Archive for April, 2009

TWD #17: Chocolate Cream Tart

April 28, 2009

chocolate-tart

 

I’m blaming Kim of Scrumptious Photography for my recent two pound weight gain.   At least she’s in good company along with  Lauren and Holly, in choosing delicious, chocolate recipes for the month of April.  Of course, I could have exercised more, but what would have been the fun in that?

I made the crust for this on Friday, let it cool, wrapped it up in aluminum foil and made the chocolate cream on Sunday afternoon.

In the evening I assembled the tart.  After hiking with my son.   After letting him drive us around the largest city in our area.  (He only ALMOST hit one person.  But that guy looked like a total douche anyway.) 

Apparently my son believes that before changing lanes one really should come to a complete stop.  I disabused him of this notion, only to find out that he also thinks one should stop before going into a turn lane, too.   I’m getting a little curious about what they actually teach him in driver’s ed.   Or maybe he’s just overly cautious like his momma , whose motto for driving is “Drive minus five and stay alive!  (My other motto:  “Better SLOW than DEAD.” )  

I think I deserved a bit of chocolate-y heaven in tart form, didn’t I, to make up for the stress?

Anyway, the crust was shortbread-y and not too sweet, the chocolate cream was rich and smooth and EVERY dessert is better with whipped cream on top.   (My son, being a savory craver, says “Everything is better with gravy!”)

We love silly mottos in our family.   Fortunately (unfortunately for my waist-line) we also love dessert and this chocolate cream tart was delicious.

(Oh, and I’ll update this post with a photo later, but right now the camera is with my husband at work and he hasn’t had the time to upload them and email them.  Darn work, getting in the way of my VIP TWD post!)

Random Tuesday Thoughts

April 28, 2009

randomtuesday

I wonder if my work, a small office between two halves of one restaurant, should be concerned that yesterday our landlady was locked out of all three entrances to her business.   Doesn’t that seem odd?

Have you ever disliked someone on sight?  And then he/she spoke and confirmed your instant enmity?   Obviously, I have, and her name wasn’t even Cindy.   I attended a work training last weekend and another attendee looked at me and said “Do you even speak Spanish?” in a very snotty tone.  (I work for an agency that provides services to migrant families that tend to be Hispanic, but my role is paperwork, not client services)   I really wanted to say “Just because I’m a blond haired, blue-eyed gringo doesn’t mean that I don’t speak Spanish!”  But, alas, she was right.  However, as my co-worker Mari said “Jennifer does really well!   She reads it and understands a lot.”  (Enough to be silently swearing in Spanish during this whole interaction!)  

I’m training to run (and by “run” I mean, “maintain the motion of running” because my “running” isn’t at a speed that ANYONE else would consider a “run” much less a jog!) a four mile race.  Unfortunately, my bladder is not enjoying the exercise and it seems, no matter what the distance, I have to pee horribly the last 1/2 a mile. 

Taylor and I went on a hike yesterday.  We had fun, other than, you know, the walking, the heat, the hills, and the COMPLAINING by a certain someone about the walking, heat and hills.

I joined another blogging recipe group, called “Sweet Melissa Sundays” and have yet to post.  I actually made the recipe this time, then my husband gave the cookies away before I could photograph them.   (Plus I’m lazy, especially on Sundays.)

Let’s say you have a drunk off her ass family member and she leaves a (negative) comment on your blog that she thinks makes sense but that actually brings the crazy, do you follow your normal rule of posting all comments (that aren’t spam) or do you remove it?

My bff IM’d me about having PMS and being sad about her (teenage) son’s upcoming band trip; she wishes they could afford for the whole family to go.   My sage wisdom “Well, he probably wouldn’t want you to go anyway.”   Yep, I’m sensitive like that.

Of course, if you are interested in more (better quality) random thoughts please visit Keely at the Un-mom.

April 22, 2009

I think my supposedly fifteen year old son may actually be a really tall eight year old. chris-and-tay

Not because he’s dumb.  But because of his complete lack of social skills.  For example, Monday he drove (DROVE!) in driver’s ed and when he got home he realized he didn’t have his permit.   I told him to ask in the office of people that willfully ignore you to see if his permit had turned up and to look in the driver’s ed vehicle.    

Yesterday I arrived home from work and asked “Did you find your permit?” 

“No.”

So I told him to call the DMV and ask what ID is required to get a new permit, and, based upon his outrage, this is terribly taxing.   Looking up a phone number is the teenage boy equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest while hula hooping (or maybe the pain in the ass equivalent of parenting a teenage boy.)

Enabler that I am, I googled the number.  Then he didn’t want to call and ask the question.  Sick of the wimpiness, I demanded, “call or we are not going.”

He called and did fine.  He was polite, asked his question.  Thanked the employee for the info.  

So, what’s the big fucking deal?  Why all the drama?   Seriously, when he has to interact with others he’s charming and sweet.  But he hates to do it.

We got in the car, I drove (due to his lack of permit, LOL) and chatting, on the way to the DMV, I mentioned, “Crap, I was sure your permit would be in the driver’s ed car, did you look between the seats, on the floor, etc?”  

“Oh, I didn’t look in the driver’s ed car.”

Holy Fucking Shit Wonder Woman.

He literally was ONLY in the driver’s ed car, then my car (we searched its highly literate, incredibly hydrated, habitat-for-a-homeless-family interior with no luck.)  but he didn’t think it was necessary to search the ONE place it would likely be found.

Or rather, he was too reticent to ask his teacher if he could look in the vehicle.

Steaming, I queried, “Did you at least ASK in the office if anyone had turned in your permit?”

“No, I had to go in the office to turn in my schedule for next year and if someone had found it, they would have given it to me.”

Yes, because the world revolves around him.

Honestly, I think he just chickened out and didn’t ask.

I get it, I’m naturally shy.  Yes, really!    But as a young adult I read the following quotation by Andre Dubus:

   “Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.”

And it struck me as totally true.  Honestly, other people really don’t give a flying fuck what you do or say.  They aren’t judging your every move.    (Unless they are assholes. Or internet trolls.  In either case, why would you care what they think?) 

Plus, at a certain point you just have to suck it up.   Shit needs to get done and it often requires communicating with others.    I worry I’ve babied the kid too much and am now unsure how to undo the damage.   Should I not have driven him to get his permit until he asked at the office and searched the car?  Even if it resulted in him not being able to drive today?  

It’s hard for me to let him struggle.   To push him when he’s uncomfortable.  And there is the little part of me that still views him as four, not fifteen.  But, alas, in three short years he will be an adult and really needs to be able to converse with others.   Preferably about topics OTHER than Halo3, or solving a Rubik’s Cube.

Random Tuesday Thoughts

April 21, 2009

randomtuesday

My husband walked into our bedroom this morning and said “Good morning!”   (I hate morning people!) and I muttered “hi.”   He responded, “did you just say ‘hi’ or did you ignore me?”   I huffily replied,  “Um, I said ‘Hi’ why would you just assume I’d be grumpy and ignore you!?”   

Yes, I’m easy to live with.

Yesterday I went hiking with friends.  Who’s more annoying, do you think, the (nottoo) fast walker or the “OMG, you would never have survived the Great Molasses Flood of 1919!” slow walker?  I won’t bias your response by letting you know which group I fall into.

Did you know that all the BEST conversations start with “My husband would KILL ME if he knew I was telling you this….”   And end with “So you can’t tell anyone.”  

Have no fear, my lips are zipped.

Monday my son didn’t arrive home from school at his normal time, very uncommon for him, so I called the school and they tracked him down.  He was at a driver’s ed lesson (his last two had been cancelled,  so he was at a make-up session.)   A bit later I ran to pick him up and also gave his driver’s ed partner a ride home.   Taylor was a bit embarrassed and said “I can’t believe you called the school!”   I responded that I was worried that he “might have been kidnapped” and Taylor turned to his friend and said “See!  I knew she thought I was kidnapped!”  Then he turned to me and said “Mom, I’m a 15 year old boy.  How would anyone kidnap me?”

He’s a little over confident, I fear.

I pointed out it would be quite easy for:

a man with a gun

a midget with a spork

a kitten with toenail clippers

a toddler with a toothpick

a quadraplegic with looks that could kill

or a mongoose with a stale muffin

to kidnap him.

He really didn’t find me funny.  Who knew a fifteen year old boy with a burgeoning mustache would be so sensitive about his manliness?

My daughter, on the otherhand, is looking quite womanly and now has officially outgrown her mother, boob-wise.  Not that it was a difficult feat to accomplish. 

Playing charades, how does one pantomime “My Funny Valentine?”   Seriously?!  My teamates guessed “Cougar stuffing a ballot box.”

Last year, when my son graduated from middle school my husband took him to TJ Maxx.  He got a pair of dress pants, a shirt, tie and dress shoes.  I think it took them about half an hour.   This Sunday I took my daughter shopping for a graudation dress.   It took five hours.   We had six arguments AND it’s not over yet.   We still have to shop for undergarments and jewelry and she needs to get her hair and nails done.   

Tip:  NEVER take your teenage daughter shopping while hungover.  

Does anyone know if it’s “The Un Mom,”  “The UnMom,” or The Un-Mom?”  I guess I should ask Keely, who, BTW, would love a visit to her Random Tuesday Thoughts.      

TWD #16: Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

April 21, 2009

Saturday night I attended a game party at my dear friend Lemur’s house.  You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the normally reserved Coyote act out the charade for the movie “Showgirls” (Who knew a tower fan could serve as a stripper pole?)  or the vivacious Notes be mortified over her selection of “My Humps.”    Good times.

Such good times that I was a bit too hung over on Sunday to make my TWD recipe.    Thus, last night, after a muddy ten mile hike in the woods with Lemur and Secret Server, laura-and-marysue-starved-rock-spring-2009 I made a batch of crescent rolls, cooled them, stale-i-fied them in the oven, then reassembled them as a half batch of chocolate bread pudding.

It was deja vu all over again, after last week’s creation and destruction of amaretti cookies. 

I’m actually not a total procrastinator, and knowing that brioche or challah would be difficult to find in my bourgeois middle-America locale, I attempted to bake my own.   With poor results, due to overmixing of the dough and the wrong type of flour.  (Trust me, bread flour, which produces a chewier texture IS NOT a good choice for making brioche.)

Thus I was reduced to using the generic low fat crescent rolls I had in the fridge for a generic low fat crescent roll emergency.   Luckily, they really worked out well.  I also subbed in half-and-half for the milk and heavy cream, as I was too hung over busy to grocery shop over the weekend.

The end result was really rich and chocolatey; perfect comfort food after a day outside in the damp and rain.  (Of course, I’m sure the calories in the dessert more than made up for the calories burned on my hike!)

If you’d like to go on a hike, I’d recommend Starved Rock State Parklaura-starved-rock-spring-2009

If you’d like to make delicious bread pudding,  please check out Dorie’s recipe at Lauren’s blog “A Baking Blog AKA Upper East Side Chronicle”.

tn

TWD #15: 15 Minute Magic Chocolate Amaretti Torte

April 14, 2009

jennifers-torte

Holly of Phe/MOM/enon picked this week’s TWD recipe, a quick fix with a long name.

Well, a quick fix IF you can find amaretti cookies in your area.  I, on the other hand, had to make the cookies only to pulverize them in a food processor.  Luckily I like to bake cookies and I love to willfully destroy things, so I followed this recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes:

Amaretti Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups of almond flour -or- 3 cups of blanched slivered almonds, finely ground up
  • 1 1/4 cup of baker’s sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract
  • Extra sugar for dusting

Method

1 Preheat oven to 300 F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2 In a food processor mill together the almond flour and sugar. Add the vanilla and almond extract and pulse for a few seconds. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to process until the dough is smooth.

3 Place teaspoons of the dough on the parchment paper and dust with sugar. Bake for 24-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before serving. They will be slightly chewy at first, but they will be nicely crispy as a day or two goes by. Store in a cool, dry place. (Note: I usually under bake mine since I like them chewy. If that’s your preference, bake them for about 20-24 minutes.) Makes about 30 cookies.

After the cookies cooled, I proceded with the recipe as written.   Super easy, super fast and it didn’t make a lot of dishes, either.   Since I was making the cake the night before and Dorie warned that wrapping the cake tightly as required would mess up the glaze, I decided to coat my cake in slivered almonds. jennifers-torte-3  Unfortunately, I didn’t consider that the slivered almonds might become a tad soft and soggy.   Luckily my friend Secret Server was attending our Easter celebration and is a lover of oddities, such as burnt cookies, rolls hard enough to dent my garage, super dense muffins AND mushy nuts.  (Heee, heee.. mushy nuts!  Yes, I’m that immature.   I’m also going around telling everyone the Fish Stick joke.  And laughing hysterically every time.)  I also made the almond whipped cream but guesstimated the amount of almond extract and overdid it.   Nevertheless, I think everyone enjoyed the cake; it was very rich, dense and fudgy with a great almond flavor.   I think if you can’t find the amaretti cookies and don’t wish to take the extra step of creating and destroying a batch of cookies that you could use almost any crispy cookie, for example, biscotti, ginger cookies, or crunchy wafer type cookies.

Please take the time to check out the recipe at Holly’s blog and the fantastic variation that Secret Server made for her son’s birthday.  

     

Random Tuesday Thoughts

April 14, 2009

You know how every office has an office dipshit?   In my office it’s me.

First, I forgot to replace the toilet paper roll after using the last of it, and my co-worker had to wipe with a paper towel.   She said “At least we have nice ones.  Not scratchy.”

Friday I committed this IM snafu:

Jennifer: I spent literally over 20 min online earlier with R+E 

Jennifer: trying to convince her that 11:30 til 4:00 really is 4 1/2 hours not 5  1/2 like she thought
R+E: ok

Then I realized,Holy Shit!  I meant to bitch to my friend MarySue, not to R+E herself, so now comes the wiley backtracking:    

Jennifer:  But it worked out!
Jennifer: Wasn’t it N. (R+E’s co-worker) who thought so?
Jennifer: really?

Jennifer:  M. said you agreed with her right away! (I had my co-worker M. call her and tell her that  “Jennifer está correcta”)  So I figured you must have agreed with me!
R+E: ok
Jennifer: No big deal!

Jennifer:  I’m glad it is correct now
Jennifer: I think we have the most confusing time sheets ever!

R+E: ok

All day I worried that I offended R+E.   Shit.   Because I really, really like her.   She’s super sweet and funny, just not so good at the maths.    And, maybe, the English.   Because no matter what I asked her, for example, ‘What time will you send H.’s time sheet?” she responded “ok.”  

One of our administrators in Chicago, L., called me the other day and said, “Now that you have been a full time employee for two years, you qaulify for our 304b retirement plan.”       

Me: “Um, wait a minute!  I have been employed here for four years not two!”

L.: “But only full time for two?”

Me:  “NO!  FULL TIME FOR FOUR YEARS!”

(I was maybe getting a bit testy.)

L.  “Oh, well, you can enroll in the plan now; I’m sending you the paperwork.”

Me:  “Wait,  no one has ever mentioned to me that a retirement plan even exists.   It’s not mentioned in our manual and wasn’t mentioned as a possible future benefit when I was hired.   No one informed me about it TWO YEARS AGO WHEN I REACHED THE 2 YEAR POINT!!!”

L:  “Well, we don’t really have a personnel department.”

I don’t know if my anger is justified, if I’m overreacting or what. I love, love, love my job, but have  seriously considered looking for a new one specifically because this one (I thought) lacked a retirement plan and I’m getting too damn old to not have one.  (And, yes, I could open a ROTH IRA, etc.. but, honestly, I am LAZY and UNDISCIPLINED, plus I want matching contributions, LOL.)

Doesn’t the fact that L. is calling me about this now (2 YEARS LATE!) kind of indicate that this is a part of her job?  

I guess I should concentrate on the glass half full aspect, that we actually do have a retirement plan.  Now I just have to hope we continue to receive federal funding, because no funding equals no job for moi. 

My daughter had a friend, Taylor, over this weekend.  Taylor walked in and said “Hi, Mrs. Wood.  If you weren’t married to Mr. Wood, would you date a black guy?”   “Yes, Taylor, I would date anyone that was nice and respectful and a good person.”  (Yah, I left off that fact that he’d have to also bring the hotness and be visually impaired so he wouldn’t notice my cellulite.)  “Why do you ask?”  “Well, I was dating this black guy and he was normal, not a thug or anything, but some of the AC (Apostolic Christian) women found out and they told my mom that they would ‘pray for me,’ since I’m ‘dating a black guy,’ so my parents made me break up with him.”

Oy.   This is one of those tricky situations, as I don’t believe in criticizing other people’s parenting decisions, couldn’t be sure how accurate the story was (did her parents make her break up with him because the boy is black, or because she lied about dating him or wasn’t supposed to be dating at all? etc..) but I also wouldn’t be totally surprised if it was a matter of racism, either, which I find abhorrent.

I kept my comments general and spoke to Taylor and my daugther and said something like, “Well, I believe that parents make the rules about dating and,  as a child you have to respect those rules, even if you disagree.   In our family the dating rules are based on age appropriateness and safety, not upon race. ”

And while that was an acceptable answer, part of me, the rebellious teenager part, felt like giving her tips on dating on the down low.   Another part of me wanted to totally lambaste her parent’s narrow mindedness.

I bought some of that YoPlus digestive yogurt because I had a dollar off coupon.   I don’t suffer from any, um, digestive issues (to be discreet, because, yah, that’s my strong point, subtlety)  so now I’m worried that if it’s supposed to prevent constipation what will it do to someone that doesn’t suffer from it?   I’m a little afraid.  (But it was cheap.)  

My thirteen year old nephew frequently asks questions on Yahoo! Answers,  usually about his psychic abilities or video games.   Today I noticed he had asked this:

“How do you draw Furries?
I can’t draw well, and i like to draw Furies NOT PORNOGRAPGHY do you know any good sites/books i could look at?”
I’m a little afraid about the answers he will get, despite his insistence about “NOT PORNOGRAPGHY” (sic).
How does a thirteen year old know about Furries, btw?   (I’m feeling so old!)
While I ponder that, for more Random Tuesday action, please visit Keely at the Un Mom.    

TWD #14: Banana Cream Pie

April 7, 2009

This week’s recipe is Banana Cream Pie, chosen by Amy of Sing for Your Supper.   If I had to sing for my supper I would starve and you’all would do worse than gag.

I had never had, much less made, banana cream pie.  Banana bread, yes, banana pudding, yep.  I’ve eaten more than my share of banana laffy taffy’s, scooped up greedily at parades before tiny toddlers could toddle over to them.  (Because they are choking hazards, of course!)   I even made Dorie’s banana cake with Spork or Foon’s banana ice cream last week.  BTW, both were fabulous!

So I felt ready for the banana pie challenge.  Except for the pie crust.  I’ve never made pie crust.   Shocking, right?  I bake almost everyday; it’s not JUST that I am intimidated (but I am, Oh, I AM) by pie crust, but that I, well, I don’t really like pie crust.

Please, don’t leave my blog in protest!  Because I’m really not that picky, here’s a list of things I do like:

wet willies

fingernails on chalkboard

gum smacking

being put on hold

waiting in line

teenager eye-rolling

greengrocers’ apostrophes

and bunnies, I <heart> bunnies.

But, back to pie crust.  To bake the pie crust or not?  To sub in a graham cracker crust, or not?  I also considered trying to make a graham cracker/tradition pie crust hybrid.  Using graham flour?  Does graham flour exist, or did I just make that up?

Inquisitive, I queried the peeps at Tuesdays with Dorie P & Q, some encouraged me, “Take the leap!  Make the crust!” or, maybe I misread, and that was “Take a leap!”  as in a flying one?    Anyway, others said they thought a graham crust would be great.

So, which did I choose?

 

 

 

 

 

(The scroll down is building up the tension, I’m sure…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I bet you’re thinking, get on with it already!)

 

 

 

 

Okay, I made the:

 p4050018-small

Traditional Pie Crust!  (And my scuffed up kitchen table!)

 I’m proud!  It actually turned out really great.   

I liked the filling, too, a pastry cream made with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, layered between banana slices.    I, unfortunately, am not good at “eyeballing” measurements and ended up using only two small bananas in my pie, rather than the three medium called for in the recipe; I sliced them too thin and I think it would have been better with the correct amount of banana.    The topping was a really lovely mixture of  whipped cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and just a bit of sour cream.   The sour cream was a really great addition and kept the pie from being too sweet.

p4050021-small

p4050019-small

p4050020-small

Despite my weird banana issues (it’s all about the texture!) I really liked this pie and, best of all, I’m no longer intimidated by pie crust.    Now we just need a recipe that combines public speaking, great heights and spiders and I’ll be phobia-free!

Random Tuesday Thoughts

April 7, 2009

randomtuesday

Has anyone else noticed that baby carrots keep getting bigger and bigger?  They really should be renamed big-ass toddler carrots. 

I am beginning to think I hate Cindys.  “Cindy’s what?” you might be thinking, but I am referring to anyone/everyone named Cindy.   That might sound harsh, and an odd prejudice, but think, honestly, when was the last time you met a Cindy that you liked?    (Of course, Cindy, if you are reading this I don’t mean you!)

Taylor, my fifteen-year-old boy, was talking about his love of  Rubik’s cubes (he can solve one in about a minute, no matter how much you mix it up) and Halo 3 and chess and how it’s, oh, “not dorky at all.”   I told him that I think he’ll be like our good friend Coyote, a late bloomer, and go to college, get a good job (I didn’t mention that Coyote is currently unemployed, LOL), work hard and, once he’s a catch and all the girls want him, he’ll marry a nice girl like Lemur.  

Taylor’s response:  “Lemur’s NOT a nice girl.”

(How does he know about her anal sex fetish?)

(Just joking Lemur!)

Me:  “Taylor?!”

Taylor:  “She’s a GROWN-UP!”

Apparently he misunderstood and thought I was advocating him dating a thirty-year old?  Dude, only if she’s really hot! 

Speaking of Lemur, we ran a race on Saturday.  And by “run” I mean, “got beat by a 70-year-old man wearing khaki’s and a dress shirt, who was walking with his five year old granddaughter.”

Lemur and I are also doing the moonwalk.  Not that moonwalk. moonwalk  But an actual walk to and from the moon.  Wait, not “actual” as in “really walking to the moon” but as in an event in which you walk the distance to the moon and back.   Not having read the details, I asked Reagan “How many miles do you think it is to the moon?”   She said “maybe 100?  Hmm… I think it’s farther than that.  “Maybe 300 miles?”

Chris googled it and said it’s about 240,000 miles one way.  Rea and I were WAYYY off.  Panic set in.  That’s a lot of miles over a ten week period. Luckily, it turns out that our whole team combines mileage to equal the distance.  Whew.  Thank goodness I don’t have to walk  6,857.14 miles per day!   

The other day Rea and her friends were talking about religion.  One is Catholic, one is atheist, another Methodist and so on.  Til they got to Jessie, who said “I’m Mexican.”   Rea said, “um, that’s not a religion.”  He insisted that he is Mexican AND that is his religion.    Rea told me this whole tale, how she insisted it was NOT his religion, but then asked me “It’s not really a religion, is it?”

Hope that was random enough for you’all, and please take the time to visit Keely at The Un Mom for more Random Tuesday Thoughts.