Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting my just desserts...

Dec. 24, 2010 (Yes, I have a lot of other things I should be doing. Don't judge.)

My Mother in law is a great lady, and is an excellent cook. I think I can hold my own, but she has mad skills that can turn three tiny dabs of saran wrap covered leftovers and a hunk of meat into a meal for six (four univited). I am always bringing something a little diffferent to holiday meals and she politely tolerates my weird cooking, even if I believe she just wishes I would make some damn brownies and shut up about it. She knows about the layers too, I am guessing. She loves me anyway. And I her.

For Christmas we are bringing tamales from my favorite local Mexican Chef, Mayra. (She says she is a cook, I say she is a Chef. I am not giving in.) I sampled them today before the big dinner tomorrow to make sure they weren't poisoned, and they were delicious. DELICIOUS.  DE - LI - CIOUS. She makes a great spicy avocado sauce for them too which is so good I could eat it by itself.

I am on tamale and dessert duty for Christmas and no.. I am not making brownies. Or pie. Considering our Mexican theme, I am making this:

Daisy Martinez's Chocolate-Chile cake

Let's hope mine resembles this, even slightly.
It seems the right flair for our Mexican themed dinner. The aroma of the sauce of coffee, butter and cinnamon sticks was pretty dreamy, pre-cayenne. The teaspoon of cayenne gave it a wee kick that you only get just at the end of the taste. Very warm. After tasting the buttery concotion a few times I poured it over a boatload of well earned, Ghirardelli chocolate.  I whisked with the new whisk the kids bought me and the chocolate tasted great. I placed the springform pan in a water bath inside a roaster in the oven. This was new to me, and I learned the hard way that I should have used WIDER foil to put around the bottom of the springform pan. THe skinnier version had a lot of layers (ba-dump-bump), and the water seeped in a little. EEEEk! $25 worth of chocolate! I was able to get the water out and re-group with the wider foil. It is just out of the oven now and is not at all wiggly, as suggested by the recipe. In fact, I wish it would "wiggle it - just a little bit (name that tune)".  I fear it will taste like a hot dry brownie. It is cooling itself down this moment. I am trying to do the same.

The cayenne will make the fam raise an eyebrow, but just one, they are used to me. "That girl. Another layer. Chocolate that is SPICY? "HOT" chocolate, but not "HOT CHOCOLATE?". Weird. In fact, she is a little weird.." I think my father in law is a closet weird eater, so he always likes my crazy offerings. So, that and my husband will even out the votes for me. Phew. 

As a back up, and for the kiddies, I am also making this monstrosity of sugar, below. It was very easy, and seems like you could add any old thing you wanted to change things up (fruit and jam were mentioned). I am going with plain, for my little plain Janes who will be at the gathering. And for German-born Opa, who will not want to even consider spicy chocolate.  This cake was a layer of very thick cheesecake with breading on both sides, and a whole lotta butter, cinnamon and sugar. It used whomp cresecents (you whomp them on the counter to open them), but don't judge. Wish me luck with both! I hope I can get them all done before Santa gets here.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

**Post Holiday Wrap-up**

Below are the desserts I made, post dig in (I always forget the before photos -CURSES!). We ate so much prime rib, tamales and homemade refritos, so we weren't as hungry for dessert as we should have been. No matter, we went for it anyway. The Chocolate-chile torte was RICH. It made me feel that it would be better served as candy, as even a small-for-holidays size slice was a whole-lotta-chocolate. I couldn't finish all of mine. Still, I thought the flavor was really good and the spice level was just right for those who have a more adventurous palate. I served vanilla bean ice cream with the slices (recipes suggested cinnamon, but I couldn't find any) and the duality of the cool and the heat was really nice. I like duality. I added pomegranate seeds to mine too, for a festive look. Ole'!

Give it a shot, but slice those slices THIN To WIN. Below are photos of the carnage.

Chocolate-Chile Torte

I seem sweet, but I am also spicy. Me, or the cake? You decide.

The fam gave the torte nice-but-mixed reviews. No one disliked it, but I had a few "It's really different.." responses and everyone agreed it was very rich. Opa had already said whatever those things (tamales) were at dinner, he was ok if he never had one again, so I didn't push my luck with spicy cake. Ole? 

On to the cheesecake!

This was fluffier initially.
It was a little deflated by the end of the holiday, as was I.

This was a winner with most everyone, although I (and several other online reviewers) found it to be a little TOO sweet. No duality at all here, folks, just sweet goodness. I think one could cut the sugar on the top by at least half, and I didn't drizzle with honey as I think it would have sent me into diabetic shock. This kept very well in the refridgerator, and as suggested, was pretty good as a cream cheese danish the morning after Christmas. And this morning. Don't judge.

You're judging, aren't you?

Friday, December 24, 2010

" the carwash...."

Although it was frigid weather today, and I mean C-O-L-D, I still elected to take the grey box through the autowash this week. It was so grungy that a person could hardly go near the car without getting smuch on them.

My daughter was with me and we are both suffering from a weekend basketball tournament hangover. Our hair was limp, and had we not committed to ringing the Salvation Army bell, we would have still been on the couch.

I felt a little bad for the fellow doing the pre-spray to the grey box. His many layers of coats and hoodies could not protect him from the spray-back from the hose. I felt it sucking FOR him. I imagined he was underpayed. I felt annoyed at me FOR him. Moving on.

My sweet baboo reminded me that she used to have to hold her brother's hand when we went through the spray wash, since the sound frightened him. I had COMPLETELY forgotten about that. I. had. forgotten. How will I ever remember all of the important things? I need to write things down. Moving on.

As the wash revved up, I held my hand out to her. She smiled at me and held my hand. It was sweet, and made up for the times lately (more often than ever) that she thinks I am annoying. We agreed the spinning brushes looked like dancing ladies, and we cranked up the radio so we could hear the GLEE CD better. We belted out our favorite cover of "Don't Stop Believing". I told her about Journey and Steve Perry.

Then, we sat silently as the scrubbers surrounded us and the next ones wagged side to side over the car. At one point, she said "cool" very quietly. It was pretty cool, and I wished we could just shut the car down and stay in the car wash. Forever. Or, at least for a nap.

The spell was broken as we exited the car wash, and we hustled to our usual busy lives. But, for those few minutes....


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tis the Season to...Catch Up with the Mentally Ill

I was in a rush this morning, and although all of you assume I go to the grocery store looking GREAT in my tiara and hotpants, today my hair was a bit of a fright. I was comparison shopping for high end baking chocolate to continue my love affair with the PW truffles and butter toffee and was literally RACING back and forth between aisles, muttering to myself like a crazy person with bad hair.

I made my selection and was headed back to put the non-sale candy bars back when I saw JJ (names have been changed to protect the mentally unbalanced..and me FROM the mentally unbalanced) racing TOWARD me down the same aisle. We physically collided. I smiled and said hi, as I have known JJ since junior high, and seem to run across him randomly about every two years. He looked overly happy to see me in my candy bar and bad hair frenzy and said "Hey, I was trying to chase you down!". Huh? While JJ and I know each other because he annoyed me daily when he sat behind me in Mr. Hall's 8th grade Social Studies class, we weren't friends in school. In fact, i don't know WHO JJ was friends with, as he was a bit of an oddity even then. He was a smidge of 'Bender' in The Breakfast Club, all about the inappropriate language and classroom outbursts and also like some of the folks I see on the 16th street mall in Denver. Except friendlier, like that guy who talks to you the whole flight. Mix that all together. 

A little Bender, plus...

Talky guy on plane, plus...

This sweet specimen = JJ

This crazy JJ fellow is always happy to see me, and I must admit, it is always an adventure seeing him. I saw him many years ago when I had first returned to the area. I was working at a bank, which was the worst job I have ever held. It was stifling. From the lowly teller line, I could see JJ sitting, slumped in a chair in the loan, looking bored, his foot up on a chair leg in the waiting area. He waved, I waved and then slunk back to my prison of a job. He didn't look nervous...just annoyed to have been kept waiting by the 21 years old. As I left for lunch, i caught a glimpse of JJ, riding down the road on a new (to him) motorcycle. It wasn't fancy, but he looked like a kid on Christmas Day as the wind whipped his Bender style haircut. He was grinning hugely, and gave me a big military style salute. The loan was for this bike, and he has gotten it. Of course he had. 

In the grocery aisle, JJ didn't let my shock bother him one bit, and instead launched into a story about (I think?) quitting smoking. I smiled and said "good for you", which only inspired more talking about the following things:

(Please picture me smashed against the spice racks, holding 6 giant candy bars against my chest with a terrified smile on my face, trying to look relaxed. Add a lot of nodding)

 - Murder (I suggested adding murder to his quitting smoking list since our reunion is in a few years, but he said it was OK, since no one would find the bodies. Seriously.)

 -  Dominating the scrap iron business - he felt his success could also lead to retribution by his competitors and would need to start "carrying a gun again." Yep, he said again.
 - His Girlfriend - he loves this one, so they are NOT going the "ripping each other's clothes off" route this time. She has had an extended illness, so there may or may not be an issue with her legs - I was unclear on that. However, he did tell me she was beautiful with long blond hair (i thought of my own shaggy hair at this moment - WHY?), and that her t*ts were just were just where they should be (ahem.). Most Excellent. We agreed I had probably heard enough descriptors at that point. (OK, maybe I said that.) He threw his head back and laughed, saying "Stacie, you are cracking me up!"

 - Several physical altercations - i can't really describe what I heard here, as he was getting pretty animated.  I did hear every swear word I know, even the ones you NEVER hear...and especially not in the baking aisle at 9:15 in the morning. He was acting out some of the fighting, so he was pointing his finger one inch from my face as he demonstrated the tirade he gave to someone who had it coming. I know my eyes were freakishly wide, although I was trying to pretend this was all old hat to me. ((Nervous giggle, while looking around nervously)) Passersby seemed to be considering dialing 911.

 - Drug use - not his, but a lot of other people who were "gobbling up 'shrooms in the poolhouse" (Poolhouse?? in Wyoming?) and "taking more than their TIME.. (wink!)", etc. I have some new catch phrases for drug use now, anyhow.

 - Financial Stability - I should be honest and say that I know not a thing about JJ, including where he lived or lives. His father was also a bit of an eccentric, lived out of town on land with a spray painted graphic (and misspelled) sign to potential trespassers at the entrance.  I can't say if either were financially set as I was told today. However, maybe they are? According to JJ, it's remarkable. And why wouldn't I believe it? He has told me everything else this morning.

 Do you have a good visual? I hope so. Don't be afraid. Although JJ has apparently put the smack down on many, and seems slightly off balance, here is the weirdest thing:

Seeing JJ made my morning today. As I shared the story with others who knew JJ from back in the day, I couldn't stop smiling. As I write this, I still can't. JJ is a colorful character and a part of my history, and made the effort to chase me down at 9:15 am, even though he had finished his shopping JUST to share a bit of time telling me how things are going and even to ask a bit about me. JJ is a character, but one that made my mundane morning a little less mundane, you know?

Merry Christmas JJ. It was nice to see you. Please don't kill anyone in 2011.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let the Holiday Eating Begin...

I am eating a leftover hunk of wrapped brie for lunch. A big hunk. Sigh. The holidays are officially here. I am trying hard NOT to think about the caloric intake of soft cheese baked in bread, and am instead focusing on the pomegranates and pecans that are mixed in. They're heart healthy, you know...

It's a superfood...unless you wrap it in cheese and bread
I am having some ADD about all of the things I would like to cook this holiday season, and when. So far I need to make some delivery plates for clients and friends, some cookies to decorate and something to bring to my BFF's house for a goodie exchange. I *could* make something that covers ALL of those bases, and then pat myself on the back for my efficient planning. But I am not going to. Because there are TOO many good things to make and I just hijacked my sister's extra nice mixer while I was feeding her dogs. It would be a waste not to burn it up in the time I have it before she gets wise to me.

Besides brie, I have been consumed with thoughts of chocolate and sea salt. Together. You heard me. Something about that sweet and savory mix is making me freak out a little, and I am downloading way too many recipes and buying a lion's share of Ghiradelli from the grocer. I am trying to sort out the plans for cookies (I forgot to steal the wheelbarrow of cookie cutters while I was getting the mixer :-/ ), sweet rolls, toffee, and some ludicrous PW Truffles  that scare me to death. And finish my Christmas shopping, wrapping, and other whatnot. Oh, and work.

But not today. Today I am recovering from a fun but late night with my daughter by pretending I am a cat; laying around, sitting in the sun, pretending I don't care, etc. Our cat is pretending to be ME, as she also ate too much of the brie while I typed this. Except she STILL doesn't care. Those pomegranates better pay off, as the both of us are getting a little fluffy.

Origins of "Pain in the Neck" (and Other Stuff You Never Needed to Know)

I have a crick in my neck today, which has set my mind slightly off kilter along with my head. I have been reminded of the genie in Aladdin flinging out of the lamp saying this:

                       10,000 YEARS...will give ya such a crick in the neck!

Want to watch this part? Rub the, click the link..

I like words. I want to know their meanings and even their origins. I particularly like the origins of phrases. SO, since my neck is making me appear that I am saying "huh?" all day long anyway, I wondered where the phrase "pain in the neck" originated, and so on. See why I can't get anything done?

Origins of "Pain in the Neck" led me to the origins of the true phrase "pain in the arse", which dates all the way back to the 1900's. That was the same time as many electrical items were invented, so the surfacing of this phrase around then makes a lot of sense. 

Women's suffrage also became big talk on the radio during this time period, so I guess we started being a pain in the neck too - in the best kind of way. While I appreciate the effort, I am certainly glad I missed out on the hunger strikes that occurred to guarantee my rights.   

So, I am including the P.I.T.N/A. definition for you...don't say I never shared anything.

p.s. There was an ad under the phrase that shouted "Tell me your symptoms!", which made me come up with all kinds of sarcastic answers... 

Idioms & Phrases

"pain in the neck"

Also, pain in the a$$ or butt .  A source of annoyance, a nuisance, as in Joan is a real pain in the neck, with her constant complaining , or Jack told his brother to stop being a pain in the ass . The first of these colloquial expressions dates from about 1900 and originated as a euphemism for the two less polite variants.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.

If she were "Team Jacob", she wouldn't have this problem, just saying.