just stand back and watch, holding everyone’s stuff while they went off and flew through the air.  Now that I think about it, that’s what I’ve been doing my entire life – standing back and letting others have fun.  Even when I was little, during recess at school, I would volunteer to be “permanent holder” and hold one end of the jump rope while others jumped.  I was afraid to take a turn.  In college when we would go to Magic Mountain or other amusement parks, I would hold people’s stuff while they rode the roller coasters and had a great time.

Well, not this trip.  About 2 weeks before our scheduled zip day, I made a decision.  Yes, I might be scared, terrified actually,  (Frequently walking down a flight of stairs is frightening to me) but I was going to do this.  I convinced myself that it wasn’t dangerous and just made the choice that I was going to go, participate and have fun, no matter how scared I was.  Celebrating Gayle’s recovery and return to health was more important than a little fear.

And it all worked – until the moment I was strapped to the first zip line and Patrick, one of our guides, told me to go ahead.  I couldn’t let go.  I turned to Patrick and said, “I’m not going anywhere am I?”, meaning “If I let go, I won’t fall straight down to the ground, right?”.  His reply – “Not right now,  you have to let go first.”  So, after a few deep breaths, I did it – I let go.  Here is Gayle’s video of my first ever zip.

Note the look on my face, and the tone of my voice.  I wasn’t having the greatest time.  But, I kept going.  And each one got a little easier.  Stepping off every platform still took a conscious decision and a mental push, but after a while, I was able to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and even the rush of flying through the air.

Here is the video of a later zip.  It’s obvious by the tone in my voice that I am having fun!  And I was!  It was an amazing experience.

On the ride home, there was plenty of time for me to reflect on the day and how it really could change my life if I let it.  The biggest thing I realized was that I wanted to remember that terrifying feeling just before I stepped off the platforms and let the zipline carry me on.  I need to stop equating that feeling with stopping, backing down or giving up.   I want to remember in all situations, that even though I might be scared out of my mind, the important thing is to step out and enjoy the ride.

I would recommend a ZipQuest vacation to anyone!  The staff was friendly, patient, fun – the perfect guides!  I knew they actually cared about us having the best experience we could; they were not just out there punching a clock, waiting for the day to end.

I think our next adventure will either be Rock Climbing and Rappelling in the North Carolina mountains or a zipline course through the Redwoods in California.  Either way, I will be scared, but willing to let go and have fun!

Stepping off the Ledge

April 2, 2012

Gayle, Mary Martha and I getting ready to zip

Yesterday, Gayle and I and a group of friends went to Fayetteville, NC to ZipQuest.  A few months ago, Gayle had major surgery after being sick for at least 2 months.  The road to recovery was long and difficult.  During recovery, the Geico commercial with Maxwell the pig on a zipline aired frequently.  Then we discovered there was a zipline just 2 hours away.  So, this became Gayle’s recovery goal – to ride the zipline.  And once she was cleared by her doctor for ALL activity, we planned our trip.

ZipQuest is a 2.5 hour eco-adventure outside of Fayetteville.  During your time, you travel on 8 ziplines, traverse 3 suspension bridges and climb 4 spiral staircases over trees, rivers, waterfalls – absolutely beautiful terrain.  The highest zip is 90 feet in the air and while zipping you attain speeds of up to 35 mph.

I must admit that while excited, I was incredibly nervous about it.  The staff at ZipQuest does a great job of easing you into your ride.  The first “practice zip is only about 6 feet off the ground.  You get to practice and get comfortable with how the harness feels, how to brake and where to put your hands, etc.  Then you head up two flights of stairs to the first zipline.  Still not too far off the ground, maybe 20 feet.  The lines get progressively higher and longer.  The second to last zip starts you off at 90 feet above the ground.  Along they way there is a beautiful waterfall, rivers and amazing trees.  We also walked across three suspension bridges.  They were not my favorite – mostly because of the swinging motion and the bouncing from others on the bridge.  Even though we were strapped in the entire time, I sometimes had to force myself to keep going.

Our guides, CT and Patrick were great.  They were funny, willinging to chat and joke with us, and very patient.  On the first zip, Gayle went first, then I was up.  Patrick hooked me to the line, and it was time to go.  Stepping off that stump, trusting that the line would hold and letting go were the most difficult things I have ever done.  Once I was going, it was great fun.  The scenery, feeling a part of the forest, it was awesome!  But that first step was incredibly difficult.  Every time.  Even though I knew, without a doubt, that once I got going I would love it.

The first step is a doozie

I want to remember that feeling – the almost paralyzing fear of stepping off the ledge, then doing it anyway and the exilerating feeling of flying above the trees.  And the sense of accomplishment afterwards.  It helped me realize that I could do anything I set my mind to.  I just need to take that first step.

If you ever get the chance to go to ZipQuest, I highly recommend it.  And even if you are nervous, or scared silly – it’s worth it.  You might be surprised at what you can do.

Head over to Gayle’s blog to read her account and see video and more pictures

Crock Pot Steak Fajitas

March 20, 2012

In our quest to add diversity to our dinner repertoire, I have turned to Pinterest.  (You can check out my Food page here).  If you haven’t checked out Pinterest yet, I would highly recommend it.  Just don’t start if you have somewhere to be.  Tonight’s dinner was found while goofing off planning this week’s dinners.

Here is the recipe

Ingredients

1 pound thin steak, cut into strips

This isn't my picture, I forgot to take one.

1 green pepper, cut into strips

1 medium onion, cut into strips

1/2 cup beer (or water)

1 tsp. chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place all ingredients into crock pot, cook on high for 4-6 hours.  Serve in corn or flour tortillas with cheese, salsa and sour cream (or whatever you like with your fajitas).

I also heated up some refried beans as a side dish.

These were incredibly tasty, the only complaint we had was that they were too watery.  Next time I will take the steak, green peppers and onions out of the crock pot and drain them before serving.  Other than that, they were excellent.

This is also one of those crock pot meals that can be made ahead of time and put in the freezer.  Just put all the ingredients (except the beer) into a Seal-A-Meal bag or freezer bag and place in the freezer.  Then, when you need a quick easy meal, it can go straight from freezer to crock pot along with the beer and a few hours later, dinner is served!  It couldn’t be any easier.