Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Easy pastry, two ways

Monday, January 31, 2011 By

Emmie and I like to cook together, and one morning we decided to make a savory breakfast pastry. It was good! Au Bon Pan's got nuthin' on us. She enjoyed cooking breakfast so much that she wanted to cook something else, so I used more pastry dough to make mini apple turnovers.

Breakfast Turnover

1 can crescent rolls - or one sheet puff pastry
1-2 eggs, scrambled
Shredded cheddar cheese
low-cal butter substitute
melted low-cal butter substitute

Spray Baker's Joy on a cookie sheet, and lay out the crescent rolls. If using puff pastry, roll out one sheet, and cut into equal-sized triangles. Don't ask me how to do that; I can't cut anything equally sized.

Lightly spread a tad of butter in the middle of the triangle. Spoon egg onto butter in the middle of the widest part, sprinkle cheese over eggs, then fold triangle. There's a technique to make them pretty, which consists of folding the longest point up to the edge and pinching that edge closed, then folding the remaining triangle point over to the same corner, and pinching the remaining open sections closed. But so long as everything is in the dough and no sides are open, you're good. Brush melted butter over top, sprinkle top with sea salt and pepper, and bake at 375 degrees for 10-13 minutes.

Variation: Endless. Try adding sausage, pepperoni, hot dogs, chicken, spinach, onion, peppers, tomato, feta cheese... whatever floats your boat.

Mini Turnovers

1 can crescent rolls - or one sheet puff pastry
1 green apple, diced
Splenda, cinnamon, ginger (or pumpkin pie spice)
low-cal butter substitute
melted low-cal butter substitute

Spray Baker's Joy on a cookie sheet, and lay out the crescent rolls. If using puff pastry, roll out one sheet, and cut into equal-sized triangles. Don't ask me how to do that; I can't cut anything equally sized.

In a bowl, combine apple, Splenda, and spices, to taste. Make sure the apple is well-coated. Lightly spread a tad of butter in the middle of each pastry triangle. Spoon apple mixture into the middle of the widest part of the pastry. Fold over as above, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle lightly with Splenda. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-13 minutes. Serve with a scoop of low-sugar ice cream.

Variations: Sub apples for diced peaches or cherries.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I blame Bieber

Saturday, January 29, 2011 By

Just get bangs.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Owned, by my child

Friday, January 28, 2011 By

Emmie left my bedroom to go to the bathroom... and returned 47 seconds later to fling her body onto the bed. I was busy reading a travel story in the New York Times, so I hardly glanced up at her mini-tantrum.

"MeenameenaMeenameenaMEENAmeena!" she whined, and flailed her arms.

Um, okay...

"What's up, Doodle?"

"BeeemaneemabmeeemaneemaBEEENAMEENA!" she shrieked.

"Yeah... I don't know what that means."


"Okay. So, what's stopping you?"

"It's daaaaaaark!"

She's developed a fairly paralyzing fear of the dark lately. I don't want to make the fear too convenient, so I don't jump whenever she freaks out. Plus, I was really enjoying that story.

"Okay, give me a minute to finish this article."

And then I promptly forgot that she even existed.

Ten minutes later, as I finish the story, I look up to see her watching me, patiently. Mentally, I am still navigating the high steppes of the Andes and am overcome with wanderlust.

"Hey, Doodle, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?" I ask.

"To da bafroom - like, right now," she deadpans.

She knew I'd forgotten about her. She was reminding me, with wry humor and laser-like precision, that she was being dutifully patient. I laugh so hard I almost throw up.

"Come on, Doodle." I pick up my sweet girl and carry her to the bathroom.

She kisses my cheek: "Fanks, Mom."

"You're welcome."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brain drain

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 By

Scott and I ended a discussion a little while ago, and I can see him getting all twisted up in his mind about the subject.

"Hey, are you getting all stressed about this?" I ask.

"No, I'm just doing the man thing. I'm defragging. I'm dumping the old files in my brain," he says.


"We actually have bigger brains than you do," Scott said,

"Pfft! Keep dreaming!" I scoff.

"But we do less with our big brains."

"Oh, okay, that sounds about right."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Maybe fer zombie killin'

Monday, January 24, 2011 By

Email from former boss: Are you looking for an automatic compression hose, by any chance? If you're not, you have a weird former fan who likes sending you metal hoses through the mail. :) We have it if you are looking for it.

Reply from me: DUDE! I've been looking for that! I must have put in the wrong shipping address. Did you also get my chainsaw?

FB: No. But we have your cement mixer here. :)

Seriously, someone mailed me a package of things resembling the item below - and I have no idea why.

What am I supposed to do with these? And why does the sender think I would know? And why would my former boss think that I was being serious? Because she totally thought I had ordered me some hoses.

Mostly disturbingly, why would she not worry about someone putting a chainsaw in my hands? That's just betraying the public safety, right there. The only way it could get more dangerous is if they gave me a chainsaw and then let me drive.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weasley is my king

Friday, January 21, 2011 By

I don't know what disturbs me more: the intricate questions Emmie asks me about the Harry Potter universe, indicating a great depth of thought on the subject... or the fact that I know all the answers.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

She has a dream

Thursday, January 20, 2011 By

Amber, to her 23-month-old: "Evie, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
Evie: "Evie be a dolphin... COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Birthday brouhaha

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 By

Emmie's birthday is coming up. She's turning 6, despite the fact that I long ago banned her from getting any older than 4.

Her theme is Pirates & Princesses - which is the same theme she chose for her third birthday. And last year's birthday. And somehow she never remembers.

I needed invitations for her ballet class, and I stopped by a drugstore during lunch on the day I needed them. Nothing. So I called Scott and he went by the store for me. Sweet of him.

At the school, I opened the bag of invitations to fill them out during her class. I found three packages of invitations, none alike, none along the theme.

The first: Powerpuff Girls. Well, okay; I'm down with that.
The second: ... Clown trains? I'm still trying to figure out that one.

The third was a beautiful pink ballgown with a bit of tulle on it. How pretty and perfect for little ballerinas, I thought, and opened it to fill in the blanks. "You're invited to a bridal shower!" it said. Sigh...

I swear that men screw up little tasks like this just so we won't ask them to do them anymore. News flash, honey: I'm not giving in that easily!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Time to replace the filter

Monday, January 17, 2011 By

I had lunch with a woman I don't get to see that often, due to the insanity of our lives. Over Mexican, we talked relationships and such.

"So how's your ex doing?" I asked.

"Well... he died," G.W. answered.

I. Am. An. A-hole.

"I am so sorry," I said, desperate for a way to rewind the last 30 seconds and choose an entirely different line of questioning.

"I'm actually still having a hard time with it," she said.

What do you say to someone in that situation? The correct answer is: nothing. You should take their hand, nod sympathetically, and remain silent.

That is not what I did. I did what I always do: I made a joke.

"Did you kill him?" I asked.

Oh, god. I am an f-ing moron.

Luckily, she threw her head back and laughed.

"That's not a bad question," she laughed.

Hey, someone as wrong as I am. Maybe we can share a handbasket on our way down.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sounds like... ?

Friday, January 14, 2011 By

Emmie and I are working on her homework. She just has to read her sight words to me, but I always make her do a little more.

"Can you tell me what each word means, Doodle?" I ask.

"Yeth! Dis is 'liddle,' like when you're a liddle kid, an' not a grown-up. You're smaller. An' dis is 'hat,' like a clothes fing dat you wear on your head," she explains.

"Very good! Now this one is tricky to explain. Can you tell me what it means?"

"Oh, dat's easy squeasy," she says. "Dat's da word 'are.' An' it means like when you're captain of a pirate ship, and you say 'ARE MATIES!"

When I finished laughing, I decided it was a good time to start on homonyms.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I did it my way

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 By

We had about two pounds of venison stew meat in the freezer, and I didn't know what to do with it. "Make stew," Scott said. Well, yes, thanks. I'd never have come up with that on my own.

But I don't really like beef stew, which is where he was going with that. So I decided to try Bouef Bourguignon, even if I can't spell it and have no idea what it's supposed to taste like.

But I was not going to be defeated by a freezer bag of meat. Unless, you know, someone hit me in the head with it. Then... ouch.

So I found a recipe that seemed reasonable, and bought the couple of ingredients we were missing (everything except onions and stew meat) and set to work. I vowed to create the perfect dish... so long as it wasn't too much work, or anything. And, as it turns out, it was kind of a pain just to put together.
  1. I don't have a Dutch oven. It's on my list of Things I Really Should Own, but I don't. I just used our largest pot instead. 
  2. I didn't read the recipe right and cooked twice the amount of bacon I needed. Oops.
  3. Unsalted butter...? You're joking, right? Never gonna happen. Only serious bakers keep that on hand in the fridge.
  4. There is no such thing as frozen whole onions. The author made that junk up. I thought, briefly, about buying a pound of jarred cocktail onions, but that would just require enough vodka to go with it. Skip it. So I chopped a pound of yellow onion instead.
    Something I've learned about French cooks is that they want you to brown everything separately, on all sides, and then recombine it. That must be the real secret to legendary French cooking. It's not "hard" so much as it is "a big pain in the butt."

    Obviously, I resented the recipe from the moment I set out to make it. So it went like this:
    • Brown too much bacon. Ooh, snacks!
    • Brown the venison and mushrooms together, crowding the pieces against all advice, all the while kicking myself for not draining the bacon grease first and just using the 50-years-seasoned cast iron skillet for what it is.
    • Cook the baby carrots (no chopping! Yay!) with the chopped yellow onion and the garlic. Wander off, distracted by Facebook exchange. Rush back in when I smell something burning.
    • Pick out burned carrot and then stare at the subsequent instructions with astonishment: They want me to set it on fire? Ponder idea for a couple of minutes, remember that I like my eyebrows, and skip it. There's an entire bottle of wine in this. Cognac is just greedy. 
    • Chuck the meats and mushrooms back in, pour in the wine and broth. 
    • Crap. It's not enough beef broth. Add about three cups of chicken broth. Wonder if Julia Child is shaking her spatula at me from heaven.
    • Add everything else, start to put it in the oven. Realize that the plastic handles on this piece of crap pot are going to melt off in there. Back onto the stove to simmer it goes.
    • Oh, no. I forgot the focaccia that I put in the oven an hour ago. Wow. That's some toasty foccacia... well, whatever. It's meant for dipping anyway, so I crunch it into slices with my giant, awesomely sharp carving knife.
    • Stew simmers on the stove for about 30 minutes, about an hour less than recommended. Is it enough time to fully combine the wine, broth, spices and solid ingredients? I don't know. But it's a killer stew.
    I realize that Julia Child and others are a revelation for a lot of people with her instructions on how to properly brown meat (dry it first) and not crowding the mushrooms and such. And that's great, if you're a Trappist monk with nothing else to do. But I did it The Way of the Bumbling Fool and it turned out beautifully.

    So I guess the lesson here is that while technique is important, and I certainly understand the importance of a proper browning, there is flexibility in almost everything. It just depends on knowing where you can bend the rules.

    And that's why I don't bake. But that's a story for another time.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Shows what I know (...nuthin')

    Monday, January 10, 2011 By

    About five years ago, Scott brought home a copy of an Eddie Murphy movie called "Daddy Day Care." It appealed to him because he was a stay-at-home dad while finishing his degree.

    And it was kind of cute. Laid-off guy finds joy in life with munchkins. Hijinks galore.

    About mid-film, there's a scene with a band playing at a fundraiser. I found myself singing the chorus repeatedly, and grew irritated. "Stupid marketing people," I thought. "Always with the catchy songs inside movies just to sell more products!"

    Ha ha... well, as most of you already know, it's actually quite a famous song that I had somehow, previously, never heard. Stupid.

    Thursday, January 06, 2011


    Thursday, January 06, 2011 By

    Emerson has spent a lot of time at her grandparents' homes this holiday season, and it won't happen again; I missed her too much! No, I'm kidding. She can go back (I'll just go with her so I won't wander around the house, aimlessly flapping my arms and wondering who'll play Uno with me).

    She has a wonderful time with them because her grandmothers never tells her no and she can have all the crap food she wants - as grandparents are supposed to do. But it causes some small issues...

    "Mama, can I hab a treat?"

    "No, sweetie. You just had a treat at McDonald's with your grandparents."

    "BUT, Moooooommmm!" she whines, winding up for a fit by flailing her arms and marching her feet.

    I lean into her face: "Oh, I don't think so, young lady. Now, you've had a wonderful time at your grandparents, and I'm very happy about that. You are very lucky to have grandparents who love you so much. But just because they never tell you no doesn't mean you can expect that at home. Mommy's job is to tell you no when there is a rule, because the rules are here for good reason."

    Her mouth snapped shut, and her eyes dropped. "Yes, ma'am."

    I dropped into a squat in front of her and rubbed her back. "Hey..."

    She looked up at me with big, sad, puppy dog eyes: "Mama, you hurt my feelings."

    "Remember that mommy and daddy make the rules here, okay, darling? And they don't change. You may not have a treat because treats are full of sugar. They are unhealthy to have too frequently, and they help cause cavities."

    She nods sadly, and we hug and "mooch." Then she is distracted by toys and all is right again.

    When Emmie was first born, I had this deranged idea that parenting was a family thing; that whatever rules Scott and I made in our home for our daughter should thusly be carried out by the rest of the family. And everyone indulged me - for about a year. Then they stopped with the charade and did whatever the heck they wanted to.

    I've slowly come to realize that their job is to spoil her. My job is to keep her in line. And it doesn't have to be a battle. It can be a benefit. She gets to experience a kind of vacation when she's with them. Their lenience builds a relationship on mutual enjoyment, rather than structure and security and constant worry for her future. And while she's with them, I know she's happy, having fun, and enjoying the social and emotional benefits of a multigenerational influence.

    But I'm going to send an extra toothbrush with her next time, just in case.