Crepes make delicious snacks

Gluten-free bread is expensive, and flavor is always kind of a crapshoot. It’s never really going to taste exactly like bread and different flours taste different. I like the bread I make from scratch.

But here’s the thing: making bread from scratch takes forever. Even (especially?) gluten-free bread. I’ve got a good recipe – that’s another post though.

So a couple of weekends ago, I was craving peanut butter. Normally, I’ll cut up an apple or cut a celery stalk and have some peanut butter. That was not going to work this time, because it turns out that I was craving a peanut butter sandwich. And of course – no bread in the house. (There’s almost never GF bread in the house.) Peanut butter tastes terrible on corn tortillas – don’t try it, just trust me – and so what to do?

The answer, my friends, is crepes. Crepes are quick to make, quick to cook, easy to eat (I had one with peanut butter while I was finishing cooking the batch, thus sating my craving), and then you have extra crepes around! At least for a bit until everyone else eats them. They go fast.

Gluten-Free Crepes

5.5oz ATK GF flour blend
1.5t sugar
0.25t salt
1.5c milk (the recipe calls for whole, we never have whole in the house, 1% works fine)
2 large eggs
2T unsalted butter, melted & cooled

Start heating a 10″ nonstick skillet over medium heat. We actually have a crepe pan, so if you have one, please use it instead. A skillet is a fine substitute and not having a crepe pan should not stop you.

Whisk the dry ingredients (which includes the sugar this time!) into a medium bowl. Mix the wet ingredients into another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, whisk until all the lumps are gone.**

Once the pan is heated, pour about 0.25c of batter into the pan and swirl to get a thin, even layer of batter. (This is easily the hardest part of making crepes, and your first crepe is often kind of a mess. It’s ok, even if it looks bad, it makes a nice snack while you’re cooking the rest of them.)

Cook the crepe without moving until the edges are brown (about a minute). Gently slide a spatula around and under the crepe, loosening and then trying to flip. Cook until second side is lightly spotted – only about 30 seconds or so. Then transfer to a waiting plate. Repeat until your batter is done, placing one crepe on top of another.

This is the crepe recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s How to Be Gluten-Free, which is a cookbook I HIGHLY recommend if you’re a gluten-free person like myself.

** Aside: I often mix the wet ingredients together in to a 4c pyrex measuring cup and then put the dry into the wet, to make the batter easier to pour into the pan.

Sometimes books aren’t what you want them to be

I added The Glass Universe to my Amazon wishlist in a fit of feminist fury after the 2016 election. I, I thought to myself, am only going to review books by and about women! I have not stuck to this – my interests are too wide ranging – but I find myself skewing more towards books by and about women.

Alas, I wish I liked this book better. I wanted it to be about the challenges that women interested in astronomy faced, or to take a step back and talk about the larger picture of how they fit into the whole field. Instead, it was a very dry “first this happened. then that happened.” Maybe the larger picture got addressed later in the book? I didn’t make it far enough to find out.

Not recommended.

Ignoring the feminine

Mary Beard is, of course, a well-know classicist, and it’s a personal life mission of mine to read all of her books. Even the dry academic ones – they’re quite interesting, if you’re curious about life in the Ancient Roman or Greek worlds. This is not one of those.

Women & Power is a very slight book – less than 100 pages – that is basically a transcript of two speeches she gave about just how deep silencing women goes in Western culture. Spoiler alert: the first example of silencing a woman in a written text is the Odyssey, which is possibly the oldest written text there is.

There are examples of powerful women in ancient texts, but these women are never portrayed as positive role models – think of Medea and Medusa – and even Athena is problematic. The feminine is secondary to the masculine by default.

This was a quick but illustrative read. Definitely recommended.

It’s fine I guess?

I’ve been putting off writing this review because I’m not sure what to say about Norse Mythology. It’s…. fine? I neither especially loved or hated it. Thor is more of an idiot than in the Marvel movies and Loki is just as chaotic but less deliberately evil/angry. It’s short stories, and they were probably told around a campfire whilst drinking back in the year 1000. You can’t get too long of a story in that circumstance.

It’s a sold three stars: enjoyable, but I’d be surprised if I’ll remember it in six months.

A meditation on depression

The best way I can think of to describe The Magicians trilogy is that it’s a meditation on depression: the feeling of apartness; the struggle and the desire to feel normal, like a part of the group; coping by constantly working (if I’m just a little smarter/better/faster I’ll be fine!); coping by not doing anything (why bother if I’ll never fit in/be the best/whatever); coping by drinking.

A couple of characters are allowed to find their way out of their depression, one by finding his purpose in life, one after a serious trauma where she spent time interrogating her emotions and feelings. Mainly, though, it’s about how to live with depression and acceptance that it is what it is. That there will be times everything will be fine and there will be times when it all sucks and both are ok. Magic doesn’t automatically make everything better.

Or maybe this is just my reading too much into things. The trilogy takes place over ten years and there is a magical university and a Narnia-like land that certain magicians can travel to. There are magical animals and quests and all kinds of things. You might be able to read it on that level.

Would I recommend it? Maaaaaybe? Look, most people want fun adventure and this has some of that. But to like these books, I suspect you have to have a certain tolerance for the less-happy things in life. They’re not for everyone.

Magical adventures!

One of my favorite things about traveling is going to bookstores in different cities. Why? Because they feature different books; different people like different things, and a people in a different city will read different stories. That was how I found A Darker Shade of Magic.

The deal is: there are three Londons, Grey (ours and Lila’s), Red (Kell’s), White (Holland’s), and Black (no one talks about Black London). Only Lila, Kell, and Holland can move between them. There’s magic and romance and pirates/privateers and a crazy coat. Of COURSE Black London comes into play.

I don’t want to say more because these are glorious adventure novels and you shouldn’t know what’s going to happen next. I bought the first one, A Darker Shade of Magic, on vacation and then went to my local bookstore on our first day back to buy the next two, A Gathering of Shadows and A Conjuring of Light.*

Recommended, especially if you like some fun fantasy. And bonus: it’s a complete trilogy, so you won’t have to wait to read the whole story.

* Note: A Gathering of Shadows ends with a cliffhanger. You’ll want A Conjuring of Light around when you finish it.

Snack time: granola

One of my big life hacks, it seems, is “make a big batch of something and then eat it bit by bit!” Turns out you can do that with granola as well as soup. I make a batch on Sunday, and then it’s my work snack all week long.

3c rolled oats (Not instant. Instant bad.)
3T brown sugar
0.5t ground cinnamon
0.25t kosher salt

Mix these all together in a big bowl. Heat the oven to 300F.

0.33c honey
0.25c olive oil
1t vanilla

Whisk these ingredients together. I usually do it in a measuring cup, but a small bowl will work too. Pour into oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is well mixed.

Spread it all on a cookie sheet. Cook for 15 minutes, pull it out and stir. Put back in the oven for 5-15 minutes, until it’s golden brown.

Cool the granola on the sheet for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The granola hardens as it cools; also, if you don’t stir it the liquified sugars will cement the granola to your pan. Stirring. It’s important.

1c total various assorted add-ins: peanuts, dried fruit, seeds, tree nuts, whatever

I usually use peanuts, pepitas, and dark chocolate chips. (One-third cup of each, totaling 1 cup.) Put them in a super big bowl. Once the granola is dried, put that in the bowl and mix until well-blended. Store in an air-tight container.

Lady detectives are feminist

I had, perhaps a bit densely, never really thought about mystery novels primarily as books about working until I read Hardboiled & High Heeled. Mysteries had always been books about solving problems, about putting the world in order. That is, until this book pointed out that mysteries were the first stories to show women, working. Not as the love interest, nor primarily looking for a romantic partner. A woman, at work, solving problems.

It focuses mainly on three characters: Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs, Kinsey Millhone, and Kay Scarpetta. Each woman is competent, not interested in relationships (though interested in sex, as most people are), and the primary objective of each of these characters is solving the mystery in front of them before anyone else gets hurt.

Hardboiled & High Heeled is a bit academical, but still readable. If you’re interested in how women are portrayed when they want to read as competent and in charge, this is a good start.

It’s like a pasta-y stir fry

Because I am a working parent, quick dinners are a must. I’m a big fan of making a big pot of soup on the weekends and storing it in individual sized containers.

I’m also a big fan of stir-fries and pastas. This drunken noodle recipe is a bit of a hybrid. It’s an asian-style stir fry that uses rice noodles. Like any stir-fry, it requires some chopping, but it cooks quickly. It’s probably 45-ish minutes from pulling out the recipe to setting the serving dish on the table.

12oz rice noodles
12 oz chicken breast (the packages of chicken breast at our grocery store are 1lb, we just use the whole thing)
1T + 0.25c tamari or gluten-free soy sauce (or heck, if you’re not gluten-free, regular soy sauce is probably fine!)
0.75c packed brown sugar
0.33c lime juice (~3 limes if you’re juicing your own)
0.25c water
0.25c Asian chili-garlic sauce
0.25 c vegetable oil
0.5 head Napa cabbage, cut into 1″ pieces (~6c)
1.5c coarsely chopped cilantro
4 scallions, sliced thin

  1. Cover noodles in very hot tap water. Leave until pliable (~35 minutes, which, if you do this first and then chop the chicken & veggies, is conveniently about how long until you’ll need them again).
  2. Slice chicken breasts into strips 0.25″ thick. Toss with 1T tamari sauce.
  3. Whisk together remaining tamari/soy sauce, sugar, lime juice, water, chili-garlic sauce. Set aside.
  4. Heat 2T oil in 12″ nonstick skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook for ~3 minutes. The strips should be nearly cooked through. Transfer to clean bowl.
  5. Add 1T oil to skillet. Add cabbage and cook until spotty brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl with chicken.
  6. Wipe out skillet, add 3T oil, heat over medium-high heat. Add drained rice noodles and tamari mixture, tossing gently until sauce has thickened and noodles are tender. (This typically takes ~5 minutes, but the recipe claims it could take as long as 10. That’s never been my experience.) Add chicken-cabbage mixture and cilantro. Cook until chicken is warmed through. Sprinkle scallions & serve.

*Remember* your first job out of school

Startup is Doree Shafrir’s inaugural novel. It was written before the Me Too movement made its way into the national consciousness, but it describes a myriad of the ways sexism influences women’s workplaces and lives. To wit:

  • Sabrina, a formerly stay-at-home mother, getting back into the workforce and getting little to no support from her husband, Dan.
  • Katya, who works for Dan, doesn’t realize that her boss is flirting with her because she’s so heads down working harder than any other person in the book.
  • Isabel, Sabrina’s boss and younger than her, had a casual affair with the founder of the startup they both work at. Once Isabel is over it and the founder isn’t, she gets fired.

I worked at Amazon when it was coming out of its start-up mode in the late 90s and I can tell you that a lot of the ridiculousnesses that are described in the book rang true to me. Work parties that border on the inappropriate? Poorly thought-through inter-office relationships? A blind spot when it comes to work-life balance? Work attempting to become your life? It was lovely to see all of these things satirized in a novel full of rich characters.

Startup isn’t a great novel – it is a first one – but it is a light-hearted one that takes on some serious issues. I look forward to her next book.

Recommended.