Friday, October 30, 2009

Alert the media.

I have a new favorite cookie. Or rather, the long-standing two-way tie between my frosted pumpkin-ies and Kathleen's molasses-raisin-ies has become a three-way tie (and this sentence has too many hyphens). Please allow me to introduce:


Notes: Now, I am not a Reese's fan. There are those for whom the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is sweet-tooth nirvana. I've never been one of them. So rest assured that these cookies stand on their own merits. The recipe is, again, very similar to one from America's Test Kitchen, but with a few adjustments and additions, including the spices and the ganache topping. Ganache is a flexible animal; the higher the cream-to-chocolate ratio, the softer the icing will be. If you want to serve the cookies chilled, use more cream, but make sure you chill the ganache thoroughly before frosting (like, for eight hours). If you want to serve the cookies at room temperature, use less cream. I suggest frosting the cookies with a spoon, instead of a knife. For the cookie batter, do observe the finer points of construction -- creaming the butter and sugar properly, using parchment paper (or a silpat!), etc. Also, if you have Mexican or another sort of high-quality vanilla, now is the time to break it out. The combination of the vanilla, cloves, nuttiness, and chocolate is... dreamy

Chocolate Ganache

8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or you can use chocolate chips)
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Place chocolate in medium, non-reactive bowl. Heat cream in small saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Pour boiling cream over chocolate, whisk vigorously until smooth, then keep whisking for another minute to fully emulsify. Cover, and refrigerate or let stand at room temperature, as desired.

Spiced Peanut Butter Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
scant 1/2 tsp ground cloves
scant 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 pound butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup Adam's brand creamy peanut butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 TB vanilla

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, soda, powder, salt, cloves, and cinnamon in medium bowl. In large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer until creamy. Add sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping bowl with spatula as needed. Beat in peanut butter, then eggs (one at a time), then vanilla. Gently stir in dry ingredients by hand.

Roll dough into balls of about 2 tablespoons' worth. Place two inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Wet a flat-bottomed glass with cool water and flatten each ball slightly. Bake until cookies are puffed and golden along the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. They will not look fully-baked. Let stand on cookie sheet for about 4 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. 

Once they reach room temperature, frost/refrigerate as desired. Makes about 30 large cookies.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Serious Gingerbread

This recipe varies only slightly from the one at America's Test Kitchen, the good people of which apparently like their gingerbread the way I like mine: strong, dark, and semi-sweet.

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 TB Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 TB grated fresh ginger
2 TB candied ginger, minced

Grease and flour 7'' by 11'' inch (or smaller) pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk dry ingredients together in medium bowl and set aside. Whisk yogurt and milk together in small bowl. In large bowl, beat oil, molasses, and sugar with electric mixer until combined. Beat in egg. Gradually beat in yogurt/milk mixture. Add dry ingredients; beat until smooth (about 1 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary). Beat in fresh and candied ginger. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake to desired doneness -- about 40 minutes. Cool for at least ten minutes before cutting. Serve with whipped cream, powdered sugar, or icing, if desired.

ETA: Sorry the picture is huge for some reason...?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Seriously, so awesome!

In class the other day, my writing professor had us look at and discuss this blog as a great example of... well, you'll see. 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crock Pot Beans

So this recipe is sorta white trash, but I love it. 

Notes: Most recipes like this will call for a few strips of bacon, fried and crumbled, and for pork 'n' beans instead of baked beans. Your choice! I'm even less sure than usual of the exact measurements on the spices and stuff; just taste as you go. Use whatever beans you like, but don't omit the butter beans; they're awesome. Cornbread or tortilla chips make great vehicles for the finished product. What is it about corn, anyway? It's such an empty foodstuff, but boy, do I love it. I could eat a bag of tortilla chips per day, easily. Just plain, too; no salsa or nothin'. Remember that scene from The Land Before Time, where Spike comes out of his shell and eats that patch of brown grass, mouthful by crunchy mouthful? I always imagined that grass tasted like plain corn tortilla chips. Sometimes I still think of that when I eat them.


Crock Pot Beans

1 can vegetarian baked beans, NOT drained
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can butter beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained

1 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped or sliced
4 jalepenos, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 TB cumin
2 TB chili powder
1 TB ground ginger
1 TB dried oregano
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

sour cream
fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine beans in a crock pot set on low. Heat olive oil in medium pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about five minutes. Add jalepeno and garlic and continue to cook until golden-brown, another ten minutes or so. Meanwhile, add vinegar, sugar, molasses, and spices to beans. Stir in onion mixture. Let cook on low heat 4-6 hours. Serve in bowls with sour cream and cilantro, and a side of corn chips or corn bread. Makes about eight servings.

Wondrous Websites

1. America's Test Kitchen
This is my default recipe/product review site. My mom bought me a year's subscription to the site as a late Christmas gift last October. It's due to run out soon, and I can't afford to buy another, so I'll either have to lose the hundred-plus recipes in my virtual cookbook, or print them out (which would probably cost about as much as another subscription, come to think of it), or... ask my parents for an early Christmas present. Hmm.

I am so registering on this site when I get married. They sell amchoor powder. And dried Tien Tsin chiles. And nine varieties of cardamom. One day I will own a spice grinder and I will buy whole spices in bulk from this website and grind them fresh when I need them and then my food will be better than everybody else's the end.


Being a Portland foodie, naturally I'm a Trader Joe's fan. Tasty vittles with an eye for organicity and healthiness, at quite reasonable prices, presented with a goofy sense of humor and unabashed love of food.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HOUSE funny

After a disappointing premier and second episode, season 6 of HOUSE seems to be back on track. The last three eps have been great, and next week's installment looks awesome, too. Anyway, here is the grumbling exchange Liz and I had with Hugh Laurie's televised image last night.

Annie: Aw, put your glasses back on.
Liz: And grow your hair out.
Annie: And take off your shirt.

I was reminded of GOB's office-closet encounter with Kitty in Arrested Development. Apparently Liz and I are pigs who like to control and objectify the men in our lives. (Watch out, Jacob.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I've been poor this semester. Like, super-poor. Like, will-I-be-able-to-pay-rent poor. My only steady income has come from my twice-weekly visits to the plasma center. The following is a list of the unexpected ways the Lord has helped me through to the point where I now know I have enough for next month's rent and I was able to spend forty dollars on groceries.

1. Sold a painting to a professor couple in town.
2. Reimbursed for a school library book I thought I lost last semester but which I found two weeks into this semester. Usually they would have purchased a replacement, but they hadn't, so they were able to pay me back.
3. Checks from Mom and Grammy.
4. Free potluck dinners (ward activity, Brit Lit reunion).
5. Sold my old peacoat.
6. Won first place poetry, honorable mention poetry, and honorable mention creative nonfiction,  which apparently come with cash prizes, at the English department's Pre-professional Conference (didn't know that when I entered).
7. Generous friends and roommates (thank you, Liz, Sarah, Julie, and Lauren).
8. Bank teller flubbed a deposit; gave me thirty extra dollars (I didn't notice until later, and as it was a cash deposit, there was no way to "correct" the "mistake").
9. Dish duty for three roommates, at 2 dollars per week per roommate.
10. Practically everything I've wanted to buy has happened to be on sale when I went to buy it: canned beans, cucumbers, potatoes, cottage cheese, eggs, cauliflower... even my own particular brand, variety, and scent of deodorant (usually $4-something, yesterday $1.79).

It may not seem like much, but most of these occurrences came at times when I was just about at the end of my rope. So I feel very well cared for, indeed. And I am so grateful.

By Way of Explanation...

I can do amazing things with forty dollars of groceries. Well, at least I can when I have four weeks of idle poverty to plot and plan how best to spend those forty dollars once I finally, finally get them. Well, I got them last week. That, truth be told, was the impetus for this blog. Since September, I've had to put my love of flavorful food on hold. Now it's back -- with a vengeance. So, for your entertainment and edification (ha), I give you the second meal prepared and consumed during this most beautiful and blessed Feast Week, observed with reverence in mid-October of our Lord's year two-thousand and nine:


Notes: Full-fat Greek-style yogurt is best, but I used the low-fat off-brand non-Greek stuff, and it was still dang good. Definitely drain the grated cucumber. If you have a fine-mesh strainer, voila. If not, I found that mashing the pulp to one side of a bowl and then propping the bowl at an angle for half an hour got out a lot of liquid. A quick squeeze with a paper towel didn't go amiss, either. I added a little orange zest and honey to my tzatziki -- totally untraditional, but yummy. Definitely soak the chickpeas overnight; I soaked them for nine hours and then simmered them for forty minutes, and they were still a bit too dry. A good eighteen-hour soak ain't gonna hurt 'em. Because mine were so dry, I added a couple eggs to bind the mixture, but ground chickpea packs together surprisingly firmly, so I dunno if that was necessary. The tomato relish is just my cheap answer to tabouleh, but it was a good addition. As always, ingredient measurements are very approximate; use them according to taste.


2 cups plain yogurt
1 tsp honey
1/2 TB orange zest (lemon would be good, too)
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp dried crushed mint (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped)
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
ground black pepper
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, grated, salted, and drained

Mix flavorings with yogurt while cucumber drains. Stir in cucumber. Refrigerate until needed (blending time will improve the flavor).

Tomato Relish

1 or 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 or so TB leftover fresh chopped herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients while the falafel fry. DO NOT REFRIGERATE. Refrigeration is the death of tomatoes.


1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas (don't use canned), soaked overnight
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
ground black pepper
3/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
3/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Pulse all ingredients in food processor or blender until well-combined. Form into golf-sized balls, flatten slightly, and fry in a quarter inch of oil over medium heat until browned. Flip with tongs and brown other side. Drain for a minute on paper towels. Garnish with tzatziki and tomato relish and serve with a side vegetable of your choice. Makes about 4 generous servings.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thai Green Curry (Gaeng Khiao Wan)

I've discovered that for me, Soul Food is all about Asia. When I'm hungriest, I don't fantasize (much) about manicotti or tamales or beef stew. I want tempura, tandoori, mu shu, samosas, sushi, and pad khee mao.

Today, after four weeks of lentils, eggs, and pancakes, I made Thai green curry.

Notes: I used a store-bought curry paste for the first time and was very pleased with the results. One qualm: it's not very spicy, and neither were the farmers' market jalepenos I added. Red pepper flakes to the rescue! This was also my first time working with coconut milk; I didn't expect there to be so much solid fat floating on top. Next time I'll probably discard all but three or four tablespoons of it. Not wanting to splurge on fresh basil, I substituted some crushed fennel seeds to get that great licorice-y flavor. Peanuts aren't traditional in green curry, but I added some peanut butter just 'cuz. The curry paste didn't quite have the flavor balance I wanted; a little allspice and cumin rounded things out. Finally, I used canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in place of meat; this pseudo-vegetarianism thing is turning out to be much easier and more satisfying than I expected.

Recipe (all measurements are approximate; adjust each ingredient to taste):

1/2 onion, sliced
2 TB fat from canned coconut milk

1/2 TB garlic, crushed or minced
2 TB fresh ginger, minced
2 jalepeno peppers, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 TB red pepper flakes

more coconut fat
1 TB Thai Kitchen brand green curry paste
2 TB Adam's brand peanut butter
1 TB brown sugar
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 can coconut milk
1 can garbanzo beans
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat coconut fat in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, cook until golden, stirring and adjusting heat as necessary (about 15 minutes). Add garlic, ginger, jalepeno, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking until onions are soft and golden-brown (5-10 minutes more). Add another tablespoon or so of coconut fat, let melt, and add green curry paste. Mix well, then stir in peanut butter, brown sugar, allspice, and cumin. Cook for a minute or so (should be bubbling). Add coconut milk and garbanzos, return to a slow boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Serve over white or brown basmati or jasmine rice. Makes two very generous servings.

I'm not usually much of a hot chocolate fan

...but THIS was awesome:

8 oz hot water
2 scoops Ghirrardelli sweet ground chocolate (it's not that sweet)
1 spoonful sugar
3 small pieces candied ginger, minced
generous dash cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper

I whipped it up on a PMS-whim last night at 9 o'clock. Now I want to try it with milk, soymilk, coconut milk, or a combination thereof instead of water. Hm.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Complexion Woes

I've been bitten by the pimple vampire.

Not one, but two massive eruptions are presently festering on my upper lip, less than an inch away from each other. Usually one would be minor -- a mere foothill on the cusp of Everest. But these are both monsters.

I know their kind. They'll never come to a head; they'll just throb and redden for another week or so and then turn hard, squat under my skin for a month, and finally start to recede with all the alacrity of a glacier. The marks will still be visible at Christmas.

I don't have this problem back home; Idaho's dry climate must be throwing my oil glands into panicked overdrive. Ingrates. Don't I bathe them twice daily in Olay's finest Oil-Free Facial Lotion? Don't I drink plenty of water, eat healthy food, and keep exfoliated and squeaky clean? Haven't I been good to you, skin?

What have I done to deserve this?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Creative Nonfiction

On Berries and Their Preservation

Last summer passed in a purple haze -- though my drug of choice was a little on the sweet side. The upper ocean-side corner of Oregon, just west of the Cascade Mountains, is a soggy paradise where soil and sun and mulling rain conspire to produce the plushest berries on the continent. It was my first summer spent at home since turning eighteen. I confess I went a bit mad. Five straight years of Idaho's sagebrush summers will do things to a nice Pacific Northwestern girl. I couldn't get enough of that ripe, sticky tang.
My father and young siblings observed my record-breaking intake with mounting disbelief, predicting acid overload and gastric disaster. But Julie, my stepmom, laughed at my enthusiasm -- and encouraged it. We sneaked off to the local u-picks, morning after misty morning, always racing the weariness and pain which would usually level her before noon. She was in week four of a sixteen-week course of chemotherapy when berry season began. Picking soothed her, she said, though her shredded intestines didn't permit her to eat much fruit.

"Being outside," she'd say, "in the morning air, with the birds, and a full bucket... I feel like all's well with the world. Besides," she'd add with a smile, "you're eating enough for both of us."
I certainly was. For three months I glutted my way through each berry in its turn. Strawberries -- Hood strawberries, or forget it -- come first, lumpy-headed, flooding the mouth so syrupy-quick the tongue burns hot for an instant. Raspberries next, needling the jaws on their way down. Then the dear sweet blueberries, which grow thorn-free at eye-level in the most accommodating little bunches, tumbling en masse into the bucket at the touch of a skillful gatherer. I loved them all.
But it wasn't enough. I knew it wouldn't last. I wanted to seal up my summer for later enjoyment; I wanted to bring Oregon's crown jewels with me, back here to the desert. Julie was a seasoned jelly-maker. Canning jars were on sale at Wal-Mart. And the big cane berries were coming on hard.
We planned our campaign carefully. The day after her next treatment, when the steroids lacing her chemo cocktail still had her system ramped and buffered against fatigue, we left a sleeping household behind and headed for farmland. We picked for hours, shedding layers as the sun rose, grateful for the groomed rows of broad-leaved brambles that towered over and shaded us. Black-skinned, red-blooded marionberries. Fat, lusterless boysenberries. Loganberries long as my thumb. We picked enough, and kept right on picking. We bolted straight through Too Much, took a sharp turn at Ridiculous, and arrived at last at Utter Insanity.
"Don't tell Dad," Julie muttered as she wrote the check. Ninety cents a pound, and we were still blowing the budget. I felt giddy as a bank thief as we loaded the trunk and made our getaway.
The kitchen was cool and welcoming; we had scrubbed and sterilized it the night before in preparation. We washed, tied ourselves into aprons, and laid out our bowls, spoons, and measures with surgical precision. Julie showed me how to bind the berries in fine white cheesecloth and hang them over a bowl. Suspended there, they smothered in their own weight, tender skins hemorrhaging and draining.
"Let them drip," she chided, when my impatient hand attempted a surreptitious squeeze. "You want only the juice, and you want it clear, concentrated -- like wine."
Turns out patience is the one great secret of jelly-making; the rest is all there on the yellow back of the Sure-Jel package. The cook need only bring to the kitchen a stout perseverance -- and, if desired, an appreciative eye for the magic of the process.
Once collected, the rich, glassy juice is splashed into a pot and boiled with gelatin and a little butter. At the right moment sugar is added, which stalls the boiling; the liquid thickens and darkens and seems to turn on itself, brooding and panting like something alive. Stir, and stir, or the sugar will burn; spoon through rosy foam to gut the deep, rolling red. Get drunk on the color, the motion, the smell. Bring the pot to a second, howling crisis, then funnel it quick into clean warm glass. Once metal-capped, the jars are ready for final processing: a five-minute immersion in hot bubbling water.
Night had fallen by the time we finished our last batch. We were spattered and soaked with that hard-won juice, which started out a wet, raw red and then faded to blue and finally grey as it dried. The gradation of color on skin became a clock, marking the layered labor of hours. The stains on Julie's hands were at the purple stage and matched exactly the strange bruises there -- hallmarks of the chemotherapy that disturbed her almost as much as the baldness. I admired her long, tapered fingers and delicately dimpled knuckles as she tightened the silver ring around the neck of each finished jar -- fifty-two in all. Water droplets gleamed white against her darkened skin. I labeled each lid, she adjusted her hot pink bandana, and we filled up the pantry with tomorrow's perfection.

    15 September 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Burl Wood

Faux-painted amboyna burl on 24'' x 24'' masonite board, done for Theatrical Scene Painting class, BYU-Idaho, winter 2009.

Detail shots:

3-D Faux Brick

Three dimensional faux brick technique using sanded Total Wall on 24'' x 24'' masonite board. Done for Theatrical Scene Painting class, BYU-Idaho, winter 2009.

Detail shots:

Bookmatched Marble

Basic black marble with white veining, bookmatched on 24'' x 24'' masonite boards and for Theatrical Scene Painting class, BYU-Idaho, Winter 2009.

Detail shots:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

for the Record

This blog is about to begin. And so is my NyQuil-induced coma. So bye. For now.

Marble Floor

Faux-painted marble floor for BYU-Idaho's production of Sheridan's School for Scandal.

Quarter-Sawn Oak

Faux-painted quarter-sawn oak for BYU-Idaho's production of Sheridan's School for Scandal.

Marble Balustrade

Faux-painted rose breccia marble for Theatrical Scene Painting course at BYU-Idaho, winter 2009.

Faustus Tapestry

9' x 4' monkscloth tapestry painted for BYU-Idaho's production of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, summer semestery 2008.

Reproduction as mural or canvas-painting available for commission.

Faustus main tapestry

4' x 9' monkscloth tapestry painted for BYU-Idaho's production of Marlowe's The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, summer semester 2008.

Tapestry available for sale. Reproduction as mural or canvas-painting available for commission.

Some detail shots:

Tree of Life

Originally a stained glass design for a theatrical set painting class, I did this 9'' x 11'' painting in ink and watercolor for Ben and Kaye Romney of Rexburg, ID.

Replica paintings available for commission: $45. 
Stained glass designs (any subject) available for commission.