The Kitchen Chemist

Chemistry and Cooking: A Combo Made in Heaven

Brief Hiatus

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Beloved Readers:

I’m sure you’re noticing a continued hiatus of my blogging. It’s amazing how in a short amount of time one can get two job offers, accept one of them and then have to do a lot of stuff to do in order to move across country!

On top of that, my husband and I are taking a MUCH needed vacation start a week from today for two and a half weeks. When we get back, it’s time to move!

But I’ll try and at least post some good food pictures before I leave, that way my audience is not deprived of at least some great food to view. ๐Ÿ™‚


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Introduction to Neutrinos

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Friday, 21 November 2008

Greetings to my small reader base. I am finally making my return to regular blogging, now that I’m now “The Kitchen Chemist, Ph.D.” One of the jobs I applied to recently does neutrino research. Given that I do not have an extensive background with elementary particle physics, I figured I’d use some of my down-time to study some about neutrinos, and of course, share my findings with you all! Of course, what I really need is a good book to read about it from, but I dare not check something out lest I forget to turn it into the library before I graduate! If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.

Neutrinos are leptons, a subdivision of fermions which were first postulated by Wolfgang Pauli back in 1930 as particles which travel close to the speed of light, and in many other ways similar to electrons (mostly because electrons are also fermions), but lacked an electrical charge and were the result of beta decay. However, the particle did not receive it’s formal name of neutrino until the great Italian scientist Enrico Fermi gave it the name, the Italian diminutive of the neutron “the small neutral one,” or neutrino. There are three varieties of neutrinos (called flavors) which is indicative of the type of charged leptons they are emitted with during beta decay. The three flavors of neutrinos are:

  1. Electron neutrinos (νe)
  2. Muon neutrinos (νμ)
  3. Tau neutrinos (ντ)

These three flavors of neutrinos, like their more commonly known lepton brother the electron, all have a spin of 1/2 and all have a mass, which was unknown experimentally until 1998 when a team of scientists at Super-Kamiokande conducted an experiment which could detect νe and νμ. Since neutrinos do have mass, they do have weak gravitational interactions with more massive particles, but of the four known forces (strong, electromagnetic, weak and gravitational) gravitational is by far the weakest force; the strong force is 1038 times more powerful than gravitational if the gravitational force is of a value of 1. Subsequently, neutrinos are also subject to the weak force (1025 times stronger than gravitational), and this is the primary force which allows them to travel through great expanses, viz., from the sun to the earth’s surface and distances far below the surface of the earth.

The reason why we even know that the sun does emit neutrinos is because of the pioneering (and Nobel Prize winning) work of Raymond Davis Jr.. Davis (who I should note got his Ph.D in Physical Chemistry, and not astronomy or physics!) devised a series of experiments in the late 1960s into the early 1970s in varying locations (starting at Brookhaven National Lab and later on in Lead, SD about one mile under the ground in a nickel mine!) in which solar neutrinos were detected using huge vats of perchloroethylene (or dry-cleaning fluid) that, when the neutrino struck and interacted with the chlorine in the vat, radioactive argon would be produced that would be detected quantitatively.

When Davis published the results, it was noted that the number of solar neutrinos detected using his method was about 1/3 of the theoretical number, and so many of the neutrino scientists at the time were skeptical of his “quantitative” results. However, as time and technology improved, other scientists repeated Davis’ experiment in other locations around the globe, and found results similar to Davis’. The “solar neutrino problem” remained a mystery for many years until it was later discovered at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) that the “missing” 2/3 of the neutrinos that Davis and others had lacked in their experimental results weren’t really missing at all! Rather, it was discovered that neutrinos in fact, can change flavors, and so the detectors that Davis and many others had been using for years were only detecting the radioactive argon produced by νe, even though ντ and νμ were also being produced from the intial νe, but not being detected appropriately.

There is still a lot of work to be done with neutrinos, including trying to more quantitatively analyze the antineutrino. But that is work for future scientists!

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Step by Step: Beer and Cheese (and Broccoli) Soup

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Saturday, 1 November 2008

I feel like I’ve rediscovered an old friend. To be honest, I never forgot this blog, but I’ve been suffering from dissertation dementia as of late. I defend the dissertation this Tuesday (yes on Election Day), so hopefully I’ll do some catch up posts after that point!

For now, you all get this recipe, since winter has arrived (at least in this neck of the woods) and nothing beats the cold like a good hardy soup.

Step One: Gather at least some of your ingredients, assuming you still need need to purchase more cheese for your soup.

From left to right: fresh mozzerella cheese, cheddar cheese, velvetta chesse. Four bottles of beer that you’ve not drank in about a year, and two cans of low-fat broccoli cheese soup.

Step Two: Cut up all of the cheeses, dump into crockpot. I used my 6qt crockpot for this, and I definitely needed the room it had!

Step Three: Sate the dog who is whining that you’re paying more attention to your crockpot than her by throwing her a piece of cut up cheese. Be highly amused you caught on camera her goofy face licking the cheese molecules away from her chops.

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Two-Way Mirrors: Simple Optics at Work

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Saturday, 4 October 2008

This is a brief, but I hope informative post relating to an interesting and optically simple object: two-way mirrors.

Most people are familiar with these mirrors, being popularized Hollywood in TV and movies as the main means by which police and sometimes more shady characters get information out of people (see picture above). The basic idea is that the person in an interrogation room cannot see outside of the room, but the people in the observation room outside of the interrogation room can look in, but are not seen by the people in the interrogation room.

If you Google two way mirrors, you find the same general explanation about the lighting and the basics, but let me go into more detail and a bit of optics, because the explanations are meaningless if you don’t understand why it works optically!

Within the domain of optics, all materials have a point in which they are considered optically thick. If you follow the link, it provides you with an equation which shows how the intensity of light varies with the thickness of a material. The intensity of light is also dependent on the wavelength of light examined as well. Therefore, a material can be optically thick in the visible region of the spectrum (such as a silicon), but yet be optically thin (that is, having some level of transparency) in the mid-infrared region or vice versa. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll stick to discussing optical thickness within the visible range since this is the main area of interest for two-way mirrors.

Most people are familiar with how their bathroom mirrors are extremely reflective. Going back to the concept of optical thickness, it’s easy to understand how your run-of-the-mill mirror really is very reflective when one realizes that the mirrors are reflective because the coating on them is optically thick. Looking at the graph below from the wonderful folks at Edmund Optics, it’s quite clear that aluminum mirrors that are optically thick are also EXTREMELY reflective. The enhanced Al mirrors they offer have over 95% reflectance between 0.45-0.65 microns, which is 450-650nm, the majority of the visible spectrum that we humans can see.

Thus now we understand that our general mirrors are mostly likely aluminum-based and are optically thick. How thick is optically thick for aluminum you ask? In most of the applications I’ve ever used aluminum for, I would consider a coating of 600nm and greater optically thick. If I had to guess, your average bathroom mirror probably has a coating of at least 1000nm or 1 micron thick. For those who are unfamiliar with the micron or nanometer scale, consider that the average thickness of a human hair is around 75 microns, making that an optically thick aluminum surface approximately 1/100th the thickness of a human hair!

Alright. We now have a basis of what optical thickness is, and how that factors into a regular mirror. The mechanism by which a two-way mirror works is simple — you produce a mirror with an aluminum coating that is NOT optically thick! As the case is, when aluminum or any other material is not optically thick, some fraction of light will pass through that material (and any other materials which are optically transparent). Therefore, the production of the two-way mirror means applying a very thin film of aluminum on the surface of the glass to be used as the mirror.

At this point, we can pick up with the rest of the online resources on the subject. The coated surface is placed towards the direction in which you want to see from the outside, but do not want seeing out. This direction is also extremely well lit, while the other side is dark. This scenario is needed for two reasons. First, you’re relying on light intensity working in your favor. If the direction with the coating is well lit, you will have enough light that penetrates through the aluminum coating to allow an image to be seen on the non-coated side. Conversely, you’re relying on the dark side to have minimal light intensity penetrating through the glass (glass on average cuts down about 4% of light intensity) to reach the other side. Secondly, on the coated side, you’re relying on the subject in question not to be close by the mirror. Thus, the image they see is the reflection of themselves, and not of the observers on the other side of the mirror. If you ever get the chance to look at a two-way mirror, and you’re in the “lit” side, move up close to the mirror and cup your hands over your eyes. If there is some light on the other side, you’ll actually be able to see through that mirror because an optically thin surface is transparent — but you may have to be REALLY close to the surface to notice this.

So, that’s the more technical discussion of two-way mirrors. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Hot Italian Sausage Sauce

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Tuesday, 16 September 2008

I guess between this and my last post, you can call me saucy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Alright, please put the tomatoes down…. easy, yes easy there…. you wouldn’t want to waste the tomatoes throwing them at your computer monitor, now would you? Yes, put those tomatoes to work, in a recipe like this!


  • 1 package of hot Italian sausage (mine had 6 links in it) — if you really can’t handle the hot stuff, use mild
  • 2 cans (16oz) of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (16oz) of plain tomato sauce
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 large (26oz?) can of concentrated tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups white wine
  • Various Italian seasonings… I used….
    • Lots of garlic (probably 3-4 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic)
    • Onion powder (see the balls of white in the above picture? My onion powder was a bit clumpy)
    • Basil
    • Oregano
    • 2 Bay Leaves
    • 1.5 tablespoons of Pine nuts
    • Thyme
    • Marjoram
    • Crushed Red Pepper
    • Rosemary

Cut up sausage. If it’s a bit frozen, this makes things easier. Dump this into the crockpot (I used my 4qt one). Dump everything else into the crockpot. Cook on high for 6-8 hours, or on low from 9-11 hours. My sauce was clearly done cooking in about 7 hours on high, and the house smelled like an Italian gourmet shop.

More as an FYI… the reason why I make this much sauce at a time is that I divide the sauce up into plastic storage bags for later use. And by later use, I mean, weeks even months down the road, by almost immediately freezing them in my freezer. When I anticipate using a packet during a week, I take it out of the freezer to let it thaw, and then warm up the sauce when I need it for a meal. I actually made this particular batch back in August when I was at home sick — so if I can make it with half of my brain shut down for the day, anyone should be able to make this without a hitch!

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Five Minute Vodka Sauce

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Saturday, 13 September 2008

At present, I’m the thick of working on my dissertation. Additionally, I’m preparing for another conference I’ll be presenting at soon, which means that I until the conference, I’ll be scrambling around the laboratory trying to get as much data as possible. I’m starting to understand the saying that an organic professor taught me some years ago:

The final state of graduate school is panic. At this point, you wonder why first year graduate students don’t know anything and why do they insist on asking you all of these questions. Additionally, you’ve got the stress of trying to finish your dissertation, all while you look for a job. At this point, you want to tell the world, “GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE, I’VE GOT ENOUGH ON MY PLATE!”

Right, so I’m not panicky… yet.

Thus, things like my five minute vodka sauce make my life easier. It allows me to make something very tasty very quickly and without much brain power (especially when I’m putting in 10-12 hours at the lab daily). Thus without further ado….


  • 3/4 of a small container of tomato paste
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of Vodka (I prefer Absolut)
  • 2/3 cup of Fat Free Half & Half (or regular, or even heavy whipping cream)

Combine olive oil and garlic in a small sauce pan on medium-high heat. Once the garlic starts to brown, add the tomato paste and stir together to thoroughly mix, and to prevent burning. After the mixture is combined, add the vodka and the basil, constantly stirring. At this point, you want to up the heat a bit more since the alcohol needs to cook off, and stirring it constantly will help ensure that the alcohol is all cooked off. After about a minute, add the fat free half and half, salt and pepper. Continue to stir and allow the mixture to come to a minor boil and then lower heat to low or turn off depending on the state of your pasta you’re cooking with this.

I served this vodka sauce with gnocchi, since gnocchi are a hardy enough pasta to be able to handle a sauce like this — which isn’t very thick, but has a robust taste to it.

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LHC Fires Up

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Tomorrow at approximately 3am EST, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will have it’s first beam launched.

If you’re so inclined, they will have a live webcast on this website:

Within the blogosphere, there are a lot of doomsday people saying that this experiment will destroy the universe. True, Physicists don’t REALLY know what’s going to happen when the LHC starts up, but the end of the world will not come tomorrow, mostly because they aren’t going to be colliding anything tomorrow. They are just going to send some particles around their mammoth sized synchrotron.

I’m definitely interested in seeing how the LHC operates. Hopefully the years of hard work and money doesn’t go to waste in the end.

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Dining Out: Philadelphia

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Saturday, 6 September 2008

When I was in Philadelphia a few weeks ago for the ACS meeting, I decided that I should take some pictures of the local fare, as mostly inspiration for future meals here at home.

A cheesesteak from Spataro’s in the Reading Terminal Market (yes, I realize it’s not Geno’s).

Dim Sum at Imperial Inn on N 10th and … I forget the closest cross street! It’s literally within spitting distance of the Philadelphia Convention Center.

L to R: Beef in Rice Noodles, Chicken Feet, Shrimp Spring Rolls

Closeup of the Chicken Feet (yes, I did eat them, but there isn’t a lot of meat on the feet!)

Closest to Furtherest Away:Cha Siu Baau (YUM!), Shrimp Spring Rolls (I only ate one of the 3 since I’m allergic to shrimp), Longan Tofu (dessert)

I apologize that I only have a picture of the sign, and nothing much else to show for it, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to take a picture of the Italian Market when it really wasn’t up and running.

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Step By Step: Italian Meat Stromboli

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Friday, 29 August 2008

Welcome to the first in what I hope becomes a long-running series of posts in the future called, “Step By Step.” These posts are geared towards those people who really want to see how something is done, literally step by step. Short of posting a laboratory notebook up here, I figure these posts will be just as informative. This first post is a step by step post relating to cooking, but look for my posts about Linear Discriminant Analysis, PCA/PCR and other similar chemistry topics to also be step by step posts too.

Today we focus on Italian Meat Stromboli. When I made this, it struck me as silly to just make a pizza since my husband and I hadn’t had stromboli in a long time!

Step One
Start with dough. Pictured below is a ball of wheat flour dough I had made and frozen a while back and took out of the freezer in the morning and sat out on the counter during the day while I was at school. You don’t have to use wheat dough, but I like anything that helps me (and my husband) get more fiber into my daily diet. Pictured beside the dough is the mixture of flour and cornmeal I use when I’m rolling out my dough. Ever wonder how pizza places are able to so easily slide pizzas in and out of their ovens? The secret is cornmeal. The flour helps the dough not stick to the counter, but the cornmeal helps to ensure that the dough doesn’t stick on other surfaces after it’s been rolled out. I have approximately 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 of a cup of cornmeal there.

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List of Upcoming Posts

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Between working full-throttle in the laboratory, writing my dissertation/working up data for my dissertation, traveling home from the ACS meeting, and taking care of my household (cleaning cages, feeding my husband, tidying up my home), I seem to have over-extended my immune system, and I find myself congested and otherwise ill feeling today.

The sad part is that I’m so determined to work on my dissertation that I’m modifying Matlab code as we speak!

As not to leave my regular readers otherwise empty handed, I present a list of topics I will work on posting in the future. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are the topics I can think of with blocked eustation tubes.

  • Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA) ← Since this is a new topic for me, I fully intend to give a demonstration with this post
  • Cheesy Chicken & Lentil Stew
  • Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Principal Component Regression
  • Chicken Tikka Masala (in a crockpot!)
  • Spectral Non-Linearity
  • 5-Minute Vodka Sauce

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Quasi-Vegetarian Chili

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Saturday, 23 August 2008

Chili is one of those foods I usually make in bulk quantities because it freezes quite well, and I can use it for many different dinners in the future. It’s also one of those foods that I make different every time I make it. This time, I was going for a general chili, but this is almost a vegetarian chili because I added more bulgur than meat respectively when all was said and done. If I was hoping to to make this a strictly vegetarian chili, I would have omitted the ground chuck and probably added an additional 3/4 of a cup of dry bulgur. This also was a bit more tomato-ish than I’m used to making, but it was still very good.


1.1 lbs Ground chuck
1.5 cups bulgur
28oz can Concentrated Tomatoes
1 can Red Beans
1 can Navy Beans
1 can Rotel Tomatoes and Chiles
1 can Diced tomatoes
1 large Onion
10 Jalapeรฑos
Various Spices including garlic, chili powder, spicy-salt-free mix, bay leaves, crushed red pepper


Cook the chuck in the crockpot on high with onions and spices until the meat is mostly browned. Add the rest of the ingredients, adding a bit of water in so that it looks a bit soupy. Soupy is ok because the bulgur will absorb MOST of the liquid there. Cook on high for about 5-7 hours depending on the crockpot. I believe this one cooked in about 6.5 hours on high. I also checked the crockpot periodically to make sure was enough liquid, as you don’t want the bulgur absorbing so much liquid that the chili is super dry.

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Fall ACS, Tunable Lasers & the MIR Briefly

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Monday, 18 August 2008

I don’t know if I have any regular readers yet, but if I do (Grazie to those of you who are regulars!), I’m sure most of you have been wondering about the lack of posts in the last few days.

There is a very simple explanation… I’ve been at the 2008 Fall Meeting of the

Basically, I’ve been allowing my nerdy self to go hog wild. This is not my first ACS meeting, but this is the first one I’ve attended in five years. Man, that really makes me sound old…

Today was the first day of the exposition, and the best part of these sorts of science conferences are the expositions1, as they present the opportunity chance to see the newest technology first hand. Granted, the ACS meetings don’t have exposition halls nearly as big as those of Pittcon, but they do tend to cater to those more involved in chemistry and education. Since I am still in academia so long as I haven’t finished my Ph.D, I can appreciate the VAST quantities of books and equipment geared towards teaching.

While I was on the exposition floor today, I found a company called Daylight Solutions, who specialize in creating small tuneable mid-infrared lasers. Now, tunable lasers are not new creatures in the land of lasers, but the majority of the market is really geared towards applications in the UV-Vis and the high-energy near-infrared. Additionally, most of these broadband tunable lasers rely on organic dyes for operation, which can be a problem for certain applications. For the Daylight Solutions’ laser, there are no organic dyes to worry about, making the miniaturization of the laser a much simpler process. The laser I saw was literally about the size of a Big Mac2!

The key aspect of this technology is with relation to it being a tunable laser in the MID-INFRARED. The last time I discussed analysis in the infrared I elaborated on the importance of the NIR region. So now I will turn towards a brief discussion of the mid-infrared.

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Spicy Buffalo Tortellini

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Friday, 15 August 2008

This particular dish was the result of rummaging through my refrigerator and asking myself,

“What sauces do I have that I need to use soon else they’ll go bad?”

Usually, whenever this sort of thinking occurs while I am cooking, the result is usually good, if not unusual and for the most part, rarely reproducible.


  • Tortellini for two (cooked)
  • ~ 2/3 cup of buffalo sauce/marinade
  • ~ 2/3 cup white Alfredo-type sauce
  • ~ 2/3 cup tomato sauce

Cook Tortellini and drain. Return tortellini to the pot you cooked them in, and put the burner on low. Add all of the rest of the ingredients, and mix throughly, cooking to warm up the sauces. Serve warm, and preferably with something cool, such as Insalata Caprese.

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Polymerase Chain Reaction Video

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Thursday, 14 August 2008

For my readers, something to look out of is that in the future, whenever I refer to myself using PCR, I am referring to using Principal Component Regression, a type of chemometric method for analyzing spectral data.

However, today I’m sending you all a link about another type of PCR, that is, the Polymerase Chain Reaction. Thus, before you click the link below (which is really amusing), familiarize yourself with the biochemistry PCR so you get the joke. ๐Ÿ™‚

Scientists for Better PCR

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Paisano Lentil Soup

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Wednesday, 13 August 2008

There are a large assortment of lentil soup recipes out there, some with vegetable broth, some with chicken, some with a dash of spinach, some with lots more. When I’m searching for a recipe, a lot of the time, I try and make the recipe as stated, that way I know what I’m getting myself into, if, God-forbid, the food is sub-par.

However, then there are times where I improvise on recipes, sometimes because I want to experiment (I guess that relates to the chemist side of me), but sometimes because I just want to make do with what I have available. As you might expect, graduate students are not necessarily rolling in dough, thus, sometimes we have to make a choice between buying more food and paying rent. I usually prefer avoiding eviction, so I forgo new food purchases and stick to what I have.

My Paisano Lentil Soup is just that.

I really, really wanted to have some lentil soup, but according to most of the recipes, I was missing one, two or even three different things.

The chemist in me just said to go for it and see how works out. I need to trust my chemistry side more on these matters since it was dead-on in being right that things would work out.

So, enough rambling, and onto how to make this Paisano Lentil Soup!


  • 1.5 bags of Lentils (Note: DO NOT USE THIS MUCH UNLESS YOU HAVE A 6 QT OR LARGER CROCKPOT!! If you’re using a 4 qt, use only 1 bag of lentils!!)
  • 1 small bottle of white wine (one of those 4-packs you get of cheap wine)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
  • One 10oz package of chopped frozen spinach
  • 2 (normal sized) cans of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 1/2 a ham butt, chopped up
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Celery Salt

In case you’re wondering, I used my 4qt crockpot and 1.5 bags of lentils was WAY too much. I had lentils nearly overflowing out of the crockpot, which is bad!

Throw everything in the crockpot, even the frozen spinach. Make sure that the liquid you’ve put in covers up everything, else add a bit more water. Cover, cook for about 6-7 hours on high (mine cooked for 6.5 hours on high), or 8-10 on low. Stir occasionally and keep the liquid level with solids. In the end this soup will have very little liquid and lots of nice, bulky lentils.

Final Results

Very thick. If you like a thicker lentil soup, this is definitely a winner. If you want it a bit more thinned out, then I’d probably suggest adding an additional cup of water and another can of chicken broth to the mixture. However, I’ve always preferred a thicker lentil soup, so I’m going to stick to my guns in the future!

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Thanksgiving 2007

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Last year, due to job constraints, my husband and I were unable to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. To top that off, most of the people we know in town where either traveling themselves, or had already made plans to have other people over.

I won’t say that we felt shunned per se but we did only have a two person Thanksgiving Dinner. It was quiet and quaint. As well, I pretty much had complete license to do whatever I wanted cooking wise. Needless to say, I took advantage, and whipped up:

  • Cornish Game Hen – Rubbed down with butter, lemon pepper, salt, pepper, sage and rosemary, with garlic cloves and lemon wedges stuffed inside the bird
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes – Red potatoes, boiled, mashed up with fat-free sour cream, butter and lots and lots of garlic
  • Green Bean Casserole – Nothing you can’t find on the can!
  • Hen Drippings Gravy – Basically drained the liquid from the cooked hens, mixed in some cornstarch and whisked till it was the right thickness
  • Cherry Pie – Honestly, all I have the recipe for is the crust, the filling came pre-canned
  • Stuffing – Walmart brand to the rescue!
  • Flax Seed Buns – Literally a general white bread recipe plus about 1 cup of flax seed (this is a great way to add nutritional value and fiber into your white breads!)

All-in-all, I think my husband and I now have a new tradition of cornish game hen for Thanksgiving Dinner. They were much, much more tasty than turkey, easier to prepare and cook and we used the leftovers in many more ways than I would have for turkey meat.

Since a great Thanksgiving feast isn’t complete without pictures…pictures for my audience!

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History of Near Infrared (NIR) Analysis

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Monday, 11 August 2008

As I have previously mentioned (or at least alluded to), my Ph.D will be in Physical Chemistry when I finally get around to finishing my disseration.

For anyone who has worked, or is currently working on a dissertation in ANY subject, often you find yourself wondering to yourself, “Who the heck is honestly going to read this sucker once I’m done?” I guess it depends on the novelty of the dissertation work, as some people have highly referenced dissertations, and some have dissertations with 2 inches of dust in their university library. Of course, this sort of sentiment has been captured well by the talented, Jorge Cham in this comic:

Now, you might be asking yourself, how does any of what I wrote above have anything to do with the history of near infrared (NIR) analysis?

Plenty actually!

Given that I’m doing a fair amount of writing relating to just the basics of my area of study, I thought that perhaps I should make a synopsis of what I’ve been writing the subject of a few posts for all of you inquiring minds out there.

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Wraps I

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Saturday, 9 August 2008

One of the “fads” that has caught on in so many restaurants these days are wraps. Big wraps, small wraps, healthy wraps, gluttonous wraps. Wraps have also become synonymous with a “meal to go” because of their portability.

The one thing I’ve discovered, especially since the time my husband and I started dating some years ago, is that the best part of wraps is that they are quick and easy. Especially when you’re a mom (or in my case, just a wife) that comes home after working eight or ten hours a day, sometimes you really do not have the energy (or as is often the case with me) the brain power to really put forth the effort to cook a three-course dinner.

When that is the case, wraps come to the rescue.

Nowadays, with rare exception, I always have large burrito sized tortillas in my fridge, awaiting to be rolled into a delicious wrap with various fillings in there.

These wrap pictures were taken 27 August 2007. The wraps consisted of:

  • Burrito sized Tortillas
  • Grey Poupon
  • Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey Pastrami (I buy mine from Sam’s Club)
  • Chunks of Cheddar Cheese
27 August 2007 Dinner Wraps - 1

27 August 2007 Dinner Wraps - 2

27 August 2007 Dinner Wraps - 3

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Why One Should Never Trust the Media to Report Science

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Friday, 8 August 2008

From The New York Post today:

GENEVA, Switzerland – The largest particle collider ever made will be launched next month and will fire beams around a 17-mile circular tube, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics said yesterday.

The $3.8 billion Large Hardron Collider will recreate the rapidly changing conditions in the universe a split second after the so-called Big Bang.

A BIG correction for those NYP writers: The word is spelled H-A-D-R-O-N. While we scientists do have a sense of humor, when you’re just “reporting the facts” please spell the facts correctly.

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Large Hadron Collider (Rap Video)

Posted by The Kitchen Chemist on Thursday, 7 August 2008

The late Richard Feynman is quoted as once stating:

“All these [chemical] rules were ultimately explained in principle by quantum mechanics, so that theoretical chemistry is in fact physics.”

Being a physical chemist myself, I have to concede that Feynman, is on the ball. Physical chemistry is just the application of physics to chemical systems. Some say that we pchemists (that’s our nickname in the chemistry community) are just physics majors who couldn’t cut it… I prefer to say that we (the pchemists) are people who liked applying the theory to something realistic1. I could write an entire post about this ongoing debate about physicists and physical chemists2, but that would detract from the real purpose of this post.

“And what is the real purpose?” you ask.

The real purpose is to share this amusing rap video with you all that is an amusing, and yet educational video about the CERN laboratory facilities. While most of my own interests don’t relate to high velocity particle acceleration, I thought this video was interesting in it’s own right, and I guess I know enough about the concepts discussed in the video from my physics friends (yes, I am friends with physicists) to find the video also very amusing.

1 Physicists love to argue with chemists about how their work has applicability to real life, and depending upon the area of specialty of physics you’re talking about, they can be right. However, when you start talking about the more abstract concepts of physics, then it’s up for debate if they are really working on things that have realistic application to the world we know it. For the sake of completeness, I should also mention that some theoretical physical chemists can be just as bad — doing nothing but theorizing every day and disregarding application in favor of theoretical models. These people tend to tell analytical chemists that application “lacks challenge.” Needless to say, everyone likes to pick a fight about what is and is not a realistic application of their (or another person’s) discipline.
2 This of course just relates to the larger debate of which science is the greatest… biology, physics, chemistry, and so on. I’ll leave that debate for another day’s post.

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