Christmas Batter Brownies!

23 Dec

Hi all!

With Christmas and a trip home fast approaching, I’m starting to get restless! At first I thought I’d remedy my restlessness with a Dexter marathon… but after a very sleepless and paranoid night (two words:  Trinity Killer), I switched gears and started baking.

One of my favorite recipes of all time is this Cake Batter Blondies recipe from the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction. Lately, I’ve started to stray from the tried and true — I’ve been experimenting with different combinations! On Thanksgiving, it was Pumpkin Pie Batter Brownies (SO. GOOD.), and now, I give you…

Christmas Batter Brownies!

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With red velvet cake mix, white chocolate chips, crushed peppermint and sprinkles, these batter brownies might be on Santa’s naughty list — but what are the holidays for, if not family, friends, and sweet, delicious indulgences? 🙂

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Christmas Batter Brownies, Adapted From Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

  • Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • White Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/3 Cup Milk
  • Sprinkles
  • Crushed Peppermint/Candy Canes
  • 1/4 Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 35o° Fahrenheit.
  2. Stir cake mix, egg, milk and vegetable oil together in a mixing bowl. The mixture should be thick and sticky (thicker is better) and should take a little elbow grease to really mix the ingredients together. If you absolutely need to add more milk, you can add a little bit at a time up to 1/2 cup but no more than that — unless you want the fruits of your labor to result in sludge!
  3. Add white chocolate chips in whatever amount puts a smile on your face (but since these are going to be pretty rich, I’d recommend just 1/2 of a cup).
  4. Spread the batter into a lightly greased pan.
  5. Top liberally with sprinkles and crushed peppermint.
  6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

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This is what mine looked like when they were still in the pan.

After you remove the baking dish from the oven, the brownies should deflate and become slightly concave. Be sure to let them cool for at least 30 minutes so that the gooey center has time to set before you slice into them! 

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Bon Appétit!

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Cheap & Simple Gift Wrap For The Holidays

20 Dec

Most of you know that I’m crazy about Christmas. Any holiday, actually, but especially Christmas! I’ve also had a lot of free time lately which has translated into level 10 on the career track for all of my Sims, a plethora of baked goods in my kitchen, and a sudden enthusiasm for arts & crafts.

So when it came time to wrap Christmas presents, I decided to up the ante and let my craft flag fly. This is what I came up with:

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Did I mention that I got everything I needed from Bi-Mart? This project can easily cost you less than $10 if you choose your supplies wisely!

  • 12 Mini ornaments: $2.99
  • 16 Gift tags: $4.99 (consider brown paper cutouts for a cheaper alternative)
  • Wrapping paper: $1.99 ea
  • Twine: $1.79 ea
  • Tape
  • Scissors

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I picked a couple of different patterns that complement each other nicely so that the presents don’t all look the same:

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There’s a lot of room to get creative when wrapping presents… you can use other small trinkets instead of ornaments (like little branches of mistletoe, twigs of rosemary or lavender, snowflake cutouts on heavy cardstock, etc.), and twine comes in a billion different colors. Just start by choosing your wrapping paper, and use it as  a guide for the rest of your supplies.

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Look how pretty the gifts look under our tree!

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Gatekeeper’s Dilemma: Why Sexuality Sucks For Women

5 Dec

Female silhouette.“Let her lay aside her delicacy, and her influence over our sex is gone,” said the Reverend Jonathan F. Stearns at a discourse delivered in the First Presbyterian Church of Newburyport in 1937. This statement resonates with me. Where have I heard it before? Certainly not from a sermon delivered before my time, but instead from many of my male friends: “If she puts out on the first night, then I lose all interest.” Sure, the reverend’s statement is far more eloquent than the colloquial language of my friends. But the underlying message remains the same: a woman who engages in sexual activity ‘too soon’ — a time frame which has varied in interpretation throughout the centuries — is immediately branded in a negative light, regardless of the era in which she lives. But let her express disinterest in sexual activity, and she’s chastised for that, too! This is the kind of female sexual oppression that fuels the gatekeeper’s dilemma: woman is regarded as the gatekeeper of sexual activity (thereby rescuing her male counterpart from his “uncontrollable urges”), yet she is criticized for performing the very role that she is for whatever reason expected to fill.

From the early 1800’s until present day, we women have struggled with abstruse expectations regarding our sexuality: in order to be considered pure and ladylike, we must carefully guard our lady parts – but the very people who expect us to do so also expect to be satisfied sexually whenever they see fit (how does that even make sense?). Of course, in earlier history this dichotomy may not have been so apparent since women simply did not object to their husbands, but what else is a woman to do when she expected to be both pure and submissive? At least today we have more autonomy, but the principle of the double standard remains the same: if you engage in sexual activity too soon according to social standard, then you’re a slut. If you exercise your right to deny access to your vagina, then at best you’re mean for giving your guy blue balls, and at worst you’re an uptight prude. These are the unrealistic expectations that have been placed upon us by society and (dare I say) many of the men in our lives. They perpetuate the unfortunate tightrope that we women walk, and sadly even some women are guilty of fueling the fire, too. Bluntly stated, if you aren’t a slut, you’re a prude, and there’s little space in between. How how did such an ugly paradox even come to fruition in the first place? And in what ways has women’s sexuality transformed throughout history?

The short answer, unfortunately, is that it hasn’t transformed much, which explains how we find ourselves saying essentially the same things – albeit in different ways – nearly 200 years later. Why? Because one expectation has remained constant throughout history: woman should only exercise autonomy over her sexuality in ways that are favorable to society. That is to say, a woman should only exercise her right to say ‘no’ under certain circumstances (i.e. until marriage or monogamy, take your pick), at which point the very same ‘no’ becomes not admirable but obnoxious. This isn’t some novel idea, either. Historical ideologies of female sexuality run parallel to contemporary ones. Let’s talk about one of the earliest ideas to govern women’s sexuality, and perhaps the origin of the woman’s paradox: the Cult of True Womanhood.

From roughly the 1820’s to the 1860’s, a Cult of True Womanhood emerged. From this cult materialized an ideology centered on four virtues: piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. In relation to this topic, I find purity and submissiveness to be especially interesting. According to the ideology, a “True Woman” is pure, remaining chaste to God prior to marriage and to her husband after marriage. If a man were to express sexual interest in a woman prior to marriage, it was considered her autonomous duty to “not give in and let man ‘take liberties incompatible with her delicacy’” (Welter, p. 157). In other words, under those circumstances, she was permitted to exercise her somatic rights. A True Woman was also, however, expected to be submissive, again to God and her husband as well as others. This meant that she must even acquiesce to unwanted sexual advances, and under such conditions her aforementioned power and autonomy were suddenly supposed to be nonexistent.

The contemporary woman faces a similar dilemma. Granted, we now have more protection and autonomy in terms of our bodies and our rights to take command over sexual encounters. But, like women from earlier periods, we’re still expected to maintain a sort of purity when not in a committed relationship. Society expects single women to engage in sexual activity after a “waiting period” of sorts, and frowns upon  women who elect to engage in a more “frivolous” sexual lifestyle comprised of hook-ups and one night stands. So here we are again, expected to assume an uninterested stance on sex until we find a committed partner. And, also like women from earlier periods, we face a catch-22: should we attempt to remain chaste while single or turn down a partner’s sexual advances, we’re often hounded and hassled rather than respected.

So, to the women of the world: do yourself a favor. Stop walking the tightrope. Cast aside society’s stupid expectations of who you should be and how you should act and do what feels right for you. Don’t concern yourself with someone else’s opinion of how you should be. Also, do your fellow women a favor and stop slut-shaming and calling each other out on the matter of sexuality. At the end of the day, your sexuality is your business and not anyone else’s. In my mind, true womanhood is the act of conducting yourself in a way that truly reflects who you are as a person. A true woman, to me, is a woman who governs her behavior based on her own moral compass and disregards the criticism of those who don’t happen to share her perspective. Men, I implore you to keep all I have said in mind when courting a woman. A true woman’s integrity is not dictated by her sexuality or lack thereof, but rather by the sum of her parts — the many aspects of her character, personality, and behavior that make her who she is.

Fro-Yo Ain’t Your Friend!

12 Sep

Or is it?

It has come to my attention that you guys seemed to really enjoy my pro/con coffee list. It has also come to my attention that everyone and their uncle loves fro-yo, especially when you have access to the nectar of the (cow) gods on or near your campus like my friends and I do. SO. MANY. TOPPINGS.

I’m sure you’re trembling with anticipation, so without further ado, I present to you a smattering of fun facts about your favorite frozen food.

PRO: Fro-yo has live active cultures in it. This means that there are blobs of bacteria floating around in your sweet treat. Sounds disgusting right? Well, it’s not! This good bacteria combats the bad bacteria in your tummy that makes it so grumpy. It helps improve your digestion! Think of it as a more delicious, more dessert like cousin of DanActive probiotic yogurt.

CON: Low calorie my ass! No, really. It goes straight to your ass. Flavored fro-yo contains buckets of added sugar, so it’s not really as “low calorie” as you think. “But, Jess! What about sugar-free?” … Don’t even get me started on the limitless reasons why artificial sugars are Satan’s spawn.

PRO: Ever wonder what the difference is between frozen yogurt and ice cream? Well, prepare to be enlightened! The main ingredient of frozen yogurt is milk while the main ingredient of ice cream is cream (wait, really?). What’s important here is that whole milk hovers around 4% fat content, while cream is 6-8% fat. So, technically, fro-yo is the healthier choice.

fro-yo vs. ice cream at a glance

PRO: Remember the probiotics I mentioned earlier? They make it so that the unfortunate lactose-intolerants of the world can enjoy this yummy dessert , even in the presence of an extremely good looking date, without sweating bullets about jetting to the toilet less than 30 minutes later.

CON: For some reason completely unbeknown to me, some yogurt manufacturers apparently do something called “heat-treating” to their yogurt. This seems kind of stupid, considering the fact that this heat-treating business zaps yogurt of all of its live active cultures and nutritional benefits, thereby removing anything and everything that makes it yogurt. So, try to find out whether or not your fr0-yo is heat-treated. Because if it is, you are being deceived into consuming a UFO (unidentified food object) completely devoid of all of the awesome pros I have shared with you thus far.

PRO/CON: Like I said before; SO. MANY. TOPPINGS. Would you like to put a cupcake on top of your fro-yo? No problem. How about Reese’s, Cocoa Puffs, and chocolate chips? No problem. Cookie dough? Check. Fruit? Check. Gummy bears, M&M’s, and Oreos? Check, check, and check. If you’re worried about finding the perfect topper to your tower of frozen goodness, fret not. BUT, I’m not going to tell you that it doesn’t totally defeat the purpose of fro-yo as a healthy alternative to ice cream  when you drown it in candies and processed treats.

PRO: It tastes amazing. Duh.

Basically, after extensive internet exploration on the pros and cons of frozen yogurt, I have come to the conclusion that it is delectable, good in moderation (as every tasty thing in this world seems to be), made to be eaten with as many candy toppings as possible, technically better for you if you forego the candy toppings and choose fruit and granolas instead, and better for you than ice cream.

As I wrap up this post, I can’t help but notice that I am beginning to feel overcome by an intense craving for fro-yo (chocolate yogurt with crushed Oreos and plain mochi is my go-to)… so I apologize if reading this little page of factoids has ignited within you some sort of agonizing need for frozen yogurt. I suggest you march yourself to the nearest fro-yo franchise and satisfy that hankering! 😉

This blog post was inspired by this article, which popped up in my Google search. Clicky-clicky on the links scattered throughout this post to see the other references I used. Some of them are profoundly fascinating.

Also, I found that nifty table here.

Cracked Out On Coffee

12 Sep

I dedicate this post to my roommate and my many coffee-drinking friends, all of whom I adore, and all of  whom inhale coffee at such a rate that they might as well walk around with one of those little hangers that administers it intravenously throughout the day.

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Today, as I sip my mug of Truvia with a dash of some house blend, I bring to you the pros and cons of this popular beverage:

PRO: Coffee promotes the Einstein state of mind! Since it’s got a healthy dose of caffeine, it’s a stimulant, and it can increase information processing, alertness, attentiveness, and wakefulness. What now, Adderall?

CON: Did you accidentally indulge in a late afternoon or evening cup of liquid energy? That’s okay. There is only a four thousand percent chance that you’ll be tossing and turning until 3 am.

PRO: If you are addicted enough to be consuming around 5 cups of coffee a day, the upside is that you may be protecting yourself against the cognitive impairment of Alzheimer’s according to this super interesting mouse study.

PRO/CON: Despite its widely known addictive qualities, the FDA recognizes caffeine as a ‘safe’ drug. This means that zombified coffee consumers can tremble over their textbooks or in their cubicles with the comfort of knowing that there is not technically anything wrong with them — it’s just the caffeine doing its business.

CON: If your heart skips a beat, you might want to blame your coffee machine. Coffee consumption can cause cardiac arrhythmias (aka stupid fast or irregular heartbeats).

PRO: Because the chemical structure of caffeine is similar to that of theophylline, drinking a cup of coffee can help to alleviate asthma symptoms by opening up the bronchial airways. So if you’re allergic to your girlfriend’s cats…

CON: Caffeine makes you pee more, which can in turn make you dehydrated, if you aren’t drinking the recommended 27 glasses of water per day. But I’m sure you are.

CON: If you live in the 1600’s or frequent the great outdoors, then you’ve probably boiled coffee old Imageschool style. That’s totally cool and all, if you don’t mind high cholesterol (boiled coffee elevates blood total and LDL cholesterol because the unfiltered grounds contain the compounds cafestol and kahweol).

PRO: I know you’ve been worrying ceaselessly about developing kidney stones, but if you drink coffee on the regs, fret no more. More coffee means more pee which means a bad host environment for the crystallization of calcium oxalate which means no kidney stones for you.

CON: Drinking 4 cups a day are we? Better start upping your calcium intake. These fine Swedes discovered that consuming that amount of coffee each day can moderately increase risk of osteoporosis. That means your bones become porous and develop the superpower of being able to snap like a twig under little to no stress. Isn’t that awesome?

PRO: Fact! There is a direct positive relationship between coffee consumption and the ability to survive college. If you don’t believe me, don’t question my authority. Question any coffee drinking college student in the history of forever and they will tell you that it is so.

In conclusion: Coffee does not kill people. What does not kill you makes you stronger. Therefore, coffee makes you stronger. Well, unless you make the pot stronger, in which case it’s not really doing you many favors (except maybe saving you and your mice from Alzheimer’s).

I got my facts from this dumb little man.