Friday, December 21, 2007

Super secret cookies!!! and other recipes

Note: Don't have a big 'ol cow because you live someplace where they use mutated cooking nomenclature, standards of measurement based on the weight of King Henry VIII's gall bladder, or that have gimpy ovens. I'll post the link to the conversion site at the end like I always do so just keep your damn pants on.

I bake these wearing Jacqueline Kennedy dark sunglasses. SSSSSshhhhhh!!!!
Wack Up Smel the Cookies! caution: unnecessarily complicated
(all ingredients room temp. preheat oven to 350.)

First, you make a standard butter cookie recipe:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tbl vanilla extract
some fresh grated orange peel, to taste-can be omitted or other citrus may be substituted
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

also have on hand, but to one won't use these yet:
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 LEVEL tsp finest grind french roast coffee beans
1/3 c butter, very soft
2 tbls or more honey
optional for decoration: plain or chocolate covered espresso beans
PART ONE: The object of this part is to end up with very dry, browned cookie crumbs, so go ahead and proceed by eye.
-Halve the cookie dough. Set one half aside and hold at room temp.

-Take the other half, chill for an hour in the fridge. Then...

-Roll this chilled dough out about 1/3 inch thick and cut into pieces about 3 in. big...pretty is not an issue.

-Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet, not touching-but if they run together, no problem. You might have to do them in batches. Only one sheet in the oven at a time!

-Bake these at 375 until they are beginning to brown on the bottom, about 10 minutes or so-check them and see.

-Then take them out, cool them a bit, and then turn them over and brown the other side, which won't take quite as long. Go ahead and peek in the oven all you like.

-When they're brown on that side, turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let them cool in there while you go vaccuum or shop or something for a couple of hours. The object is to get them perfectly golden brown and crisp all the way through.

-When they are cooled off completely, run them all through the cuisinart until they're as small as they can get. Set aside.
Now for the cookies proper!
-Crank the oven up to 400.

-Take the other half of the ROOM TEMPERATURE cookie dough, chunk it up and put it in the cuisinart. Add in all the extra ingredients, blend thoroughly, scraping down the bowl and getting in all the corners.

-Turn it out into the bowl with the crumbs and knead it all together by squishing it between your fingers. You can add a little more soft butter if the mix is stiff.

-Press the dough out onto the counter with your hands until it's about 1/3 inch thick, and cut out rounds a little bigger around than the size of a walnut. (You cannot overwork this dough so use all the scraps too!) Scrape these up using a spatula and...

-Place them, not touching, onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

-Bake in the 400 oven for 7 or 8 minutes.

(-optional: if you are using the espresso beans for decoration, press one into the center of each cookie NOW while they're still hot and soft.)

-When they have sat a couple of minutes, try and pry one up. If it comes off clean, slide them off the cookie sheet and set aside to cool. They should flatten out and be crispy when they cool.

These will definitely Wack your ass UP.

Spicy cheese dip!
1 1/2 lbs of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2/3 cup of wholefat yogurt- drained overnight in a sieve until all the whey is out of it (there will be a little less after it's drained, obviously)
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup red onion, minced very fine
1/3 cup jalapeno (for hot!) or anaheim (for not so hot) peppers, minced finely
1 tsp. 'Via Nueva' chili-limon spice (look it up on the web; I'm not your mother)
1/4 tsp or to taste garlic granules
1 tbl Knorr powdered chicken stock

Heave it all in the Cuisinart and whir it for a very long time, stirring it down as necessary. It will be kind of sandy looking. Oooo so good!

Tangy cheese dip-this has to set overnight in the fridge to get good.

1/2 cup feta cheese with kalamata olives (or plain feta with five minced kalamatas added)
1/2 cup blue or roquefort cheese
1 cup sour cream
4 oz cream cheese
1 shallot squeezed through a garlic press or minced very, very fine-DO NOT OMIT.

Once again, heave it in the Cuisinart and whip the crap out of it. Don't forget to stir it down every now and then!

Smoked salmon dip-so easy a caveman could do it.

4 oz soft-smoked salmon, whatever cure you prefer (we use alder smoked with a cracked pepper cure)

4 oz cream cheese

1/3 cup either mayonnaise, drained yogurt or sour cream

Take the skin off the salmon but leave the peppercorns or whatever spices there may be ON.
Chunk it up, put it into the cuisinart with the other ingredients (I use sour cream) and whir until it's all a uniform smooth texture-scrape down as necessary. This cannot be over-mixed; it just gets lighter and fluffier.

Chicken Livers Mit Schmalz-I am the only person who really really likes this at my house so I get to eat ALL of it! But it is SO GOOD. Really. It is. On a Wheat Thin cracker? Oh my yes.

-1 lb chicken livers, poached very gently in 1 cup chicken stock until just done through, cooled.
-reserve the stock and cool
-1/2, 2/3, or 1 cup rendered chicken fat, depending on how soon you want to die of arteriosclerosis (recipe follows)
-2 small or one large green onion, minced very fine
-salt and pepper to taste-I like lots of fresh-ground black pepper here.
(optional-softened cream cheese to taste)

-All cooled ingredients into cuisinart minus the stock. As the mixture whirs, add a bit of stock until you have a light paste consistency-(err on the side of thick; more can be added later.)

-Chill overnight. The mixture will have turned into a soft solid. If it is too hard, chunk it up and put it back through the cuisinart, adding a little more stock. It will be a light grey cardboardy color and very smooth and light, a little sandy textured.
-At this point you may also add a little cream cheese to taste if you feel the flavor is too 'rank' or 'livery'. Correct seasonings.

To make rendered chickenfat, or 'schmalz'
(This is something you make when you want stock, fat and cooked chicken meat for separate things, so plan ahead for chicken and dumplings for dinner or chicken noodle soup or something like that.)

1 fryer, cut up or whole
water to cover

-Bring the chicken and the water to a boil, cover and reduce to the lowest setting. Let it go for 45 minutes.

-Take the chicken out and let it drain into the pot. (Then cool the carcass aside and return the drippings to the pot. Strip the meat once it's cooled-if you save it on the bone it gets funky.)

-You now have 'chicken water', the beginning of stock. Cool this in the pot, then refrigerate overnight, covered.

-The next morning, the hardened fat may be lifted off the top of the chicken-water in solid chunks.

-Melt these over a low flame just until they turn clear, then strain them through a very fine sieve or a cloth. Throw away the grey crumbs you strain out, or give them to your cat; they love them!

-Now you have pure rendered chicken fat! You should have about 1/2 cup more or less.


This is a new one I'm trying. Let me know what you think of it. If it sucks I'll go back to using the other conversion sites.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Quaint vignettes from my charming rural idyll

Something that bugs the crap out of me are the photographs used for identification purposes in birdwatching magazines and manuals. Nine times out of ten you'll get a prettily presented birdie posing to it's very best advantage or doing something cute...very seldom if ever presented in it's typical state. For example, the blue heron:

If you were to try and identify a blue heron by this picture you would be shit out of luck. Blue herons never look like this, at least not out where you can see them. This is a social nesting posture. All their display characteristics are-well, on display. The 'whoop de do' on the head and the spikey feathers at the neck; the white shoulder epaulets and the position of the neck are all characteristic of the bird as it rests in a place only accessible by a nut with a ladder or a pirogue. It's pretty, but it doesn't do me any good.
Now this is more helpful:

Here's a heron doing something typical out where regular people can see them. It's standing on a private boat dock in an 'alert' posture. You'll also notice that there is nothing particularly 'blue' about it, probably because calling it the 'tall scroungy looking heron' wouldn't sound as poetic. Still, this is the heron you'll see standing in every field and in every ditch in Whatcom County, watching the cars go by. 'Oh, theres a heron," you could say, right before it comes leaping in through the windshield and tears out your throat.

No, ha, herons don't do that. And most herons are not poisonous. Mostly what they do is stand around looking like that picture. That, and jumping out of swamps late in the evening and flying across the front of your car like a giant pterodactyl and saying'GRONK'. I've almost gone in the ditch twice now because of these things. I'm not joking. Down on the corner of Goodwin and Sorenson by the haybarn where it always floods? Yeah. Watch out.

This has been a banner year for blue herons. The things are everywhere! I don't know if it has anything to do with the weather or what; they must have fledged a lot of young last summer or something. I can look out the kitchen window almost every morning and see one or two of them standing in the soccer field behind the house, or fishing in the 'seasonal lakefront' that forms at the corner of my fence line. My poor girldog nearly has a seizure when she sees one standing too close to "her" yard. She explodes out the dog door barking like a lunatic. Then again, if you look at it from her point of view, a heron is a big, freaky, pointy bird taller than she is; I guess that would be alarming now that I come to think about it. Maybe I should be more grateful she's on patrol. We are safe. Safe from blue herons, Guatemalan soccer players and women pushing baby strollers. And Mormon kids on bicycles. And the UPS guy.

I noticed the return of the 4 resident nesting eagle pairs back on December 2. They've been sailing around the sky ever since, not doing much besides looking primeval and roosting wherever it pleases them to by night. They don't have much interest in their nests right now, besides keeping their claim staked. In any case it would be a never-ending job of repair given the successive waves of wind and rain storms we get here all winter.

After they fledge young, the eagles only stay around for a few weeks in January and February. I'm told they go then either up to the San Juan Islands or out towards the coast. I don't know what they do cabs, work at McDonalds...probably something that involves standing around. Eagles are good at that.
While they're here, though, they raise their families in the best American tradition...doing next to nothing, gorging to the point of bloat on bad food and making a lot of pointless noise.

Now, maybe I'm being a little harsh; I've lived so closely with them for so long. An eagle in the wilderness is a glorious thing, but then it has a glorious backdrop too. An eagle dragging an afterbirth across a calving pen is...not quite as glorious.

Once the ground is well and truly soaked down to the substrate, right around grimmest, bleakest late November, early one morning you hear the Trumpeter swans coming in through the low clouds. Hundreds of them. Later you find that your ungaraged car is now an entirely new color and texture. Say what you want about the destructive cloacal acts of the Canada goose; nothing dumps a payload like a Trumpeter swan. I don't know what they eat but it makes for some truly spectacular poo. Ever see a small plane pulling a banner behind it? Like that.

Like the eagles, the Trumpeter swans spend a large part of their time majestically doing jack shit. The swan, though, prefers to do this in mud. A mown hayfield glimmering with a winter-long standing puddle or a cornfield full of stubble suits them to a T, although you'd think it would be poky. As soon as they land they begin striding back and forth picking stuff out of it. What I have no idea. Rocks, sticks, bugs, wristwatches; whatever it is, they like it, and there certainly seems to be a lot of it too. A field that a flock of swans have visited will be as plowed up-looking after they leave as though a cultivator had run through it.

In the afternoon you can see them gathered apart into small groups to have what you can only describe as conversations...making quiet chickeny bucks and clucks to each other. All of them are by this point thoroughly splattered with mud and God knows what else...but if the sun happens to come out from the clouds the group will gleam like a beacon.

It's that quality of whiteness, their complete absence of color, that takes me by surprise every year. You think of a swan as white, but this is something altogether different; a perfect white, so perfect it's difficult to hold in your memory. You can clearly make out a group of swans even in the center of a field completely blanketed in the newest, whitest, cleanest snow.

A swan with no place in particular to go flies with a certain deliberation. Their wings stay bent in an air-collecting crescent shape when they move through the lower atmosphere, giving them a rather un-bird-like silhouette. And thought it sounds trite, a trumpeter swan really is whiter than white; the most completely white thing you've ever seen. A flock of them flying down the valley against the snow-covered hills looks like a flight of spirits drifting through the air.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My angel is married : UPDATED

...and for more celebrations, go here!!! the post, the video's ALLLLL GOOOOOOD!!!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Helpful and NSFW Hints for the Holidays

1. If you catch on fire, don't put it out with a hairbrush.

2. New boobs are not always the answer.

3. There comes a point when your pathetic cry for attention will guarantee you receive exactly the opposite.

4. See 3.

5. See 2 and 3.

6.Yes, they invented 'Hello Kitty'. They also invented bukakke and hentai.

7. Sometimes it's the toys without batteries that are the most fun.

8. See 7.

warping a new generation

Last night the Goonybird and I sat up until way late and watched all three Lord of the Ring movies. Not only did he sit relatively still, he did really well, too. Once I explained to him that the monsters were just cartoons made by people who could draw really, really well he had not one problem with the scary stuff or the action. In fact he got right into the spirit of the thing and helped defend the Hornburg by running back and forth smacking orcs with his toy dog.

I'm really glad I didn't spend money going to see these movies when they were out in the theaters. As it was I drove the Biker out of the room by the end of the first one pointing out all the mistakes and correcting the backstory on everything. I do have to admit, though, when they got it right, they REALLY got it right. The Riddermark? Hobbiton? Orthanc? Gondor? The Ringwraiths? Oh HELL yeah. Not to mention Mordor, the Orcs, or particularly Sauron. Or casting Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf. Genius!!!!

Why, why, why, though, did they have to ruin the Ents??? The Ents could have been so much better. They could have taken 3/4 of the budget they spent on the oliphaunts (which I admit were cool as fuck and kicked serious ass) and redirected it towards making the damn Ents halfway decent. After all they are kind of an important story element. And for the love of fuck why do we have Legolas skateboarding down the steps of Helms Deep? What the fuck is that? Why?

Yes I am a Tolkein nerd. I own everything. Even the scholarly stuff. In different editions.
Ok, geek, even.
Fine, 'tard.
Ok, yes, I threw a huge screaming baby fit until my mother promised to go stand in line out in front of B. Dalton in the cold on the first day the Silmarillion was released in order to get a first edition in hardcover.

Why? Because I couldn't.

Why? Because I was competing in a debate tournament.

We placed.


Meanwhile, it was really great to see the Goonybird get into the story. He really liked Frodo and Sam and Gollum. He 'got' that whole part of the story right away. We both woke up grandpa cheering when Eowyn cut the head off the Nazgul and killed the Ringwraith. He caught on to Theoden being nuts and Pippin feeling sorry for him. Not too damn bad for a three-year-old kid.

I have three days left before his mommy and daddy get back. I figure by that time I should have laid in a good, elementary groundwork in geek lore. And just think! Once he gets old enough to handle fireworks and ride a motorcycle...!

God help this child.