Some things are just plain WRONG.

At lunch today, we were talking about retro foods and the topic of Jello molds came up. That led us to the horrifying topic of savory jello. Yes, I’ll repeat that.

SAVORY JELLO.

All I can picture is an entire chicken suspended in Jello.

And then one of the girls sent around a link to this website that has pictures – terrible, terrible pictures – of some Weight Watchers cards from the 70s.

You think you’ll be prepared for the horrors that await you. ‘Anne,’ you’ll say, ‘what could these recipes possibly be? Surely you are exaggerating.’

Three words: Fluffy Mackerel Pudding. (Clicking on the arrows will take you to other abominations.)

Bon appetit!

Human beatboxxery

By god, it took me nearly as long to figure out how to post these as it did to make it, but finally, I did it!

Anyway, as many of you may (or may not) know, I like music. I have a minor in music, but I don’t play any instrument well enough to perform any sort of pop music or anything. All I can do is sing…tolerably well.

So.

Here is the full version of the song in the Volkswagen advert I posted earlier – One Million Miles Away by J. Ralph:


And here’s mine:

Be kind – keep in mind that a) as a rule, I don’t sing for people as an individual and b) all I had to use was my computer and a microphone (and a musical and technical advisor in the form of my dad). Everything you hear there is me – there are about six measures in one line that I applied an effect to in an attempt to try and make it more interesting, but other than that…it’s just me.

ETA 5/10/09: Rawr! Stupid musicwebtown. Working on it!

Re: my recent internet silence

Never fear – I have not forgotten you. There has been an ill-fated brownie attempt – there would have been pictures, but my carob powder chose to run amok and, while I will be eating these, they do not meet my standards for sharing with others. But mostly I have been busy watching QI and working on a Sooper Sekrit Project. I will give you a hint.

And, no, it’s nothing to do with a wedding. :p

Michael Chiarello would be proud…

Allow me to introduce my sooper sekrit special ingredient…

Meyer lemons! (I forgot to take a picture of mine, so I had to steal one from Purdue’s horticulture website.) I was at the market the other day to pick up some normal lemons and there they were, happily sitting in the next bin as though they’d always been there. Having never even seen a Meyer lemon before, I literally gasped outloud and promptly bought a bag without knowing exactly what I’d use them for.

I just had to have them.

So I thought. What to make with these lemons, these treasures, these rare beauties? Martha Stewart has a recipe for a very pretty cake filled and decorated with lemon curd, but I was afraid the cake would overpower the lemons which needed to be the star of the dish. The label had a recipe for a white chocolate, Meyer lemon tart which sounded nice and I can have white chocolate, since it’s not actually chocolate. But I was still afraid the lemon flavor would be too subtle. Lemon bars? No, those are things that, like the shortbread cookies and the blueberry cake, I always think sound nice, but once I make them, I realise that I don’t actually like them and am completely baffled by what must have possessed me to make them.

And then it hit me. Lemon meringue pie. Of course!

But not just any lemon meringue pie. Mini lemon meringue pies. Brilliant!

But it was not all brilliant. There was a brief disaster involving the first batch of pie dough. I don’t know what happened – I rather pride myself on my pie-crust-making abilities. But this was terrible – all crumbly and horrible. I tried to salvage it by adding a little more water, but this only seemed to render the dough indestructible. Seriously. I tried to divide it into two pieces to put it back in the fridge…and I couldn’t.

So I tried again.

Looks like it turned out all right, though! (The flour and butter in the bowl is actually the disastrous first batch, but I didn’t take a photo of the second one, so it’ll have to do.)

Martha made 6 4 1/2-inch pies. I made 12 muffin-sized pies and 12 mini-muffin-sized pies. I wasn’t sure how much of the lemon mixture the recipe would make, but since the pie crusts are a bit on the thick side, it filled them all perfectly.

In which I try not to be too grumpy…

Happy Reminder of Being Single Valentine’s Day!

Okay, so that’s really only slightly sarcastic. Cayt, I know this is one of your favorite holidays, so I’m going to try not to be too bitter. In fact, I’m off to the kitchen to do some baking, something that will embody this holiday.

Something sweet!

But with lemons.

But with sooper-sekrit special, fancy lemons whose identities shall be revealed later!

Word on the street…

…and by ‘street,’ of course, I mean ‘internet,’ is that Eddie Izzard is doing practice gigs in New York. This means two things:

  1. Why don’t I live somewhere that people actually come to do things like practice gigs?!
  2. More importantly, I assume we can anticipate a tour in the perhaps near future!

If you want me, I will be over here, anxiously awaiting the sale of tickets.

It’s the weekend…

…and you know what that means. Baking time!

So apparently dulce de leche is the next hot thing to sweet (interesting typo – I meant ‘sweep,’ obviously) all the food blogs. With good reason. This weekend I made three batches (all you do is boil sweetened condensed milk in its can for two hours, making sure that it’s always submerged – otherwise it can explode) and poured them all into a jar to keep for later baking projects.

I could seriously just eat it with a spoon, but I will resist. In order to reduce the temptation, I used some of it (that amount right there, actually) in Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bites from Smitten Kitchen.

They turned out pretty well, I think. There were a few moments of panic this morning when I added the ‘chocolate’ glaze. I was using my carob powder (of course) which as I’ve said before behaves very bizarrely when used as a substitute for actual chocolate. The substitution for cocoa powder is easy, but weird things begin to happen when you melt carob chips or combine carob powder with shortening to replace chocolate. It’s like the carob just soaks up every bit of moisture added to it. Here it soaked up 1/2 stick of butter, 3 tablespoons of shortening, and 2 teaspoons of corn syrup without a moment’s hesitation.

I should have taken pictures to show you how frightening and unearthly this looks, but I was gripped with terror.

I assumed it was meant to be ganache-like, but I didn’t have any cream, so after a brief ‘milk or more butter’ debate, I added some milk. And some more milk. And still more milk. It never really reached a pourable consistency, but I started to worry that, like icing, I would take it too far and it wouldn’t set properly once I’d spread it on the cheesecake, so I stopped. I think it worked all right. It needs perfecting, though, as my experiences with carob replacing actual chocolate is still pretty hit-and-miss and I don’t know enough about it to troubleshoot on the fly…

And here they are all packed up to share since there’s no way I’ll manage to finish these before they’ve gotten too old.

I also made Amish Cinnamon/Friendship Bread. One of the acquisition editors at work brought me in a bag of the starter and some of the bread, which was very yummy, so I was anxious to get going. This is interesting as you basically make your own yeast by mixing milk, sugar, and flour and letting it all ferment. The starter takes almost a month to make and supposedly the Amish are the only ones who know how to make it, so you have to get it from a friend who got it from a friend, etc., and then pass it along to a friend who’ll pass it along to a friend, etc. (they’re not really, but it’s a nice story).

Once you have the starter, it takes ten days of mushing the bag it’s in (or stirring it if you’ve put it in a bowl), and adding some more milk, sugar, and flour on certain days. Then on the tenth day, it’s time to separate out the portions of starter to pass on to others and to bake!

Very yummy, indeed. There seem to be mixed opinions on whether or not you can actually freeze the starter, but since the Internet has managed to dispel the myth of the starter’s recipe, I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes. I’ve got two frozen to just make the bread with and one frozen to become the starter to make more starter once I’ve made the next two batches of bread.

I’ll keep you posted. 😉

Queen of procrastination

So I sat down today, determined to get some writing done. I opened up my notebook, reread over my notes, uncapped the pen, and promptly thought ‘You know, I should really use up my lemons before they go bad and I never get to use lemons I’ve grown myself.’ So I spent some time thumbing through my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and my new Dorie Greenspan one and came up with these:

Yes, those are lemons from my probably now-defunct lemon tree – I think the move to his winter home traumatised him more than expected. No, I didn’t just get bored with icing them – I ran out (double it and it would have been perfect, I think, but alas, no more lemons). They’re good, they’re not great. It’s just a shortbread cookie with lemon frosting and I’m not a big fan of shortbreads, but at least I got to use up the lemons, right?

Then I discovered a bag of frozen blueberries and a half-empty container of yoghurt and thought ‘I should use these, too – this yoghurt’s going to go off soon and these blueberries are basically just a giant chunk of blue ice.’ So I made this:

Haven’t tasted it yet, but I’ll let you know how it turned out.

ETA: Well, I’m going to have to go with good, but not great again – it’s a little too heavy on the walnuts for me, I think. But at least I used up that yoghurt before it went bad!

Now, maybe, I’ll be able to scribble out a few sentences or ideas or SOMETHING!

Or I’ll end up watching Dr. Who on PBS. We’ll see…

YA Fiction

Freak Show by James St. James

This is one that I read about ages ago when it first came out and, while tempted, never got around to picking it up until just recently one of the reviewers at Publisher’s Weekly put it on their list of top books of 2007.

I want to say that I adored this book. But I can’t quite do it. I like that it has a happy ending and I really, really love Billy Bloom and his narrative voice, but there’s something holding me back from fully committing to this book. I’m afraid that’s the most you’re going to get out of me about it because I don’t know what it is that’s missing. Billy’s awesome and Flip is likable (if you like goofy guys who are, admittedly, not that bright).

I guess maybe the problem is that I’m comparing it to David Levithan’s lovely and utterly perfect Boy Meets Boy which is a very high standard to be compared with. Mostly it’s because, and don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this is a more realistic version of things even if David’s version is how it should be, there’s a bit of angst (not Rainbow Boys angst – see my previous disclaimer about this comparison) and some intense bullying (which I skimmed through, I have to admit). And maybe Flip’s voice bothered me more than I thought it did – it sort of reads as though the author hasn’t spent a lot of time talking with high school boys from small towns and just thought ‘Oh, I’ll throw in a bunch of ‘dude’s and it’ll sound like an authentic teenager.’ I really hope this isn’t how high schoolers really talk or the future of our country is in worse shape than I thought it was…

Still, I really did like it and I would definitely recommend this one over Hero which I didn’t manage to finish. Mostly because Billy’s an awesome creation – it’s his voice that really carries the book – someone who’s likable, confident with an underlying layer of uncertainty which makes him more real, and hilarious when he needs to be.

Just make sure you’ve read Boy Meets Boy first. 😉

My rating: B+