Saturday, December 24, 2011

Minty Drink

Quick post while I'm thinking about it:

I'm listening to Christmas music while cleaning the mouse crap off the dining table so we can eat off of it tomorrow. You read that right. I'm thinking a drink would be good around now. Probably a stinger.

Stinger Cocktail, one serving:

2 ounces cognac
1 ounce white creme de menthe (trust me)
Twist of lemon peel


Fill a mixing glass two-thirds full with ice. Add the cognac and white creme de menthe. Shake well, then strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with three or four ice cubes (not crushed ice). Garnish with a lemon twist.

I got this recipe from the Washington Post Spirits columnist, Jason Wilson.

Yes, I too was scared of the creme de menthe (my mom used it to make a really tasty grasshopper pie that I loved when I was a kid. I thought that might not be so good in a cocktail now that I'm an adult) Turns out it's damn good. It's kind of easy to drink too many of these so be careful - the price isn't pretty in the morning.

However, I'm going to wait on my cocktail until food is more imminently on the horizon.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Yawn... Whatever

I might have hurt myself today. I like to work out with video games. I still love "Yourself!Fitness" for the old Xbox but there are a couple of Wii games I like too. I played them both today. I hope I can move tomorrow.

I really like "Gold's Gym Cardio Workout," a boxing training game. As far as I can tell your avatar never hits anybody (except a bear in a side game. Poor bear) Still, all that punching nothing is really fun and great for stress reduction. There's footwork too - you're sort of bouncing back and forth, stepping side to side, ducking, weaving and all that jazz. I find myself so engaged and distracted by trying to follow along that I don't notice until afterwards that I'm sweaty and winded. Fun! And, of course, sore the next day - in a good way.

The other is "NewU Fitness First Yoga and Pilates." I have yet to encounter any Pilates. I wonder if I have to get to a certain point in the yoga before Pilates is available? Maybe I have to change my "goals" settings? Whatevs. The yoga is pretty good though. Definitely challenging. I do the "quick class" most of the time. It seems to go on forever and I'm wiped when I'm done with it. Maybe if I did it more often it wouldn't be so difficult? I'll try to work on that.

So, I guess if you're thinking you might need to move yourself around those are two fun and productive ways to do it. 

And now, time to make my new favorite home-made supper: hot dog slices and kale. Yup, you want to take fitness and diet advice from me!

Wow, that post was almost NaBloPoMo quality.

Friday, December 9, 2011

High Maintenance

I went to my first holiday party of the season on Wednesday: My sister-in-law, Kristen's, biennial cookie exchange. I believe I have mentioned it before (here and here) I don't seem to have mentioned that this is NOT the kind of event to which you can bring Entenmann's (halleluja - I HATE Entenmann's. YUCK!) You can leave your Pillsbury cookies at home too. This show requires a certain amount of sweat. It's also easily the nicest, fanciest holiday party I go to most years. Kristen is a fantastic hostess and gets everything right, from the hors d'ouvres to the cocktails to the decorations. There's a certain amount of pressure to PERFORM at this event.

The cookies I made this year are show-stoppers. I've made them a few other years and was not planning to make them this year but Kristen asked me to.

Honestly, if you have to make four-dozen cookies I would not suggest choosing a shaped sandwich cookie. It's at least three times the work: you have to make double the dough, roll it out and cut twice the number of cookies, you have to make the ganache and then fill the cookies. You could probably get away without decorating them with drizzles of melted white chocolate but there's no way I'm bringing a plain brown cookie to this cookie exchange.

This dough tends to be sticky too so it requires quite a bit of chilling time. It must be chilled at least four hours before you roll it out the first time, you must re-chill the remaining dough before you roll it out again to cut more cookies and the cut cookies must be chilled for ten minutes on the sheet before you bake them.

Once baked, the cookies must rest for two minutes exactly on the cookie sheet before you can scrape them off the parchment paper they have been baked on (I used aluminum foil which ripped with every batch I made. I got the cookies off with no damage but the foil ripped every time) Try to pry them off too soon and they'll distort, too late and they'll stick (Don't f*%k with the instructions, b!#ches!)

Then of course they have to cool completely before you can spread on the ganache (and, yes, the ganache has to chill and thicken before you can spread it on) Later, when all of the cookies have been assembled, the white chocolate drizzles need time to harden before you can pack the cookies up and take them anywhere. Actually, the white chocolate drizzles are a simplification I devised. The recipe suggests you pipe on the melted white chocolate. I might be an intense baker at times but I'm not pathological.

These cookies are impossible to make at the last minute. I took three days to make them. I made the dough and the plain and peppermint chocolate ganaches the first day (I made double batches since the recipes yield two dozen. In fact, I ended up with five dozen. Bonus) I baked the second day and assembled and decorated the day of the cookie exchange. You also don't want to assemble them too far ahead of time because they can get soggy.

The result of all of this labor is a truly amazing cookie. In fact it's more like a confection. While I was making them I was thinking, "This is the last time. I'm retired from making this cookie!"
Afterwards I thought, "Well, it is a great cookie. Maybe I'll make them again. Maybe just not four dozen."

Of course I'm whining about having to make four dozen cookies but most of the women at the party had had to make eleven dozen cookies for a school event the next day. I hope Pillsbury was good enough for that event. Something to think about if you plan on moving to Wellesley Massachusetts and enrolling your kids in the Wellesley public school system.

As for our event, it was so festive and convivial and the cookies exchanged were so delicious (at least the ones I tried were) that I felt like the trouble was worth it. And who knows, maybe in two years I'll have rested up enough to make those again? If anyone wants the recipe let me know.

Five dozen cookies in our sparsely decorated apartment

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Well, it's the holidays and I'm already feeling overwhelmed by all of the stuff I have to do. How about you? I'm not even thinking about the gift shopping either (Gift shopping doesn't actually worry me - I'm a fantastic shopper)

There are also big changes pending in my life right now - things that might happen in the next year or so or not for a long time if at all. (That statement is so vague! That's how things always are and we just try not to think about it) Despite my discomfort with the way things have been going lately these changes have me worried that I might lose some things about my life that I love (And how obvious is that? That is the nature of change. We're always afraid that the things that come into our lives after a change aren't going to be as good as the things we don't have anymore)


I feel like I'm less resilient than I used to be. Just when I'm feeling pretty good some dumb thing happens and I'm smacked back into the dumps. I feel like I used to be able to shrug off setbacks more easily, that I didn't take things as hard as I do now.

I vaguely remember hearing (reading?) a story about a study someone did on rats. The theory being tested was that rats that survive through really difficult circumstances are the toughest rats. The study found that the surviver rats had been the toughest rats before their ordeals. After their ordeals they were just stressed-out, depleted rats.

Perhaps I feel like a depleted rat?

Well, nothing I can do about that now. I just have to wait and see what develops and get cracking on the tasks I've set for myself. At least I can wear a cotton-candy-scented wig while I'm at it.