So You Think You Can’t Bake

It’s fall, and nothing tastes or smells more like fall than ginger and cloves. One simple and tasty way to add that aroma to the house is to whip up a batch of little gingerbread dudes. I promised an easy recipe to my blogging buddy, and it’s time I make good.

My beloved husband cooks like an art major, feeling in his soul that a recipe is only a suggestion, a mere jumping off point in a quest for self-expression. It makes his cooking interesting and his baking inedible. Therefore I offer a step-by-step guide with pictures for those creative spirits who aren’t sure why their bread has the consistency of a black hole.If you already know what you’re doing, copy the recipe and have a great day! Everyone else, follow me.

Here’s what you need:

1/2 C Butter (softened, not melted)

1/2 C Sugar

1/2 C Molasses (NOT blackstrap)

2 egg yolks

2 C Bread Flour (you can use all-purpose, but your men won’t be as fluffy)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp cloves

2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

And here’s what to do. In technicolor.

1) Cream your butter and sugar.

"Cream" on low speed. Sounds violent, but if you keep your fingers out of the way, no one gets hurt.

2) Combine in Molasses

Molasses was intended by God for use in gingerbread. Alone, it tastes awful. High in iron, though.

3) Beat in egg yolks. You don’t need any special gadget to separate the yolks. Save the whites. You can use them in the bread recipe I’ll post soon.

To separate, hold egg a bowl and gently pour from one half of the shell to the other.

4) In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and blend well with a fork.

Baking calls for exact ratios. Use a knife to level off your flour and spices.

Can't you just smell it?! Yum!

5) Add dry ingredients to your butter mixture in small amounts. I use medium or high speed since the batter is thick. Blend until smooth.

A little at a time so it blends well.

This is what it looks like when you're done. It has little waves in it.

6) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or put it in a small, air-tight bowl and put it in the refrigerator for at least an hour. It seems unfair to have to wait. Leave the house if you must. It makes the time pass faster. You can put it in the freezer if you have to, but I am always afraid that the butter will crystallize. No idea what that would do to the taste, but I avoid unnecessary crystallization in my life whenever possible as a matter of principle.

So close, and yet so far away. An hour. Take this time to catch up on all those shows on DVR.

And now, the fun begins! Here’s the creative opportunity you’ve all been waiting for! Here’s what you need:

Yes, I do recommend wax paper. Buy some now, thank me later.

1) Lightly sprinkle some flour on a piece of wax paper and on your rolling pin. You can roll if out directly on the counter if you want to, but, wax paper makes it easier to remove even the most reluctant gingerbread dude and get him  to your baking sheet.

2) Roll out your dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use your cookie cutter of choice. Or use a sharp knife and create your own amazing shapes.

In ten minutes, I will EAT you! Be afraid, little gingerbread dude!

3) Remove your shape from the wax paper and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, depending on your oven.

4) Cool for a minute or so, and then remove to wire rack (if you have one).

Five reasons why life is worth living.

And that’s all there is to it. Here are a few tips.

Buy your spices at a place that sells them in bulk and lets you scoop them yourself. I paid about 1/4 the price I would have paid for prepackaged stuff. And it’s way fresher.

The spice amounts can be adjusted according to taste, but try the recipe as-is a time or two first. Too much cloves or ginger will burn your tongue. No joke.

An air-tight wrap or container is important in the fridge. It keeps the dough from drying out.

Put your cookies in an air-tight container before they have cooled completely. The stay softer that way.

Make friends only with people who have no sense of smell. If they can’t smell your cookies, you won’t have to share.

Enjoy, and let me know how they turn out!

Sometimes Free Ain’t Free Enough

Why order out when I can make this at home, right? RIGHT?

Every Thursday, I pack up the kids and head over to a local eatery for dinner. Kids eat free with a $5 purchase, which is the only reason that we go. Only two of my kids eat free because one aged out a year ago, and we’re honest folk, but I get a pizza that feeds the three of us who are over the age of 12. Where else can I feed my family of five for $10? Okay, I can do it at home for under $4 most nights, and that’s why we don’t go out to eat. But $10 once a week is doable. And it’s organic, or at least natural, so it’s a bit better than driving through at the golden arches.  But I think I’m over it.

There is a four-hour window for the free kids’ meals, and we hit it wrong every week. Each week, we plan our mission before we even get out of the van. Straight to the counter, place our orders, and then get any shopping done. The idea is to minimize the time we spend hanging around the counter and waiting. And it’s such a great idea. Too bad it rarely works.

Every week, it’s the same. We scope the parking lot and check out the other families who are unloading their brood. Even Squish is aware that they are our competition. Dodging strollers and shopping carts, we dash into the store, only to find it booby-trapped. The free samples, you see, are strategically placed by the front door. We merely step over the threshold, and we’re already behind. Like me, my kids cannot pass up the offer of free food. And all of those families that we cut off in the parking lot enter the store, find the sample holders blocked from their children’s vision by my ravenous troop, simply march on ahead of us.

Having gotten their fill of snap peas, we route away from produce, which usually sports at least three samples, and worm our way through vitamins and health aids. Even my children will bypass freebies on cod liver oil. if we can make it past the chips, we are home-free. Until we get to The Counter. And I feel my resolve weaken.

Finding a swarm of twenty-five children hovering like expectant sharks around The Counter is enough to send even a cheapskate running for the door. But we press on. The kids are expected to fill out a little menu. In crayon. Which have invariably been scattered across the store by the kids whose parents were not detained at the Fuji apple slices. I’d make a note to myself to bring a pen in future weeks. But there’s nothing to write with.

Having finally tracked down half a pink crayon and filled out the kids’ menus, it’s my job to brave the mob and push my way over to The Counter. And there I meet employee Judy. Judy’s job is to collect the kids’ menus and turn them over to the chefs in the order in which they arrive. Judy is likely a recent college graduate. She is young, she is adorable, and she is also apparently afraid of crowds. About 5 minutes after our menus have been handed to her, Judy disappears, never to be seen again. Until next week. She has left the papers on The Counter in an order which changes every week and only she understands. Bless her. Last week, our menus got lost for twenty minutes as we watched other families come and go and were finally located under the box latex gloves.

Last night may have been the final straw. I turned in our papers to Judy and placed the order for my pizza. The chef recognizes me, and he asked if I wanted my usual. I glanced at the menu and said I wanted to change it up. I wanted a pesto chicken pizza. His brow furrowed, his eyes narrowed, he gave me a sideways glance. “You sure?” he asked. And suddenly I wasn’t. Why was he looking at me like that? What does he know that I don’t? Is pesto chicken pizza total crap? It’s on the menu! Right there! Look! But I said I was sure.

And then he forgot about me. Was it because he couldn’t face the thought of preparing absolute garbage for a customer?  About 10 minutes later, he looked up and saw me still standing there amidst a swirl of hungry children and their parents. I saw him walk over to the pizza counter and whisper something to the chef there. Pizza Chef looked puzzled. “Really?” I heard him say. “Pesto chicken? For who? Primary Judgmental Chef pointed at me. They both looked sad. Guys, it’s on the  menu!

Pizza Chef prepared my food in silence. Guy Who Writes the Item Number on the Pizza Box did his job with a sad shake of his head. He handed me my box, and I did the walk of shame to the check out area and took my embarrassment of a pizza home. And it.was.good,

But now I no longer feel like I can return.  I have already revealed myself as a person with no taste whatsoever. And they remember me. No longer am I Half-Four-Cheese-and-Half-Mediterranean girl. I am Pesto-Chicken girl. And I can’t take the shame of it.

 

Why?

 

Looking pretty good for 16!

Some days, my life reads like a country song. Today has been one of those days. I will tell you my pitiful story, and then you will offer your forgiveness for today’s blog being a repost off my old site. Last night, my 16 year old cat had an awful medical issue that carried into today. She’s fine now, but between getting her to the vet and worrying about whether she’d be okay, I’m left feeling a little drained. Combine that with 45 minutes of sheer terror this morning when I realized my good friend hadn’t called or emailed me after his kayaking trip, and then I couldn’t reach him by phone, and you’ve got the makings of a rerun day. It all ended well Piper the cat did well with the anesthesia and will be home soon, and my friend Steve isn’t at the bottom of a lake somewhere (a shout-out to Steve for not being dead!). But I now have exactly two brain-cells left, and they’re not talking to one another.

So here’s a repost, with a few additions. I have tried very hard to edit it, but apparently I was going through an ee cummings phase when I wrote this originally. Please forgive words that should be capitalized but aren’t. I know. It bugs me, too.

 

I don’t understand. why is it that:

1) My husband managed to install our surround-sound  approximately 30 seconds after we moved in, but he cannot snap up a sleeper to save his life??

2) My six year old can locate the great barrier reef on a globe but cannot find the hamper in his bedroom?

3) The old man can watch Gladiator without flinching but faints when he gives blood?

4) My dresser drawers are stuffed so full of clothes I can hardly close them, but most days I can’t find anything to wear?

5) I can spend a 12 hour day shopping thrift stores but can’t find the energy to fold my laundry?

6) We have many square feet of open floor space on the top floor of my house, but the cat will locate my son’s Tow-Mater slipper when she needs to vomit?

7) I’m so tired I can’t stand myself, but when I lay down I can’t sleep?

8 ) I have caught my kids’ poo in my hands, but when I ask my husband to use the booger sucker on the baby, he leaves a daddy-shaped hole in the door?

9) My daughter can name 14 species of gecko but cannot remember to bring home her lunchbox?

10) If we are checking books out of the library to save a  little money, why do we refuse to return them on time?

11) Why is it that when I need him to wake up, the baby is so sound asleep that I need an air horn to rouse him, but he’s up like a shot when I’m just trying to put laundry away?

12) Why is it that I can find 32 socks, but none of them actually has a mate? (this one needs a blog post of its very own)

13) I don’t mind when the tortoises at the zoo poop when I’m soaking them, but I am unamused when Squish does it?

14) Why is it that Squish would eat a bug but turns his nose up at broccoli?

A Girl’s Gotta Have Goals

 

 

Our zoo has a new snake, and is she impressive! At 23 feet long, she’s the largest reticulated python I have ever seen. And because of her,  I have a new goal. I want to lose enough weight that she could swallow me. And I want to do it before the first weekend in September when she is scheduled to return to the facility that owns her.

My dream came to life in early February. I hang out with the Herp guys every Wednesday when I go to help soak tortoises. When Buttercup (yep, that’s her name!) first arrived last winter, I heard the guys discussing which of the staff she could potentially eat. It is my deepest desire to be on that list.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t want to actually be eaten by the snake, I just want to be a clear contender. Right now, I’m a maybe at best. A regurgitated or completely rejected meal at worst.

Now that I have a goal, I need a plan. No more Chic-fil-a. Snakes don’t eat chicken sandwiches. Buttercup eats bunnies at the zoo, therefore if I eat like a bunny, I will soon achieve my goal to be snake-bait. Lots of greens and raw vegetables.I can totally do that. On second thought, rabbits eat their own poop. Skip eating like a bunny.

Some people feed their reticulated pythons chickens. I could eat like a chicken. They eat fresh vegetables, too. And bugs. Um, never mind.

These dietary quirks force me to ask what retics eat in the wild. Insert quick Google search here, and the answer is… Pigs! There’s a diet plan I can stick to! I think I’m back in business.