the past few times i've cooked it's been uninspiring and lacking imagination. there was a time when i put a lot of heart and soul into cooking, and tonight i hoped to regain some of that lost momentum. an hour before julie arrived i was already starting the prep work for the garlic honey spareribs. after coating them with garlic powder i heated them in the oven set for an hour. the house was fragrant with the smell of cooked garlic. when the ribs came out of the oven they didn't looking very appetizing (grey and surprisingly free of any garlic smell). next i made the sauce: honey, soy sauce, cider vinegar, garlic. i heated the ingredients in a small pot that quickly came to a boil and everything spilled out onto the stovetop. luckily there was still enough to drizzle onto the ribs and back into the oven for another 45 minutes of cooking. when the finally product finally came out of the oven, i was surprised how good it looked. as to how it tasted, that we'd find out later.
hot italian sausages (casings removed), mezzi rigatoni, fresh parmesan, chopped parsley, whipping cream, butter, garlic, hot pepper flakes - all blended together in a large cooking pan. the rigatoni was selected because it could hold more of the sauce (versus something like a linguini).
i used a steamer to cook the brussel sprouts - my very first time steaming vegetables - i was absolutely amazed how green they got. unfortunately the recipe called for further cooking with olive oil, pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar. by the time i was done, the sprouts were more yellow and brown that the vibrant green earlier.
it got pretty crazy, at one point i had all four burners going as well as the oven. i normally wouldn't ask for help in the kitchen but there were too many things happening and i had julie stir a pot or two. i started cooking a little bit after 6pm and i wasn't done until almost 8:30, a real workout.
the ribs turned out especially delicious considering i thought it'd be a complete failure. too much soy sauce though (a whole cup, i nearly emptied the bottle), it was a bit on the salty side. and i forgot to drizzle the sauce back onto the ribs while they baked, to keep them moist, because there were some burnt ends which tasted bitter. the pasta was spicy and cooked sausages resembled lots of tiny meatballs. the brussel sprouts were fine; julie, picky as always, told me she didn't eat brussel sprouts, and i realized i wasn't a fan either (although i harbor no ill will towards that vegetable). i think it would've been better if i used string beans instead (i just didn't want the dinner to be too meaty). afterwards we had tiramisu for dinner. it was a cake i purchased on my birthday a few weeks ago but it'd been sitting in the freezer until now.
when an tao came home he remarked how cold it was today. i for one am jaded by the new england freeze, but it's refreshing to find somebody who's never experienced negative degrees wind chill temperature before. when i went outside to throw out the garbage, i saw my neighbor jen coming home, her head bundled in the hood of her green winter jacket. "hi!" she barely managed to squeak out before running inside her house. as for me, since i spent the whole day indoors (60 degrees, but still much warmer than the outside cold), i was outside very casually in my shirt and jeans, but it's definitely like walking into a windy freezer today.
i did a 20% water change and vacuumed the gravel on the 10 gallon tank today. i rinsed out the filter bag in a bucket of tap water that i treated with the dechlorination agent. there was still trace amounts of ammonia in the water but that's just more food for the bacteria. i didn't think about it at first but the tap water comes out at a cold 45 degrees (probably even colder today) and i wonder if i accidently killed off any beneficial bacteria. some of the dirty water i siphoned out of the aquarium i added to the 5 gallon minibow in the hopes of accelerating the nitrogen cycle. i probably should also add a heater to the tank to speed up the process.
later in the evening i ordered some more aquarium stuff from doctors foster and smith. i'm hoping this is the last time i need to buy anything fish related (other than the occasional plant or livestock). i was going to order from petsmart again but their prices weren't as cheap, even with the free shipping on $50+ orders. i've been browsing the pet solutions catalog every night and i would've ordered from them, but the bag of fluorite gravel i wanted to buy would've cost more to ship because it's so heavy. however this wasn't the case for doctors foster and smith, and their standard shipping cost was the same as pet solutions. the most important thing i needed to get was a bottle of ammo-lock to neutralize the trace ammonia in my tap water (not bad for humans, but potentially deadly for fish). i also got a penguin bio-wheel filter because i think it's one of the best filters out there, and i'm hoping it'll allow me to overstock my tank if i have to. i got a test kit for hardness and carbonate (good to figure out what my carbon dioxide injector is really doing to the tank). and finally, a mini compact fluorescent bulb to replace the incandescent tube in the 5 gallon minibow (i hope it fits).