Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Twilight (again)

I've recently read several Twilight reviews, where the series was defended pretty much solely because Bella and Edward abstain from pre-marital sex.

I've read the whole series. They were neither as good nor as bad as they're made out to be (the writing, that is), although I didn't find anything especially original about them. My only reason for reading them was to see for myself if the Bella-Edward relationship is really abusive, since that was the chief complaint I heard. I just want to make this clear: when someone pins you to a bed to stop you from seeing someone they don't approve of, you are being controlled, and it is a form of abuse. When someone sabotages your car to prevent your free movement around town, you are being controlled, and it is a form of abuse. It doesn't matter if it's 'for your own good'. Abusers nearly always have reasons for their actions, and 'for your own good' is a pretty popular one.

Abstinence is great, and I'm all for encouraging role-models who promote a responsible lifestyle; but no relationship is worth the price if the cost is being controlled, and taking insane, dangerous risks to sneak around the limitations you're under.

Adventures in Dorm Cooking

Unlike Kate (and, I'm assuming, the majority of on-campus college students), I have a kitchen. A tiny one with just a range top, fridge and sink, but a kitchen nonetheless. My roommates and I have augmented this with a slow-cooker, hand-mixer, three French presses (we take our coffee seriously), and last but not least, a convection oven given to a roommate by a lady at her synagogue. Lately I've committed myself to getting my grocery spending under control, by both planning menus and making as much as I can from scratch. Having a slow-cooker is a big help in this: I can make one meat-based meal (whole chicken, roast, chicken parm, whatever) at the beginning of the week, and I'll get anywhere from 4-6 meals out of it. I also eat a lot of eggs and rice dishes. My favorite made-it-myself money-saver is butter:

 This isn't that much of a money saver for me; I figure I break even (unless stores run out of my brand of butter, and then it's way cheaper to make), but it tastes so much better than store bought, so it's worth the effort. It's also nice to not be dependent on stores for my butter: for a couple weeks at the beginning of the month, we couldn't find our cheap butter anywhere. We joked that the cows must have gone on strike. Later we learned the cows had become dehydrated, and really had gone on strike. It turns out making butter is one of the simplest things you can do in your kitchen: two cups whipping cream (highest fat content you can find) at room temperature, mix in a bowl with a stand-mixer (10-15 minutes) or hand-mixer (forever30-45 minutes); when the butter milk separates, drain it out and give the butter a stir to make sure there isn't any milk still inside; rinse it under slowly running cool water, and place in a container. It makes a little more than a cup of butter, plus buttermilk you can bake with. 

You can mix a half-teaspoon of salt in if you want, or try a variety of flavored-butter recipes. Last week one of my roommates put garlic and basil in hers, and it was wonderful. This week I'm going to use this recipe to make honey-cinnamon butter. It makes about a week's worth, which is about how long I was told it will last before going bad. 

My latest accomplishment (from tonight, and the real potluck recipe):

Home made pizza: I made both the dough and the sauce myself. By the way, the sauce isn't watery as it appears in the picture, you just need to stir it occasionally. I made this so I would have lunch for the week, but it would be great for a party where you want mini-pizzas for everyone. Making them would be especially fun for a kid's party, too.

Sauce recipe:

1 can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (we don't have onion powder, so I used a quarter of a small onion, chopped finely)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder (will not make the sauce spicy, just gives it a little zing)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil

I like to warm the sauce a little in a pot, and then add all the ingredients at once. Let it simmer for a while (there's not really a science to it, just until the kitchen smells like pizza).

The dough recipe I found online, but I lost the link, so if you recognize it please let me know:

2.25 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1.5 cups warm water

1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/3 cups flour

Olive oil to spread on the oven pan.

Mix the yeast, brown sugar, and warm water in a bowl; let sit for 10 minutes. Mix in the salt and olive oil, and then mix in 2.5 cups of flour. Knead in the remaining flour, cover with a towel, and let sit for one hour. For the rolling-out process, make sure everything is well-floured! I would recommend rolling the dough on wax paper, but since we don't have any, I rolled it out on a cutting board. I used a 7-inch bowl to cut out circles (only the last two turned out circular, because that's how long it took me to really flour the board). After removing the excess dough, I flipped the cutting board over the oven pan, because the dough isn't stiff enough to be scraped up with a spatula. I can't remember if spreading olive oil on the oven pan, was required in the recipe, but I did it anyway (but only once, with the first pizza; none of the others stuck after that). Bake for 15-20 minutes (it only took 15 for mine) without toppings, at 425 Fahrenheit (220 C). After you remove it, put all your toppings on and bake until the cheese is gooey.

You're going to make a huge mess. Accept this before you even begin:

This recipe made seven mini-pizzas for me, although I think I could have made several more if I had rolled the dough out more (but rolling dough is my least favorite part). I ate one pizza tonight, put three crusts in the fridge, and froze the other three (I'll let you know how well they freeze). As you can see, your pizzas aren't going to look like restaurant made ones, but they'll be crunchy and delicious!

Between this and the roast I'm making Monday, I'll have leftovers for long after Thanksgiving! Speaking of Thanksgiving, my roommates and I are hosting a Thanksgiving potluck for several (around 20) of the other American graduate students, so I hope to have another post for the next Saturday potluck as well!