Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Do you make new year's resolutions? It seems like a fun thing to do, but I'm a noncommittal person, so these things are generally not for me.  However, in the interest of killing some time at work, why not.

In honor of 2011, I present to you a list of 20 resolutions, 11 of which I will not do. 

I "resolve" to:

1. Join a gym 
Will I or won't I? Hahaha no. I used to belong to a gym, for a very long time. I was a faithful gym-goer.  Then I met Kevin and we got lazy and mushy together.  And these days I'd rather spend my evenings cooking, blogging, and hanging out with the pugs.  I used to do yoga at home with DVDs, which is something that I could resolve to to again, but that would be too much commitment.
2.  Get a third pug
Will I or won't I?  Sadly, seeing as how this decision should be one of those "family decisions", and Kevin is a mean mean man, I will not be doing this.

3.  Take a photography class
Will I or won't I? Eep. I think I will. Before you get all excited (because I know you were), I mean something very basic to improve my point and shoot camera skills and learn more about the functions of my camera.  I'm not ready for DSLR.

4.  Take a tap dance class
Will I or won't I? I want to, but we'll see.

5.  Go to bed by midnight
Will I or won't I? Oh lawd yes, please let this be a huge honkin' yes.
6.  Wake up before 8am
Will I or won't I? The opposite of above.

7.  Watch less TV
Will I or won't I? Why would I resolve to do this? My TV-watching makes me a better human being.

8.  Go to the Brooklyn Flea Market
Will I or won't I? Hell yes. Just after it gets warmer. But not too warm. Basically during that two-week period in June and again in October when things are juuuust right.

9.  Venture from our neighborhood more for dinner
Will I or won't I? I see so many folks trying all these great restaurants.  Kevin and I used to eat out more at new, fun places, but then he started working 14 hours/day and we basically lost resolve to go further than a 4-block radius from our apartment. I will avoid saying whether or not we will do this.

Well shit, this is tiring. That's enough.

What are your resolutions?

Hope everyone rings in the new year with style, whether that be with fancy dresses and cocktails, or a mug of hot cocoa and warm jammies.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This'll Cheer Me Up

Nothing like purposeless, random shots of the pugs to inject a little happy zing into my post-holiday languor.

NYC has hit by a blizzard.  I was so excited to some coats on the pugs and head out on our merry way, to frolic for hours in the fresh-fallen snow. I love watching dogs playfully romp in the snow, with glee on their little faces. Oh the fun we would have! The pictures I would take! The blissful exhaustion of happy pugs that would follow!

I'm not sure if those are looks of anticipation or fear. 

Sitting down before we even get outside. Not a good sign.

This is a shot of our street.

We venture.  That suspiciously looks like Bunni trying to turn back and head home.

Eventually Kevin takes the lead to forge a path through the deep snow.

We pause to allow the pugs to take in the splendor of it all, before the festive frolicking begins.

This was about as frolicky as Rikki got.

I had higher hopes for Bunni, due to memories of past years and snow-frolicking. There has to be frolicking, dammit.

After words of encouragement which degenerated into commands to "Frolic! Right now you ingrate!", Bunni seems to think this gig is up.

Yeah, it's time to go home.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Seasons Greetings!

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season! However you say it--Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Happy Kwanzakuhmas--what I really mean is warm wishes of friendship, family and love. 

Beetch, where is my geeft?

Seriously, ees you stupid? Where EES my GEEFT?  

This does NOT suffice. However, it is a much better background for my coloring.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookie Tins

Now that I've had my little detour into Scroogeville, back to the good-natured stuff.  Which I swear I have a lot of.

As part of that ho-ho-ho spirit, I sent out cookie tins to some folks.  But only so much ho-ho-ho spirit. I'm not Martha (i.e. don't have low-paid interns and assistants to do my bidding). So I limited the cookie tins to just family.  And then further Grinched out by limiting it to close family. That I like.  Rebounding from snark is hard, folks.

So on with the cookie collection that started with the peppermint bark shortbread.  Last year I made about 5 varieties of cookies for the tins.  That was a mistake. This year it became a much more manageable 3.  In addition to the peppermint bark, I made molasses spice cookies and walnut shortbread.  Both recipes are adapted from the lovely Dorie Greenspan.

What's nice about these cookies is that they are relatively hearty (good for travel), and both require some chilling time, so you can break up making them over a few days if you like. 

Molasses Spice Cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking soda 
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 large egg
  • Granulated sugar, for rolling
FYI--this makes quite a crispy cookie (which may, ahem, may be due in part to some overbaking on my part).  Perhaps this is a softer cookie if baked properly, but I figured its crispiness would help it stand up to the travel.

Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. 

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the room temperature butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Mix in the brown butter and molasses and beat until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the egg and beat for about 1 more minute.

Add in the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.

Divide dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap.

Looks like pile of dinosaur dung a la Jurassic Park.  Don't worry, the poop references do not stop here.

Freeze for about 30 minutes before moving on to the rest of the recipe, or chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Divide each ball of dough into 12 pieces (if you want smaller cookies, that's fine, just remember to shorten the baking time).

Roll each piece into a ball.

Camel poop, anyone?

Place the sugar in a bowl.  Roll each ball of dough until lightly coated.

Lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 2 inches apart...

Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass (dipped in sugar to prevent sticking), until about 1/4" thick.

The original recipe says to bake for about 10 minutes.  The original recipe also says the cookies are done until centers are just set--I'm not sure what that means, and it became clear that I didn't when the cookies became a bit more crisp than desirable. "Just set" does not mean firm. Just that it's not soupy any longer, which I think for my oven would have taken more around 7 minutes.  So start checking at 7 minutes. 

Remove cookies with a spatula and set on wire rack to cool.

Brown Butter Walnut Shortbread
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts or pecans (I should point out that the original recipe is called Brown Butter Pecan Shortbread--but I had extra walnuts lying around, so there you go) 
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
Mix flour, cornstarch, salt and cloves in medium bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar on medium speed until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

With mixer on low speed, gradually add in flour mixture until just combined.

Gather dough and place into gallon-size resealable plastic bag.  It will be soft and sticky. That be okay.

Roll out into a rectangle about 1/4" thick and about 9" x 10 1/2".  I probably spent about 20 minutes on this part because I am not adept at this sort of thing.

Refrigerate dough, in bag, for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut off plastic bag and discard.

Cut dough into 1 1/2" squares.  I scored mine first.

After cutting the dough into squares, prick each piece with a fork two times, with the tines of the fork going all the way through the dough.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake 15-20 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back. Shortbread is done when they are just light golden brown. Again, as is my wont, I overshot it and they were pretty golden brown. It was not my night for baking.

To pack the cookies, I bought these cute tins from the Container Store.

I nestled the stacks of cookies in cupcake wrappers.  For the peppermint bark shortbread, I separated the layers with more wrappers.


Gift Ideas

Ever have to get a gift for someone that you kind of pretty much don't like, but the obligation exists nonetheless? Well, I have a list for you. And I'm not saying who or what inspired these ideas. Or whether the who or what even exists. I might have just been thinking about these on my own.  Except for the fact that they were a helluva lot funnier when I had someone specific in mind. Not that I did.

Anyway, make it special for them. Make it holiday-y. Oh you know what I mean. Yes--make it the 12 days of Christmas.  For someone you really don't want to care about.

Warning: you will see how nasty and mean I can be.  If you want to hold on to your impressions of me as an angel, go back to the last post about shortbread and peppermint

Day 1: A trial pack of Prozac, generic or brand-named, with a note saying "Wheeeeee!"

Day 2: Two articles of clothing you don't wear anymore, that you can "donate"  to your [person you don't like but to whom you must give a gift even though they DO NOT deserve it].  Just stick those faded sweatshirts and PJ bottoms into a box and tie 'em with ribbon--they'll never know they were used! Don't forget to spritz with Febreze. An actual washing is completely unnecessary.  The recipient (again, I won't say who) should be grateful for the injection of fashion into their lives, even if it comes into the form of sweatpants with elephants all over them. Not that I have those. I actually don't. Moving on... 

Day 3: A variety pack of three matchboxes wrapped in pretty Paper Source paper, with a note saying "For when you need to pinch a big stinky loaf".

Day 4: Four lightbulbs--one for recipient [I won't say who] and three for his/her imaginary friends--with recipient's and totally hallucinatory friends' names written in puffy pen, with a note saying "For display purposes only".

Day 5: Five snails and/or dead rodents.  No no silly haha I'm not talking about giving someone just a snail or rodent.  Make sure they're dead (or not), shellack them, and glue them to cardboard. 

Day 6: Six tasers with a note saying, "So people stop rolling their eyes and falling asleep when you talk!"

Day 7:  Seven garbage bags, each clearly labeled with a different day of the week in big, glittery cut out letters.

Day 8: Eight pounds of dirt from nearest...dirt place.  Pack it into a box, tie it with ribbon, and say it's real earth from Santa's special magic garden.

Day 9: A little dixie cup, with a note saying "For when you scrape the plaque off your teeth in public and want to remember it.  Cup only holds scrapings from nine teeth".

Day 10: Collect your eye and nose boogers for 10 days.  You will need to plan ahead of time to make this work.  Squish into big ball, slap a bow on it, and tell recipient it's a toffee-flavored taffy ball.

Day 11:  A pair of forceps (both tongs representing the numeral "11"), with a note saying "For when you decide to pry the stick out of your ass".

Day 12: A bottle of weed killer, with a note saying "The perfect solution for all that pesky facial hair you have!" (No relation to the number 12)

Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Peppermint Bark Shortbread

Holidays and cookies. What could be better.  Each year I have a fantasy of turning my kitchen into a flour- and sugar-covered wonderland where the mixer is always on and the oven is happily chugging away and making apartment toasty, and I bake millions and bajillions of cookies.

This pretty much never happens. Maybe one day. When I have my huge-ass house with a ginormous kitchen with a massive island perfect for multiple stations for cookies in various stages of creation.  Actually, it probably wouldn't happen then either.  The expansive house and kitchen probably won't happen either.  Pretty much a useless and depressing exercise in imagination.

Until then (or never), I will make peppermint bark shortbread.  It is easy and festive--I made it for an office potluck and for cookie tins that we mailed to family (which probably should have been mailed with a pouch of shelf-safe milk since there were some other components of the cookie tin that were quite...crispy, even by the time I mailed them. Whatever it's the thought, people).

From Epicurious
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red-and-whitestriped hard peppermint candies or candy canes (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the crap outta your candy canes or peppermint candies.  I do this by placing the candies in a resealable plastic bag (something thicker than just a sandwich bag, like the quart or gallon size because the candy shards will mercilessly rip through a sandwich bag) and beating it with a rolling pin.

Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to line the pan, with enough overhang on the short ends that will give you enough grip to lift the parchment and cookies out of the pan.  Spray the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

In a mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy--a couple of minutes.

Or, as was the case with me, beat a mere 1 minute until half fluffy, half greasy because the butter was too warm. Whatevs.

With mixer on low speed, gradually mix in sugar.  Make sure to spill a good portion of it on the counter.

You'll end up with something like this.  But maybe not as greasy (see note above).

Gradually mix in flour/salt on low speed, until just combined--as in, don't wait for it to come into a ball or anything.  Scoop dough out of mixing bowl into parchment-lined baking pan.

Gently press dough evenly over the bottom of the baking pan--it's going to be a thin layer, about 1/4" or 1/3" thick.  Prick all over with a fork.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

Honestly, I overdid the baking a touch. The next time I paid attention to the lightly in "lightly golden" and was happier with the final results.

While the shortbread base is baking, chop up the bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. I used a combo. Like you care.

When the shortbread base is done, evenly sprinkle the chocolate all over the base.  Some of it will start to melt right away.

Cover tightly with foil and let sit for about 3 minutes, to give all the chocolate a chance to soften.

Remove the foil.  With an offset spatula (or whatever, you could use the back of a spoon), spread the chocolate into a smooth layer.

Fun.  Then, sprinkle the peppermint candies all over. 

Someone didn't work quite hard enough at beating the candy canes into submission.

Rogue piece of candy cane. 

Melt white chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan filled with an inch of simmering water.  In order to get the white chocolate to drizzling consistency, I had to add a touch of cream, like a teaspoon or so.

Dip a fork in the melted chocolate and drizzle over your concoction.

Place entire pan in refrigerator until the white chocolate sets up--at least 30 minutes. 

Some of my "drizzles" were more like blobs.

You can lift the entire massive "cookie" out of the pan and cut into desired size. 

I have final pics of the shortbread that I'll show to you later, along with the other cookie goodies I made.

But here's a Ta-da in the meantime. Ta-da!