Monthly Archives: December 2011

Bring It, 2012

“Bring it” is a phrase that I didn’t use growing up or as a teen or even as a young adult. As a matter of fact, it’s not really part of my vocabulary at all, but the phrase has attitude. That’s what I need right now is a little bit of that kind of ‘tude. It’s not that 2011 was a bad year or anything like that. As I entered 2011 I blogged about my 2011 resolutions, and then I blogged half-way through the year, and again after the third quarter was over. I met the writing goal and then some. The weight-loss at the end of the year was hampered by a medical issue that my husband describes as TMI for any day, including Friday. I’ll just say multiple doctors visits over the last ten weeks and several prescriptions later, I think my system is finding enough equilibrium to focus on weight loss again.

You can put down a bunch of goals, like I did last year and either meet them all, meet some of them, or just flail and stop trying. None of the goals I put forth last year were unrealistic for me, even though I did not meet them all. I didn’t ignore them or forget about them, but lived with them and evaluated them throughout the year.

Here’s where the attitude comes in. Just because I didn’t meet certain goals does not mean I am going to give up on them because the calendar is closing on another year. In spite of various obstacles I placed in my own path, I managed to step around or over most of them and get stories out the door, most of that F*(#*@(&# extra weight shed, and most of that reading done. I can’t, however, just sit back and look at it as an experiment for 2011 that is over. So, whatever obstacles come my way this year, I will need to figure out how to muscle up to them and overcome them. Goals need to be evaluated and adjusted with the realities of life. This year, I’m organizing things a bit differently.

Writing
One of my writing friends, Charlotte Morganti, blogged about sticking to writing resolutions. I like the way she approaches the goal setting in terms of “time spent.” Last year, I was specifically focused on product–three stories out the door. The things is…I think I could have done a lot more than that. I looked at the calendar and thought, “if I don’t submit a story soon, I’m never going to make that goal.” I would spend some minimal amount of time working on a story to get it ready. I am thinking ten hours per week on “writing related activities”–other than blogging–will be an interesting experiment. I plan on taking notes of how I spend my time–either doing research, actual writing or editing–and then revisit the ten hour a week scenario sometime after the first quarter.

Health
I’m going to continue on that “mostly vegan” health plan. It’s been working, my weight is down and my numbers are down. I’ll get to that goal weight before June, and maintain the healthy HA1c, cholesterol and blood pressure numbers that I’ve gotten to this year. I might even get to go off of the injections of lizard spit by summer time. That would be totally awesome.

Family
My daughter is going to be a senior in high school next year. I am not going to write her college applications for her, but I will support her in every way possible to achieve her hopes and dreams in this regard. Her school has a support system for this, but I know that, as her mom, I can take an active supportive role in the process. I will not dictate where she applies or attends or what she plans to major in. I’ll schlep her around to pre-Sat and pre-ACT prep courses, tutoring sessions, and whatever else a senior-who-doesn’t-drive-a-car needs to be schlepped around to in order to get her ready for the all-important application process.

I think that’s probably more than enough things to keep my mind occupied during the coming year. Okay, 2012…bring it.

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Tradition! Tradition!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my annual cookie baking spree that I usually go on before Christmas.  My mom used to do it, and, well, it is a family tradition bordering on something sacred.  And, you don’t mess with sacred.  Right?

Right.  So, here’s the thing.  I have very much felt compelled to carry on the tradition by making all the same cookies my mom made.  In an attempt to reign in the crazy unhealthy part of it, I decided to limit the number of types of cookies to just a few of my family’s choosing.  At one point I had imagined each of my kids picking a different cookie for me to make out of the family repertoire.  Spritz?  Chocolate Pinwheel? Santa Thumbprint?  I had picked the Scandinavian Oatmeal cookies, they had all the rest to choose from.  Then, they go and throw a wrench into my tradition by informing me that none of them were what they wanted.

In fact, my teen informed me she wanted to make her own cookie–bourbon balls.  (There’s not enough booze in them to get anyone high, so I don’t count them as an alcoholic no-no.)   Fine.  One less recipe for me to deal with.  I can let go of some of the cookie control, no problem. Besides, this freed me up to experiment with the quince-lime marmalade cookies I posted about in my last post–not at all part of my growing up tradition.

My husband wanted his aunt’s rolled spice cookies.  I don’t do rolled cookies, so he and my nine-year-old made them.  (Well, except the part where the husband forgot the orange peel and I had to knead it all in there after the dough had chilled.  I still didn’t have to roll it out and use cookie cutters or actually bake them.)

It was my son who threw me the biggest curve-ball.  His fondest most desired cookie is not one of mine.  I know.  Break a mother’s heart, kiddo!  In fact, his biggest fondest sweetest cookie memory comes from the car pool.  Ever since he was four, he has been part of this crazy carpool  from school.  One of the moms who picks up regularly has always made this minty-chocolate cookie that is a huge hit.  By now, I’m sure she’s made thousands of them for bake sales and as gifts.  And, frankly, they are uber-yummy.  This year, when I offered each kid a cookie pick, my son didn’t take half a second to say he wanted  “Christa’s Cookies.”  My daughter, also part of the same carpool for years, chimed in with hearty agreement.

I had never made these cookies before, but Christa had given me the recipe a while ago.  I figured the kids get them in the car pool, so there was no reason for me to make them because I would just eat way too many of them myself.  I mean, these are seriously good cookies–dark rich chocolate cookie crumb with a mint chocolate frosting.  They are dangerously easy to make.  I waited until today to make them because we have a few social gatherings this weekend and there is less time for me to eat them before I can give them away.  I will need to use self-control to not nibble at them, and as I write this I have already lost that battle for a good percentage of my daily calorie count.  Once they are in a closed box, it will be easier, and I’m forcing myself to blog and do other stuff on the computer until the frosting has cooled enough to do that.

The thing about the cookie that really gets to me is that it’s “new.”  It’s not something I grew up with.  I am sure I would have loved them as a child, but they are new-fangled and unfamiliar as a Christmas tradition for me.  For my son, though, they have a completely different meaning.  For him, they have been something that heralds in the school break and the Christmas holidays for most of his life.  They are a chocolatey reminder that my children have their own lives, memories and traditions that are part of, yet separate, from my own.  Here is where I could quote Gibran and get all teary-preachy-sentimental.  But, I won’t do that.  I have cookies I need to avoid.

Just for completeness–here’s the recipe copied from a web search so I didn’t have to type it in.  We use Ande’s mints–the little green foil wrapped things you sometimes get in restaurants and really don’t want to think about after a big meal.  (Bonus points for people who comment on that reference.)

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Lime-Quince Marmalade Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

The other day I was doing that clicking thing that happens when I look at blogs. I read a blog, click on the links to read another blog, and another. Pretty soon, I’ve read a couple of dozen blogs and find myself forgetting what it was I was doing in the first place. I stumbled upon this recipe for cardamom shortbread bars with marmalade. I’ve written about cookies more than once on this blog, and, I guess, I have a particular ‘thing’ for cookies. So, when I saw the words cardamom and shortbread together I couldn’t help but print out the recipe for some testing.

As also happens, my dreams are influenced by what I read during the day. I woke up the next morning with a variation on the recipe running through my head. It really is a complicated mix up of thoughts that brought me to it, but between the recipe on the blog, the plans I had for making quince jelly and my husband reminding me how much he wants me to save some of the quince juice for a drink we make, I ended up with a new idea.

The drink we make takes quince juice and freshly squeezed limes and sugar. It’s nothing more than limeade plus quince juice, but it tastes unbelievably good and is rather exotic. I found it in a Persian cookbook when I was desperately looking for something to do with some extra quince juice I had made once I had hit the wall with making jelly. Since it was a Persian recipe to begin with, it seemed to me that the cardamom shortbread would go with a lime-quince marmalade. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any recipes out there for lime-quince marmalade, but I found one for lime marmalade. Substituting most of the water with quince juice, I made a lime-quince marmalade jelly like substance that tastes an awful lot like the drink with a heady lime kick to it. (It’s quite yummy on English muffins.)

By following the cookie part of the recipe linked above and using my new concoction instead of the grapefruit marmalade, I got a cookie that would fit in on a plate of Christmas cookies (pretty colors) and also fill in for a dessert at the end of a middle eastern dinner. I’d never had to grate frozen cookie dough before, so I thought it would be fun to do a time-lapse of the process. This brief clip shows the whole process once the dough has been frozen for two hours until they are put away. This video shows the way the cookies are put together.

Lime-Quince Marmalade
8 Cups quince Juice
2 pounds limes
one cup water
9-10 cups sugar
14 cup canning jars, lids and rings, processed and hot

Carefully grate the lime peel off the limes, removing the green part with as little as the white pith beneath. I used a regular grater for this and then chopped up the pieces. Juice the limes.

Put the quince juice, the lime peels, the lime juice and the water in a heavy non-reactive stock pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for two hours. This softens the peel and infuses the quince juice with yummy limeness.

Bring to a boil, add the sugar and bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat to medium and stir, stir, stir, stir. Just keep standing there stirring. For a long time. Until the mixture comes to 219° F. Pour into waiting hot jars and allow to seal at room temp.

Quince Juice

Lime Peels

Quince Juice
Finding quinces is going to be the tricky part. Quinces are a fruit that have a brief season and show up in the stores for just a week or two in October. To make quince juice, you just wash off all the fuzz, quarter the fruit and toss it in a huge pot. Add enough water that it shows through the fruit but is not floating, bring to a boil, cover and cook until the fruit is moosh. Strain well. If you have a jelly bag, you can use that. I usually put it through a colander first, then a fine mesh sieve, and finally a sieve lined in wet cheesecloth. I’m not too picky about it being perfectly clear, though. If you want to make super clear jelly, then doing an over-night hang with a jelly bag will keep it from getting any cloudiness.

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Like Mother, Like Daughter (or son)

Until about three years ago, I wouldn’t eat a fried or poached egg. It had to be scrambled or hardboiled, and the hardboiled yoke bit had to be mixed with something to make it less chalky. If I was served a fried egg, I would cut the white part carefully free of the gross yellow stuff and eat it. If the yellow leaked onto the white, I wouldn’t eat any of it. I remember clearly freaking one day when my mom was cooking me an egg. She cracked the egg into the fry pan directly and started breaking it up with a spoon. This would create cooked bits of yellow and white, not one uniform color. Even as I read this right now, I am sort of laughing at myself. It’s kind of strange. I wouldn’t eat this strangely not quite scrambled and not fried egg thing that my mom cooked. She got upset and huffy about it, but pulled out a bowl muttering about one more dish to wash.

Just this morning, I offered my son a cooked egg for breakfast. I shouldn’t have said anything, but I asked him if he wanted it fried or scrambled. This was a complete waste of time because I already knew what his answer was going to be. Unlike me, he’ll eat a fried egg, but if given a choice…he’ll always choose scrambled. All I could think of when I was cracking the eggs into the bowl was, “one more dish to wash.”

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