Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lazy Links

I have 3 posts left to bring over from Tumblr, but the thought of redoing all of those pictures makes me shiver. For now, these links:

Frankenpizza Puffs, where I substitute ingredients willy-nilly, and don't learn my lesson:

Hurricane Irene Tableau, my attempt to stave off boredom while a hurricane trapped me in my apartment:

Cupcake Warzone, my first descent into cupcake madness. There were many cupcakes decorated, but Cookie Monster was the best:

First Among Sequels*: Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

I'm not done yet, with the cooking(ish) and the pictures of the cook-ees. The raspberries were over the weekend, and last night was this:

 Ideally. What actually turned out was this:

They were still delicious, though! This was a joint project that I foisted on G after he suggested ordering delivery. And he calls himself the half of the couple who can cook. For shame. We used tomatoes on the vine, half a block of fresh Parmesan that I sliced into the thinnest, best slices ever seen**, olive oil, dried basil, sea salt and possibly oregano. As soon as we saw them come out of the oven, we knew we had skimped on the cheese. More cheese was most certainly called for. The tomatoes themselves also could have been cooked "a little bit hotter for a little bit longer," according to G. "But then you run the risk of scorching the cheese, and you never want to scorch the cheese." They were, let's say, juicy. Messy. Hard to eat the way I like, with lots of small bites. I was throwing half a tomato in my mouth at once by the last one.

Prep. I made a pyramid with the largest halves on the bottom. This isn't a democracy, it's a tomatocracy:

I enjoy arranging things.

We also ended up making Caesar salad due to my crippling dietary restriction of only eating salads that have Caesar dressing on them and sautéed steak of an unknown-to-me cut. He did that part. Beer (him) and kosher wine (us) topped it off. Yes, I said kosher wine, and I do not mean Manischewitz. Bartenura. Try it, it's cheap, delicious, bubbly and sweet. I say this as a prosciutto-eater. And a wine-hater.

I'm holding steak, a tomato, and several heavenly beams of light.

I stopped by an art shop today, so do not think this is the end.

*This title made a lot more sense when it was the second post over on Tumblr.
**My anticipation led to the sentence "Can I cut the cheese now?" being uttered, followed by immature giggling.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chocolate-Stuffed Raspberries

I recently joined the website after a recommendation from a lovely gal I met at a picnic/birthday/going-away party a couple of weekends ago. I was detailing my recent obsession with redecorating and home improvement after moving in with my boyfriend, and she said this site had some great ideas. It's a cool way to keep a visual record of what you're interested in, whether it's inspirational, practical, gift ideas, fun logos, whatever. I have somehow become sucked into some food-related projects, despite being the opposite of a foodie. I had ramen noodles for lunch yesterday. And I'm not talking about the ethnic, flavorful noodles that are popular with people who like flavor in their foods. I mean the 40 cent packs of Maruchan noodles. ANYWAY. I saw this post on chocolate-stuffed raspberries, and made an executive decision to return to the fruit shop/grocery store whence I had just come. "Sure, maybe I don't ever eat raspberries, and probably will end up eating the chocolate by itself, but... it's EASY! And G will like it!* HGTV and the DIY network are making me feel inadequate!" An hour of washing raspberries, watching Yard Crashers, assembling fruit and arranging chocolate morsels later, I was done. Glorious.

Sidenote: Is it just me, or do raspberries take an inordinately long time to dry? I left them in a strainer near a window on a hot day, and I still ended up having to dry them out with paper towel:

 *He, the boyfriend, did.

**I was originally posting these on Tumblr, which was new to me, but I quickly got fed up with how unintuitive the set-up was, how long it took to upload photos, and what an unnecessary hassle it was to switch to html view. Now I'm back to blogger, and bringing over my first posts.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ceiling Books: Not Just for Houses Anymore

Books. On a ceiling! What could be better than that? Which is why I kept this pin as a hypothetical future home idea. Since I live in a rental apartment, though, I didn't think it was possible to set up, since it requires built-in shelves and the ability to do things without worrying if a landlord is going to yell at you.

So it was somewhere in the back of my mind, but not realistic. Now, I have a bunch of fans that my sister brought back from Spain years ago, and I've been telling G for ages that I want to hang them up on the entry-stairwell wall. 

This wall.
Keep with me, this relates. A few weeks ago, we were both finally home on a weekend, and I forced an agreement out of him. I got to work setting up the fans for hangability, since they're not meant to be pinned to walls. I know this, as I've tried unsuccessfully in 4 previous apartments to get them to stay up, with nails, poster tape strips, whatever I (aka my roommates) had in terms of supplies.

I got to work with my first-pass supplies: wood glue, super glue, thin bendy wire, scissors and a Sharpie.

Not sufficient.
I tried super-gluing the wire onto the back of the middle fan... strip... thing. Whatever the individual parts of a fan are called. I determined the middle by fanning it out and holding it up by different strips until it looked even, then marking the correct one with a Sharpie. That's the Sharpie's sole use, by the way. Using the super glue in this way was not a good method. I let it dry flat for almost double the recommended drying time, but as soon as I picked it up by the wire to test its strength, the fan fell to the floor. Fortunately, my fans are used to being dropped.

Fan + Wire + Glue = Failure
New supplies: Wood glue, scissors, Sharpies, wire, and a cardboard toilet paper roll.

The winning team.
The super glue crapped out on me, so I switched exclusively to the wood glue. Have you ever sat at a table, staring at a super glue dispenser with a plug in it, and waited 10 minutes for a tiny drop of glue to come out? I don't recommend it for either entertainment value or practical purposes. After I stopped agonizing, G suggested that after gluing the wire onto the back, I smush a small piece of cardboard against it, so the glue has something more solid to stick to. He's so handy. When using this glue, you're supposed to keep pressure on it for something like half an hour to make sure it dries and bonds correctly, which I was not about to do for 6 fans. I did the next best thing by closing them up, making sure to keep the cardboard slice in place, and sticking a Slinky on top of them.

Is there anything a Slinky can't do?
This time the wire was secure, so I tore G away from his phone and hung them up in a diagonal line, measuring the distance from the chair rail and the previous fan to keep it consistent. I had to buy some small picture-hanging hooks, which were what we measured, and once they were in, we looped the ends of the wire around them, spread the fans out, and congratulated ourselves. G soon got bored and went to gaze lovingly at his iPhone some more, and I stayed behind to gaze lovingly at the wall.

First, the real Before photo, from when I first moved in and there were two couches in the living room, one up against the railing by the stairs. There was zero need for this extra couch. G and his friend dumped one on the sidewalk, moved the others around, and we ended up with the living room feeling much more open. Especially while you're walking in, your first impression isn't the back of an old couch. I don't have any photos from this time, so I replicated the look as best as I could in Paint:

A surprisingly good likeness of the couch, in a shockingly bad editing job.
And After:

There's a break in the wall that you can see just past the red fan in the below image, which messed with the spacing, so I decided to ignore the previous method and hang up two fans on either side of the wall with only the merest of measuring. I am out of control! It ended up working well. Since one of the fans is white and blends in with the wall, it can hang out on its own wall without drawing attention or looking out of place, but it keeps the immediate entryway balanced.

The view from the doorway.
As I was taking pictures, I realized that ceiling books were doable! Look:

There's a small shelf tucked under the stairs. Our apartment has a lot of little nooks and cutouts like this. As G's old girlfriend remarked when she first walked in, "It's very... Catholic." (The cutouts are for Jesus and Mary figurines.)

Holy Friends
I ran to get some books, and once I determined they would fit perfectly, I cleaned off the shelf and piled 'em in. Since this area isn't easily accessible and will surely get dusty, I only chose books that I have no interest in either re-reading or finishing.

Ceiling books! Sort of!

These stairs probably looked nice 20 years ago.

G even got in the spirit, looking through all of his books for additions. Most of his were either too large or held too much value for him to abandon in a dusty netherworld, but it's the thought that counts. I had enough by myself, and I was in love.

I don't know what is wrong with my brain, though, because by the next day, I had grown accustomed to the fans and ceiling books and barely gave them another thought. Maybe I spent too much time thinking about putting the fans up before I got a chance to do it. On to the next consuming obsession that will give me no lasting satisfaction once it's been completed!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mudslide Balls

My original goal was to make these Avalanche bars. Peanut butter and white chocolate and Rice Krispies and marshmallows, mmm. See how they're nice and white with just small flecks of chocolate? Because it looks like a snowy avalanche? I went in a different direction:

Mudslide Balls

Let's call them Mudslide Balls instead, since that sounds better than Chocolate Avalanche Cupcake Balls. I had leftover white chocolate morsels, but not too many, so even though I wanted to use them up, I didn't want to buy even more, creating more leftovers, creating a need to make more avalanche bars, and ending up forever circling the Möbius strip of baking purgatory. I figured I could replace half the white chocolate in the recipe with milk chocolate without anyone knowing the difference. What I didn't count on was regular chocolate + white chocolate ^= white chocolate with a hint of brown. It equals regular chocolate. You can't tell I used any white chocolate at all. So, looks, fail, but taste, win!

My kitchen counter also fails in looks, here showcased through the microwave-safe but too big for a microwave bowl into which I dumped my 12 ounces (-ish) of chocolate chips:

Ebony and ivory, living in perfect harmony.

My kitchen counter unattractively displaying all of the waste I created from this first step alone (too-big bowl, too-small green bowl, and ruined scraps of wax paper):

The real tragedy is that no wax paper was needed. The chocolate didn't splatter at all.

Heat the chips on medium power for 1 minute, then take out and stir. I can't tell what means "Medium Power" on my microwave, so I did it on the regular setting. After the first minute, take out every 30 seconds and stir until it's completely melted. The progression will look like this, and you might do what I did and keep shouting out "This smells so good! This smells so good already, I want to eat it right now! Come smell this!"

Really mash those effers up

Swirl it all around

Delicious-smelling melted chocolate

Mix in 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, then add 3 cups of Rice Krispies (or Cocoa Krispies if you really want to go for it).

3 cups is a lot of krispies

Oops. I have run up against my burgeoning nemesis, the ill-sized bowl. I was not going to be able to mix this monster in such a small bowl. So I went back to the too-big-for-microwaves bowl and started mixing, with a small amount of anxiety over whether I had enough chocolate/peanut butter to hold it all together.


It worked out in the end. Barely. I probably should've measured my chocolate. I think I under-chocolated it, which is not the error I would've expected to make when it comes to chocolate.


Let it cool for 15-20 minutes, stirring every once in a while to help it along. Stir in the marshmallows and mini chocolate chips, then spoon out the mixture to fill one regular-sized and one mini-muffin tin. Or you can try to cram it all into one muffin tin, or make actual bars with a cake pan. The original directions say to press down on it with the back of a spoon, but I let the balls fall where they may. I was thinking I didn't want to crush the krispies, but that probably would have held together the finished balls better. They tended to break apart and smear chocolate all over my fingers. For that reason it's probably better to stick with mini tins if I want to keep the same process, since those are 1-2 biters.

The original recipe also says to press some of the mini chocolate chips into the top for garnish. I skipped that step since it was already so dark chocolate-y, but I might have done it if I had any white chocolate chips left over, for the contrast. Now that I think of it, I could have sprinkled powdered sugar on top, to make it look snowy.

Then you're done! No baking needed. Let it cool completely, either on the counter or in the fridge, and then try to eat some before your boyfriend devours all of them. As I was falling asleep, I heard him in the kitchen: "These are pretty good." [Pause] "Wow, these are really good! I'm eating another one!" [Longer pause] "So good!" When I woke up, there were about three of the small balls left. I had made twelve and eaten one myself. They are good, folks. I had two friends come over for cupcake-baking yesterday, and they were also impressed after I forced them to try at least a ball each. Then again, one of them was also impressed by the sandwich G made out of toasting turkey and cheese on a tortilla.

I need a new camera. Every close-up is blurry.
Mudslide Balls recipe (stolen/inspired by Avalanche Bars):
6 oz of white chocolate chips
6 oz of milk/dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups Rice Krispies (or Cocoa Krispies for extra chocolate)
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
A 12-muffin tin and a 12-mini-muffin tin, lightly greased

1. Mix the 6 oz of white chocolate chips with the 6 oz of regular chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.
2. Heat the chocolate in a microwave for a minute, then remove and stir. Keep heating for 30-second increments, stirring in between.
3. Mix in the 1/4 cup of peanut butter with a regular spoon or spatula.
4. Add in the Rice Krispies and mix together so the krispies are coated in chocolate-peanut butter goodness.
5. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Stir in the marshmallows and 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips.
7. Scoop into your muffin tin of choice.
8 (optional). Press mini chocolate chips or mini peanut butter chips into the top to make it look pretty, or sprinkle powdered sugar over them to make everything seem less muddy and more snowy.
9. The End! Wait for it to cool, and then eat. Waiting for it to cool is also optional.