Geek Chef

I cook, I talk, I geek

Vanilla Bean and/or Orange Shortbread Cookies January 31, 2013

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 5:11 pm
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I made some super fantastic cookies for my mom on her birthday.

The vanilla bean shortbread is great on it’s own or can be doctored up in many ways. You can opt out of the vanilla bean part and just use the vanilla extract, but you would be missing out on a really awesome taste.I made a huge batch and split it in half, adding orange zest and juice to one of the halves. I would also recommend a shot of espresso or a packet or two of  Starbucks via. I think they make a Blonde roast that is far less bitter than the regular roast.


  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Interior scrapings of 1 split vanilla bean
  • 3-4 cups flour depending on moisture and altitude
  • ** for orange version**
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • Juice of ½ orange
  • Juice of ½ lemon


In a mixer or with electric beaters mix butter, sugar and salt until creamy.

Continue mixing; add the egg yolks one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and scrapings from the vanilla bean, orange zest and citrus juice.

Reduce speed on mixer and add flour one cup at a time, allowing flour to incorporate before adding more. Add flour until the dough starts to look dry, but still soft.

Remove dough from mixer, roll into a log and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.  

Preheat oven to 375°F and unwrap dough. Slice the dough to create rounds about ¼ to ½ inch thick and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake until cookies look dry and lightly golden.



Screw you shingles! December 30, 2012

Filed under: Craft — geekchef @ 7:09 pm
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So it turns out that the super itchy and painful rash on my scalp neck and face is shingles. I really wasn’t expecting that when I went to the doctor.

She gave me meds to get rid of it and another pill for itch, which isn’t really working. Since the majority of the area is on my scalp, calamine lotion seemed like a bad (or at least unattractive) idea. I know chamomile and oatmeal are often used for itch and irritation so I figured I’d make some kind of soak.

Before I got started I did a little research online and found some helpful recipes, which I then combined and specialized for my somewhat specific need.

From what I read, many people use chamomile to lighten their hair. I’ve done it with lemon juice before and it was pretty effective- in case anyone is interested. The Internet also says that green tea seems to work better for hair and scalp health, so I used both.

As I read on I found other ingredients that seemed beneficial: either for itch relief, astringent properties (to dry out the sores and promote healing) or moisturizers. I ended up with a sort of manic solution to all my problems, which turned out to be more of a shampoo than rinse/treatment.

The result was quite good. I had instant relief on application and then as I massaged it in I started to feel a tingle from the astringents. I kept it in for a few minutes and rinsed when the stuff got in my eye (not fun). After rinsing my hair felt clean and to my surprise not tangled. From what I can tell that was the xantham gum, which I added to thicken and keep the solution mixed. Be warned, I sneezed and added too much xantham in the first batch and it turned into a goo that reminded me of the pink slime in Ghostbusters 2.

So here is the recipe for my anti itch shampoo with a description of the qualities of each ingredient:

*4 cups water (most recipes called for distilled, I just used regular tap)
*2 green tea bags (soothes and moisturizes – has natural Panthenol)
*2 chamomile tea bags (antiseptic and anti inflammatory)
*1/2 apple cider vinegar (antibacterial)
*1/2 cup oatmeal – non instant, just oats (anti itch)
*1/2 cup Dr. Bronners soap (very gentle Castile soap for lather)
*1/3 cup jojoba oil (moisturizer, could be replaced with olive or coconut oil)
*1 tablespoon tea tree oil (pretty intense astringent, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic)
*1 teaspoon xantham gum (thickener, detangler)

Boil water with tea bags. Once boiling reduce heat and add vinegar and oatmeal, simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and return to pot. I’m keeping the oatmeal to grind up and use as a paste for itchy spots.
On a very low flame and stirring constantly, add the rest of the ingredients xantham gum last. Stir until everything is incorporated, pour into a squeeze bottle and let cool.
I didn’t put the xantham gum in until after I took it off the flame and it ended up clotting a bit, I think the trick is to move quick while mixing.


Time for Outsidelands August 11, 2011

Filed under: Geek,Music — geekchef @ 5:55 pm
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Here is my schedule

Here’s some last minute tips for SF Outsidelands, happening this weekend in Golden Gate Park.


Check out the lineup and schedule and make a plan. There are a ton of amazing bands, many playing at the same time. Decide which ones are must see shows and then work around those times. It takes a while to move from one stage to another, so keep that in mind while you plan.

Look at the map. It’s big and there is a lot going on. Get an idea of the layout ahead to save some time as you run between stages.

Pack the night before. Gates open at 11am and it will take at least an hour to get there, even if you live in the city. I live 40 miles from SF, it usually takes me an hour to get there (and park) but I’m planning on a two hour trip. I don’t know about you, but I just want to grab and go tomorrow morning.

What to pack:

Sealed bottle (max 1 liter) of water or empty reusable bottle. They will make you empty your bottle unless it’s factory sealed. You can add water any time at one of the refilling stations inside.

Snacks. SF offers amazing food and this festival is no different, but the lines are long and the prices are high. Grab some snacks to cover you between meals.

Layers! The forecast is sunny with highs in the low 60’s and temp dropping ten degrees in the evening. No idea about wind and no guarantee this forecast is accurate. Bring something warm for the late shows; you can use it as a cushion or pillow during the day.

Don’t forget sunscreen! It might not be that hot, but it’s full sun all day. Protect your skin or you will get burned.

Other tips:

Camp out (as in watch the band(s) lined up before.) If there is a band you really want to see, you might need to get there early to ensure good seating. This is important for the big name acts at the end of the night, it gets really crowded and if you want a good spot you’ll have to put some time in. Hang out at that stage ahead of time and move forward as the crowd clears.  I’m pretty sure I will be parked at Lands End all day Saturday.

Take public transit. Unless you already made parking arrangements, you will not find parking. Believe me, it’s hard enough to park in that area on regular days.

Explore the City! SF is a great place, grab breakfast near Irvine street before you head in and grab drinks after the show anywhere in the city. Check out yelp for suggestions.

Be green! Outsidelands does their best to stay green with a solar powered stage, recycling and compost bins. Follow along and bring reusable or recyclable containers for your snacks. And of course, don’t litter.

Be careful, be smart! This is a safe place as long as you are smart. If you get trashed and wander off to a sketchy area, you are really asking for trouble. I know a lot of people like to party hard at concerts, but three days outside in crowds and funky weather is rough enough for me, I can’t add booze without burning out.  Don’t do anything that will end up messing up your experience.

Extra warning to people planning on stopping by Hippie Hill for mischief during your trip: There’s good odds you’ll get ripped off and/or busted. Everyone knows about the concert and will be looking for tourists to scam and police will be in full force and on the lookout for knuckleheads.


Super Easy Hollandaise August 1, 2011

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 11:30 am
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For the longest time I was intimidated by hollandaise sauce, but today I conquered my fear. It was brilliant! Instead of a double boiler, whisk and a prayer – I used a hand blender and microwave.

The following is a recipe for hollandaise so easy, you’ll feel like you cheated.

Super Easy Hollandaise

2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
2 sticks butter
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of cayenne pepper

Cut butter into cubes and place into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about a minute and a half, or until completely melted. Add yolks, cream and lemon juice into standard blender, or  if using a hand blender, tall cup the with of the blender or high walled bowl. Blend for a minute until incorporated and frothy. While blending, slowly pour in butter, leaving any milk solids in the bottom of the container. Add salt and cayenne, taste and season more if desired. Serve right away.

How easy is that?!


Ricotta Two Ways July 20, 2011

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 12:46 pm
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I worked at Cafe Gratitude for a month doing their books. Like a chump, I didn’t take full advantage of my employee discount. I did use it once at their location on Harrison St and had an amazing polenta (I AM WARM-HEARTED) with faux-ricotta made with cashews. It was sooo damn good that I have been searching the web for recipes. In my searching I also noticed a few recipes for real ricotta and was surprised how easy it is. I think I’ll be making both kinds on a regular basis.

These are the recipes I tried out:


1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 lb extra firm tofu, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or kosher salt
1/4 cup basil, parsley or herb of choice (optional)

Throw the first four ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth, crumble the tofu into the blender and add the remaining ingredients. Blend until desired consistency is reached.

Homemade Ricotta (dairy)

4 cups whole milk (1 quart)
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup buttermilk *optional – give you a creamier cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Slowly heat dairy in a nonreactive pot, be careful not to burn the milks. Just before boiling, add lemon juice and salt and stir. As it boils it should start to curdle, the longer you let it boil the firmer the ricotta will be. When it is the desired consistency,  drain the curds from the whey through a strainer lined with a few layers of cheese cloth. Set the strainer on top of a bowl and let it slowly drain and cool. Twist the cheesecloth and give it a little squeeze to shape the cheese and remove any extra liquid. Refrigerate and enjoy!


Small Obsession

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 12:05 pm

My sweetie and I have been creating a list in our heads of songs that use unique words in the lyrics. Unique as in no other song uses that word. It’s a little hard to prove, but some are givens. Like in Jessie’s Girl, he uses the word “moot”, common enough word but I dare you to find another song that uses it.

Other easy words are the ones the artist made up, like Lucubrious  or Pompitous.

Then there are words like abolitionist, proposition, compositions, procreation, statistics and hallucinatory – I think they might be unique, no one has proven me wrong yet.

So that’s why we made a tumblr blog! To share the insanity!! Add words you think are unique or disprove words already posted.



Badge Whore April 18, 2011

Filed under: Geek — geekchef @ 6:36 pm
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Today I decided to embark on a mini quest. I want to earn as many Foursquare badges I can in one week. Fortunately I live about 30 miles from one dense badge-lootin’ locale, San Francisco. Since many of the badges are food-centric, this seems completely up geek chef’s alley – don’t you think?

Today I planned a test run. I stayed local and sought out to earn the Stanford “All Right Now” badge  and test out a new camera lens in the Ronin Garden.

The test case was successful, I got my badge but maybe not as many good shots as I hoped. I need some lessons on how to work my camera 😦

Wednesday I will attempt to get up early and train hop around the city (earning the BART badge) and check out some food, drinks, music and art. The goal is to collect at least 3 badges. Stay tuned for more.


SF Street Food Fest August 21, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 9:30 pm
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I just got back from the SF Street Food Fest and man, I’m exhausted. There were a ton of people! I’m not sure how many, but enough for me to get my Super Swarm Badge and of course the street food badge, Ziggy’s Wagon.

I wasn’t able to try as many things as I hoped, I got there late and the lines were just to long to sample everything. But here is a sample of what I did try.

Purple Hibiscus: Scotch Egg

A Scotch egg is a shelled hard-boiled egg, wrapped in a sausage meat mixture, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. I could be wrong, but the meat tasted a bit like lamb. I do know the seasoning was just the right amount of spice. The outside was wonderfully crispy the inside moist and delightful, very impressive for mass produced street food. I am a little confused why a UK snack food was at a West African stand, but happy for the opportunity to try.

Flour+Water: Summer Melon with Duck Prosciutto and Lardo

This was a lovely simple dish with strong flavors. Again, I was supprised by the quality of the items. The melon was perfectly ripe and crisp. The clean flavor played nicely with the rich and salty cured pork fat (Lardo) and duck prosciutto. I never had prosciutto that wasn’t pork so I was excited to try the duck. It was very interesting, it tasted a little richer and gamey, but overall not bad.

Curry Up Now: Chicken Tikka Masala Burrito

Folks in the Financial District line up during their lunch breaks, sometimes for their entire lunch break, for one of these bad boys. I have to say, it wasn’t my favorite dish of the day, but it wasn’t bad either. The chicken was great, moist and well seasoned. But the rice was dripping in sauce and just a tad spicier than I would have liked. I also wish there were more pickles and onions, or something to break up the dense chicken and rice. I can’t imagine getting any work done after having one of these bad boys for lunch.

ClairSquares: Mini Squares

I had a bite of Clairsquare’s signature treats to cool my tongue down after the curry. This was the moistest shortbread I’ve ever tasted, it was delicious! A clairsquare consists of Irish shortbread topped with a layer of caramel and then covered in yummy chocolate. It was FAB! I do wish that the caramel was a bit more pronounced, with a hint of vanilla perhaps. I am pretty in love with my vanilla, so I’m very critical of other people’s caramel. On the plus side, they do not use trans fat or corn syrup in their treats, the high quality natural ingredients are noticeable in every bite.

Endless Summer Sweets: Funnel Cakes

First off, they should change the name to endless line. It took me an hour to get my cake, I had to shlep through two lines – one to pay and one to pick up and both were 30 minutes long. UG! Obviously it was a brilliant idea to have funnel cakes at this festival, but they really should have kicked the production into gear once they experienced the demand.

When I finally got my cake, it was perfectly brown and crisp with a light dusting of powdered sugar, fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream. The cream was hand whipped, which is nice. But was scooped out of a 10 gallon bucket and oozed all over. I’m not sure if that was the desired consistency of the cream (half whipped and drippy) or I just got the dregs of the bucket (which I did), but it was very unattractive to watch them ladle out the serving. Again, it would have been nice to taste some vanilla or other seasoning in the cream, or have it whipped firm with little sweetener and cold – to contrast the super sweet cake, but nope.

The funnel cake was exactly like you would get at any fair and great quality if you put it in those parameters. But I just had some amazingly high quality street food and I was hoping for a knock my socks off dessert. Alas, nope. The first bite was exciting, but every bite after became increasingly gross, and I ended up dumping shortly after. I should have grabbed a cone from Bi-Rite.

a shot of the crowd


Coupon Funded Donation July 30, 2010

Filed under: Food,Geek — geekchef @ 4:31 pm
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I made my first drop off at my local food bank today! I unloaded 16.5lbs of food (about 14 boxes of cereal) and a ton of personal care products (toothpaste, toothbrushes, tampons and first aid supplies). The total retail price is $133. With clever shopping and tons of coupons I actually spent about $25. I forgot to keep some of the early receipts, so I’m guessing on the to first couple of transactions. Currently I have $21 in store ‘bucks’, which spends like cash at specific stores, so that brings me down to $4 for $133!!! Go me!

I’m so happy I could make this work. It was fun hunting down these deals and felt great unloading my packed trunk, knowing I paid next to nothing and will help many needy people.

Here is a great coupon in the Rite Aid circular, which you can pick up in the front of the store:

Grab a copy when you enter the store, tear out the coupon while you shop, grab one ACE Instant Ice Pack ($1.29) from the Travel Size isle and you have $2.71 to apply to the rest of your order. You can combine this coupon with a box of Colgate toothpaste and a printable coupon for another $.75 – $1 off PLUS $3 good on your next purchase.

It expires tomorrow (7/31/10), so act quickly!

I picked up another cold pack/toothpaste deal and a box of pasta, used one of my ‘bucks’, paid 7 cents and got 3 more ‘bucks’ back.

Feel like helping out? Here’s a link!


Eating on a budget July 1, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 12:09 pm
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I started reading a blog written by a guy Eating Well on $1 a Day. He’s done an amazing job staying on budget while eating 3 meals a day, including fruits & vegetables and whole grains, plus snacks. Self proclaimed ‘bad cook’, the food itself is rather bleak – he could stand to read a few of my recipes. But the message is clear and very impressive.

Coupons of the future

Inspired by the buck-a-day guy and attempting to save for my shiny new toy, I decided to pay more attention to my spending. I was happy to find out coupons have gone new millennium with websites like Cellfire and Shortcuts which link to your grocery store loyalty cards, thus saving you from clipping coupons and feeling like an old lady. There is even an app for it! Cellfire has a free app for the iPhone.

I tried out Cellfire on my trip to Safeway yesterday with a few of the ole timey clipped coupons as well and saved at least $50 on my purchase. I haven’t figured out my menu for the next week yet, so I just bought the basics, and I’ll end up making another trip later this week for meal specific items. But I picked up some ‘Catalinas’ while checking out, so that’s another few bucks off  in addition to future coupons virtual or otherwise.

What the hell is a Catalina?

While reading up on the coupon world, Catalinas came up often. I pieced together it was good, highly sought after by clippies (good nickname for them?), but was worried it was something store specific. Not quite.

Catalinas, nicknamed after the marketing company, are those machines next to the receipt printers at most grocery stores. They shoot off purchase specific coupons to be used on your next trip. If you buy the right combination of items you can even get free money (on your next purchase.) Neato!

There is some appeal in this game. With a little ingenuity and research, you can end up with a ton of dirt cheap items.  It’s also not impossible to get one or two items for free and occasionally, if you swing it just right, you might find a combination that nets you a few cents.

Here is a link for Catalina info.

Is it worth it?

I question if the time I’m going to spend researching deals before shopping is really the best use of my time, but I do think this is overall a very productive exercise. Saving money is always good and there is a sense of accomplishment when you see the savings at the bottom of the receipt.

More importantly, it forces me think about what I eat.  I eat pretty healthy, with the exception of the occasional bacon binge. And I spend a lot of time thinking about my menus, particularity the ones that I write about. But now I’m thinking a few meals at a time; what it will cost, how long it will last, what else I’ll be eating that week and how healthy is it overall.

The end result, I hope, will be a healthier diet of the same quality at a lower price. I’ll try to keep you up to date on the progress.