Month: February 2011 (page 1 of 6)

Oscar Contest Winner

Oscar Contest Winner
Congratulations to John M. who was the big winner in this year’s Oscar Contest! John actually finished in a 4-way tie for first place with Andy Saur, Anita Hoffman Ehrenfried, and Eloise. It came down to the tiebreaker, which was 41 dead people. Anita had 38, but John took the prize with his guess of “42 1/2”. (I’ll admit the fraction cracked me up.) Congratulations, John! Your Black Swan and White Swan sock monkeys will soon be on their way to you. And thanks to everyone else for playing. See you next year!

I was thrilled to see that John actually put in his entry on the very first day, which I’m hoping indicates he’s a regular entrant or a friend-of-a-friend.

Update: Just checked the records. This is John’s FOURTH year entering and his first victory!

Health Month

If you were thinking of signing up for Health Month – which I recommended last week – today’s the day to do it, as the March “game” starts tomorrow!

Oscar Contest – Final Update!

Oscar Contest – Final Update! I will stop taking entries as soon as the show starts at 5pm California time (which is noon Sydney time). You’ll be able to follow along with the scores on this page, which should update as each award is announced. Good luck everybody!

And if you’re watching the show life – which I’m not since I’m at work – please count the dead people for me in the obituary montage and leave a comment here after it’s finished.

Update: Entries are now closed!

Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals #6: Duck Salad

Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals #6: Duck Salad
This is our sixth official cooking/blogging experiment from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. As we did last week, we picked this one with the idea of going to the Eveleigh Farmers’ Market Saturday morning to get any necessary ingredients. There are always a couple vendors there with duck. When we got there, we worked out pretty quickly that four duck breasts were going to cost us close to $30. The Snook persuaded me to get two whole ducks from Coles instead (for $40 total), which would also give us legs and fat for confit, and a carcass for making stock. Sounds like a plan! So earlier today he carved up the ducks so we could get started. I was running a pretty serious caloric deficit for the day thanks to my long run, so I was excited for such a big, healthy meal.

Duck Salad, Giant Croutons, Cheat's Rice Pudding with Stewed Fruit

Quick verdict: We followed it pretty much exactly (except for actually making homemade rice pudding in the rice cooker rather than buying expensive pre-made stuff). Elapsed time was 39:52, but we think this is one you could easily get down to 30 minutes once you have it memorised. There’s not much to it, really! In terms of presentation, this was the best one yet. If you served this at a small dinner party, people would be in awe! We both rated it 9/10 for taste (but we may have overcooked our duck a little bit). Read on for a photo essay of the preparation.Pre-start prep: We got out all the necessary ingredients, tools, and cooking vessels. (No food processor this week! And we were so excited to use our new one.) The kitchen was clean (well, as clean as it gets) and everything wiped down and ready to go. The oven was turned on with a fry pan and a sauce pan ready to go. We also pre-made a batch of rice pudding earlier in the day using Wolfgang Puck’s recipe.

First up are the ingredients for the duck: duck breasts, Chinese five-spice, dried thyme, red chilli, mint, lemon, and honey.

Duck ingredients

Next up are the components of the salad: pomegranate, rocket, carrots, radishes, cress, mint, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and lemon.

Salad ingredients

On the left are ingredients for the croutons: a ciabatta loaf, rosemary, garlic, and fennel seeds. On the right are the ingredients for the dessert: pre-made rice pudding, flaked almonds, icing sugar, oranges, plums, and vanilla.

Dessert ingredients

Pots and pans, ready to go! The frying pan is for the duck, and the sauce pan is for the stewed fruit. (Ignore the small pan at the back; that’s the Snook rendering down duck fat for his confit.)


We also needed two baking sheets: one for the flaked almonds, and one for the croutons.

Baking sheets

And we’re off! First step was prepping the duck breasts. The Snook scored the fat in a criss-cross pattern while I sprinkled on five-spice, salt, and thyme. Then we drizzled them with olive oil and rubbed the mixture in.

Duck breasts

The breasts go skin-side down into the hot frying pan…

Frying the duck

While the Snook tended the duck, I got going on the dessert. I rinsed the flaked almonds and then sprinkled them with icing sugar.


These got spread out on a baking sheet and put into the oven to toast.


As directed, the Snook weighted down the duck breasts with a pot lid to help them crisp up.

Pot lid on duck

Now for the croutons! We cut up the ciabatta and then drizzled the slices with olive oil. Then we added rosemary, fennel seeds, crushed garlic, and salt and pepper. These got tossed around and then placed in the oven to toast.


Duck is looking good!


Time to get the stewed fruit going. This is orange juice, orange rind, icing sugar, and vanilla.

Stewing liquid

Ooh, nearly forgot about the almonds! They’re nice and toasty.


Here they are in a bowl.


The quartered plums have gone into the stewing liquid…


Everything’s cooking, so it’s time to make the salad. The first step is to get the seeds out of the pomegranate. The Snook used Jamie’s method of whacking the cut halves with a spoon. (He felt it was good for getting like 80% of the seeds, but he had to dig for the rest.)


Back to the duck. Jamie wants you to serve it on a wooden cutting board, but we substituted a big platter. Here’s the Snook “dressing the board” with chilli, mint, lemon, honey, and olive oil.

Dressing the platter

Meanwhile, I was chopping. I added carrot, rocket, mint, and radish to the salad. Here I am “snipping over” the cress.


Snookums is slicing the duck breast and adding it to the platter. (He also added the pan juices, which Jamie oddly didn’t mention. We didn’t want it to go to waste.)


The croutons are nicely toasty! They smell good.


Here’s the salad ready to go! I mixed the dressing in an old jam jar: olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.


We overstewed our fruit a little bit, I think. It was a vibrant red mush!

Stewed fruit

Snookums arranged the croutons on the platter and carried it to the table. Very impressive spread… especially for two people! Eeek!

The spread

The finished meal: duck, salad, and croutons.

Finished meal

For the dessert, you simply spooned the stewed fruit over your rice pudding and then topped it with crunchy almonds.


Tasting notes: The duck was very tasty! We wish we had left it a little rarer though; that would have been even better. Rodd’s first impression of the salad was that it was very “rough,” in that it had a lot of rocket compared to everything else. I didn’t mind that though. It was fabulously crunchy and peppery and bitter, and every now and then you’d get a couple pomegranate seeds like secret jewels. The croutons were gorgeous (and we plan on duplicating them once the Snook’s confit is finished). We used them to mop up the platter juices. We’ve got two large portions of everything to have for lunch tomorrow! Dessert was good, but we didn’t really need it after so much food. Nothing too fancy; rice pudding is basically comfort food. The only change we’d make if we did it again would be to use a little less rocket in the salad, maybe. This is definitely one to impress your guests!

Stay tuned next week for another recipe from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals!

Shared today on Google Reader

Shared today on Google Reader:

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Oscar Contest – final countdown!

Oscar Contest – Final countdown!
Just over 24 hours to go in the web-goddess 2011 Oscar Contest, so be sure to get your entry in! As always, I need a few volunteers who’ll be watching the show to count the number of dead people in the “In Memoriam” montage. I know miftik already has her clipboard ready. Anybody else available?

Shared today on Google Reader

Shared today on Google Reader:

You can follow me on Reader here.

Shared today on Google Reader

Shared today on Google Reader:

You can follow me on Reader here.

RunningBlog: Week 8

Week 8
Pretty good for a cutback week! Last Friday the podiatrist fitted me for orthotics and then taped me up again. It was too hot to run on Sunday, so I bumped my weekend run to Monday. I felt great! On Wednesday I actually decided to do speed intervals in the morning before Spudds. The tape had come off by that point, but my foot still felt surprisingly okay. The Spudds workout was hard and left me quite sore afterwards. Today I did an easy lunchtime jog with my friend Raj just to work out the stiffness before my next long run on Sunday.

Feb. 21: 6.43km
Feb. 23: 6.11km
Feb. 25: 4.65km
Total this week: 17.17km (10.7mi)
Total this year: 179.03km (111.9mi)

To meet my goal of running 1100km in 2011, I should be at 169km right now. So I’m currently carrying a buffer of 10km. I expect that to grow this week given that I’ll be running my longest distance ever: 14 miles – 22.5km! Longer than a Half Marathon…


The NYT has a great article on, the “Queen of the Mommy Bloggers.” I’ve been reading Dooce since before she got pregnant with Leta, I think. It’s an excellent look at the history of her site and the “real life blogging” genre in general. The bit that surprised me was how much money she makes from her site. I had no idea. I mean, I guessed it was a decent amount, given that she and Jon haven’t had day jobs in a long time. But that site is clearly up in the stratosphere in terms of generating advertising revenue.

In the interests of full-disclosure, w-g makes an average of $4 a month from ads on the archives. Fortunately RDF more than makes up for it…