Musing on food and cooking ...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obesity and the Rhodes

Today, I am writing a letter of endorsement for a student applying to the Rhodes Scholarship. Like most scholarships, it has specialized criteria: excellent grades, leadership skills, moral character. But the Rhodes has another standard by which it judges applicants:

"(2) energy to use one's talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports..."

The guidelines go on to state:

"Participation in organized sports is not essential if applicants are able to demonstrate in other ways the physical vigor which will enable Rhodes Scholars to make an effective contribution to the world around them."

Mr. Rhodes was certainly within his rights to establish his scholarship with the criteria he desired, and the Selection Committee is - of course - required to honor his vision. But I wonder who out there is not applying who should be applying because they fear their weight automatically disqualifies them from contention.

When I think back on myself, at the age when I could have applied to be a Rhodes Scholar, I certainly had the grades. I had the leadership skills. I was interested in bettering society, and I had good moral character. But I was also fat and not an athlete. I highly suspect my earnest statements about walking and hiking and camping would not have made a very positive impression on the Committee. Because there is this false belief in modern society that moral virtue = vigor = a slender, athletic body. And while I dearly hope there are individuals who can see beyond that equation, I suspect that there are very few who will.

Today, when I advise students about fellowships - especially those students who are not involved in sports or who are overweight or obese - it hurts me to have to discuss the above listed criteria with them. The students I talk with have the ideas, passion, and, yes, the vigor needed to change the world for the better. But I fear most of them won't have that chance ... either through the Rhodes or through other opportunities who have the same beliefs about the body but don't address them as forthrightly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blog Update

So, if you are actually still checking in here once in a while, you might have noticed that I have not posted in a while. I am not going to apologize, but wanted to let you all know where things stand and what is likely going to be happening.

1. I got a promotion and took on more duties at work, including advising the student newspaper. So I am swamped and really stressed out.
2. I also started a doctoral program. Going full-time. In addition to working more than full-time. So, I am having very little freetime, of which a large portion of it is currently enthralled with BSG.

If you feel like you need more than occasional blog updates from me, go friend me on Facebook. At least there is some chance at connection over there.

Otherwise, continue to watch this space. As I get adjusted to my new schedule and actually start to do some of my own writing instead of assignments, I will start to post some of my ideas, thoughts, etc., about my EdD program. Which, by the way, is in adult and higher education and where my dissertation is likely to be on some sort of obesity and higher ed issue.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Check This Out

My friends Tammy and Timi got a great grant to undertake "an ongoing and collaborative documentary project about founding bluegrass musicians Frances and John Reedy and their impact on their family, regional community, and the contemporary Bluegrass/Rock-a-billy music scene in Dayton, Ohio."

Coolest thing ever. Check out their blog. Link is to the right - Remembering the Reedys.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Today's Episode, in Which Heather Eats Pancakes Two Days in a Row

I ate pancakes two days in a row. Dear Readers who know me know that I normally will not eat pancakes at all, let alone two days in a row. What the hell is going on?

Well, it was all for a good cause, and provides a light on why the people who are most likely to oppose universal, single-payer health care are those who really need it the most.

Boxer and I went north for the holiday to visit with mia madre and various and sundry kinfolk. And on the day we left, we joined mia madre for a pancake breakfast benefit for a local small business owner who had a horrific illness, poor or no health insurance, and desperate need of funds to help her with her care. We could also have attend a pig roast earlier in the weekend for another individual in the same situation. And certainly, a health care fundraiser was held on behalf of my uncle and his family when he was dying from brain cancer.

This is what happens in these small, rural towns. When someone is sick and in need, everyone joins together. And everyone gives what they can. Because - for certainty - most do not have insurance. When people get sick in these areas, it is disaster. Homes are lost, families can be torn apart, and the debt just keep growing.

And yet, these are the same folks who would be ashamed to go on BadgerCare or any other publicly provided medical assistance - despite paying taxes. These are the same folks who think only "welfare queens" and "damn immigrants" can get access to public safety nets; yet they would never want to take advantage of those safety nets themselves, even when they can and should do so. Why? Because it admits to being poor, to having failed in some strange way at the grasping the American dream, because people and communities should take care of their own, because government is a bad thing?

So, individuals suffer. I imagine many die as a result of money to pay for health care or being forced to have substandard care because it is all they can afford. And, they continue to speak out against universal, single-payer health care despite the fact that it would dramatically improve their lives as well as the economic situation of their communities.

We often talk about the damage high medical bills and lack of insurance can have on the individual, and yet we don't often talk about the impact on communities. I cannot imagine how much money has come out of the community to pay for various medical fundraisers in recent years. In most cases, this was money individuals really could not afford to give, tottering on the edge of financial oblivion themselves.

It makes me wonder if the way to get single-payer health care passed in this country is to actually work on helping people understand that we are one big community. There are no people from Catawba, Wisconsin. There are no people from the state of California. We are all from the community of America, and our buying power - when put together - is way more powerful than it ever can be if we are all trying to buy a critical service in our own little worlds. If we work together, we can take care of everyone who is here, no matter what, so that everyone can have the basics of care needed to live healthy lives - not cut short by access to quality medical care.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seeking Name for New Car

Yesterday, with the help of Rosen Honda, I purchased a 2010 Honda Insight hybrid in a dark dove grey color. I got a great deal and am already getting 12 mpg more than I did with the Eggplant.

Ah, the Eggplant. Farewell and good riddance, o Eggplant!

The new car needs a name. My first car was named NED. I have also had the Rollerskate as well as the aforementioned Eggplant. So, I am soliciting name suggestions.

What I know about the car thus far: when I sit in it, it seems like it is masculine, except for its horn, which is decidedly soprano. It doesn't seem to have any personality quirks. It is a dark grew color that sparkles in the sun. It is very futuristic looking.

Suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why Do You Make Things So Hard?

Dear Readers will remember our last year problems with the purchasing of a new stove and frig from Sears - what with the major delivery problems and cancellation problems etc ad naseum. Anyway, things were finally delivered and I pay every month via the Sears online bill center. Or I did until this month.

I went to log in to pay my bill and was informed that the service no longer exists for my account.

Say what?

So I sent a note to customer service, who wrote back and said call a specific number and we will help you out. I call and I get a very nice Indian woman who tells me I have to call the number on the back of the actual card instead.

Um, you told me to call this number.

She gets very flustered and transfers me to a customer service specialist. Where I get the most amazing explanation for why my online bill pay is no longer in service.

Seems Sears sent me a new credit card, without my approval, and unless I activate that card, I can no longer pay my bill online. Despite the fact that I have been paying online since last year.

Since I do not want to activate the card, I now have three choices:

1. Pay via mail. This is a dicey prospect as sometimes I don't get the bill until three days before it is due. And mailing anything from Chicago is always problematic in terms of timing.
2. I can pay via phone. Which costs $15 extra, natch.
3. I can troop to the Sears store and pay in person every damn month.

So insane. And yet another reminder of why I will never, ever do business with Sears ever again.

Monday, June 22, 2009

For Brave Sir Robin

Because, yeah, people should just get over Twilight already, and Buffy kicks ass.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

White Ratatouille

1 quart canned light-colored tomatoes

1 large sweet onion, rough chopped
1 yellow sweet pepper, rough chopped
3 T olive oil

1 large eggplant, rough chopped
1 large yellow summer squash, rough chopped

salt and pepper to taste

If using home canned maters, put them in a pan and boil for 15 minutes as a safety precaution. Set to the side.

Saute the onion and sweet pepper in the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Pour in the maters and add the eggplant and summer squash. Cook at a fast simmer until everything is soft and melded together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Excellent with some crusty bread and butter or over brown rice.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No Pasta Salad for You!

I was supposed to make pasta salad for dinner last night, but I had forgotten to cook the pasta the day before, and the tofu smelled funky, and well, I just didn't want to cook. So, no pasta salad! Instead, we had a leftovers night. I ended up cooking a steak, eating a leftover ear of corn on the cob, and making parmesan and black pepper pasta. This is a take on a traditional Italian dish. Whatever you do with it, just don't dump all your whole peppercorns into the pan, like I did. Opps.

Parmesan and Black Pepper Pasta (for one)

1/2 T good fruity olive oil
1/2 T butter, unsalted
1 cup whole wheat spaghetti, cooked
A goodly amount of fresh ground black pepper, to your taste.
1-2 T of grated parmesan cheese
1 T flat leaf parsley, chiffoned

Place fat in a small frying pan over medium heat. As soon as it is melted, throw in your pasta. I use whole wheat because it gives the dish a yummy, nutty flavor. Cook until the pasta is warmed through. Then add your black pepper and turn off the heat. Put in your serving dish and add cheese and parsley. Toss to make sure the pasta is coated evenly.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Recipe for a Happy Anniversary

So, this weekend, Boxer and I celebrated our one-year anniversary. Go us! We celebrated by going to one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago: Big Jones. Big Jones is a coastal, low-country, southern style place in Andersonville. We both ended up having the prix fixe dinner. Man, was it good!

For our anniversary, Big Jones picked up our drinks. Boxer had a "black pearl," which was blackstrap rum, egg, and grand marnier. I had a spring sangria which was a rose wine with seltzer and spring fruits.

First course was a shrimp mousse with fennel, pickled onion, and a crispy wafer. This was our least favorite part of the meal. It was slightly salty.

Second course was a pea tendril and frisee salad with a lemon vinaigrette. I had mine with bacon; Boxer had his without. It was accompanied by fresh Sally Lunn bread with honey butter. So crisp and refreshing. Just a really lovely intro to spring.

Main course was a sea bass with garlic spinach, a fried rice cake, and an herbed creme. Again, very delicious - nice and light, not too oily, and the fish was perfectly cooked.

Dessert was a strawberry shortcake with a homemade biscuit and orange dreamscicle ice cream. Sublime. Juicy, sweet, the berries were perfectly ripe and the biscuit was incredible.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Tuna Salad

1 pound pasta, such as rotini, bow tie, elbow mac
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 cans tuna, drained
2 cups canned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 T Penzy's pizza spice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup liquid from the artichoke hearts

Prepare pasta according to label directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Place tuna, chopped onion, pizza spice, and artichoke hearts in the bottom of a serving bowl. Toss thoroughly. Add in olive oil and artichoke heart liquid. Pour the pasta over the other ingredients and toss to coat everything nicely. Chill several hours before serving, to allow the flavors to get happy together.

Note: This may be a bit dry for some. If you find it so, feel free to increase the olive oil and liquid mixture, keeping the proportions equal. This may be a very good thing to do if you have leftovers, as the pasta will soak up the liquid.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Broccoli-Stilton Soup

1 large onion, diced
1 large or two medium leeks, finely sliced
2 T butter
1 16 oz package of frozen broccoli
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups stock
1 1/2 cup milk
3 T cream
1 T black pepper, fresh ground
4 oz Stilton, crumbled

Place butter in a soup pan and add onion and leeks. Cook on medium heat until just tender but not browned. Add potato, broccoli. and stock and cook at a low boil until potato is just tender. Take of heat and allow to cool. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the broccoli mixture until it is fairly smooth. Add the milk and cream. Return to a low heat and heat until the soup is at the temperature you desire for eating. DO NOT BOIL. Boiling leads to the yuck. Add in the black pepper (more or less to your taste. I found that a good dose made the soup delicious). Just before serving, add the Stilton and stir until it has melted. Salt to taste. Serve with a hearty, nutty bread.

Blog Note: I am going to try and get back to what this blog is supposed to be about - food and cooking. To help, I will be posting a "recipe of the day." Enjoy!

Thursday, May 07, 2009


In this Oct. 28, 2008 image released by Clayton Homes Inc., the new "i-house" is shown. The solar-powered, energy efficient prefab house features decks on the ground level and on the roof of the detached "flex room.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Iron Chef Recipes

I recently participated in a local Iron Chef competition. It was fun, bu difficult and - if I were to participate again - I would probably suggest that the organizers make some changes. But anyway, here are the recipes for the three dishes I created. The secret ingredient was mascarpone cheese.

Fire-Roasted Tomato Mascarpone Soup

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 T Butter (unsalted)
½ pounds shallots, finely diced
Two quarts of fire-roasted crushed or whole, peeled tomatoes (Muir Glen)
two bay leaves
1 cup white wine (torrentes)
1 cup mascarpone
smoked paprika (optional)

Add butter and olive oil to the bottom of your soup pan. Once melted and bubbling, add in shallots and cook until translucent but not browned. Pour in tomatoes and add bay leaves. Cook at a rapid simmer until reduced by about ¼ of the liquid. Add wine. Continue to simmer until you have reduced another ¼ of the liquid. Take off heat, remove bay leaves, and blend until smooth. Stir in mascarpone until the soup has a rich and creamy texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you cannot get fire roasted tomatoes, smoked paprika can be used, but you will need to keep tasting to make sure you don’t overpower the flavor of the tomatoes.

Tagliatelle with Hot-Smoked Salmon in Caper, Chive, and Lemon Mascarpone Sauce

1 lb tagliatelle

1 T butter (unsalted)
2 T capers, rough chopped
2 T chives, minced
2 lemons, zest and juice
2 cups mascarpone
1 lb hot-smoked salmon, flaked

2 oz salmon roe (optional)

Cook tagliatelle according to package directions.

Add butter to a large sauté pan on medium heat. Once butter is melted, add capers, chives, and lemon zest. Sizzle for about 60 seconds and then squeeze in lemon juice. Remove pan from heat and stir in mascarpone. It will melt into a sauce from the residual heat of the pan. Place pasta into the pan and toss to coat it with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with some of the pasta water. Add in flaked salmon and toss gently. Garnish with salmon roe.

This dish can be served hot or room temperature.

Blueberries with Limoncello Mascarpone Cream

1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Limoncello
1/4 cup orange marmalade, melted and slightly cooled
3 cups blueberries

To make the cream, combine mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of limoncello. Beat with mixer until smooth and slightly thickened.

In a small sauce pan, combine marmalade and remaining limoncello. Melt over low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Then add the blueberries and toss to coat.

Spoon limoncello cream into dessert dishes and top with blueberries. You can also serve this like a parfait, adding the blueberries and mascarpone in layers to make a delicious dessert.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Honor of Laziness

I decided to do the checking of the keywords. Sadly, how people find my blog is actually fairly boring. 

GourmetGoddess, or variants thereof, are the most searched keyword, naturally. The second highest keyword search is "curried wheatberry salad." Now, I am famous for this salad, so go me! I get a few other hits on various ingredients or recipes. Lately, I have had a whole group of folks come looking for information on the MAT. I am not the only anxious one, I guess. But for the most part, nothing very special.

Unless you could the person who found me with the search term "I had a dream about someone cooking another human." Or "recipe for ed gein stew." Or "What are 'apple dumpling cheeks?" Or people looking for info on someone named Kristen Leoiki. Or people really worried about the annanuki taking over or wanting to have some special quiet time with Michael Ironside.

Oh, and to the person looking for an "ed gein stew" recipe, please contact your mental health professional today. Thank you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Southwest Veggie Soup of Get Wellness

Well, my poor sweetie has the plague, which I could normally cure with my Magic Chicken Noodle Soup of Get Wellness, but he is insisting on sticking to his no meat, no fowl diet. I personally would cave in the face of an ebola-level flu, but he is certainly a better person than I. So I had to improvise. Here is the Southwest Veggie Soup of Get Wellness.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 scallions, chopped 
1 bag southwestern style veggies (I think they were Flavor-Pak, but whatever brand, the bag contained corn, black beans, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, and onions)
2 quarts veggie stock
1 large can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoon Penzy's Adobo Seasoning
8 ounces Amish-style extra thick egg noodles (if you make your own, think parpadelle width and just slightly thicker, so they stand up to being boiled in the soup)

Heat oil in a large soup pan and then add scallions. Once a delicious oniony smell starts to come off (a couple of minutes), throw in the bag of veggies.  Add the stock, tomatoes, salt, and Adobo. Bring to a boil. Add the egg noodles and cook until done (about 15 minutes).

This soup has a touch of heat, due to the poblano, but if you want a greater kick, feel free to add some crushed hot pepper or spicy pepper of your choice, I would not add chili powder, however, as that would change the flavor profile quite a bit.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Because I Am Lazy and Chickens Are Cool

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I find this news story from the AP to be totally awesome. I quote it:

Hacked road signs warn of zombies, raptors ahead

Wed Feb 4, 9:03 pm ET

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. – Hackers are messing with electronic road signs in some states, warning of zombies and raptors down the road. Traffic safety officials aren't amused. The latest breach came during Tuesday morning's rush hour near Collinsville, Ill., east of St. Louis. That's where hackers changed a sign along southbound Interstate 255 to read, "DAILY LANE CLOSURES DUE TO ZOMBIES."

Similar pranks have been pulled in recent days near Indianapolis and in Austin, Texas.

The Illinois Department of Transportation's Joe Gasaway worries that such pranks distract drivers from legitimate hazards down the road, perhaps endangering road crews.

In Illinois, tampering with an official traffic control device is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $250 fine.

You may not know this, but I have an 85% chance of surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, or World War Z. This is because I am a fundraiser and, therefore, completely ruthless with my fellows.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Update

So, I haven't written in a while - what with the test and working on my personal statement and being busy as can possibly be ...

But I wanted to drop you an update. I got my scores on the Miller Analogies Test today. I got a scaled score of 469, which I actually knew immediately after I took the test. However, I had no idea what that score meant.

Until today.

Apparently, I am smart. I can qualify for Mensa. And some other weird ass society called the Triple 9's. I scored in the 99th percentile of everyone taking this test.

I am off now to learn the secret handshake.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Because I Am Still in Study Mode ...

Please enjoy the following video: Jennifer 8. Lee: Who was General Tso? and other mysteries of American Chinese food

It is long but very interesting and educational! You will never look at a fortune cookie the same way again...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Today's Episode, in Which Yours Truly Battles with Pefectionism

I found out on Tuesday that the graduate program to which I am applying had a major error in its application materials. Rather than the application being due on June 1, it is actually due on February 15. This normally would not be a major issue, as it is a month away and I can pull transcripts, recommendations, and essays together in that amount of time, no problem (well, no problem except for the fact that I am battling SAD right now, big time). The major issue is that I took the GREs way back in 1997 or 1998, when the GREs were still taken with paper and pencil in a large room filled with hundreds of panicky college seniors and a few of us oldsters.

Which, of course, means that my scores are no longer reportable. Which is irritating because I did a damn fine job on them. I even impressed myself! But they are expired, because apparently your smarts and your ability to perform graduate level work as indicated by a silly test disappear after five years. So, I have to take a test. And pronto. Like next Tuesday afternoon.

The university to which I am applying gives me the option of taking either the GREs or the Miller Analogies Test. I have opted for the later because it is: (1) shorter in length, (2) a heck of a lot cheaper, (3) I can take it next week and the scores will be there in time, and (4) should play to my major strengths.

See, I have always found analogies to be fairly simple. A is to B as C is to D; dog is to cat as puppy is to (a: kitten, b: platypus, c: chick; d: colt). Answer is A, duh. And since I have the vocabulary of a walking dictionary and used to have a somwhat disgusting amount of trivia stuffed in my frontal lobes, I figured I would totally blow the MAT out of the water, especially as the test claims to use only things that should be common knowledge.

Alrighty then. I have a study book with some practice exams. On Wednesday, I decided to take one to get a feel for how the computer test will work. My first test? 61 out of 100.


So, I take three more.... scoring between 72 and 76.

This is cause for panic, no? Apparently, my brain is now filled only with celebrity trivia and popular culture references. Not common knowledge - like the number of players on a football team, the middle names of US presidents, and the relative sizes of lakes on various continents. Sadly, all the countries of the world, which I dutifully memorized once upon a time, appear to have new names and capitals. I seem to have, however, retained a significant amount of the periodic table, astronomy, and biology I learned more than 15 years ago, and if they ask something about Greek or Norse mythology, I am totally blowing that question out of the water. Although the practice test had some info about the Muses incorrect. And, practice, it is Vesta and not Vestia. Really.

Being one of these insufferable perfectionists, I decided to see just how bad my scores were. And so went to the Google to look it up. And lo and behold, the MAT is apparently graded on a curve. Most posts I saw were from people wanting to get about a 70. One piece of research I saw said that people going into education (the field to which I am applying) score an average of 60 out of 100. The university itself doesn't even list a minimum required score. So, really, I should be ok if I can keep my score above 70, because do I honestly think everyone else taking the test is going to know that Pomona is the goddess of fruit and that an elver is a baby eel and that Neanderthals lived about 75,000 years ago and that Czolgosz assisinated McKinley and that Chuck Yeager broke the speed of sound and that Yanomami are indigenous to Brazil and that Sean and John are forms of the same name and that a calorie is a measurement of heat and that Robespierre was guillotined rather than hanged? I think not! Although I am pleased to report that I did remember all those things in the test!

So, I should be fine. And even if I don't do as well as I want (I would settle for an 80), I would think that having a master's degree from Harvard would mean something!

So why can't I get over this feeling that unless I do 90+ out of 100 on this test that I am a horrid failure?

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Meme for the New Year

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things or facts about yourself. At the end choose 16 people to tag. You have to tag the person who tagged you.

Yeah, I don't play tag, but onward with the 16 random facts!

1. I've come to really dislike winter but can't imagine living somewhere where there isn't winter. Although that quaint town in the Yucatan looks very inviting.
2. Usually, I wish I were a lady of leisure. However, that would require winning the lottery, which, in turn, requires one to play it.
3. I am almost 35 and I still suffer with acne once in a while.
4. I am fairly certain I haven't lived up to my potential.
5. Yes, I chew my fingernails.
6. Like most Americans, I spend far too much time watching television.
7. When I am sad and/or angry, I clean.
8. Lately, I've really only been reading magazines.
9. I used to think I was born to do something spectacularly important. I don't believe that now.
10. I am what is called an extroverted introvert. I am by nature an introvert but can be wonderfully extroverted when the need arises...
11. Despite what my partner thinks, I am the funny one.
12. I often struggle with envy.
13. I also suffer from procrastination.
14. I can be impatient.
15. I adore gardening but I do possess the black thumb of death.
16. I am a comma nazi.