Sunday, December 20, 2009

Adding in some real greenery

Sunday, December 20, 2009
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde

It didn’t even start snowing until 7 PM last night, but I’d say we received about a foot of it. It looks gorgeous, and supposedly it’s powdery, so it shouldn’t ‘be too bad to shovel out the car this afternoon. Oh, to have a garage someday!

Yesterday I worked on tidying stuff up and doing some more decorating, etc. Losing that week right after Thanksgiving due to the furniture swap really got me behind. There are islands of organization, but still far too much upheaval. The table’s finally done, and that looks lovely.

I ran out to mail some last few cards and went to CVS to pick up some pens (my pens seem to have vanished), and, of course, bought a bunch of extra cute stuff for the stockings. I love finding things for the Christmas morning stockings. It’s such fun!

Got some writing done. Confidential Job #1 sent me the next assignment, which they want by the 29th, so I have to get going on that, too. But it was a pretty quiet day. The “friend” still hasn’t called and I just can’t let it bother me too much. Clear message, that’s all I have to say. I don’t let people treat me like that. If you need to change plans, let me know. If you flake out, call as soon as you realize it and fix it. Don’t just ignore it.

I had a program on about dogs last night and Elsa got all excited. (Elsa loves dogs). She kept swatting at me, and rubbing against the screen and purring. I said, “No, Elsa, you can’t have a mastiff. When we get a house, you can have a DACHSHUND of your very own Not a MASTIFF!”

She does love dachshunds, but she really liked those mastiffs.

The eggnog cheesecake is amazing. Definitely a keeper recipe (thank you, MARTHA STEWART). I made maple-walnut muffins this morning (they also have oats and dates in them). They are awesome, too, although chopping dates at 7 AM on a Sunday morning does not rate high on my list of favorite tasks. They don’t use any sugar – the maple syrup and the heavy cream keep them sweet. That recipe is from the SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES Cookbook, another of my favorites, and perfect for a snowy winter morning.

I’m staying in today, decorating, writing, and working on a few other things. Around 2 or so, weather-permitting, I’ll go dig out the car. It’s just started snowing again, so going out now would be a waste of time!

Have a great Sunday!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Violet and Elsa’s response to the baking activity

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

And we’re into Day 5 of no hot water. Getting tired of taking either cold showers or the infamous “whore’s bath.”

It will be months, probably next year, before I can face icing another cookie. I iced from noon until 11 PM last night — close to 500 cookies. AND baked another batch of thumbprints (which came out beautifully) and eggnog angels (that dough is a nightmare to work with).

Re: the latter, the eggnog cookies, I realized that EVERY recipe I tried from the magazine that contains that recipe was wrong. I’m wondering if they actually tested these recipes or, because of cutbacks due to the recession, someone made ‘em up and they printed them without testing. The proportions are wrong. The only even remotely usable recipe is the eggnog cookie (and the icing rocks,now that I’ve modified it). Now, the reason I buy other people’s recipes for holiday cookies is because I’m baking about 1000 of them, and I don’t have time to mess with the recipe. I want something that works. If I wanted to muck around with the recipe, I’d start from scratch and make my own!

Example: For the eggnog icing, it said to put in 3 Tablespoons of eggnog to the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla mixture and then spread on the cookie. You wanna know what 3 T of eggnog made it look like? Cornmeal. It took 7 Tablespoons of good-quality eggnog from my favorite dairy to make a spreadable consistency — 8 if you want it really smooth. SEVEN. That’s a big difference from THREE.

If I’d had the time, I could have messed with the recipe and figured out by how much the amount of flour was off, and how much more I needed to add to make it a solid, workable consistency, not only for rolling it out (I used THREE POUNDS of flour to roll out one batch of cookies, that’s how badly it stuck to everything), but so the cookies wouldn’t break. My normal breakage rate for cookies is about 3 or 4 out of every 100, so 3-4%. With this recipe, it was about 40%. With one of the other recipes in the same magazine, it was 100% — the cookies simply dissolved on the baking sheet.

I started baking cookies when I was four, so I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ve never hit a package of recipes that are this far off, proportion-wise. I may mess with the eggnog recipe over the coming months to get the proportions right, but as for the rest? Not using this publication again, and certainly not buying it next year. AND I’m going to contact them and let them know why. In a half a dozen recipes, surely ONE should have come out exactly as written! I mean, they all should, but still . . .

On the flip side, Martha Stewart’s recipe for Royal Icing comes out perfectly, and I bless the day I picked up Wilton’s meringue powder at the chef store, thinking it might come in useful someday. That stuff is awesome.

Errands in the morning went well. Gotta love Trader Joe’s, dropped my cartridges off at the really good Staples in Larchmont, got my favorite Jim’s Organic Coffee at Mrs. Green’s, found where my yoga studio’s moved — a new, larger, lighter space with better parking, and about a minute closer to me. So that’s all good.

I’m downloading photos and doing the Cookie Cheat Sheets that I pack with them –a photo of the cookie and a one-line description, and warnings if there are any nuts or whatever. And then we assemble the platters, load them into the car and head out. I expect it will take almost all day to deliver 30 platters. I’m anchoring each platter with a small gingerbread cake, and then I have between 3-7 of six different kinds of cookies on each — you can see, there are a lot of cookies around. I have cookie tins stacked everywhere.

I also baked a cake yesterday — I meant to bake it for St. Nicholas Day, but oh well. It’s from the SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES COOKBOOK, only I changed it. It’s supposed to be a straight up coffee cake with buttermilk, and then a layer of fruit on it and a layer of walnuts. Well, I went to the store because I never keep buttermilk in the house — don’t like it and usually forget to use it when I buy it. There were 16 kinds of eggnog (SIXTEEN — who knew you could have so many flavors of eggnog? Heck, I only drink eggnog once a year; I want it to taste like EGGNOG) — and no buttermilk. The entire shelf of buttermilk was sold out. So I guess a lot of people are baking this year.

Anyway, I picked up sour cream instead, and used sour cream instead of buttermilk — which to me, made the batter taste better. I mixed in the fruit and nuts instead of layering them — and it’s a pretty darned lovely cake, if I do say so myself!

Okay, off to finish the Cookie Cheat Sheets, assemble the platters. I think I’ll have to put the back seat down in order to load 30 cookie platters into a Volkswagen.

Have a great day, everyone!

Yeah, not much writing done yesterday OR this morning, but I have to admit, the minute I lose my holiday spirit, I sit down and write a few paragraphs, and it comes back.