Wednesday, June 25, 2008
That's the kind of reaction I like out of my cookies, though; and not to brag, but the foot traffic through my work area was pretty heavy the other day, as was the praise following the first bite of these cookies. Actually, I should just credit the recipe, which I found and adapted slightly from Mrs. Fields and her vast wisdom of cookie-dom. The most surprising thing, I was told by my co-workers, was the hint of spice in these otherwise straightforward cookies: the cumin mixes well with the tartness of the lemon and the sweetness of the chocolate, making for a unique and delicious taste. Soft-baked and small, it's possible to eat a whole cookie in one bite, allowing all of the flavors to work together.
I was quite happy to bring the joy of Mrs. Fields into the office, considering what pleasure it gave me to bake these cookies over the weekend. As is the case, I'm sure, for so many around the city and the country, a good part of my Sunday routine has been given over to cooking; I make a large batch of my meals for the week and divide it into day-by-day portions; I peel and chop vegetables and wash fruit so that I'll have something to snack on; and, inevitably, I bake some sort of dessert that I will later share amongst my co-workers or my friends (however the week turns out).
Maybe this seems overly domestic, maybe it sounds positively dull, but for me, nothing is more relaxing and rejuvenating, and nothing begins my week as solidly, than a kitchen full of fresh, fragrant food. And the memory of having a table top covered with cooling cookies, the scent of lemon rising with the heat, is most definitely helping me get through this week.
Lemon Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 F.
1. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and cumin; set aside.
2. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed.
3. Add eggs and lemon extract, and beat well. Blend in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Drop dough by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 14 - 15 minutes. Do not allow tops to brown. Immediately move cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
There are certain teachers who one will have the pleasure of encountering over the course of a lifetime, whether it’s the third grade teacher with long brown hair and a taste for gold pins attached to her lapel, or the woman whose lecture you sincerely anticipated, despite the start time of 10:00 a.m. Dr. Andersen was this latter professor, who never could recall my name, even though I had taken a total of three of her classes over two years, who once asked a student in the front row for a pen because she couldn’t find hers in her bag.
Her classes on media studies truly gave my eager undergrad eyes a perspective upon the world that I hadn’t thought of before—and what student does not wish for this precise thing in a professor?
Before this one specific class called “History and the Culture of Advertising,” I had looked upon billboards and magazine ads with a fleeting shrug. But when I was able to take a more thorough examination of what we are subjected to each and every day, and its subconscious ramifications, I feel as though my perspective of our American culture and everything that comes along with it did shift.
When I was in
Because I would never, ever have seen this billboard in
And then there's the ad of the diet plan, in the
Now, I really don’t want to get overly political, or talk about any specific interest group (cough, young American women who develop eating disorders and who are constantly being shown images in magazines, t.v shows, and commercials of skinny 96 pound women with the cursory tagline of how desirable they are and with instructions on how to become just like them.)
But when I saw this billboard, I immediately saw how a woman of her—what? Curviness? Size? Proportions?— would not have gotten her picture up there if she were living over here (
Also, I just love this guy staring hungrily at the stick woman in her apartment...because, unless we're all on The Special K Diet, where is our allure, really?
Sadly, I know the answer is not simple, and it's something that one girl in Brooklyn will not be able to answer or to change the circumstances of, though she might desperately want to.
Maybe I should have just written an email to jezebel.com, but I'm riding on the hope that this is an appropriate vehicle of outrage, as well.
If not, please do let me know.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Along my trip, as I walked from my hostel to the various castles and libraries and churches, I glanced at innumerable sidewalk signs with various food specials scrawled in chalk, and I became very aware that
Before this week, I had never experienced fresh cheese like the Irish can offer. While I was there, I found the most wonderful shop whose door displayed a sign saying that “the revolution will not be pasteurized.” I am not as witty as that author, and I have not been able to come up with a slogan as perfectly applicable. Maybe I’m awaiting some massive stomachache, but I really don’t believe so; I also believe that unpasturized cheese—the sharp cheddar I ate, specifically—is unlike anything I’ve tried on my side of the ocean before. The flavor was blunt and unapologetic, and even as it shocked my taste buds, I ate it gratefully. And the creaminess was another aspect in itself; maybe that was how cheese was meant to be tasted, as raw and authentic as though it just came from the cow. Later, for dinner, I had a plate of fresh cheese on brown bread with salad and fries (chips, of course) which was just as tasty.
Although I tried to be a thrifty traveler, one splurge was the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel I had for lunch at the end of my trip. The cream cheese was of the average variety, but the smoked salmon – well, I couldn’t have predicted something so flavorful. I hate to be redundant by stating how creamy this was, but that has been the most apt adjective I’ve been able to come up with. And unlike cheese, which one might expect to be creamy, I know that I was not anticipating the same for my smoked salmon. But it was, with such a velvety texture that I had to pause. This was simply not akin to the smoked salmon I’ve had in
Another treat that I experienced was of the sweet variety (of course, I could not leave the country without trying its pastries). A bakery near my hostel displayed for me, each morning as I walked by, a baking sheet of biscuit topped with chocolate. Now, this is a simple enough dessert, and perhaps the only reason that I bought a total of five of them throughout my stay was its transoceanic quality. If that’s the case, I’m totally fine with it. But its simplicity truly made it stand out to me, and I’m just happy to have eaten such a crumbly and chocolately dessert – much like the cheese I ate, there was nothing over the top about it, and I found myself enjoying it all the more for it. With raisins, it’s called a
As I had mentioned before,
Sunday, June 1, 2008
As this perfect, serene lake-side moment unfolded, I paused and wondered what city and what time I had possibly found myself in, and how I had wound up there. Although I could go on for pages about the past two days, I’ll refrain; but everything that this weekend has surprised me with has also filled me with the kind of summer excitement that I haven’t felt since I was in school (way before college, of course), when the arrival of June brought the promise of such opportunity: for fun, for adventure, for the unpredictable.
Keeping with this accidental theme of youthful excitement, onto the cupcakes: I had extra buttermilk from the Irish soda bread I recently made, and this was a recipe from Cooking Light that I had wanted to try, but never wanted to go out and specially buy buttermilk for. When my friend invited me over, I gazed into my refrigerator, contemplating what to bring, and my eyes fell on the carton of buttermilk that I had been trying to forget about all week. How serendipitous! And these cupcakes are truly delicious: they’re airy and cakey (as opposed to thick and fudgey), and not very sweet. Because there’s not an obscene amount of sugar in the recipe, and because the chocolate used is so dark, they have a richer chocolate taste than the typical cupcake, which I believe gives them a more sophisticated flavor.
Double Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup 1% low-fat buttermilk
1 1/4 ounces dark (70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk.
Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 3 minutes). Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to granulated sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in chocolate. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups lined with muffin cup liners. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.