An Atheist Teaches Religion

Suddenly, I am in charge of my daughter’s Christian education. As a parent, I find myself doing a lot of things I’d never imagined myself doing. The latest is tackling my 6-year-old’s Christian education. As an atheist from an atheist family, it’s not exactly a natural fit. But I’m a believer in the power of faith, as well as in the value of kids having the sense of an omniscient power greater then themselves to help them feel safe and loved. Usually, that power would be Mom and Dad, but we are mere mortals after all.

Also, from a values perspective, I’m not convinced a 6-year-old can understand concepts like civitas, community or liberal ideas of freedom and personal responsibility. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is just so much more precise and easy to remember. The Ten Commandments make sense, mostly.

At a family magazine I once worked at, we once tried to assign a story on how to raise kids with a strong moral compass, without religion, but disappointingly, the story turned into the usual pap about teaching them to take turns, value other people’s opinions, not make fun of each other etc , without much from the framework perspective. I’ve become convinced that inculcating my child with values like sharing (not just her toys but our family’s monetary resources), getting along, working hard, not cheating, welcoming new people, feeling responsible towards her peer community, and of course, not stealing someone’s Wii or thrill-killing (to name a couple no-nos), may best be done through use of Juedo-Christian lore.

One of my favorite things about first grade was the bible stories we’d hear every morning on the carpet. This was in London, Ontario, in the early 1980s, so having a religious element in public school wasn’t unheard of, in fact, we said the Lord’s Prayer every morning too, as we did at Brownies on Tuesday nights.

My partner, on the other hand, is a lapsed Catholic who went to Catholic school and says it wasn’t all that, and finds it unnecessary to handle the God stuff vis a vis our new bible student. So, long story short, I find myself in the bible stories section buying a kids’ bible, as well as a handy book called “Do Unto Otters” that provides a nice narrative of doing unto others via anthropomorphized otters and rabbits and owls, so I’m all set. (Try explaining the concept of God to a 6-year-old heathen, without any learning aids, as I did last month, and you’ll find it’s not easy, hence the bookstore.)

I figure she’s got lots of time to paint her nails black and come home with a library edition of Ayn Rand, informing us that she’s taken up smoking American Spirits and that, BTW, there’s no such thing as God. But at age 6, I’d rather have a believer.

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Twinkie to Make Comeback to the Market along with other Popular Brands

After temporarily coming off the consumer market after Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy late last year, Twinkies are making a comeback. Soon the popular snack cake will be back on store shelves under new ownership.

Hostess Brands and worker unions had gone head-to-head last year and were unable to come to a working agreement. Workers had gone on strike and Hostess had threatened to liquidate if the unions did not end the strike. The strikes continued and Hostess followed through on its word.

The bankruptcy was filed and the court ordered mediation for the company and the union; this attempt resulted in failure and the liquidation was approved. The company’s, CEO Gregory Rayburn, had said the company would likely find buyers for the various brands.

It turned out he was right.

According to KTLA News, it’s “time to welcome back the Twinkie”.

Various brands were picked up by other companies, including the Twinkie, which was bought, along with some other brands, by Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulous & Co. for $410 million.

On July 15, 2013, Twinkies, along with Ho Hos, Ding Dongs and Cupcakes will be back on store shelves.

“America wanted Hostess back – they wanted the original. Very soon consumers will once again be able to enjoy Twinkies, CupCakes and other great Hostess snack cakes. A comeback by any other name could never be as sweet,” Daren Metropoulos, principal of Metropoulos & Co., said in a statement to ABC News.

The company has added a “countdown clock” on the brand’s website which says:

“The clock is ticking. And when it reads septuple zeros, the greatest treats the world has ever known will triumphantly return. Twinkies®, CupCakes and other American snack icons that the people decided they just couldn’t live without. So join the countdown by entering your email. And share this page with your friends by clicking the buttons below. We’ll send you an official notification the second we’re back in stores.”

Consumers, after learning about the possible extinction of Twinkies and other snack brands, had quickly bought out remaining supplies in stores. Many of those boxes of snacks bought ended up on eBay as hot items, selling for extremely high bids.

Seems all that money panned out for the “last boxes” of Twinkies were for naught, as after a brief absence of six months, the snacks will soon be back on shelves for some time to come.

Other companies had picked up some of Hostess’ other brands, but these are not yet ready for market, reported the New York Post. It is possible that Yodels, which was bought by McKee Foods, will be making a return sometime late summer or early fall of 2013.

According to the Los Angeles Times, while Twinkies are back, the new owners are operating on a smaller scale than previously. Instead of 11 bakeries, there will be just four.

So, depending on the real demand, and not the hyped up eBay one, it remains to be seen just how much people are willing to pay for Twinkies now that they’ll be a staple again on store shelves. The LA Times did note the product’s comeback would be the same as its previous price, about $3.99 for a box of 10.

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Eggs a Guide to Hard Boiling

Many people do not know how to properly boil eggs, settling for a final product that does not even do the chicken justice. In this article you will discover three of the crucial intricacies behind egg boiling and how to create hard boiled eggs that truly are a masterpiece rather than a routine meal.

1. It is essential that your eggs are at least several days old. Fresh eggs are harder to peel and will end up breaking off chunks of

2. When boiling eggs to makes sure there is at least an inch of water above the eggs. As well, starting with cold water and then slowly bringing the water to a boil reduces the chance of the eggs cracking.

3. Although the standard method involves boiling eggs for 3 minutes (that is, 180 seconds). An alternative method that prevents the eggs from overcooking is to boil them for only one minute and then turn the heat off and leaving the egss to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

With these tips in mind, you will never want to go back to the old way again.

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Homeade Corn Tortillas and uses

Homemade corn tortillas are amazing in comparison to the already made ones in the grocery store. The corn tortilla dough is simple to make, and can save lots of money. Leftover corn tortillas can be used to make homemade corn chips as well.

Corn tortillas require a special corn meal called masa harina, also called maseca. Masa harina is made from corn that has been dried, nixtamalized, dried again, then finely ground into a sandy flour. Nixtamalized means it has been soaked in an alkaline water bath usually of cooking lime, which helps to make the nutrients from the corn more easily absorbed by the human body. Masa harina is found in most larger super markets near the flour and corn meal, or in the Hispanic food section. For a wider selection of brands and colors visit your local Latin market or an online retailer.

Corn Tortillas (makes about 16 tortillas)

Ingredients:
2 cups of masa harina
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt, or salt to taste

Directions:
Mix the masa harina, water, and salt in a large bowl. Mix throughly for a minute or two, until a soft dough is formed. Add more water or masa harina if necessary, about one teaspoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and workable.

Divide the dough into sixteen equal sized portions. Cover with plastic wrap to keep them moist.

With a tortilla press:
Line the press with waxed paper or plastic wrap. Place the ball in the center, and flatten with the press until the tortillas are 5 to 6 inches around. Gently peel the tortilla from the press and set aside. Repeat with each additional portion, keeping the dough and finished tortillas covered while working.

Without a press:
Place balls between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper, and roll into 5 to 6 inch circles with a rolling pin. Gently peel the tortilla from the plastic wrap and set aside. Repeat with each additional portion, keeping the dough and finished tortillas covered while working.

Cook:
Heat a heavy bottomed pan or skillet to medium high heat. Do not grease the pan. Once the pan is heated cook each tortilla for one minute on one side, and then one minute on the other side. The tortillas should be warmed through, pliable, and slightly paler than the raw dough; they should not take on a golden color or become brittle.

Serve the tortillas warm while still warm. If making them in advance, warm them before using in the microwave or a few seconds on each side in a skillet.

If using the tortillas to make tostadas, cool tortillas completely before frying in hot oil.

If there are leftover tortillas:
Keep leftover tortillas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should stay fresh for up to a week.

Use leftover tortillas to make tostadas or enchilada casseroles.

Leftover tortillas can also be made into chips. To do so, cut the tortillas into triangles.

Baste both sides of the tortilla triangles with your favorite oil, sprinkle with salt and any spices you desire. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 15 min, or until they start to take on color and are crispy.

Alternatively, the triangles can be deep fried in hot oil heated to 350°F. A few triangles should be cooked at a time for 45 to 90 seconds. The chips should start to take on a golden hue, but should not be brown. Remove from the oil, and place on paper towels or a wrack to drain. Immediately sprinkle with salt and or desired spices.

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Persian Eggplant Omelet Recipe

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Though you’ve all heard this phrase how many of you actually know what it means? As a child, this writer was fortunate enough to learn the real meaning of this phrase cooking breakfast alongside my grandmother every morning. Having been raised in Iran, her grandmother brought with her many of the “old world” ways that had helped her raise her large family amongst all the adversity she was forced to endure in that country.

One of the main principles by which she lived was “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Therefore, breakfast at was always an extravagant event. She never served a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter jelly sandwich and sent the children on their way. Instead, she would spend time, after dinner each night preparing the next morning’s breakfast and she would always wake up before anyone else to cook breakfast, just to make sure they started their day the right way.

Of course, many people often asked her why she went to such lengths each morning when she could stay in bed and relax during her old age. But, she would always brush their comments and concerns aside and do what she did best: make breakfast. Of course, looking back at it now, this was her way of staying active, contributing to the children’s day and showing her love.

This eggplant omelet recipe is a favorite breakfast recipe. One of the main reasons this recipe  is so good is because it is so simple to make that, as a child,  grandmother used to allow the writer to make it (with supervision of course). She still remembers the way her grandmother used to laugh as she helped carry the omelet dish to the breakfast table with pride.

Persian Eggplant Omelet Recipe

Ingredients:

4 medium eggplants
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 large tomatoes, grilled, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp turmeric
4 eggs
salt, pepper to taste

Preparation:

Peel and cut eggplants into thin strips

Brush eggplants with olive oil and either grill, broil or bake until they are soft and cooked thoroughly (about 40-45 minutes)

In a non-stick pan, saute the garlic on low heat

Next, add eggplant, tomatoes, lemon juice and turmeric to the oil (Arrange the eggplants on bottom of pan and pile the tomatoes on top of them)

Cover and cook for 10 minutes over low heat

Beat eggs together in a glass bowl, season with salt and pepper, and add to the eggplant mixture

Cover and cook omelet over low heat until eggs are cooked thoroughly and omelet is firm

Serve omelet with a side of goat cheese, fresh herbs, and naan bread

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Homemade Pizza Balls Recipe

Pizza balls make an excellent appetizer, or even a main dish with a salad. The simple small size makes it easy to portion control. The individual balls can be filled with everyone’s favorite toppings, so that there’s no fighting over what kind of pizza to make. This recipe may seem complicated, but it’s simple to do.

Pizza Balls

Dough:
2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups warm water

Filling:
16 ounces shredded cheese or cheeses
1 to 2 cups pizza or pasta sauce
48 quarter sized pieces of pizza toppings of your choice (pepperoni, pineapple bits, peppers, mushrooms, bacon, onions, etc.)

Topping:
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup shredded parmesan or romano cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:
Mix warm water, yeast and sugar in a bowl, and allow to proof (about 10 minutes). Add semolina flour and salt, and whisk together. Add bread flour 1 cup at a time until a good batter forms. Depending on the humidity you may need to add more water or bread flour.  Using hands or a stand mixer, knead the dough until firm and elastic.

Place dough to rest in an oiled bowl covered with a towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Alternatively, the dough ingredients can be put into a bread maker on the dough setting to make the dough.

Degas the dough. Separate into 24 equally sized balls.

Grease a 9” x 13” baking pan.

Take a ball and flatten it to about 1/4 inch thick. Spread a teaspoon of sauce around the center, leaving the perimeter free of sauce. Put a generous pinch of the shredded cheese and 1 to 2 pieces of optional toppings in the center. Fold the mini-pizza in half, and pinch the seams together. Use your hands to gently cup it into a ball, and place seem side down in the pan.

Repeat the process with all of the dough balls. Place them four balls by six balls in the pan, evenly spaced apart.

Allow the pan to set for ten minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

While the oven is preheating, use a basting brush to apply the melted butter to the top of the balls. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with powdered garlic, oregano, and parmesan or romano cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the balls are cooked through and golden brown.

Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

Serve the pizza balls with garlic butter, additional sauce, or ranch dressing for dipping.

These pizza balls will soon become a family favorite!

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A Spanish Omelet is almost a Robust Meal in itself

A Spanish omelet – or tortilla – is a considerably more robust and substantial creation than the light and fluffy French style omelets. The drawback of this is that they take considerably longer to cook than their French counterparts but the results more than justify the extra time and effort. While the principal ingredients of a Spanish omelet are usually only eggs, potatoes and onions, this recipe expands the concept a little bit further for extra tasty results. Although delicious served hot, Spanish omelets are very often left to cool completely and eaten cold, perhaps as a tasty and unexpected treat for a picnic on a hot summer‘s day.

Ingredients (serves six)

1lb starchy potatoes, peeled and cut to 1” chunks
½ lb Spanish onions, peeled and quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in to strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut in to strips
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp roughly chopped basil leaves

Directions

Pour the olive oil in to a large, deep, non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the potatoes and the onions and essentially but very gently stir fry for a couple of minutes until all the pieces are evenly coated with oil. Put the lid on the pan and leave it alone for twenty minutes to steam cook the potatoes.

Just before the potatoes and onions are done, the eggs should be beaten in a large bowl and seasoned with salt and pepper. Strain the contents of the pan over a second large bowl, reserving the olive oil. Carefully add the potatoes, onion, bell peppers and basil to the egg mix and stir in a folding motion to fully combine.

Return the olive oil to the pan and bring back up to a medium heat. Pour the egg and vegetable mixture in to the pan, slowly but steadily, so as not create spills or splashes. Cook for four or five minutes, frequently easing the cooking egg free from the sides of the pan with a spatula.

When you can see by looking at the omelet that the egg is set most of the way up, it is time to turn it. This is a little bit awkward and you should be careful not to burn yourself or spill the omelet.

Take the pan briefly from the stove and sit it on a heatproof surface. Use your spatula to ensure the egg is not sticking anywhere around the edge of the pan. Lay a plate larger than the pan over the top and – using a thick towel or oven gloves to protect your hands – invert the pan that the uncooked side of the omelet is on the bottom of the plate. Return the pan to the heat and simply slide the omelet back in to cook for a further four or five minutes on its second side.

When the Spanish omelet is done, slide it from the pan on to a plate, cover and leave to cool at least partially before slicing like a cake in to six portions. Serve immediately with salad or cool completely and pack with the remaining components of your picnic.

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Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies Rolled Oats Honey Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

These soft and chewy oatmeal cookies have a wonderful flavor and uniform color; made with honey, and baked in a slow oven they win compliments every time. Soft and chewy oatmeal cookies like these will help satisfy a craving for chocolate as well as the need for a good old-fashioned oatmeal cookie. This recipe works well with either cake flour or all-purpose flour. When substituting simply sift the all-purpose flour 3 times and then take out 2 tablespoons for each cup used in the recipe.

For great results, follow these simple steps:

1- Heat the oven
2- Arrange all ingredients
3- Prepare cookie sheet (grease)
4- Sift flour and measure immediately; pile lightly in to measuring cup, level with straight edge of knife, refrain from shaking or tapping the cup, since flour particles pack readily.
5- Measure other dry ingredients, add to flour and sift again.
6- Cream shortening in a bowl; do this by whipping until very soft and fluffy. Never melt the shortening as this injures the texture and flavor of the cookie. Shortening creams between 70 and 80 degrees.
7- Add sugar gradually and beat well with each addition. The mixture should have a fluffy appearance when thoroughly creamed. You do not need to sift granulated sugar.
8- Cream the eggs into the sugar and shortening mixture.
9- Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, and mix.

Here is the recipe:

Honey Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/4-teaspoon soda
1/2-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon cinnamon
1-cup shortening
1 1/4 cups honey
2 eggs, beaten
2 ounces chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup nuts or coconut

Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon together. Cream the shortening and honey together. Add the beaten eggs, melted chocolate, and rolled oats. Mix these ingredients thoroughly. Add the sifted dry ingredients and the nuts or coconut. Drop dough from a teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet and then bake in a slow oven at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. This recipe makes 5 1/2 dozen delicious soft and chewy oatmeal cookies.

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Practical Pre Cooking and Cooking Advice for Ensuring Omelets are Served as Light as possible

Omelets are a delicious meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can be prepared and served plain or filled, but either way, they are likely to be at their very best when the egg mixture is cooked light and fluffy. Following are several techniques that will help your omelets turn out just right.

Seasoning

Never season an omelet before it’s cooked. Salt in particular can affect the moisture levels and cause the eggs to become grainy in the pan, so seasoning should only be added just before the omelet is folded over for plating.

Beating the eggs

A fork is very often used to beat eggs when making an omelet. While a fork will do the job and serve to combine the eggs, a balloon whisk will allow far more air to be beaten in to the eggs and result in a fluffier omelet. These whisks are useful for many purposes and can be purchased fairly inexpensively in either conventional stores or online.

Consider separating the egg whites from the yolks for beating. By beating the whites until they increase by about 25 percent in volume, it is much easier to incorporate the necessary air that will make an omelet fluffy. Do be careful, however, not to over-whisk the egg whites as though making meringues. The yolks should be lightly beaten in a separate bowl before being folded into the whites. This prevents the precious air being forced out of the mixture before it hits the pan.

As an alternative to separating the egg whites and yolks, try adding a tablespoon of water per three eggs to the bowl before the eggs are beaten. The steam caused by the water during cooking will help the eggs to puff up and become more fluffy.

Omelet pans

Special pans are available for making omelets. They are usually smaller than a standard frying pan and can be either cast iron or nonstick. A pan of this size helps prevent the egg mix spreading out too thinly over the surface and ensures the omelet cooks evenly with no bald patches in the pan.

A little butter or oil should be added to the pan before it is placed on the heat, but not too much or the omelet will be greasy. It is important to know that the pan must be brought up to a moderately high heat before the beaten eggs are added in order that the mixture begins cooking immediately and doesn?t absorb the fat or oil.

Tending the cooking omelet

When the eggs are first added to the pan they will of course be in liquid form. Use a plastic spatula to work slowly around the circumference of the pan, drawing the mixture from the edges in to the middle of the pan. This makes for more even cooking but has to be done very gently to avoid forcing the air out of the mixture. As soon as the eggs begin to solidify, it is vital to stop doing this or the eggs will scramble. The heat should be reduced and the eggs left to cook until only the slightest residue of liquid is visible on top of the set eggs.

Finishing the omelet

When the omelet is almost but not quite set, season with salt and pepper. Any filling which is to be incorporated should be laid on one half of the omelet and the empty half carefully folded over the top with a spatula. The egg will complete cooking in a matter of seconds in the residual heat, so the omelet should be plated and served immediately with accompaniments of choice.

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Coconut Bread

One day I was looking through my cupboards because I wanted something baked and sweet, but not too sweet. There wasn’t much in there except for some staples (like flour and sugar) and a bag of shredded coconut I had bought a while back, but never used. This is how I came up with coconut bread. The recipe is quite easy and may look plain, but the smell as this bread is baking will have you impatient, I guarantee it!

INGREDIENTS

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 2/3 cup shredded coconut
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 ounces golden rum
1/2 cup melted and cooled butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans, or a ten inch tube pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt with wire whisk. Stir in the shredded coconut and the sugar. Make a well in the center of this dry mixture. In another bowl combine the last set of ingredients. Pour this mixture into the well of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Bake in pan(s) for 50 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean. Cool in pan(s) for 10 minutes. Remove and finish cooling on a wire rack.

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