Tuesday, January 29, 2008

how did i never notice this before...?

my car, it seems, is equipped with some sort of SRS airbag.

the only thing i can now think of when i look at my steering wheel is SRS CAR ACCIDENTS REQUIRE SRS AIRBAGS.

Friday, January 25, 2008

bluetooth legs!

awesome!

giggle

CNN headline today:

Musharraf to West: 'We have our own brains'

every time i read this, i couldn't help but think of the story that i really wished followed:

"Musharraf, speaking on behalf of the pakistani zombie coalition, refused food aid today from the United States..."

Monday, January 21, 2008

yummy.

alright, last recipe for awhile, i promise!

pumpkin spice bread pudding...unbelievable. found it at this cool little site, which seems to have a lot of good recipes to try. follow the link for some pictures (something i promise to be better about including in the future). mine looked more delicious than hers!

1½ cups whole milk (or 1 cup heavy cream plus ½ cup whole milk)
¾ cup canned pumpkin (this is about half a small can, by the way)
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread (we used fresh white bread, about five slices, and stuck it in a warm oven for a few minutes to dry it out)
¾ stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

whisk together pumpkin, cream, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, spices and bourbon, if using, in a bowl.

if using fresh bread, spread on a baking sheet and put in the oven for a few minutes to let it dry out; be careful, though, because i completely fried the first pieces i tried in an oven set to 350. worked much better when i turned the oven off, and just put the pieces in while the oven was still warm but at a very low heat. if you've had the foresight to let your bread dry out for a day, you're good to go.

toss bread cubes with melted butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes. it took me about 40, but i was at a high altitude.

we served it right out of the oven with a scoop of slow-churned french vanilla ice cream. mmmmmm. made 9 fairly sizable squares; we had the rest with breakfast the next morning (ICE CREAM WITH BREAKFAST?! us kids were elated). also, we didn't include the bourbon. tasted like pumpkin pie, but just a little better, and i like the texture more too. mmm.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

as if you hadn't had enough recipes out of me...

...and there'll probably be one more this weekend, too!

anyway, we made basil garlic minestrone tonight, based on this very confusing recipe.

i'm going to make some substantial suggestions/alterations below that should provide a smoother cooking experience (and more delicious eating experience, of course).

3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped (we used bacon; flavor a little too strong)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup diced italian tomatoes (we used the kind with basil, oregano, and garlic)
6 cups of cold water and chicken stock, mixed (we used about 2 cups stock and about 4 cups water)
1/2 tablespoon salt
about ten ounces (maybe a third of a box?) pasta; i'd go with tiny shells
pinch of pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons fresh basil, very finely chopped (might just go with 1 tbsp dried)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

sauté the pancetta in olive oil and garlic until browned. then, CAREFULLY add tomatoes (if you're using plain tomatoes, a pinch of oregano here wouldn't hurt) and simmer for about 5 minutes; the wet tomatoes and bubbling oil can be a dangerous splattery mess, so stand back. after they're simmered, add the stock/water and bring to a boil. stir in salt and pasta; cook about 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. remove from heat, add pepper, red pepper, basil, and parmesan cheese (feel free to play with the amounts). serve hot.

AMAZING with a crusty bread like focaccia dipped in it.

reed's raspberry ginger brew

despite how delicious it sounds, reed's raspberry ginger brew

is gross.

it tastes like you're licking a barrel.

unbelievable breakfast

as part of a weekend of "oh boy nothing to do/roommates out of the house, therefore let's cook all weekend", we made the most incredible breakfast today...

orange spice french toast, from this random site:
6 slices thickly cut Italian or homemade white bread

1 cup half & half or light cream
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier or orange liqueur equivalent
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest (we used clementine, just to mix it up)
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients, except bread, and whisk thoroughly. Soak each piece of bread in the egg mixture. Grill on medium to medium-hot griddle until cooked through and golden brown. Serve with oodles of real maple syrup and a dollop of orange marmalade.

grand marnier is STUPIDLY expensive...we went for orange cointreau, which looks cooler and is very slightly cheaper, but it's still $20 a bottle. i'd recommend not using real maple syrup, as the flavor is just too strong for my tastes...i prefer a little butter, a little marmalade, and non-oodles of fake maple syrup. but that's just me.

super easy to make, and absolutely incredible. i'd recommend it with bacon or veggie links and eggs (we added a little oregano to the eggs, too).

Friday, January 18, 2008

as if we needed more proof...

from slate.com:



According to The Bush Tragedy, a new book by Slate's Jacob Weisberg, Bush suffers from a similar inability to distinguish between what he wants to see and what is there to be seen. This is nicely captured in an anecdote about a painting (seen above) that Bush put up in his office when he was governor of Texas. Weisberg writes:

In an April 1995 memo, Bush invited his staff to come to his office to look at a painting. … The picture is a Western scene of a cowboy riding up a craggy hill, with two other riders following behind him. Bush told visitors—who often noted his resemblance to the rider in front—that it was called A Charge To Keep and that it was based on his favorite Methodist hymn of that title, written in the eighteenth century by Charles Wesley. As Bush noted in the memo, which he quoted in his autobiography of the same title: "I thought I would share with you a recent bit of Texas history which epitomizes our mission. When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves." Bush identified with the lead rider, whom he took to be a kind of Christian cowboy, an embodiment of indomitable vigor, courage, and moral clarity.

Bush subsequently took the painting to Washington, hung it in the Oval Office, and continued to tell the painting's inspiring story, adding embellishments:

He came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.

Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled "The Slipper Tongue," published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: "Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught."

The painting was subsequently recycled by the Saturday Evening Post to illustrate a nonfiction story. The caption that time was, "Bandits Move About From Town to Town, Pillaging Whatever They Can Find." Koerner published the illustration a third and final time in a magazine called the Country Gentleman. On this go-round, it was indeed used to illustrate a short story that related to Wesley's hymn. But the story's moral was a little off-message. According to Weisberg, it was "about a son who receives a legacy from his father—a beautiful forest in the Northeast and a plea to protect it from rapacious timber barons." Apparently nobody ever got around to notifying Bush's Interior Department.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

long overdue.

i've been meaning to sit down and write a more thorough blog post for some time, but my brain still feels mildly scrambled, so i fear this is not to be The Blog Post Of My Dreams. ah well. i'll at least try to keep it brief, then. :)

i've been unbelievably sick over the past month, beginning with the worst flu i can remember having, and ending with a rather nefarious cold/cough that has yet to go away. to make it worse, my ethics class required that we go on a hike today (?), and after about five minutes of clambering up the santa monica mountain range my lungs felt like they were on fire and i almost had to stop. yes, the whole class mocked me behind my back, i'm sure. yes, i now know what it's like to be the fat kid at recess. :( however, absent that little setback, i think i'm on the road to recovery.

my new apartment is cute as a button (with super swanky amenities), and although it will take some time to get used to sharing, well, everything with three other girls, it's only for another four months. at that point, i get to begin My Real Life...the life i have been referring to every time an adult insultingly asked me what i wanted to be when i grew up. well, in three and a half months, i'll have finished every academic goal i set for myself, and i'll be ready to grow up...at least as much as i ever will. i can't wait. :):):)

i got rock band for christmas, but have literally played about four songs total. anybody who cares to help me break it in a bit more effectively is welcome to do so!

been playing some WoW, cooking a lot, spending some time at the hot tub, and just settling back into the rhythm of school. i'm going to be working like crazy on the thesis for the next month or three, but until today i hadn't yet gotten notes back from my advisor, so i had an excuse to just kind of laze around and recover. no more, i fear. wish me luck.

dance class started this week, and i'm teaching some cool new stuff this semester. we had excellent advertising (it's so cool to see my posters all over campus!), so enrollment was fabulous, and we had a ton of fun. i have fun, talented students and an excellent assisting staff, so i'm looking forward to a pretty stellar semester.

been drooling a little over the new macbook, but i won't be picking one up anytime soon. while it's a pretty toy, and i'm super envious of the new trackpad, it doesn't offer me anything i really need, and my macbook pro just has more applicability for me right now. attempting to save my pennies, anyway. got a $50 parking ticket this week and a surprise bill from the university for "additional units not covered by my scholarship". ugh.

anyway, the main thing that i've been meaning to write about is pretty random, but it's been bothering me for almost a year now: the concept of holocaust denial laws. i still need to do some more research on it, but, in that process, i thought i'd get a few of my thoughts out and try to get some feedback from various people.

an interesting british article found here summarizes the main points, including the reasons why britain has not adopted anti-denial legislation such as those in place in austria, belgium, france, germany, spain, switzerland, and israel.

basically, i'm incredibly hesitant to support any legislation that limits people's worldview or interpretation of history; under such a precedent, arguments such as those promoted by agnosticism, atheism, or even "the da vinci code" seem like the next to go (although, granted, that's pretty far along the ol' slippery slope). basically, legislating people's opinions/stupidity just doesn't seem like a grand idea. at the same time, i understand the ramifications of hate speech, and i DO realize that it can be extremely offensive to go beyond saying "the holocaust didn't exist" and conclude "the crazy jews made it up to get sympathy" (not that "offensive" language should be banned on principle, either, but...). i guess the bottom line, to my very, very minimal understanding, is that the HATEFUL ramifications of holocaust denial language are probably already dealt with under our messy blob of free speech supreme court decisions, and can probably easily be classified in terms of clear and present danger or inciting violence or whatever. my question, then, is what makes the situation of holocaust denial different enough to require legislation in the seven countries listed above (other than the fact that most of them were very directly influenced by the holocaust, more so than we were here in the states). do they not have similar hate speech legislation, or is the case of the holocaust so profoundly important that it demands separate laws?

i'll keep thinking about it, perhaps, but if anyone has anything to add regarding this rather muddy (for me) issue, please tell. :)

p.s. come visit me if you haven't yet! we can play tennis and sit in the hot tub. it will be grand, and maybe i'll make you brownies.

<3.

the perfect lie

i've been sitting here for the last five minutes listening to a pretty, popular girl on the phone to her pretty, popular boyfriend, and she has so far yelled at him for not getting work off the next two weekends in a row so she can go ski with him, whined that, since she can't find her wallet, he MUST HAVE TAKEN IT (repeated two or three times), and then demanded that he look in his car for it (although i believe he's currently driving). she has now told him he "needs to get his butt in here now", and when he protested, "lalala, i don't hear you". mind you, they're not fighting. days like this i wonder how relationships at my school ever last.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

pesto, at last!

after a long hiatus, i return, with some excellent news.

since i lived in florence, i have searched long and hard to find a good, simple basil pesto. living in italy, the best foods i had were surprisingly the simplest ones: generic brand pesto from the supermarket, panna cotta that my host mother made from about three ingredients, and basic caprese sandwiches from any street vender. oddly, even when eating at expensive, "authentic" italian restaurants or markets here in the states, nothing has really compared, especially on the pesto front. seriously, american pesto is just GROSS by comparison to the real stuff. i was sad, and was starting to give up hope on ever finding a wonderful, garlicky, light, crunchy pesto again.

until now.

i decided to try the pesto recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, the reader's digest live longer cookbook. i was wary, at first, since their version eliminates a lot of the unhealthy (read: delicious) oil from a basic pesto. however, i am pleased to report that this version is AMAZING, and in fact much better than the oilier alternative (oilternative?).

the only hangup in preparing this lies with your equipment. see, my roommate has a blender. i didn't know this blender didn't work until i had already poured all of the ingredients into it. after fiddling with it for a good half hour, i carefully poured the contents into a pyrex and called a friend who lives in the same complex as i do. after a bit of phone tag, he replied: "yes! i have a blender! come use it!" i got there. no blender. whoops. track down friend's roommate, who reports blender is broken. apparently there was a terrible blender-breaking scourge that swept the complex over break. soooo, we went to albertson's, where i bought an 8-speed blender for $25. it did not really work well, at all. blades were dull as all get out. basically, you may not even want to bother with "smoothie makers" or "drink mixer" type blenders. i spent a good 15 minutes pulsing the thing, stopping to smush the basil leaves around after every pulse to try to get the blades to actually cut them. it was certainly edible at the end, just a pain. so the moral of this very long story? either a) use a FOOD PROCESSOR or blender with VERY VERY SHARP BLADES, not your standard smoothie mixer, or b) cut up the basil really well before attempting to blend.

also, this recipe will leave you with leaves in your teeth. sorry. probably some very garlicky breath, too.

still, delicious, and very easy to prepare! overall cost is fairly low, too.

so, without further ado:

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth, preferably with low sodium
6 large cloves of garlic (recipe says slice first; i HIGHLY recommend CHOPPING)
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves (this winds up to be two of those little flat plastic packets you buy in the market; again, recommend chopping it up first)
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts (again...chop if your blender sucks...i "toasted" mine by sticking them on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes)
1/3 cup lowfat (1%) cottage cheese (recipe says "no salt added"; i couldn't find that)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

in a small skillet, bring the stock and garlic to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 4 minutes or until the garlic is tender.

transfer stock/garlic to a food processor or blender and add basil, walnuts, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. whirl until smooth (about 30 seconds...yeah right).

add oil, blend for another 10 seconds (no clue why this is separate, i just did them all at once :D)

serve!

this amount, which the book estimates to be 1 cup, worked perfectly with one whole bag of penne; the recipe says it should be used for 1 pound of pasta. either way, it made four very hearty servings.

per 1/4 cup serving, it has 98 calories, 1g saturated fat, 7g total fat, 5g protein, 5g carbs, 2g fiber, 224mg sodium, and 3mg cholesterol. woo!

and, for those playing along at home, i paired it with some roasted garlic and asiago focaccia and a baby green salad with dried cranberries, candied pecans, bleu cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. stellar. :)

oh, and if you try it out, please let me know how it goes!