March 03, 2008

Lisa: Babies for Obama

Since Nora had so much fun voting for Obama on Super Tuesday, I thought she might like a campaign shirt of her very own. I designed a graphic to look like his other swag and had Zazzle (who I've (used previously) print it up for me. I got it a little big, so that she can wear it this summer when the election's closer.

Don't be jealous. You can buy one too! I think I get like a dollar for each onesie sold--and I'll donate any proceeds to the campaign.

Zazzle's changed their site around, so here's the fancy new link to my gallery:

Sarah: 2008 Cooking Adventure, Week 9

Hey.
Hi! You look good.
No, like really good. Have you been working out? Or did you get your hair cut? No? Nothing? Well, nothing is working for you.
Oh, me? Nah, nothing too interesting going on in my life. I moved out of my apartment last week, so there's that. Yes, I did love it, but it had its downsides too. Well, now I'm living at Lisa and Blake's house for a little while. I'll talk more about my moving experience at a later date. For now, I should tell you what I cooked for the girls for the last time we would hang out in my apartment.

I found a recipe on Gourmet Girl for peanut sauce (via TasteSpotting) and used it to make a sort of noodle salad. Because I'm lazy, the peanut sauce is this week's recipe.

Peanut Sauce

1 1/2 cups chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup sesame oil (i used vegetable oil, because that's what I had on hand. I think it'd be more interesting and flavorful with sesame oil)
3/4 cup mild soy sauce (This is when I texted Mallory and asked her to bring more soy sauce, because all I had was a tiny bottle. Poor planning, on my part)
1/4 teaspoon curry
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (I only had the dry powder. Ginger also comes in very small containers. Crap!)

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. I don't have a food processor, so I just whisked the ingredients together. They'd be better food processed. I then added extra soy sauce, because it was a little too sweet and peanut buttery.
Store covered in the refrigerator.

Tomorrow: The noodle salad I made with this sauce for Week 10's recipe!

March 04, 2008

Sarah: 2008 Cooking Adventure, Week 10

As promised last week, I used another recipe from Gourmet Girl to make this noodle salad:

Asian Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

1 lb. linguini, cooked al dente in salted water
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
2 carrots, julienned
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger
1 recipe peanut sauce found here
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts for sprinkling on top

Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk 2 cups peanut sauce with up to 3 tablespoons of water to thin it out a little bit. Learn from my mistake: Don't think you'll be eliminating a dirty dish by simply adding the peanut sauce and the water to the noodle mixture separately. This will not mix them together and the peanut sauce will stay super thick and it will be a gluey mess. Add peanut sauce to noodles and vegetables and toss together until evenly coated. Garnish with chopped peanuts and herbs. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature.

March 05, 2008

Lisa: it's easy being green(ish)

I'm not going to try to justify my choice to use disposable diapers for Nora, but I will admit that I feel a guilty twinge every time we take a bag full of the little bombs out to the trash. I figure the least I can do is try to balance things out a bit by lessening our environmental impact in other ways. As we all know, white people love saving the earth without having to do that much, and I'm no exception. We're not single-handedly halting global warming or anything, but these things are super easy AND make me feel better about myself.

1. Reusable grocery bags. We have enough plastic shopping bags under the sink to last until we die. Last time I was at Trader Joe's, I bought a cute grocery tote made of oilcloth. It's super sturdy, and big enough to hold a decent amount of groceries. We're getting better at remembering to bring it to the store with us, too.

2. Seventh Generation laundry detergent. Our local market now sells high-efficiency Free & Clear detergent, which is fragrance-free and vegetable- (instead of petroleum-) based. I bought my first bottle the other day, and as soon as I try it out, I'll let you know how it is.

3. HP print cartridge recycling. When I was replacing the print cartridges in our Photosmart printer at work, I noticed that the new cartridges now come with postage-paid envelopes so that you can send in the old cartridges for recycling. I sealed those babies up and dropped them in a mailbox the next day. Easy peasy!

4. Reusable soap dispensers. Instead of buying new pumps for the kitchen and upstairs bathroom every time we use up the soap, I got some refillable pumps at Target and a giant refill bottle at Costco. I had a slight misstep with a metal soap pump that corroded from the inside out, but now we have two glass soap pumps (and a matching lotion pump for the kitchen) and all seems to be well. Theoretically, it's cheaper this way, too.

5. Refillable metal water bottle. I have a hard time drinking enough water when I use a cup. I don't know why--it's stupid, really. I don't mind the taste of tap water, but I just don't get around to drinking water out of a glass. When I was pregnant, I'd buy those big flats of water bottles at Costco, and have a bottle with me all the time--convenient and effective, but wasteful. It's supposedly harmful to keep refilling the same disposable bottle, and even Nalgene bottles are apparently leaching chemicals now. Then I read about SIGG bottles on ljc, and they were just so cute I had to go get one at REI ( Blake waited very patiently while I dithered around, choosing the perfect one). My only complaint is that the cap has so many threads that it takes forever to unscrew the silly thing. Ah, the sacrifices I make for my principles!

So, there you go. Five easy ways I'm being a little more responsible. What else should I be doing (within reason)? What do you do?

March 08, 2008

Lisa: Kudos on your correct usage of "amongst." Ugh.

I use plenty of long and arguably obscure words in conversation, so I'm not sure why I got irritated the other day when someone I was talking to used "amongst." I was all ready to find out he was using the word incorrectly, but a little research turned this up instead.

among vs. amongst

Dr. Grammar: "Both are correct and mean the same, but among is more common."
Columbia Guide to Standard American English: a few minor but confusingly-worded differences, such as "amongst has a rather dusty-genteel quality...among is often followed by a singular collective."
Blurtit: "the word "among" should be applied to contexts when people, or things are stationary (they remain in one place), while "amongst" is used more frequently for people or things that are in a state of motion."

Consensus: Among is more modern and colloquial, where amongst is more formal and British. Other than that, they're pretty much interchangeable. So...if you use amongst in regular conversation, you will be correct. Pretentious, but correct.

I was similarly foiled when I tried to find justification for my smirk at the large "KUDO" hand-written on a printout of an email posted in the back room at work. Although I did find kudos in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as expected ("praise given for achievement"), there was also an entry for kudo. To wit:

Some commentators hold that since kudos is a singular word it cannot be used as a plural and that the word kudo is impossible. But kudo does exist; it is simply one of the most recent words created by back-formation from another word misunderstood as a plural. Kudos was introduced into English in the 19th century; it was used in contexts where a reader unfamiliar with Greek could not be sure whether it was singular or plural. By the 1920s it began to appear as a plural, and about 25 years later kudo began to appear. It may have begun as a misunderstanding, but then so did cherry and pea.

So, there you go. Dumb people are allowed to just make their own words. And that is why you'll find me watching Cops in the evenings, pencil in hand, taking notes ON OUR FUTURE.

March 11, 2008

Lisa: local flavor

Just Cook It

A month or so ago, some friends brought over a meal from Just Cook It, and we all made it together. It was some kind of Thai chowder with chicken, and it was DELICIOUS. The idea is that you sign up for however many meals you want (certain dishes are only served on certain days), and the groceries and a detailed recipe calculated for the right number of people will be delivered to your door. The groceries were beautiful and fresh, and we got just the amounts we needed. Just Cook It serves a very limited area (eastern Salt Lake City), and the meals aren't much cheaper than dining out, but if you enjoy cooking but hate the shopping and meal planning aspects, or if you want to look like a much more accomplished chef than you really are, it's worth a try! I think it's a great option for a date or social gathering where the cooking is part of the activity.

So Cupcake

When a cupcake bakery opened up less than two miles from where we live, Sarah and I had to go check it out. The bakery is called So Cupcake, and it's a very cute little shop in a very ugly building. The cupcakes have cutesy names like "So High the Moon Lemon," but we ignored that and got several to try: red velvet, lemon, mocha, and carrot cake. They were all tasty, but my favorite was carrot cake, followed by the lemon. The cupcakes themselves were moist and good, but it was the frostings that really stood out. Tasty--and how fun to have them so close! I figure that if we walk there, we can justify the calories of the cupcakes...

Mighty Leaf Tea

Mighty Leaf isn't local, but you can purchase their tea online or at a nearby Wild Oats. After seeing a recommendation on Mighty Girl, I ordered a sample pack of different herbal teas, and so far they've been really good. As Maggie said, they're a definite step up from most bagged tea, but you still have the convenience of the tea bag. I'll let you know which one's my favorite one I get through the whole selection.

March 13, 2008

Sarah: Moving Recap

Today's Sponsor:
My move, brought to you by Diet Coke and Dextro Energy.
Whoa. That Dextro stuff completely messed with my mind.

I was nervous that mixing energy pills with my already high soda intake would cause my heart to explode. Oh, and did I mention that I had a cold, so my dinner looked like this:

That's right. I mixed energy pills, caffeinated soda, and DayQuil. It was awesome (not to mention smart), except for the way that my stomach kept turning.
The point is, though, that I didn't have a heart attack. I actually didn't even feel hyperactive and full of energy. I just felt like I didn't need to sleep. Ever. I think I'll take Dextro again when I have a long day of work or a long night of studying. You don't feel frantic, you just feel like you have all of the awake time that you need until your project is done. Or until you're dead.
Want some Dextro Energy of your own? Well that is too bad, because it's a European product. So you'll have to make friends with someone as worldly and glamorous as my jet-setting friend Staci, who lives in Austria. Don't be too jealous, she can't help being awesome.

As far as the move, it took way longer than I thought it would, the number of dead spiders revealed when we removed the furniture was appalling, and the whole experience made me a little sad. Blake had to re-pack my garbage can to make room for everything I threw away. My dad lugged my table, couch, bed, and other items, all in his crisp dress shirt and pants. Lisa patiently packed countless boxes, never calling my stuff the crap that it is. David helped me fill up my storage unit. Oh, and Nora helped.

And now almost my entire life fits into a 5x10 space.

If you're curious about what my apartment looks like when it's all emptied out, I took pictures (though I forgot to take pictures when it was decorated. Lame!) and put them after the jump.
That's all I have to say, really. I lived there for over a year and a half. Countless heads have smacked against the low ceiling, many nights have been spent with the tv on as I fell asleep on the couch. Late nights, early mornings (or mornings that weren't early enough), dates, lonely weekends, and long talks with friends. This apartment served me well, and I hope to find a new one I like as well.

Living room: Complete with glamorous cable modem and wireless router:

Kitchen:Providing a scenic view of the driveway:

Bedroom: Meh. Boring, but serviceable. I don't even want to talk about how much crap that closet can hold. There are shelves behind and above the clothing rod. Having a double-deep closet is awesome.

Bathroom: Probably the room that people comment the most about. I think that it was the start of a remodeling project that hasn't yet extended into the other rooms. The double shower heads were awesome.

The photos are terrible, my apologies.

Sarah: 2008 Cooking Adventure, Week 11

Despite my fear of cooking meat, I decided to brave the carnivorous storm to cook Chicken Adobo (found at Eating Out Loud, via TasteSpotting) for the girls. Let me now insert a preface to this recipe. Before I saw a tasty looking photo and recipe, Iíd never cooked, tasted, or heard of Chicken Adobo. I didnít know what it was supposed to look or taste like, and so my changes to this recipe may have seriously damaged the authenticity of this dish. In fact, in the weeks since making Chicken Adobo, Iíve read a little bit that has made me seriously question if my concoction could even be called by that name.
All of that said, I think it was pretty good. Lots of soy sauce meant that it was pretty salty and I think itíd have a more interesting flavor if I had made fewer omissions in the recipe, but the chicken wasnít dry and it was easy to cook. Perhaps this means Iíll be cooking more meat in the future. Iím even considering making some Irish Stew (with lamb? How ambitious!) in honor of St. Patrickís Day. I know youíre waiting with baited breath.
My dumbed-down recipe is after the jump.

Chicken Adobo

2 lbs. chicken
1/2 cup white vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar, because I had it on hand)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups water
3 garlic cloves crushed
Juice from 1 lemon (I guesstimated by using bottled lemon juice)


In a medium pan, add the garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, water, and lemon juice. Cut chicken into chunky pieces. Place the chicken in the pan and allow to marinate for 15 minutes before turning on the burner.

Turn burner to medium heat and bring pan to a boil. Adjust heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Keep pan partially covered. At this point, if the sauce tastes too salty or bitter, add a tablespoon or two of sugar, to taste. The liquid will reduce to form a sauce on the meat. Serve over rice.

March 14, 2008

Sarah: Why I Am Single, a tale of failed car-flirting

Mallory: How was car-flirting?
Sarah: He asked for my number. And I zoomed away. And why am I single? Because I zoom away.
M: Um. You TALKED TO HIM? Whoa. I just smile and think "doot doot I'm pretty".
S: No, he just smiled at me... and then when I glanced over again he was holding up his phone and pointing at it like "call you?"
M: Ooh.
S: But no, I didn't talk to him.
M: I think it was a good choice not to give him your number. He was probably sleazy. Just saying. Car-flirting is fun, but I think it is very similar to Myspace flirting as far as the quality of male. Hmm. I wonder if that is a reflection of the quality of female that I am.
S: Lol.
M: ..... I will ponder that.
S: Yeah... plus he wasn't even driving. HA. I almost just called him a scrub. I LOVE YOU, PRETTY BRAIN.
M: HA! I WAS JUST GOING TO SING THAT.
S: I'm petting my head.

Eight minutes later
M: That "No Scrubs" thing has backfired, because now that song is in my head.
S: Yesss.

Another three minutes pass
M: Nooooooooooo
Scruuuuuubs
Nooooooooooooooo
Scruuuubbs
no no

March 19, 2008

Lisa: 35 x 35

I'm turning 30 this year, a milestone that I think typically comes with a lot of soul-searching and maudlin whining about getting old. Time is going by faster than ever, and I was starting to get concerned about waking up one day as a sixty-year-old, having no idea how I'd gotten there and wishing I'd done more along the way. When I saw Maggie's list of 100 Things to Do Before I Go, it seemed like the perfect way to take control of the next few years of my life and accomplish some things--big and small--that I want to do for myself. Instead of 100 things to do before I die, my list is 35 things I want to do before I turn 35. I work better with a deadline.

1. Appear as an extra in a movie
2. Attend a fancy-dress ball
3. Be debt free
4. Build a tree house
5. Buy a new car with cash
6. Eat off the fancy china more than twice a year
7. Find the perfect signature scentB&B White Citrus
8. Fly first class
9. Give homemade Christmas gifts December 2009
10. Go on a photo safari in Africa
11. Help someone learn to love to read 10/29/12
12. Ice skate at Rockefeller Center 12/31/09
13. Inspire someone to become a librarian 3/20/08
14. Make Nora the Halloween costume of her choice, like my mom did10/22/11
15. Meet an honest-to-goodness celebrity
16. Memorize (and regularly use) ten main-dish recipes
17. Order room service in a five-star hotel 3/23/09
18. Own a fabulous designer bag or pair of shoes
19. Paint every room in my house a different color
20. Quit my job and work from home9/4/08
21. Rent a scooter in Greece
22. Reupholster a piece of furniture myself
23. Sew Noraís baby clothes or Christmas pajamas into a quilt 4/12/09
24. Sign up for a pottery class December 2009
25. Sing in a musical 11/14/08
26. Spend money only on essentials for one month June 2010
27. Start a vegetable garden 8/20/08
28. Stop needing validation from other people
29. Tailor all the clothes in my closet so they fit just right
30. Take ballroom dance lessons
31. Teach Nora to knit or sew
32. Walk along the Great Wall of China 3/29/09
33. Wear a bikini on the beach without being embarrassed
34. Weave a rug on a loom
35. Write and publish a book

March 20, 2008

Sarah: 2008 Cooking Adventure, Week 12

For a while when I was around 12 years old, my dad became interested in baking bread. He even purchased a Breadmaker so that we could come home from church to freshly baked bread. He would get excited about the different kinds of mixes formulated especially for the breadmaker, and was always anxious to try his latest purchase. One time he even tried his hand at making bread from scratch, selecting a recipe for Irish Soda Bread.

As the less culinary half of the dynamic duo that is my parents, Dad knew this was an ambitious undertaking. When the small loaf emerged from the oven, my father's pride filled the kitchen and mingled with the aroma of freshly baked bread. He pried the loaf from its pan and sliced into his creation, eager to taste the fruits of his labors.

I watched my dad's face for a reaction as he chewed. And chewed. And chewed. Hmm. We looked back at the loaf sitting on the kitchen counter. I suppose it did look rather... dense. My brother entered the room, no doubt lured by the smell of Dad's latest endeavor. He asked us if the bread was good. Dad responded "Might I suggest a very thin slice."

It was with this culinary pedigree that I attempted my own loaf of Irish Soda Bread in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

It yielded a much smaller loaf than I'd imagined, but seeing as half of it is still sitting on the kitchen counter, I'd say that it was plenty big enough to taste.

I like that Irish Soda Bread is so fast to make. With only a few ingredients (but plenty of variations online, if you want to get crazy), it's quick to mix together and doesn't have to be kneaded or left to rise for several hours. After a few days, it is a little dry, dense, and boring, but if you eat it fresh from the oven, the bread is dense and biscuit-y and tastes great with butter and jam.

Especially Blake and Lisa's delicious raspberry jam that I keep using without asking permission. Mmm. Sorry guys.

I'll add the recipe and links when I find where I wrote it all down. Sorry!

Lisa: 29 x 29

When I was making my list of things I want to do, I started thinking about the things I've already done. I think everyone should do this--we all need a little pat on the back and a reminder that we've experienced some pretty cool things.

In the last 29 years, I have...

1. Backpacked through Europe
2. Become a regular at a restaurant
3. Bought my own house
4. Chosen a pumpkin from a pumpkin patch
5. Collected trilobite fossils
6. Cooked with fresh herbs I grew
7. Danced in the rain like a crazy person
8. Earned a Masterís degree
9. Finished a marathon
10. Found the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies
11. Given birth
12. Hung my own art in my home
13. Landed a job in a career I love
14. Laughed until I peed my pants
15. Married someone who thinks talking nonsense as I fall asleep is charming
16. Performed in front of an orchestra (four times)
17. Picked fresh raspberries
18. Printed using an old-fashioned letterpress
19. Seen the Grand Canyon
20. Shopped for honey at a Trappist monastery
21. Spent the night on a train
22. Started my own business
23. Stayed up all night reading a book
24. Stood in four states at once
25. Swam with a sea turtle
26. Touched a stalagmite
27. Tried water-skiing and snow-skiing
28. Worn something I knitted
29. Written a blog featured on Boing Boing

March 21, 2008

Sarah: Not Lovin' It.

I find this creepy.

Just give me my drink, please.

Sarah: Finally

Dude, internet.
I've been dying to tell you: I'm going to Europe this summer.
I'm really excited. More to follow.

March 22, 2008

Lisa: tortilla soup

As my mom pointed out the other day, I haven't really turned out to be much of a cook. ("You're more of a career woman!" was how she softened the blow.) That said, I think it's really important when you have a family with kids to sit down at a table for a homemade, nutritionally sound dinner every night and talk to each other. Well...now the theoretical kid has become an actual kid who is starting to eat solid foods, so I guess I'd better get this cooking thing figured out.

I checked out a cookbook from the library, and I'm really excited about it. It's called Everyday Food: Great Food Fast from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. The photos are gorgeous as always with Martha, and the recipes sound tasty and easy, using regular supermarket ingredients. I got Blake to go through the Spring section with me, and we marked all the recipes we thought would be fun to try. We're going to make a new one each week.

This week's effort was tortilla soup (recipe after the jump), and it was okay. The soup itself is super basic, just chicken broth with shredded, boiled chicken in it. The interest is all in the toppings you add--even the "tortilla" part is a topping. Also, garnishing a brothy (as opposed to creamy) soup with cheese is a little odd. The cheese doesn't blend in and make the soup creamier; it turns into melty self-contained globs floating in the broth, or glomming around bits of chicken or your spoon.

What I wish I'd known beforehand: The instructions as written require you to own two pots large enough to hold more than 8 cups of soup. I only have one pot that big, which meant some last-minute improvising, leading me to momentarily forget about the tortilla strips burning in the oven.

Verdict: The soup was fine, but I probably won't make it again.

Tortilla Soup

Serves 4 * Prep time: 30 minutes * Total time: 30 minutes

For the soup

4 skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 jalapeno chile, diced (with seeds for more heat)
6 corn tortillas (6-inch)
3 tablespoons canola oil
Coarse salt

For the garnish

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (5 ounces)
4 large scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/4 cup cilantro sprigs
1 lime, cut in wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large pot, bring the chicken, broth, jalapeno, and 8 cups of water to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium; simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate; let cool.

2. Brush both sides of the tortillas with oil, stacking them as you go. Cut the stack in half, and then slice crosswise into 1/2-inch strips. Place the strips on a rimmed baking sheet; bake, tossing the strips occasionally, until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Using a large spoon, skim the fat from the surface of the broth in the pot, and strain the liquid through a sieve into a clean pot (you should have about 8 cups). Shred the chicken with a fork or with your fingers, and return it to the pot. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Divide the soup among serving bowls, and add the tortilla strips. Garnish as desired.

PLANNING AHEAD

The chicken can be cooked up to a day in advance; cool, then store the chicken and cooking liquid separately in the refrigerator. Shred the meat just before using. You can also use the leftover or store-bought roasted chicken in this soup; use two quarts homemade or reduced-sodium canned chicken broth instead of the cooking liquid.

March 24, 2008

Sarah: What is sure to be the first of many entries about Europe

Here's a little Brain Dump on a theme of Europe:

1. I'm going on a study abroad program with Marci. She's good looking, and smells nice. The class is a Printmaking class, which I think will be interesting. I'm curious to see if/how my knowledge from Letterpress enhances my experience in the class.
2. I am consumed with stress about money. It's not fun.
3. We're going to Scotland, thanks in part to Lisa and Blake's recommendation (okay, that link doesn't go to a recommendation, per se, but that's the tour they took, and they really enjoyed it).
4. We're going to Rome. And possibly another city or two in Italy. Seeing Italy has been a life goal of mine since I was a little girl (one of only three I had at one point. The other two were to see Phantom of the Opera on stage (I saw it with my mom many years ago) and to see Les Miserables (not yet. Can you tell we listened to the soundtracks to musicals as kids?)).
5. I need the perfect purse/bag for traveling. Big enough to hold my wallet, camera, and a notebook, small enough to be easy to carry, good-looking enough to justify the purchase, and safe enough to not get stolen or pick-pocketed. Any suggestions?
6. Any suggestions of places to go or sights to see will be great. We're going to Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, Klagenfurt, and Rome. It's possible that we'll spend a day in Venice or Florence, but that might depend on how long our money can last. I need your tips for the best cafes to try, museums to visit, streets to wander.
7. As soon as I return, I have to fill out an application for graduation. I have to find a new place to live. I feel like I'm getting a fresh start. This is going to be a good year, I can tell.

Sarah: To My Favorite Brother-In-Law

Marci brilliantly suggested that we give Blake this zombie lawn decoration for his birthday. Truly a thing of beauty.

Also, this is sure to blow your mind: Peeps Smores. Actually, that sounds sort of good. More investigation may be required.

March 25, 2008

Sarah: 2008 Cooking Adventure, Week 13

Aw. Yeah. Dulce de leche cheesecake squares, you guys.

Lisa and I made dessert for our Freaks and Geeks night potluck. They were quite good.

Did you know that dulce de leche is just sweetened condensed milk that's been a little carmelized? It's super easy to make. And here I thought it was some secret, well-guarded recipe. Turns out that even we can make it.

Actually, most parts of this recipe are surprisingly easy. Graham cracker crust? Fast and simple. Dulce de leche? No problem. Cheesecake? We have no fear! Chocolate ganache-like glaze? Not tricky. The only thing that you have to be careful on with this recipe is planning ahead. The cheesecake has to be in the fridge for many hours before you can add the chocolate glaze and serve the squares.

The pan for the cheesecake is only 9x9, but don't let that deceive you. Once you cut it up into little squares, you will have a ton of bite-sized treats. Each one is pretty rich, so we had a bunch left over after serving them to six people.

Recipe is after the jump.

Smitten Kitchen's Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares

Time: 9 3/4 hr (includes chilling) (about 1 hour active time)
Makes 64 (1-inch) petits fours

For crust
3 graham crackers, crumbled (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup whole milk
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup dulce de leche (12 1/2 oz) (recipe follows)

For glaze
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), coarsely chopped
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Dulce de Leche (Milk Caramel)

Pour 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk into top of double-boiler pan; cover. Place over boiling water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until thick and light caramel-colored.

Remove from heat. Whisk until smooth.

Make crust (you can easily do this while the dulce de leche is on the stove): Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325įF. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with 2 sheets of foil (crisscrossed), leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.

Finely grind crackers with sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor. With motor running, add butter, blending until combined. Press mixture evenly onto bottom of baking pan. Bake 10 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes.

Make filling: Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a small bowl and let stand 2 minutes to soften. Beat together cream cheese, eggs, salt, and gelatin mixture in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes, then stir in dulce de leche gently but thoroughly. Pour filling over crust, smoothing top, then bake in a hot water bath (we fit ours in a 9◊13-inch baking pan) in oven until center is just set, about 45 minutes. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 2 hours. Chill, covered, at least 6 hours.

Glaze cake within 2 hours of serving: Heat all glaze ingredients in a double boiler or a small metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth, then pour over cheesecake, tilting baking pan to coat top evenly. Chill, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Lift cheesecake from pan using foil overhang and cut into 1-inch squares with a thin knife, wiping off knife after each cut. (Donít skip this step! Smitten Kitchen isn't kidding when she says this is crucial to making perfect, neat squares.)

Note: Cheesecake (without glaze) can be chilled up to 3 days.

March 26, 2008

Sarah: Setting Up Shop

So remember how I mentioned that I was poor? Yeah. I know I can't complain, because I'm poor because I get to go to Europe. I'm incredibly lucky that the stars have aligned to make this trip possible, and it's an amazing experience and I will not whine about it any more.

But, in an effort to ease the pain, I've added a few items to our shop in hopes that I can earn a few extra dollars. So if anything strikes your fancy, please spread the word. If I have time to experiment, I'll hopefully be adding some different items in the next few days. Thanks to Lisa for letting me hijack her sewing machine, in addition to her spare room.

Here's my latest item:

You could send a note to your stalker that says something like Dear Alice, I'm sure you're a very nice girl, but I don't appreciate you sorting my socks by color and place of purchase. I find this off-putting. Please stay many, many miles away from me.

Thanks for letting me pimp my stuff. Advertisement over.

March 27, 2008

Lisa: lemon bread

I've been looking for a dessert recipe that sounded fresh and spring-y, but that would mail well so I could send a treat to my brother Jeff. A coworker suggested a quickbread, and after a little looking around, I thought lemon bread sounded perfect.

The recipe I used is from Muffins & Quick Breads, from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library (recipe after the jump).

I finished baking the bread at around midnight, and turned the loaves out on the racks to cool. I considered leaving them out all night, but after puttering around for half an hour, I decided the bread was cool enough and wrapped one up in foil and sealed it in a padded mailing envelope, and put the other one on a plate with foil over it (because doesn't lemon bread sound delicious for breakfast?). The bread smelled so good, I had to slice a piece off the second loaf and eat it right then. It was delicious. The crumb wasn't as fine as it looked in the picture in the book, but that might be because I didn't chop the almonds fine enough, or because I cut it with a dull knife while it was still warm. Anyway, thank GOODNESS I tasted a piece (and took pictures), because...the ants.

The next morning, when I came into the kitchen, I noticed a thick trail of my tiny nemeses emerging from the edge of the cabinet by the dishwasher and leading across the front edge of the countertop, directly to the foil-covered plate of lemon bread. After shouting "oh NO!" loud enough to wake up Sarah, I whipped off the foil, and confirmed my fear that my newly-baked loaf was swarming with ants. Stupid little sugar-loving bastards.

Anyway, there was some crying. Some yelling. Some detective work. Some poison spraying. But we lived, and Jeff's (antless) loaf got mailed off all right. Thanks, Mom and Blake, for your help with all of that.

Shall we remember the bread that was?

Lemon Bread

Ingredients

1/2 cup (4 oz/125 g) vegetable shortening
1 cup (8 oz/250 g) sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups (5 oz/155 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) milk
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) chopped pecans

FOR THE LEMON SYRUP:
1/4 cup (2 oz/60 g) sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease and flour a medium (8 1/2-inch/21-cm) loaf pan.

In a large bowl combine the shortening and sugar and beat until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl stir and toss together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the shortening mixture, along with the milk and lemon zest, and beat until blended and smooth. Stir in the pecans. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until a thin wooden skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour.

While the bread bakes, make the lemon syrup by combining the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside, stirring occasionally; don't worry if the sugar does not dissolve completely.

Remove the bread from the oven and, using a fork, gently poke the top in several places. Stir the syrup, then slowly drizzle it over the hot bread. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 1 medium loaf

Cooks' note:
This recipe carries a double dose of lemon: grated zest in the batter and lemon syrup poured over the bread after baking. For a heavenly dessert, bake it in 2 miniature loaf pans, then top the slices with berries and whipped cream.

March 28, 2008

Sarah: LOLisa

Because we like to join internet phenomena long after their "best before" date, Lisa and I (and Mallory and Marci) have long joked about LOLCats, their ridiculousness, the mystery surrounding their charm, and so on. I suppose I've already hinted at this schtick here.

Perhaps because we'd already joked about it, a string of emails from Lisa first confused, and then utterly charmed me. See, i could just picture my adorable sister giggling uncontrollably over her keyboard as she wrote these messages. You should imagine a similar image. It greatly enhances the experience when you know how much she was cracking herself up:

Date: March 5, 6:40 pm
Subject: You can thank me later.
Body: LolCat Bible

Date: March 5, 7:48 pm
Subject: I don't think there are enough thank yous in the world.
Body:

Date: March 5, 7:52 pm
Subject: Obviously this is a sickness.
Body:

And then, weeks later, the best email yet:

Date: March 27, 9:55 pm
Subject: LOLNora
Body: Nora has a message for you.

Awesome.