Compost Cookies & some thoughts on baking paraphenalia

The time has come: I'm well aware of my shortcomings...but now Bug has gotten old enough that she can call me out on my faults too. Friday was a snow day in NYC and I decided to try Compost Cookies, which I heard about from Amateur Gourmet. When I told Bug about my intention to bake cookies, she said (verbatim): "Mommy, you can be my sous chef because you can't bake and I can."

Oh, dear. My reputation had preceded me.

So, playing sous chef, I did most of the baking of the Compost Cookies. Like Adam (Amateur Gourmet) said, you can omit the corn syrup from the recipe - it was fine without them. But I did have some problems, as evidenced below:

Can you tell? They were flat as pancakes and I have no idea why. Adam (my husband, not Amateur Gourmet) thought that it was because I was using older baking soda. Do you bakers out there concur? Where did I go wrong?

But, daaaaaamn. The flatness aside, these are incredible and MY kind of dessert. Bug and I added crushed pretzels, crushed potato chips, dark chocolate chips, coconut, and some leftover sprinkles from an earlier baking project. Oh, and we also added about a tablespoon of peanut butter chips I found at the back of the cabinet that hadn't gone bad yet. Really, the sky's the limit. You could throw in oatmeal, raisinettes, nuts...anything! But what creates magic is the interplay of sweet and salty. It's dessert gold, guys. Gold.

I'm going to be a lazy blogger (oh, shhh, you love it and you know it!) and only link to the recipe. Here it is, courtesy...of all things...Live with Regis and Kelly. Lordy.

And here's one more thing before I close this out: STAND MIXER. I've never owned one and never felt like I needed to. When the Soul Twin become a full-blown veterinary cardiologist (for real!), she told me she was going to buy me a stand mixer. She swore that the only reason I wasn't a baker was because I didn't have one. Yes, I rolled my eyes at her. Then I said, "Where the hell would I fit a stand mixer in this kitchen?!?!" She looked around and said that she saw my point. Crappy NYC kitchens.

BUT...this recipe made me rethink my stance. I used my hand mixer. And you'll see from the recipe that you need to use your stand mixer for TEN MINUTES. My arm nearly FELL OFF. Not to mention that my batter failed to double in size like the recipe said. Hey, maybe that's why my cookies were so flat... Hell, this is exactly why I loathe baking. Why is it so complicated?!

Nevertheless, I'm kinda eyeing this pretty baby now (I adore the retro red with the glass bowl!):

If the baking doesn't pan out, I can use this for sausage and pasta! Now THAT is what I'm talkin' 'bout, Willis!

Eat, drink, and keep trying...I guess.


Come ON already!

Like most Northeasterners, I have HAD IT with all this snow and cold and gray and gloom. I want peaches, I want asparagus, I want a picnic, I want VITAMIN D! So in an homage to all things sun-related, I give you some hope for brighter things to come:

Eat, drink, and hang in there a little bit longer!

Note: The burrito/taco thing is my own creation - seared tuna, sour cream, cilantro, raw red peppers, cabbage, mashed avocado, and lime juice.


2010 SLJ Battle of the Books!!!

I'm STOKED. There are no words. Check out the info here from Fuse #8. Also check out SLJ's post and use @sljsBoB on Twitter.

The books on the list are:


Last year's Battle of the Books was a blast, to be sure, but this year...this year, as opposed to last, I have a clear favorite. I know I should probably say The Lost Conspiracy is my fave since it's a Harper book and all, and I may find myself in a pickle for not claiming it as such.

But I cannot lie about books, and the book I'm championing is Fire by Kristin Cashore. Let's put aside the fact that I adore Kristin as a person and look at the book itself. In my mind, it's damn near perfect storytelling. I mean, Graceling was wonderful. But then Kristin showed us all what she was really made of with Fire. The world-building is rich and lush...but what I like about it (and what kept me interested) was that characterization isn't sacrificed or put on hold to create the world (this is a real problem I have with lots of fantasy).

I'm not articulating myself well, which is usually the case with the books I truly love (don't even ask me to tell you why Anne of Green Gables is my all-time forever favorite - I'll just start slobbering and muttering).

But Fire is my book and I'm taking it all the way to the Final Battle and Katherine Paterson WILL pick it.

In the meantime, as we get closer to the beginning of the battle (SLJ isn't giving dates yet, as far as I can tell), I'll post a quote from Fire daily. Just to remind you all how bad-ass it is and why it should win.



Library Hearted

Finally! My friend Sarah is now blogging over at Library Hearted! It's super-new so go on over there and encourage her to keep it up!

Eat, drink, and support your blogging friends!


On the Menu

I just wrote two blog posts and realized I could write 10 more about all the great food I've been cooking and eating lately. Which I can't do, of course, because I need to fix lunch, plus I have a kid here who is dying to play some Clue (which is awesome, except that she always wants to be Miss Scarlet and I'm stuck being Peacock. Boo.). So here is a round-up of the food in my life lately with links to the recipes:

Saumon l'Unilaterale from French Women Don't Get Fat (remember I said recently I was getting back to my French inspiration? This was part of that pleasurable goal.)

Calamari from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Italian (pair it with Victory Brewery Company's Golden Monkey)

Warming Winter Pasta with Gorgonzola, Walnuts, Spinach, and Single Malt from thepassionatecook (I used Google for all the measurement conversions)

Bangers and Mash (part of our anti-Valentine's Day celebration. Drank lots of English brown ales with this and watched Monty Python's Flying Circus episodes)

Dumplings from Amateur Gourmet (good but not great. I'm going to try frying them next time and adding some spicy heat to the pork mixture. Additionally, I tried his flour-and-water concoction and it went horribly. Would it kill him to include any sort of measurements?!)Eat, drink, and look forward to each new food experience!

Some thoughts on writing

Remember awhile back I mentioned that I was finally writing? Not blog writing (because, irrationally, I haven't considered my blog real writing) but novel writing.

Well, it has been slow-going since then. As in, like...I've written only six pages since then. In five months. Six pages.

This has nagged and nagged at me, and I have felt like nothing short of a failure. Naturally, I talk myself out of it by reminding myself that I have a family, that I have work, that I blog, that just because I'm not writing now doesn't mean I never will. Which is all true. But still...I haven't written anything!

But recently I had dinner with an award-winning author - she's wicked smaht and very generous with her advice and personal writing experiences. And in the course of the evening, she made the casual comment that she doesn't need to write everyday. Fascinating, I thought. I just got the impression that full-time writers really do nothing but write. Every day. For hours. Right? This author went on to tell me that, when she does school visits, she tells the kids something along this line: you don't have to write reams and reams of paper to be a writer. You can write a page a day, you can write a paragraph a week. Writing is writing, and it's not defined by frequency. And this doesn't make you any less committed to the craft and the passion for writing. (I'm elaborating here - this isn't verbatim from the author.)

What an important lesson not only for children who love writing, but also for grown-ups like me who love it too. Likewise, what is writing? Is it writing a novel? Aren't I writing here on my blog? When I blog, don't I need some tea or a glass of wine to put me in the mindset? Don't I need just the right playlist to set the mood? Don't I put words to electronic paper? Yes, yes, yes. It may not be great, I may not have a large audience, and I may not do it as regularly as I'd like. But it is writing.

So I may not be working on that novel but I'm still writing. And while I sit here writing, Bug is right next to me, filling in blanks in her Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book, and that is also a kind of writing. And I love that we're writing together.

Eat, drink, and put words to paper. Any words.

Photo credit

Recipe: French Mushrooms

I read a lot of blogs - a lot. Food blogs, children's literature blogs, design blogs, fashion blogs, NYC blogs. More than I have time for...but, really, aren't we all short on time?

When I see a recipe I like while reading a blog post, I send myself an email with the recipe name as the subject line and then the link as the message. And thanks to Gmail, I can tag all those emails as "Recipes". So when I'm sick of my cookbooks and magazines, I go to this email list as inspiration.

This is where I discovered a recipe for French Mushrooms from For the Love of Food. I actually bookmarked this in 2008 (!) and I just got around to trying it. In a word, divine. Here's the photographic evidence:

French Mushrooms
  • 2 lbs. sliced mushrooms (I used creminis from the farmers' market)
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 c. crème frâiche
  • 1 c. sour cream (it was supposed to be 2 c. of crème frâiche but I ran out so had to substitute. Not ideal but you do what you gotta do, right?)
  • 6 tbsp. minced parsley

In a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, simmer mushrooms, scallions, and crème frâiche, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms start to give up juices.

Then turn heat to high and boil, uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until liquids reduce to a shiny sauce and bubbles begin to form. Stir in parsley and salt. Serve immediately.

Makes about 12 servings (per FtLoF, but it was more like 4 servings in our house).

What I loved about this recipe was 1) it was incredibly simple to make, and 2) it was deceptively decadent. I thought I was making a "light" dinner for us by only serving the mushrooms, bread, and a salad...but, as you may have guessed, I was wrong. It was very rich and indulgent.

A note: the recipe said to boil the mushrooms for about 10 minutes but I had to go a full 15 minutes - my sauce was super liquid-y still after 10 minutes. I suspect that it was because of the sour cream, which may have had more water in it. So if you can avoid using sour cream, that's really the way to go.

Another note: this is a recipe you can play around with, a quality I love in a recipe! Try zesting lemon into the boiling mushrooms. Or substitute thyme for the parsley - thyme is an ideal companion with mushrooms.

We had quite a few leftovers so, two mornings later, I reheated the mushrooms over the stove and poured them over a brioche roll. With a steaming cup of coffee, it was a kick-ass way to start my day.

Eat, drink, and glean inspiration from fellow bloggers


Technical difficulties

Blogger is acting up - not allowing me to move images around after I've inserted them - so my postings will either be intermittent until I figure it out or they'll be artless. I loathe both alternatives.

Eat, drink, and curse Blogger.
NOTE: Discovered that it's Chrome - I can move images fine in Explorer. The Husband works for Google - can't he fix this?!


The Dead Girl Genre

You book folks know exactly what I'm talking about. What's with all the dead girls lately? Do you know how many times someone has recommended a book to me and I have caught myself saying, "Another dead girl book?" What's up, publishers (including the one for which I work)?

But you know what happens? I end up reading each one. And I end up loving each one. Thus far, each book I have read has given me a new, fresh perspective and each book has made me feel something different, has provoked me in a different way. Rather than getting tired of the dead girl genre, I'm getting more and more excited by it.

It all started with Before I Die by Jenny Downham (David Fickling, 2007). Tessa is dying of cancer. I'm not giving anything away - the reader knows right off the bat how it will end. Heck, even the title gives it away. What I loved about this one was that the main character wasn't likable. But she was real. There was a rawness and a roughness to her that made you love her in spite of (or because of) all her imperfections. And what this story captured best was the struggle to die with dignity and grace, especially for a teenage girl who still has so much living to do.

Last year, I went to a librarians' preview at Penguin and heard about If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Dutton, 2009). This was the first time I remember thinking, "Another dead girl book?" But it was so much more than that. It was about family and love and choices. And what I loved most was the idea that we can decide, that it may seem like it's all random and out of our control...but we really do have a say in our ultimate destiny. Loved that. And in my GoodReads review, I wrote that this book successfully avoids the "three Ms: maudlin, manipulative, and melodramatic." Such a gorgeously written, beautiful book.

Then I started at HarperCollins and one of the first books presented to me was Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall (HarperCollins, 2010). Despite it being another dead girl book, you know what happened. Read it. Loved it. Again, this book had something new to say. Lauren's book isn't about a girl who has died. It is about the little things we do every day that affect others. Dying is the impetus for Samantha coming to this realization, and watching the ways in which Samantha changes and grows based on every single decision she makes on a single day is riveting. It changes your own life because you look around at your own world differently, wondering how your own actions and words are affecting those around you.

And it keeps going! I just finished reading the sky is everywhere by Jandy Nelson (Dial, 2010) and, again, I was floored. Lennie's older sister has died and this book examines the aftermath and the ways in which joy and self-discovery can arise from tragedy. I've never experienced great loss in my life so I can't attest to what heartwrenching grief truly feels like...but I imagine it feels like this book describes. Nelson makes grief so palpable until it becomes a living, breathing monster, threatening to consume everything in its path. It makes for a very intense read. But that aside, this story examines how sometimes we have to lose something to gain something. It is only through her sister's death that Lennie really lives. In the best, most beautiful way possible.

As an end to this discussion, I went to a birthday party last night and was talking about the dead girl genre with some friends. Molly made an excellent point: she said that teenage girls love this genre because each of these books, in some way, makes a case for being in control, even when we're not in control. Teenagers are accountable to everyone: friends, teachers, parents, siblings. They feel (and I remember this all too well) that they aren't in control of their own lives. But what these stories have in common is a theme of empowerment. Yeah, the shit may hit the fan but, ultimately, you decide what you're going to do with it. How will you react? What will you say? What choices will you make? What impression do you want to leave? In the midst of chaos, you can decide how it all plays out.

Don't knock it before you've tried it. Pick up a dead girl book for hope, joy, and inspiration.

And three other fantastic, critically acclaimed dead girl books I didn't discuss in this post (13 Reasons Why being the only one I haven't read yet):

The Everafter by Amy Huntley (Balzer+Bray, 2009; Morris YA Debut Award finalist)
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (FSG, 2005)
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Razorbill, 2007)