Friday, July 31, 2009

Without Further Ado!

Chocolate Beet Cake!

Some of you are now laughing your asses off, while others are looking quizzically at what you've just read, or perhaps gagging. But trust me on this one. It's the best dam cake ever! And it has veggies. Nutritious *and* delicious, what more could you want? The recipe is from my grandmother, although I have to admit grabbing the frosting and ganache recipe from another cook book this morning. I've never felt the need to frost this cake, it's amazingly soft and moist already, but they were near where I had tucked the cake recipe, and it just sounds too freaking cool to pass up. :P If you don't feel like cooking it, drop me a line- I'm always up for company over a slice of cake and spot of coffee.

2 cups beet puree (about 3 large beets)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

To make the beet puree, you can boil the beets for about an hour. Once the beets are soft and cooled, mash them with a potato masher or a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Or don't- uses less energy that way.

Prepare a round cake pan (8-9 inch) by greasing then dusting with cocoa. Flour leaves weird white marks.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, eggs and water, and mix until smooth.

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together into a bowl, and then stir in the salt. Then, slowly add the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture. When it is smooth, fold in the beet puree.

Scoop the batter into a prepared baking pan. Bake for about 35 minutes (but a lot depends on how juicy your beets were, your oven, etc. so be prepared to check often and just go with the flow).

Cool the cake on a wire rack before icing.

For the Icing

2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup beet puree
1/2 lb confectioners’ sugar (or to taste)

Melt one stick of butter in a sauce pan with the beet puree. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then run the mixture through a fine sieve.

Cream the other stick of butter, and then add the butter/beet mix. Beat until it is fully combined. Then, gradually add the icing sugar until it thickens and is smooth.

To make the ganache
1/8 cup heavy cream
2 T Beet Puree
1 oz dark chocolate (~70% cacao)

In a heavy bottom pan, heat the cream and beet puree on medium heat, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat just before it boils. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Strain into a small cup to remove any beet pulp. Set aside.

Heat water to about 150F and place in a metal bowl, about 1/2 way up. Place another, smaller, metal bowl on top to act as a double boiler. Check the temperature… you should be able to touch the bottom of the top metal bowl. If it’s too hot to touch, add some cold water to the bottom bowl. You want the top bowl to be about 120F when you add the chocolate.

Coursely chop the chocolate and add to the top metal bowl. Set the other chocolate aside for the coating. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it’s completely melted. Remove it from the heat, and slowly pour in the cream mixture, and whisk until it’s smooth and you can see the whisk lines in the chocolate. Don’t over stir! Spoon into a small cup, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Once cooled, the ganache can be spread over or piped on like icing, or used to fill cupcakes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back from Portland and JMIH!

Well, the trip went great! I had a terrific time seeing old friends/colleagues/collaborators, meeting new peeps, hearing what everyone is up to research-wise, and exploring a new town.

On the research front, my talk was very well-received. I have a pile of email addresses to whom I have to send various updates, resources, and tips/tricks. I have another pile of email addresses from which I need to request various updates, resources, and tips/tricks. A request (possibly a demand?) to come down to Cincinnati for Oktoberfest this fall. An invite to do a lab and site visit at UConn in August (I'll be there anyway with my lab), and a beer. There's always beer for ecology get-togethers. And a position as calendar committee chair for the graduate student arm of Herpetologist's League.

On the family front, D-train's birthday was fun! We went to the Oregon Zoo and had a great time. Dinner at the Rogue Brew Pub with Eric, Pat and Dave, and found an amazing chocolaterie. With drinkable chocolate. Not hot cocoa- drinkable chocolate. The shop is called Cacao- if you're in Portland, go there. Also, Leonidas is fantastic. Got a couple books from Powell's, met Tie-Dye Eric (and currently deciding what I want to buy from him), and found some fun local eateries the rest of the time. Ken was thrilled with the trip- planes, trains, swimming, the zoo, chocolate, and mama/daddy-time. It was little boy heaven. We bribed good behavior out of him with the promise of a skull (yes, a skull, the Skulls Unlimited guy was at the meeting, and Ken loved him) although by the time Sunday rolled around, he decided he would rather have Deionychus claws. He also got some little hand-carved wooden cars, and the goodie bag from the meeting.

Looking forward to next year at Providence already! Now off to catch up on ICLW, writing, email, sleep, etc.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday.

It's been a year. Today, at 9:52. I think? A couple of friends reminded me that it was today. A year ago today I gave birth to a little girl. I was a surrogate for two men. They might have been called friends once I think.

I'm not sure what to think, really. I'm not sad. I'm not overly happy. It's a fact that just is. That family is a year old now. I hope they're happy and healthy, and that she's starting to do one year old things. Maybe standing, or walking. Maybe making word-sounds.

It all seems so strange and distant. Another life. Perhaps something I read in a book somewhere. Oh, well. C'est la vie, yes?

Happy Birthday JAM.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July IComLeavWe Introduction: ABC's

I saw this done by a few people last month, and thought I'd give it a try as my intro this month. If you want to find out more about me, read my previous posts or email me. I'm excited to be doing my second IComLeavWe- it was fabulous last month! Such supportive and caring people, and so many great thoughts and stories. So, come, play, share and learn. That's what I'll be doing!

A- Ambitious.
B- Busy.
C- Communist leaning.
D- Damnable.
E- Environmentalist-ish.
F- Feminist-ish.
G- Global-thinking.
H- Helpful.
I- Imaginative.
J- Jovial- not at all.
K- Ken-mama
L- Linguistically challenged.
M- Married, and growing more happily.
N- Nutty.
O- Organic.
P- Pacifist.
Q- Quiet.
R- Restless.
S- Social activist.
T- Teacher. Or try to be.
U- Unsociable.
V- Variable.
W- Willful.
X- Xenophyte fighter.
Y- Yeast lover.
Z- Zoologist. Herpetologist, more accurately.

Happy IComLeavWe!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Society in Motion

Can I just say that I hate motion sensor activated devices and their over-prevalence? There is a place for motion sensors, I'll be the first to admit. Security lights, for example. But motion sensor toilets?! When did flushing become too much work? Back from our less than 24 hour trip, I am happy to be outside the grip of motion activated faucets, toilets, soap dispensers, towel dispensers, doors and lights. Argh!

When I go to the bathroom, I don't want to have to do a freaking dance just to avoid being stuck in the dark. Or spend a half an hour trying to find the spot that makes the faucet turn on, only for it to run five times longer than I actually need water. Or to end up with ten feet of towel because Ken decides that he wants to stand under the towel thing. How is this at all good for conservation?

And then there's the not motion activated, but still astoundingly lazy things that eat up resources and energy unnecessarily. Escalators that go constantly. Elevators used by everyone and their brother to go to the second floor. Revolving doors that never stop. Conveyor belts that just steal my groceries before I can get them all on the counter.

Why? Why does everything have to move constantly? Can't we just move things (with our own power) when they need moved? How many kilowatt hours could we save by not having everything running away from us like this? More importantly, how many pounds of CO2 could this spare, if we just got off our butts and did things for ourselves, or didn't have machines running 24/7? Not to mention the step away from the obesity epidemic this would make. Not huge in and of itself, but breaking the paradigm of laziness above all else would be a step forward.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thoughts on shrinkage

More on health care reform, so if you don't want to hear it- this is your warning.

Right now, there's a lot of talk about rationing of health care. Not in any positive way, more as a threat. "If the government gets involved with health care, they'll ration it!" And I have to wonder about this. What does it mean to ration health care? The talk I hear from so many of the proclaimers that the government will ration seems to revolve around long waits, and some procedures being denied to people. They cite Canadians coming to the US for cosmetic surgery as a result of rationing in Canada.

But what about the insurance company that denies a claim to an insured person? Isn't that rationing, just after the fact? Only now, the person has had the medical procedure, and owes the bills, that they had been expecting to be paid. What about insurance companies refusing to cover individuals due to pre-existing conditions? Isn't that rationing of insurance? And doctors that won't take Medicare or Medicaid patients?

Wake up, people, we already have rationing of health care. I highly doubt a public option or single payer plan could ration medical procedures much more. As for long wait times for cosmetic surgery or elective procedures- why not? Shouldn't resources first be put into necessary treatments, before electives? Should any procedure be available to any person just because they want it and have the money for it?

Gah. This world is up side down some times.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A little bit of frustration

There's a lot of talk concerning health care reform going on in the world right now. I'm happy about that. I like the discussion that is happening. I like that people are thinking in new ways. I think the cooperative effort that we're seeing is what is needed in this world.

I don't like the push back from the status quo.

Currently, the health care industry is spending around one and a half million dollars *per day* just in extra lobbying efforts against real health care reform. That's not counting the regular lobbying they do, or the direct to consumer marketing, or all the perks and schmoozing that they keep with in their little group (like a drug company sponsoring resort conferences for doctors, e.g). And then there's the huge waste in other areas of medicine, like the 25-30 cents on the dollar that insurance companies spend on administrative costs. I know there's plenty to complain about in government waste, but when the government medical plans spend 12-15% in administrative costs, I think we need to applaud them and try to get business to follow the government's model a bit closer. And for the sake of my blood pressure, I won't even start talking about executive pay and what utter BS that expenditure has become.

Why is it that some people feel their right to profits exceeds the US citizens' right to affordable, accessible health care? Why do we feel that free market capitalism is the be-all, end-all of quality and wonderfulness? Especially when of late, we have seen exactly how horribly it can fail.

There are just some areas that should not be left to self-indulgent, profiteering entrepreneurs. Some aspects of our economy are too important to let greed ruin them. Every once in a while, we realize that people have rights too. Not just the right to make a profit, but the right to a basic education, health care, safe housing, adequate food, and a clean environment. Those things aren't luxuries, although there are plenty in the US that appear to think they are. Unfortunately, in our current system, there are far too many people for whom those things are luxuries; ones they can't afford.

For those people, I'll do some kicking and screaming. I'll make my voice heard in support of them, help them make a louder noise, or any noise at all. I'm OK with being a thorn in someone's side for them. Because I have been one of them. I come from them. I know them, love them, and see them every day. Not just in the abstract, but as family and friends. I am them. Admit it, you know them too. We all do. So let's fight with them, and when they can't fight, let's fight for them. "There but for fortune, go you or go I" is a song lyric that I love. It's true. We can make all the noise we want about self-made people, or hard work, or any of the other euphemisms for "you get what you deserve." But none of that is true, and I think deep down we know it. The US is full of luck- good and ill. Some people get good luck that don't deserve it, and others that deserve better get crappy luck. But we all deserve these basics.

Remember two other phrases, if you could. "It rains on the deserving and the undeserving equally" and "A society is judged by how it treats the least among it." Let's start showing the world that US should be judged positively, eh?

Oh, and vote for Haymaker!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Roles We Play

I've always been very proud of being OK bending gender roles. I wear men's clothing. Dwight and I have each done the stay at home parent thing. I know that I don't have a lot of feminine traits, and I'm perfectly fine with men who do.

So why do I get upset when Dwight is so 180 degrees from what my dad was like?

Dad was very mechanically inclined. A problem solver. Could fix anything. I have some of this, but not nearly as much as he had, and not nearly enough to do everything that needs done, it seems. But my mechanical abilities and problem solving skills are still far and away more than Dwight's. I don't say that as a put down, it's just a fact. He's way more tactful than I am. He's tons more socially adept. A far better parent. More calm. More able to function with people. More able to relax. There are plenty of things that he does better.

I know it's irrational. I know it's stupid. In general, we do a good job of complementing each other. Where I lack, he fills in. On some days it feels like the relationship is split 80-20%, with me doing eighty percent, and usually that doesn't bother me. Because I know that on other days it's 80-20, with him carrying me. Then days like today happen, when it infuriates me that he can't do the things I expect of him. That he can't do the things the I can't do; that I need done. That he can't do the things that dad was able to do.

Like assembling Ken's new-to-him trail-a-bike. By his account, he was simply taking his time assessing the situation before tackling the project. I jumped in head first and started doing. That's how I am. Frustration quickly set in. The back bike rack had to go. The seat needed taken off. The bushing wasn't the right size. This needed tightened. Something else needed loosened. None of the tools were where I put them. UGH!

During all this, what was Dwight doing? I'm still not sure. Nothing helpful at the moment, and that's what I noticed most. It was putting together a bike. And I had all together too much difficulty doing so. I'm not sure whether I'm more embarrassed that I couldn't do it, or that a part of me really hoped Dwight would do it. He's the one more into bikes anyway.

But the fact that I fell into stereotypical gender roles tears me apart. I can only hope he accepts my apology for this infraction.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Doing good can taste great!

OK, time for a picture post. All the foods seen in here- I grew! Well, except the pierogies. I don't have a pierogie bush, unfortunately. Or pie-tree. Or ice cream plant. I think that's probably a good thing. But all of the veggies in here are from our garden. All other ingredients are from within 30 miles. And all organic. And all delicious. It was a home-made day, entirely!

Ken enjoying pierogies and veggies.

Pierogies, zucchini, collards, turnip greens, garlic scapes, and peas. Crazy early zucchini, but small (plant and fruit). Volunteer from the compost heap.

Home made granola! Proving that I'm a hippie.

Lasagna leftovers from the other night.


And the finishing touch- PIE A'LA MODE!