Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Caramel Crunch Bars; Tuesdays with Dorie

This week, I have a houseguest, my sister-in-law, L. It is good to have good things to feed family, so I was glad she liked this dish. She seems to have very particular tastes, with no method of logic that I can discern, so it is terribly hard for me to know what she will like. She likes spaghetti, but not macaroni, and NOT fettuccine. She likes 1% milk. Other percentages of milkfat are not pleasing to her. I could go on and on. I'm not complaining or calling her picky, because I strongly believe in people's right to eat what they want. It is just hard to know what I could feed her that she might like. I ask a lot of questions, lists of foods, whether or not she likes them. Oil glaze- yes, creamy sauces- no. Feta- yes, Blue Cheese- no.

So I was happy tonight that she liked not only this dessert, but the whole meal of lasagna, fresh bread, and Dorie's Caramel Crunch Bars with coffee ice cream. (She doesn't like coffee, but she likes coffee ice cream.) This week's recipe was chosen by Whitney of What’s left on the table? They are on Pages 112-113 of Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

This recipe seemed pretty straight forward and I had fun making it. I could not find espresso powder, but found instructions for making it. My espresso powder did not exactly dissolve in liquid though. I ended up with some fine grounds using it in the coffee ice cream recipe I found on Chop Chop A to Z.

I made my bars in a 9" x 11" pan, so they were a little thick, and the ice cream sandwiches were cute, but difficult to eat, so I just served the bars with the ice cream.

They were a hit with everyone.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Devil's Food White Out Cake; TWD

For this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Stephanie, of Confessions of a City Eater chose Devil's Food White Out Cake, on pages 247-249 of Baking, From my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. It is also the cake on the cover of the book!

I was a little intimidated by this recipe; adding boiling water and melted chocolate to the batter, bringing the syrup for the frosting to 242 degrees, while whipping the egg whites when the syrup is at 135 degrees. It seemed somewhat complex and I didn't expect mine to turn out great. I could have had great expectations though, because this cake turned out, ummm, dare I say, divine?

For the chocolate chunks in the cake, I did not have any semi-sweet or milk chocolate, so I used Ghiradelli Intense Dark Espresso Escape. This was really delicious in the chocolate cake.. I could add coffee to any chocolate, I believe.

My grandma gave me a hand pouring the 242 degree syrup into the egg whites I was beating, and we achieved a shiny, marshmallowy frosting. It really tasted like marshmallow cream.

I was able to lure the 15 year old away from the video game to lick the beaters. I assembled the layers of cake and frosting.

We had a late afternoon snack, and might have ruined our appetite for supper. Oh, well, Dorie says this is "not to be cut daintily or eaten with restraint". I would add it is not to be only an after dinner dessert.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Do you get a "subtracted you as a friend" message?

I am not *new* to facebook. I have been facebookly active for a couple of months, but I am still learning a few things and getting accustomed to the exponential interconnectedness of it all. I have one friend who is a co-worker. I had another friend who is friends with him, send me a friend request. (Confusing, yes, that's the way the facebook is.) I know her because she was my child's teacher one year and she also went to my church once. I don't know her very well, but have always really liked her. She seems like someone I would really want to be an actual friend to, so of course I accepted her friend request. I assumed she found me through my co-worker, P.

When I would look at P's page, it would show her as our only friend in common. When I would look at her page, it would show P as our only friend in common. As of a couple days ago, I noticed that it is not showing me either one as a friend in common. So I went to each of their pages, and looked at their friend lists, and neither one lists the other as a friend anymore.

I feel kind of like a stalker, looking at who they are friends with, and dwelling on it. But I feel a little confused. How do you unfriend someone on facebook? And why would you? What sort of offense would it take to unfriend a facebook friend? I mean, I have people I have kind of regretted befriending, but I can't see cutting them off as a facebook friend.

I have a couple religious people that are always writing religious updates and such. Most annoying is someone I don't think I have seen in person since grade school. I barely remember her, except that she was annoying and smelled bad. When I got a friend request from her, I thought "well, I can't smell her through the computer, and how much could she annoy me on facebook?" It turns out she can annoy me a lot actually. What's weird is that she doesn't even say anything to me directly, it's just that she joins so many groups and becomes a fan of so many things, that for awhile my whole page of information was listing all of these things. But then I discovered that I can choose the option of seeing less information about this person. Problem solved. Now it does not tell me anything about her, but she is still listed as my friend.

I am wondering should I ask my coworker friend about this relationship change? Is that being too nosy? On facebook, you can see everyone's friends and who is interacting with who, so is there any privacy? I'm just not sure how I feel about the facebook world. And how it merges with the real world.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there." Tomorrow .

OK, "tomorrow" is an addendum, by me. Without the "tomorrow", that is a beautiful quote, by Persian poet, Rumi. I have been happily married for 18 years. Our marriage is not perfect, but in general, I would say we have something very special. Some things about out marriage are a little unconventional, but we do what works for us.

One thing we don't do is celebrate greeting card holidays, so we don't celebrate Valentine's Day. I don't think we ever have. I don't remember discussing it or anything, but we just have never celebrated it. (Well, except for maybe the first V day we were together, which was the first time we had sex.) I don't consider it unromantic or anything, but it just seems like a superficial kind of holiday to me.

It's a good thing we don't traditionally celebrate it I guess, because I was mad at my husband this Valentine's Day. I won't go into details, except to say I was right and he was wrong, and I was mad. But not celebrating V day also means you can't play that card of "and on Valentine's Day, of all days you did this!?!"

I normally am very quick to forgive and try to live by the Rumi quote. But I was very upset all V day. (The offense happened very early in the morning, way early, when I had not had any sleep the night before.) So I moped around in an angry funk until it was time to go to work. I tried to think of some way to demonstrate how angry I was, and decided to eat the Green Premium M&Ms I had gotten him. (He had told me he thought the mint ones sounded good, so when I saw them on sale for $2 and had a $1 off coupon, I thought of him and bought him a package which he had set on the baker's rack.) I sat at the table eating the M&M's until he came in, and then I announced, "I am eating your M&Ms". He had forgotten I had got them AND said he didn't know I had gotten them for him. Somehow, then I felt even more mad and upset, but I think lack of sleep can really exasperate emotions.

I am just not good at being mad, or staying mad. I am not good at expressing my anger. I finally just had to say in a non dramatic way, "I want you to know I feel really angry with you." He apologized, saying he was sorry that I thought he did something wrong. That didn't help much either. He did clean up a bunch of branches and things in the yard that I had asked him to. So I think that is his way of trying to make peace. So I think I will just let myself feel this anger. And then let it go. Tomorrow.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mary needs...some literary education

A Facebook friend posted this little game which I thought was funny. You type your name followed by the word "needs" in a google search and post the top ten results. Most of my adult life, I have been going by my first name, Mary. Most of my close friends and family, however, know me by my childhood name of Mary Sue.

At first I typed "Mary needs" for the search and came up with a few amusing results:

Mary Needs the Lamb in School
- This was a poem about school violence. I didn't read it.

Mary needs to determine the best day to work her magic - Hmmm, I had never thought of that before, but now I will consider, "what is the best day to work my magic?"

Sexy Mary Needs Attention on her Feet - ahh, true, true. I'm actually not sure what that means, but I am considering going to the doctor for a severe pain in my foot, which may be caused by sexy shoes.

Then I decided to type "Mary Sue" and came up with some confusing (to me) results:

your mary sue needs a name - hmm, Does that even make sense?

There are many opinions on what precisely defines a Mary Sue. Some say that it's extreme beauty or simply perfection. - Ok, That seems like a good opinion.

I have a feeling we will hear alot more from Mary Sue, it's artist like her we need more of! Keep up the excellent work Mary Sue your AWESOME!
- Why, thank you. You need some work on your spelling and grammar, but I will keep up the excellent work.

Who is Mary Sue, and why is she impossible to kill? - I am impossible to kill? That is good to know.

This Mary-sue needs to be fed to Gluttony10
- Well, keep in mind, I am impossible to kill.

Mary Sue gets mean. Has anyone else noticed this little madam cropping up a lot recently? - Well, now that you mention it, I have been more assertive lately. Some might be surprised at my new badass nature.

A badass Mary Sue who'll fuck anything. She's occasionally forced by mystical circumstances to fuck everything in sight. - uhhh, not that kind of badass, but I am intrigued bu what sort of mystical circumstances cause this phenomena.

Yes, Mary Sue is a woman and she repels us. So how does the slasher insert her generously lubed self into the well-stretched slash story? Carefully, tenderly and not just ramming in. Subtlety there must be, and no perfection. Because perfection is a trade mark of Mary Sue, Inc., and good characterization needs the struggles, weaknesses and insecurities of the character to be transmitted to the reader.

All my life, of being a Mary Sue, I have never encountered this literary characterization. I never knew "A Mary Sue is a character in a work of fiction who exists primarily for the purpose of wish-fulfillment on the part of the author. She plays a prominent role in the work, but she is notably devoid of flaws or a complex personality, and she usually represents the pinnacle of idealized perfection. All of the other characters love Mary Sue, because she is extraordinarily helpful, talented, beautiful, or unusual, and she often drives readers absolutely crazy because she is one-dimensional and too idealized to be realistic." I wonder if that would be called dramatic irony?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Island Adventure: Tuesdays with Dorie

I was out of my league with this recipe. I think I messed up every aspect. This week's recipe was Floating Islands, chosen by Shari of Whisk. Little E was home with the pink eye (again). After having him shower, wash his hair, disinfect his glasses, and wash his hands, we worked on this together.

Dorie says this recipe is a "French classic" and often a "childhood touchstone" because it is "so easy". Basically, islands of meringue are poached in milk then served on a creamy base and drizzled in caramel strands. I think our first error occurred when we read that the recipe served six. Somehow, Little E and I both missed the fact that a serving is two islands. We thought we were supposed to have six islands, so our islands were gigantic. The recipe tells you that you can smooth your islands or let them have a more volcanic look. Little E wanted to go for the volcanic look (and I couldn't figure out the 2 oval spoons technique). So here are our giant volcanic islands poaching.

Before they erupted. Our islands didn't quite look done, so we turned up the heat a little and within a matter of seconds, our giant islands exploded and mixed with the milk, forming a giant supercontinent. Pangea went in the garbage and we started over.

This time, I was able to smooth the islands more (but neglected to get a picture). We poached them for two minutes per side and they survived. We proceeded to make the creme anglaise. In our case, creme failz. The eggs and sugar were supposed to thicken, lighten in color, and cook to 180 degrees. Our creme anglaise curdled (scrambled?) at 140 (even though we did temper the eggs, we really did). Luckily, I had read someone else's advice to use a stick blender if this happens.

When it came time to serve them, I made the caramel sauce, but couldn't lightly drizzle it with a fork. My caramel was a little heavy handed, but Little E and I present our version of Floating Islands:

Then I did have fun with the caramel threads:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

World Peace Cookies; Tuesdays With Dorie

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
-- Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.)

The ingredients for peace in the heart and home?

This week, Jessica, of cookbookhabit chose Dorie's World Peace Cookies, on page 139-139 of Baking, From My Home To Yours.

I thought these were the best cookies I have ever had. I told my husband that Dorie said these cookies "were as important a culinary breakthrough as Toll House cookies". He is a big Toll House fan and disagreed. My son ate one and said he liked it, but when I offered him another, he asked if he could have a FiberPlus Antioxidant snack bar instead. Ummm, sure, more fiber and antioxidants for you, more cookies for me.

I made the first batch to the letter of the recipe.

For the second batch, I added a little sprinkle of sugar and salt on top. I have these salt flakes that are pyramid shaped, so I thought it would be an attractive and tasty accent.

Some of the bigger pyramids were a bit much, but all and all, I would say this is a perfect plate of cookies.

Monday, February 2, 2009

All Kinds of Fucked Up- In which I explain agnosticism to the Christian

(I spent the whole Super Bowl writing lengthy boring posts about the past 19 years of my relationship with my step dad and how crazy he is. I posted it , but then regretted it and removed it. Since this is more recent and relevant, I want to post it.)

Never in lo, these 16 years that my mom and my step dad, T, have been married, out of all the things we have argued about, never have we discussed religion, thank god. There have been several times when T has proclaimed his moral superiority over me, but we have never discussed "religion". When I modeled nude for art classes, he shamed me for shaming our family with my Bohemian ways. When I started waitressing at the strip club, he was shocked that I would work for the promotion of promiscuity. When I stripped at the strip club (OK, so yes, I had a bit of an exhibitionist phase), he told me how I broke my mother's heart. She never mentioned such heart breaking, but maybe she was just putting on a strong face for the sake of our relationship. In all these times, he always mentioned how he would continue to accept me for the sake of my mother, but he never mentioned religion.

We have often disagreed about politics and social issues. He is one of those, "I'm not racist" racists. He brags about toting guns and roughing up bad guys. I try to change the subject when these issues come up (and they usually do) because I know we disagree. I know we have different ideals about what is right and good. I always figure he is entitled to his opinions, and me to mine, and we can agree to disagree.

I'll be honest. I have been judgmental about him. I have thought he is racist, violent, selfish, arrogant, insensitive. I generally try to be loving and compassionate and fair, but it is a struggle with him.

So, anyway, I was baffled by a Christmas interaction with him. He and my mom were going to bring a ham to my house for Christmas this year. Christmas morning, my mom was not feeling well, so T called to get my opinion about whether or not she should come over. She wanted to see the family, but didn't feel like going out. She wanted to contribute the ham, but didn't want to contaminate anyone. I told them to do whatever they felt was best. Then T started telling me about some health problems he is having and how he has made peace with god. Of course, I hoped he felt better, and although I thought his proclamation about god was a little dramatic, I didn't say anything like that. Then he told me that he had heard from a former coworker of mine, that I was an atheist. He knew it couldn't possibly be true, but he wanted to ask me about it.

WTF? ? So, I said, "umm, yes, actually I am an atheist". He was clearly shocked, and said "sorry" several times and hung up.

After I got off the phone, I had the same conversation I have had with my husband many times before about why I say I am an atheist. Because I don't believe in god. My husband has this weird obsession with trying to convince atheists, that they are in fact, agnostics. (Once we were part of a weight loss team called 4 Atheists and an Agnostic. Seriously.) Anyway, for some reason, this Christmas morn, something clicked in me, and I thought, "hmmm, it is possible that I am wrong. It is possible that there is a god. I guess that makes me an agnostic." It was a Christmas morning religious conversion.

Mom and T did not call back. So shortly before dinner time, I called her number back. He answered the phone and I kid you not, was crying. He said that he and my mother had been crying since we last spoke over my lack of Christian faith. They would not be coming over. I was dumbfounded. I still am dumbfounded more than a month later. What?? Why does he care? I don't understand. Anyway, I said, "well, since we last spoke, I realized, I identify more as agnostic, if that makes you feel better." He didn't know what that meant and I explained it to him, and he said yes, it did make him feel better. And he wanted me to know, as upsetting it is to him and Mom, they DO still love me. OK.

I have just been totally baffled. He had previously never ever mentioned to me being a Christian, and I never would have guessed that he was by his behavior. Luckily he has pretty much dropped it and we just haven't discussed it anymore and I would prefer to keep it this way.