Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chocolate Brownie Cookie from Potbelly

When I joined my coworkers for lunch at Potbelly last week, I bought a side salad, a milkshake, and a Giant Cookie. I like to impress my coworkers with my healthy eating.

The Giant Cookie (which I consumed later so as not to appear too piggish) was a delight to my taste buds, even though it had survived the trip back to the office and thence all around the city and thence back home somewhat the worse for wear.

The first bite was definitely my favorite part. It was so soft, almost gooey, and rich and chocolatey. I thought I would die by chocolate. After a few bites, though, the thrill had worn off and I thought that it was perhaps too rich! I never thought I'd say that about a food item. Maybe my tastebuds were just in overdrive that day.

In any case, I found the price of 1.25¢ per gram (that is, $1.25 altogether, for those of you who like to buy your cookies by the cookie rather than the gram) to be about standard.

The Bottom Line:
Taste: 4 stars
Texture: 4 stars
Price: 3 stars

Sunday, January 20, 2013

There is no Zen in bicycle maintenance

It was a nice day outside, for January, so I decided I would get out there and work on my bike!

By "get out there," I mean bring the bike into the house. And by "work on" I mean distort beyond all recognition.

There are a number of things that aren't working perfectly on my bike—the rear brake rubs against the tire most of the time, I can't downshift into 5th gear without the aid of a miracle, only one side of the skirt guard is actually attached, and I have a rear rack that I've been meaning to install for months.

After reattaching the skirt guard with a twist tie and some jewelry wire in a fashion that would make any craftsman proud to not be me, failing to attach the rear rack due to my bolts being the wrong size, and dislodging clods of dried mud all over my living room floor, I finally got to the task that inspired this post: derailer adjustment.

There's a saying that goes: If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and maybe, for the sake of us hapless Sunday mechanics, it should be: If it ain't broke to the point where you can't make it any worse, don't fix it.

Adjusting the rear derailleur (the French way of saying it, if you're inclined to use the same word in another language to sound more official) should be a fairly simple task – just ask YouTube – a few twists of some screws and you're done!

Unfortunately, it was not. I started out by repeating the mistake I made the  last time I adjusted my gears—trying to tighten the cable with a socket wrench and pliers rather than using the screws and knobs that are there for just that purpose. And if I'd been thinking clearly, I should have realized that having problems shifting down into one gear out of seven was probably not indicative of a global problem that could be fixed by a simple tightening of a cable. Sure enough, after I was done, I could no longer shift into any gear. It was then that I consulted the internet and was reintroduced to those knobs and screws that could have been my friends a little earlier.

But by then it was too late, and I spent the next 20 minutes sliding back and forth on my butt on the dirt-strewn floor between my rear wheel and my shift lever, spinning the pedals with my hands and trying futilely to get all the gears to shift smoothly. I think 5th gear might be a lost cause, judging from the shiny marks of damage on its teeth, but I will happily settle with just being able to shift into and out of the others—and not either into or out of as I am now.

I'm taking a break, pouring out my sorrows on my sympathetic blog, and will soon give the bike one more shot. If I can just manage to ride it as far as campus (could be difficult with my lazy brake), I can get help at the bike shop.

In the meantime, I'd like to rant a little about the design of rear bike gears! They are just counterintuitive in every sense! Bigger gear equals less resistance? Moving the chain down on the rings shifts up in resistance? Right is not tight and left is not loose? Who ever thought this knuckle-dragger work could make your brain hurt so much?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Is that a mung bean soup, or are you just trying to poison me?

I admit without a trace of shame that I eat the diet of a bachelor. A weird vegetarian bachelor to be sure, but in no way the kind of bachelor who would ever be mistaken for a gourmet chef.

Cooking for one feels like a waste of time since I don't have anyone to impress but myself, and myself has always gravitated to low-fuss, minimal food over more refined options anyway. So I generally consume ready-to-eat foods which require literally no effort to prepare, not even microwaving, and pair them with fresh vegetables which I also put the same amount of effort into preparing (for example, I bring whole bunches of lettuce into the office and eat them leaf by leaf.) Some vegetables I steam en masse and eat cold at a later date. Once in a while, when I'm on a health kick, I'll buy dry beans and cook them and bring them to work to eat as my main course with no garnish but a little bit of salt.

But I have a lot of cookbooks (which were gifted to me). And sometimes, like some masochistic automaton with a penchant for creating extra work for myself, I even cut recipes out of magazines (which also just appeared on my doorstep without my subscribing to them).

And since sometimes the thought of eating plain old beans out of a Tupperware is so unappetizing that I pass them up and go buy myself an Auntie Anne's pretzel or McDonald's milkshake for lunch instead – rather undermining the intentions of my health kick – I decided I would try to start cooking myself some healthy foods that actually have some taste appeal.

And you know what that means? Valerie's Adventures in Cooking, that's what!

Read on to learn how Valerie prepares a mung bean soup that's to die for!

Whole Mung Soup


1 c. whole green mung
3 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil or ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander leaves for garnish.


  1. Soak mung beans in water with a pinch of salt for one hour.
    Rejoice! Any recipe that begins with an hour of procrastination is your kind of recipe! Be so smug about having avoided actually cooking for an hour, that you forget to add the salt.
  2. Drain, then cook mung in 3 cups water for 25-30 minutes, or until soft.
    Realize you forgot to add the salt, so add the salt, cover with more water, and cook some more. While you're waiting, go into your room and start shopping on eBay, reading some of those free magazines that are piling up on your bed, and get this amazing idea for your website that you have to try out right away.
  3. Come back after 40 minutes to find your mung beans completely desiccated and burned to the sides of the pot. That's OK—it's only the sides, and since the water's all boiled away, you can just call it a curry instead of a soup!
  4. In a pan, heat olive oil on medium. Add cumin seeds, roast for a half a minute.
    Cumin seeds? Who has cumin seeds? What kind of recipe in its right mind requires cumin seeds and cumin powder? You'll do fine without the cumin seeds. And if you're not roasting any cumin seeds, you'll do fine without the oil as well. Less oil = more health, right?
  5. Add cumin powder, lemon juice, and salt to taste.
  6. Add more cumin powder (after all, you left out the cumin seeds).
  7. Add more salt.
  8. Add more salt. Is this recipe ever going to have any flavor at all?
  9. Add more salt.
  10. Realize it has a flavor--char. Don't bother garnishing with fresh coriander, because, really, who do you have to impress but yourself?
  11. Eat 4 spoonfuls at work, decide it tastes even worse than a Tupperware full of salted beans, and vow to compost the rest when you get home.
Serves 0.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Uncle Chip's Peanut Butter Cookie

Uncle Chip apparently makes very good cookies. Apparently, they are so good that, even though he makes multiple flavors, he doesn't need to label them because every one is going to be so good! And according to his website, what makes it so good is the secret ingredient that he uses instead of egg. He wouldn't tell me what that secret ingredient is, but no egg means vegan cookie, which is always cool in my book! (By my brilliant powers of investigation, into the ingredient list that he is by law required to disclose, I deduce that the secret ingredient is flaxseed meal.

After having tasted the cookie, I had to agree it was yummy. It had a distinct peanut butter flavor, and had whole peanuts in and on it. It was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, which I'm beginning to think is my favorite cookie texture, although the crunchy outweighed the chewy a little more than I prefer. All in all, Uncle Chip's cookie was a win, except in the price department.

One cookie cost me 2$ (although from the hostility I sensed coming from the person who sold it to me, I wouldn't be surprised if that was an arbitrarily high price she selected because she didn't like me or my choice of food), and that 2$ only bought me 75 grams of cookie. So my Uncle Chip's cookie ended up costing $2.66 per gram.

The Bottom Line:
Taste: 4 stars
Texture: 4 stars
Price: 1 star

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Favorite songs of 2012

This past year turned out to be a watershed year for My Kind of Music—almost every few weeks, I heard something new that caught my fancy. Most of it ended up pretty high on the pop charts, which means I grew tired of it and probably won't want to listen to it again for a couple years, but when I do, it's going to be swell!

Interestingly, I didn't discover many new tunes this year from outside the Top 40, so this list probably won't be a great revelation to you. But just in case you've been living in a lead box the past year, I've provided links!

7. Blow me (one last kiss) by P!nk

Another uncharacteristic like for me, this song features very little in the electronic or weirdness departments. If I had to name the one reason why I like this song, it would be the way P!nk's voice sounds when she sings, "Just when it can't get worse..." All fall I've been challenging myself to learn the words to this song since it's so catchy!

6. We are Young by Fun.

All in all, the instrumentation and vocals in this song are snoozeworthy. So why did I like it? Mainly because the chorus has that sad/euphoric anthem sound like Pachelbel's Canon in D. I'm a sucker for sad/euphoric. What can I say?

5. Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye

Goodness knows why I ever took interest in a seemingly all-acoustic song, but I sure did, early in the year when I first heard this song. I think it's the xylophone and the exaggerated vibrato on the string parts. The words, as usual, fail to impress, but I do enjoy the way the singer says "rough."

4. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

Speaking of catchy, was there one person in the whole country who didn't get caught in the thrall of Call Me Maybe? The first time I heard it, I was like, "Wow, this is so fun!" The third time I heard it (in the same day), I was like "I'd better start changing the station when I hear this song, or else I'm going to start hating it." The 400th time I heard it (coming out of the throat of some guy waiting for the elevator in my building), I was like "'This is crazy' is right!!" But some day, some day, I'm confident I'll be able to enjoy this song again.

3. Midnight City by M83

Anyone who knows my taste in music only has to listen to the first second of this song to know why I like it. Unlike all the others on this list so far, Midnight City is a blessed blast of electronic weirdness. To add to its charm, the vocals are so echoed up as to be nearly incomprehensible, meaning there's no chance of the lyrics ruining the song. The saxophone part at the end, however, didn't please me as much as the saxophones in last year's Musical Revue.

2. Ellie Goulding - Lights

This is the song I was waiting for! OK, so it was actually released in 2011, but obviously it didn't hit its stride until this year, and then it was a beautiful, electronic, danceable dream to make listening to the radio worthwhile again! My favorite part is near the end when the singing stops and all you hear is "lights" over and over and overlapping.

1. Craig Connelly - Robot Wars

I did run across one song in 2012 that was actually released in 2012, and that was Robot Wars. 100% trance and 100% wonderful, the only song better than this one was a remix of it—The Andrew Rayel Stadium Remix, which takes all the good parts and adds spooky melodies in the background! This song is so bomb, I am going to actually embed the video in my post!

Honorable mentions

As always, I would like to share with you a few older songs that I just discovered this year. You will probably be unsurprised to hear that they are both solidly within the trance genre. "The Last Universe" nicely (and ominously) straddles the line between goa (which I don't usually like) and "epic" trance (which I do). "Default" is just plain euphoric.

Default [Dave 202 Remix] (Virtual Vault - 2010)
The Last Universe [End All Remix] (Holymen - 2008)

Honorable Unmentionable

As last year, The Honorable Unmentionable category contains songs that are cool...but only bits and pieces of them.

Too Close by Alex Clare. If we just played the background music of the chorus, on repeat, with no vocals, this song would be pretty rad. I believe that awesome sound that you're hearing is called "bass wobble." If it's not, it is now!