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FitFool

Adventures in the Kitchen and on the Road


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Boston Museums for Free (some nationwide)

Figured it was time to update this old post. I love museums and I like it even more if I can visit for free. I've compiled a list of ways to get in to a bunch of museums around Boston for free so that you can also indulge without needing to pay admission. The first few on this list are available nationwide and you can look for museums near you at those websites. The rest are mostly around Boston and are behind an LJ-cut.

If you know of other ways and places to get in free, let me know and I'll add it to the list!

I also tried setting up this public Google Calendar. I started with tracking free museum times and then added other free events too.
https://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=70rv5sankat6r2i3mbre7rab8g%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/New_York

Bank of America Museums On Us (nationwide)
http://museums.bankofamerica.com/
Discussion: http://forums.slickdeals.net/showthread.php?sduid=0&t=1389299
Got a Bank of America ATM, credit, or check card? Each card holder can get into a bunch of museums free on the first full weekend of each month. Check website to find participating museums (or zoos and gardens) near you. In the Boston area, this deal gets you into:

Target sponsored nights (nationwide)
http://sites.target.com/site/en/corporate/page.jsp?contentId=PRD03-002065
Here's another deal where a big corporation sponsors a bunch of free or cheap admissions. Check website to find one near you. We went to the MoMA in NYC for their Target Free Thursday night and the line was so long we were tempted to give up. But we joined the line and it moved surprisingly quickly. Boston options are:
- Boston Children's Museum Target $1 Fridays 5-9pm (bostonkids.org)
Discussion: http://forums.slickdeals.net/showthread.php?sduid=0&t=1328567

Museum Day - courtesy Smithsonian Magazine
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/
Go to the website and print out a coupon good for free admission for 2 people on Sept 29, 2012.

National Parks Fee-Free Days (Thanks thesoxgap!)
While many of our national parks never charge entrance fees, many others do. However, they will all waive entrance fees on these dates (3 other dates already passed)
- Sept 29, 2012 (National Public Lands Day)
- Nov 10-12, 2012 (Veterans Day weekend)
http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

National Parks Annual Pass
http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm
  • You can get a free annual pass if you're in the U.S. Military:
    Available to U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard and also, Reserve and National Guard members.
  • Only $10 for a lifetime pass if you're 62 years old and older.

    Click to see the rest of the listings for mostly Boston-area museumsCollapse )

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    Mint Watermelon and Tomato Salad

    "Um...are you sure those ingredients are going to taste good together?"

    I was going to go grocery shopping with my sister and she had pulled up this recipe that mixed together watermelon, tomatoes, mint, and feta cheese. (We were going to omit the sweet onion because she avoids onions.) This didn't sound at all appetizing to me.

    My sister insisted, "This is the perfect summer dish! It's delicious and refreshing and we're going to make it!"

    So we made it and sure enough, it was a huge hit. I've made this dish four times now and it's been enjoyed every time. I've given some of it away to 2 sets of friends and they've all been excited about the dish too. It really is the perfect summer dish. No cooking required (so no added heat) and the mint-infused chilled watermelon tastes absolutely wonderful. One of the times, I added just a little diced red onion and liked that version too.

    Most times we used regular red tomatoes since that's what we had available but if you can get your hands on any heirloom tomatoes of different colors (orange, yellow, green), then use those because it's so pretty that way! For the green tomatoes, make sure you're using green heirloom tomatoes that are still green when ripe. If you use the tomatoes that are green because they're not ripe, I think those taste tangier. The tomatoes that are green-when-ripe taste pretty much the same as the regular red tomatoes.

    Seriously, go try this out!

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    F-list Tour

    Work's got me swamped again. Combine that with scheduling lots of social events and I'm yet again not getting to hang out here as much as I would like. So here are some tidbits from my f-list. Yes, some of these are old because I saved them a while back or I didn't get a chance to read them until recently.

    I don't say this often enough but I really like you denizens of LJ-land. Enjoy your weekend!

    • "We consider ourselves travelers, not tourists."
      I also try not to look like a tourist; it just sounds so unsophisticated. But sometimes I'll revel in the role of tourist, I see, even in the city I consider home. It's nice to unabashedly delight in all I see. Read this post by tedwords for a reminder to not let your desire to be seen as worldly stomp all over your ability to share someone else's joys.
      http://tedwords.livejournal.com/647180.html


    • In an f-locked post, someone posted a link to a video on what to do if you're caught in the middle of a mass shooting. Don't say the Department of Homeland Security never did anything for you. The advice actually sounds pretty good to me. "Run. Hide. Fight." I'm surprised that they advocated for fighting. Has the advice always been to devise a way to fight back? I took a model mugging class about 16 years ago and back then, the police instructors didn't push one way or the other for fighting or cooperating when attacked. Instead they laid out the pros and cons of both strategies and told us the decision was ours.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcSwejU2D0 (5:56 length)


    • drjeff has a series of One Minute posts. He's been throwing his energy into his blogspot more than his LJ and sounds like he's an awesome therapist to see. For all the posts in the One Minute series, go to http://drjeffblog.blogspot.com/search/label/One%20minute
      Some samples:
      - One Minute Reboot
      - One Minute of Gratitude
      - One Minute of Forgiveness
      - One Minute To Let Go Of Guilt




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      Congee (Jook) - Chinese Rice Porridge


      small photo of bowl of congee


      Growing up, our mom sometimes made congee (pronounced con-jee) for breakfast, except she called it mwaye (all one syllable sounding kinda like moow-eye). I think that's the Taiwanese word for it. Each person had a bowl of watery soft rice. In the center of the table, there were a variety of small dishes to eat with the rice. Most often, we had sliced green onions, Chinese pickled cucumbers (in soy sauce?), eggs (tea-smoked or fried), and pork floss (a dried, shredded pork). Sometimes we'd also have whatever leftovers we had kicking around the fridge. Although we kids were finicky eaters, we all liked this meal. So much so, that when we were in Taiwan, we would request this dish even in restaurants. This embarrassed my parents a bit since apparently it was not really restaurant food. It's the sort of thing you have at home when you're sick and you want comfort food or if you're poor and don't have a lot to eat. It's not the sort of thing you order when you're out in a fancy restaurant celebrating gathering with your extended family for the first time in years. No matter. At least it wasn't as bad as when we demanded peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

      I still love congee and made it on rare occasions. Last Christmas, B's dad and his wife gave us a fancy fuzzy-logic rice cooker. I've always pooh-poohed these things but I have to admit, they make perfect rice that doesn't stick to the pot or burn on the bottom. It even has a setting for porridge so it's easier than ever to have congee for breakfast. Awesome!

      So on one hungry morning, I made this for breakfast. Starting from the egg and going clockwise, I piled on: fried egg (over medium with soy sauce drizzled on it), zucchini, Chinese watercress (from my parents' garden), green beans, and dried shredded salmon. That's right, now you can get dried shredded salmon! Mom brought some back from Taiwan for me on my last trip. Underneath that whole pile of stuff, the bowl is filled with soft rice porridge.

      Apparently you CAN order it in restaurants. At least, I've seen it on menus in some of the places in Chinatown. I guess I've absorbed my parents' disdain for that as a restaurant dish though since I've never ordered it. Same way as I never order fried rice since that's made from old leftover rice. (And yet I make fried rice at home to use up my own rice leftovers.)

      Sorry...no recipe since I'm just using a setting on my rice cooker. I think the basic idea is something like a cup of rice and lots of water (like 9 cups of water) and cook until the rice is really soft. But there should still be water. Add hot water as needed to keep it watery. Then season it and top with whatever you like.


      congee with veggies, egg, and dried shredded salmon on top

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      Jalapeño Cornbread

      Made this for first time because I had 2 small jalapeño peppers in the fridge and I wanted some cornbread to eat with the Succulent Braised Pork leftovers I wanted to heat up. I ended up with a little more than 2 Tbsp of diced peppers (discarding seeds). Realized at the end of making the batter that I had only used 2 Tbsp butter, not 2 ounces (4 Tbsp). I didn't want to melt more butter and add it so I just buttered the 10-inch cast-iron skillet with almost 1 Tbsp butter and then added 2 ounces of shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese to the batter and luckily, that worked out. I used 1 cup of canned sweet white corn since that's what I had.

      Yum! Gave a little hint of heat but not really spicy (which is just about right for me) and tasted good with the pork. B liked it so much he helped himself to a big big second slice. Baked for 30 minutes at 400F in the 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Came out a little thinner than I would've liked. I would've baked it in an 8-inch skillet if I had one. Maybe I'll try baking it in a cake pan next time.


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      Succulent Braised Pork

      I had high expectations for this recipe since it billed itself as Succulent Braised Pork. My oven was running a little on the cool side so I left it to braise for an extra hour. (Besides, I wanted to go for a run before dinner.) I did flip it once in the middle so that the top would have a chance to be submerged in liquid too. When I took it out of the oven, the meat was indeed meltingly tender. I was able to shred the meat with just a fork. At first, B felt the meat was very bland. I had added some potatoes to the recipe and maybe they had soaked up a lot of the salt of the original recipe. I had skipped the final tasting step so once I sprinkled on a dusting of salt, he agreed that it tasted wonderful. The first time I made it, I added the optional cup of water and the sauce came out very thin, more soupy than thick sauce. Second time, I added less liquid and a little more flour and tomato paste. That seemed to help. Either way, the broth is flavorful.

      With lots of carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes, it made for a nice one-pot meal. We had the leftovers as shredded pork tacos. Another night had the leftovers with Jalapeño Cornbread and roasted sweet potato wedges. Definitely keeping this recipe in our regular rotation since it's pretty easy to prepare and mostly requires patience while waiting for it to finish cooking.

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      Irish Lamb Stew

      I didn't follow the recipe particularly closely, instead opting to do a variation on this recipe. This led to less than stellar results.

      I did start with throwing the cubed lamb pieces and bones from some lamb loin chops and the lamb shank into a pot, covering with cold water (should've at least used some kind of broth), and bringing that to a boil. Then lowered to a simmer, covered and simmered for 40 minutes to start the basis of the stock. After 40 minutes, I added two pinches of salt, about a 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper. Laid down a layer of the chopped carrots and onion rings, and put some sweet potato chunks over that (since I didn't have any regular potatoes). I think the recipe was right...I should've waited 20-30 minutes and then added the potatoes on top. I also shouldn't have been cavalier and just mixed the potatoes into the soup. They got very very soft and mushy. I left it to simmer for another hour after the vegetables were added.

      I liked the texture of the meat -- very tender and soft. Overall taste was pretty bland (which B notes is true to traditional Irish cooking). I still liked this but I think I was mostly liking the hot soup in cold winter comfort aspect of it. It's not too difficult though so I would make it again if I could remember to start it early enough. I served this over egg noodles. My boyfriend B liked it ok but didn't think it was all that memorable compared to many of the other recipes I've tried.

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      National Prescription Drug Take Back Day: Oct 29, 2011

      Got a bunch of old prescription medications kicking around your house? You can safely dispose of them at your local police station this Saturday (assuming they're participating). Before, I had been told to just flush or throw away old medications if they weren't on a small list of drugs that were handled differently. I had even been told to flush radioactive chemotherapy meds! Thankfully, I was able to turn them in during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day back in April. There's another one tomorrow. So clean out your medicine cabinets!

      More details available in the link below.

      National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
      Oct 29, 2011 10am-2pm
      http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/



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      Crispy Salted Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

      Many many thanks to evilbeard for leaving this comment and giving me my new favorite cookie!

      I made these as Crispy Salted Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I didn't have any toffee or butterscotch chips so I used 1 cup raisins instead. My first dozen was perfect. The cookies oozed into each other but they were thin and crispy and B scarfed down 3 of them right out of the oven. Second dozen must've been a little thicker since it did not flatten down as thin as the first batch. That might be because the dough was colder for the second dozen since I had put the dough in the fridge while the first dozen baked. Also note that if you forget to press down on each ball in step 3, the cookies don't get as thin or crispy. Still tastes good but it changes the texture. I like the thin and crispy version so much that I must remember to flatten the cookies slightly! So first batch was in oven for 14 minutes (rotated after 6 minutes) and second batch was in oven an additional 4 minutes (rotated after 7 minutes). We loved these so much that when I wanted to make a food gift, I turned to these cookies.


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      Pumpkin Pork Chili

      I had roasted some sugar pumpkins and now wanted to use my pumpkin puree. I threw this dish together after reading other pumpkin and pork chili recipes for ideas of possible ingredients to use. Quantities listed in the recipe are just guidelines. We basically started with most of the ingredients listed and then added a little more sugar, maple syrup, and lime juice until we liked how it tasted. Pretty tasty! Great way to stretch a single pound of ground pork into enough meat for several satisfying meals. This ended up being a pretty soupy chili with lots of liquid so we mixed in some cooked wild rice and it tasted great. By the last days, we had to add a little liquid when we reheated the chili. The pumpkin seems to add a bit of sweetness and a pleasing smooth texture to the chili.