Sunday Recipe: Banana bread that’s not terrible for you


This is an adaptation of my mother-in-law’s recipe, which, being the first banana bread I ever tasted, has shaped the way I think banana bread should taste. My then-boyfriend-now-husband would get care packages our freshman year in college, half-loaves of banana bread wrapped in tinfoil, ready to be slathered with butter. In retrospect, her recipe has way too much sugar, so I cut it in half. I also added another banana, a wee bit of salt and my go-to solution in making desserts healthier: whole wheat pastry flour. It’s not that it’s terribly good for your either, but it’s glycemic index value is somewhat lower, and more importantly, it has much more nutrients than white flour. Because it’s a pastry flour, it won’t weigh down your cake the way an ordinary whole grain would.

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup sugar
1tsp salt
1tsp baking soda

1/3 cup veggie oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup + 1tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
3 bananas

optional: walnuts, chocolate chips

Mix the dry ingredients (in the larger bowl; in the mixer bowl if using a stand mixer), in a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients by adding first the oil, beating the eggs in one at the time, then adding the buttermilk, mashed bananas and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix well.
Bake at 325°F for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until done (time calculated for sea level.)

Sunday recipe: simple thumbprint cookies

Simple and tasty; but let’s talk about the butter. This is a Swedish recipe, and in Sweden, the default butter is lightly salted, not unsalted. So either use 1/2 salted and 1/2 unsalted, or unsalted with a dash (2 shakes from shaker, I’d say) or table salt.

Makes about 2 sheets’ worth.

200g butter, room temperature
1 dl and 1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 dl AP flour
raspberry jam

Cream the sugar, vanilla and butter. Add the flour bit by bit until crumbly, then use your hands to press into a big ball. Form small balls, about the diameter of a quarter, and place on cookie sheet, at least an inch apart. Flatten the balls, then make an indent with your thumb, or better, knuckle, in each. Using a small spoon, drop jam onto each cookie. Bake at 350 F for 8-13 minutes depending on oven; the cookies shouldn’t brown. Undercooked cookies isn’t a disaster, they’re just a little crumblier and the jam isn’t firm.
Helpful hint: if you’re using less runny jam, remove the cookies from the oven after about half the baking time, poke the jam with a toothpick so that it forms a uniform pool, then put the cookies back and finish baking.

Sunday recipe: Multi-grain faux sourdough

multigrain bread cut on table

Better get it out of the way: his bread is super easy, but it takes a long time to make. There’s a minimum 6 hour paus in between steps 4 and 5.  But it is SO good. It’s a yeast bread, but gets a stronger, sourdoughesque taste profile from the long rest (and the additions of rye and flax.) My mom would make this bread when I was little – maybe once or twice a year. It was a big, unwieldy, recipe, so I have halved it (and I now make it once a week.) Partially because I had trouble getting it to stay tall in the full version, partially because it’s a heavy dough and my kitchenaid couldn’t knead it properly in its full size.

0.75 dl cracked wheat
0.75 dl cracked rye
0.75 dl wheat bran
0.75 dl flax (I mix whole flax and flax meal about 50%)
3dl boiling water
35 g (2 packages) fresh yeast
2.5 dl lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
1 dl cottage cheese
bread flour, about 6-9 dl

Day 1:
1. Mix the four first grains in a bowl.
2. Pour over the boiling water.
3. Cover and with a towel and let sit until around body temperature.
4. Crumble the yeast and mix in (if needed, borrow 1 dl of lukewarm water from the next step.)
Let sit overnight.

Day 2:
5. Mix in the water and cottage cheese (use small-curd and as high-fat as you can find; remember that this is the only fat in the bread, and it will be dry without it), add the salt along with the flour, which should be kneaded in bit by bit (about half a cup at a time) until the dough doesn’t stick very much to the bowl. If you are planning on letting it rest longer (1 hour+ per pause), make it slightly stickier than you would otherwise.
6. Rest in bowl for minimum 30 minutes, anywhere up to 2 hours.
7. Put into parchment-covered baking pan with tall edges, about 9×12 inches (-ish; slight variation is fine) , flatten out so that it’s even and filling the whole bottom of the pan. Prick with a fork a few times.
8. Rest for 30-40 minutes.
9. Bake for 20-30 minutes in the middle of a 435° oven, checking so that it doesn’t burn (our oven is slow and weak, it takes me 32 minutes, in our old oven it took 25, so…) Let cool.
10. Cut into two loaves, freeze if you won’t eat in the next day or two as it dried quickly.

Store in a plastic bag. Enjoy with butter and cheese, or half meatballs or lunch meats of whatever the hell you want. It’s delicious.

Sunday recipe: Faux-asian stew with quorn


In its original form, this recipe harkens back to my grandmother and the sixties, a time period when “exotic”, foreign recipes started making them way into Swedish cuisine. It’s not necessarily… authentic to any specific country or region (and also contain entirely non-asian items), and mixes things no sane person should mix, but I kind of love it. Possibly because I grew up with it. Originally made with pork; if for some reason you are a carnivore and want to use that, skip the soy sauce.

Vegetarian. Can me made ovo-vegatarian by not using cream, or replacing with coconut cream or cashew cream. Total cooking time: around an hour for one person in tiny kitchen. Can be cut down to about 35-40 minutes if there’s two of you, you’re multitasking, and have a decent-sized kitchen.

1 1/2 pkg quorn tenders
oil for frying
soy sauce
1 large leek (in coins)
a couple of cloves or garlic (finely chopped)
yellow curry powder
1 large carrot or 2 small (cut in coins)
1 apple (chopped)
2 cups of veggie broth
1 can of bamboo shoots
2 rings of pineapple (cut in small pieces)
1 banana (in coins)
black pepper
1 tbsb cream

In a large thick-bottomed pot, heat some oil and add about 1 tbsp of curry. Brown the (thawed) quorn pieces in the oil/spice. I find that olive is a bit too flavourful and not quite matching the rest of the dish, so I use canola. You can mix in some sesame too, if you have, but beware that you’ll use quite a bit of oil (there’s no natural fat in any of the other ingredients.) Drip in a bit of soy sauce, being careful not to overdo it; the broth will make it plenty salty.

Add the garlic, leek and cardamom, ginger and more curry to taste.


Fry for a couple of minutes, adding more oil if needed.

Then add carrots, bamboo shoots, and apple, fry for a bit.


Add the veggie broth (if you’re using cubes, just break them and add the water, then mix.)

Cover and let it putter for 20-ish minutes (if using meat, make that “until cooked through”, time depending on size of meat.)

Add pineapple and banana just before serving, pepper to taste, and a little bit of cream (I use half & half, mom used cooking cream, which is in between h&h and heavy cream.)  Serve with rice.


Sunday recipe: Blueberry banana muffins with flax and walnuts


I like muffins. In fact, I like blueberry muffins the best, and a few months ago I found this recipe for “to die for blueberry muffins”. And they really are – perhaps too literally; while very tasty, they’re also so sweet you’d have to limit yourself to one a week if you don’t want a complete sugar overload. What to do? Fix, of course.
I’ve adjusted the recipe to reduce sugar, add whole grains and fruit, and be more filling. As a result, the muffins are very little like the original product; they’re less fluffy, moister, but also more filling.
Please note: I have reduced the sugar, but not gotten rid of it entirely. I’ve also replaced with sugar with raw sugar, which has a sharper, almost salty tone to it.

Vegetarian. Can be made vegan with non-dairy milk and egg replacement.
Oven temp: 400F. Makes 12.

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour (or replace with 1 c AP and 1/2 c whole wheat)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c raw sugar
1/3 c flax meal

1 ripe banana
1/3 c milk
1/3 cup canola or other veggie oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

2 c blueberries
handful of walnut chunks

Line or grease a sheet or large muffin pans. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Mash the banana completely. In a smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients (this includes the banana), then quickly mix them into the dry ones. Fold in nuts and berries. Bake at 400F for 20-30 minutes, or until done.

Recipe post: Lemon creme fraiche ice cream

This was a rare treat when I was a kid; to the extent that we had ice cream at all, it was from the store. In fact, I didn’t even think of it as ice cream then, but as cake (as it’s round and eaten in wedges.) In mom’s recipe collection, it’s listed as “frozen creme fraiche cake.” I know she first made it for a joined 40th birthday party she had with a friend, which was before I was born, and it was only made at very special occasions. In fact, I think the last time I had it was when I made it myself, for the reception after my dad’s funeral in 2006. It is, nevetheless, the most delicious thing ever, even though a stupid pesky illness is preventing me from having lemony things (I suppose I could have a little but, but me and creme fraiche cake has never been about moderation.)

(note: this recipe contains raw eggs. Since as far as I know, salmonella prevention is much better in Sweden than in the US, I would use caution in my choice of eggs.)

You will need:
A springform pan
Some sort of cracker-crushing implement; I use a mortal and pestle, but anything goes
1 biggish bowl
2 mediumish bowls
a standmixer or handheld mixer
a zester
some sort of citrus juicing equipment
a freezer with flat space available
aluminum foil

2 eggs (whites and yokes will be separated)
1 1/2 dl (0.63 cups) whipping cream
1 dl (0.42 cups) sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar or if you’re nowhere near a Scand store, 1/2 tsp powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1 lemon
2dl (0.84 cups) creme fraiche
4 crackers (preferably McVities Digestive, but graham crackers work fine too)

Here’s how we do it:
Separate eggs and yokes; the yokes go in the big bowl, the whites go in a (very clean!) medium.
Whip the whites in the first medium bowl until they are very hard, you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without them moving. Then whip the cream in the third bowl.

Zest and juice the lemon. On low, or with a spoon, mix the yokes with sugar, vanilla, the zest and juice, and creme fraiche. Fold the eggwhites and cream into the yoke and sugar mix. Mix well, but gently.

Crush all four crackers, and spread half of the crumbs evenly  in the bottom of the pan. Pour the batter over, then sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top. Cover with foil and freeze for at least four hours, perhaps letting it that for a few minutes prior to serving (I prefer it frozen solid, but there you go.)


Mio and Harry and why are these two never compared again?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie poster and Mio My Son book coverEvery now and then, obviously more often around the time of a release of a new part of the Harry Potter franchise, articles will pop up comparing Rowling’s series to other, earlier works. Sometimes this is in relation to other authors trying to sue her for some of her significant fortune, sometimes it’s an effort to get people (kids?) to keep reading,  and sometimes, well, it fills space, doesn’t it? And it’s about Harry Potter, a topic that doesn’t quite seem to go stale (I mean, look, I am blogging about it.) Io9 featured a list a few weeks ago, neatly dismissing most claims as simply products of the same mythological and literary context, but in my opinion, one important item , which seems obvious to me, is always missing: Mio, My Son.

Mio, My Son (Mio min Mio) was released in Sweden in 1954 (in English a few years later ) and was written by Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), in the US probably most known for her book about Pippi Longstockings. In Sweden she is probably the most well-beloved children’s author there is, and among her other famous works are the stories about the children of Noisy Village, Emil, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, and The Brothers Lionheart.  Mio, My Son a story about a young boy without a family who finds that he has a special heritage and learns to overcome evil —

— but let’s face it, that’s more than 90% of kids’ fantasy lit. The thing about Mio is the many exact parallels it shares with especially the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Mio in the book is first known as Bo (Bosse) Vilhelm Olsson, the adopted son of a couple of Stockholm in the fifties. Now, he refers to his adopted parents as “aunt” and “uncle”, and they make it perfectly clear that they’re not fond of him at all – they would have preferred a clean and well-behaved girl, not a playful boy who tracks in dirt and makes noise. Bo is envious of his friend who have a kind family. His own mother died giving birth to him, and his father is unknown (the aunt is dismissive of the father, saying he was probably “some tramp”.)  As it turns out, the father is in fact alive, the king of Faraway Land, and in the first chapters of the book he finally finds his son, his Mio, with the help of a greengrocer and a somewhat clumsy genie. Mio gets to meet his father, he gets to live in a castle, own a horse and build model airplanes with his dad after dinner, like he always longed to.

… and then things get shifty. It turns out the evil Sir Kato has been kidnapping children, that there is a prophecy that only Mio can defeat him, and Mio and his friend – who knows more about Faraway Land than Mio does and frequently have to explain how things work to him. Using among other items an invisibility cloak, Mio sets about his task… I am not going to give you more details, because the book is absolutely amazing and you should all read it if you haven’t already. I will go as far as saying that it’s far superior to any HP, but also a very different sort of book, But let’s go over the similarities and see if they’re strong (sort of unique) or weak (very common)

– Orphaned boy (weak)
– Lives with “aunt” and “uncle” who mistreats him. (strong)
– Finds out his true heritage and parentage (weak)
– Best friend who knows the world and history and navigates it for him (strong)
– A friend’s sibling is in danger (strong)
– Evil overlord actually has fake-noble title (weak)
– The uttering of Evil overlord’s very name inspires fear and danger as well has having actual conseqences (medium)
– Prophecy of Doom turns out to be about our protagonist (weak)
– Chief tool is invisibility cloak (strong)
– Evil overlord has significant feature that separates him from true humanity, both physically and emotionally (medium?)

Now, 5 1/2 isn’t a ton, but that’s a lot more than some of the books I’ve seen listed share with HP. And I am not claiming Rowling ripped off anything, but it’s fairly obvious that she’s been inspired by it. So there.

(as an interesting footnote, a movie was made in the eighties in which a very young, very adorable Christian Bale played Mio’s friend Jum-Jum and Christopher Lee played Sir Kato.)

Anger-induced aneurysms in my life

Please note: this is a translation repost of an entry from my Swedish blog. If the feel of the text seems somewhat off, it’s because I didn’t originally write it in English. Oh, and it’s from back in August, when the ad was just released.)

I wrote about racism against the roma a few weeks ago. About deportations, about molotov cocktails used against three-year-olds, about prejudice accepted by society. Today there’s more material in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, but I don’t have the energy to read it, don’t have the strength to cry while at work.

But I hadn’t thought of ONE thing the roma are good enough for in Western society: exotification, preferably with hypersexual characteristics. “Gyspy” comes to mean passionate, alien, wild, beautiful… basically your standard Wednesday afternoon orientalism. Sweeping skirts, dark hair and firelight are used as signifiers of Otherness and Availability (which in itself a part of the same phenomenon that narrates African-American women in a sexualized manner, an extension of their previous position as sexual pray within the legalizing context of slavery.) You get it. You’d think we’ve got further than that in 2010, but culture fucks you right back in your place. The makeup brand Illamasqua released their fall collection The Art of Darkness in September, and one of the looks is called “Queen of the Gypsies.”



WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. This is what the official image looks like, if you don’t have the energy or inclination, I can inform you that is  a somewhat dark-skinned woman with long black hair and silver highlights. She is wearing a red bikiniesque top and a semitransparent red and blue skirt. She’s also wearing golden earrings, many golden necklaces and at least one anklet. Her upper arm is sporting either a tattoo or a tight bracelet. The only light in the picture seems to come from a candelabra behind her. The look is marketed with the following text: “No one can resist the Queen of the Gypsyies. This alluring temptress, famed for her seductive veiled dancing, knows how to use her art to get what she wants…”

I can’t, a the moment of writing, think of any way I could be more disgusted by this. Exotification is gross enough on its own, any woman of color could tell you that, but imagine  the above text being about a nationality, say, Japanese women. It wouldn’t be any better, but there had been a number of organizations, Japanese and non-Japanese, who has put their foot down, but some pressure on Illamasqua, made sure this was talked about. Right now, there’s just silence. The particular exposed situation of the roma population makes this campaign a little bit more cowardly, a little stupider, a little bit more disgusting.

(on a sidenote, the werewolf-styled ad also trivializes rape. Nice one, Illamasqua. I’m on a lifetime boycot, btw.)

Better on Second Glance, or Why Ariadne Wins at Everything

Now, to begin with, we should note that this entry contains plot spoilers for Inception. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read beyond this point.

So. Ariadne.

The first time I saw Inception (and yes, there have been several), I was a little disappointed. It occurred to me that apart from Cobb, any character of the team could have just as easily been female. And they weren’t. With the exception of Ariadne, it’s a boys’ club, and it wasn’t until I read Sister Magpie’s entry (link pending on approval from her) on fandom’s reaction to the movie and to Ariadne that I really begun to love her as a character. See, as magpie writes, Ariadne and Arthur may well have been gender-switched*, and had they been, their respective relationships to Cobb has been much more stereotypical.

Perhaps more important, Nolan could just as easily have made it an all-boys-club; it wouldn’t have been unusual for a summer action movie, and Nolan’s women tend to be more like Mal – ethereal, glamorous and dead – anyway. Ariadne didn’t have to be a woman, but she is, and I am happy she is, in her own resourceful, opinionated, intelligent, feeling way.

New Yorker columnist Emma Rosenblum pities Ellen Page for having to wear the “rags” that are Ariadne’s outfits, and I go “uhh, what, now?” I don’t know what Ms Rosenblum normally wears when running around in action dreams, but I was personally very relieved to see a female character in sensible clothing. Men’s glam clothes are pretty practical; they’re usually just more fitted, expensive versions of daily wear. But women’s dressed-up, the stuff Marion Cotillard’s Mal wears, is highly unpractical. Your fall in heels, you can’t run in dresses. I love that Ariadne wears pants she can run in, t-shirts and cardigans, and that she doesn’t need to flash her curves in every single scene. Rosenblum calls it asexual (although desexualized might be a better term), I call it realistic. It’s relieving to have a female lead who does shit instead of smooches her hero boyfriend, and who wears clothes she can accomplish things in. Speaking of desexualized, by the way, didn’t Arthur steal a kiss? And didn’t Ariadne seem to like it, in a darling, smug sort of way?

The real problem with Ariadne is that she is a kind of  audience surrogate; through her ignorance, we are given answers about what is going on. A lot of the time, her dialogue is pure exposition. Now, I admit to loving exposition like I love ice cream, but with a lesser actress, it would undoubtedly have become boring, or at least tiringly transparent after a while. Not with Page. She does a great job of making her lines sound authentic. I believe her, all the way through.

And look at her. Not only is Ariadne a star student at what appears to be a prestigious Paris school, she supposedly a better Architect and maze-maker than Cobb was, she immediately calls him on his shit in a way Arthur never has. She has skills and a fetching personality, and Arthur seems to like her from the start. She is the only person in the team to question the morality of inception, and when Cobb gives up, she’s the one who takes command and makes sure they all get out alive. It pretty much doesn’t get more kick-ass than that.

Star Trek and Thoughts and Women (and refrigerators. Unfortunately.)

Note: this text is a little long for me, and very very rambly. It has been crossposted from my private private blog, and I am less strict with my writing there. Apologies.

Star Trek. In some ways, it becomes necessary for me to see it from three points of view: as a (sci-fi) movie among others, as Star Trek, and from a feminist point of view.

As a movie? It rocked. I am so weak for space, for things blowing up, for goodlooking fights and grunge-and-smoothness mixed up, love it. That being said, it was a bit… I am not sure choppy is the right word, but around the beginning and the end, it felt like they were trying to squeeze in more things than there was room for, and the narration suffered for it. Explain red matter? (of course not, mister Abrams) Show, not tell, Spock Prime’ story? Perhaps narrate Kirk’s personal background a little better than that inane wee!Kirk’s car scene? Ten more minutes could have given a lot.) Still a lovely, beautiful, otherwise well paced and terribly captivating story about a bunch of very interesting individuals. I could certainly be seen non-Trekkies who are open to scifi (do they exist?) like it, although the space element the time travels element obviously would scare off the rest. I would love the make my mother watch this on DVD, but then I would be annoying as hell to hear her commentary.

And as Trek? I honestly only have one complaint: explanation. I know people have had opinions about the “feel”; i.e. smoothness, effects/location, the changed transporter look… essentially everything that didn’t look just like TOS and the movies, and I honestly can’t care. It worked. Granted, I haven’t watched TOS in a few years, but it seemed obvious from the start that Abrams was going to try to catch a non-trekkie audience, and I think he managed to make it general enough without playing too fast and loose with the source material. It looked good. It felt good. It felt mostly Trek, with one exception: explain to me what is going on! Give me made up technobabble to explain things that couldn’t possibly work! My coworker Joe had opinions about both the Red Matter and the ejecting-the-antimatter scenario, arguing that an explosions couldn’t provide anything else than thrust, and thus couldn’t possibly outwarp warp. I argue that an uncontrolled antimatter explosion could very well warp space time more effectively than an engine, but that’s not the point. The point is: tell me how. Trek is the goddamned poster child for Science Fiction as the Idea that the World Can Be Understood; tell me how it works, even though the laws of proper physics don’t apply. It just need to follow its own laws. This, mister Abrams, is no time to be mystical, much as I know you love it. Trek is a lot of things, but mysticism was never a part of it.

Oh, also? the water scene? Loved it but it wasn’t Trek. Skip Scotty’s sidekick, save time for narration.

As for the casting… I was unspoiled, but because I mind spoilers (I don’t, I relish in them), but because I hadn’t realized how soon the movie was coming. I knew exactly this: some dude from Heroes (that I had never, at that point, watched) was playing Spock, and this made a lot of people upset, and Simon Pegg was playing Scotty, which made Lucas (my SO) really happy and excited. I was honestly half-thrown out of my seat when I realized Karl Urban was Bones (obviously, as long as there are geeks of any kind, he’ll never have to worry about getting laid Ever Again), but the summary can pretty much be I loved [x] as [y]. Seriously. Zachary Quinto was spot on as a almost-but-not-quite-solidified-Spock, and I actually didn’t want to strangle Chris Pine’s Kirk (unlike Shatner’s) (mainly because other people did it for me, perhaps? Can we rename this movie “James T. Kirk hangs off ledges and gets strangled a lot“?) or perhaps because he was more fucked up, got sat on more. I liked it.
But the feeling was there. The optimism, the thrill, the grandness and good fun combined. And the chemistries, even when not yet fully evolved to series levels; I can see how this universe came to be the one to result in slash (I am not ignoring Spock/Uhura, I am just assuming it will peter out slowly. So there.) “subverting our cultural icons with complete disregard for decency and the law” indeed. Love it. Maybe I’ll go download Amok Time now.

But. How about the feminist perspective?
Okay, let’s just say that the problems there can come from two directions: from the original, and from the new writers. Some things that irked feminist reviewers are the very reasons I don’t watch TOS; the uniforms, the lack of female officers. I honestly think the writers did what they could there; switching out more would have fucked with the fans too much. Uhura was given a personalty and a reason to be on the bridge other than that of a glorified secretary. They could have done a genderswitch a la BSG, but that wouldn’t have gone over well, plus messed with the time-travel idea. Still, I would have loved to see Uhura actually throw a couple of good punches in the bar brawl; I don’t particularly care who she’d hit.
But… the underwear scenes? The two cases of refrigeration? (from “the woman in the refrigerator”; killing off a female character for the sole reason of eliciting a reaction from a male character; in this case Amanda Grayson and Nero’s unnamed pregnant dead wife.) The fact that Winona Ryder six years older than Quinto and plays his mother? Rotten, you guys. Why not bother with giving Amanda a personality, or bother having her say something insightful about the value of emotions other than “yadayada I’m so proud of you always yadayada”? Why not bother showing Kirk’s mother doing something else in life in giving birth to him? Supposedly she’s an officer in this universe, why not give her a title and a throwaway reference from Pike? If Romulans had female military, why not female miners? I know it’s based in a rotten sort of time period, but the revamp people made it worse in some respects, and that bothers me.

That’s all I can think of right now.

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