Star Spelunking! And Miso Soup!

So I promised the miso soup recipe last week, but I got distracted by a ton of baking… peach cobbler, strawberry rhubarb streusel, etc. Also, astronomy.

Monday night (August 26th), Neptune was in opposition (which means it was directly opposite the sun and as close to Earth as it’s ever getting). So I packed the family into the car and invaded a friend and colleague’s home to strap my camera to his 8″ Meade telescope. It was pretty cloudy until about 11pm or so, but we got amazing photos of the moon (to follow). I also snapped a few of Saturn, but since he was racing out of my view as fast as he could set in the west, none of them were really post worthy.

Neptune, Uranus and Pluto were all wee dots on the 8″ scope, so I didn’t even try for photos. It was cool seeing a few nebulae though.

Now for the moon photos:
(Taken with 100 iso at 1/30 with the camera strapped directly to the telescope, which has a set f stop of f10)

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And this one, with the clouds scattering across her face (200 iso and 1/30):

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Finally, we zoomed way into the craters, but this was the largest image I could get without causing camera shake by knocking into the viewfinder. Taken at 400 iso and 1/25:
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We also saw a few lingering Perseid meteors and a really cool pulsar star big enough for Jamie to see well through the viewfinder. Too bad Aubri was up until after midnight with all the excitement… We were hoping to see the nova near Delphinus but I think it’s faded too much now, we couldn’t find it at all.

Now, on to the miso recipe:

Kronda’s Special Recipe Cure-What-Ails-You Miso Soup:

This version makes about 12 servings, unless you’re really hungry.

Ingredients:
Dashi powder (Japanese style beef soup stock powder)
1 pkg extra firm tofu, diced into small cubes
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced into straws
1/4 cu (or more) chopped green onions
1/2 cu shredded carrot (pre-shredded is fine, or grate the carrot)
1/4 lb (1/2 8 oz container) crimini mushrooms (AKA baby portabellas), washed and thinly sliced
1/4 cu wakame (dried seaweed) in small piece form (usually comes in a baggy)
Miso paste, preferably the kind that comes in a tub (I use the brown tub, not the spicy red tub)

Start by boiling 8 cups water. Add 1 tbsp dashi powder per cup of water, so about 1/2 cup dashi powder. You can also use beef or chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want it to be vegetarian), but dashi stock will give it the most authentic flavor. When the stock reaches a rolling boil add onions, mushrooms and carrots. Allow to boil for 15-20 minutes to let the flavors incorporate.
Ladle out about 1/2 cup of the broth into a separate cup or bowl and allow it to cool slightly so that it is no longer boiling. Use that broth to dissolve two heaping tablespoons of the miso paste. DO NOT combine the miso into the boiling water, as boiling temperatures kill the miso and ruin the beneficial health properties of the paste. Set aside.
Add the wakame and the tofu to the soup and turn the heat down so that the soup just simmers and doesn’t break apart the tofu. Simmer until the seaweed is pliable but not gummy, about 5 minutes.
Take the soup off of the heat and allow to cool slightly until no longer bubbling. Reincorporate the reserved stock with miso and stir well to combine. Serve soup over prepared rice and top generously with green onions. (Cilantro is also a delicious alternative topping).
Will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge but naturally the soup is better fresh. The tofu gets weirdly squishy after a few days.

For the locals, all of these ingredients are easily acquired at Hmart!

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Wednesday Noms: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I’m shifting things around again because my garden is getting vibrant and productive. With the onset of late summer/early fall comes the first picking, and so Wednesdays are dedicated to experiments with food.

Last night I heavily adapted my secret recipe banana bread to make a chocolate zucchini cake with cream cheese “drizzle.” I use the term loosely because it was more like a frosting than a glaze. I also apologize for the quality of the picture–my cell phone was the only thing handy:

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Hopefully that’s appropriately appetizing. Now, on to the directions! These are high altitude, just keep that in mind:

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a large bundt pan by greasing it lightly (I used avocado oil, you can use coconut or vegetable oil) and sprinkling unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s here) instead of flour.

For the cake, combine in a bowl:
2 1/4 cu unbleached white flour
1/2 cu wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cu plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder (I used the lightly sweetened ghirardelli)

Whisk together in a bowl (my cheating way of “sifting” and set aside.

Soften 3/4 cu (1 1/2 sticks) butter in the microwave for around 15-20 seconds, or until soft but not melted. Combine butter with 1 packed cup brown sugar, 4 heaping tbsp local honey and 1 tbsp vanilla (I prefer madagascar vanilla). Beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Add 3 large eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined.

Add 1/3 of the dry mixture and beat until smooth, then add 1/2 cu milk (I use whole milk, but 2% would work too). Add 1/3 of the dry mixture, another 1/2 cu of milk, beat again. Finally add the last 1/3 of the dry mixture and 2 cups of finely grated fresh zucchini and beat until well mixed.

Pour into the prepared bundt pan and bake for about 50 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before turning out onto a plate or rack. If you get impatient (as I did) the hot cake will probably split.

Allow to cool completely, then ice with this creem cheese frosting:

Combine 4oz softened cream cheese with 1 tbsp vanilla, 1 tbsp milk and 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar. Whisk until the desired frosting consistency is achieved.
If you prefer a lighter glaze, add extra milk in small amounts (IE a tsp at a time) until a drizzle consistency is reached. Drizzle accordingly.

Like banana bread, this will freeze well if you freeze it before adding the glaze. It will keep in an airtight container for around a week in moderate weather, but the taste will degrade over time. Moral of the story, eat this deliciousness immediately! Next time I’ll add chocolate chips too.

It might not be pretty but it sure is delicious…

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