Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The First Bread Of The Holiday Season ...

The loaves rise separately but then kiss while baking. "Kiss While Baking" would be a good title for a fluffy novel.

Brownies ...

The secret to fab brownies: frosting, nuts, and a well-loved pan.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ho ... Ho ... Holidays! ...

The reindeer mug has made its seasonal cocoa debut!

Ooh, you know what'd be really good with cocoa?


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Scones Revisited ...

Once upon a time (read: September), I found myself with a bit of inspiration to create a little something new.

Thoughts and ideas swirled around in my head, as they do, and I settled on scones, which are like a distant cousin in the family tree of baked goods. Cookies and cakes and pies and muffins get all the love but scones aren't often invited to the party. Poor scones. They're often inexcusably dry, and while, yes, they're meant to be enjoyed with tea and slathered with jam and clotted cream, why can't scones star in their own show?

Well, these little guys are worthy of attention. I started with a recipe I've made in the past, and then doctored it, which is how most new recipes come to be. I knew I'd incorporate Nutella. And then I decided to add dark chocolate Ghirardelli chips because, well, can you think of a reason not to add dark chocolate Ghirardelli chips? And then I added toasted, chopped hazelnuts, to reinforce the Nutella and add a bit of texture, and voila! Scones with a double dose of hazelnut and a double dose of chocolate. And I knew I wanted to make them cookie-size because, well, have you seen the size of some scones? They can wear out their welcome.

These aren't very sweet but the dark chocolate chips add a nice intensity. And they're also rather moist, not crumbly like some scones you may have had in the past. They'd make a nice treat for holiday guests. Or package them with some cocoa mix and marshmallows for a holiday gift.

Double Chocolate Double Hazelnut Little Cookie Scones
(Adapted from Simply Scones, St. Martin's Press, 1988)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1/3 cup buttermilk*
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and distribute them evenly over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and Nutella. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to partially combine. Dump in the toasted chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chips and stir to combine completely. The dough will be sticky. With a cookie scoop** (or two spoons), portion dough onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake one tray at a time in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, let cookies cool for four minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Yield: About 30

* Or mix milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice and let sit for a few minutes. It'll curdle a bit.
** I use the OXO 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop which seems to hold two tablespoons. Go figure.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Knack ...

The selection of cards is an underappreciated art form. Of all the cards in the world – so, so, so many of them bad – to find just the right ones for just the right occasion requires tenacity and understanding and skill.

My friend Doreen is the mistress of this art form.

Doreen gives two cards for birthdays: one funny, one sincere.

Now, some may think she makes card selection easier on herself, that she removes the pressure to find the perfect card that conveys all intended thoughts and emotions.

But no, I say to you, no! Instead, she rises to two challenges, to find just the right sincere card and just the right funny card.

And this year is no exception.

Behold what I have dubbed the "Aw" card, with a lovely message that speaks to my ongoing journey:

And now behold what I have dubbed the "LOL" card, which truly did make me laugh out loud and also speaks to another aspect of my ongoing journey:

Thank you, Do! I love them. I love the care you put into choosing them. And I love you.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Undersink Discoveries ...

Many, many (many, many) years ago, browsing through Salvage One, I spied stacks of silver.

Ever the fan of shiny-but-worn objects, I wandered over to the shelves and discovered serving pieces that once lived on a ship.


I fell for this little guy, the bottom half of a small serving dish. If memory serves, the top and bottom were priced separately. Or maybe my memory doesn't serve and he was separated from his top.

Either way, I decided that he would make a fine soap dish. And home with me he came.

I think I paid $10.

For many, many years now, he's lived underneath my sink, the vessel into which I would plop my wet SOS pad after I'd scrubbed a pan.

And so it was today, upon finishing a frying pan (in which I'd fried the most gorgeous bacon).

And then my brain said, "Beth? Why is that under your sink? You love oval things. You love silver things. You really love silver, oval things. Put a plastic container under there for your SOS pad and bring him out."

And so I did. He was very, very tarnished and a bit rusty, but with a few applications of silver polish, I cleaned him up again, not pristinely but enough that he can now tarnish again, but more evenly.

I have no idea what I'll do with him but for now, he's pleased to be amonng his other silver friends.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Twilight ...

My first-ever blog post in the whole wide world appeared on March 13, 2005.

I've decided that blog years are like dog years and this puppy's nearing its end. Perhaps it'll make it to the 10-year mark. We shall see.

Social media is a blog killer. Or maybe the culprit is apathy. Either way, my erstwhile drive to post on a daily – then regular – then semi-regular – basis has waned.

And when you start writing posts about how you don't write as many posts as you used to, it might be time to bring the curtain down.

Then again, the holidays are coming and I really am so fond of snapping pictures of holiday cheer and snow (snow and I have agreed to pretend that that Halloween bullshit never happened) and cookies that, well, as I type that, my inner blogger has perked up again. Perhaps we'll continue into the new year. Maybe even to March and beyond.

Yes, maybe.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Pundit For A Day ...

This is what I wrote to a friend this morning who wanted my take on today:

Generally, I feel good.

But here's the "no matter what" silver lining:

In the end, we win. If we hold the Senate, gridlock remains in Washington. Republicans continue their petulant bullshit. Voters continue to get further fed up with Republicans. And they lose the White House in 2016.

OR: If we lose the Senate, Republican factions will war with each other. The Tea Party wing is going to push for impeachment. The moderates will push back, understanding the lesson of impeaching Clinton. The Tea Party wing will scream louder, as they've been telling everyone for six years how evil Obama is and that he must be impeached so how can they *not impeach him now that they have the power? Nothing substantive will get done. Obama will veto any extreme shit they try to push through, like repealing the ACA. They won't have the votes to override his veto. Dems can then point to the GOP's "legislation" and say, "See? We told you they'd try to take away your healthcare. We told you they don't want you to earn a living wage even while they give more tax breaks to the rich people. We told you they want to destroy the environment." The GOP founders even further, and they lose the White House in 2016.

And if they lose in 2016, they're gonna lose for a very, very long time to come.

So, we *may lose this battle today. Anything's possible.

But we've already won the war.