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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sfiha: Savory Syrian Pastries

The original recipe is here.  According to S. (who polished off half of them, with yogurt, for lunch), these pastries taste just like his mother used to make.  She lived in Syria for many years and is a very good cook so I guess this recipe is as authentic as it can be.

1 cup warm water (I used warm reduced-fat milk because I had some leftover milk and wanted to experiment)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups flour (all-purpose)
1 tsp sugar
1 packet dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 kg (16 oz) ground lamb meat (I used lean ground beef)
1 kg (32 oz) firm tomatoes, finely chopped (I used 4 medium tomatoes)
5 medium onions, finely chopped (I only used 1 large onion)
1 tsp salt
A generous dash of ground cayenne red pepper, ground cinnamon, and ground allspice
2 tbsp butter, finely diced
2 tbsp Greek-style yogurt
1 tbsp sesame paste (tahini)
1 tbsp pomegranate thickened juice (if available -- I did not have any)
4 tbsp fried pine nuts (S. loves pine nuts so I used 5 tbsp, lightly toasted is a dry skillet)
  1. Add all dough ingredients to the breadmaker in the order provided.  Set on Dough.
  2. Mix ground meat, tomatoes (drain excess juice, if necessary), onion and spices.
  3. Add yogurt, sesame paste, and pomegranate (if you have it).
  4. Lightly toast pine nuts.
  5. Add pine nuts and butter to the meat.
  6. Mix to incorporate all ingredients.
  7. When the dough is ready, place it in a bowl lighlty sprayed with non-stick spray.  It should be very pliable -- very easy to work with.
  8. Break off pieces of dough and form into walnut-size balls. Roll between palms to smooth.
  9. You can roll out balls with a rolling pin or just shape with hands, to form approximately 3" circles.
  10. Place some meat (meatball-size?) mixture on the dough circle and flatten just a bit, to spread the meat.
  11. Bring edges up and press to make a square -- see my photo above.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  13. Spray the cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
  14. Arrange meat pastries on the sheet, making sure that their sides don't touch (you don't need much space between them, just make sure they don't touch).
  15. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until pastries are golden brown and the meat is cooked.
  16. Serve warm, with Greek-style yogurt.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Orange Juice and Writing

Both are refreshing!  :) 

We have a small orange tree and its fruit is finally ripe enough to eat.  Yay!  These oranges are medium-sized and rather difficult to peel but sweet and juicy.  There is nothing like freshly squeezed orange juice -- just pure juice, no additives whatsoever.

I haven't been able to write much for the last two semesters.  This semester, it's stop and go -- lots of work interference which I thought I was able to resolve but, alas, it's like an unwanted guest that shows up on the doorstep when you least expect it.  Sigh...  I have been able to write a bit yesterday and hope to do more this afternoon.

Bonus:  Our two troublemakers.  Bubbles, our less-than-five-pound ball of fur actually loves to drive-by swipe Beauty, a seventy-pound dog who wags her tail and gives a half-hearted chase, just to play.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Burnt popcorn...

Somebody burned popcorn and so the entire faculty offices area stinks, really stinks!  How do you burn popcorn in this day and age, when there is a "Popcorn" option on the microwave?!?! 

I really need to finish two projects tonight but this awful smell is giving me a headache! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

Update: Now somebody sprayed some kind of heavy-duty deodorizer that is mixing with burned popcorn stink!!!  I need one of these:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cassata Cake

The recipe is here:

  • Base:  Lady Fingers cookies
  • Ribbon:  Fruit by the Foot candy
  • Flowers:  Fondant (petals shaped by hand, very easy -- just Google the technique)
Note:  This cake should be made at least one day before being served.

Monday Index

Profgrrrrl posted her Weekend Index so here is my Monday Index.
  • Hours of sleep last night:  4.5 (up at 5:00 am)
  • Showers taken: 1
  • Sleepy dogs packed for a three-day trip:  1 (S. did most of the packing, I just helped; both of us are traveling this week so his Mom is taking the dog)
  • Cats fed and petted, to be left in the care of my brother:  1
  • Fully awake, super excited to be in the car, and aiming for a sloppy kiss (yeeeeewwwww, no kisses for me, especially when I am dressed for work) dogs delivered to Mom: 1 (same dog so does it count?)
  • Portable dog cages assembled: 1
  • Fingers jammed:  3 (one for me, two for Mom)
  • Dog Care 101 tutorials delivered: 1
  • Hours Driven:  5
  • Miles Driven:  270 (50 more to go this afternoon)
  • Classes Taught:  0.5 (1.5 to go, until 5:30 pm)
  • Cups of Coffee Consumed:  3
  • Numbers of hours of between waking up and coming home to collapse for a short nap:  14
  • Papers to grade tonight:  20
  • Conference to proposals to work on:  2
  • Consulting project to finish:  1
  • Committee assignment to complete: 1
  • ETA of bed time:  who knows?!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baked Potato Soup w/Fresh Whole Wheat Croutons

Baked Potato Soup Ginas Skinny Recipes plus leftover roasted chicken

Dinner tonight, with fresh whole wheat croutons (leftover bread)!

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Know that a smile will rally many to thy cause, while a frown would drive all away."

Update:  I just received an email with an apology and explanation from a student described below.  See, a smile does work! :)

I am still struggling with a group of students I blogged about recently.  Thankfully, I don't get as many confused emails and/or looks as I have gotten before but, for goodness sakes, I am giving directions in class, repeating directions in class, and then emailing those directions!  Still, can't get through to some students... Are they just lazy, stubborn, or what???

A couple of them are rude, too...  We tried online chat today and one student became impatient.  I was explaining a concept and didn't answer his/her question right away.  It was rude to interrupt my presentation with a question anyway but then, less than a minute later, this person interrupted again, "Will you answer my question?"  Honestly, I was seething but kept smiling and typing in the remainder of my explanation.  Then I responded to him/her with "I will, in a sec."  I made a point of not responding to his/her question until I have answered other students' questions who were following directions and asked questions when prompted.  Then I typed in "Here is an answer to your question, Stu..." and included a smiley.

We proceeded with class discussion and I responded to one of the questions with a short joke.  I am not the type of person who goes into useless talk and forgets what needs to be discussed.  Yet, the same student interrupted rudely with "Will you get back on track?"  I responded, with a smiley and "Lighten up, Stu!"  Other students cheered and told him/her to relax and enjoy the chat instead of being so sour.

At the end, when I asked if they had any questions and/or concerns about the assignment they were about to complete, this student decided to make the final point, so s/he responded with "I am still confused."  O.K!  My response was "I am still taking questions so how can I help?"  Obviously, s/he did not expect a polite response and so did say anything for a minute or so...  Then s/he admitted:  "Well, I guess I know how to do it."  Alrighty then!  I responded with a cheerful "Email if you have any questions" and congratulated myself on keeping cool and not saying anything I would regret later.

However, I did not like this exchange and I won't be surprised if it shows up in my end-of-semester evaluation.  This student was testing me and picking up the fight, obviously.  It's really not that big of a deal, I guess, but it left an uncomforable feeling...  I hope my response made a point and I won't have to deal with this student again.  I have plenty going on in my life right now and petty issues like this one are very annoying.

"Know that a smile will rally many to thy cause, while a frown would drive all away."

--Edgar Cayce

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Did not finish coding last week so planning to do that this weekend, hopefully today.  Some data required much more time than expected.  Then on to writing...  The deadline is still two weeks away but it's too close for comfort since I have to write and edit. 

I think there is a giant black hole that is sucking up time.  Otherwise, what happens to it???  I even set aside research days this semester!

Well, there is an explanation for yesterday -- meetings and then tons of paperwork... sigh...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Malaysian Prawn Laksa

I saw this recipe in one of my cookbooks (70 Fabulous First Courses, by Christine Ingram) some time ago and remembered it this afternoon as I shopped for groceries.  I had a long week and the weather is perfect for a nice bowl of soup so here you go...

Disclaimer:  Since I couldn't remember all ingredients while shopping and also would not have being able to get all of them anyway (too exotic for the local Winn-Dixie), this is my variation.  I don't claim this soup tastes anything like the real thing.  I can only imagine all the amazing flavors from fresh spices and herbs!

However, my humble version is delicious and filling!  Even S. liked it -- and he does not like soups or any curry-based dishes.

My Version of Malaysian Prawn Laksa (see original recipe below)
  • 2 oz thin spaghetti
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp green curry paste
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (or use chicken if you don't like seafood)
  • Salt and ground red pepper to taste
  • Parsley, finely chopped
  1. Cook spaghetti as usual but don't drain.
  2. Heat the oil in deep skillet (it will splatter so be ready!), add curry paste, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly , for a few moments. 
  3. Add the fish sauce and shrimp and cook until shrimp is lighly pink but still plump and slighty undercooked (don't overcook or it will be dry; it will finish cooking while soup is simmering!).
  4. Add curried shrimp coconut milk to spaghetti.
  5. Bring to boil.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes.
  7. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with finely chopped parsley.
Original Recipe
  • 4 oz rice vermicelli
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 2 1/2 cups fish stock
  • 1 2/3 cups thin coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1/2 lime
  • 16-24 cooked and peeled prawns (large shrimp)
  • salt and cayenne pepper
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
For the spicy paste:
  • 2 lemon grass stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh red chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 1-inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tsp dried shrimp paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  1. Cook rice vermicelli in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water.
  2. Drain and rinse.  Set aside and keep warm.
  3. To make the spicy paste, place the lemon grass, chillies, ginger, shrimp paste, garlic, turmeric, and tamarind paste in a mortar, then pound with a pestle until smooth.  According to the book, you can also use food processor or blender to process until a smooth paste is formed.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the spicy paste, and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, for a few moments -- to release all the flavors, but be careful not to burn.
  5. Add the fish stock and coconut milk, then bring mixture to the boil.
  6. Stir in the Thai fish sauce, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Season with salt and cayenne to taste, adding a squeeze of lime juice.
  8. Add the prawns and heat through gently for a few seconds.
  9. Divide the noodles among three or four bowls.
  10. Pour the soup over, making sure that each portion includes an equal number of prawns.
  11. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve piping hot.

Monday, February 07, 2011


Why do students misspell the word "simulation" so often?  Most frequently, they spell it as "sTimulation."

Another example is "scavenger hut" instead of "scavenger hunt." 

I have gotten quite a few of these lately...

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Are my students turning into digital goldfish?!

One group of my students is driving me crazy with their short attention span.  Based on this article, spending too much time on the Internet can affect our concentration.  This is just a news article, not solid research, but maybe they do have a point...

I repeated homework directions several times for this particular group.  They show up next week, most of them (thank goodness, not all) totally clueless.  In fact, several were vocal about my refusal to accept an assignment that was due before class (and they were told it was due before class, not in class).  I firmly squashed those rude protests, pointing out that oral directions were clear, the policy is stated in the course syllabus, and several of their classmates confirmed both oral and written directions.

This time, I again clearly stated directions and asked them to write down assignments and deadlines.  Next week, they show up and quite a few of them are still clueless!  As an instructor, I am always willing to admit that maybe I didn't provide clear directions because what sounds crystal clear to me may or may not be clear to others.  However, they had THEIR notes this time!

So I decided to take one more step -- stated directions in class, made them write down my directions, and sent a follow-up email, just to cover all bases.  So far, three students emailed, asking for directions.  My answer?  Go. check. email.

Just a few minutes ago, I get another email from a student who was asked to check email.  S/he read the first paragraph that addressed her previous question.  Instead of reading the second paragraph, she emailed me!!!  My answer?  Go. check. email!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

The Tale of Unlucky Bread: Sunflower Seed and Honey Wheat Bread

A couple of weeks ago, I found a promising recipe for Sunflower Seed and Honey Wheat Bread and decided to make a batch yesterday afternoon.  Not sure what happened to my sanity but I forgot to half the recipe, even though it was clear that cramming 7+ cups of flour into my breadmaker was not a good idea. 

By the time I got to flour, it was too late so I took a risk and let it rise.  For about an hour, I was too engrossed in work to check on progress.  When I did, I saw that my poor breadmaker did not have enough time during the mixing cycle to thoroughly mix liquids and flour, so there was still quite a bit of flour on top.  At that point, I should have cut my losses and started a smaller batch.  But I was too stubborn so I mixed the dough by hand and reset the Dough cycle. 

After another hour and a half, I again remembered that I was making bread! :)  The dough spilled over the rim, creating a huge mess... :(  S. walked into the door not to the aroma of freshly-baked bread but to the sight of me digging whole-wheat dough from inside the breadmaker (not a very appetizing sight, sigh...).  Wisely, he did not comment.  I love you for that, S.!

So I salvaged the dough from inside the bucket into the bowl, discarded the overflow, and cleaned the breadmaker.  We had dinner sans my planned fresh bread.  S. finally asked, cautiously, what happened to my bread.  We had a good laugh about the runaway dough.  I decided to use the salvaged dough by adding some flour (it was too runny), kneading, and letting it rise for an hour in the warm moist environment (my trick is to boil some water in the microwave).  Lo and behold, the bread did rise.  Not as high as expected but, given the circumstances and the fact that whole wheat bread does not rise as well anyway, I was happy.  I baked two loaves and we were, finally, treated to the aroma of freshly baked bread.  It turned out to be a bit more dense than expected but not bad at all.

So I let bread cool and then placed both loaves into plastic bags, to keep bread fresh.  This morning, I was shocked to see a hole in one bag.  Apparently, we have a mouse!!!  We had no choice but throw away the tainted loaf but enjoyed the other loaf, still safely inside the plastic bag (we did inspect and re-inspect to be sure!) for breakfast, lightly toasted.

S. went to get a humane trap so we can get rid of our "guest."

So here is the recipe!  Don't forget to half it if you have a regular-size breadmaker! :)

2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
3-1/4 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
1/4 cup bread flour
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
3 teaspoons salt
6-1/2 to 7-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sunflower kernels (I used finely chopped walnuts)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Use the Dough cycle in your breadmaker.  Let rise for at least an hour in a warm moist environment.  Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes or until sounds hollow when tapped.

avandia class action