From the Kitchen and Back Room – Did she really make fresh bao? (and beer and wine?)

bao 012113Being a foodie, I love to try new things. Husband and I have been talking about going on vacation to a city with a good selection of dim sum restaurants.  Being a Firefly fan, I like to try things I see on that dearly departed show.  Now, I’ve a lot of experience with fresh strawberries and “fresh” wine (albeit not from Caylee’s inter-engine fermentation system. For Vel’s fermentation system, see recipe below), but not so much with creating anything but a stir-fry from the Orient.  So, being bored and having some pulled pork in the freezer from a recent meal (this recipe here; very tasty), I decided that making bao could be entertaining. Understand that I’ve never had bao before so we’re working with expectations created by the interwebs.

The recipe for the bao dough comes from here.  The dough is amazingly cooperative, and is not the usual tarbaby I work with.  I cut the dough into the pieces indicated on the blog entry and rolled them out with my regular sized rolling pin, thinning out the edges with my fingers. For the filling, I took my pulled pork, moistened it with hoisin sauce, tamarind concentrate and a squirt of sriracha.  Sorry, no strict amounts, just make it moist. The pork is cooked so you can taste as you go.  Warning, if the filling is too moist, it’ll simply squirt everywhere when you go to seal up the bao.

Note:  (added a bit later on 1/21)  I used my old metal steamer, the one that looks like a radar dish when spread out.  I put it in a large pot (the stewpot from a standard set) so it was mostly flat.  I then put a sheet of baking parchment paper under each bao.  Worked like a charm.  But watch, the “radar dish” likes to tip, so put the bao on across from each other to balance.

Now for the results, they are very, very good. At least, I think so again with nothing to compare it to.  The steaming leaves a lacquered shine on the bao, and the dough becomes slightly chewy, but still spongy and fluffy.  The flavor of the dough is very clean and fresh, and I think that’s because it has no salt in it.  Most folks from the western cultures aren’t used to having no salt in their bread-type products.  As the Stresscake blog entry says, they keep nicely in the freezer.  They also microwave well after cooked, if nuked for about 10 seconds.  They worked so well, I am definitely getting the cookbook they came from: Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen.

This weekend we’ve also made another Brewer’s Best kit, Belgian Golden Ale.  Don’t see it on their website anymore, so I don’t know if they may have ceased production of it.  There will be a post about it when it finishes up.

And now for Vel’s “fresh” wine.  I had thought I had posted about this, but the search function on the blog isn’t bringing it up.  For quick and dirty “fresh” wine, use grape juice that has no preservatives; frozen is your best bet.  We use Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast since it’s damn near impossible to kill.  Basic recipe is below.  We don’t bother using the acid blend, pectic enzyme or yeast nutrient.  Juice, water, yeast and sugar will get you on your way.  You’ll need a fermentation lock and a gallon jug.  I *much* prefer the three piece which you can see here (no association with merchant, they just have a great picture of the things.)

2 cans (11.5 oz) 100% frozen grape concentrate (check label for no preservatives)
1-1/4 lbs granulated sugar
2 tsp acid blend
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1 tsp yeast nutrient
water to make 1 gallon
wine yeast

Bring 1 quart water to boil and dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add frozen concentrate. Add additional water to make one gallon and pour into jug. Add remaining ingredients. Fit airlock. When clear, rack (pour or siphon off what’s clear into another bottle), top up and refit airlock. After additional 30 days, stabilize (Campden tablets are a preservative and are found at home brewing places) sweeten if desired and rack into bottles. My suggestion is just be ready to drink it.  It’s fresh, you know.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Judaism and Jainism

Morality_vs_religionAs promised, here is the post about the rabbi and the Jain. Since a lot of Christians want to claim that atheists “never ever” talk about other religions, I thought I’d remedy that.  

In the same newspaper that had Billy Graham’s question/answer column, there was a God Squad column.  At one point, the Squad was Marc Gellman, the rabbi and Monsignor Tom Hartman.  It seems that the monsignor has Parkinson’s Disease now and no longer participates.  I’ve always found such a pairing to be innately odd.  At the base of things, each religion says that the other is wrong and the followers will be damned.  To Jews, Jesus is a false messiah; to Christians, Jews have missed the boat.  Being friends with someone you are convinced deserves to be damned seems well, a little unfriendly.  In this article, Gellman said that they didn’t talk much about Jesus but decided that they were “ethically” the same.  More reason to know that religion does little to make people good and its just more nonsense used to create external validation for one’s very human opinions, good or bad.   

But onto the columnJainism (and here Jainism) is a religion based on asceticism and non-violence.  To that end, they are vegetarians and some wear masks and sweep before their feet to not harm any bugs, etc. They also appear to accept violence done in self-defense. They are also to consider views and beliefs of others as other ways of seeing the “truth”.  The column’s question is in regards to the Newtown murders.  The Jain makes the argument that the Judeo-Christian religion teaches that violence is good, and quotes Genesis 9, where God says that he has given the entire world to humans, and everything will fear them.  It also says that every critter can be eaten, but you should bleed out anything you eat, that capital punishment is peachy-keen with this god, and also has where Noah curses, not his son for “seeing him naked” which may mean sleeping with Mrs. Noah, but his grandson who had nothing to do with it. The Jain claims the right morality is his, that if one is taught that killing animals is okay, then “troubled, alienated, young adults” will think that killing children is okay too.  Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Judaism and Jainism”

What the Boss Likes – Un-named White House employee who wrote reply to Death Star Petition

To you, un-named employee who wrote the reply for the Death Star petition,

You are AWESOME!  Obama is pretty cool too, alway great to have a presidential nerd.

Read the wonderfully nerdy, well-informed and funny response to the petition here

Favorite part?

Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

And let me guess, the religious wingnuts will now be sure that Obama is a Jedi, not a Christian.  😀

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Even the professionals have little to work with

crossedIn the discussions with various theists that I’ve been having, I’ve seen the argument from authority, which claims if someone is “smart” and believes in “x”, then that makes “x” true.  This is similar to another common claim by theists called “Sophisticated Theologytm” (I think Dr. Coyne over on Why Evolution is True might have coined this term, but not sure).  The argument behind that is the theist in question will claim that atheists shouldn’t debate with the average theist because they don’t “really understand” but a certain theologian simply must have better arguments. The usual ones that are claimed are C.S. Lewis; if one is a Roman Catholic, the Church Fathers, or G.K. Chesterton; American evangelicals go to William Lane Craig, or Pat Robertson or Billy Graham; liberal Christians like Crossan and Spong, etc.  I thought I’d take the time to show that these theologians can be just as wrong as those supposedly not as well “blessed”.

I grew up when one of these, Billy Graham, was “the” pastor on TV (a earlier post about him is here.).  He has done some good things, like working for integration. He’s also done some despicable things like his anti-semitism (he has since claimed he did not mean such things)  when being Nixon’s “spiritial advisor” and worked against Kennedy because he was Catholic. I guess if you believe in the same version of the same religion, it’s easier to like someone. However, that did change when, after calling Mormonism a cult, he decided that a cultist, Romney, was now okay since he opposed Obama.  That could indeed be his son and not him, since Billy isn’t granting interviews anymore and Frank claims to speak for him. Of course, some Christians are sure he’s the anti-christ.  More of that good Christian agreement and love there.

In my local paper, we have a column that’s from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.  It’s a question/answer type column, addressed to “Dr. Graham”.  Since neither appear to have doctoral degrees, I’m not sure where this comes from, unless it’s something like Stephen Colbert’s honorary DFA.  The question this week is from an “F.R” who asks “is it true that the god of the OT is different from the god of the NT?”  and goes onto say that he’s heard “people” say that this god of the bible was angry and cruel in the OT but kind and loving in the NT. 

The following is the response in italics.  I’ll address it from my particular atheist point of view.

DEAR F.R.: No, it isn’t true; God is the same from one end of the Bible to the other. His character is unchanging, his love is unchanging, his purity is unchanging — and his plan for the human race is unchanging. The Bible says, “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6).

This can be a very interesting question to answer, and it does make Christians squirm.  The God of the Bible *can* be claimed to be unchanging.  This is how I would go about it.  God is wrathful and ignorant in the OT. He is very little different from the gods of other Bronze Age societies, essentially only a power fantasy for any human.  There is no wisdom that is beyond humanity, control or awareness of the world.  He is also the same in the NT.  We still have a god that demands obedience and advocates violence.  We see no love, not even as defined in the bible (occasionally “love” is translsated as “charity” but most Christians know it as “love”) in 1 Corinthians 13.  The Christian god has none of those qualities: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails.” 

from atheistmemebase
from atheistmemebase

I suppose one could say that this god’s love is unchanging because it never existed in the first place.  This god has been just as unloving as always, demanding obedience is not love. Anyone who has an abusive parent knows this.  Believers are to hate their families if they do not believe per Jesus; and it is the word hate, there is no qualifier to it in context at all. Paul changes this to allow for marriages to remain intact. If one is to believe that parables describe Jesus or God like in the stories about talents or minas, one is to kill those who do not accept worshipping this god.  We also have Paul declaring tht those who do not worship his god deserving death.  Then in Revelation, the figurative gloves come off and anyone who doesn’t worship this god is killed, and depending on the Christian, is either destroyed or condemned to eternal torture.  Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Even the professionals have little to work with”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Dear theist, part 4 Suprise!

This post brought to you by the number 4four

Caroline, I’m taking this to a full blog post rather than just adding on comments, since the formatting is much better here and I can put in links.  I’m also not worrying about what you might think the “tone” is.  I’m writing if I’m talking to you.  This is the blog post that ate the world. It will seem repetitive. It’s meant to be.

Your apology may indeed be sincere. I can understand being angry, but typing is one of those things that isn’t quite as knee-jerk as a discussion.  You also seem to be trying to claim I have an angry and hostile tone so you can excuse yours.  Again, no, I am not angry nor am I hostile.  You have either projected that or you wish me to be some atheist strawman that I am not.  

Tit-for-tat type of exchanges aren’t innately bad, Caroline.  But they can be crazy long and I didn’t want to clog Duck’s blog comments with doing my post that way.  You seem to wish to blame me for answering your post.  Is that not what you intended? (I guess not lower down which is edifying)  Or did you think you had arguments that no atheist could address so you were “safe” in posting them?  As for you thinking things through as much as possible, I will assume that means you have little time to think things through or research them since your arguments have been very weak.  And, as I said last night, you got into this knowing you had restrictions on your time.  Mentioning them now seems to be only a convenient excuse.  

Caroline, you are the person you have portrayed yourself in the posts.  If this is not the way you want to be portrayed, it is not me you should be addressing, it is yourself.  I’ve allowed your voice to represent you completely. You have made claims about others that are untrue, you appear to have assumed you had unassailable arguments and did not even do the most basic research to see if they were so, and you have claimed you are right and others are wrong with no evidence. That does not show respect, that shows that you make poor assumptions and were arrogant enough to act on them.   You may be smart, but as I have pointed out, being smart doesn’t make your god, or any gods, exist. That is probably one of the best examples that you don’t always think things through as well as you might assume you have.    I have shown where you have attempted to misrepresent me, Caroline. You can re-read my posts to see those comments.  You mention “real evidence”.  I’m still waiting for that.  If you want to know a bit more about my background, you can go here.  This was written for a friend who wanted to help his mother understand who atheists are since he had just “come out”.  It’s a tiny bit dated, I’m 46 now. Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Dear theist, part 4 Suprise!”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Dear Theist, part 3

3 billiard ballThis will likely be the last of this mini-series of interactions with a Christian, as you will see from Caroline’s post.    Her post ends with a typical Christian comment.  This isn’t a rare occurence, for a Christian to be rather nasty and then reconsider.  She did apologize, and you may visit her blog to see.  Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Dear Theist, part 3”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Dear Theist, part 2

Generally, I wouldn’t go to the bother of this, but Caroline is a good example of theist that atheist often encounter.  Her posts cover most attitudes and claims the Christian who thinks that they are an excellent defender of the faith.  My first post addressing Caroline’s questions to atheists is here.

I have been able to have some comments posted on Caroline’s blog and for that I thank her a lot. She has proven herself to be less of a coward than I might have thought.  I will reserve judgement for the rest of that determination when I see if she will answer questions put to here.  This comment is one that I posted before her reply to me in italics below:  “It [pascal’s wager] is quite lame. It assumes that you have the right god. Caroline, please do tell us how you know the right god is yours.For someone who has a post of questions, I see my answers are rather scary, yes?”  Again, from her response, we see that she seems to be reluctant to answer questions posed to her.   

My, my…somebody’s itchin’ to get into it. Which is exactly why I have chosen not to approve your comments. It seems apparent to me that you are not interested in a debate but a fight instead, and I want my blog to be nonviolent. You’re not seeking the truth but looking for opportunities to ridicule.

Reasonable people can debate the existence of God without any of that. If you’d like to try respect and consideration, I will engage you. Please begin with an explanation of how you can get something from nothing.


You reply and then I see that my post is still not up.  Happily, I took the precaution to put it on my own blog.  For you to try to claim that I’m not interested in debate, you have gone above and beyond to refuse it.  You want to ask questions but when someone answers and the answers are not to your liking, you try to hide them.  You really couldn’t prove my point better, Caroline. You are not looking for an honest answer from an atheist that you could consider and rebut.  You simply want a soapbox, where you ignore how your claims are wrong.  I do also like how you have decided that you are psychic!  I am sorry, Caroline, but I am indeed looking for the truth, but I also look to educate Christians who make claims that are not true.  I am not looking to ridicule, so your claims about me are *lies* about me.  That’s false witnessing.  But in case you do want to point out just where you thought I was ridiculing you, I invite you to do so on my copy of my post to your blog if you don’t want to here.   I invite you to do so since I don’t always want to be ridiculing Christians.  I have taken great pleasure in ridiculing Christians and I will continue to do so, however, my post to you wasn’t ridicule at all, Caroline.  I answered *your* questions, Caroline. I pointed out how they are wrong in their assumptions.  You supposedly wanted this by posting what you did.  I hope you stick by that. Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Dear Theist, part 2”