Dec 21, 2012

An Open Letter to the President on Gun Control

I wrote the following in response to an email from the White House regarding a petition I signed online calling for better gun safety, regulations, and restrictions. I'm not saying I have all the answers or even the correct answers, but I think we all need to make our voices heard and have an open, public conversation so that we can all come to an agreement about what we need to do as a nation to put an end to these senseless, heartbreaking mass shootings. (As a note, I play first person shooter video games but I do not own any guns, nor have I ever shot a gun or even wanted to shoot a real gun. Also, I personally only prefer to shoot aliens or zombies, not humans or animals, but that's just me.) Now, onto the letter:

I do not think that video games or entertainment is to blame because all other countries have access to the same media but do not have as many mass shootings as the USA. So, let's examine why not. Is it merely access to guns? A store in CT was robbed a dozen times and no one noticed any guns missing. This is HUGE. Guns should be better tracked. They should require photo IDs to purchase (at ALL purchase points including gun shows) plus proof of gun training. No military style guns nor any large capacity clips/magazines should be available to civilians ever. People should pass a written test plus a hands on test (just like when you get your license to drive) but should also pass a rigorous mental health examination by a qualified, certified professional therapist. Moreover, if the household contains mentally ill children or adults, or senile elderly, measures should be taken to ensure those people absolutely never ever have access to guns in any way shape or form. No one should be teaching their mentally ill or autistic child how to shoot guns! And I should know, I grew up with autistic family members. They can be brilliant but they often live in their own worlds. Regardless, that kid should have 1) never learned to shoot a gun in the first place and 2) never been able to access a military style gun. Reduce access to all guns, ban military style guns and large capacity clips/magazines, beef up training requirements, and restrict access to the mentally ill, while also providing more access to affordable mental health care, plus work on destigmatizing mental illness in our society so people reach out for help, and you will have less mass shootings in America.

Dec 14, 2012

Best. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ever. ...Also, Eggless.

My grandma used to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies, but I never got the recipe. So, I've been experimenting with various chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years and I think I may have stumbled onto the most damn delicious chocolate chip cookies I have ever had.

In searching for the elusive grandma cookie recipe, I remembered 2 key ingredients: shortening and molasses. I can't even tell you how happy I was to find this recipe: Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Pastry Affair. However, something was still missing; all that shortening and no butter left me craving that buttery flavor. I told myself next time I make chocolate chip cookies, I'll substitute the shortening for the same amount of a 1:1 mix of shortening and butter.

Unfortunately, when next time rolled around, I was lacking in the butter department so instead of a 1:1 ratio it ended up being a 1:11 butter to shortening ratio, but it still worked marvelously well. Nonetheless, if I had enough of both, I would make it 1:1 next time simply because the shortening seems to make it thicker whereas the butter makes it chewier so it's all about finding the right balance. The 1:11 ratio tasted great, but needed to be slightly less thick yet slightly chewier.

Regardless, I also didn't have any eggs (or desire to go out in the cold rain to procure said eggs) so I Googled egg substitutes for cookies and found 3 options: milkyogurt, or *drum roll* cream cheese. Cream cheese in a chocolate chip cookie? Seriously? Yuck, right? Well, as luck would have it I also had no milk or yogurt, but I did have cream cheese.

Lastly, I usually use the standard sized chip in either semi-milk chocolate or carob, but I had a half bag of large dark chocolate chips leftover from a previous experimental recipe, so I tossed those in and I must say that the larger size chip plus the richness of the dark chocolate really added to the overall flavor of the cookies.

Now, without further adieu, my new favorite, cobbled together, incidentally eggless, chocolate chip cookie recipe:

  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 6 tb butter
  • 6 tb vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tb mild molasses
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large bowl, mix the granulated and brown sugars together. Add in the butter and vegetable shortening. Cream together until smooth and well blended. 

Add in the cream cheese and continue blending well. Pour in the vanilla extract and mild molasses. Mix well.

Meanwhile, in a separate, smaller bowl, whisk the baking soda, salt, and flour together. 

Then add the flour mixture to the batter slowly, stirring as you go. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoon size cookies about an inch apart onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. 

Remove the cookies from the oven, leave them on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. (Yields approx. 4 dozen cookies.)

Eat and enjoy!