Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Strawberry Cheesecake Pi Day

With Pi Day rapidly approaching, I went to the local open-air discount produce market to look for affordable filling. I found lightly crushed strawberries, 2 lbs for a dollar. After looking at several strawberry pie recipes, I decided to put a strawberry jello top on a cheesecake bottom with a pretzel crust.

Ingredients
Crust
- 3/4 cup unsalted pretzels, crushed
- 1/4 cup granola
- 3/8 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 T sugar
- 1/4 T salt
Cheesecake
- 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 t lemon juice
- 1/4 t vanilla
- dash of salt
- 1 egg
Fruit Gel
- 1 package strawberry gelatin
- 2 1/2 cups strawberries
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3 ice cubes

Directions
Crust
- Combine all ingredients. Press into 9" pie plate.
- Bake at 400°F for 8 - 10 min
Cheesecake
- Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually blend in remaining ingredients, and beat well. Pour into prepared crust.
- Bake at 325°F until the center is set, about 18-20 min. Cool before topping.
Fruit Gel
- Dissolve gelatin in 1 cup boiling water. Stir in 3 ice cubes. Allow to chill for 30 min.
- Spoon fruit onto cheesecake layer. Pour gelatin over fruit. Chill pie until set, about an hour.

The result:

Read on...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Zest and the Art of Bycicle Maintenance

A couple weeks ago, I noticed the housing on my front shifter breaking. Eventually, a piece broke off, and I tried gluing it back together. Didn't work, but I could still shift by pushing the internal lever with what was left of the housing... 'till that broke apart and fell off.

That's one broken SRAM shifter. So today I went to my local bike co-op and purchased a replacement. A friend of mine said he could probably figure out how to install it, but he was busy tonight, and I was not.

The dude who sold me the replacement assured me that it was a simple process, and the new shifter came with installation instructions. After reading through the instructions three times, I got down to work.

First: remove the broken part.
Turns out I was in no way supposed to lubricate the bar, which I did in order to remove the static grip. Oops. After washing the bar with soap and water, I installed the new shifter. I can't say whether I tightened it with exactly 1.7 N-m of torque. I just went until the Allen wrench felt like it was starting to bend. (It was a very small wrench!)

Threading the cable correctly into derailer took two tries. I was thankful for my needle nose pliers with built in wire cutter - made it much easier to grip the wire, pulling it tight as I screwed down the derailer's clamp. I tested out my new shifters out on my trainer. Lookin' good.

I'm actually glad my friend wasn't available to help me tonight. Figuring it out for myself was way more empowering than having someone else show me how to do it. Now I bask in my accomplishment, enjoying a slice of the lemon tart I made from scratch the other day - including candying the lemon zest! Cheers, y'all.

Read on...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cookie Crust Cheesecake

I baked a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but they came out too sweet. I'll give most of them away, but meanwhile, how to salvage what's left... Mmm cheesecake... cheesecake with chocolate chip oatmeal cookie crust... The filling was based off of this recipe, cut in half. The cheesecake was a little less dense, more custard-like than I'm used to, and I had overcompensated when I cut the sugar. Next time I'll try 1/2 cup.

Cookie Crust Cheesecake
1-1/2 cups oatmeal chocolate chip cookie crumbs
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
3/8 1/2 cup white sugar
3/8 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoons maraschino liquor
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Press crumbs into 9 inch pie plate. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla, maraschino, and flour until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake for 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Read on...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dirty Rice (and Meat and Beans)

1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoons vegetable bouillon
2.25 cups water
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 can pinto beans

Sear peppers in skillet with a bit of oil. Set aside. Sear onions until browning. Add garlic, and continue to cook for a minute. Add turkey and spices. Cook until turkey is done. Add water, rice, bouillon and beans. Cook ~40 min, stirring occasionally, until rice is almost done. Add seared peppers and finish cooking.

Read on...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Quinoa Tabbouleh

I adapted this recipe from the Wheat Berry Tabbouleh recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I made a couple substitutions and changed the proportions to my liking.

Cook:
2/3 c quinoa
1 T olive oil
1 cloves garlic, minced
I rinse my quinoa and then heat it with olive oil and garlic until the garlic is starting to brown, then I add the 1 c water and simmer it like rice until it's done. Let it cool to room temperature.
---
Mix in:
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 large bunch parsley, washed and chopped
1/4 c diced sweet onion
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 c olive oil
1/8 c capers (optional)
salt, pepper to taste
---
When you're ready to serve, add:
2 cherry tomatoes, quartered, per 1 c serving

I don't like to refrigerate my tomatoes - they lose all of their flavor, so I just add tomato as I eat it. You might want to adjust the dressing. I didn't measure this, but I think it made around 6 cups. With these proportions, it's about half veggie, half grain.

Read on...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cream Cheese Brownies

This recipe is based off of Fudgy Brownies from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I've made a few changes to reduce sugar increase yumminess.

    1 cup butter
    12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips (divided)
    4 eggs
    2 tsp. vanilla
    1 cup flour
    1 cup powdered sugar
    1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    8 oz. low fat cream cheese

  • Melt butter and 6 oz. chips in large bowl in microwave. (Don't let the chips burn. Stir once butter melts.) 
  • Meanwhile, grease a 9 x 13 inch pan, and preheat oven to 350. 
  • Stir chocolate butter mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon until just combined. Stir in vanilla and remaining chips. 
  • In a small bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking soda. Combine wet and dry mixtures, mixing until just combined. 
  • Spread half of batter into pan. Slice cream cheese onto batter, distributing evenly over the entire area. Spread rest of batter over the layer of cream cheese. 
  • Bake at 350 for ~35 minutes.

Read on...

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Atheist Deconversion

The original intent of this blog was to foment philosophical discussion, not to talk about my personal life. I guess that's why I never posted about my own deconversion on a blog that is largely about atheism and the irrationality of religious belief. I've talked about it before in various places in various levels of detail, but I never put it out there for the general public, and never in a venue where I would be expected to answer for it. Here, perhaps overdue, is my deconversion story.

My mother brought us up in a pseudo-Christian new age belief system, but my father was agnostic, so the idea that my mom could be wrong was present from early on. Still, I generally believed in her spirituality until about the time I hit high school. By then, I was too keenly aware of the suffering around the world to be able believe in an all knowing, all loving god, all powerful god. It was the problem of evil - evidence weighted with emotion - that first shook my faith. If genocide, famine and torture in far off countries could way so heavily on my own happiness, then a god of infinite compassion and capacity would not stand idly by and allow it to continue. But I still believed in some sort of afterlife, a soul, a different plane of existence. I just didn’t know what it was.

I continued more or less as an agnostic with spiritual leanings until age 25, when personal trauma began to erode at my faith. The problem of evil was no longer abstract and distant, but personal and omnipresent. It was no longer possible to ignore the dissonance between what I wanted to believe and what I witnessed and experienced. I could no longer support any belief in compassionate force that interacted with the world. I spent the next couple of months desperately searching for conclusive evidence, one way or the other, for any god and any form of continued existence after death. I could find neither, and I eventually sunk in a life-consuming funk.

Several months into my funk, I was listening to Terry Gross interview some British guy about religion and non-belief. He pointed out that it isn’t reasonable to assume that something exists by default, and that it doesn’t default to a 50/50 chance of existence, either. In most of our lives and in science in general, we don’t believe in something until we find positive evidence. And there’s absolutely no reason to give the supernatural a special exemption from this rule. I gave it a couple hours to sink in and let my mind stew over what he had said, and by the end of the day, I realized he was right: in the absence of solid positive evidence, there was no reason to believe in any kind of god or life after death. I gave up my search and accepted atheism.

Since then, my time spent with the online atheist community has lead me to the realization that I have never been presented with a coherently defined god concept. The very idea of a disembodied intelligence, a mind without a physical brain, is nonsensical, and omnipotence is in itself self-contradictory. Atheists are sometimes asked what it would take for them to change their minds. For me, this would be positive, empirical evidence for a god. But until I am presented with a god concept that is logically coherent and consistent with our knowledge of the nature of the universe, it doesn’t make sense to talk about what the evidence for a poorly-defined, physically impossible entity would look like.

Read on...