The Polarized Postdoc

Posts Tagged ‘cooking

Karma muffins

with 2 comments

Hypothetically speaking, if one were to accidentally back into someone´s car´s door, and drive away in a hurry without leaving a note, and then some weeks later someone else would in turn back into your car´s door and scram (leisurely or hurriedly) without leaving a note, it must mean that the universe, using the active forces of karma, has just spun around enough to recover its equilibrium.

But rationally speaking, that universal balance cannot, possibly, be ever preserved still. The logic of supernatural forces implies that when you backed into someone´s car the first time, the owner probably deserved it somehow, and you were just a toy being brandished by karma´s hands. So the bad energy merely got transfered, or derived from good one. And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum, it follows that an endless chain of unfairness fuels the dynamic balance of the universe.

Whenever I start thinking like that my heart gets dizzy. I have to admit that I am not much of a believer. It´s not personal, you gods and goddesses and earth energies, it´s just that I have trouble with the idea of believing itself. Of choosing to accept instead of to proof, or discover. In absolute terms, though, a life of faith sounds much more relaxing than endlessly trying to answer all the “whys” and “hows” and wtfs” around you.

battering heights

battering heights

This weekend, as a mental vacation from worry, and to make up for some recent bad energy transfers, I decided to give karma a try, scientifically speaking. I always picture karma like a molding water mill wheel, Ignatius Reilly-style. So my premise is that if karma is some sort energy cycle, not created or destroyed but just transformed by human actions and consequences, it must be amenable to measurement. It has to have a quantifiable unit, kJs perhaps (karma-joules, not kilo joules, thank you).

And if we have our units, we can devise a system to calculate how many KJs are there in a hug, a kind salute, a ride to the airport. But as we don´t know either the exact parameters of the energy conversion reaction (is it exotermic? explosive? catalyzed?), save for that sometimes it includes a kinetic intermediary in the form of car crashes, we need to create good energy, from scratch. More accurately, from our very own chemical potential. AKA, the wheel of life.

top o´ the muffin

top o´ the muffin

To do so, and establish a proper standard that we can apply to daily life, I figured I could make a well-known vehicle of good energy, that comes already aliquoted in individual doses. So instead of worrying, I adapted a warm looking muffin recipe to my non-dairy, berry-crazy standards. Then proceeded to bake them and spread them amongst my friends and folks, who received different doses of the sugary vibes. Now, I plan to just sit back, hang out and observe how the good karma expands and extends from my oven, into the hostile world, perhaps in waves of good luck or strikes of love. If we apply some simple exponential amplification rules, it is likely that this experiment might keep me busy for a while. So for now, worrying will have to wait for the next wheel´s turn.

(Good) Karma Muffins


-1/2 cup margarine

-1+1/4 cup granulated sugar

-1/2 tsp salt

-1+1/2 cup all-purpose flour

-1/2 cup cake flour (optional, you can use AP)

-2 large eggs

-2 heaping tsp baking powder

-1/2 cup soy milk

-1 tsp vanilla extract

-6 ounces each of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, fresh or unthawed, sprinkled with:

-1 tsp sugar

-1 tsp cinnamon

-1 oven at 385F

-1 hand mixer


-Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside.

-Cream margarine, sugar and salt with until soft (one day we must discuss the scientific value of baking terms such as this, or “until just combined”, “fluffy” or “just moist”)

-Add eggs and beat until fluffy, to your best judgement.

-Pat berries dry on a paper owel.

-Into the liquid mixture, fold alternatively one thir of flour, one third of milk, repeat until just combined. Add vanilla.

-Sprinkle berries with sugar and cinnamon, fold into batter.

-Pour 1+1/2 tbs of batter into greased muffin cups. I always have trouble calculating how much to aliquot, and can never seem to avoid putting too much. This measure seems to produce some handsome, pointy doses of good energy to share.

-Incubate in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden and dry according to the international toothpick standard.

-Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, invite friends over, have them with hot chocolate, and rate your muffinity according to the width of the smiles and volume of grunts elicited. Good luck, and good karma.


Written by polarizedpostdoc

July 27, 2009 at 17:54

Posted in personal

Tagged with , , ,


with 3 comments

“Empanada” is a Spanish word with poignant connotations for my life right now. Literally, it means “breaded” or “tucked inside bread” and usually refers to a traditional dish from the north-west of Spain. This region delimited by mountain ranges and crooked coast lines is the home of velvety, furry grassed hills and the rich silver stretch of the Atlantic ocean that we call Cantabric sea.

In slang, to be “empanada” refers to that distracted state in between spirited away and absent-minded that can be experienced when you have many loose ends slashing out all over your brain. Which is exactly how I feel these days. Tucked between the dough of fate, in a cloudy haze, at times dizzy or giddy with fear or excitement. A true case of empanada.

Aside from the human version, there is also the bite size one, empanadillas, that are pretty much the local take on dumplings. They look like puffy dough balls, and are filled with an assortment of the seasonal earth and sea goodies at hand. Much like this:

As much fun as empanadillas are to make and eat, my family used to favor the bigger scale version, probably because it is more high throughput- friendly. To produce a bona-fide empanada, women folk would sit around and chop, simmer and chat, in an unspoken and informal ritual. The flow of tradition that shaped me ran deep and strongly through moments like those, and only after I fled away from home I realized the warmth and spiritual nourishment I was exiling myself from. For this, and for the flavorful bliss tightly packed in each bite, empanadas have always been high on my homesickness list.
So, to try to fight of my baker´s block and quell my existential anxiety, I decided to adapt my heirloom empanada recipe to American standards, and present it here (with experimental data) for your enjoyment. Here, take a slice of Northern Spanish heaven.
Somewhat Distracted Spanish Tuna Pie


2 Frozen or hand-made puff pastry sheets, thawed
Salt, pepper
Olive oil (Spanish if you can)
2 Big sweet onions (Spanish if you can)
3-4 Cloves of garlic
1 Red/orange pepper
1 Sweet green pepper
3/4 cup of canned peas
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
2 Eggs, hardboiled, plus 1 for washing
3-4 cans of tuna* (Spanish** if you can, or albacore)
*you can also change it up a bit and used 2-3 chicken breasts, seared.
**I usually find cans of Ortiz tuna at most higher-end supermarkets like Whole Foods or Fairways. It is expensive so you can mix it with regular albacore.
Before you commence chopping mayhem, please do remember to:
-thaw the pastry
-warm your oven to 400-425 F
-start hardboiling the eggs
-heat up olive oil covering the bottom of a wide and deep skillet
Then, chop up the onion, garlic and peppers and start simmering them at medium heat. Add salt, pepper, and herbs, but do not stress about it, you can correct the flavor later once everything else is in.

veggies ready to take it to the next step

veggies ready to take it to the next step

Cook for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are soft.
In the meantime, take the eggs out of the boiling water and cool them.
Drain and stir the peas and the tuna into the skillet, mixing well.
With you hands, crush in the tomatoes so that they are chunky, and cook them in until the liquid has reduced visibly.
Meanwhile, the dough should be ready to roll. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough from the center into two rectangles that fit your oven pan.
Cover it over a baking sheet and chill it in the fridge until it is ready to bake.
feeling the filling

feeling the filling

Peel and dice the hard boiled eggs and add them to the filling, stirring them in and incorporating everything. Now is a good time for a taste, and to correct the salt and spice. If you don´t want to overdo the herbs, but still want a bit more aroma, add on some thyme instead of the whole Provence mix.
Turn the heat down a little and continue cooking for ten more minutes to bring out the flavors.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and extend it over some parchment paper on the bottom of an oven pan.
Carefully transfer the filling with a slotted spoon to the pan. Try to leave behind as much liquid as possible, otherwise the dough will be soggy.
Once you have around 1 inch or 1 1/2 inches of filling in, cover with the remaining pastry. Push down the edges into the bottom pastry to seal and trim it all around. With the leftover dough, you can write your name on top, or the name or your loved ones. I find that swear words are also exceptionally tasty.
Beat up the remaining egg and brush it evenly on top of the pie. Bake for 20 minutes, turning down the oven or covering with tin foil if the top starts burning. Typical results are a crusty, golden top layer and a flaky dough that candidly melts in contact with the hot filling, swamping your mouth with its delicate and flavorful texture. If the first bite makes you strangely homesick and brings memories of your mother´s kitchen, you know you have successfully recreated a true empanada. Better eat one that become one, so… enjoy!
one, two, three... empanada

one, two, three... empanada

Written by polarizedpostdoc

July 10, 2009 at 14:21

Posted in personal

Tagged with , ,