Dentistry and Matt's Mashed Potatoes

This is me and one of my roomates, Matt.
We're in roommate-friend-love with each other.
And while he cooks sometimes, it is his most recent cookery that gets his snap put in here.
Also, this is a picture from months and months ago. Just saying.
We'd look just as happy, though, actually. If not more?

Monday, I had a wisdom tooth removed. It wasn't planned (I thought I was getting a consultation, not an extraction, blargh) and so, I hadn't had a chance to go soft-food shopping, let alone warn my roommates (the cast is currently at three and they are best friends of mine so, you know, we're all winners in this apartment). I'd like to take this moment to give a big shout out to Damen North Dental Clinic* for having the nicest dentist I've ever met in my life and also for clueing me in to Careington discount people because, seriously, I can't imagine having had to pay for this.

*If you live in Chicago and have questions about dentists and want to ask me about Damen North, feel free to ask away. As a non-insured, generally broke person with anxiety - I know a few things about a few doctors. This is one of them.


The consultation ended with my tooth and I being parted from each other and it took a wee bit of time. Still, it couldn't be helped so I sucked it up and said all systems were go and by the time I'd been to Target to get my prescriptions filled (bless them and their as-low-as-four dollar generics) and gotten back home, I was actually crying from pain. This was after I'd been numbed to oblivion and had been treated exceptionally well, it was just really painful because it had been a rough time and, well, my shots had worn off before I'd gotten home to take my pain killer.

This is where my roommates found me crying in my room, a little, wonky on pills and exhausted and waiting for the pain killing part to kick in.

Matt responded to my limitations and went to the store and when he came home he had things for mashed potatoes, baked/stewed/sauced apples, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The latter being more for he and our other boy-roommate (we're evenly divided, here at the halfway house of ill repute) but I was certainly part of it as I'd mentioned it as something I wanted for a day we'd already planned on involving the triology and a billion hours of projector time. (Return of the Martin Luther King Day, anyone?)

Well. For the past three days, I've largely been living off of his garlicky cheesey mashed potatoes. The other boy-roommate made a thick applesauce and I ended up making a thin custardy sauce last night for ultra-baked apples. Also, tonight featured only chocolate all-natural pudding from Jewel, which was the only pudding without any corn products I found tonight and oh, lordy, was I happy to find it.

From what my vicodined self observed, Matt's taters go a little something like this...

Matt's You Poor Broken Thing Potatoes (more or less)
- five poatoes, washed (peeled if you desire)
- butter
- half-and-half
- five cloves of garlic
- shredded Italian cheese
- two triangles of Laughing Cow cheese
- one egg
- garlic salt, pepper, salt

Water in a pot, with garlic salt added. Once boiling, chuck in potatoes and garlic cloves. When the potatoes are mashable drain and mash up with butter and half-and-half, to desired richness/texture. If, say, someone has a tooth taken out and can't chew for shit and are not that into the idea of opening their mouth - blend 'til smooth. Add cheeses and egg and seasoning and mash up more, over heat, until you are sure that no one will be poisoned.

Serve to the infirm. Watch as they enjoy it for the next few days. Feel good.

And that, my darling readers, is what friendship is.


Haitian Tragedy: Ways To Help.

This was a graffiti I spotted from the bus about two years ago, but it has stayed with me as far as the message is.

Hope really does endure through all the worst of everything. While I would love to be able to do something along the lines of the blog links I'm about to post, it's really beyond my ability at this time. Still, I want to re-post these links and hear about any others you may know about.

Thursday Night Smackdown
Confessions of a Pioneer Woman
Saffron & Blueberry
Savory Sweet Life

There are lots of ways to make a difference (not that I think this post here, on my blog, is one of them) and commenting is just one easy one. Do what you can or what you'd like to, which is what I plan to do. These bloggers are generous and have huge hearts, I am warmed by seeing such compassion for others in the places I look at for entirely different reasons.

My thoughts and warm wishes and energy are being sent, as I'm sure everyone's are.


A Picture of Brioche. Yeah. That's right.

Who me?
I'm just insanely delicious brioche-muffins whose recipe got lost.
Did I mention I'm insanely delicious?

Know what I haven't done since I last spoke to you guys?

Cooked. I haven't cooked a single thing. I could explain the amount of work I've been doing or this or that, but I thought about cooking tonight and instead popped the Homemade Pizza Co. pizza that was in the fridge into the oven and had done. I was so hungry that everything sounded good and was thrilled to find this when I got home. I was so starved after work that when I realized the crust was sliiiiightly underdone? I just ate it anyway.

Still. I have been compiling a list of things I'd like to try from cookbooks I have. I want to do brief reviews, even, I think. I do love to use the library for cookbook scoping.

I did make brioche early December. I even woke up my sleeping roommate to offer him a warm, buttered, fresh-from-the-oven brioche. It was my first attempt.

I will do it again and better.

Not that this was anything other than oohhh my god delicious. I'll offer you a better recipe though, once I've discovered how to do it.

In the meantime, at least I'm updating!


Two Thousand and Win!

A melty picture of love.
She may be trying to escape and, yes, this was taken much earlier in the year.
But it's still a picture of love!

Ah, yes, the adorableness of a girl and her cat. Or of anyone and their cat. Hell, of simply a cat.

Another year is here and this time, I'm thinking that while I do not tend to make resolutions (though I excel at breaking them), I may have a few things I want to keep in mind this year. In general terms, I'd like to finally finish cleaning my room before the end of next week. I'm giving myself some time on that. I got a My French Coach on my DSLite and I want to, clearly, learn a little French.
I've started and can say the days of the week, the months, colors, and am learning to conjugate the verb To Be.

That's about as general public as I'll get here, at the moment.

As far as the blog? I'd like to update more frequently. I'm not going to make a particular day or schedule or anything, but I want to keep an eye on it more. I also want a camera, but that isn't a resolution so much as a material desire. I'll work on that later. Posting more, yes, want to do that. I also want to use more recipes from my cookbooks. I haven't done terribly, I do use them, but I mean - they have so much more to be done with them! I want to experiment a little more, to perfect some things, and maybe even to pay more attention to measurements so as to explain better.

That last one, though, is pushing it.

Then again, maybe 2010 is all about pushing it?

I did already set up a dentist appointment. Haven't done that in longer-than-any-of-your-damn-business.

Still, I have things I want to try. I have ideas I want to mess with and create and then share with you. Hopefully, all these will turn out well. Maybe they won't. Still, I've been so busy with everything that I find myself cooking the same sort of things repeatedly and while that's comforting, I'm tired of trying new things when I'm suddenly stressing out.

And right now? I am resolving to go to bed. I had a strangely long day, but insomnia convinced me this was a Go.

Bonne nuit, my darlings!

Peanut Butter Dream Bars

Ahhh....back to the regular me.

So, I was making those gift bags of treats and included a recipe from the Cook Yourself Thin cookbook. Now, if you have a corn allergy, you will want to double check all low-fat items...but you already knew that. PB is wicked for allergies, you can't do cheap, and I ended up with a creamy Peter Pan that was NOT reduced fat, as the recipe calls for. But otherwise, it's still pretty spot-on.

And seriously, so good. I highly recommend this.

The Suspiciously Slender Cast

- 1/2 cup low-cal chocolate wafers (ground)
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (side note: I always forget I like oats. Then, suddenly, I remember again. This was one of those times)
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbs butter, melted and cooled
- 1/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 oz reduced fat cream cheese (at room temp)
- 2 tbs chocolate chips, melted

Their Own Personal Bootcamp:

- Line a loaf pan with wax paper (with an overhang). Great, you prepped the pan!
- Combine the ground wafers, oats, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Stir in butter. Stir in one tablespoon of the peanut butter until the mixture forms large clumps. Press those clumps into the tin, making a layer, and chuck it into the fridge for about ten minutes.
- While waiting for this to become firm, carry on by beating the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add vanilla, three tablespoons of peanut butter, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and beat until pale and nearly twice the original volume. You'll want to spread this on the cookie-crust you just made. Then let it firm up in the freezer, which also takes around ten minutes.
- When that is set, spread the melted chocolate in a thin layer on top and - you guessed it - abandon to the chill for another ten minutes while it sets.

This should serve eight people at a low 157 calories per serving.

Also, this should be insanely delicious. You'll have a whole new respect for those CYT Girls. I know I do!

Holiday Giving: The Explanation

This year, I did something I haven't done for holidays since...maybe four years?...since awhile. I made treats and passed them out to people and, unfortunately, I do not mean "all of my friends" but rather "the people I work with" only as I ran out of time and also had less to go around than I meant to. See: running out of time.

At any rate, the last time I did this I was celebrating a holiday with my ex, we were about to be at our respective hometowns, and I had a few days to myself. I was leaving on Christmas Eve and she was coming back on Christmas, so I decided to bake some treats (and also make mashed potatoes to be put in the fridge, as she was a loon). Then I decided that as long as I was baking, I might as well give some of the treats to our immediate neighbors in the apartment building.

Oh, how to explain those neighbors. One was a tiny older woman, maybe fifty or more, who wore heels and dresses and fake flowers in her hair and smelled like a lot of vodka. She was very sweet and we spoke often, as I worked in the neighborhood and she was often at my shoppe. The other lived on the other side of her and he was probably in his late twenties, lived alone and worked at an enviable job, as far as I was concerned. We got along well as we were both sarcastic and exchanged swift stories about dating perils and the neighborhood and our psychotic building manager. Still, we hadn't spoken very often so I'm not sure what made me think to add him to this list.

Honestly, I'm not sure why I did it at all. You don't tend to know a lot of your neighbors, here, and certainly the most I'd spoken with anyone else on my floor was one time the woman across the hall told me I left my keys in the door. I would see the same people all the time, we'd just never speak. I just had the urge and so I packaged up some various kolakies, cream cheese swirled brownies, and probably buckeyes. I wrote little notes on the two containers and left them at the doors of the other apartments before I left.

Fact: I would never eat something that I found in front of my door.
Fact: I did not, in fact, know the name of the guy living down the hall at the time, despite our friendly conversations.

The result? I made this guy cry. Seriously. Oh, the woman was touched and said thank you in a nicely written note. But the guy? He sought me out to tell me that he was alone for the holidays that year, that he'd been talking to his sister and came upon the package and apparently just started to cry and how much it meant to him. Which has stuck with me, how a small act of kindness can really mean something to someone. Something as simple as a brownie or a not-pretty-but-awfully-tasty-cookie or even just a handwritten note explaining you aren't sure if they have allergies or celebrate or anything, but you wanted to do something nice.

Then I never did it again until this year. For all I know, this meant nothing to my coworkers even though my bosses seemed to think it was nice of me. Still, it might have meant a lot or even a little, and it isn't the point.

AND OH MY HOW I HAVE RAMBLED. I will stick the recipe I am giving you in the next post, this is far too long I suspect.

Also, holy shit, was that ever sappy? Blargh.


If you'd seen that guy when he told me this, you'd want to share the story again too. Especially on cold January days, where you've tromped through snow and remembered the weird isolation that sometimes happens in large cities. I have an apartment where I live with my three close friends and two cats (my precious baby and my roommate's cat, who is oh-so-handsome), so it's not so isolated, but I've certainly been in moods where little things might make you cry or remind you about people.

I don't know. It's Eastern Orthodox Christmas, you know. Despite not celebrating, I still thought a holiday story might be nice.


Gingerbead House: Christmas with The Daring Bakers

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

And I, of course, posted it late. Not only that, but the photos are on a roommate's camera, which, of course, I have not uploaded. No, do not weep for me, just listen to my tale.

I was excited. I confess I wanted to make something I was going to call either "Gingerbread Crack House" or "The Crazy Cat Lady Lives Here". I bought tiny gummi bears (all the better to resemble a collection of bottles with!) and real gummi bears and sour things and Pez and all the things I can't eat. But others can! And that was fine with me.

Then I started making gingerbread. I used Anna's recipe, which she got from Good Housekeeping. I picked thise one because I really like molassases. As I proved later that same night by making molassases cookies.

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.
3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)
4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)
5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.
6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)
7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.
8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.
9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.
10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.
I then attached the (shoddily but still tasty) pieces of my house together using a simple syrup.
Which I made simply by melting down some sugar and hoping to god that I didn't burn myself, which ended up working out, as I did not!
Then came the decorating.
I confess, I had little time to do any decorating. In fact. I left it to my roommates. If I had, I would have used this recipe for royal icing, also from the challenge.

Royal Icing:
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.
...I'm sure you see where this is going.
Non-complete. Enjoyed! Cheered over, even, if a little mocked. Deservedly mocked. At maybe more than a little frequency.
I take heart in that my house was constructed, at least, and then abandoned like so many projects are at times. I'll think of it as just the Chicago way to build things. Slowly, oh so slowly.
Also: take heart, this was really tasty.