Monday, June 18, 2012

Cheesecake: A recipe

Whenever I make cheesecake, I follow the same recipe, which was given to me by the awesome Urs of My bookmark to that recipe no longer works, so I had to spend some time searching for it just now. I shall post it here so that I don't lose it again, and also because it's just an awesome recipe.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F

About 18 Oreos
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 cup chocolate or white chocolate chips

Grind the Oreos up in your food processor, mortar and pestle, coffee grinder, but don't chew them up and spit them into a bowl. That's nasty. Add the butter, mix well, and press the crumbs into your springform pan. What? For Pete's sake, go to the store and spend $10 on a springform pan.

Toss the pressed crust into the oven for 8 minutes, just to get it hot, then pull it out and scatter the chips in it. Give them a minute to get melty, and gently spread the molten chocolate/white chocolate/peanut butter/whatever goodness over your crumb crust with the back of a spoon. This will help seal the crust and keep it from getting soggy. Also, who will argue with a layer of chocolate? A jerk, that's who. If someone argues, punch him in the dick, and don't give him any cheesecake.

3 8-oz packages of cream cheese (or neufchatel, if you're worried about fat. Oh, hey. Wait. If you're worried about fat, DON'T EAT CHEESECAKE.), softened.
1 14-oz (regular sized, kinda smallish, the shit's dense) can of sweetened condensed milk. (Nope, there isn't a sugarfree variant of this recipe. If you're worried about sugar, DON'T EAT CHEESECAKE.)
3 eggs*
1 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla, peppermint extract, lemon zest, amaretto, chambourd, wasabi, worchestershire)
Cream that shit together.
For chocolate chips: Toss a cup of chips in a teaspoon of plain flour to coat, then fold them in. The flour keeps them suspended instead of rising or sinking.

Pour the batter into the sealed crusts, and bake at 300F for about an hour. Letting the cake cool in stages (turn off oven after 45 minutes, crack the door at an hour, remove the cake a half-hour later, let counter-cool for 2 hours, then refrigerate) will help prevent cracking. If it cracks, start over and eat the evidence.

* If you give the eggs a light beat before adding to the rest, they'll integrate faster and you'll reduce the risk of overbeating. Overbeating is what happens when the proteins of the eggs start congealing or some biochemical reaction occurs that Alton Brown would tell you about and probably get off while he did so, but it makes your cheesecake feel unpleasantly eggy and foamy when you eat it, and if you don't care, then it means more cheesecake for you. Jerk.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Soda Cracker Diet

Every so often at work people will organize a potluck, and we had one last week-- probably the last one we'll have before the place closes. I planned to make a cheesecake, but the day before the potluck, when I was going to make said cake, my anxiety kicked it up a few notches, and the idea of getting out of bed was suddenly panic-inducing, so alas, no cheesecake. There were still plenty of other delicious things, however, and we all stuffed ourselves silly and regretted it afterwards, like we always do.

Most of us, anyway.

I know some of my co-workers are on diets and trying to lose weight. One in particular is on one of those weird programs where there is a list of foods you're allowed to eat, and you must not deviate from that list or you fail at dieting and life. Or something. I say it's a weird diet because it even forbids eating certain vegetables, and what the fuck kind of diet does that? This co-worker sat at a different desk than usual so she wouldn't be near the food, nor could she see it.

I hate diets. I hate the whole concept of dieting. I especially hate diets that restrict you to certain foods. I know that dieting doesn't work, and that the vast majority of people who diet will gain the weight back, and that this sort of yo-yoing is even worse health-wise than being overweight. (And being overweight isn't necessarily unhealthy, either.) No one has asked me for my opinion on this diet or dieting in general, and while normally that doesn't stop me, my workplace is not the place for a soap box.

The day after the potluck, I left work an hour early feeling very, very sick to my stomach, and I haven't been back at work since then. From what I've heard, though, other people have also been absent at work for the same reason. The rumour was food poisoning, but the symptoms don't match. It's not that important, though. The point is that my co-workers are vomiting a lot, and of course this is something to be shared on Facebook.

One of my co-workers posted that she had finally succumbed to the illness that had taken out a bunch of us already. I replied, comparing my symptoms with that of the others, and mentioned that I was on a soda cracker diet for a few days. Clearly I should not have mentioned the D-word, because it was at that point when things got silly.

One co-worker replied that "it" (she didn't specify if she was referring to the illness itself or my soda cracker comment) was the best diet ever.

Another co-worker replied to mention how much weight she had lost since becoming sick.

I was-- and still am-- flabbergasted at those comments. There are people who believe that wanting to puke up everything you try to put in your stomach-- even water-- isn't so bad, because at least you're losing weight! At least you're not cheating your diet!* And I feel like I'm the only one participating in that conversation who sees that sort of attitude for what it is: potentially destructive, disordered eating behaviour at worst, and a very unhealthy attitude towards food and weight loss at best.

It's so frustrating to see comments like that, because there's really nothing I can do. I tried combating opinions on dieting and weight loss and just being fat in the past at work, and I ended up hitting a brick wall so hard it was hurting my own mental health and attitude towards food. I don't have it in me to fight that battle again.

I still have all the supplies for making cheesecake, and I think I'm going to make it tomorrow. Originally I was going to bring it to work, to make up for not bringing anything to the original potluck, but fuck that; I'm going to bring it to my DnD session tomorrow night, and I think it'll be enjoyed a lot more there amongst people who don't seem to give a shit about calorie content.

*Actually, soda crackers probably aren't allowed on weird restrictive diets because evil carbs, or something like that.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Why a study on using positive thinking to treat depression has me cynical, not hopeful

From the BBC:
Cardiff University researchers used MRI scanners to show eight people how their brains reacted to positive imagery.
After four sessions of the therapy the participants had seen significant improvements in their depression.
The most glaring critique of this research is the sample size: only eight people?! The people conducting the research acknowledged that more research is necessary, however. That's not why I'm feeling cynical about the study, however.

On the surface, this looks like something that could potentially help some people manage their depression. There's nothing wrong with that. My concern is how this will feed into the narrative that people with depression might feel better if they just think positively!

Yes, because thinking wonderful thoughts is the secret to flight and the cure for depression.

Obviously, this attitude aggravates me to no end. It's easy for someone who isn't mentally ill to conjure up happy thoughts. Someone with depression, on the other hand, might find that a bit more difficult. It's important for any article discussing mental illness and possible new treatments to be aware of the stigma and prevalent narratives surrounding said illness, and to ensure that the article doesn't further those things.

Yes, this research has potential. I won't be pleased if people who are not familiar with depression cite it when telling a depressed person to think happy things, though.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bill 13 Passes

Light on the posting since I need to pick up extra hours at work (and Civ, I'll be honest), but I wanted to write a quick note to say that Bill 13, the Accepting Schools act (of which I have previously written) has passed its final reading, and will become law in time for school to start in September. The Liberals and NDP voted in favour of the bill, and the Tories opposed; no surprises there. The provision that students be allowed to form Gay-Straight Alliance clubs (and call them by that name) was left intact, and both public and Catholic schools must abide by it.

My younger brother starts grade 9 this fall, and he has opted to attend the local Catholic high school instead of a public one. (My parents gave us all a choice in picking our high school; my sister, just a grade below me, went to the local public school.) I started grade 9 twelve years ago, and while it's quite likely that the textbook used in religion classes has changed since then, I'd still love to get my hands on my brother's copy.

I want to see if any pages have been ripped out.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tim Hortons pays workers a living wage, people upset

From the National Post:
Taxpayers are subsidizing the shortfall at the hospital’s three kiosks featuring Tim Hortons — one of the most successful restaurant chains in Canada — largely because the coffee-pourers are well-paid CAW workers.

Windsor Regional Hospital servers make about $26 an hour — $20 in wages, the rest in benefits. At regular Tim Hortons outlets, which are typically profitable, wages vary. One employee told The Star she started at the Ontario minimum wage of $10.25 an hour.

I've seen a lot of articles headlining the fact that the people working at the Tim Hortons locations in this hospital are earning $26 an hour. This is quite biased against the workers. Their actual wage, as stated in the above quote, is $20 per hour; the additional $6 is the value placed on the benefits those workers receive.

The locations are operating at a loss, and the hospital is having budget problems as a result. (I also doubt that Tim Hortons is the only reason why the hospital has budget problems.) The blame is being pinned on the people working at the Tim Hortons, however, and I don't think that's fair. Those workers are being paid a living wage; why do so many people see that as a problem?

Are they being paid more than the average Tim Hortons worker? Yes, absolutely. The problem, however, is that the average Tim Hortons worker is underpaid, especially considering how physically taxing their job can be. I've worked at Tim Hortons, and it hurts!  The people who own Tim Hortons can make huge profits, and those profits are made on the backs of their underpaid workers. It saddens me that people are complaining about the wages of the Tim Hortons employees at Windsor Regional Hospital when the real problem is that their work is horrifically undervalued. It also completely ignores the fact that the losses experienced by those locations might have causes other than the wages of its employees. Why is no one considering that?

The average Tim Hortons worker, and those working similar jobs, does not earn a living wage. This is a serious problem, especially if the government follows though on its proposed Employment Insurance changes and forces more people into those jobs. (The idea that I might have no choice but to work at my local Tim Hortons again actually scares me.) The obvious solution is to increase minimum wage, but this all too often just leads to an increase in the cost of living (because heaven forbid businesses take a small cut in profits rather than raise prices on the goods and services they offer). I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that attitudes of the people who wrote that National Post article I linked to above, and similar articles, needs to change before a solution can be found. People earning a living wage should be something to strive for, not a cause for so much criticism.

The hospital could hire as many as five more registered nurses with the money their Tim Hortons loses every year. However, is giving the 40 or so Tim Hortons workers a living wage such a bad trade-off?