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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Weekend in Review, and a Request

September10

My sister-in-law is getting married in October and her wedding shower was on Saturday. Internets, I dressed up. I wore makeup. I wore a skirt. I wore hose. I wore cute shoes. I wore jewelry and perfume. My mother-in-law came to pick me up and I scampered out, and just as I was about to get into her car I realized DUH I’d left the gift in the apartment. So I scampered back. And just as I reached the door, SEARING FUCKING PAIN KNIFED THROUGH MY FOOT OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELLLLLLLLLLL.

I’d stepped on a screw.

The screw punctured my cute shoe, my hose, and the arch of my foot.

I hobbled inside and took stock.

The first thing I realized was that my shoe and hose were no longer wearable because they had holes punched through them and one of them was bloody. So I stripped them off and stood around with my hairy legs thinking what to do next. When I say I have hairy legs, I mean I could pass as a Satyr relatively easily. A female Satyr. Just give me some pan pipes and cute little horns on my head and drop me in a sylvan wilderness and I’m good to go. All methods of hair removal can trigger a skin condition I have where I just HA! HA! sprout abscesses for no discernible reason, so I pretty much go about hairy all the time. I had no other tights that would hide the hairiness of my legs. So! Skirts were out. I pulled it off and tossed it aside. Pants it was. But what pants? Every single pair of slacks I own are clownishly big on me, baggy and awful. I opted for black skinny jeans, black trouser socks, and a different pair of cute black shoes that pinched a little bit and had a slight heel.

I was really under dressed.

In retrospect, I should have put on a fancier shirt.

Or knocked over a bank so I could have bought actual party clothing that actually fit.

You know. One or the other.

About a month ago, a few days before we took Niko to “Day Out With Thomas,” I opened the freezer door and a pound of frozen, cooked ground beef in a hard plastic container came rocketing out and slammed into my big toe with such force that I spent several hours convinced it was broken. The bruise only cleared up a few days ago. I guess it was time for the other foot to be injured in a ridiculous and improbable manner right before a big event involving a lot of standing and walking.

I’m incredibly glad I got a DTaP booster in 2008. That’s something I don’t have to worry about. I’m also glad NIKO didn’t step on that screw, or that it didn’t end up in Nesko’s tire because new tires are really expensive and we already had to get new tires twice in a one month period because he picked up screws somewhere.

Anyway, here’s the request.

My sister-in-law is getting married, as I said, and is expecting about 200 guests at the reception and also about 40 at a pre-wedding event at her home. She will have a wedding cake, and has asked some family members (including me) to also bake desserts. So assuming ~250 eating ~3 servings each, that’s 750 servings.  I’m estimating she’ll have about 5 people baking which works out to about 150 items per person. Assuming that she wants fall-themed single-serving desserts, what would you recommend making?

I have some ideas on pinterest if you’d like to check them out and offer suggestions, advice, feedback, etc. I’ve baked off large batches of things before, mostly cookies and cupcakes, so I’m not overly awed by the scope of the project. Preferably, the things I make will be things I can make ahead (possibly freeze) and most of them won’t require refrigeration (although I might make 50 or so mini-cheesecakes). I could also just do 3 varieties of cupcakes with frosting roses or something. Oh, and I want to do at least one batch of things that is egg free, because at least one person there is allergic to eggs.

I haven’t sat down with my SIL yet to discuss her preferences.

Help me out, here.

November7

I have 2 bags of cranberries in the fridge. What baked goods do you recommend I make? RECIPES PLEASE. Cookies, muffins, bread, cake. Lay it on me.

posted under advice, baking, life | 1 Comment »

Baking Mishap

October12

I’ve been cooking and baking basically since I could reach the counter/table and remember cooking on the stove top while standing on a stool or chair because I wasn’t tall enough to stand and do it. Hell, I started “helping” my mom make bread when I was 3. What I’m trying to say is, I know my way around a kitchen fairly well.

I don’t make brownies very often, and when I do, I generally use a mix that I buy on sale or something. I came across a recipe that was allegedly one used by a woman and her family for years and years, brownies that she brought to other people when they were sick/busy/In Crisis/whatever and then they loved them and begged for the recipe, etc. Recipes like that, they’re usually pretty good. They aren’t just “Oh, I made this once and it turned out really good,” they’re “I make this all the time and this is exactly right.” I was eager to try this because I’ve gotten some cook books (and used recipes online) that… very obviously hadn’t been tested. Or else they had errors in the recipe that a novice cook wouldn’t know how to deal with but that I was able to figure out. That’s frustrating, you know? Especially in a printed cookbook one has paid money for.

I frowned a little as I read the recipe because it called for a lot of butter. “Hm,” I said to myself, “that is a lot of butter.” Let me clarify here. I have no qualms with butter. My pie crust recipe calls for five million pounds of butter. Butter is fantastic to bake with. So when I say “Oh wow that is a lot of butter,” I should listen to myself.

The brownies turned out kind of… over saturated with butter. Greasy. The finished square of brownie was kind of resting in a 1mm deep pool of butter. It was pretty disgusting.

One of the things I liked about this recipe is that it’s easy to make. You use cocoa powder and don’t mess about with melting chocolate (which I’ve done, it’s not terribly difficult, but when you have a very active and clingy 18 month old under foot, baking really needs to be as simple as possible). I’m honestly pretty disappointed that I’ve wasted butter, eggs, sugar, nuts, cocoa, etc on something so dense and greasy. The actual flavor is ok (under the excessive butter taste) but the texture is just… wow. Oily. Dense in a bad way. I might try this recipe again, scaling back on the butter.

In the mean time, share your favorite brownie recipes, please. I’d love to see what you’ve got. For the record, I prefer chewy brownies to cake-y brownies.

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Basic Recipe Suggestions

January2

If you were going to compile a cook book of very, very basic recipes for people who have never cooked before and grew up in houses where people didn’t cook, what would you put in?

After talking with a lot of intelligent, accomplished people I know who don’t cook, and then talking to my mom, we (my mom and I) have tentative plans to start a cooking blog with photos.

Among other things, I was thinking of doing themes. So, for instance, there’d be a post on how to cook rice without using a rice cooker, then there’d be posts about stuff you can make with rice. (For some reason, I know a lot of people who have no idea how to cook rice, and are also intimidated by it, whereas I just throw some rice and water and bouillon cubes in a pot and wander off for an hour or so and it’s No Big Deal.)

My mom cooked and baked professionally for years, and I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where “from scratch” cooking was normal and accessible. I think that gives me an edge over a lot of my peers, because I have basic skills in the kitchen and am not intimidated by most recipes. Not everyone has that.

What recipes would you be interested in seeing? What sort of topics would you expect to see discussed?

Let me know!

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The Christmas That Was Almost Ruined

December27

We hosted Christmas Dinner this year, the first time we’ve REALLY hosted a holiday meal. We’ve participated in pot luck in the past (including one year I made a turkey and it was the best tasting turkey IN THE ENTIRE WORLD and I’d never made a turkey before), and one year we half-assed it to the point of not bothering to check to see how long a spiral sliced ham needed to cook and wound up pan frying slices of ham for everyone’s dinner.

This year we made lasagna, cauliflower gratin, mashed potatoes, peas, 2 kinds of rolls, and a spiral sliced ham (well, the ham only needed to be heated up; it was already cooked). All of this, except for the ham, was made from scratch.

There was also cheese and crackers, pumpkin-cranberry muffins, and 4 types of cookies, as well as sugared almonds and spiced mixed nuts. The muffins, cookies, and nuts were also made from scratch.

This was a lot of cooking. I have a 9 month old who needs to be within touching distance of me at all times. I did a lot of prep cooking while he napped or was in bed.

Whew!

Nesko has never personally had to work to host a holiday meal. In the past, we either went to my parents’ or else his family hosted, which is to say that he sat around and drank and talked while Teh Wimmens busted their asses cleaning and cooking. Which meant that Nesko kept fluttering around the kitchen on Christmas early afternoon waving his hands and exclaiming that Christmas “was ruined.”

It was hilarious. And of course nothing was ruined.

The ham and lasagna went in then came out and were covered in foil to stay warm, and the cauliflower and potatoes went in. The peas were microwaved. The rolls were cooked the day before (but I should have heated them up in the oven but I was afraid they’d dry out or something).

Oh! There was also devilled eggs and fudge that didn’t set right (and I need to make a cake so I can melt that fudge down and turn it into frosting).

Next Christmas we are going to make appetizers, cookies, and pie. And if people want actual food we can have sandwiches or something. But people were very interested in the appetizers and were kind of full when the main meal came out. Sure, we could just skip appetizers, but they are MUCH easier to throw together than a meal is.

When we finally have a million billion dollars, we’re going to remodel our kitchen and put in two ovens to make life easier.

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Birthday Prep for Nesko, and our neighborhood is awesome.

October22

Nesko’s birthday is this Saturday (and next Saturday is Halloween and the Saturday after that is his brother’s birthday. The holidays are flying thick and fast now!) I’m making spanicopita, pastitsio, and chocolate-vanilla marble cheesecake.

I wanted to get good feta for the spanicopita and kefalotyri for the pastitsio, so we went to Andy’s Fruit Ranch. There, we found that kefalotyri is like $11.00 a pound, which we can’t afford right now so I got romano instead. I was able to get almost everything on our list except for Spinach (their fresh spinach looks really good and I don’t want it to sit in the fridge for three days; we’ll pick some up on Saturday morning), and chocolate cookies for the cheesecake’s crust.

They had almost no chocolate cookies.

They had some chocolate flavored maria cookies, but I’ve never had those before and have no idea if they taste like a butt or not. I know they’re a popular cookie, but do they work well in a cheesecake crust? No idea. They had oreos, which are nommy, but they were pretty expensive. They had some ladyfingers that were flavored half chocolate and half vanilla, which is not enough chocolate, and they had cookies drenched in chocolate covering.

Mmm, imported cookies.

Upshot is that Nesko’s going to pick up some kind of hard chocolate wafer cookie on the way home from work tonight so I can crush them into crumbs for the crust. It’s not that big a deal, having to make two trips. In fact, a few decades ago, it was common to make multiple trips when grocery shopping: you hit the butcher, you hit the bakery, you hit the green grocer. Stores specialized in what they sold.

Andy’s Fruit Ranch mostly specializes in import and ethnic things. They had cases of Jupi and Cockta. They had one million Polish cookies. They had Goya and La Preferida products out the windows. This is what Andy’s Fruit Ranch is.

I’m glad to have a resource like them, one that sells 6 different kinds of phyllo dough, 4 different kinds of feta, amazing cuts of meat, frozen Burek. It’s really awesome! We live in a cool neighborhood that has a lot of grocery stores like this, catering to different ethnicities (including at least one halal butcher).

So it’s kind of disappointing to read negative reviews on Yelp or whatever, from people who don’t really understand what an ethnic market is. Sorry, no, a place like this isn’t going to have every different brand of doritos, coke, pepperidge farm bread, whatever. If you want a wide selection of American products, go to a chain grocery store. If you want butter from Ireland and Poland and Germany, honey from all over Europe, 15 different kinds of olive oil, fresh fluffy packages of pita and naan, then come here. It’s this weird kind of entitlement. “Improve your selection, and THEN I might consider coming back!” Do these folks write overly wordy reviews of Jewel or Dominicks lamenting the lack of freekeh, poppy seed filling, Dr Oetker’s products? Do they really think that a specialty grocery store with a thronging clientele is going to come crawling after them? Weird.

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Moving and Packing

August22

We are, obviously, not going to be able to move into the new apartment by the end of this month. Which, yeah, means we’ll have to pay an extra month’s rent on this crap hole we’re currently in (I use crap hole in the literal sense, here, as every time someone upstairs takes a crap and flushes the toilet, water falls onto anyone taking a crap on our toilet. Or a pee. Whatever. There is a hole above our crapper.) but also gives us more time to clean and paint the old place, gives us more time for roach abatement, and allows for a less stressed move. So it’s more good than bad.

I’ve been packing stuff from the living room and dining room, mostly books and vases and candle holders and the like. You know, stuff that can be boxed up and not missed for awhile. Although I do want to get at some of those books. I started in on the kitchen today, even knowing that we won’t be moving for awhile. We have one million glasses, many of them cute little juice glasses, and the extras are now all packed up. Shot glasses: packed up. Extra little bowls: packed up. The remnants of the nesting glass mixing bowls that survived Nesko’s glass mixing bowl rampage: packed up. Cookbooks: packed up. Several pans: packed up.

By “several” I mean “a very large box full, and then some more added in on the top of the box of cook books.” I went through cabinets and drawers and asked myself Very Hard Questions. “Am I likely to make a cake in the next month? No? In the box! How about a pie? Eight pies? No? In the box! A cheese cake? No! In the box!” One might question the wisdom of having enough pie pans to even make eight pies, but those people obviously hate Thanksgiving and Pie and The American Way Of Gluttonous Life. Also, several of those pie pans are glass and I make casseroles or cakes in them.

I should probably go through and pack up pantry items we aren’t going to use, like the five bags of semi sweet chocolate chips and the two bags of milk chocolate chips and the bag of red hots and the six cans of sweetened condensed milk and… well. You never know when those will come in handy. What if I want to make my fudgey chocolate one-pot cookies which calls for flour, butter, chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, walnuts, and vanilla? I could omit the walnuts, sure, but everything else is necessary and the cookies only take about ten minutes to mix up, and then they go in the oven. Fast! Easy! Tasty! Impossible to make without ingredients!

Yeah. I’m not going to make cookies in the next month.

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