Friday, November 21, 2008

Resurrected: Haiku War

Hit me on the arm
So you can kiss it better
Somehow I'm not mad

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stories I will tell at my child's wedding

Scene: A tired but happy scientist/mother picking up her toddler from pre-school. Mother enters stage right. Teacher is reading books to children. When scientist/mother enters, teacher stops reading to greet her.

Bean Teacher: Lately Bean has been wearing shirts. Do you still have onesies for her?

ScienceMama: Yes, a few.

Bean Teacher: Would you mind putting Bean in onesies for a little while? She's been tugging at her diapers lately.

ScienceMama: Oh yes, she's been doing that at home sometimes too. We've been trying to teach her that her diapers are dirty.

Bean Teacher: Today she stuck her hand into the back and got poop on her hand...

ScienceMama: [Mortified silence]

Bean Teacher: ... and then wiped it on another child's mother.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Meme from Dr. Isis

Dr. Isis has tagged me for this meme, and I have no choice but to oblige her (or suffer the consequences).

5 Things I was Doing 10 years Ago:
(1) Being angsty
(2) Dating Mr. Wrong
(3) Studying my butt off
(4) Trying to please everyone but myself
(5) Taking care of business

5 Things On My To-Do List Today:
(1) Go running
(2) Start my very expensive experiment
(3) Make a fantastic, nutritious dinner for my family
(4) Walk the dog
(5) Cuddle my adorable and brilliant child

5 Snacks I Love:
(1) Chips and salsa
(2) Trail mix
(3) Cheese
(4) Coffee
(5) Does chocolate count as a snack?

5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire:
(1) Go on a romantic weekend getaway with my husband
(2) Go on a sunny beach vacation with Husband and Bean
(3) Make bigger annual donations to my favorite causes/charities
(4) Get a massage
(5) See my extended family more often

5 Places I've Lived:
(1) Under my parents roof
(2) In a very bad neighborhood
(3) 2 blocks from the beach
(4) In a craftsman-style house with 3 other science grad students
(5) In Bean's first home

5 Jobs I've Had:
(1) Coffee barista
(2) Hostess at a snooty restaurant
(3) Department store clerk
(4) Kickass mother
(5) Is a post-doc a job?

On making a truly kickass Thanksgiving turkey

The year-end holidays are my absolute favorite time of year. I love the time with family, and especially the traditions. My family isn't really big on the sentimental trappings, but I am a HUGE sap. So a traditional Thanksgiving meal is kind of a must for me.

A traditional Thanksgiving meal, though, is a rather daunting task for some. Why? On its face, none of the elements are particularly complex... except, it seems, the turkey.

This weekend I hosted a pre-Thanksgiving gathering for my parenting group. I was shocked that every single parent there said they had never done a turkey! I think because everyone remembers a terrible turkey or two, it feels like a rather daunting task. Well I'm here to tell you how to make a kickass turkey. And it's way easier than you think it is.

The major hurdle that you must overcome when roasting a whole turkey is that the breast meat cooks much quicker than the thigh meat. So if you don't keep this in mind at all times when prepping your bird, you're guaranteed to make a dry, tasteless turkey. Which is a damn shame when it can so easily be avoided.

I've done turkeys several different ways, herb rubbed, deep fried, the high heat method. But the past two years I have done a cider-brined turkey and the results are absolutely fabulous. I've done this 4 times so far, and each time has been a success. And the best part is it's much simpler than any of the other methods I've tried. So here we go.

1. Brining the turkey.
One of the best ways to avoid drying out your turkey is to brine your turkey. To brine your turkey you simply soak the turkey in a salt (or sugar + salt) solution prior to roasting. Salt ions from the brine enter the turkey flesh, dragging water along for the ride. The extra water in the turkey meat will help buffer the long cook time needed to fully cook the thigh meat.

There are lots of recipes for various brines out there. I most of them use much more salt then you actually need, resulting in very salty tasting meat. This recipe is one that I've adapted and works fantastically well.

3 quarts apple cider
4 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
3-4 dry bay leaves
3 Tbsp black peppercorns
optional: 1-2 Tbsp mulling spices, or 1 cinnamon stick and 1 Tbsp whole cloves

This should be plenty of liquid for just about any size turkey.

Now to the business of brining. To brine your turkey, you'll need a couple of food grade plastic bags big enough to hold your turkey. Luckily, Reynolds makes turkey-sized oven bags that are suitable. There's two in a pack, and I always double bag (just in case). Drop your turkey into the bag, pour the brine around the turkey, and then close up the bag with twist ties (eliminating as much air space as you can).

Brine that sucker overnight in your fridge. Or, if you're tight on fridge space, in a full size cooler packed with ice on your back porch.

When you're ready to roast, take the turkey out of the brine, give it a quick rinse, and you're ready to go. The brine goes down the drain and the bags in the trash... we won't have any further need for them.

2. Prepping the turkey.
If you're like me, you have fond memories of Thanksgiving stuffing from the cavity of the turkey. Moist, meaty and delicious, stuffing that is cooked inside the bird is SO good.

But you probably also have memories of dry, tasteless white meat.

While stuffing your turkey makes for delicious dressing, it ruins the bird. Putting stuffing in the cavity of the bird reduces air flow through the bird. Reduced airflow = longer cook times = dry turkey. DO NOT stuff your turkey. Yes, your stuffing will be slightly less delicious. But your turkey will be exponentially more delicious. Do the math.

Instead, I like to put a couple of aromatics into the cavity. Some peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, some cloves, a bit of chopped onion. Just enough to be, well, aromatic, but without stuffing the bird and reducing airflow. There should be no more than about 1/2 cup worth of stuff in that bird.

Set your bird, breast side up in your roasting pan. For best results, invest in a halfway decent roasting pan with an elevated rack. This, again, gives the best airflow, keeps your turkey up and away from the drippings, and gives you nice crisp skin all over.

If the grocery store hasn't done it for you already, tuck the tips of the wings down into the birds armpits and tie the legs together.

Now you're ready to roast.

3. Cooking the turkey.
Preheat your oven to 325 deg. Estimate that for a 12-17 pound bird it's going to take somewhere around 3-3.5 hours for that baby to cook, depending on your oven. Drop that baby in and keep your oven closed.

Once the skin has started to turn a golden brown (around 45 minutes into the roast), you're going to have to put a piece of tin foil over the breast to keep the skin from burning. Then leave it alone for another 1.5 hours.

You will know your turkey is done when a thermometer stuck into the center of the thigh (but not touching the bone) is 180 deg. I take my turkey out when the thermometer reads 170 because the temperature will continue to rise as the turkey rests.

4. Let that turkey rest.
Your turkey is going to come out gorgeous. But don't start carving immediately. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before you carve. This will give people plenty of time to admire how lovely your turkey is.

5. If you're feeling bold...
This year, to complement the cider brine, I did an apple cider reduction to drizzle over the platter of carved turkey (in place of a more traditional gravy). It was met with rave reviews.

Cider reduction:
1 quart cider
1 Tbsp mulling spices (in a tea ball, or in a little cheesecloth pouch)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp kosher salt

Combine your ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered ~20 minutes. Remove mulling spices and continue to simmer until cider is reduced to ~1/2 cup. Remove bay leaves. If you've got some decent pan drippings, add a Tbsp or two. Then drizzle over platter of carved meat and serve.

All right. There you have it. The mother of all turkeys.

Now, while I admire my own handiwork, inquiring minds want to know:

Have you ever made a turkey?
How do you do yours?
Will you be making the mother of all turkeys this year? (If so, I want to hear all about your dazzling success!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The honeymoon is over

Last night I was starting the laundry and from the living room I heard "Uh-oh."

says Husband, laughing.

Ouchie! declares Bean.

Can you show mama?
asks Husband.

I heard the clomp clomp clomp of Bean's little feet as she ran down the hall saying Ouchie Ouchie.

When I looked down, I saw Bean holding out her stuffed monkey. This monkey had an unfortunate run in with our dog Pup quite a few months ago, and since that incident his head had been rather poorly attached. I could see now that the head had come clean off, and Bean offered up the poor headless body with great concern.

Ouchie she said.

Oh it's okay, Bean
I replied and kissed the poor beheaded monkey on his gaping neck wound.

All better
I said, handing the lifeless corpse back to the Bean.

Bean gave me a look as if to say Are you out of your f*$king mind? His f*&king head fell off! before walking away, leaving me holding the pathetic body of her forlorn little toy.

I thought I had 13 more years before Bean was rolling her eyes at her totally lame mother, but it's looking like the honeymoon is already over.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Tuesday night was a glorious glorious night, the importance of which simply can not be overstated. Husband and I watched CNN on pins and needles, and when they announced Barack Obama as President-Elect Barack Obama, I quite literally cried.

Among the many, many reasons that I support Obama is my basic and unwavering belief in the dignity of all people, and my belief that when we strive to live as a community we are all better for it.

And that is why I was devastated to wake up Wednesday morning to hear that Californians had passed Prop 8. Prop 8 amends the California state constitution to define marriage as specifically being between one man and one woman. To see that so many people voted to institutionalize discrimination (in California of all places), it left me disheartened.

The passage of Prop 8 stands in stark contrast to the election of our first African American president. For anyone who doubts that a gay marriage ban is anything but a tool for discrimination, I would point your gaze towards Arkansas. On Tuesday, Arkansas voters passed a law that bans unmarried couples from adopting children.

I know that so many states have already passed similar laws, but I never thought that California, the home of my liberal heart, would betray the very values of diversity and equality that I was raised with.

This election has been bittersweet. I am hopeful for positive changes under an Obama presidency, but watching California voters fall for the fear-mongering and hate of the religious right leaves me wary that we still have a long way to go before we see true equality.