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Archive for November, 2009

Tonight for dinner I made Pasta with Pesto from the Silver Palate Cookbook:

But the real highlight of the meal was the 1-2-3-4 cake paired with Earl Grey Truffles:

These truffles are from the Bon Appetit November Issue. The recipe can be found here.

I rolled half of the truffles in cocoa powder (what the recipe calls for) and half of them in sifted confectioners sugar, just to make some of them a little sweeter. They’re a little tricky to make, because trying to roll them into perfect balls ends up getting your hands (and if you’re like me, the rest of your kitchen) covered in chocolate. However, they are worth the mess, because the result is absolutely decadent and delicious.

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I have been bad about posting since last week. I was in Boston for Thanksgiving and was concentrating on relaxing. However, I have been doing quite a bit of baking.

My contributions to Thanksgiving dinner were both from the Bon Appetit November issue.

For an hors d’oeuvres, I made Herb and Cheese Poppers

These are basically just little biscuits filled with herbs and cheddar cheese. They made a great appetizer, and the leftovers make great snacks. The recipe is pretty complicated, so I’m not going to type it out, but you can find it here.

 

For dessert, I made Brown Sugar-Pecan Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

These are the perfect fall dessert, although be careful not to over-bake them or they dry out very quickly. You can find the recipe here.

I guess I’m still in the baking mood, because even though we got back to California last night, I’ve been baking all day. I made Alice Water’s 1-2-3-4 Cake, which we’ll have for dessert tonight.

This cake is incredibly easy to make, and although I haven’t tasted it yet, it smells delicious.

1-2-3-4 Cake from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters (the recipe below makes two nine-inch round cakes, however, I took Alice Waters’ suggestion and halved the recipe to just make one 9-inch round):

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Butter the cake pans and line the bottom of each with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with flour, tapping the excess. Separate
    • 4 eggs
  • Measure
    • 1 cup milk
  • Sift and then measure:
    • 3 cups cake flour
  • Stir in:
    • 4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt (use 1/4 teaspoon if using salted butter)
  • In another bowl, beat until light and fluffy:
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • Add:
    • 2 cups sugar
  • Cream until light and fluffy. Beat in the 4 egg yolks, one at a time, and:
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • When well mixed, add the flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with one third of the flour. Stir just until the flour is incorporated. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Stir one third of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

To make the cake a little more interesting, I took Alice Waters’ suggestion and added 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice to the batter. I’m not going to serve it frosted, but she suggests frosting it with equal parts lemon curd and whipped cream folded together.

 

For dinner tonight I’m making pasta with pesto, and we’ll also have some Earl-Grey Truffles. Pictures and recipes to come later!

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Will Phillips is a 10-year-old 5th grader in West Fork, Arkansas who refuses to stand up and say the pledge of allegiance at school (Arkansas Times article here). His reason? LGBT people do not have the same rights as other people, and as he says “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.” Let me just reiterate two important points: (a) he’s 10 and (b) he lives in Arkansas. This brilliant 10-year-old wants to be a lawyer when he grows up, and to him freedom of speech means “The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.” His parents, who also sound like amazing people, are totally supportive of Will and are not trying to stifle him or prevent him from speaking out at all. Unfortunately for all of his bravery, Will is facing homophobic teasing from his classmates and threats from homophobics everywhere.

I think we can all learn a big lesson from Will. At 10, this little boy has more courage than many (or most) adults in this country. He has the courage to act against the beliefs of his teachers, classmates, and many in his community, because he truly believes that we, as Americans, are not living up to the meaning of the pledge of allegiance. Will deserves our full support, and he has something to teach all of us. If we all started acting like this on a regular basis, people will start to notice and change may just start to happen even faster. I hope Obama learns a lesson from Will as well – that if one little boy can stand up (or sit down as the case may be) against so much evil in this world, then the President of the United States can certainly push back against the conservatives who are trying to keep him from making policies that support the rights of women and the LGBT community in this country. Furthermore, Will is also sending a message of hope to all of the LGBT youth in this country who may be afraid to speak our or reveal their dissatisfaction with their lack of rights.

I am in awe of this little boy, and I hope that we all can start following in his example by questioning authority and refusing to participate in certain “patriotic” acts just because we are told we have to.

Watch Will (and see for yourself how brilliant and fabulous he is) on CNN:

Read Kate Kendell’s post about him here.

You can become a fan of him on facebook here.

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Out of sheer curiosity, I watched “Twilight” this weekend. Although I do have a special place in my heart for young adult fiction, and I am truly obsessed with the Harry Potter series, I have not read any of the “Twilight” novels. I’ve never understood the allure of vampires, and watching the movie just confused me even more. I just don’t see why women and girls are so much more obsessed with Twlight than they are with your typical rom-com or tragic love-story.

It was incredibly hard for me to watch the movie without thinking about all the hidden messages about gender-roles and abstinence. The whole plot revolves around the fact that Edward (the sexy vampire played by Robert Pattinson) has to show self-restraint and not bite Bella (the angsty, beautiful human teenage girl), even though she desperately wants him to bite her so that she can be a vampire and be with him forever. All the dialogue is about self-control and how Edward does not want Bella to lose something so important (her life). To me, it is just so obvious that this is a metaphor for sex, and Edward’s self-restraint is what makes him so admirable. Honestly, I preferred the days of “Interview with the Vampire” where vampires weren’t showing any particular self-restraint (and Brad Pitt is much sexier than Robert Pattinson).

It’s not hard for me to accept the teenage-girl obsession with Twilight – after all, aren’t these obsessions a teenage rite-of-passage? What’s hard for me to understand is Twi-moms – women in their 30s and older who are obssessed with Twilight. This article suggests that Twilight is a form of nostalgia – a way for these women to re-live their innocent youths. All of this just continues to suggest that there is something wrong with sex, something wrong with growing older and losing some of that virginal, teenage innocence.  The article also points out that the Twilight novels are perhaps the first novels that many women have read from cover-to-cover in years. I’m all for reading, but this fact makes me very sad. Why does it take mediocre literature (Twilight, The DaVinci Code) to get people to sit down and read?

Finally, I think the Twilight phenomenon just further illustrates the dearth of intelligent films that are geared toward women. While my friend Lindsay made a good point that it is nice that “Twilight” was written and directed by women, I don’t want to have to turn to vampire films geared toward tweens to satisfy my craving for a romantic movie. I watched “Out of Africa” recently, and that sad (cinematically beautiful) story, about real live adult humans falling in love, and (gasp!) having sex, was much more satisfying than watching a glittering vampire and a teenage girl staring at each other melodramatically for two hours.

I will see “New Moon” (although certainly not on opening weekend), because I’m curious to see how this ridiculous story continues. But I’ll be the person sitting in the back silently wishing that he just bites her already and she becomes some totally bad-ass vampire.

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I made these delicious chocolate chocolate mint-chocolate chip cookies tonight.

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I used this recipe from Food.com and I added Tollhouse Mint + Dark Chocolate Chips instead of just regular chocolate chips. They’re perfect for the holiday season!

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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) (a UCLA law grad!) speaks out against the Stupak Amendment, and does a great job explaining why it will limit access and harm healthcare for women and girls.

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imagesThere is nothing that angers me more than men making decisions that greatly affect the choices of women. When it happened with the partial birth abortion ban, we all were quick to attribute the awful decision to Bush being in the White House, but now Obama is here, and nothing has really changed.

The Stupak Amendment, which was added to the healthcare bill, which just passed in the House, prohibits anyone receiving federal health care coverage from buying plans that cover abortion. This means that it will be even harder for women to access abortion.

I am not going to spend this post talking about all the reasons why a woman might need an abortion that go beyond the “irresponsible, unprotected sex” narrative. And, never having had an abortion, I certainly don’t feel that ist is my place to explain how abortion is not a decision that most women take lightly – there are many people who have explained it more eloquently and truthfully than I can. Instead, I would like to take a minute to point out that political moves like the Stupak Amendment demonstrate exactly why women are still considered second class citizens, women’s bodies still are considered to be of much less value than men’s, and that we have a far way to go before women truly have equality in this country. Men should not be making these decisions, and men should certainly not be writing these amendments and arguing that women should not be having an abortion. Until men can get pregnant, they will have no idea what it feels like to have bodily autonomy slowly stripped away.

I know that this healthcare bill, if it is enacted, will be an incredible step forward, but I am sick of women being the casualties of “progress.” I sincerely hope that while the bill is debated in the Senate women (and our pro-choice male allies) continue to push for this amendment to be removed, to not continue to make sacrifices that compromise the autonomy of women in this country. And, I hope that Obama takes a stand against this amendment. I have yet to be convinced that he truly meant what he said during his campaign. I have yet to believe that he will dedicate any greater attention to women in this country than presidents in the past.  I still have hope, but if this bill passes in the Senate with the Stupak amendment in tact, I will certainly not be celebrating, because it will just mean that I do not merit the same respect as my fellow male citizens.

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I have discovered a love for cooking and baking (something I had previously detested). I’ve been feeling quite domestic lately, coming home from work and cooking up a storm, so I decided I would share some of my creations here. For dinner I made Chicken with Lemon and Herbs from the Silver Palate Cookbook for dinner (quick, easy, and delicious). For dessert, I made mini Spice Cupcakes from Julie Hasson’s “125 Best Cupcake Recipes,” and I topped them with cream cheese frosting. They are absolutely delicious. Hasson’s cookbook is my absolute favorite place to go for cupcake recipes, because they are easy to follow, and everything always turns out perfectly.

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SPICE CUPCAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING RECIPE (from “125 Best Cupcake Recipes” by Julie Hasson)

For the Cupcakes

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp fancy molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Stir in raisins.

2. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter until well combined. Add molasses and egg, beating well. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, making three additions of flour mixture and two of buttermilk, beating until smooth.

3. Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.

(If you are making mini cupcakes, like I did, they only need to cook for about 17 minutes.)

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar

1. In a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together cream cheese, butter and salt until creamy. With mixer on low speed, beat in confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 cup at a time so that the sugar doesn’t fly everywhere. Increase speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy.

2. Spread frosting over cooled cupcakes and refrigerate until ready to serve or for up to 1 day.

(I usually don’t use as much confectioner’s sugar – maybe about 1 3/4 cups, because I find I like the taste of the frosting better when it is not quite as sweet.)

These cupcakes also taste amazing without the frosting.

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kitten

Jim Windolf wrote a piece in the December issue of Vanity Fair attacking the new American obsession with all things cute (see, e.g., cute overload.com, icanhazcheezburger,  the Obamas, etc).  He posits that our obsession with cuteness is a way to cope with everything negative and destructive that is happening around us, citing that the rise of certain websites dedicated to cute animals and cute foods such as cupcakes began sometime around the time everything in this country began to fall apart (ie. Bush’s presidency).  He says:

For generations, kids couldn’t wait until they reached adulthood so they could smoke, drink, eat four-course meals, make money, drive cars, have sex, and, if they were the type to join the military, legally kill other human beings. Now we would rather log on and tune out, preferably in the womb-like comfort of a Snuggie, which is the perfect thing to wear as we gaze at photos of kittens while gnawing on delicious cupcakes.

I do admit, however, that cuddling parties (a real event where you pay $30 to participate in a session of fully-clothed cuddling) are a little strange. I’m a little offended by his resentment of “cute culture,” because I don’t understand why it’s necessarily a bad thing to take solace in websites like lolcats every so often in order to step back from all the depressing headlines we are constantly absorbing. Furthermore, I don’t really see this as that new of a phenomenon. Disney movies have always included super adorable characters in their films (Flounder in The Little Mermaid, Meiko in Pocahontas, Chip in Beauty and the Beast to name a few), and I remember a Hello Kitty and Sanrio craze back when I was in Middle School in the late 90s.  Maybe it’s more noticeable now with the popularity and advances of the internet, but I feel like the appeal of cuteness is not a new thing. Plus, what’s so bad about taking solace in photos of cute kittens rather than drugs or alcohol or other self-destructive behavior? I will certainly continue to enjoy my cute cupcakes and pictures of adorable baby animals, and I refuse to feel ashamed or somehow less intelligent because of it.

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777px-Gay_flagToday has been a sad day. I had high hopes that Maine would vote to allow gay marriage, and we would be celebrating a victory today. Unfortunately, the Yes on 1 campaign won out, with numbers strikingly similar to the Prop 8 numbers in California last year. As Kate Kendell from NCLR said, this deja vu is far from comforting. It is so disheartening to know that there are still so many people in this country believe that same-sex couples do not deserve the same rights as different sex couples. Of course, no one can ever take away the ability of people to form loving, long-term relationships with same-sex partners, but every state that takes away the right to marry continues to impress upon us that there are those out there who do not think LGBT are as deserving, or not full citizens in some way. 

Sometimes I wonder if the marriage battle is worth all of the money and energy, because the lack of progress is so frustrating, but then I step back and think about everything that comes along with marriage. Without marriage, same-sex couples cannot protect basic parts of their relationship. Without federal recognition of marriage, same-sex couples are not entitled to the same healthcare benefits, cannot secure the same medical rights, or death benefits, and often have trouble securing parentage rights over the children they raise together. I like to think that marriage is just a meaningless status, but when the government makes so many rights contingent upon it, marriage becomes so much more. And unless we get rid of the institution of marriage all together, I think it will continue to be important to fight as hard as we can for marriage equality (not, of course, at the expense of anything else).

And just a word on blame. Everyone seems eager to blame someone or something for the disappointment in Maine, but I really don’t think this is the way to go. The people who worked on the No on 1 campaign worked incredibly hard, and gave all they had to turn out the vote and to convince people to vote no. In order to get the numbers where we want them to be, everyone needs to step up, and not just in the states where the battle happens to be centered. Everyone who thinks that same-sex couples deserve the right to marry (and everyone who thinks that the LGBT community deserves every right straight people have, for that matter) needs to take some time to talk to the people they know who don’t share those beliefs. It will never be possible to suceed if everyone is not participating in the effort.

On the bright side, we will hopefully see a victory in Washington (although the numbers are a little too close for me to be totally satisfied), and there was also victory in Kalmazoo, MI. Houston will (hopefully) have a lesbian mayor, as will Chapel Hill, NC, and Detroit elected an openly gay city council president. Despite the loss in Maine, progress continues to occur.

Now that the election is over, I urge you to continue to move forward and fight for the passage of ENDA, which will secure federal employment protections for LGBT people. If it passes (which it can), it will be an incredible sign of progress and hope. Contact your congressperson to urge them to support it.

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