Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Cookie Try

I baked some cookies today, using the following recipe:


2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 large eggs

¼ tsp salt

1 Tbs Amaretto (optional)

½ tsp vanilla - use 1 tsp if omitting the Amaretto

3 ½ cups flour

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating briefly after each addition just to incorporate. Beat in the salt, the Amaretto and vanilla and then about a third of the flour until smooth. Gradually beat in as much of the remaining flour as possible using the electric beater, then stir in the rest with a wooden spoon or a spatula.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. If you haven't stirred in all of the flour you can knead in the rest quite easily. Once you have a smooth, homogeneous dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Working with about half the dough at a time, roll it out to a thickness of not less than 1/8-inch, being careful that the dough is very evenly rolled out. Carefully cut out shapes with your cookie cutters. Gently transfer to a cookie sheet. You can use unlined, ungreased cookie sheets with no problem at all.

Bake for about 10 minutes. They will be set and appear cooked but they will NOT brown. You'll know they are done because they will slide right off the cookie sheet when just nudged with a spatula. Carefully slip each cookie off of the baking tray and all to cool on racks.

I had to buy a rolling pin and some cookie cutters this morning. You would think that a simple, round cookie cutter would be easy to find, but it wasn’t. I am certain there would be on in the tub of 500 cutters that was for sale, but that was a little excessive. I need only one, and would have to find a place for the remaining 499. I settled for a set of star shapes. The rolling pin guaranteed to not stick to the dough.

I halved the recipe. I figured that if the cookies turned into the equivalent of Elly May’s biscuits and needed to be thrown away; I wouldn’t have wasted a lot of ingredients. It took a little bit of practice figuring out the art of rolling dough. The dough stuck to the rolling pin with great ease. I was flouring the dough and transferring it back to the refrigerator to reset a couple of times. It was a trial and error time for baking, truly a great moment in kitchen science for me.

I spent the ten minutes baking waiting like an expectant father, hovering over the oven while Sinatra played in the background. They came out to better than expected. The first batch was slightly burnt. The dough was a little too thin. The following batches got better as I started to figure out how to roll the dough. By the end, the cookies weren’t browning excessively. Once cooled, they tasted great. They are even better with some cream cheese frosting that I had left over from a failed cake attempt. In the end, the recipe joins the keep file. I’ll have to do these again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tetrazzini - Round One

I made chicken tetrazzini for dinner today. I followed a recipe I found on the internet that was easy. It came out slightly bland. I have a belly full of angel hair pasta, but little flavor. I think I need to find a different recipe.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bask in the Delicious

I have been on a silly quest lately. For some reason, I have been obsessed with homemade macaroni and cheese. It wasn’t like I was chasing anything either. I have minimal memories of the dish as a child. My father hated it and my mother never made it. Since I did not have a childhood reference for it, this need came out of the blue.

The first attempt was a recipe from Food Network Magazine. I decided to try it for the simple fact that it looked easy. I can cook; don’t get me wrong. I have been on my own for several years and have had only one brush with bad food I have prepared. But I also am cognizant of what I can and cannot do. Boil water? Yes, I can do that. Deglaze a pan? No, that is a little out of my league and I really don’t understand the need to do it. Anyway, the recipe looked like I could do it. I worked on the cheese sauce while the noodles cooked in the boiling water. The sauce never seemed to set up properly. The roux turned out nicely, but when I added the soymilk it never seemed to thicken. To speed the process along, I added the cheese. Four cups of melting cheese is a sure way to thicken any sauce. I drained the water from the noodles and added the cheese sauce.

The recipe called for butter to be melted with parsley in the microwave. I did as the recipe suggested and added that to the bowl with some panko breadcrumbs. I mixed everything together and tried it. It was like eating cheesy burnt leaves. The cheese was a little bland. Overall, I was disappointed. The leftovers went into the garbage disposal.

I told my co-workers what I was trying and they suggested a recipe from a cookbook made of coworker submissions. There was a macaroni and cheese dish that was easy to make and really good they said. I tried it and do have to say it was better. The sauce had a better flavor and it did look good on the plate. The dish even did something impressive. The taste improved the next day. There must have been some magical food chemistry happening that I am yet to understand about leftovers improving as they sit. I was impressed, but wanted to be blown away on the first bite. I moved on.

One of co-worker gave me several macaroni and cheese recipes to try. I had been talking about my attempts and she went into her cookbooks and photocopied a couple for me. (She must have a library of books, considering the number of recipes I was presented with. I’ve been to her house and there has to be a wing full of cookbooks that I did not see.) They were all simple, with a variation on the theme of macaroni and cheese.

I gave one a try and have to say I have found it. It is a simple recipe with the roux. I used 2% milk instead of soy and the sauce thickened nicely. Cheddar and Swiss cheese were used. I used elbow macaroni instead on the fancier twisted pasta the magazine recommended. I mixed everything together and poured it into an 11 x 8 dish to cook even though a 13 x 9 was suggested. I could not see what the difference would be.

It turns out to be important…very important. The cheese bubbled up and over the sides of the pan. My cooking rack and bottom over my oven ended up with a nice, cheesy coating by the time cooking was complete. I opened the oven door to a face full of smoke and the sight of hot deliciousness in front of me. I pulled out my circular pizza pan to set the cheese-covered dish on and marveled at my creation.

My 11 x 8 pan held homemade macaroni and cheese. The cheese sauce still bubbled under a crisp layer of Swiss and Cheddar cheese sprinkled over top. The top mad a slight crunching sound as I broke it to spoon up a serving onto a place. It was wonderful. The macaroni interlocked itself into a nice pile. The Sauce was warm and had a more natural taste than any powdered creation from a blue box. The flavor even held up the next day. Leftovers were just as good. The final test was freezing the final few servings, which will be reported on at a later date.

I just need to find a new dish to attempt now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You might not be "hip" if…

the barista at Starbucks rolls their eyes when told your drink order.

a friend describes the artists on your iPod as “a bunch of nobodies”.

the TV show you have watched for the longest time is on HGTV.

you almost sent a nasty email to HGTV when they moved your favorite TV show.

you can discuss literary theory, symbolism and hidden meaning as it relates to Batman.

you try to discuss popular music with your nephews, but you keep saying “Who?”

you will not watch “Smallville” because you consider it “to revisionist.”

you are looking for a good macaroni & cheese recipe that does not come out of a blue box.

you have talked about a great movie you watched on TV. When asked what channel it was on, you say “Lifetime” proudly.

you have turned off a hard rock station because the music sounded “angry.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My NERF Rifle

I was trying to think of something to write about, but was drawing a blank. There is only so much a person can write about Lynda Carter or online poker before crossing over into the “crazy loner” category. And I don’t think work would appreciate it if Lynda Carter’s lawyers served me with a cease and desist order. Instead, I’m going to tell the story of how I got my Nerf rifle.

I start my story, as always, by blaming my coworkers. They gave me an issue of Geek Magazine for my birthday a couple of years ago. The magazine is a celebration of video games, comic books and science fiction. Somehow, this periodical has been able to condense my life to a series of four-color pages and $5.00 cover price.

I pick up an issue every once and a while. You never know when I feel like my nerd reservoir is running low. One issue I picked up had a contest that you had to write; in fifty words or less, why you needed a NERF Recon CS-6 Rifle. What? A writing contest! Unusual prizes that serve no purpose in my life! The ability to lord the accomplishment over others! Is there a sign up sheet? So, I got a submission together and emailed it in.

As with anything I do on a lark. It had left my mind as soon as I had finished it. I had other things in my life to worry about. All that online porn wasn’t going to download itself you know. So, it wasn’t until a couple of months later that this all came back to the forefront of my life when the magazine contacted me.

I thought it was a put on a first. Things like this don’t happen to me. But this time it did. The Nerf rifle showed up without any charge to any of my credit cards. I checked statements, even though my number was never asked for. I had to brag to some, so I sent the following email to my coworkers. I have edited out their names, and mine, but not to protect the innocent. I have a fear of retribution. I wrote:


For my birthday last year, you guys got me an issue of Geek Magazine. It had everything geek and nerd related that I enjoy, so I pick up the occasional issue. The last one that I picked up had a contest in it. In fifty words or less explain why you need a Nerf Recon CS-6 Rifle. In a three or four drafts, I had my response and emailed it in. I wrote:

I need the Nerf N-Strike Recon CS-6 because I am waging war with the pressures of maturity and responsibility. My inner child is woefully under armed to deal with the onslaught of meeting the daily grind of meeting the bus, making deadlines at work and home life.

Pretty good, even if I am blowing my own horn. As for the magazine, I brought it to work and [it was shipped] to the Middle East [for the troops]. I forgot all about it until the first of the month. I got the following email:

Congratulations, you've won a NERF Recon CS-6 Rifle from Geek Monthly!

Email me the address where you would like it shipped and we'll get it in the mail to you.

Have fun, and don't put your eye out.

-- Marcus Alexander Hart

Senior Editor, Geek Monthly

The thing arrived today via UPS and it is Christmas morning in October. The funny thing is how ironic this all is. If you re-read what I submitted, you can tell it is a load of crap. My inner child is so well fortified that maturity is on the losing side in this battle. In a couple of minutes, I am going to be shooting at walls, the TV and some action figures.

If you don't know what a Nerf Recon CS-6 is, here is a ten your old to explain it to you.

Now if you will excuse me, I must go pacify the living room with foam bullets.

See you tomorrow,


It was like any new toy. You loved it. You played with it constantly. You hold it constantly. But after a while, you realize that your life is the same. You stumble at your attempts for promotions at work. Talking to strangers is still hard. Shocking as it sounds, a NERF Recon CS-6 Rifle is not the panty dropper you think it is. In fact, women think it’s kind of creepy that an adult male is obsessed with toys. For me though, it makes me happy. Every once in a while, I get it out and fire off a clip or two of foam bullets. Once the wall has been subdued, I collect everything and put it back. Happy memories don’t need to be ruined by the real world.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Death Grip on Third Place

I have found a new use for Facebook. Sure, I am still waiting for Lynda Carter to enter my life like vesper, but my online friends have shown little initiative in this project. Disappointment fills my life. To hold off the misery, I have found online poker.

It’s a perfect distraction for me. It requires some thinking, a little bit of strategy and spending of money. Sure, the money isn’t real, but it causes a slight twinge in the area that handles financial responsibility and the game has established a value to it, so it has to be worth something.

Understand? Probably not, since it doesn’t make that much sense to me either.

The thing is that I never realized how competitive I am. With a couple of friends already in the game, I used them as a barometer of my progress. If I fell behind their chip count, I was not doing as well. If I moved ahead, everything was fine. It’s not a very good measure of self worth, but it is what I use sometimes, the unreasonable comparisons.

My coworkers noticed I was playing. (I was posting my wins, i.e. bragging, on Facebook.) One co-worker joined and seemed to enjoy the social aspects of the game more than the game itself. She thought it was funny that I ignored buddy requests when she accepted what seemed to be any friend request that was thrown her way.

Another coworker suggested that I make a friend request to her boss, also in the building where I work. He plays poker and said that I could play a couple hands with him if we are ever online together. And Facebook is the place to make friends, isn’t it? I decided that the next complete stranger that sends a buddy request would be accepted. It wouldn’t matter from what corner of the world, language spoken or background. That lucky person would be my new friend.

With these two new additions, I am now in a permanent third place, fighting off fourth. My coworker’s boss has about seven times as many chips as I do. The unknown friend is nearly double of my coworker’s boss. The coworkers that were in the game are good players that don’t seem to roll over easily. One coworker seems to have better luck than I and is constantly circling, like a shark looking for weakness.

My self-worth, by the way, is in hiding somewhere. If you need me, I’ll be in a fetal position in my closet.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Letting Facebook Do the Work

After some debate, I have decided to join Facebook, the online social gathering place that allows you to be connected with people. I’ve been hesitant for a while. I can barely talk to people I know. By joining Facebook, I’d be dealing with people, adding bad typing and emoticons. But a coworker talked about how wonderful it is, keeping in touch with people. She said I could be in control of whom I would associate with, which is a very polite way of saying “ignore people.”

If I wanted to find old classmates, I’d go to a high school or college reunion. Lost friends and family members were probably lost for a reason. I thought about it for a little bit and have come to the conclusion that this could work for me. I figure that instead of using Facebook to find old classmates, friends and lost family member, I’ll use it to my advantage. The reason I have joined is very simple.

I want to meet Lynda Carter.

I know what you are thinking. STALKER! But I’m not. Think of this as a grand experiment in the computer age. We are going to test the myth (urban legend? lie?) that each individual is six people away from knowing a famous person on earth, six degrees of separation.

I challenge you, Facebook. Introduce me to Lynda Carter, but there are rules.

1. It has to be Lynda Carter that starred in the Wonder Woman TV series that ran on ABC and CBS from April, 1976 to September, 1979. I am certain there are a lot of women named Lynda Carter that are wonderful people and have wonderfully amusing stories full of Wonder Woman jokes that they love to tell. I don’t care. Tell them to someone else.

2. I don’t need to be contacted by the “official Lynda Carter Fan Club.” Any dupe can do that. I need face-to-face contact.

3. If you think I can be stopped by a restraining/cease and desist order. You’re right. I can be. I’ll go as far as this will go, but I’m not going to cannonball into the crazy pool. I do have a reputation to protect, for whatever reason.

You have your assignment, so get to work, Facebook! Go make a guy with time on his hands happy in 2010!