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I'm Laura. I am female, 31, a gamer, a bookworm, a knitter, a spinner, a tatter, pierced, tattooed, musical, vehemently geeky and occasionally ineptly artistic.

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


Posted at 28 May 2008 09:43:24 AM

I found this recipe on LJ cooking quite some time ago, and have made it in many incarnations since. It tends to be my go-to cookie recipe on the grounds that I can usually be counted upon to have eggs and butter, but almost never milk. The fact that it's damned good doesn't hurt! It's also the reason that despite loathing the stuff in pudding form, I stock at least a couple of boxes of instant pudding mix in my cupboard.

I brought a batch of the double-chocolate variety into work today, and they're disappearing with rapidity. It's enough to make a little baker's heart glow!

(Note: I have no idea who Carol is. The recipe came initially from recipezaar, but the submitter's name is Dawn. I wonder whether she knows.)

Carol's Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter or margarine (softened)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant vanilla* pudding mix
1 (12 ounce) package chocolate chips**
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a sifter and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugars and dry pudding mix.
4. Beat until smooth and creamy.
5. Beat in eggs and vanilla; gradually sift in flour mixture.
6. Stir in chips (I usually only use about 3/4 of the package).
7. Roll into balls and flatten slightly or drop by teaspoon full on a
non greased cookie sheet.
8. Bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes (I took mine out at just over 8
minutes).

* Try other flavors of pudding for different variations: chocolate for
double-chocolate chip cookies, etc.

** Use other fillings: dark chocolate mini M&Ms are especially good.

Makes about 4 dozen.





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Buttermilk Lemon Cookies and a finished garden


Posted at 17 Sep 2008 09:47:11 AM

So, fortified with a jack & coke, sour patch kids and the lack of a headache, I present to you the promised post. Only a day late*; not too bad, considering.

The cookies which I mentioned are these:



They are the lemon buttermilk cookies which were mentioned here at Orangette's blog. You know that I'm a sucker for anything involving lemon, so they became my weekend baking. I made the full recipe, figuring that even if it made all 6 dozen I could always foist some off on Timm and Liz, or on the office.... well, it made 7.5 dozen, so I did both with two full tupperware containers left for us!

The original recipe as printed in Gourmet magazine can be found here. The only thing I changed was to double the amount of lemon zest to around 2 tsp (or 3 lemons' worth) as suggested on Orangette.

Skip past the recipe?



Buttermilk Lemon Cookies
INGREDIENTS

For cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

PREPARATION

Make cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Butter 2 large baking sheets (note: I used silicone-treated parchment paper instead).

Whisk together flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture, until smooth.

Drop level tablespoons of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are puffed and edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks.

Glaze cookies:
Whisk together all glaze ingredients and brush onto tops of warm cookies.

Let stand until cookies are completely cooled and glaze is set.

Cooks' note: Cookies are best the day they're made but can be frozen, wrapped well, up to 1 month.





Also accomplished is the raised garden in the back yard!



More pictures are here; the album should be public.

It's about 2' high on the outside, and is set into the hill. Down the road if we want to build another box on top of it, it should be relatively easy to base one wall on the existing (inside) wall, like we did for the shed-ward now (it's set on top of the retaining wall around the shed). That might do bad things to my sunlight, though, so for now this is more than good!

It has more soil in it now than in the picture, and comes up within about 6 inches of the top. It's a mix of ~3:1 soil to peat moss, which should help hold in the moisture once temperatures hit the 90s this summer. You'd never know it now, though... from the radio this morning we're slated to get 8 days of sporadic rain and thundershowers.

On the plan are heirloom cherry tomatoes and mini bell peppers, snap peas up the wire screen in the back, cippolini onions, dwarf carrots, hungarian wax peppers (my favorite), chinese 5-color peppers**, possibly some jalepenos and assorted herbs.

Weather-permitting I'll get the peas and carrots off of my windowsill and actually planted. Keep your fingers crossed that they don't get drowned out, but I don't think they'll survive much longer in the limited environment I've got for them inside anyway.

Probably bowling this evening :) I'm slowly getting less bad at it, which is a comfort! League starts the 19th (of May), and I'd like not to be a complete embarrassment, though Dan assures me I'm not ;-)



* Or two,if you consider that I'm posting the morning after actually writing the post.

**The mystery peppers from Tom Matarese, finally identified thanks to the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog!





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RenFaire, May 31st. Yes/No/Maybe?


Posted at 28 Jul 2008 09:26:41 AM

Could someone please rationalize for me why my crazy--ass self is rabidly anti-wedding registry, but totally ok with Amazon wishlists? Because it's eluding me.

(I think there's something in the fact that I don't go around handing out my Amazon list; it's mostly there because I have a memory like a sieve and if it wasn't for that and my thinkgeek wishlist I'd never get anything done. Also, there's an expectation which surrounds registries that this shit will be bought for you... and I object rather strongly to the idea that I need or want to have things bought for me. One makes me sound useless and lazy, and the other greedy. Thanks all the same, but no.)

So far, the Meal Plan on the Fridge routine seems to be working well. There's a relief that I don't have to spontaneously figure something out at 3pm every day which is wholly unexpected, but very welcome. It's nice to know that all I have to do is go shopping for a meal which (due to some level of preapproval) has a quite good chance of being well-received, instead of "fret for hours, produce dinner idea from my ass, hope that it's a good one, then go purchase ingredients which may or may not be appreciated."

For people interested in going to StL Ren Faire!



This is an open invitation - if you think it sounds nifty (and it is) shoot me an email. I'll try to keep a mass email going re: plans.

The website's here, at StLRenFaire.com. It runs from May 17th to June 8th.

How does Saturday, May 31st sound to everyone?





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No title.


Posted at 11 Dec 2008 10:57:59 AM

It occurs to me that I haven't properly written a non kitten-related post in a couple of weeks. I wish I could say that we've been so busy it's slipped my mind, but really it's just because we haven't done much worth writing about.

I'm aiming more for 'pithy' than 'babble' in my entries.

This past weekend was a get-together in Kansas City for a friend of ours, which we opted to skip in the name of Getting Things Done. Unfortunately, this past Saturday was also the birthday of one of Dan's oldest friends here in St Louis. Friday night the two of them left the bowling alley and went straight to Jagermeister City, and as Dan + Jager = a totally blown day-after... well, we ended up getting not much done after all.

Sigh...

Sunday, though, saw the oil changed in my car, some laundry, some vacuuming, some rather extensive kitchen-cleaning, and absolutely no bread-baking owing to the bowl still having been either dirty or in the dishwasher from my experiments with Butter Braids ... yes, it was days ago. No, I haven't done the dishes since then.

*ahem* I would like to point out that dishes are supposed to be Dan's job. ;-)

In gardening news, I have started to refer to the backyard as the Big Dig. Yesterday we broke up the final Giant Rocks of Doom in the bottom of The Trenches in the back yard with a borrowed sledge and pickaxe. After that, it should have been smooth sailing to laying in the 4x4x8's and (finally!) filling in with peat and topsoil. True to form for the season, though, it started to rain almost as soon as we got outside and we barely got the rock broken before we had to head in again. I really hope that we can finish it this week... maybe even tonight. I'm sick of looking at plants on the kitchen counter, and I know they're not doing very well there. The peat cups they're planted in is only supposed to support life for at most a couple of weeks - not the month or more that I've had them languishing.

I suspect there will be several varieties which I'll just straight-up plant in the ground. The peas, carrots and a couple varieties of cherry tomato are all that still seem viable.

Also on the list: bake some damn bread. Braids aside, I've been disappointed with my last two attempts. I followed the recipes exactly (probably too exactly) and the dough was very dry. It kept tearing when I tried to knead it, and I wasn't entirely sure what to do about it. It's part of why I made the braids, actually... I wanted to reassure myself that it wasn't something that I've been doing wrong. Better luck next time...




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The magical smell of yeast in the morning


Posted at 11 Dec 2008 10:55:35 AM

I have had my first successful experiment in bread-making! Thanks to my amazing sister, who got me Local Breads for Christmas, I've got 3 little loaves chilling in the freezer until such time as we actually make real food with sufficient warning beforehand to allow for baking.

The recipe isn't one that I'd attempt in a single day, I don't think. I started the poolish on Saturday afternoon, let it sit for the recommended 8-10 hours on the countertop, and then decided that the rest of the process just wasn't going to happen that night. I stuck it in the fridge, and pulled it back out the next morning. Sunday, I let it sit on the countertop for an hour or so to warm up, and then mixed in the water. Let that sit for an hour and a half or so, mixed in the rest of the yeast, bread flour, wheat flour and water and let THAT sit for 20 minutes. Took it out, kneaded it for 10 minutes or so, cut it into 3 pieces, and shaped the loaves. They're supposed to ferment in the fridge for 12-24 hours (see what I mean about not a one-day process?), so I left them in for 12 and then bagged 'em up well and stuck them in the freezer.

The recipe makes 3 little loaves, just right for dinner for anywhere between 1 - 4 people (depending on whether or not one of those people is Me). It wouldn't be much more work to make 2 batches, so next time I may make a double batch and give us bread for a good couple of weeks!

This makes good headway on my New Year's 'resolution', which is to cook more from my cookbooks and less from the web. Not that there's anything wrong with that! It's just that I have this awful habit of reading LJ cooking and a slew of cooking blogs, and invariably I find something that absolutely must be made that very night, without fail. This is great, but it means there's rarely a night when I'm so stumped for what to make that I actually turn to my stock of cookbooks, and they're sitting dusty and lonely on the shelf.

A slight problem with the cookbook theory, incidentally, is that they necessitate either a very well-stocked pantry, or a trip to the grocery store after getting home in the evening. Or planning ahead, which I'm clearly awful at.

Also on the list of accomplished stuff, I've finished all the aprons that I had on my slate to make. We took the car to the dealership on Saturday morning, to get it inspected and emissions-tested. It's well on its way to getting registered in MO; all that's left is the personal property tax stuff which I still don't quite understand. Unfortunately, the electronic keyfob keychain thingy has decided to stop working as well, and they didn't want to deal with diagnostics on the weekend. We took it up again this morning, and with any luck should pick it up again tonight.

Tim is in town! Glee :D We went to dinner on Sunday and enjoyed much awesomeness. The restaurant had good food at normal prices, which of course means it was -packed-. Did I mention they don't take reservations? The 45minute wait was actually probably quite a good thing, though, as it gave us all more time to talk and bs than we would have had just at dinner.

There's something to be said for singing all of "Magical Trevor" in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Ahh, good times :)




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Sourdough bread


Posted at 27 Nov 2007 02:27:55 PM

I've been resisting the urge to blog today due to a particularly sleepless few nights and my unfortunate tendency to bitch when I get tired. That being the case, I'm sure you're overjoyed to hear that this will be a bitch-free post!

I've been baking quite a bit lately, and have been kicking around the idea of starting a sourdough starter. Various LJ Cooking posts have involved yeast, starters, how to capture wild yeast, something about crushed grapes... lots of info, some of it good and some purely speculative. Then, a couple of days ago I discovered Carl Griffith's sourdough starter from 1847 (thank you, metaquotes, keeper of all truly random information). Apparently the man was the maintainer of an old-by-American-standards starter, who dried up parts of it and gave it freely to all who asked it of him. He's passed away now, but friends and volunteers keep up the effort, and I have sent in my SASE to those lovely people.

I hope that it will inspire me to attempt baking bread again. You probably also know that I have this bad habit of failing at something once and not bothering to try again, even if the reason for the failure was completely correctable. I either try it and succeed, or I try, fail, hide all evidence of the attempt and never mention it again.

Let this formally break the silence:

The first (and last) time that I tried to bake bread, it seems that my yeast was indolent nearly to the point of being catatonic. When the dough didn't rise at all in the prescribed 30 minutes, I shrugged and concluded that yeast was as finicky as "everybody" said. I chalked the whole experiment up to being a failure and continued on with the rest of my dinner, intending to throw out the dough and wash all the dishes later. When "later" rolled around, several hours later in fact, I took the towel off only to discover that the dough had finally risen! "Blah," I thought. "Too tired to give a shit. Throw it out anyway." I threw it all away, and appended Bread to my list of culinary failures.

Carl Griffith's starter arrives dried, so that all you have to do is rehydrate it, give it something to eat, and let it hang out in the fridge. I hope this means that I can preserve part of it in dried form, in case I accidentally kill off the live starter somehow (from what I've read, they can be darn picky at times). I'll probably still have to set up a cron job to email me, reminding myself to feed it. Chances are if it doesn't meow, I'll forget...


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Happy Hallowe'en


Posted at 11 Dec 2008 10:55:13 AM

Ok, so, Sox won. No real surprise to anyone there, but ... they still suck.

This weekend was fabulous, and completely worth the sleep-deprivation of the last night. It involved (to sum up): Two sets of Aunts and Uncles, one sister and brother-in-law, one 2-year-old. Two nights in Iowa, stopping in Illinois on the way to the concert at the House of Blues in Chicago. One opening band which more or less sucked, except for the guitarist who really was too good for that band. One goth rock band which I found highly intriguing and entertaining, but with which the boy wasn't quite sure what to do. 10 Years took the stage then, and predictably, absolutely rocked out. Then they finally got around to the main act, Sevendust, who also rocked the hell out and which was a damn good time. A thoroughly deafening evening all 'round!

Of course, the drive back to St Louis from Chicago wasn't quite so entertaining, but hey, what's a little sleep-deprivation in the name of a good time?

In other news, Happy Halloween! I am dressed up as Me. In addition to being costume day at work (several people did in fact dress up, and quite creatively) it was also chili day. I technically brought in cole slaw, but I'm not sure if they even looked in the fridge for it to put it on the table. I'm not too worried about this, as I'm still not convinced that the two mesh terribly well... I wouldn't know, as eating just "chili" is still a little weird to me. I mean, it's like a meat sauce, only there's no pasta. And I could see serving it over potatoes, but there aren't any. And it's a bit like soup, only it's usually too thick. *shrug* It's just an odd conception for a meal. I solved my embarrassment/dilemma by skedaddling out of the office when the festivities started, and enjoyed a tasty salad while reading Phantom of the Opera over in the cafe.

I read through a pile of BF's sister's food magazines while we were there, and she was positively angelic to have copied out all the recipes that I was interested in. Tried a nifty-sounding layered pumpkin bread, one with the cream cheese already in it, last night... but something was definitely off. In the first place, the batter itself filled the pan completely, without the filling. Secondly, 2 tsp of baking powder ensured that it was going to rise all over the place inside the oven, which it did, making it look messy. Thirdly, the baking time of an hour at 350 was definitely not enough for this very dense bread, as when I took it out and de-panned it after having let it cool, it was seriously squishy and underdone.

I'll give it another shot, for sure, and hopefully report back. :)




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Objective analysis


Posted at 11 Dec 2008 10:55:00 AM

Tales of Phantasia: still good.

Thinking of trading my 360 in for a Wii. It's not like I play the 360 at all, so this isn't any kind of sacrifice. Would need a PS2, though... I'm borrowing Shadakul's at the moment. I swear that I will beat Castlevania some day!

Gave up on the salsa... hit about 8pm on Saturday night after lugging around heavy pots and pans and bags all damn day, and decided that I had Had It. Threw about $7 worth of peeled tomatoes in the trash and went to finally eat something and calm down my aching feet on the couch for a couple of hours before bed. Yes, the idea still sounds neat and tasty, but it doesn't feel like the end result is worth the work anymore. I finished enough apple butter by the end of Saturday that I can mail/give out what I wanted to and still have enough left over for us, so I'm not displeased with the weekend.

And honestly, lesson learned? I'm going to need to revise my plans for my eventual garden to skew them more towards what I'll honestly use, and less towards what I hope I'll use. I keep thinking that if something's there, I'll use it... whereas the real story is if something's there, I'll try to use it under the assumption that it would be wrong not to do so, and end up frustrating myself into fits. I'll chop up the hot peppers like I have so many other things, and freeze them to use all winter. I am fabulous at making mountains out of personal molehills.

So tempted by thoughts of this really yummy-sounding raspberry chocolate jam recipe I found on gardenweb. I just realize (finally) that if I tried it now... I would end up very, very frustrated. I don't know why I think that a new project will somehow wipe out the exhaustion left by the previous one, but I do, every time. And then, of course, I wonder why something as simple as salsa is making me beat my head against the cabinets? So, maybe I'll do the jam. Later. In a couple of months, if I still feel like it. Right now even looking at the canner would make me scream.

Kind of upset about Joe Torre leaving the Yankees... not that there's anything anyone can do, it's just that I can't really remember the Yanks without Torre glowering from the dugout, and it's going to be kind of weird. Steinbrenner's not doing too well either, from what I've heard... Maybe it'll be a good for the team. Maybe not, of course, but if not it'll certainly be good for uppity New Yorkers to have their team be just one of the muddle again.

Definitely not happy about the Red Sox making it to the Series. Grumblegrumblesnark >_>

Hopefully going to get to some hockey games soon.. I need to get the hell out of the house for something more than a dinner out. We're going to Dan's sister's this weekend for his niece's birthday, and then to a Sevendust concert on Sunday night in Chicago (if it's not sold out yet), so that should help quite nicely.




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What not to do when making apple butter.


Posted at 03 Jun 2009 11:36:54 AM

Even though I know that small batches are always better, I just don't seem to learn.

The folks at the farmer's market didn't feel like counting out 50 lbs of apples (they pack them in 40lb boxes), so they offered us 2 boxes of 40lbs each for less than 50lbs would have been. We said Ok! Swung by the grocery store for extra sugar and cloves, picked up some wine, and headed home to open the windows, drink some wine and make some apple butter.

The problem was, we also looked at those huge boxes, contemplated the 10 or so 8-lb batches that would be necessary to cook all of them down properly, and said "hey, we've got that big extra water bath canner - why can't we cook down a whole box of apples in that?" The answer, in case you were wondering, is because you cannot possibly maintain a constant temperature throughout 40 lbs of applesauce over one little kitchen burner flame. The sugar will crystallize out, the sauce directly over the flame will scorch to the pan, you will miserably miscalculate the amount of apple vinegar needed, and add about 10x as much cloves as necessary. You will get a headache from smelling hot vinegar all day. It will be BAD.

We threw the whole mess out. Good thing we got them cheaply, huh?

Sunday, I did it right. Stuck to an 8lb batch, reworked my calculations for how much liquid was really necessary, and realized that where my handwritten recipe said "1 tbsp cloves" it really meant "1/2 tsp." The result was much, much better, and I canned up 6 half-pints with another little tupperware container in the fridge for immediate enjoyment. I read and re-read the instructions, and the pressure canner worked like a charm.

I figure, if I can do a batch a night, I should be done this week. I'm trying to screw up my courage and do one batch tonight on the stove while letting another one simmer in the crockpot overnight, so that I don't end up with truly mushy apples come Thursday and Friday. Benefit of the pressure canner is I can really fit a lot in there at once - it's big and scary, but it's my new kitchen toy and I will enjoy it to the hilt!




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Weekend plans


Posted at 11 Dec 2008 10:54:53 AM

Sooooooooo bored. Due to doctor's appointments this week, plus a long lunch on Monday, I ended up 3 hours behind this week. Stayed late yesterday and finished off all my projects. Unfortunately, this means that when I got in an hour early today (and have to stay an hour later, too) I have nothing to do. I'm sort of generically reading code, with my mind on other things (demonstrably) until my 11:30 lunch meeting.


( Click for the rest )


So other than that, life is normal. Got some new threadless tshirts! Going to have to miss Dan's bowling match tonight both because I have to stay late at work, and because greasy food and cigar smoke doesn't sound like a fun-filled evening right now. Still slated for picking up my new pressure canner tomorrow morning, but it looks like apple picking is going to have to be canceled. Apparently there was a 4-day frost in April which screwed up the growing season of most produce around here, and places which are normally u-pick have picked the last from their trees and are selling whatever's left out of big bins. Not exactly worth driving all the way to an orchard for, so I'm thinking that I'll just have to see how many pounds' worth I can get at Soulard tomorrow, and make what I can from that. (If my calculations are right, I need something like 4 pounds of apples for 5 half-pint jars, and I was planning on canning about 50 half-pints. Not all for us, no! Apple butter makes darn good gifts, and it's better than cookies or cakes in that it's actually shippable.) If all goes as planned, I might not be around the computer much this weekend.

50 degrees this morning - god, I hope there's enough tomatoes left next weekend to make salsa.

May be selling/loaning/giving away my green computer. Still have to check the specs of it, but if memory serves, it's not terrible. It's sitting in solitary confinement, in a CPU cubby in my desk, waiting for someone to need it... it makes a good guest computer, but with my main one up and running again, I have the laptop for that. And the blue mini box. And hells, if I need to I'll build another one ;) It's been awhile, hope I'm not rusty.