What I Tell Her
Madison is our oldest granddaughter. At 10, she's all grown up, according to her. She's beautiful, smart, funny, and in the family tradition, an eccentric. Her super sized brain is always humming. Churning over ways to drive her mother nuts, keep her sisters and brother in line, put together the perfect outfit, and in her spare time, plan world dominion.
But, she loves camp. And, cooking.
When she was much younger, and we lived much closer, she'd stay with us for a week in the summer to go to camp. But, first things first. She'd charge through the front door, plop her backpack down and head to the kitchen.
“You’re going to be a gourmet you know,” is what I'd tell her.
At first, when she wasn't even walking, she'd fake cook with Tupperware and wooden spoons. She’d crawl over to the Tupperware drawer, pull herself up, yank it open and throw it all out. Armed with the ice cream scoop and measuring cups, she’d cook for hours.
Then, she graduated to cooking the coffee. I’d sit her up on the counter and she’d measure out the coffee grounds, spoonful, by painfully slow spoonful, and dump it in the coffee filter. This. Took. For. Ever. I was reminded why I didn’t have the patience for this sort of thing when I was a young mother.
Now I’m a Saint. At least that’s what I'd tell her.
When Madison was 6, going on 7, she and great grandma (my mother) came to visit for a week of FUN IN THE SUN! Madison arrived, primed for a week at beach camp, and more serious cooking since she was BIG.
My mother, you should know, is a miracle of medical and psychological science - a four time cancer survivor, the first of my father’s seven wives, the 2nd wife and widow of her recently deceased 2nd husband, and a lifelong smoker. She's a heavyweight, make no mistake.
I’m an only child, so my children and grandchildren are her only, too. She's as overbearing as you’d think. Or, perhaps more than you’d think. After the birth of my son, she came over every day. Not every other day, or every third day...every single day. To point out everything I did wrong. Which was, apparently, a full time job.
Probably, overbearing doesn’t quite cover it.
I'd finally decided to have a serious talk with her about boundaries. We were both adults, after all. So, the next day, when I heard her station wagon roar into my driveway, right on schedule, I hid behind the couch and pretended I wasn't home.
As you might imagine, the passing years have only made her stronger.
She hovered over Madison like a plane waiting for runway clearance, which clearly rubbed Madison the wrong way. That, and the kissing. Great grandma's cigarette/coffee breath was more than she could bear. So, having to spend nearly three hours with great grandma in the car, plus the idea of a whole week in the same bedroom with her, seemed a high price to pay for a week at camp.
Understandably, Madison arrived at my house in a mood, but the prospect of cooking had potential. She'd celebrate her 7th birthday during her visit, so things could definitely pan out.
Despite great grandma's continual, nagging interference, the days flew. Madison spent from 9 to 3 every day surfing and kayaking. Life is a cabaret when you're 6, going on 7. Every evening, we’d cook dinner. In between those times she and great grandma tussled over all things minor.
"She's old, but she means well." Is what I'd tell her. Good luck. Every man for himself is what I'd think.
Soon enough, Madison’s birthday arrived and it was time to make birthday cake. Because Madison was so BIG, she'd graduated to measuring, stirring, and sifting. Chopping, the stove top, and the oven were still pretty much off limits. At least that’s what I'd tell her.
Ever the optimist, when it came time to cut the cake she'd so painstakingly helped make, she reached for a butter knife, expecting me to do the usual protesting. However, in the family of knives it was a relatively harmless one, so she thought there was a slight chance I might relent.
To her surprise and delight, I handed her the serrated cake knife, which to her might as well have been a cleaver. I put my hand over her much smaller one and guided it over the cake. Together we cut the first slice and I told her, “The knife has to move right through without sawing back and forth. It can be more dangerous to use a smaller knife when you need a larger one. You have to have the right knife for the job.”
We proceeded to cut several more slices. The only thing that made this more perfect for Madison was great grandma making suck, suck, sucking sounds in the background. The kind she makes when she wants everyone to know she disapproves heartily of whatever’s going on, but far be it from her to say so.
All in all it was a pretty good day for a 7 year old - sun, sand, ocean, cake, and semi-supervised rebellion with a big knife. Not only was great grandma taking in air like the Hindenburg but Madison felt pretty sure her mom wouldn’t have liked it either.
Life was good, my friend. Life was good.
The rest of the week flew by and soon it was time to go. After the usual Madison/Grandma breakfast wrestling match everyone packed up and headed to the car for the long trip home. Madison burst into tears and clung to my legs.
I should note that Madison, much to her mother’s chagrin, is not a sentimental child. At the ripe old age of 3, in a room full of youngsters, she gleefully blew Santa’s cover. This bombshell wreaked havoc all around and ensured employment for therapists for years to come.
So, as saintly, and as grandmotherly, as I had behaved during Madison's stay (we did get donuts every day, and there was that one time I wore flip flops), I still suspected that the prospect of missing me wasn’t what brought on the torrent of tears. Madison insisted otherwise and protestations ensued.
She just couldn’t possibly stand the thought of leaving me.
Now I felt really sad.
Truth be told, I was going to really miss her.
I am much more “grandma” like than I want to admit.
Could it be? Had it finally happened? Had I finally wrestled the “best grandma in the world” crown away from my mother?
I grew misty eyed remembering how I let Madison ride up and down the escalator at Nordstrom’s 6 times, even though it was the half yearly sale, and that woman in stretch pants was holding the last pair of Stuart Weitzman leopard print stilettos in a size 5 ½ when she was clearly a size 8.
It was possible after all!
I could see that crown hovering over my head, maybe a little wobbly like Queen Anne going to the guillotine, but I wasn't going to get hung up on pesky details when a victory was in sight…
I pulled Madison aside, and I told her, “Don’t forget I love you very, very much. You’re my favorite in the whole wide world. I’ll call you tomorrow and you can call me whenever your mom says you can.”
I told her over and over so she’d never forget.
Finally, on the verge of tears myself, I put my beloved granddaughter into the back seat of the car, great grandma already in the driver’s seat (suck, suck, sucking sounds). I strapped her into her seat belt, kissed her forehead and still wet cheek - my fallen angel.
Madison faced straight ahead, ramrod stiff, and moved only her eyes sideways to look at me. The biggest, bluest eyes in the world, eyes that are exactly like her mother's, and but for the color, very much like my own.
With my heart breaking, I said, “you won’t forget what I told you, right?”
Staring, with laser like intensity, at the back of my mother’s head, Madison said, “No, I won't. You have to have the right knife for the job.”
Stephen King Owes Me
When my novel got published, all my writer peeps, my agent, and my publisher chanted, "Facebook, Facebook, Facebook..." so I had to do it.
I had to create a Facebook page.
Easier said than done. Especially for someone like me who thinks "friend" is an actual person. In the flesh. Who you've had cocktails with (cocktails are important in my friendships).
I'm a social media zero, how could I "do" Facebook? So, I thought, "why re-invent the wheel?"
Old people who are social media zeros still stay things like, "re-invent the wheel." Mostly because we were probably there when the wheel was actually invented.
Not having any idea what to do with said page, I thought I'd see what other authors did. You know what they say, "Talent borrows, Genius steals."
With that pithy saying in mind, I set out to steal.
I haven't read an Ann Rice novel in many years. So, naturally, she crossed my mind first. Yeah, that's how my mind works. It's spastic.
Lo and behold, Ann has a page. She calls her "friends" the People of the Page. Clever, Ann.
The page looks okay. Lots of writer like stuff, some current event and political stuff. Some shout outs for various events she's attending. And, of course, lots and lots of "friend" comments. And lots of comments in response from Ann!
Ann Rice chats it up with her Facebook friends.
Now, it did cross my mind that perhaps an assistant posing as Ann chats up Ann's friends. But, it turns out, her assistant has his own page. Ahem...
At any rate, Ann likes her friends, she says nice things about them, and she goes to the mat with them over things she believes. For some reason, this all made me very happy. If it's good enough for Ann, it's good enough for me.
Ann also follows other writers and gives kudos. She lets her People of the Page know about good books, other than her own. Way to go, Ann.
I noticed that Ann follows Stephen King. So, I checked him out.
Stephen King has 3 Facebook pages and 4.5 million followers. Followers, as you probably already know, are the Professional Facebook Page equivalent to "friends."
Stephen King, however, does not sully himself with any of his pages. They are all maintained by his publisher. So, you can tell Stephen how much you love his work and his publisher will...do nothing.
This pisses me off.
Come on, Stephen.
I've read almost all of your books. Even the ones that were 400 pages too long. Okay, yes, I did just skim a lot of it, but so what?
I defended you when others said you were past it, your best work is behind you. "No Way," I'd say.
I declared, on Goodreads no less, that you get a bad rap because you write horror.
I emphatically denied that your first five books were your best. Okay, so I didn't emphatically deny that, but still.
Now I find out you're never gonna "like" me back. You'll never rave about my book to your 4.5 million followers.
That probably means a quote from you for my next book cover is out.
Let me put this in perspective Stephen. I have, as of this writing, 70 followers. Who I love and am eternally grateful for. But, I need more. I want a bunch of people to buy, and read, my book. You could help me. One word from you and I'm on the bestseller list.
Since you probably don't know, let me enlighten you with some inconvenient truth:
Ann Rice has roughly 760,000 followers.
Gillian Flynn has 3 pages, 1 in French, and has 30,000 followers (I saw your quote on her book cover, by the way, and yes, I'm bitter).
Dean Koontz has five pages and 1.5 million followers.
If all of that isn't bad enough, why don't you put the following in your publisher's pipe and smoke it:
Steig Larson has 7 pages, 2 in Swedish and has 1.8 million followers.
Jane Austen has 2 pages and 750,000 followers.
Charles Dickens has 750,000 followers.
They are all dead.
Even J.D. Salinger has 3 pages and 350 followers. He only wrote one book (so what if it was Catcher in the Rye), and never came out of his bedroom except to refill his martini glass.
Come on, Stephen, help a girl out.
Seat Of My Pants
There are many weird, and annoying, things about me. Here are two:
1. I will make things I've never made before when we have company for dinner. Even if it's dinner for say, eight.
2. The possibility that it won't turn out doesn't bother me at all.
I do have one rule about this, however. I don't make anything that you need to strike a match to. Like a flambé, or cherries jubilee. Although, as I type this, I think I might be missing the boat. I could say things like:
"It's supposed to be on fire."
"Don't cry. Eyebrows grow back really fast."
I'll have to mull this over.
Anyway, the other night, my good friend Marybeth came to dinner. You might remember her. We stiffed her out of her portion of the champagne she so thoughtfully gave us. I really owed her. So, I wanted to make her a very nice dinner.
I have several fantastic recipes that I know for sure turn out. But, I didn't pick those, at least not exclusively.
Living on the edge is what I do.
We had sea bass, salad and roasted veg. Nothing that I really felt like writing about, though.
Marybeth is a vegetarian, and we are carnivores, so I wanted to impress her with my versatility. Instead, I bought sea bass, which is pretty hard to screw up. Which is a good thing, since I flew blind on that. No one made gagging sounds though, so I had that going for me.
I made an appetizer and dessert that I'd never made before, too. They turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.
I thought I'd hoist them onto you.
For an appetizer, I whipped up (although "whipped" makes it seem quicker than it was) ricotta Madeleines with tomato jam.
Disclosure: I have an unnatural attraction to Madeleines. I love the pan. I love the precious seashell shape (why aren't they called seashells? Those crazy French), I love the way they look weird on the top when they're baking but the underside always turns out perfectly ridged and fanned. I love their size, the way you can eat four or five because they're small and unobtrusive. I...I better stop.
As I expected, they were light, creamy, puffs of heaven. Worth the fiddling they required. The fiddling was made worse by yet one more weird and annoying habit I have...I don't read directions...sometimes at all. Most of the time, if at all, too late. These have very little flour, and a whole lotta ricotta. Hey...I'm clever too! But, it's the pepper that makes them. That sexy, hint of heat.
The tomato jam was another story. It was easy, just some chopping, throwing in of spices and a 20 minute simmer. I liked it at first, then not so much. Sometimes food wears out its welcome with me. I'm not including the recipe here for the jam because it has already fallen out of favor. If you want it, just ask me and I will give it to you.
This recipe came from a cookbook devoted entirely to Madeleines called We Love Madeleines by Miss Madeleine.
Don't judge me.
Ricotta Madeleines: This makes 12 regular sized Madeleines.
Preheat oven to 400
1st fiddly step:
3 Tblsp. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 pinches salt
1 large egg
1 tblsp. packed light brown sugar
zest of one lemon
3 tblsp. unsalted butter, melted
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl, set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, brown sugar, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine. I used dark brown sugar because it's what I grabbed first and I was too lazy to get the light sugar instead. They were no worse for the wear because of it.
Add the flour mixture and whisk till combined. Add the melted butter and whisk till combined...again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours. I have no freaking idea why. I did it though, for an hour.
30 minutes before you are ready to bake, remove batter from fridge and let it sit till it's room temp. Again, no clue why you have to do this. But, I take my Madeleines seriously, so I let it sit out for 3o minutes.
Next less fiddly step:
3/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/2 tlbsp. EVOO
It's best to have a non-stick Madeleine pan. If you do, still spray with cooking spray.
Mix these three ingredients into the batter you've let come to room temp. Fill the Madeleine molds about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 4 minutes then lower the oven temp to 350,bake an additional 4-8 minutes, till they're golden brown around the edges. Let cool about 5 minutes. Take out carefully. They are light and a little fragile.
If you make a tomato jam, you just scoop some on these little bites of goodness. You could use a fig jam too. Or, even a marinara. I like the savory with the sweet though.
My high altitude adjustments: I used an extra large egg and a bit less than 1/2 teas. baking powder. I fill the 1/2 teas. with baking powder then press my finger into it. Some falls out, and that's about right.
Don't judge me.
For dessert, I threw caution to the wind and made biscotti. They were shockingly simple. No matter that they have to bake twice. After all, that's what biscotti means...baked twice...now I'm just showing off. Had I known how simple these were and how superbly they'd turn out, I'd have been making them well before now. Considering they get dunked in Vin Santo, or Moscato, or Port...I'm in mourning for all the years I've spent biscotti-less.
Someone, or even a few someones, will get these for Christmas.
Hubby and I ate the leftovers for breakfast. It is already well established that we have poor judgment at breakfast.
Anyhoo, you chop dried apricots (or any dried fruit that blows your skirt up), pistachios, egg, flour and sugar. That's pretty much it. You shape the dough into a log.
Wait, okay, this part did make me nervous. If you recall my piecrust post you will remember that anything that involves having to flour the counter or board and shaping dough into anything resembling something edible, is NOT my forte.
Despite my post traumatic stress, it went swimmingly.
You plop the sticky dough out onto a floured surface, with floured hands, shape into a log and bake it. You take it out, let it cool, then slice into 1/2 inch cookies. Then bake again. Done.
Biscotti: This makes 15 cookies, excluding the ends. You have to eat the ends to make sure it all turns out, don't you?
Preheat oven to 350
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
2/3 cup plus 2 tblsp. all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teas. baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1/3 cup chopped dried fruit - although if you use a small fruit you don't need to chop.
Whisk the egg and sugar till pale. Beat in the orange zest, then slowly fold in the flour, baking powder and a good grating of fresh nutmeg. I'm one of those annoying people who buy whole nutmeg. If you only have regular nutmeg, I'd say about 1/8 tsp. Fold in the fruit and pistachios.
Flour work surface and your hands. Form the dough into a flattish, squarish, loaf about 10x2 inches. It might stick a little to the surface. You can rough it up some to get it off. It's a pretty sturdy dough. Lay the loaf onto a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. You might want to rotate the baking sheet half way through cooking. I don't remember if I did that. Knowing me, probably not.
Transfer to a wire rack. I just lifted it off still on the paper. Let cool five minutes and then slice into 1/2 in pieces. I found that you need to use a really sharp knife and slice it cleanly and quickly through. You don't want to have to saw it. It is still a little underdone, so it'll smash.
Put the cut slices back onto the cookie sheet, with or without the paper. I skipped it. Cook again for 10 minutes, turn them over and cook for another 5 minutes. Let them cool and then store them in an air tight container.
High altitude adjustments: I did the finger in the baking powder trick, so it's a bit less than called for. I baked it for less time too. 25 minutes the first round, and 5 minutes on one side, and 5 on the other. So, a total of 10 less minutes.
These are sublime dipped in Vin Santo, Moscato, Viognet, or a Tawny Port. If you use a red fruit, like cherries or cranberries, you'll want to dunk them in a Frambroise or a Ruby Port.
They're good with coffee too. I've heard.
Marybeth brought these two bottles of bubbly and the chocolate almonds with her to dinner.
In case you need reminding why Marybeth is my very good friend.
I can be bought.
I'm On Fire. You Are?
Just what do you have to do for a man to notice?
Mets pitcher, Matt Harvey, who recently appeared naked in ESPN magazine (ahhh...no...I don't have any idea why) recently put his non-observant brethren to the test.
Disclosure: I had no idea who Matt Harvey was. I didn't know ESPN had a magazine. I don't know a Met from a Yankee. I only absorbed this, and what follows, in case I ever needed more ammunition when proving my husband wrong.
Matt Harvey conducted an experiment to see if men pay any attention. At all.
Well, I don't know if Matt has a wife (probably not, since a man who poses naked with a birthday cake, or whatever the hell, in front of his "little slugger" is clearly wife-less) but if he does, she could have saved him the trouble and just told him what all women already know...
Men don't pay much attention.
Maybe, she did tell him and he just wasn't listening.
Anyway, Matt stood outside the stadium with a microphone, posing as a news reporter (mercifully, dressed) to see if any of the guys would notice it was him.
"Who's your favorite player?" Matt asked.
"Matt Harvey." Man turns his back to the camera so everyone can see his baseball uniform shirt with HARVEY blazing across his shoulders.
"Wow. So, what would you say to him if you could talk to him?" Matt Harvey asks.
Man with HARVEY shirt turns back around, "Keep shining," he answered, teary eyed, overrun with emotion to be asked about a guy who clearly means so much to him.
"I'll tell him if I see him." Matt assures.
After four or five of the same, Matt decided to put on a baseball cap, hoping to help his gender out with a prop. I mean, lets be fair, maybe these guys can't recognize him without the necessary accoutrement.
"Who's your favorite player?" Matt Harvey asks yet one more HARVEY shirt wearing guy.
"Matt Harvey. He's MY MAN, dude!" Man fist pumps.
"Yeah, well...what would you say to him if you saw him?"
"I LOVE YOU, MAN! You're the best. We're gonna win." Dork, I mean, Man shouted.
"I'll tell him when I see him."
Man looks quizzical, he moves closer to his idol. Ahhh...maybe, the jig's up. Maybe, this guy knows. Maybe, he'll represent.
Man's eyes light up. "Are you really gonna see him?"
I relayed this all to hubby, with glee.
I think he made listening sounds.
It brought to mind the time a friend of ours, at a party, reminisced with a chuckle...
"Remember when so and so and what's her name were making out in front of your office?'
"Huh?" Hubby's brow knit.
"Yeah, remember? I made a gagging motion and you..."
I cut this off to keep poor hubby from having to pretend he remembered.
Later, dying to make him remember who so and so and what's her name were, I prodded.
"Who was making out in front of your office?"
"You know, the other night, it was brought up at the party?"
Are men really so obtuse or do they just not want to get involved?
A typical conversation:
"Oh, yeah, John mentioned after our meeting that he and his wife are getting divorced." a man says this to his wife about a week after said meeting.
"What?" Wife's hairline goes up. "Why? What happened?"
Hubby shruggs, "I dunno."
"What do you mean, you don't know?"
"I dunno." he shrugs again. "He didn't say."
"Didn't you ask?"
Deer in the headlights, Hubby says, "No. Why would I do that?"
Wife rolls her eyes heavenward, exasperated. "We've known them forever. He brought it up, he obviously wanted to talk about it," she insists.
"Yankees are playing."
A funny fact...my hubby can't remember a movie he saw last week or a book he read last month.
He knows my bra size, though.
With Friends Like Me
Marybeth is my very good friend. She gives me champagne.
On all kinds of occasions, she makes sure I have champagne. Say, for lunch. Or, dinner. Or, happy hour. Or, parties. She's my dealer.
So, when The Last Day for Rob Rhino launched, she gave me this fabulous bottle of champagne to celebrate. That's just the kind of girl she is.
Hubby and I live in Santa Barbara about a week a month and in Denver the rest of the time. Marybeth delivered this very thoughtful bubbly to me the last time we were in Santa Barbara.
We brought it home to Denver in anticipation of having dinner with Marybeth when she came to town, and sharing this generous, and thoughtful, gift with its giver.
She will be here for dinner tomorrow.
A few days ago, hubby said, "I put that champagne in the fridge so its chilled when Marybeth gets here."
As you might already know, the rest of this story is clearly my husband's fault.
This weekend, I remembered I still had some of those cherries I told you about last week. The one's from the ice cream. They were just sitting there, minding their own business, in their brandied, sugared, perfection.
What's a girl to do but make cherry almond muffins for breakfast?
Which is exactly what I did. Such was my zeal, I made them before I even had any coffee, so no way would I have remembered to take photos of the process. But here they are...glorious, delectable, bites of nirvana.
After making the muffins, there were a handful of cherries left, so I put them back in the fridge.
What did I see?
Yep. That chilled champagne that I might, or might not, have saved for dinner tomorrow with my good friend Marybeth.
I worried what would happen to my straggler cherries. It's not like it's right to waste food. Not in this economy.
My hand accidentally brushed the champagne in the fridge. Right by the cherries.
This is one of our champagne flutes with a couple of those cherries nestled comfortably in the bottom, gently swimming in the champagne...that might, or might not, have come from Marybeth.
Like you wouldn't have done the same thing.
I can't even begin to tell you how superb this concoction tasted. The nose tickling, crisp champagne with those brandy and sugar soaked cherries...now brandy, sugar, and champagne soaked cherries.
I might, or might not, have had more than one glass.
Doesn't this look like a match made in gastronomic heaven?
I can tell you, my friends...there's worse things that can happen to you on a Saturday morning.
This might, or might not, be all that's left for my good friend Marybeth.
As threatened, here's the chocolate loaf I made to go with my chocolate cherry ice cream. This isn't a real looker, as you can see. In fact, as it cools, it gets even uglier because the top sinks in some. Never mind that, though. This is chocolate at its finest. Pure, dark and rich. A damp, dense, slice of heaven.
Even better, it's really easy. Which is a good thing. Especially for me because I suck at making chocolate stuff. I don't know why. Just lucky I guess.
This recipe doesn't have a lot of ingredients so use the best you can find. I like this brand of chocolate and it's not too terribly priced. And I can find it in any old grocery store. You can spend more but something about spending in the double digits for 4 oz. of chocolate makes me nervous. Anyway, break it up in a microwavable bowl and...microwave it! You only need to let it micro for about a minute. It doesn't look all the way melted and that's the way you want it. Start stirring it and it a few seconds it'll all melt.
While the melted chocolate is cooling, cream together the brown sugar and butter. I didn't include a photo of that because it was all jacked up. Add eggs one at a time till incorporated. Then splash in some vanilla.
I have to give a shout out to the vanilla I bought in Mexico (where vanilla originated, in case you didn't know) because its to die for. And, cheap. I brought back a jug. If you don't find yourself conveniently in Mexico you can get it at the Mexican market. Regular vanilla will do, though. I won't hold it against you.
And in case you can't tell, my mixer is pink. Of course.
Add in the melted chocolate and fold it in. You don't want an airy mass so go gently. Then add in the flour alternately with the boiling water.
I added in all the flour at once so I could take a photo of it (above). That's me. I'm all about sacrifice for the greater good.
It's better if you actually follow the directions and add in a bit of flour, then a bit of water, till it's all in.
I didn't do that and my loaf had some flour boogers in it.
I still ate it though. And it was delicious.
I'm just sayin'.
The batter will be very liquid. That's good. Pour it into a prepared loaf pan and bake. If you eat it all your butt will look like...that. But, it's worth it.
I'm just sayin'.
This loaf actually gets better as it gets colder. Oh, and no frosting or sprinkling of powdered sugar. Just this naked loaf. I wrap it up and keep it in the fridge. Then, I slather it with cold cream cheese if I'm not eating it with ice cream. Refer to the rhino's ass photo. Yes, I think that's a thong.
The photo on the right is the loaf, out of the pan, upside down. The top was sunken in. I should say I was trying to avoid putting an ugly loaf photo here but that would be a lie. I forgot to take it.
I am not ashamed of my ugly loaf.
Here's the recipe and this rockin' photo of my grandkid, in her awesome socks.
375 degree oven
9x5 loaf pan, buttered and floured
1 cup soft unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teas. vanilla extract
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teas. baking soda
1 cup plus 2 tblsp. boiling water
You can line your loaf pan with parchment paper, but I'm too lazy for that. I've never had a problem with this loaf sticking. By all means, if you're worried about it, go for the parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla, beating in well. Fold in the melted chocolate with a spatula. In a separate small bowl, mix the baking soda and flour. Add the flour into the melted chocolate mix a bit at a time alternately with the boiled water (I measure out the water and boil it in the micro) till it's all blended in.
Pour it into the prepared loaf pan. It's a liquid batter, remember. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes then turn the heat down to 325 and bake another 15 minutes. Put loaf on a cooling rack till its completely cool before turning it out of the pan.
Don't worry if the top sinks in and its not very pretty. It's art. It's supposed to look that way.
I poached this recipe from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
Baking is a science, I usually leave the recipe creation to the experts. I do live at high altitude so I make adjustments on my own. This is the recipe as it's printed. If you live at high altitude, use extra large eggs, cut the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and reduce the baking time to 25 minutes at 375 and 10 minutes at 325. This worked for me.
No One More Faithful
"Oh...you've got a bald spot."
Wha...wha...what? "Bald" and "you" should never be uttered by my hairdresser. What could be worse?
"Here's another one."
Yeah, that was worse.
Walter has been doing my hair for more than 15 years. He knows I don't have much of a sense of humor about it. But, he said it so casually, I thought he must've been kidding.
He lifted my hair up and turned the chair so I could look. "See?"
Was he really smiling? Ass.
I fingered the hairless spot tenderly, breathless. He parted another section.
"See, here's the other one." He was still smiling. Prick ass.
Sure enough, there they were. Two bald spots. Both about the size of a quarter. He wasn't kidding. He also wasn't hysterical, which I didn't understand. He's been doing my hair for MORE THAN 15 YEARS (sure, I cheat on him, but so what?). This was a crisis of major proportions.
Walter mumbled something about "common" and how he "sees it all the time" but I was too busy trying to stay upright in the chair to really hear him. I HAD TWO BALD SPOTS for god's sake.
"Alopecia," my doc said. I'd made an appointment on the way home from the salon. "No one knows what really causes it, we think its an auto immune thing. You just had hip surgery, twice. So, that probably caused your immune system to overload."
"Will it get worse?" I asked, wide eyed. So far, it hadn't and I knew that because I checked roughly 45 times an hour.
"No way of knowing." He shook his head. "Some people lose all their hair."
Great. Somebody kill me.
Rubbing salt in my bald spots, Doc added, "Oh, and assuming it does grow back, it'll probably grow in all grey."
Hubby interrupted my wailing and gnashing of teeth over this fun fact with a reminder that I dyed my hair anyway.
That was so not the point.
Hubby also assured me no one could tell.
They probably couldn't, except I pointed it out to everyone I saw. I became even more self involved than I usually am.
"My mother's dying." Someone would say.
"You think that's bad? Look at this!" I'd yank my hair up so they could see what tragedy really looked like.
"I lost my job."
"Ha! That's nothing. Guess what I'm losing?" I'd yank my hair up again.
Luckily, I got a hold of myself before I lost ALL of my friends. I think people were crossing the street to avoid me, though. In the meantime, I got all the lotions and potions, which didn't do zip other than giving me something to do while my hair grew back.
The other thing I did to pass the time while my hair grew back (and it did, indeed, grow back) was write. I got a great character out of the deal.
Claire Corrigan, the protagonist in my novel, is totally hairless, as many alopecia sufferers are. She's pissed off about it, too. I don't have much in common with her (despite what you might think!) but I was pissed about my bald spots. I can't imagine how intolerable it would have been if I'd have gone totally cue ball.
Yeah, yeah, I know it happens to men all the time.
But, that's so not the point.
It's socially acceptable for a man to be bald. Women...not so much.
So, Claire goes through life perpetually pissed off, bitter, self involved, and let's not forget stoned. Sure, she's got other reasons, but her hairlessness defines, and drives her.
I get asked all the time what inspired me to write The Last Day for Rob Rhino. The seed was planted that one day in the salon. What if I went bald? What if I was bald and pissed at my husband? What if a bald woman and an aging porn star met? Okay, that's out of left field...but not really...and that'll be the subject of another post. But, you see where this is going. The great, "what if?"
That's what all writers do. They take the everyday situations and ask, what if? I'm just lucky enough to experience weird everyday situations. Like bald spots and porn stars.
Now, my hair is really short. In fact, it's scalp showing short. On purpose.
I still have no idea if the hair that grew in over the bald spots was grey...because I dye it.
But, that is so not the point.
Slap Yo Mama
I'm not really a food blogger. I'm a writer who loves food, and my next book is about a disgraced Food Network chef with a mother gone off the rails. So, I thought I'd get some practice on the recipe front. To wit: this scrumptious cherry chocolate ice cream with chocolate loaf dessert.
I made it. From scratch. Yes, I'd hate me too, if I were you. It was tasty. If you're feeling up to it, I beg you to make it. It's worth it. You'll make all kinds of yum yum sounds.
Here's the fresh pitted cherries for the ice cream. If you don't have a cherry pitter, you can do this with a knife.
My tried and true method: My husband does it.
Because I'm not really a food blogger, I didn't take any photos of the maceration process. You just bring some water and sugar to a boil to melt the sugar. Then you take it off the heat and add vanilla and brandy. If you're going to be serving this to the kiddies, just skip the brandy. If you don't like brandy (and I don't) take a chance and add it anyway. This just tastes good, not boozy. Here's the exact measurements.
What's not to love?
By the way, making this desert is not hard. It's just not fast.
After you put the cherries in an airtight container, pour the cooled brandy mixture over them and let them get really cold in the fridge. I did it overnight.
Did I say this wasn't quick?
I didn't take photos of the half and half, cream and sugar simmering on the stove for the ice cream base either. I gotta get in the swing of this...You simmer it just long enough for the sugar to melt, take it off the heat, add vanilla and let it cool. I put it in a smaller bowl, then put the smaller one into a bigger one full of ice. After it's completely cold I put it in the fridge for at least three hours. You can also skip the ice bowl thing entirely and just put the mix in the fridge. But you'll need to let it get cold overnight.
Yeah, this isn't an instant gratification thing, but its easy as pie. Ok, it's a hell of a lot easier than pie, but takes longer. The good news is, most of the time is spent just sitting there, doing nothing more strenuous than waiting.
After the cream mix is cold, pour it into your ice cream maker and mix away. This is what mine looks like after I add the cherries and chocolate. I'm messy.
Anyhoo - while your cream mix is mixing away, chop up a cup (if you haven't eaten them all already) of the booze soaked cherries and a half cup of chopped dark chocolate. I used bittersweet chocolate chips from Whole Foods which saves me from having to chop it.
When your ice cream base is half done (mine takes 30 minutes total so I plop in the add ins after 15 minutes) add your chopped up cherries and chocolate and let it finish freezing.
My ice cream maker didn't really like the chocolate chips. It made bump bump sounds and the lid kind of moved sideways a hair. I did what I always do when things like that happen. I ignored it.
Here's what it looks like all done, ready to get scooped out and put into the freezer.
You can eat it now if you can't wait. It'll be soft serve though and not like "from the carton" ice cream.
This is my husband scraping it into the tupperware. He does this because he thinks I leave too much in the ice cream maker. And, because he's really nice.
If I'm making ice cream for company I usually let it freeze overnight. But, it's really fine after a few hours.
We ate this the same night and no one was worse for the wear.
I made a chocolate loaf cake to go with the ice cream, but feel free to make brownies, or cookies, or nothing but the ice cream. I tried to make this look pretty so I garnished with a couple of the brandied cherries.
This ice cream recipe came from my BFF what's his name who has a food site that I just discovered called simplecomfortfood.com. Check it out.
I posted the recipe on my personal face book page but I will add it below for your convenience. I will also post my chocolate loaf recipe later this week. Cause I'm that kinda gal.
Make sure you freeze the ice cream maker bowl. Do this the night before. I keep mine in the freezer all the time. I know, I'm ridiculous. I didn't follow the directions of this recipe so I'll tell you what I did. You can refer to his website if you'd prefer to follow his. Add the milk (I never use milk, I always use half and half, the more fat, the better I like it), cream and sugar to a saucepan, mix with a whisk occasionally over medium heat until it simmers and all of the sugar dissolves. Take off heat and add in the vanilla extract, squirt of red food coloring and either put it in the ice bowl or let it come to room temp, then put it in the fridge.
I didn't use the red food coloring. I could say its because I don't believe in dye, I'm a purist. But that would be a lie. I forgot. Did I say I don't follow directions?
After its cold, pour it into your ice cream maker and do all the stuff I already told you.
Those Were Heady Days
Has guilt gone out of style?
My mother has a way about her. She can reduce me to a puddle of neurosis with a glance. She doesn't have to say a word and I'm in a fetal position of guilt.
She's a pro.
So, one would think I'd have learned from a master. Not so fast.
My kids are impossible to guilt. No matter how many times I look down my nose in that meaningful way...you know what way. I get nothing.
A well placed heavy sigh, a wavering bottom lip, a shoulder slump - all time honored, well tested tools in the mother's guilt toolbox. Fugget about it.
Even my favorite - silence. Those pregnant and hurtful pauses on the phone gets these responses:
"Is this where I'm supposed to feel guilty?" my son says.
"You're not trying that again, are you?" my daughter says.
The precious darlings.
So, when my husband and I married ten years ago, we blended families. You can imagine my excitement. 2 new kids! Finally. "Give guilt a chance," I thought.
The joke was on me. They both have an inner toughness that I hadn't counted on. In fact, I don't think they've ever even noticed my best attempts.
How we managed to have 4 kids better adjusted than we are...well, it boggles the mind. Who do they think they are, anyway?
Luckily, I'm no respecter of persons when it comes to the laying on of the guilt trip. Isn't that what grandkids are for?
Forget this one. She's too busy planning world domination to bother with guilt.
This one's a slave to fashion. Not guilt.
Where have I gone wrong?
This one had real possibilities. But then she discovered Calliou. And Dora the Explorer. And Mario Bros. She just asks me to get out from in front of the TV when she's had enough. Or, she pretends she's fallen into a coma.
So, that leaves him. Even I wouldn't bet on me.
You couldn't hear me, but I just sighed. Really loud.
I gotta go call my mother. To apologize.
She's freakishly strong.
She can whoop ass in air hockey with a 30 lb. baby on her hip.
She once tried to save a woman's life on the side of the road using her belt as a tourniquet.
She can call bingo numbers like a carny.
She plays pool.
She makes homemade ice cream, tortillas, tamales and pie crust.
She loves her kids, her family, her man.
She loves her mom.
She handles her daughter's disability with grace and fortitude.
She loves the underdog.
She takes in stray dogs. And cats. And birds. And rats. And rabbits.
She makes me laugh.
She makes me cry.
She wears hats.
She steals my clothes. My makeup. My purses. My heart.
She'll take care of me in my old age.
She could lift a car off you.
She could kick your ass.
She would give you the shirt off her back.
She's Kayla. My daughter. I love her. She rocks.
IF YOU LIKE THE BLOGS YOU'LL LOVE THE NOVELS IN HER TWISTED CRIME SERIES