Sunday, January 29, 2012

oatmeal peanut butter cookies

I made these by combining a few different recipes. Depending on the bake time, you can either get a chewy, peanut-butter-textured cookie, or you can overbake them and cool for a crisp granola-type cookie.

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F.

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c coconut flour (optional--adds fiber and makes a drier, crisper cookie)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt

1/2 c butter, melted
1 c peanut butter
2 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 bag chocolate chips

Combine dry stuff in large bowl. Melt butter, remove from heat and stir in peanut butter til semi-combined. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in butter & peanut butter. Add 2 eggs and vanilla. Stir by hand until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Mixture will be crumbly and tend to shed.

Scoop pingpong-ball sized balls of dough onto cookie sheet and flatten slightly into disks with the back of  a spoon. If you have used the coconut flour, cookies will NOT spread as they bake.

Bake 10-12 minutes for chewy cookies. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes, then cool on racks for another 10.

For crispy cookies, bake 10-12 minutes, then turn off oven, crack door open, and let the oven cool until cookies are dry and crispy.

Makes about 3 dozen thick cookies. Very filling--eat slowly!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

so close, yet so far

Yesterday evening I spotted this headline on Yahoo:

Fried foods not direct cause of heart risk, new study finds.

And I'm like, HA! SUCK IT, low-fat proponents, because I've been saying that for years.

But then the article goes on to say,

"We currently recommend swapping saturated fats like butter, lard or palm oil for unsaturated fats as a way of keeping your cholesterol down and this study gives further cause to make that switch...Regardless of the cooking methods used, consuming foods with high fat content means a high calorie intake. This can lead to weight gain and obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease."

And then I'm like, Sigh, alas alack, they still ain't getting the big picture.

In the first place I don't know of ANYBODY, aside from myself and a few other crackpots in the Primal lifestyle crowd (and I can't be sure those are real people, anyway), who cook with butter, lard, or palm oil. It's corn and soy oil 'round these parts. I was raised on Crisco, which I haven't eaten since I left my mother's kitchen, and which was giving me heartburn at age 25.

Calories do count, but much less than the soundbites would have you believe. The important thing is to make sure the calories you ingest are nutritionally dense, and helpful, rather than detrimental, to the body. Animal fats--butter, lard, tallow--are fats we evolved to eat. They're about as natural as you can get. Olive oil is natural--it's pressed out and unadulterated. Corn and soybean oil are frankenfoods. They're not good for your digestion and they're not good for your liver.

I have a great interest in the insulin theory, but it tends to be rather complex and difficult to explain to people, so I just think of it this way: if you eat calories that your body can't use, then it shuffles them aside and demands something else with some actual vitamins in it. That's why you can have a huge meal of processed foods and still feed unsatisfied.

The other problem with American fried foods is they are often breaded, and heavy batters of wheat flour are not good for you. I've used almond flour, parmesan, oat flour, gluten-free baking mix, and coconut flour for breading; they are all decent alternatives.

But sauteeing in butter or olive oil, the way they do it in France/Italy/Spain, is about as healthy as you can get, plus it tastes good. See? That's the real reason French women don't get fat.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

moreau's daughter

“—how will you find him? Will you recognize him if you see him? The police believe the killer may be using disguises.”

“I don’t have to recognize him,” Lily said, with grim pleasure. “He’ll recognize me. 


I wrote a bit of a story over the weekend; more of a character study, really.

As alluded to previously, I wanted to transplant my assassin character into a steampunk setting and let her run free, to see how she'd talk, move, think, and operate under the constraints of Victorian society and clothing.

Also, I've always kind of wanted to write a story in which Jack the Ripper gets taken out by a vigilante chick.

It ain't great literature, but it was a fun exercise.

Read a sample here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

cosplaying a different race from your own

Here's a doozy. 

I've been researching a new character for a story. She's the offspring of Chinese prostitute and a British sailor, born in Shanghai in 1870 or so. One of the theoretical themes of said story is of ostracism and finding a place of your own.

Partly out of interest in researching the story and partly because I'm a big geek who likes to dress as my characters, I've been considering ways to make my very white-girl face look more Asian, or at least Eurasian. Looking at photos on the internet of mixed-race actresses and models demonstrates the incredibly wide variety of genetic recombinations you can get from an East-West hybrid. I'm especially interested in Maggie Q and a model/activist named Celeste Thorson, because they have longish faces and prominent jawlines, like myself.

Predictably enough, it's a big hot-point with people in the fashion and cosmetic industries, when Asian girls tape their eyelids to create folds where they weren't before, or European models tape their brows to make them look straighter or more elongated, because we're all supposed to be satisfied with what we have and not bow to the pressures of western beauty standards, or seek to satirize Eastern appearances... or whatever. Frankly I tend to think that if enough women on either side of the International Date Line are doing it, it should all balance out and everybody could quit hollerin', but I've always been crazy that way.

So what do you guys think? It's kind of trendy these days to put skinny people in fat suits to teach them sensitivity, or dress people as the opposite sex to get a different viewpoint--if you could change your features and/or skin tone *temporarily* to spend a day with the shoe on the other foot, would you? What kind of reaction do you think you'd get? 

The cosplay community I interact with is generally pretty tolerant of crossplay, e.g. dressing as the opposite sex, or re-gendering a character to suit the cosplayer's own sex, so I'd think cosplayers would be accepting of cross-ethnic-play, at least more so than the public at large.


Friday, January 13, 2012

a character does not exist until you give her a name

So I spent all week jerking this rewrite out of my guts with various implements of destruction--believe me when I say, it's much easier to just write the damn thing correctly the first time, than to go back and try to take it apart and fix it later.

I actually hacked through to the end yesterday. Finished around 8:30 p.m. As I'm getting ready for bed it finally dawned on me that my face was breaking out and my gums were sore and the muscles in my neck hurt because I am COMING DOWN WITH A COLD, DUMBASS.

This morning I have a touch of headache, touch of swollen throat, touch of malaise, but I'll survive. None of that is really important, the important thing is that all the time I was writing yesterday, I had this concept chugging along in the back of my brain, a new concept, new character, new situation.

I've been thinking about my Eurasian steampunk assassin for several weeks now, and she has gradually been taking shape. Wednesday night I hounded my sifu for name options in Cantonese and he gave me one that worked. Personally, I can't work with a character until s/he has a name. I can think in general terms––what kind of character has the best personal motivation to be the right "fit" for this conflict––but I can't really find a voice until I have a name. I mentioned that to Sit t'other night and he was very pleased, for obscure Chinese reasons. "Ah, she follow Confucius," he said. (I swear I'm not making this up, so don't accuse me of perpetuating stereotypes.) "Confucius said nothing is real until you give it a name."

So on Wednesday, Lily Quinn became a real person to me. Her Chinese name is Shiao Yin, which means 'little swallow.' She needs an assassin name but we're still working on that.

And over the course of yesterday, while I was forcing myself through the wastelands of Wyoming, the story-building machinery was slowly coming to boil in the back of my brain. Character motivation A meshed with Historical Event B and layered neatly into literary reference C, thus throwing narrative Point of View D into neat focus.

There's a reason why we refer to plots as 'formulaic'. That's exactly what they are: alchemy. Cold fusion, even.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

skinny models and yellow journalism

Saw this link today with the sensationalist headline: "Most runway models meet the BMI criteria for anorexia." Of course I knew it was just yellow journalism, successfully designed to drive up click-thru traffic. And of course I clicked on it.

I have several thoughts about the article, and probably none of them are going to win me any friends.

First, the article in question is in a magazine aimed at plus-size female readers, so of course they want to make their readers feel good, but they do it by denigrating the models as freakish. Tearing down anybody to make someone else feel better is not okay in my book.

Second, there's the quote, "Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less." That is probably true, but without knowing where they got their numbers I'm willing to bet that the difference comes less from the models getting skinnier and more from the "average woman" getting fatter. This should not be news to anybody; we all have eyes.

Third, humans––I'm going to say Americans because this is basically a first-world problem––have this constant demand for bigger better faster more––it's in our cars, our movies, our music, our social mores, and our perceptions of what is sexy. Ergo, it's inevitable that those perceptions will become more and more polarized to accommodate personal bent. So of COURSE the models are going to get skinnier, as the gulf between the haves and the have-nots widens, because the universe requires balance, and the everyday is a good deal fatter than it used to be.

We are saturated with input and numb to everything but the next shock, or the next bite of sweet/salty/sour/bitter. We are all overfed--literally--to the point of stupor. Here we sit in front of our computers sucking down Diet Coke or designer coffee, bitching about how some magazine doesn't feature women who look like me. Duh! Advertising isn't there to make you feel good about yourself! Advertising is there to make you feel wanting, so you go out and buy yet another thing to fill the hole.

Here's an idea: put down the magazine, step away from the internet, close the refrigerator. Go outside for a walk. Breathe deeply. Stop thinking about things that only serve to get people riled up. Strife is not healthy.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

secrets of apple pie from scratch

This is awkward for me to admit, but my standard for good apple pie is a vague memory of the fried apple pies McDonald's had when I was a child. The ones they sell now aren't nearly the same. I'm pretty sure the old ones were fried in lard, because this was pre 1984/animal-farms-are-bad/it's-a-brave-new-world of-corn-oil days.

Anyhoo, in my mind apple pie filling should have a perfect balance of sweet/tart/spicy; it should be juicy, but not runny or gummy, and the crust should have a flaky top and a cooky-chewy underside.

Keeping in mind that pie-baking is more art than science, so your mileage may vary.