Finals and Awesome Nerdiness

It’s finals time so I have not been cooking/baking/doing anything not related to Constitutional Law.

Well…except for this weekend when I hopped back home to go to a comic book and entertainment expo.  Yeah, I was worried a bit that I was shirking my educational duties, but it was totally worth it.  So, I have nothing of real substance to post except for a plethora of nerdy-geeky-awesome photos to share from this weekend.  I’ll indulge you for a few…um…twenty or so.

I told this guy he had a great costume and he very seriously told me, “You will take a picture.”  Who was I to say no to Obi Wan?

I’m still half-convinced this guy was the real Harrison Ford.  I mean…seriously!!!

This is just a small portion of the main floor.  My heart goes pitter-patter just looking at it!

Original Hunger Game costumes.

Weeping Angels and a terrified Liz.

This still cracks me up!!

I want to marry this man.  I mean, think of all the free fake mustaches I’d get.

If I ever want to consider facial hair at least I know vaguely what it’d look like.

Sith lords and Jedis, they’re just like us.

And that’s all, folks!

Oatmeal, Cranberry and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

So, I went bird watching yesterday.  No, that is not a joke.  Or a euphemism.  Back in February I went to an auction hosted by the law school where students bid on activities with professors.  A few friends and I went in on going bird watching with our Property professor.  It was a heated bid.  This one student’s mom was REALLY in it to win it…until we won it.  Take that, random mom.

We were all really excited for a day of bird watching (no joke) until our professor emailed us and arranged for us to meet at the law school at 7:30 in the morning.  My reaction to the email was laughter followed by  settling dread that accompanied the realization that I would be waking up at 6:30 on a Saturday.

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It ended up being a fun (albeit long) day.  I saw 54 different bird species with $1,500 binoculars sporting Swarovski crystal lenses.

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Despite the fancy binoculars, the birds all looked the same to me.  My favorite part of the day, though, had to be when our professor literally took us through the woods to get back to the car.  At one point I was ducking under branches while attempting not to slip and fall down a fairly steep ravine immediately to my left.  A few minutes later we were climbing over a four foot pile of debris.  Who knew bird watching would be such an extreme sport?

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Note the sweet cuffing of my pants.  I’m a bird-watching-fashion-plate.

 

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The man, the myth, the legend:  our property professor.

I also ended up brushing up against something I was allergic to and my right hand blew up so much that I couldn’t get my ring off.  Again, who knew birdwatching would be so intense?!

These cookies would be the perfect bird-watching-treat.  For me, when I think of outdoor treats, I think of oatmeal cookies.  I think it has something to do with the presumed (and erroneous) healthiness of anything made with oatmeal.  If it’s made with oatmeal (and cranberries!) it just has to be healthy!  It also has boatloads of sugar and butter?  But, there’s OATMEAL in it.

Healthy or not, these cookies are worth making.  I love the chew of an oatmeal cookie, and cranberry is a nice replacement for the typical raison.  The chocolate chunks don’t need any further explanation.  Chocolate is always the correct answer.

Oatmeal, Cranberry, and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 bar semi-sweet chocolate, chunked

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until smooth.  Gradually add in the flour mixture.  Mix in the oats, cranberries and chocolate.  

Scoop 1/4 cup of the dough onto a prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly apart.  Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the cookies are slightly golden at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Source: Giada’s Weeknight Meals

Law School Prom

This weekend I took part in one of the greatest reasons to go to law school: Law School Prom.  Forget about your JD and a fulfilling education.  We got to put on party dresses and dance our patooties off at a place called Roundbarn.  Now that is the top, my friends.

As someone who literally heard about law school prom (we actually call it Carbolic Smoke Ball here after a contracts case) the first week of class, I was more than a little excited for the big day.  Pretty sure my wedding will not even reach the level of anticipation I harbored all week.  I mean, last year there was an actual amorous couple who decided it was a good idea to make it under the appetizer table.  If that isn’t indicative of an event worth going to, I don’t know what is.

The night started at a friend’s apartment where I repeatedly wanted to take off my painful shoes, but abstained due to all the other spiky heels there (and the likely questionable sanitation of the floor).  Seeing as my foot was assaulted by my roommate’s shoe later on at the dance, I think it was a wise choice (prompted by said roommate) to keep my shoes on.  Speaking of my roommate, we took a picture together!

Please note our friend Julia being a creep on the left.  And Ashleigh being a creep in the middle.  Creeps abound.

Can I just take a moment to say how amazing her dress is?  I’m obsessed with it (i.e. if it goes missing Sarah, you should not check my closet).  Anyhoo, we were at the party for about an hour and while there Sarah and I also ran into our tour guide from Admitted Students Weekend where we met.  Naturally, a picture had to be taken.

This is one attractive picture.  Go us.

I also saw some of my SBA peeps and forced them to take pictures with me.  See those big smiles?  They’re such troupers.

After the party we headed to Roundbarn in a cab and then the real event was set into action.  My friend Leroy was the DJ and he kept the party going with great music.  My favorite part was the three song stretch of country songs where I attempted some questionable line dancing.  I also enjoyed the slow song where I was set up with a dance partner purely for the awkward story I got to tell afterwards.  What can I say?  My life is a poorly written sitcom.  Anyhoo, another picture!

Me and Chiedza.  You should have seen her Lady Gaga shoes.  I would have broken my neck in those in five seconds flat.  Actually, probably more like two seconds.

The party went until a little past midnight, and while some people took the party to campus, I took the party straight to my PJs and went to bed.  I’m proud to say that I not only managed to lay my dress nicely on my ironing board, but I also washed my face and brushed my teeth.  I feel like I’ve finally reached adulthood.

I can honestly say that law school prom was everything that I hoped it would be.  I got to dress up, dance for hours on end, and be with all my favorite people.  Cannot wait until the next one!

Cannoli Cream Cake

It’s that time of the year, folks.  Finals are in three weeks, and as much as I try to tell myself that this isn’t true and that I REALLY have about ten more weeks to go, I have to face the unavoidable truth that sh*t is about to get real.

Studying for law school finals is pretty much the worst torture you will endure outside of a prison war camp.  (I’m almost not joking.)  We just finished the big appellate brief – aka the reason I’ve gained ten pounds – and now we’re expected to bulk up on study guides and outlines while still tackling our daily 80 pages of reading.

It’s a good thing you’re cute, law school.

While I’m suffocating under a pile of Property notes, the one thing that I really, really, REALLY want is cake.  I know I sound like a five year old, but when I’m stressed the only thing that I want, besides my mother and reassurance that everything will be okay, is a big slice of cake.

For many (obvious) reasons I’m not making any cakes as of late. First off, there haven’t been any birthdays and I know from experience (delicious-stomach-ache-experience) that I cannot be trusted with a cake in the fridge.  Also, cakes take a long time.  You know what I don’t have?  Time.  Or flour, actually.  I really need to go to the store.  So, I’m just going to post pictures of cake and pretend that I’m eating it.  That’s totally normal right?

Okay, maybe not so much.

I made this cake for my birthday this summer and it is probably the best that I’ve made.  It’s not overly sweet and the texture of the cake is perfectly dense with just enough spring to it.  If I didn’t have a ban on repeating baked goods, I’d make this for every.single.birthday.

Cannoli Cream Cake

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2-3/4 cups flour
2-1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tbs vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients:
1 carton (16 oz) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Frosting Ingredients:
2 cartons (8 oz each) Mascarpone cheese
1-1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (depends on the thickness of frosting)
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.  Beat in the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides.  Stir in the extract.

Alternate the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat until incorporated.  Pour the batter evenly between three prepared cake pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely on a wire wrack.

For the filling, combine all ingredients in a mixer, except for the chocolate chips, and mix until combined.  Spoon 1/3 cup of the filling onto the first layer of the cake.  

Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Repeat on the next layer, spreading the filling and sprinkling with the chocolate chips.  On the top layer, spread the filling but leave a one inch border around the edge of the cake.

For the frosting, combine all ingredients in a mixer, except for the chocolate chips, and mix until combined.  Frost the sides of the cake and the remaining one inch border on the top of the cake.  When finished, press chocolate chips to the sides of the cake and the one inch border.  It works on the sides best to sprinkle them from the top, using the palm of your hands to press them gently into the cake.  Leave the extra sprinkles at the bottom for decoration.

Source:  Cake and Filling/Frosting

TV Love aka Why I Have Unrealistic Expectations of the Opposite Sex

Let’s be honest, television and movies have ruined us.  It’s true.  Whether it’s through sucking up all of our time or having us futilely wait for someone to stand on top of a kissing booth and profess their love for us, television and movies are a bad influence.

Seth Cohen, why don’t you actually exist?!

We watch these movies or shows with over-the-top romantic gestures and action, and then we expect our own lives to shadow that in some way.  This of course can’t happen because us normal folks don’t have writers dictating every word of our perfectly crafted speeches or directors guiding our daily life.  This is particularly true when it comes to the opposite sex.  I can’t tell you how many times the guys that I’ve met have fallen short of the vision I have set in my mind.  This vision, like it or not, is constantly adapted and molded by the impossibly perfect relationships I’ve seen play out on television.  The starting point was Alias.

Alias – Sydney & Vaughn

This pairing – my first TV love! – is a double agent and her CIA handler.  Talk about an unattainable relationship.  Their life together is fraught with intrigue, drama and a lot of wigs.

Basically, what I took from this is that your man should be all sorts of brave, put his life on the line for you and wear a suit.  Also, you should fight crime together while using questionable accents.  Needless to say, no boys when I was in junior high lived up to this.  I don’t even think any of the guys I know now would.

Gilmore Girls – Rory & Logan

There are so many pairings that I took to heart in Gilmore Girls, but the one between Rory and Logan is the one that has stuck with me the most.  They meet during college and despite a rocky start become what I believe is one of the most realistic and enduring relationships for Rory.

They also do awesome things like dress in formal wear and bungee jump off of scaffoldings with umbrellas.

During college, I was convinced that I was going to meet a Logan Huntzberger.  I mean, I was a cool brunette.  I was even a journalism major for a year or so.  I thought I’d meet a cool guy at college and we’d flirt for a few weeks before slipping into something in between, and then we’d date, it’d become Facebook official, and we’d live happily ever after (or at least until graduation).  I didn’t anticipate the general douche-baggery of college guys or the unfortunate reality that the majority of the men at Loyola bat for a different team.

Dawson’s Creek – Joey & Pacey

This one kills me guys.  It KILLS me.  The sad fact is that no guy can be as effortlessly charming as Pacey Witter.  I dare you to show me one guy who can go up against Capeside’s resident charmer.  Just show me one!  Basically, what the Joey-Pacey-ship has done to me is make me convinced that it can’t be true love if the guy doesn’t buy me a wall and write something super romantic on it.

I mean, how else am I supposed to know that you really care about me and want me to pursue my dreams AND be with you forever?  I ask you, how?!

Parks and Recreation – Ben & Leslie

This couple is actually the worst.  Leslie is this person who’s always sort of been overlooked in comparison to the “beautiful tropical fish” Ann Perkins, but then Ben comes along and sees what everyone else was missing.  See what I mean about it being the worst?  Separate these characters were endearing and likable, but together they are do-not-talk-to-me-during-their-scenes amazing.  I’d also like to note that it took me three tries to spell “likable”.  That is what this couple does to me.

When it come to TV couples, this one is actually probably not a half-bad one to aspire to be.  They’re not spies.  They’re not Capeside teenagers.  They’re real people doing real things that happened to bring them together.  And by real people, I mean people that other people created to entertain all of us.  And entertaining they are.

Who are your favorite TV couples?  Do you feel like they’ve given you unattainable expectations?

What I’ve Learned About Law School Softball

What have I learned about law school softball?

I don’t actually like playing.

Now, I know you’re going to read this and go, “Well, then why are you on the team, dummy?”

First off, that use of “dummy” was completely uncalled for and second, that is a very good question.  Why am I on the team?  Because law school softball is an institution.  It’s one of those things that is innately College of Law, and you sort of fell left out not doing.  I vividly remember my neighbor who went here before me talking about it repeatedly and how great it was.  Plus, you get snazzy t-shirts.  And if you didn’t know this about me, well, I will do just about anything for a t-shirt.

I didn’t mind it last season because we had too many people to play, so I just sat in the dug-out with my one teammate’s fiancé and gabbed it up.  I also would hand out baked goods to everyone when they came back from the field.  It was basically an hour of gossiping, eating, and talking about the relative attractiveness of the other team.  Now, I have to actually stand in the field and get constantly yelled at by our captain for not paying attention.

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It’s not always bad, though.

I had an admittedly good play on Thursday with a touch of my usual ridiculousness.  I got on a base and through subsequent plays ended up running to home.  For someone who has never even gotten close to home base, it was pretty exciting.

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home base, here I come!!!!!!!

So, I touch what I think is the base and everyone is yelling me for me  to “Touch home!”.  So, I go back and plant my foot on the same thing.  Finally our captain yells, “No, Liz!  You need to touch home!  TOUCH HOME!”

To which I reply:  “WHERE THE F*** IS HOME?!”

Turns out I was touching the thingie that you bat off of, not home plate, which I had ZERO clue about.  The umpire came to my aid and everyone laughed – including me – as I finally touched home and ran back to the dugout.  Despite my awesome play (it was totally awesome) my captain is benching me for our Sunday game.

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I’m not complaining.

Guest Post: Cooking Methods with (Future) Chef Christy

Hello, marshmallows!  I have a very special surprise for all of you today.  My friend Christy is currently studying to be a chef at Kendall College and she agreed to share some pro tips with the rest of us home cooks.  How awesome is that?  It’ll be a nice change from my usual, “Cook the meat.  Plop it on a plate.  Now eat.”

Christy is pretty much a culinary rockstar.  She received The International Wine & Food Grant (don’t know what that is but it sounds fancy!) and interned at a local research and development company called Charlie Baggs, Inc.  On top of all of that awesomeness, she’s a blogger, too!  Check out recipes and other delicious things over at Simply Plated.

Before we dive into the post, though, I want to tell you all a little about how I met Christy.  We both did speech in high school (nerd alert!) and we went to the same speech camp.  For those of you who weren’t lucky enough (i.e.  nerdy enough) to attend speech camp, it’s basically like any other summer camp you can think of but SO MUCH BETTER.  Christy and I were prose kids, meaning we had an even better time because our coaches taught us a dance routine to Rihanna’s Umbrella that we performed for the entire group at the end-of-camp-dance.

As one of our coaches said, “Your parents are paying a lot of money for us to teach you how to dance!”

Ah, such great memories.  Anyway, now that I got that long and mostly unnecessary story out of the way, let’s get to the real “meat” of this post.  Ha, see what I did there?  Yeah?  Okay, I’ll stop talking now.

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Hi everyone!  My name’s Christy Gaylord and I’m finishing up my culinary arts degree at Kendall College in Chicago.

When you first start culinary school, it’s almost like boot camp. Intense knife drills, breaking your bad habits, 8-cutting chickens, fabricating fish, making giant steam kettles full of different kinds of stock, etc. But one of the first major lessons is how to stop relying on recipes. Instead, you learn ratios, methods, techniques.
You learn to look at all of the ingredients you have on hand, and apply the proper cooking method; rather than looking at a recipe and gather or buy new things. Waste is a terrible sin in the kitchen. Everything can and should be used. Reversing the recipe process makes it easier to use up every last product you have in your refrigerator and makes you a more productive cook. This makes for a profitable restaurant, but you use these techniques to save money in your home kitchen.
During your first quarter at Kendall College, you take a class called “Cooking Methods.” It’s a 10-day crash course in deep frying, roasting/baking, sauteing, sweating, pan-frying, braising, stewing, shallow and deep poaching, vegetable cookery and preservation. This way, you know how to perfectly execute each technique, within time it becomes second nature.
Cooking methods are divided into three main categories based on the type of heat used: wet, dry and combination.
KITCHEN101-COOKINGMETHODS-SLATE
Wet cooking methods include stewing, shallow and deep poaching, any cooking method where the product is completely submerged in liquid. Foods that benefit from wet cooking methods are tougher cuts of meat that need low and slow heat sources to tenderize.
Dry cooking methods include, roasting/baking, sauteing, sweating, and believe it or not, frying is considered a dry cooking method. Cuts of meat that are cooked using dry methods are already naturally tender. They don’t need a long cooking time and in fact and dry out over a long period of time.
Combination cooking methods like braising include both searing and simmering the product for a long time partially submerged in cooking liquid. These pieces of meat are slightly more tender than a piece of meat you’d want to stew, but still have connective tissues that need time to break down. If you cook a piece of meat properly, and slice it against the grain, you’ll end up with a tender cut every time.
After you learn the cuts of meat and the cooking method they require, store bought tenderizing become obsolete.
Store bought tenderizers contain “papain” which is an enzyme that’s found in unripe papaya and pineapple, it also has the uncanny ability to break down meat until it looks like dog food. Besides being pointless and disgusting, people can also develop some serious allergies to this enzyme—especially if you’re sensitive to latex.
You also learn a lot about the anatomy of animals. How they move dictates which muscles are worked more and therefore tougher. This why you can’t throw a beef shank in a pan and have it turn out tender.
I drew you a cow (another thing I learned how to do in culinary school):
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1- Chuck-Dry
2- Rib-Dry
3- Short Loin- Dry
4- Tenderloin-Dry
5- Sirloin- Dry
6- Top Sirloin-Dry
7- Bottom Sirloin-Dry
8-Round-Combination
9-Brisket-Moist
10-Plate-Moist
11-Flank- Dry
12-Shank-Moist
Once you learn how each cut of meat needs to end up tender, you can purchase meat with confidence knowing that you know exactly what to do with it to make it delicious!