Bread pudding

I roasted a ton of sweet potatoes last week for snacking on, but my interest in them has waned. To prevent the rest from going bad, I decided to turn them into dessert. Sweet potato pie was the first option, but I also wanted to use up some waffles that had been languishing in the freezer, plus some milk that was getting old. The stars aligned for a batch of sweet potato-waffle bread pudding!

Ta-da!

There’s no recipe; I just threw the ingredients together based on my last memory of making bread pudding. Bread pudding usually involves: milk, cream, sugar, eggs, butter -> custard; bread -> bread; cinnamon, vanilla, nuts, and raisins as extras. In my case, I replaced the custard with sweet potato pie filling (using homemade evaporated milk!), and the bread with waffles. Sadly, I forgot about the nuts and raisins 🙁 and we don’t have any rum on hand. Next time!

Hiking and yakiniku with friend A

A few weekends ago, friend A (the one who likes bugs and Bitcoin), J, and I went hiking at Stevens Creek County Park. It’s near the mountainous origin of Stevens Creek, which goes down through Cupertino and Mountain View and into the Bay. The creek is dammed up at the park for flood control, I presume (the dam doesn’t appear to have any hydroelectric turbines).

The rest at the end of the hike.
The reservoir and dam. Lehigh Permanente limestone quarry and cement plant is off to the left.
A flower.

The trip was nice despite a bad start. Due to a navigation mishap, we took a 1-hour detour up a windy mountain road, only to reach a dead end.

Afterwards, we got grilling supplies at the local Korean grocery store to make yakiniku, Japanese-style Korean grilled meat!

Steamed packet of enoki mushrooms+butter and soy sauce.
Beef shortribs, tofu, zucchini, eggplant marinated in Korean BBQ sauce (found in the freezer; recipe from Maangchi); shiitake mushrooms. We had kimchi, cold barley tea, and J-made sauce on the side.

In the background of the above picture, you can see a little blue ink bottle, a pen laying on the table, and a big white canister of soylent.

I got the ink and fountain pen (vintage Esterbrook lever-fill!) from someone on Freecycle, but didn’t like the style of nib. It’s some fancy kind that wasn’t super easy to write with. Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to get rid of – friend A’s sister is into fountain pens, so the pen and ink are going to her.

The soylent is leftover from a J attempt to not have to cook. It turns out that soylent tastes like pancake batter (kind of powdery and tasteless), so it was cast aside… and given to A, who doesn’t want to cook either. We’ll see how he likes it.

Imperfect Produce delivery!

We get a produce delivery every other week from Imperfect Produce. You can choose among the available items, which include fresh fruit and veggies, and special items: mushrooms, defective pasta, mill-grade rice (high broken-grain content), dates, and more! They don’t carry dairy, eggs, or meat, but maybe in the future!

It’s rare that we get something truly imperfect. Most of the produce is surplus.

Found food

I find abandoned food a lot. Whether it’s luck or a skill, finding food makes my diet a little more exciting!

Fancy gummy bears. They were even made with renewable energy.
Cupcakes in Sacramento. They looked fresh! I didn’t eat one, but regretted it later.
A quinoa-kidney bean-beet salad and baby carrots, found separately but on the same day.

In the past week, I’ve found an apple, an orange, and Turkish delight (which I haven’t had before!). In the last few months, there’s also been a giant protein bar chocolate chip cookie (surprisingly good! And also made of real ingredients), string cheese, trail mix, and loaves of bread (in Sacramento). All this without true dumpster diving!

Just who leaves these things behind?? Sometimes, like with the salad, food is placed on top of a trashcan as a sign that the original owner didn’t want it but didn’t want to waste it either. Most other food was dropped…

Homemade yoghurt made easy, no special equipment needed!

My kefir culture (bought from a neighbor on Craigslist!) is no longer usable. The active culture went bitter somehow – probably contamination; the backup culture in the freezer died, apparently. I tried to make several batches of kefir with it, hoping for a revival, but nothing happened 🙁

Although kefir is easier to culture than yoghurt since it is mesophilic (grows optimally at room temperature), I prefer the flavor and texture of yoghurt. Unfortunately, yoghurt cultures are thermophilic (grow optimally around 110°F). It is difficult to maintain this temperature without special equipment (yoghurt maker or water bath) or lots of fiddling (e.g. with oven settings) for the 5-10 hours needed to make a batch of yoghurt. A recent read gave a good tip for getting around this: put the heated milk and starter culture into a thermos. Even bad thermoses are capable of keeping their contents hot for 5 hours, so it works out perfectly, no additional energy input necessary!

I tried the thermos approach with a squat, wide-mouth thermos from Goodwill ($2.19! Stainless steel! Thermos brand! Oddly, it is branded with images from some car movie). It worked really well! The yoghurt turned out thick (even thicker than the commercial variety I used as starter) and creamy. I will definitely do this again!

Sacramento last day

Our last day started off with a tour of the Stanford mansion! Apparently Leland Stanford (Sr) was the governor of California for a time and lived in Sacramento. The house, originally pretty modest at around 2000 square feet, was expanded to 4k and then 19k square feet.

Front of the mansion in the Second Empire architectural style.

After a really bad flood in 1862, the house was raised up and a relatively low-value ground floor added. That particular flood was so bad that Sacramento was about 10 feet underwater for 3 months. Afterwards, the entire city was raised a story, buildings and roads included. There are tours of the subterranean areas available during the summer.

The alleyways were not raised, which you can see evidence of in the still-present sloping.
A view of the Sacramento River with weird pyramidal building in the background.
Complete with abandoned stroller.
Pizza for lunch! J got a slice of garlic chicken pizza in addition.
Full-size model high-speed train at the State Railroad Museum. There’s a big room full of train cars from different eras.
Snow plow car, essential to rail travel through the Sierra Nevadas.
Dining car with historic train dining car china patterns.
Mail car, back when trains were used to transport mail. Apparently they were vulnerable to robbery.
Shinkansen training simulator. J did it and says its super easy – all you have to control is the brake.

Dinner for J. I had leftover burrito from the previous day.

We took Amtrak home in the evening, and then Caltrain back to our place!

Sacramento Day 2

The day started with a long walk to the farmers’ market! We asked the hostel’s desk clerk for directions.

Downtown Sacramento farmers’ market. Under a highway, dontcha know. We got lots of delicious free samples 🙂
The aforementioned highway.
Fortunately, the farmers’ market was right across the street from a scenic park with solar-powered… ducks?
The local Japanese sweets shop.

We got:

Walnut and red bean.
Peanut butter and mochi (and maybe red bean paste??) in a pancake.
Roasted soy bean flour and red bean paste. Was the mochi green tea flavor? Uhhh…
Sakura mochi.

The shopkeeper even put the sweets into my tupperware instead of the default styrofoam tray. Yay!

After a bit of a walk, we arrived at this hip and trendy mall.
…with a custom cobbler!!!!!!! The shop is also the workshop. In the back there you can see a lasting machine and a welting machine, maybe.

Of course, I was super interested (and pleased to hear that they get enough business). But the shop only uses one particular last, which I’m not interested in. So, that’s a no-go unfortunately.

Huge burrito for lunch. J got ceviche.
Neat street art. Reminds me of this.

We visited Sutter’s Fort and the State Indian Museum after lunch. Sutter’s Fort was an early settlement in California. I knew it only from it’s association with the Donner Party – it’s where they stayed to recover. I assumed Sutter’s Fort was a military fort, but… actually it was this guy’s private village.

Curiously, the fort was renovated in the late 1800s. So despite the fact that it’s not original, it’s historical in its own right.

The entrance.
The doll of one of the children from the Donner Party. She smuggled it during the trip after her mother had all the children throw their toys away to lighten the wagons. The doll is only a few inches tall.
The governor’s mansion! We walked by on the way to dinner. Sadly, tours are no longer available. The half mast flag was for some shooting that had happened recently.

We had disappointing Japanese food for dinner, so I’m not going to include pictures. All the photos are from J, by the way. We figured out a better way to share photos.

Chocolate soufflé

We made a chocolate soufflé a while ago (actually, pretty sure it was months ago) using this recipe. My main complaint is that it was too sweet. Next time, I might leave out some sugar from the egg yolk mixture or use less-sweet chocolate (although I used bittersweet as directed).

I know J has a picture of the souffle somewhere. I’ll try to dig it up…

Sweeteners

I found this really thorough and very interesting blog post on basically every type of sweetener available. The author evaluates each sweetener with regards to processed-ness and healthfulness (with an initial warning that sugar is bad for you…). Once we run out of the sugar we have, I’d like to get palm sugar (coconut sugar). I can probably get some from SoCal, which has a bunch of date palm plantations. Although they’re not native to the Americas – they probably originated near Iraq, date palms are supposed to be pretty sustainable to grow, since they require very little water. Sorghum syrup, blackstrap molasses (high in iron!), and rapadura (panela), the least-processed form of cane sugar, also have some appeal.

On a related note, I’ve been reading about the purported benefits of a low-carb diet and thought it would be interesting to track my carb consumption (although paleo seems hard if you don’t eat meat…). MyFitnessPal is really good for food consumption and body-measurement tracking, and it’s easy to use.