Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gotta be the squeein'-est thing in the 'verse.

It's Mal and his crew! On cupcakes! Still can't quite believe that show got cut. *does the huffy pouty stompy dance* At least we still have Fringe. And I imagine the Eleventh Doctor & Co. would make some pretty cute fondant figures, too.

I'm a nerrrrrrrrrrrrd.

I Am Not A Fast Cook: Four-Cheese Olive Rolls

I adapted the following from this recipe I posted a while back. It still needs a little tweaking, so some of the instructions below are more "best guess" than "do not deviate, ever". Have fun!

In a large bowl, mix 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon yeast, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, stirring until thoroughly combined. Heat 1 1/4 cups water to 110F and add to the dry ingredients, working with a wooden spoon or the dough hook attachment on your mixer, if you have one. (If you don't, get one. They're darn handy.) Before the mixture forms a true dough, add 2/3 cup chopped kalamata olives and 3/4 cup four-cheese blend (usually parmesan, romano and such -- any cheese you'd find on pizza will work). Continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball.

Turn the dough ball out onto a floured work surface and work until it holds together on its own, then cover with the inverted bowl and let rest for 10 minutes. Knead for 10-15 minutes, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking, then place in a cleaned and oiled bowl, cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise for one hour, or until doubled. When doubled, punch down, turn out and knead for 2-3 minutes, then cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Divide dough into sixteen pieces and shape into balls, and place on baking sheets dusted with cornmeal (or similar). Top with more cheese. Let rise again for 45 minutes. Bake in a preheated 450F oven for 15 minutes. For a thicker, harder crust, place a pan of boiling water on the oven floor, or on the lowest rack. Cool on wire racks and enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm good with whatever, man.

Tonight's plan is to try and get SigOth hooked on Doctor Who (fingers crossed, yo!) and to watch part one of the Fringe season finale (it's a three-fer!). To go with all this, we're getting takeout from a local Chinese buffet place (the one where all the expats eat -- ees very, very good). I'm strongly tempted to order this.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quote of the Day: Don't do it, man! It ain't worth it! Just come back a couple steps from the edge! edition

From Mark Steyn: Question: How much do you have to invest in the future before you’ve spent it and no longer have one?

(Re: the post title; it was either that, or a YouTube clip of Hermes threatening to jump and Bender shouting "Do a flip!" I tell myself it's Not That Bad, but the smarter part of me knows that's a lie. I guess I'll settle for throwing stuffed penguins at the TV when the news is on.)

UPDATE: Just so everyone's clear, the smarter part of me also knows that the best revenge is living well, so that's what I'm focusing on. I didn't mean to sound so dour and despairing; I just wanted to make a Futurama joke.

In other news, I'm getting this come my next paycheck.

I Am Not A Fast Cook: Passover Cake

Passover starts tonight, so yesterday evening my godmother hosted a (very small, scaled-down, back-to-basics) seder. I was in charge of making the cake, and this is the recipe I used. I got it from the intarwebz, and the intarwebz said it came from the Manichewitz matzoh meal box. Alls I know is, it's delicious. I recommend measuring all ingredients beforehand; it's a little more to clean up, but it makes the actual assembly a lot easier.

Begin by preheating the oven to 325F. Separate 9 eggs, setting the whites aside, and beat the yolks with 2 cups of sugar (1/3 cup at a time) with a hand mixer on the lowest setting. When the egg/sugar mixture is light yellow and fluffy, add 2.5 t. lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 6 T. water, mixing continuously. The batter will be very thin and watery, but with a consistent texture. Mix in 3/4 cup matzoh meal and 3/4 cup potato starch, a little at a time so it doesn't clump. Bump up the mixer speed if you need to. The batter will be thick and heavy.

In another bowl, add 1/2 t. kosher salt to the egg whites and beat until they form stiff peaks. Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and incorporate with the mixer on low (this lightens the batter and makes the next step easier). Gently fold in the remaining egg whites in two doses and pour the batter into a 9-inch tube cake pan. Bake for 75 minutes (1.25 hours) or until the top springs back when touched lightly with a fingertip. Invert the pan and hang it over a bottle until the cake is completely cool before attempting to de-pan. Serve plain or with fruit and whipped cream (we used strawberries). Enjoy! Happy Pesach!

Coolio.

According to my Blogger dashboard, this is my 1,001st post. Neat!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fun with geography

Here's a nifty doodad that gives you a map of the states (or countries) that you've visited. Here's mine:
visited 15 states (30%)

I included states that I've driven through, because I like to pay attention and watch out the window on road trips, and because it's technically true -- I was there, even if I didn't get out of the car. North Carolina gets included because I had a couple layovers there on the trip to/from California. There's no option for Washington, D.C., but you can pretend there's a dot there because I've been there too.

I do so enjoy road trips.

Friday, April 15, 2011

You should see what happens when NASA plays Jenga.

Tam asks,

How do these guys decide which "betrayals" are "unconscionable" and which are, you know, just business as usual? Throw darts? Is there a Magic 8-Ball in the Oval Office, official dice at 10 Downing Street, and a deck of tarot cards in the Élysée Palace?

Truth is, a couple decades ago, the UN got a a 1,000-piece puzzle of a map of the world for Christmas. Every now and then the Security Council gets it out and puts it together, just to take some time to relax and hang out together. Someone always steals one piece at the outset and hides it, and wherever the hole ends up, that's the country that's been naughty this month and must be punished. They take turns figuring out who took the missing piece, and then they all have a good laugh and go get milkshakes before they rock-paper-scissors for sanctions or out-and-out bombs and bullets.

What?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Am Not A Fast Cook: Quick-n-Easy Dinner

Just what it says on the tin, folks.

Set a medium-to-large skillet on medium heat and melt 2 T. of butter in the bottom. Throw in about a cup of leftover hash browns/frozen french fries/any kind of precooked, segmented potatoes, 1/2 chopped (smallish) onion and 1/2 c. chopped mushrooms. Let sizzle, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are warmed through and browned at the edges. Beat two eggs and add to the pan, stirring to scramble. Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, 2 T. parmesan cheese and two good squirts of rooster sauce, and toss to distribute. Cook the eggs to preference, turn out in a bowl and consume. Other options include, but are by no means limited to: Cooked rice instead of potatoes; black olives, scallions, capers, shallots, fresh spinach, pretty much anything you have in the fridge that sounds good. You could even make a sweet version if that's your thing, a sort of deconstructed french toast, if you will. It's not a complicated dish, which is good for tired evenings when all you want to do is sit in the recliner and watch Phineas & Ferb while you eat and try not to fall asleep before 10 o'clock. Enjoy!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Payoff

[Highlight to read spoilers.]

I started following Kris Straub's Starslip (at the time, "Starslip Crisis") when I was in college. I was hooked and kept on the line by the complex plot lines and rich yet uncomplicated characters, not to mention the snappy writing. (I refer you to the shotgun quote in my sidebar, taken from this strip.) I also admired Straub's tendency to take what seemed like small, humorous interludes and connect them to the larger scheme in unexpected ways (the Chronomantic is Vanderbeam's son? What?!). He even pulled off one of the most audacious retcons I've ever seen by shunting the core characters back in time a few years and to an alternate universe) and undoing some of the most significant plot developments of the latter half of the run to that point (and it worked, damn his eyes).

Unfortunately, not long after that, the series began to suffer from schedule slip, and I became less invested in the increasingly episodic plots. It felt like Straub himself was less invested, preferring to write the series as a sitcom instead of an epic. I kept up with things in a desultory fashion, checking in every few days to see if there was an update, but overall, it just wasn't as satisfying as the old days.

And then I saw today's strip, my jaw dropped, and it was just like the best parts of the old days all over again. Straub has still got it. I don't know why I ever doubted him. I love you, Starslip. I promise I won't ever leave you again.



Yes, I gagged a little myself when I wrote those last two sentences. I refer you to the tag for this post. I regret nothing.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Um yum.

On the recommendation of Roberta X, I went looking for A Taste of Philly, a hole-in-the-wall pretzel place on 42nd Street, just off College. I'd looked for it before and couldn't find it, partly because I was in a hurry; partly because, I'm not gonna lie, I wasn't to keen on wandering that neighborhood myself. It's one of those "go one block too far and you might wanna keep your head on a swivel until you get back to your car" areas.

Luckily, The Jack and I spotted it as we drove past a few weekends ago, so the next time we were in the neighborhood we stopped in.

It. Was. AMAZING. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. We ordered plain ol' regular pretzels, took them back to the car and just sat there eating them until they were gone. It is HIGHLY recommended. I will DEFINITELY be going back there.

Sometimes Indianapolis can be really, really fun.

Read the whole thing.

Once, in college, I said something in class about the contrast between Christian and Islamic imperialism. I was literally shouted down by the entire class, who chorused something about the crusades and were profoundly disinterested in hearing what I had to say. It was one of the most unpleasant moments of my entire college career. I wish I'd had this article to show them: Four Myths about the Crusades. It's a thick, scholarly read in small print, but it's well worth the effort. The author certainly filled in a lot of gaps in my (and most people's) education. The most profound bit of knowledge, for me, was that the Crusades were, in fact, about taking back Christian land from Islamic invaders. Every class I've ever taken has presented this as an invented, flimsy excuse for medieval Europe's cupidity, greed and bloodlust (that myth is covered in point #3). It was refreshing to read such a factual, calm examination of the subject. I highly recommend you follow the advice in the title of this post. It'll do your brain good.

Monday, April 04, 2011

You pays your money and you takes your chances, but I don't have much of a choice and I don't like my chances.

In honor of How I Spent My Spring Vacation So Far, I give you this: How to annoy the citizenry in one word or less.

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C.S. Lewis

I Am Not A Fast Cook: Starlight Cake

The following comes from Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, 1950 edition. Jack and I were at an antique store, and I saw it and squeed, and he got it for me. (He spoils me.) I loves me some old cookbooks. Plus, this is the recipe that won me the grand champion ribbon in 4-H when I was 12 (but that's another story).

Prebaking steps: Preheat oven to 350F. Grease, flour and line with waxed/parchment paper two nine-inch cake pans. Baking steps: Sift together 2 1/8 c. flour, 1 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 T. cream of tartar, 3/4 t. baking soda and 1 t. salt. Add 1/2 c. shortening, 1 c. milk and 1 1/2 t. flavoring (I used vanilla) and beat for two minutes. Add 2 eggs and beat for another two minutes. Divide evenly between cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Cool in pans for 10 minutes (no less!), then turn out onto wire racks and set aside until completely cool.

For frosting, I recommend The Idiot's Guide to Baking's chocolate frosting. Heat 3/4 c. heavy whipping cream and 1/2 stick of butter to a full boil. Pour over 1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate (chocko chips work fine) and beat on low speed until thoroughly melted. Add 1 T. vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth and somewhat fluffy. Chill for at least one hour to thicken, but let it come back to room temperature before attempting to frost the cake. Makes about three cups. Enjoy!