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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Honey Badger vs U R Doin It Wrong

As some of you know, I'm all about the internet honey badger meme now. It started off innocently enough - a nature video redubbed in a much more amusing way. I got a good laugh out of it. The basic premise is that the honey badger is pretty fearless in going after its prey, except that the following phrases are used - "Honey badger don't care. Honey badger don't give a shit/fuck." Etc Etc. (Don't make me describe it, just go watch it in all of its silly glory.) Later, they brought up the meme over at The Pursuit of Harpyness, as a sort of shorthand for fighting for what one wants/standing up for oneself/not backing down/not worrying too much about the opinions of others. Then I was hooked. I need to get in touch with my inner honey badger. The honey badger is currently sharing the post of my spirit animal with cats and owls.
Of course, in 2011 America we don't need any reminders to be self-centered or agressive, but that's not why I like the honey badger meme. As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, AND get a lot of pressure from outside, to do things a certain way, be a certain way, live our lives on a certain timeline, not be too agressive, not be too passive, etc, etc. Most of you probably know what I mean. I am going to call this U R Doin It Wrong. We get this in pretty much every facet of our lives, and it's hard not to internalize it, even if you're a cynical old biddy like me. To this I say, "Honey badger don't care."

Heavy Cream Two-fer: Chocolate Chip Scones and Cream Cake

One thing that's nice about living in upstate NY is that milk and cream are a lot cheaper than in CA. A gallon of milk is around $2. A quart container of heavy cream is $3.50-$4.00. I don't buy it often, but decided to get some for baking.

Biscuits and scones can be made with a mix of cream and butter, rather than all butter. This seems to be common in older recipes. I've never tried this before but now that I can get cream cheaply I decided to try it. I made some scones using a recipe from my favorite cookbook.

Chocolate Chip Cream Scones

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar

4 tbsp cold butter
1/2 c chocolate chips (or currants, raisins, crystallized ginger, or blueberries)

1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425F
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add butter and cut into small pieces (the size of a pea or smaller). Add chocolate chips (or other chunky ingredients) and then add egg and cream. Mix until barely blended, and then transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly until it just starts to for, a rough ball. Shape it into a ball. At this point you can roll it out and cut it, but it is easier to just put it in a greased round pie or cake pan, flatten it out, and then cut it into 8 wedges. Transfer wedges to a cookie and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.
The scones came out well. They were tender, flaky, and had a delicate flavor. Were they better than scones made with butter? Not really, but they were just as good. I felt like they stayed fresh a bit longer, but that might've also been due to the egg.
I liked the recipe better because I found the slightly wetter dough to be easier to work with. As some of you know, I'm not all that good at making biscuits, pie crusts, etc, because I did not grow up in the South did not grow up eating them because my mom also lacks the biscuit gene. Any tricks to make the process easier are fine by me.

The second recipe I tried was a simple cake. Unlike the scone recipe, this one uses no butter at all. Eggs are beaten, sugar and vanilla are added, and then the dry ingredients and cream are added in portions, alternating between dry and wet. I followed the recipe, except that I added extra vanilla and about a teaspoon of almond extract. I also ran out of flour, so I was a little bit short on that.
The cake puffed up nicely and turned golden, but then deflated when I took it out of the oven. I suspect that the right amount of flour would help. Anyway, OM NOM NOM! I didn't share the first cake with the grad students. It's more like a pound cake than a typical layer cake, and is kind of dense, but it's nice and moist and has a very pure, clean flavor. It was even better the next day. It would be absolutely divine with strawberries and whipped cream.
I made the cake again. This time I doubled the recipe, used the proper amount of flour, and sprinkled slivered almonds on top. It did not deflate this time, and was a lot lighter, more like a traditional cake, but was slightly drier. I may lower the amount slightly the next time I make it. The almonds tasted really good on top. This time I shared it with the students.
This experiment reminded me that in baked goods, butter does impart a flavor, and at times this may detract or distract from the flavor of the item. In addition, extra eggs are often added to provide moisture and emulsifiers, and they too impart a flavor. It reminded me of when I was a little kid - I didn't like anything that was too eggy and buttery (I hated pound cake, believe it or not.) I will definitely try more cream-based baking in the future.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In memory of a former colleague

Today I got an email from a former coworker of mine 'A', telling me that his wife, 'B', who was also a coworker, had passed away last month. He said that they were married recently, and have a 3 year old daughter. She was 49.
They were both extremely private people, and he didn't give any details, and I did not find any in the obituary listing. I do not know how much of the secrecy was inherent in B's personality, and how much was due to them starting their relationship when they were coworkers and A was possibly still married to someone else - I suspect it was a bit of both.* Our former company was a bit of a fishbowl in that regard and I can totally understand the need for secrecy. Even after they had both moved to Southern California, they did not let it slip that they were together, and the first official mention that they were together was in the email telling me that she had died. I'm not one for wearing my heart on my sleeve, but that in itself makes me profoundly sad.
It is kind of weird to write about someone who was so private and whom I did not know well. I worked with B for several years, but I did not know her that well. I always assumed that she was several years younger than me, based on when she graduated and the fact that she looked younger, but today I found out she was actually seven years older than me. She had a dry sense of humor, and managed to stay out of the office politics with grace and dignity. Her death hit me hard, even though we hadn't spoken in several years.

* I've got good old biddy relationship radar when it comes to speculating on people's love lives, but I deliberately turn it off and keep my mouth shut when it comes to people who are friends first. Although I know this often leads to relationships, I turn a blind eye and resist the urge to gossip simply because back in the day it used to piss the hell out of me when people assumed that my male friends and I were sleeping together.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remnants of Lee Twofer: Chocolate Chip Coffeecake and Rice Pudding

On Wednesday afternoon and evening we got hit with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. It wasn't too bad here in Ithaca - there was flooding in the low-lying areas, and Cornell was closed on Thursday morning, but we got off really lightly compared to surrounding areas.
Anyway, it was dumping rain when I went home Wednesday night, and my fridge/freezer/cupboards were abnormally empty. Having a sore back for a week and a half folllowed by a trip to CA apparently had cut into my grocery shopping. I opted to go right home instead of going to Wegman's, since that area seems to flood.
Rainy or cold weather makes me want to cook, so I decided to bake a chocolate chip coffeecake for the students. I had in mind something like the Hobee's blueberry coffeecake, but with chocolate chips. I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It was pretty simple - a sour creme coffeecake batter is layed with a mix of chocolate chips, sugar, and a bit of cinnamon. I was lazy and didn't separate the eggs, but other than that I followed the recipe.
It came out pretty well. My sense of taste is off due to a cold, and perhaps I was still imagining the really cinnamony Hobee's coffee cake, so it seemed chocolately but somewhat bland to me. If I make it again I'll add a lot more cinnamon. The students really liked it. They're an easy crowd, but this was definitely above-average to them. When I bake with chocolate I don't always share with them, so perhaps that is the reason for the compliments.
I also made some diet rice pudding. This one is a winner, even to my malfunctioning taste buds. It assumes you don't have any leftover rice on hand. (I rarely do since I don't cook it often) If you do use leftovers, skip right to the second step.) Here's the recipe, adapted from one I found on the internet.

Old Biddy's Diet Rice Pudding

1/2 cup short grain rice
2 cups water
2 cups milk
Splenda and vanilla (to taste)*
Raisins (optional)

Cook rice in water until all water is absorbed. Add milk and simmer on low heat until thick (about 30 minutes) (If you're going to use sugar and/or raisins, add it with the milk)*. Stir occasionally. Transfer to bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. Add in Splenda and vanilla.
Mmmm mmm mmm - so creamy! The texture is great. I'm not crazy about the artificial sweetener, though. Even so, it didn't last long. When I make it again I'm just going to use an absolute minimum of sugar. Continuing on the more spice theme, I'll probably add come spices (cinnamon + nutmeg, or throw a chai teabag in there while it cooks)

* I think that 1/3 to 1/2 cups sugar ought to be about right if you are going to use sugar rather than splenda.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Old Biddy Speaks: Facebook Ex-etiquette

Dear Facebook Ex's who happen to be named T,
If your ex posts a completely innocent picture of a raging waterfall near her office, do not try to be funny and make a snarky comment asking if I am sorry I left California. I happen to love the water, and the waterfalls and gorges, but I am not going to stoop to a Facebook debate with you. Anyway, I can only conclude that you are one or more of the following things
a) trying to be funny but sounding like an asshole
b) have a completely CA-centric view of the world
c) are secretly pissed off that I am happy here and/or are trying to stir up Facebook drama
In any case, I do not do Facebook ex drama, at least not on Facebook itself, so I am channeling my inner honey badger and not giving a shit.
But for future reference, here are Old Biddy's Rules for Facebook Ex-etiquette.

1. Defriend the person immediately, even if you are going to try to still be friends in real life. It's just TMI and Facebook stalking fodder at first, anyway. I should've done this, and will do it for future exes, if necessary.

2. If you don't want to defriend each other, use some discretion in what you write on their Facebook page. Write nothing and like nothing at first. Later you can use your judgement, but be forewarned that anything the least bit snarky/assholish/just plain weird will be subject to discussion.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blogging from a Train: Dinner with T

I’m a train going up to Sacramento now. It’s a little slower than driving, but cheaper than a rental car and I can goof off and blog.
I had dinner with T at his new house last night. I was sort of nervous, but in a different way than usual. In the past I was nervous that it would be weird or emotional. This time I wondered if perhaps we were just going through the motions and it would be better just to skip it. However, it was ok. It was nice to see him, and good to catch up, but I did not feel sad, melancholy, or annoyed with him afterwards, so that’s a big and positive change.
T looks a lot older now, and is balder and greyer. (Just an observation – I look older too and I’m fatter so I shouldn’t really be too snarky here.) Although he was in good shape, I didn’t feel attracted to him, so that was good too. And, unlike before, I didn’t really give a damn whether he was attracted to me or not.
He bought a fixer upper a bit over a year ago, and has been fixing it up very slowly. I am very amused that it’s taken him WAY longer to finish his bathroom remodel than it took me. He is a bit less smug and overconfident about remodeling projects now. It made me really glad that I opted for the new monster house rather than the fixer upper in Ithaca, and was glad that I could afford to do so there, when I could have never afforded it in the Bay Area without having to do a really long commute.
We talked a lot, but, as always, we didn’t talk about our current love lives. If he had asked, I would’ve told him about cowdude, but he didn’t ask. I did mention cowdude several times in the course of the evening in other contexts (‘my friend’) – if T read between the lines he might figure it out. Yes, T and I are both avoidance masters in that regard.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t know where things are going with cowdude, but he has really helped me get over T and I am extremely grateful to him for that.