Saturday, September 24, 2011

Work + Mushroom Toast

I've now had my first week of work training at the Metrocenter Y, and starting on Monday I'll be working at my assigned location in Bellevue. Part of my day will be spent in the office working on the logistics of the program, and then 2-3 hours will be spent working with the students at the schools that I am assigned to. So that's what things should look like in the coming week.

Tonight I broke out one of my favorites for dinner--mushroom toast. I guess you'd call it an open-faced sandwich. I toast some bread and pile on sauteed mushrooms, top with mozzarella cheese and broil for a few minutes, and voila, dinner!

I start by slicing about half a pound of mushrooms and chopping a couple of cloves of garlic.

I then simmer the garlic and a little bit of crushed red pepper flakes (to your preferred taste level) in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. When we were driving north from San Diego my mom and I stopped and bought some a lot of California olive oil. Tonight's oil choice was Calolea made from early harvest manzanillo olives. The label says "very grassy" and it sure wasn't lying! This oil doesn't really suit my taste for bread dipping, but it certainly worked well when cooking up my mushrooms.

Once the garlic and the crushed red pepper had simmered for a little bit to mellow the garlic and kind of infuse the oil with its flavor, I added the sliced mushrooms and proceeded to cook them rather slowly. I use roughly medium heat and cook the mushrooms until they're not giving off much more moisture. When they start to look almost ready, slice up a loaf of bread and toast those slices so they're ready for mushroom topping.

We got four pieces of toast from those 8 ounces of mushrooms. I pile the mushrooms on, try to spread them as evenly as possible, and then top with a thin slice of mozzarella cheese. The toasts then go under the broiler to melt the cheese. I find the mozzarella moderates the heat of the crushed red pepper, and it can help hold the mushrooms together so they don't fall off the bread so easily. We had our mushroom toast dinner with a big salad, but if you're looking for a quick, easy snack the toasts are great on their own!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back from San Diego

This post is kind of late in coming--I've been back in Newcastle since Sunday the 11th but have been kind of busy since arriving, and still haven't unpacked! My last night in San Diego was kind of interesting; we experienced the great San Diego Blackout of 2011! Try this link for a story that's better than I could tell it. On Thursday afternoon my friend Heather came over for lunch, and before we left I took her out in the back yard to show off the view of Mission Valley. One of the things that stood out to me was that from where we were it was quite obvious that there was a trolley stopped in an abnormal spot on the track. We mulled over the strange sight for a minute, not thinking much of it. Until a neighbor informed me that the power was out.
We were at a loss as to what to do for a few minutes. It was still light outside but we did take a few minutes to find the flashlights, check batteries, and put some candles out for when it got dark. And we turned on the radio to try to figure out what was going on. The first reports about the outage were not very informative--no one knew what had caused the outage! I should probably mention that the power was out all over San Diego County. That's 1.4 million customers; at least 3 million people. What was very worrisome were the estimates to the time it would take for power to be restored--at least a day, maybe 2 or more. Keep in mind this is all happening on Thursday, and my plan was to leave San Diego on Friday. What would I do if the power wasn't restored? It's a bit harder to find a working gas station when the power is out. Luckily, everything turned out just fine. The power ended up coming on around 10 that night (much sooner than expected!), and we had no trouble driving north from San Diego on Friday.
Now that you've read through that whole synopsis, I do have a couple of photos! The first is what the westward view from the back yard usually looks like at night. The second is roughly the same view on the night that the power was out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cactus Garden

Next to the rose garden on the east side of Park Blvd. you will find a cactus garden. One of my intern jobs at the Safari Park last summer was to inventory the plants in the Baja Garden. This meant donning long pants, long sleeves, and my giant sun hat, and spending a few days scrambling through the poky landscape to check the accession tags on the plants and match them to what the GIS database showed. It's from that project that I emerged with a love of agave (and I don't mean tequila!).

What I find most beautiful about agave is the way they have serrate imprints on their leaves from being tightly wrapped in the bud at the center of the plant.

There was also some yucca blooming in the cactus garden. That's a plant I have a particular respect for because I can't tell you how many times I'd come away with gashes on my legs after walking too close to one--even with long pants on!

You also have to respect the cacti with those tiny hairlike spines! You think you haven't touched them or you've avoided injury by not running into a large thorn, but the itty bitty ones get in your skin, are invisible, and just won't leave! I'm pretty sure there's still part of a thorn lodged in the pinkie of my left hand, though it's been a year since it found its way in there!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Morning in Balboa Park

I love mornings. Unless I'm really exhausted, it is practically impossible for me to sleep past 9:00, and if I do try to stretch my sleep time I usually end up with a terrible headache that just doesn't go away--so I'm good at getting up and getting moving in the morning!
Last summer when I was working at the Safari Park I was waking up at 4:30 Monday-Friday to catch the vanpool and make it to work for a 6:00 clock in. Being a creature of habit, I didn't sleep in too late on weekends, either. On Saturdays I'd wake up slowly, kill some time, and then around 7:00 head to Starbucks to get a coffee and make my way to Balboa Park. Once there I'd settle in on a bench next to the lily pond to read, reflect on life, watch the people as the trickled by, and write letters to my friends. Now that I'm running out of time in San Diego I'm suddenly trying to make the best use of my time here and made one of those early morning trips to Balboa Park yesterday morning.
Usually when I visit Balboa Park I just do a cursory walk--park by the carousel, walk through the Spanish Art Village, past the botanical building, over to the organ pavilion, then turn around and head back. In my four summers here I had not crossed the bridge and gone to the other side of Park Boulevard. Yesterday I finally did, and I wish I'd done it sooner! Once you cross the bridge to the east side of the street, there are two gardens: the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden and the Desert Garden.

This was perhaps the best rose garden I've seen. All of the bushes are filled with blooms right now, and catching them in the morning means their fragrances are hanging in the air. My friend Michaela subscribes to the stop and smell the roses philosophy--whenever we're out shopping and there are flowers for sale, it's mandatory to stop and smell the roses. Well, while I was wandering through this vast planting of roses, I remembered to stop and smell! One in particular, Wild Blue Yonder, smelled amazing and definitely helped set my day off on the right foot. Just a few shots for today... Desert Garden to follow!