Monday, February 20, 2012

Caramel Walnut Tart with Chocolate Glaze

Hello readers, I have a story to tell's called, "How the Baker Got Her Groove Back"

Once upon a time, there was a baker. She lived in a cute little house, with two cute little dogs, and a cute little husband. She would pitter patter around the kitchen in a cute little apron, adding olive oil to this, and sugar to that! She would bake confection-y delights, and present them gloriously to her students, administrators, neighbors, fellow teachers, dogs, and even husband. Yes, it was amazing. 

Until one day...the medical school application process started. Soon, after she would come home from work, her days would be spent writing essay after essay about leadership ability, why she wanted to be a physician, what her biggest ethical dilemma had been, and other such poo-poo topics. And the kitchen sat empty. Sure she would cook, and bake...but pitter-patter? Nay. Soon, she was simply making brownies because it was an easy, quick, unchallenging delight. How her kitchen, and her tummy, sat in woe. 

But behold! The medical school process is over, the princess-cook (yes, she has transformed into a princess) no longer spends hours languishing over where she will be next year...she now has time to bake gloriously as she once did. But all the time out of the kitchen has left her feeling...unimaginative. What to make, what to make?! What is worthy of her great come-back dessert?? Then...she stumbled upon a blog long forgotten...and found her inspiration: Caramel Walnut Tart with Chocolate Glaze.
Soon the pitter-pattering returned...and within hours, a beautiful, sweet-smelling tart popped out of the oven and into her mouth. Ahh the glory. Make it, you'll feel inspired too :-D 
Caramel Walnut Tart with Chocolate Glaze
Adapted from Not Without Salt

Vanilla Scented Tart Crust

1 cup all purpose flour
0.5 cups melted butter
0.25 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F
In a bowl, mix together butter, powdered sugar, and salt. Then mix in the vanilla and the flour. With a rubber spatula, mix the dough together. Press it into a tart pan or a spring form pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Pull it out and let it cool

Caramel-Walnut Filling

1 cup sugar
0.25 cup water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
0.25 cup butter, cut up into pieces
0.25 cup heavy cream
1 cup walnut, chopped roughly

In a thick bottomed pan (I used a cast-iron saute pan) mix together the sugar, lemon juice, and water. Put it over medium-high heat and allow it to boil for about 7-9 minutes until it's a dark amber color. After that, pull it off the heat, and add in the butter and heavy cream, stirring constantly. It will bubble up, but it's okay. After that, stir in the walnuts. Allow it to cool for about 2 minutes, then pour it into the tart shell you made.

While that's cooling...make the chocolate glaze to go on top! It's totally optional, but it's good

Chocolate Glaze

4 tbsp. butter
4 oz. chocolate (milk, dark, semi-sweet)

In a saucepan (maybe the same one you made the caramel in), melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring with a spoon. When it's melted together, spoon it over caramel-walnut tart.

Allow it to cool, then eat a slice! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are so many things I could have blogged about in the past week:

  • My thoughts on the birth control/insurance coverage dilemma
  • How my awesome dinner par-tay went. It wasn't just a party, it was a par-TAY. 
  • My dear hubby waking up, remembering it was Valentine's Day (Mita-Tyler Love Day*infinity) and saying "Happy Valentines Day!" first thing, in his sleepy voice. 
  • The cheesecake I made with my 5 minuted microwave lemon curd
  • The fun dessert sweet-swap at went to
  • The awesome Pho restaurant I went to
But, the thing that really captured this week, double chocolate chip cookies I made. Super chocolate-y, sweet but with a small taste of salt that offset it, goo-ey goodness that hardens up into yumminess. Overall, great cookies, and quite easy. 
Anyways, Happy Love Day everyone. Take today to remember all the people (or animals!) in your life that you love, that love you, and to show some love. And maybe enjoy some chocolate :-) 

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

1.5 cup all purpose flours (180 grams) 
0.5 cup white sugar (101 grams)
0.5 cup brown sugar (light or dark, depending on which you like better) 
0.5 cup. butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
0.25 cups cocoa powder
0.5 tsp. baking soda
0.5 tsp. baking powder
0.5 tsp. salt
0.5 cup semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies 

Preheat oven to 350F

Cream the butter and sugars together until it's fluffy (3-5 min on medium high in a mixer). Reduce the speed, and then add in the egg and the vanilla, mix well. In a separate bowl, sift the all purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder, and salt. While the mixer is on slow, slowly add in the flour mixture until it's all just combined. Then with a spatula mix in the chocolate chips. 

Then roll out the dough into 1.5 in. balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes (depending on how soft you like your cookies). 

When they came out, I put little candy hearts on them, since I was taking them to a Valentine's Day theme party, but they taste great with a cold, tall glass of milk as well :-) Enjoy! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Commentary: The Media's Abortion Blinders

Ross Douthat wrote an article this week claiming that the Komen Foundation was the real victim of the recent Komen vs. Planned Parenthood debacle

The basic gist of the issue was that the Komen Foundation pulled about $700,000 in funding from Planned Parenthood (PP) recently because, it claimed, Planned Parenthood was under investigation. This was peculiar because this is definitely not the first time PP was under investigation, and in this case it was from a Republican representative from Florida who wanted even further proof that PP was not using federal funds to perform abortions. 

Now, later in the week, due to massive outcry from the public, including a pledge from Mayor Michael Bloomberg of $250,000 to PP to make up their losses, the Komen Foundation backtracked and decided to give the grant back to PP. 

Mr. Douthat's issue seems to be that the media representation of the Komen Foundation was unfair, especially given that American seem split pretty evenly on the issue of abortion, based on Gallup poll. He goes on to list "truths" about PP, and ends with his disgust at journalists for not paying enough attention to those facts in their reporting, and therefore demonizing Komen though much of the public probably agreed with their actions. 

Okay, now that we're done with the summary, let me insert my opinion

If you askme whether I think there are more pro-choice or pro-life individuals in America, I'd hands down say there were more pro-lifers. Why? Because that's what the media shows. In my experience, they tend to portray pro-choicers as anti-life, rather than what we actually are women a choice in their own reproduction. In fact, even respected, intelligent media personalities like Mr. Douthat tend to portray pro-choicers as individuals who have,
" moral qualms about using surgery or chemicals to put an end to a growing embryo or fetus..."
He attacks Planned Parenthood by putting forth facts that are meant to scare the average reader. Let's analyze them:

1. Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider.

Completely true. PP is a national not-for-profit that strives to provide women's health care in all ways to women of all socioeconomic backgrounds. That includes birth control, women's health exams, breast exams, vaccinations, and yes, abortions. Because PP is so ubiquitous now and is a trusted name, women who otherwise would have been forced to either go without care or visit a less reputable source (i.e. back-alley abortions) now have a safe, alternative option. People frequently poke fun at the idea that women in America would go to back-alley abortionists, but it's what used to happen before PP became a known, reliable presence. So yes, because of this, PP is most definitely the largest abortion provider. Not because it pushes abortions on women, not because it does not provide all the options and facts like Crisis Pregnancy Clinics, not because it revels in ending potential life, but because it is a trusted source for comprehensive women's care. 

2. "By way of comparison, the organization also refers pregnant women for adoption. In 2010, this happened 841 times, against 329,445 abortions."

Can't argue with those numbers. It's true, PP performed 300,000+ abortions, and only 841 women opted to choose adoption. The implication Mr. Douthat is making here though, is that in some way PP is pushing women towards abortion rather than adoption. After all, what else could a juxtaposition of those numbers mean? 

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Douthat does not want to see the numbers as women's choice. These numbers indicate that PP provides options for its patients, gives them the information they need to make an informed decision, and some do decide to go through with their pregnancy and move forward with adoption. It is difficult to accept however, that many women choose to abort their pregnancies in light of the facts. So instead, Mr. Douthat subtly suggests that PP must be pressuring them. He does not consider the emotional and psychological pain a woman has to go through to carry a child to term and then give it up for adoption or even the social stigma, monetary strain, and consistent check-ups the woman will face as legitimate reasons for a woman to choose abortion. 

3. Planned Parenthood’s critics have estimated, plausibly, that between 30 and 40 percent of its health center revenue is from abortion.

The fact that Mr. Douthat gives credence to these numbers baffles me. In numerous fiscal reports, PP, a not for profit organization, has noted that less than 15% of its revenue comes from abortions, which make up only 3% of the services it provides. The rest of the services are cancer screening and prevention, contraception, and STI screening and treatment. Numerous social conservatives have inflated the number so greatly to make it appear that though PP has a financial incentive to push abortions on women. After all, why else would a woman choose abortion if it was not pushed on her? Either way, this point made me particularly sick that a NYTimes columnist, who just wrote a piece about media bias would get his numbers from an article by Charlotte Allen, a know conservative with a strong dislike for atheists, who wrote a piece about rape that essentially victim-blamed, and has a passionate hatred for Planned Parenthood. Yeah, she's not biased at all. 

4. And finally, two quotes together that truly made my blood boil,

"Although mammograms, it should be noted, are not necessarily among them: the group usually provides referrals, but not the mammogram itself, which is one of the reasons Komen’s founder had cited for discontinuing the grant"


"And if you think abortion rights are more important to female health and flourishing than the nearly $2 billion the pink ribbon has raised for breast cancer research, Komen deserved your scorn and Planned Parenthood deserves your donations."

Let's address the mammogram issue first. Over the past decade, the effectiveness of mammograms in preventing deaths from breast cancer has been called into question, with data suggesting it is  not as effective as we once thought. In light of this, many Planned Parenthood facilities have not purchased a mammogram machine and instead perform breast exams during their check-ups. When something is found to be problematic, they refer their patient to a doctor that can adequately look into it. I see no problem with this, but it sickens me that one would suggest that PP is somehow doing it's patients a disservice by not providing them a treatment that is no longer accepted as effective. Douthat's implication that PP is not truly providing comprehensive women's health services ties directly into my problem with the next quote...he boils all of Planned Parenthood's services down to their abortion services.

Yes, Komen raises billions for cancer research, which is completely valuable. But as someone put it, pink ribbons and pink spatulas don't provide care for people, health care providers do, like those at Planned Parenthood. The reality is that without PP, millions of low-income women would be left in the lurch, unable to take control of their own sexual and body health because they don't have easy access to the care. Millions would be without sexual health exams, STI screening, pre-natal care, and yes, birth counseling. For Mr. Douthat to sum up Planned Parenthood as Planned Abortion-hood is inexcusable and disgusting.

So, this is a really long post that took much longer than my other posts usually take to write, but it's because I was shocked at the hypocrisy and idiocy of the article. But I'm not sure what else I expected from Mr. Douthat whose many articles make it clear that he is not fully in touch with reality.