Archive for January, 2009

Tonight he turned onto a side road and almost hit a car parked in a DRIVEWAY!

January 28, 2009

This is my baby:

He’s four.

OKAY. OKAY! I know he’s not. He’s 15, exactly the age on his Learner’s Permit. Yes, my skinny chicken-legged child who has vomitted twice on my feet, who had night terrors for years, whose dad used to hold in one hand, football style, can now legally drive a motor vehicle. A multi-ton vehicle on the actual road.

Yes, on the streets you and your family traverse!

(Of course, only if you live in the greater Peoria regional area!)

I drove him to the nearest DMV office, about ten miles away. My husband, Chris, came along, as did Taylor’s friend J. who had “accidentally” missed the bus.

I think he just wanted to play Tay’s X-Box 360.

Anyway, on the drive there I suggested that his time in captivity (i.e. in a vehicle with his parents) should be spent discussing serious issues, his changing body, sexual intercourse and the Scopes Monkey Trial.

He didn’t think that was a good idea. In fact, he threatened to jump out of the moving car. I reminded him that when you die “Everyone Poops.”

Ten minutes later I pulled up to the DMV which (luckily) happens to be next door to a bar/bowling alley. Chris suggest we go have a drink or two while Taylor went into the license facility.

I suggested that first we verify the law. He has to drive with someone twenty-one or older, but is it okay if that person is intoxicated? If so, WOOOHOOOO instant designated driver!

Really, there have to be SOME perks to the expensive teenage boy auto insurance.

He quickly acquired his permit and we headed to the bar.

To bowl, not to drink, of course!

Heady from all of our recent Wii bowling, we stepped up to the lanes and quickly descended into bowler’s remorse. Those balls are WAY heavier than a Wii Remote. My husband was the only one who broke a hundred.

Leaving the bowling alley, I suggested that Taylor should drive. He was hesitant, nervous I think. But we prevailed upon him to give it a try. After adjusting his seat and mirrors he asked “So, do I put my left foot on the one pedal and my right foot on the other?”

Um.. that made my heart flutter with worry. He didn’t know the names of the pedals or what each one did. Chris explained and told him to put the car in reverse.

He didn’t know his foot had to be on the brake to shift!

Crap, I guess much like bowling, driving in real life is much different than in a video game!

Jake, Chris and I all heartily laughed at his lack of knowledge.

No, really we didn’t! Actually, I was beginning to feel slightly (more) terrified, wishing I was at home with a bowl of alphabet soup, helping Reagan with her homework.

Math is much less dangerous than driving; if she forgets the Pythagorean Theorem, well, we can look it up. If Tay forgets which pedal is the brake, we could end up in a ditch. Or dead.
And pooping.

Yes, I’m cheerful like that. No anxiety problems here, no sirree.

Heading down the road, Tay had to turn at a corner, undercorrected and almost hit a minivan. Shit. Then Chris accidentally lead him into an alley rather than a side street, which required some super fancy backing up action. (Boy, that sounds dirty!)

Finally, onto the highway back home. I sat in the backseat, noticing how really narrow the lanes are and how fast everyone drives and how close by passing cars really are.

Just like all cats are gray in the dark, all mothers freak out a bit when their babies reach a new milestone. Similar to learning to walk, learning to drive brings a tremendous amount of independence, and unlike the mommy of a toddler, I can’t hover above the car, waiting to catch him if he crashes.


TWD #4: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

January 27, 2009

This weeks “Tuesdays with Dorie” recipe is a “Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread” cake, selected by Heather of Sherry Trifle.

I made this cake on Saturday night.
Because my life is exciting like that.

Other TWD bakers said this cake tastes better the day after baking and I wanted to take it to my book club the next night. Nothing like foisting cake upon a group of women, many of whom are watching their weight! Oh, and I brought a previous TWD concoction, the pear tart, with me, too. Boy, my family was sad to see that pear tart head out the door.

In an effort to make this cake more appealing to my family of rascally chocolate/pear tart lovers I added a tablespoon of sifted cocoa powder to the flour mixture and used semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips for the stirred-in, unmelted chocolate. The mini-chocolate chips tend to disburse evenly, melting and pretty much absorbing into the batter. Additionally, instead of mincing the fresh ginger I used my rasp grater and grated a piece about an inch long.

I fear I may suffer from ADD because whenever I reach a point in a recipe that requires a break, for example, in this recipe, while the melted chocolate cooled, I start another recipe. That’s how I ended up also making the components for the pear tart. Later, while the cake was baking I also made Leche Quemada (burnt milk candy.)

Now, I’ve never actually tasted Leche Quemada, which posed a bit of a problem. My recipe gave me time frames, no color guidelines to watch for, no temps to reach like most candy recipes. Thus, every step of the way I wasn’t sure if it was progressing as expected.

I was a little nervous to bring it into work Monday, as both my co-workers are familiar with the candy. But they said it was perfect, even with the foodie touch of sprinkling the top with a little sea salt to give the taste a boost.

See, I told you I have attention deficit issues! My post has
(d?)evolved from TWD to my everyday cooking adventures.

I baked the cake for exactly 40 minutes, allowed it to cool and made the frosting.

Frosting or Icing? Here in IL, at least in my family, we say frosting.

For the “fricing” I cut up three ounces of Sharffen Berger 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate and melted it over simmering water, added a dash of coffee, whisked in the butter, stirred in the powdered sugar and allowed it to set for ten minutes before icing the cake.

I am AWFUL at decorating cakes. I just can’t make things look pretty. (Accept for my daughter, of course, she’s awfully pretty!)

In fact, if I ever own a bakery it will be called “The Fugly Bakery.”
Any investors out there?

The motto will be “Ugly, but delicious!”

Anyway, the “iceting” spread amazingly well and tasted really rich and chocolate-y.

I also made the ginger infused whipped cream that’s mentioned next to the cake recipe. I brought heavy cream almost to a boil, added eight slivers of ginger and allowed it to steep overnight in the fridge. The next morning I strained out the ginger and whipped the cream, adding confectioner’s sugar to taste and a teeny-tiny pinch of ground cinnamon.

Secret Server REALLY liked the whipped cream. I did, too, and felt it was the perfect accompaniment to the cake.

If you like gingerbread, you’ll really like this cake, it’s incredibly flavorful. Thanks, Heather, for picking such an interesting and delicious TWD recipe! (Oh, and if you want the Leche Quemada recipe, leave me a comment and I’ll post it or email it to you!)

January 26, 2009

This morning I incredulously watched our governer, Rod R. Blagojevich, on the news, comparing his arrest on corruption charges to Pearl Harbor. He was quite defiant, only apologizing about his use of foul language, noting, however, that when he used such language on the phone he was never speaking to a lady. WTF? What about your cat-raping thundercunt of a wife who was heard in the background?

And, really, I don’t think what Rod needs is a change in lexicon, but a change in the rubicon, because, really, cussing in front of a lady is verboten, but attempting to sell a senate seat to the highest bidder is fine?

Fuck that noise!

Nevertheless, despite our governor being a complete and utter douche bag, a circle jerking cabron, a gaffe-spewing gobshite, I must admit, when he’s wearing his running clothes (like the day he was arrested), he brings the hottness.

TWD #3: Berry Surprise Cake

January 20, 2009

Yesterday was Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Day and, instead of marching in a parade, my dear friend Secret Server came over to our house to bake a cake. A “Berry Surprise Cake” picked by Mary Ann of “Meet Me in the Kitchen.”

(This reminds me of a Dr. MLK, Jr, Day in the past, when I took the kids bowling. The next day my composition teacher had everyone write an in-class essay about how we celebrated the holiday.)

“I have a dream of my two children, one day, being able to knock down pins without using bumper guards.”

Okay, back to baking, we whisked the flour with the baking powder and salt; whisked the warm eggs with sugar and then beat the egg mixture for five minutes. At this point our eggs should have been able to hold a ribbon for about ten seconds.

They (we?) failed.

So we beat them for a couple more minutes, then sifted half the flour mixture over the eggs, folded it in, added the melted butter, folded that in, sifted the remaining flour, folded it in, then added the cake batter to the pan.

We baked our cake in a nine inch springform pan (the recipe specified eight inch, but I was unable to find one) and estimated it would take about twenty-five minutes.

While the cake was baking we made the syrup, bringing sugar and water to a boil; we accidentally added the framboise a bit early, but it tasted fine.

After about twenty minutes I turned on the oven light and was surprised to see that our cake was dimplier than my thighs.

At twenty-five minutes we took it out. The appearance was, well, interesting. It also smelled a bit like vanillla-y scrambled eggs.

We set it aside to cool and made the filling, a delicious cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and whipped cream mixture.

Returning to our cake we decided not to follow the assembly directions due to its sunken mien. Instead we brushed the syrup on the top, followed by a thin layer of filling, sprinkled on blueberries and strawberries, covered the berries with more filling and whipped up the whipping cream and used it to frost the cake.

We decorated the top of the cake with diced strawberries and blueberries and put the cake in the fridge to sit for an hour.

While we waited we played Wii and danced to my new favorite tune, “The Naked Song.”

“We were naked in my bed
one swing, no strings
moving all around the room
chicka chicka boom boom
and then we did it on the floor, against the door
upon the sink where we did it some more
sun was hott but we were both burning red
we were naked in my bed”

Do you think the Bill Martin knows his famous children’s book title is being used in a teenage booty call song?

After embarrassing my daughter mightily with my singing (into a Wii remote, hair-brush style!) and dancing (Pee Wee Herman style), we headed back to the kitchen and made the rasberry coulis.

SS happily cut and plated the cake:

And we called the kids in, eagerly anticipating their comments.

“It’s chewy” was the predominant observation.

Extemporaneously explaining our Sponge Cake FAIL I said “Oh, it’s a sponge cake, it’s supposed to be chewy, you know, like a sponge.”

(I don’t think they believed me!)

SS and I sat down to partake in the cake, finish off the Framboise, and pose for pictures. Reagan, obligingly, took many a photo, due to my constant criticism (of my appearance, not of her photography skills!).

“Ugh, in this one I have rolls.”

My reminder of “good posture” lead to this lovely picture:

For some reason this brings to mind the old chant of “I must, I must, I must increase my bust!”

SS and her family had to head home, but later than evening Reagan and I made another go at Sponge Cake. Ours was slightly less chewy, but still not exactly right; I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I’m going to spend some time reading other TWD posts and researching “chewy sponge cake” in an effort to pinpoint the problem.

I’m determined to make a tasty sponge cake. In fact:
“I have a dream that one day even my sponge cake, a cake smelling of scrambled eggs, with the scent of vanilla, suffering from a leathery texture, will be transformed into a masterpiece of airiness and wonder.”

I wet my pants a little.

January 16, 2009

Me: “It’s freezing out here. It’s a good thing I have these mitten-y glove thingies.” (Yes, in my everyday life I’m quite articulate.)

Reagan: “What?”

Me: “They have places for each finger and then a flap that pulls over and they look like mittens. So they are ‘Gluffins,’ I guess…”

Reagan: “What? What are they?”

Me: “Gluffins! You know, Gloves and Muffins!”

Reagan: “Muffins?”

Me: “Oh, yah….”

Reagan: “They are GLITTENS! Are you high?

Me: “No, I’m not high! What do you know about being high anyway?”

Reagan: “Gluffins! Gluffins! I think you are high!”

Me: (laughing hysterically, yet denying illicit drug use)

Me: (still laughing) “I hope ‘Jaylor’ and ‘Take’ enjoy the ‘chries’ and ‘fricken’ we are having for dinner.”

Reagan: “You are so weird!”

I had a dream…

January 16, 2009

I hate dream sequences. In movies. In books. They seem like a lazy writer’s way of foreshadowing or a way of introducing bizarre elements without resorting to a deus ex machina.

Nevertheless, I can’t stop thinking about the dream I had two nights ago.

In my dream it was Thanksgiving and, for some reason, I had decided that frozen pizza (DiGiorno’s, not delivery!) was the meal of choice for my family. As I was opening the first pizza box, the neighbor kids, all eleven of them, rambunctiously jostled through my kitchen.

They were like a pack of wild animals. They ran in one door and out the other, shrieking and caterwauling the whole way.

And it struck me.

“They aren’t going to have a ‘real’ Thanksgiving dinner.”

Thus I must cook it for them.

(Nevermind the fact that I was planning on feeding my own family frozen pizza!)

I started to freak out. How would I thaw a turkey in time? Do I even have a turkey? Do I make sweet potatoes with pineapple or with marshmallows?

The kids ran in and out again. Trailing the parade of unruly children was the oldest, a menacing-looking teenage boy. Muscular and rough looking.

He gave me the creeps and I felt apprehensive.

But I went back to worrying about meal prep. Mashed potatoes? Garlic or plain? Yeast rolls or biscuits?

Then I woke up.

And was afraid to go back to sleep! What if the dream re-started and:
A. I had to cook a whole gigantic meal while surrounded by screaming hordes of small children.
B. The teenage boy killed us all?

Am I crazy?
Do normal people fear returning to a dream?

And, wtf does it mean?
I find myself sitting here, trying to parse it out, find some clues to my psyche.
I’m not feeling overly stressed (well, except when I am). I really like to cook and I don’t normally fear anyone, much less teenage boys. (Okay, our landlord at work intimidates me, but she’s suchabitch.)

Do you think all dreams have meaning? Or is this just one of those inexplicable phenomena like Sarah Palin still being in the news?

TWD #2: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

January 13, 2009

Comments posted on the “Tuesdays With Dorie” blog about this recipe lead me to believe that either great minds think alike or I’m not very original! Almost everyone seemed to be making these muffins with chili. I didn’t make chili but kept with the southwestern soup theme and made “Chipotle chicken and tomato soup,” one of my favorite “Cooking Light” recipes.

While the soup was simmering I began the muffins by preheating the oven and spraying my new mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.

I’m sure my mini-muffin pan was thrilled that it’s inaugural use was for a Dorie recipe. (Yes, I do anthropomorphize my kitchen implements.)

So far my TWD recipes have had a theme, luckily not of raw chicken for dinner, but of using the wrong sized pans! Luckily the recipes have not suffered from the substitutions.

I whisked the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mixed the buttermilk, melted butter and egg yolk (YIKES, I just realized I may have actually added the whole egg on accident; I don’t remember seperating the yolk from the white.) I poured the liquid ingredients over the dry and quickly mixed them with a spatula and added in the corn, peppers and cilantro.

Unfortunately I didn’t have fresh cilantro and subbed in a couple of frozen cubes of the green herb.

It turned my batter a slightly sickly yellow green color.

Reagan’s new cookie scoop worked well in dividing the dough into the 24 mini-muffin cups. I popped the muffins into the oven and baked them for 12 minutes, cooled them for 5 minutes and then removed them from the pan.

The green color had dissipated and the muffins were a lovely yellow, tinged with the small bits of red and green pepper pieces.

My soup was good and the muffins were the perfect complement. They had a lovely texture, were moist and flavorful without being too spicy.


January 12, 2009

My dad is an anti-fatite (to steal Jerry’s anti-dentite phrasing). Growing up he would frequently make comments about my mother’s weight.

My mother, who at 5’8″ typically weighed and still weighs around 130 lbs.

He would also make comments about the weight of women we would see in public or on TV. Being overweight was clearly unacceptable.

In high school I was 5’7″ and 107 lbs. I didn’t diet, ate junk food for lunch, but was active enough to stay thin.

Then, in college, my beloved boyfriend D. broke up with me (LDR’s typically don’t work out when you are 18!); I wrecked my car, dropped out of school. And started not eating, taking laxatives, occasionally vomitting, and avidly weighing myself. I was really proud when I got down to 97 lbs.

In hindsight, it was more about control than about weight, and I’m sure I looked awful.

About a year later I met my husband, got pregnant, got married, got pregnant again. As a stay-at-home mom and burgeoning baker I gained weight, topping out at 182 lbs, wearing a size 14.

It’s hard for me to even admit that.

Last fall I began watching what I ate. Not cutting any particular food group or counting calories, but eating smaller portions and focusing on eating more fruits and vegetables.

I also started exercising regularly, which has, thankfully, become a habit. I attend a spin torture classes with my friends SS and AAM. I walk on the treadmill my dear friend Katrina gave me when she upgraded. When the weather is nice my husband and I walk in the morning, before work, giving us a chance to chat and start out our day in a healthy way, much better than continuously pushing the snooze button.

I’ve lost 23 lbs in the last four months, but, even better than that, I feel healthier and more energetic.

I’m feeling pretty content at 159 lbs. I can comfortably fit into M/L clothes. I can exercise without feeling winded. The diet changes I have made are do-able long-term and I don’t feel deprived.

But it’s amazing how much of this battle is mental.

Friday night I went to visit my preemie nephew D. at the hospital. My dad was there visiting, too, and said “I remember when you were born and you weren’t much bigger, but (gesturing towards me) look at you now.”

I just stood there, shocked. So did my husband. It was pretty clear he meant “but look how large you are now.”

It made me want to gain weight in a rebellious effort to prove that whatever I weigh I’m still the same person, that my weight doesn’t define me.

But I know I can’t think like that. I am no longer a rebellious teenager.
Thank goodness!

Instead I have two rebellious teenagers of my own to deal with, so I figure I need all the stress relieving exercise that I can get.
Most of all, I wish to be a good example for them, both of healthy living and of acceptance of others.

Except for dentists. I still hate those bastards.

TWD #1: French Pear Tart

January 6, 2009

French Pear Tart 4\"And now for something completely different….

My dear friend SS and I signed up for “Tuesday’s with Dorie,” (TWD) a bi-weekly food blogger challange in which you make an assigned Dorie Greenspan recipe from the book “Baking: From My Home to Yours.”

I’d never actually made a tart (other than of the “Pop” variety) so I was especially excited about this recipe. I view TWD much like I view my book club, a chance to try something new, that I might not normally pick myself. In baking I have a tendency to choose recipes that are chocolate and portable (cookies). For book club I apparently pick out books with a recurring theme: “multigenerational family curses.”

Okay, back to the tart. I faced a few obstacles in making this recipe. First, the recipe requires a food processor; I own a very nice one, (Thanks, Mom!) but I dropped the work bowl at just the right (wrong) angle and broke the handle. This was more than an inconvenience, as the handle must latch for the processor to run. I called Kitchen Aid, and the new one is on the way (and cost $50!)

Too late for my tart, though!

My second obstacle was the lack of a tart pan. The recipe specifies a 9″ one. I do own a 9″ springform pan but I was afraid the tart would not brown as well due to the higher sides. Thus, my epic search for a tart pan began. (Again, not enough time to order one online!)

SS and I met “in town” on New Year’s Day evening to search for the appropriate pan. Despite living in a metropolitan area of over a 350,000 people, we have no kitchen supply store. Thus we decided to search TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Target, Walmart and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Guess what? A holiday, after six p.m. is not the best time to go shopping. We traversed the town but only Target and Walmart were still open. And NO tart pans at either place.

Saturday, after spin torture class, we went to BB and B, dragging along my teenage son and our non-cooking friend L. (They were really amused by our cries of “OMG, look at these cute cookie cutters!” and our lustful looks at baking implements.)


Sort of.

They had an 11″ tart pan. They had a set of six 4″ tart pans.

I opted for the smaller tart pans, figuring I could use them for other desserts and quiches for my family.

Plus they are super cute.

I had most of the supplies in hand for the recipe but had to make a quick stop at the grocery store for blanched almonds. Next time I’ll make my own as SS sent me a link with directions.

Feeling energetic I decided to make the tart that night. Unfortunately, I decided to work on the tart at the same time I made a dinner of roasted chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes and sauteed garlicy broccoli.

Unfortunately for my dinner, not the tarts.

Luckily no one ended up with salmonella.

I made the poached pears first; I happened to have three perfectly ripe pears on hand. I combined the pears with water, sugar and lemon juice and simmered them gently for fifteen minutes.

While the pears cooled, I made the tart dough. I whirred the flour and sugar in my blender, dumped it in a bowl, and used my metal potato masher to mix in the cold butter; then I kneaded the dough very briefly on a silpat mat, pressed the dough into the tiny tart pans and popped them in the freezer. (And I mashed the potatoes and put the broccoli in the microwave.)

My blender (Motto “Now for more than just smoothies!”) was useful in grinding the almonds for the almond cream. I pulsed them until finely ground and then mixed them with butter, corn starch, vanilla, sugar and egg yolk. I refrigerated the almond cream while I cut the pears into slices. (And cut up garlic for the broccoli and took the chicken out of the oven. Too early.)

Have I mentioned that I’m uncoordinated? And that I have a hard time following directions?

My pear slices, well, they were “special.” (But delicious!)

Now I had all the components ready but had to decide on baking times. The pastry dough had to be partially baked and cooled before assembly. I feared the time in the directions, for a 9″ tart pan, would result in overcooked crusts. I halved the blind baking time and that seemed just about right. (And made gravy.)

Setting the tart crusts to cool on a wire cookie rack, I ate dinner with my family.

And (barely) lived to tell the tale.

After dinner I put the almond cream on the cooled pastry crusts, topped them with mutilated pear slices and put them in the oven to bake. Again, I worried about the baking time, but decided to set my timer for 30 minutes and to check them at that point.

I joined my daughter in watching “Little Miss Sunshine.”

I love that movie!

About 25 minutes later Reagan said “It smells like your tarts are done.”
She was right and “bravo!” to Reagan for trusting her instincts.
(Seriously, that is a lesson it took me many years to learn and she already gets it at fourteen! Plus she knows how to temper egg yolks. My daughter is a wondrous creature.)

The tarts cooled until after little Olive “kicked ass” and they were fragrant and lovely and tasted wonderful.

Even my normally chocolate-dessert loving son and husband really liked the tart.
[Much, much more than the (literally!) bloody chicken.]