I am one of those melodramatic fools…

8 November 2007

neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it.


I really, really wish I could just relax.

I saw A. four times last week. Pretty clear that he is interested in me, yes? But I last saw him Saturday night. We’ve e-mailed only a little; he has a bad headache and a ton of work and plans every night this week. I asked if, for a change, he’d like to come over and let me cook dinner for him this Saturday night, but he can’t because he’s having dinner at his Mom’s house with her and his aunts. Although I am venting to my friends (and my parents, and my brother-in-law), I am smart enough not to call him and say, “Pay attention to meeeeee!” I e-mailed him the other day, when he’d told me about his plans with family plus his work project that had sort of exploded, “Yikes, I hope things calm down soon. Will I at least get to see you again before T’giving? :)” He wrote back – a day later – a more chatty e-mail (still stressed) that included, “Hope all is well, and it will be before Turkey Day, I am sure!” So that was a little reassuring.

Tonight I am cooking and baking for Shabbat lunch. Once the peppers were stuffed and baked, the pumpkin bread was in the oven, and the chicken was marinating, I saw that he was still online at work, so I IMed him. It was a short conversation, nothing special, and I’d typed that I didn’t want to bother him at work and was really just saying hi. He wrote back that he actually had to go because he’s having dinner at a trendy new restaurant, and after a quick “talk to you later,” he signed off.

I know that he’s busy, and he has a life, and presumably he is still interested in me or he would either stop e-mailing or take the “in a relationship with Midnite99” out of his Facebook profile (yay Facebook) or actually, y’know, break up with me. I get that, intellectually. It’s just that thanks to my idiot ex, I am just so insecure that every new guy in my life is going to abandon me. Sigh.

My brother-in-law is in town for work, and we had dinner (kosher Subway) last night. His advice was not to worry. He told me, “You have to have the attitude that you’re the best girl in the world, the most beautiful, the smartest, and he’s lucky to have you.” My brother-in-law is pretty cool. He also said that although my ex was a horse’s patootie (as my father would say), I can’t blame other guys for that. My brother-in-law, in addition to being pretty cool, is also pretty smart.

And I KNOW all this stuff. Really, I do. Which is the most frustrating part, actually, because if I know it in my head, why am I having so much trouble knowing it in my heart?

Why, yes, it has been a long week, how’d you know?

* * *

For Shabbat lunch, I’m letting guests provide: green vegetable or salad, salatim (hummus, guacamole, etc), wine, fruit, and dessert. (It’s the first time I’ve “outsourced” dessert in AGES.) I am making:

* Chicken marinated in the same (store-bought) wasabi teryaki sauce that was so awesome on tofu last month.

* Stuffed peppers

Cooking spray
8 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow — all taste better than green to me — just make sure they can stand up)
1 box Near East Mediterranean Curry couscous mix
1 onion, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
tomato-mushroom sauce [made last week (with some cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms, garlic, and various spices) to go with spaghetti squash]
1/3 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained [canned would work fine]

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a baking dish big enough to hold 8 peppers. Cut tops off peppers, scoop out membranes and seeds. Put in baking dish and roast for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and cool until filling is ready — which in my case was the same time they were ready to come out of the oven.


Prepare couscous according to package directions.

Spray a large non-stick skillet with spray. Add onion, zucchini, oregano, and salt, and stir over medium heat about 5 minutes until most of their liquid has been released and evaporated, and veggies are soft. Remove from heat; stir in tomato sauce and chickpeas until well-mixed. Stir in couscous until well-mixed.

Carefully spoon mixture into peppers. Bake 15 minutes. (I had enough stuffing left over that I could have filled another couple of peppers, but the yellow ones were small and the orange ones were big but misshapen, leading to deceptively small cavities.)

If it weren’t a meat meal, I would have stirred some feta into the stuffing, or topped the peppers with grated parmesean.

* Spicy sweet potato “fries” — Slice a few sweet potatoes into wedges or fry-like shapes. Put in ziploc bag with a couple Tbsps olive oil, a few shakes each of salt, freshly ground pepper, cayenne pepper, and curry powder. Shake until all fries are coated evenly. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with a bit more spray just to be safe. Dump fries onto sheet in a single layer if possible. Maybe season a bit more if you think you should. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then turn all fries over, and bake another 10 minutes. Serve with ketchup.

* Pumpkin bread to supplement the challah my Mom brought me Labor Day weekend

1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 cup sugar/Splenda mix
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs, beaten (1/2 cup Eggbeaters)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
(or, replace the previous 3 with 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a loaf pan (9x5x3, maybe?) and set aside.

Mix flours, sugar/Splenda, and baking soda in large bowl.

Mix the pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, water, and spices together with a wooden spoon.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix with wooden spoon, but don’t over-mix.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a toothpick poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean (took 52 minutes here). Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack. Wrap in foil until serving.


Oh, how the years go by

4 November 2007

Wait, where did October go? How is it November already?

OK, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Let’s see…the week before I left for vacation was awesome. Monday night I saw a Broadway concert with a friend; she has declared me her new theatre buddy, which totally works for me. Tuesday was the night I was officially declared not-single. Wednesday was…um, a blur of packing and cleaning and such. Thursday night was girls’ night — several of my friends came here first for appetizers (port which was SO yummy, crackers, gruyere and blue cheese, halved cherry tomatoes, baby carrots), then we met up with the rest of our crowd at a nearby sushi restaurant. There were a dozen of us total, and the meal cost less than $20 per person on average (including an 18% tip!). We had a blast. And I realized, looking around the table, that of the 11 women there, only one had been a close friend of mine a year ago. Five were people I knew a year ago, but only casually. And five were people who only moved to town within the last year (4 only arrived during the summer!). Yet they’re now all friends of mine. I’ve been to meals at almost all of their apartments, and have had most of them over to mine. It’s amazing how much can happen in a year.

And on the Friday that I was leaving (on an 11.30 red-eye), A. e-mailed me at work to say he could come over to say goodbye before I left, and he offered to take me to the airport. So I cancelled my SuperShuttle reservation, made us a last-minute Shabbat dinner, and got to spend a couple extra hours with him, which was nice. Then off I went to the East Coast, where I saw my brother, sister-in-law, and niece in NJ; two friends from work, one friend from college, and an old family friend in NYC; friends from college in Bethesda and DC; and friends from LA in Potomac. Good stuff, all around. My friends rock.

A. picked me up from the airport Sunday night, and we hung out again on Monday night. On Wednesday, I had a long-overdue dinner with Samantha and got to catch up with her, which was so good. A. was coming over after dinner, so she met him, and I am very glad that at least one of my friends has met him in person! She left, and A. and I just hung out for a bit before he went to a Halloween event at a club where a friend of his was DJing around 11.30. That’s past my bedtime, though, so at his recommendation, I opted out.

After services on Friday night, I had dinner right near Universal Studios, at my friend D.’s brother’s condo. D. is a friend from USY and from college; he lives in Boston but was in town for a conference. I hadn’t seen him in about three years. I got a bit lost on the way there, twice — first, somehow I totally missed Highland and had to backtrack, then I found Highland and got on Caheunga but somehow (without turning) ended up on some totally dark street that dead-ended in a chain-link fence and gate that said, “No Public Access.” Then I remembered that I have a GPS, so I plugged her in and let her guide me the rest of the way.

Saturday morning, I led the first half of services, and later went to lunch at a friend’s apartment. She has a cat, and before I go to her place I always medicate heavily, which gets me through for about an hour to an hour and a half. Saturday night, A. taught a friend of his (the one who’d DJed on Halloween) to make sushi, and her girlfriend and I got to reap the fruits of their labors. I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, so I made truffles (see below) which were a BIG hit. The girls also live right near Universal, and I managed not to get lost, which was a plus.

After dinner, I followed A. back to his place so we could hang out for a while, taking advantage of the fact that although it felt like 11, effectively it was only 10 because of changing the clocks. I have so far changed my watch and my microwave clock (and the car’s clock), but haven’t yet hit my alarm clock, the spare room alarm clock, or the clock and old digital watch in my bathroom. The cable box, computer, and cell phone are all smart enough to change themselves.

As you might have guessed, things with A. are going well. I am trying (a) not to jinx myself, (b) to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of myself, (c) not to make up problems where none exist. I told my friend D. on Friday night that I hadn’t heard from A. since Wednesday, and normally we e-mail daily. But when D. heard that I’d seen him three times that week already, and had plans for Saturday night (though I didn’t know when or where), he said that for sure I shouldn’t worry. His advice was, “As long as the next date is planned, you definitely don’t have to worry.” Good rule of thumb.

This past Shabbat marked the 36th anniversary of the Library Minyan, the lay-led minyan at my shul. They had special services and a dinner and luncheon over Shabbat, possibly some sort of party last night, and speakers today. I did not attend any of it except Friday night services, since they were combined with the service I normally attend. When I saw the Exec Director on Friday night, she asked if I were going to the Sunday event, and I said no. She asked, “Could you stop by just to meet someone?” It took me a moment to understand, and then I sort of stumbled over my words to say, “Oh! Um, I’m actually seeing someone right now, so, um, no.” It’s funny, I am not at all used to having a boyfriend. But I wouldn’t mind getting used to it.

Last Friday, 26 October, I started the day with H. in Bethesda, then went to R. & J.’s place in Potomac where I was spending Shabbat. That day marked one year since the “disengagement,” which honestly only occurred to me a few times during the day. R. told me that she was so proud of me for the growth and self-awareness I’ve achieved during the last year. H. asked if I would ever have believed then, that now I’d be healthy and happy and healed, and totally ga-ga over a new guy. When I got back to LA, a friend e-mailed me to ask if he could give my e-mail or phone number to a friend of his in New York who is in a bad state after recently being dumped (out of the blue) by her fiance. My friend ended his e-mail with, “Just let me know. (And see what a difference a year makes?)”

In the last year, I’ve cemented a few friendships with people who were incredibly supportive; I’ve let a few friendships drift away with people who weren’t; I’ve become friends with people I hardly knew (or hadn’t even met) a year ago. Time really is an amazingly powerful healer.

* * *

Pumpkin Chocolate Almond Truffles with Amaretto

The original recipe was this.

1/2 c pumpkin puree
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 Tbsp margarine
1/4 c amaretto (or kahlua, or other liqueur — strong cold coffee would probably work, too)
2 egg yolks (OR 2 Tbsp Eggbeaters — or in my case, 2 Tbsp Simply Whites)
1 c toasted almonds*, ground
2 c powdered (or superfine) sugar
Cocoa powder (for coating truffles)

1. Spoon pumpkin puree onto double layer of paper towels, cover with another double layer of paper towels, and press gently to squeeze out excess liquid. Leave covered with paper towels until step 4.

2. Melt chocolate and margarine in medium-to-large mixing bowl in microwave for 45 seconds and stir. Microwave again for another 45 seconds. Stir gently until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Let cool a few minutes. (Use this time to measure out your other ingredients.)

3. Stir in liqueur and egg yolk. Whisk until smooth.

4. Add ground almonds, sugar, and pumpkin. Whisk or stir until smooth.

5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, refrigerate at least one hour.

6. Pour some cocoa (start with 1/3 cup, you can always add more if you need it) into a shallow bowl. Remove truffle mixture from fridge. Scoop with a mellon baller and roll into small balls (3/4 inch diameter, maybe?) and roll them in cocoa. Put in wax-paper-lined airtight container. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Made approx. 36 truffles.

*To toast almonds: either stir often in [ungreased!] saucepan over medium heat until golden brown, or bake at 350 on [ungreased!] baking sheet for 10-15 minutes and stir occasionally


I had to make a few changes and substitutions which I was afraid had rendered the mixture unusable — for one thing, I was planning to use two egg yolks’ worth of Eggbeaters, but my Eggbeaters had gone bad and all I had was “Simply Whites.” I figured the yolk was there as a binder to hold the mixture together, and I didn’t think egg whites would work, and indeed the mix was really gooey and sticky. But I managed to shape it into small balls, which held their shape after being rolled in cocoa powder, and they were SO yummy.

Also, I couldn’t find ground almonds (or almond meal, or almond flour) at the store. I had slivered almonds which I ground in the food processor, but I didn’t toast them first. I suspect that toasting them gets rid of their moisture, so that when they’re ground you actually get something like flour. Since mine retained their moisture, I got something a bit more textured than flour. I decided to add the word “Almond” to the name of the truffle — i.e., treat it as a feature, not a bug.

I didn’t realize when I began that I didn’t have any powdered sugar (oops!). I did have superfine sugar (which you can buy directly, or you can make by running an equivalent amount of granulated sugar through a food processor for about 30-60 seconds — if you do this, make sure you wait a minute before you open the food processor so you don’t choke on a cloud of sugar dust!). It seemed to work just fine.

I made a double recipe and got more truffles out of it than the 28 the original recipe indicated. I must have a smaller mellon baller or something. I’ve given the measurements and quantities that I used. Also, mine might be somewhat healthier since I used trans-fat-free Smart Balance margarine rather than butter.

Beat poetry hip-hop poetess goddess

6 October 2007

Alright, here’s another rambling collection of not-necessarily-related thoughts. Welcome to the randomness that is my mind.

First things first — it occurred to me after my last post that why I’m pulling back from Event Guy is that it feels too familiar. Several dates in a short period of time, rapidly-developing affection…in the blink of an eye I’m engaged, and a few blinks later I’m not. I realize that Event Guy is not my ex, and it’s a different situation, but it feels similar and therefore scary. So while I will continue to go out with him (fifth date is Monday night), I am also looking around on JDate to see if there’s anyone else who might catch my eye.

And mud-wrestling guy has written me again. I was looking at old JDate e-mails (apparently, when you move JDate messages to the Trash folder, JDate just leaves them there forever). It turns out this guy wrote me in 2004 and asked what sounded good for a first date: drinks, dinner, drinks + dinner, or mud-wrestling. (It would seem this is a long-standing obsession…) I sent the auto-decline response (which I don’t think JDate even has anymore), to which he wrote back, “Isn’t it interesting how ‘picky’ sounds a lot like ‘BITCHY’?” He seems like a keeper, I tell ya.

* * *

In other news, the Mexican version of my “Chocolate Simplicity” cake was a big hit, especially the tequila glaze. Yum. For the lunch I was invited to today, I made a very simple tofu dish which people loved and wanted the recipe for. It’s embarrassingly easy:

* * *

Easy Yummy Tofu

2 packages (10 or 12 oz each) of firm tofu
Mikee Wasabi Teriyaki Sauce
red pepper flakes (optional)

Rinse and drain tofu; squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Cut into cubes or strips. Put in baking dish and pour in enough sauce to cover. Refrigerate 12-24 hours.

Remove from refrigerator, allow to return to room temperature. Broil 10-12 minutes or bake at 500 degrees 15 minutes (broiling was my intention, but the glass bowl I’d used didn’t fit in the broiler, so I had to bake it instead).

Slice or julienne (using a mandoline if you want) carrots and zucchini and toss with tofu. Serve warm or cold.

Since the sauce doesn’t seem to have any of the spiciness I associate with wasabi, I added red pepper flakes. Next time I might mix actual wasabi in with the sauce before pouring it over the tofu.

* * *

I’ve been catching up on my TiVo. Yay Numb3rs, still my favorite show. I thought the first epidsode of Bionic Woman was ridiculous, but I will give it a second try. Loved Journeyman — I missed the first ep but watched on NBC’s website, then watched the second, and I think it seems pretty cool. I’m not intrigued by the Pushing Daisies premise, so I’m not watching that; it sounds like that will be right up there with Lost, Heroes, Gray’s Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives as one of those cultural-phenomenon shows that I just didn’t care about. And you know what? I’m OK with that. On my best friend’s recommendation, I’m watching Big Bang Theory, which is fun because I get the jokes. It’s the first sitcom I’ve watched in years.

* * *

On Simchat Torah, the festival where we literally “rejoice with Torah,” there are seven hakafot in which the Torah is paraded around while everyone dances and sings around it. Each hakafa is associated with certain Biblical characters. At the minyan I go to for Simchat Torah, each hakafa is preceded by a d’rash (teaching) about the relevant Biblical folks. This year, I gave the d’rash for the fourth hakafa, associated with Moshe and Devorah.

I decided to try something new. So I wrote the following and had everyone tap out the rhythm for me, and I performed it as an “interpretive d’rash,” and did my best to fill the space with it. People seemed to like it, so here’s the text. Enjoy! (Oh, and the title of this post was how a friend of mine described me afterward…)

“Of Bushes and Trees”

walking along
in the hot Egypt sun
i open my eyes
and then –- i see

there’s a bush that is burning
but it isn’t consumed
i have to look closer
then a Voice says to me

“take off your shoes!
this place, it is holy
I’m your ancestors’ G-d
now listen to Me.

“My people, they suffer
I’ve seen their distresses
I’ve heard their lamenting
their cries have all reached Me.

“there’s a land I have promised
with honey and milk
so go see the pharaoh;
set My people free.”

but i am afraid
i know i don’t speak well
i’m already in trouble
they won’t listen to me!

when they ask, “who has sent you?”
what name shall i give them?
the Voice gives an answer:
“I’ll be what I’ll be.”

this was the start, then
a bush that was burning
a bush no one noticed
well, no one but me

“but why just a bush?”
some people might wonder
“why not something flashy
the whole world could see?”

a bush might be lowly
but could you create one?
it’s still only G-d
Who makes bushes and trees.

and under a tree
sits a judge and a prophet
a mother of israel
a leader who sings

sisera threatened
barak needed guidance
he gave up the glory
of conquering kings

he needed a woman
to lead and command him
so into a woman’s hands
would sisera fall.

devorah, she summoned
the twelve tribes of israel
but of those, only six
heard and heeded the call.

the enemy threatens
the prophetess calls you
how can you ignore her?
your hearts should be strong!

awaken, awaken!
devorah did call
awaken, awaken!
and utter a song!

the tribes who refused her
refused G-d’s commandment
devorah rebuked them
as cowards, each one

but those who fought bravely
devorah praised freely:
let those who love G-d
shine bright as the sun.

devorah reminds us
that judges and prophets
may need iron fists
beneath their velvet glove

devorah reminds us
the children of israel
need prophets, but also
a mother’s tough love.

Sushi, chocolate, and the thrill of the chase

2 October 2007

Event Guy and I have now had four dates.

Date #3 was dinner at his house on Saturday night. He made all kinds of sushi — I was most impressed. I made dessert, an excellent recipe that I expect to use (and experiment with) often in the future. Recipe is below. We had a lot of good conversation and laughter, though I did learn something about him that troubles me a bit. I’m trying not to overreact. I did mention my ex, and he took it in stride, asking a few questions but not acting threatened or anything.

Date #4 was last night. The reason we went out on Monday after just having gotten together on Saturday is that he’s leaving tomorrow for a softball tournament in northern California, and he’ll be back on Sunday. He came here at 7 and we sat on the couch and had a glass of wine (courtesy of my bewitching friend Samantha), then went out for Thai, then came back here and talked a bit more. But by then I was falling asleep, so he left around 10.45.

Here’s the thing. In some ways, I’m like a guy. I love the thrill of the chase, the pursuit, catching someone’s attention. I just don’t always like holding someone’s attention. He’s a great guy, an absolute sweetheart, not ashamed to admit that he likes me. I love talking to him. But I can feel myself starting to lose interest, which is part of why I suspect I’m overreacting to the thing I alluded to above. So I am hoping that he doesn’t call while he’s up north, so that I can have a chance to miss him and get all excited and fluttery again. Because, honestly, I want to keep liking him.

In other news, my young adults’ group had an awesome Shabbat dinner in the sukkah. And I’ve had multiple meals in sukkot – Shabbat lunch with friends, Sunday lunch at a kosher burger place with a sukkah in the parking lot, and tonight back at my friends’ sukkah. The meal tonight was pretty exciting – my first-ever meat sub sandwich, from the brand-new (opened yesterday!) Glatt Kosher Subway. They have a sukkah of their own in the back, but it was crowded, because about half the neighborhood was crammed into the store.

And without further ado, here’s the recipe I promised:

Chocolate Simplicity
(adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini’s Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chocolate Cake)

As the blog linked above notes, it’s best made a day in advance, or at least 10-12 hours in advance, to give the flavors time to meld.

7/8 c margarine (I used nearly one tub [1 c] but left a little behind, did not measure)
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 c sugar
5 eggs (I used eggbeaters)
1 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease the sides and bottom of an 8-inch springform pan (that’s about 50 square inches – which would correspond to a 7-inch square pan, which probably doesn’t exist, or a 6×8 pan, which probably also doesn’t exist, but I like knowing these things). Cut a circle out of wax or parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan; grease the paper. Wrap the pan in heavy-duty foil so none of the batter leaks out. (That’s only necessary if you’re using a springform pan.)

Melt margarine and chocolate together (in a medium-sized mixing bowl in the microwave, or in a double boiler) and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. I microwaved for 60 seconds, stirred, microwaved for 30 seconds, stirred more, and then it was all melted.

Add sugar, stir with wooden spoon, and cool for a few minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well with wooden spoon after each addition.

Add flour, a little at a time, and mix well with the spoon.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 28 minutes. (Original recipe says 25, but my cake came out way too jiggly at that point, so I put it back in.)

Cool in pan 15-20 minutes (I only waited 10, which wasn’t quite enough.) Open spring and invert cake onto a plate. Cool completely. Original recipe says to wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Mine didn’t seem solid enough to wrap, and I never got around to refrigerating it, so it sat out (covered in a cake-carrier) for about 28 hours. Didn’t seem to hurt it.

When I inverted my cake onto a plate, it broke in two pieces. I knew Event Guy wouldn’t mind it, but I minded. So I pushed the two halves back together and glazed the cake:

Random Fix-the-Cake Glaze

Some apricot jam (maybe 1/2 cup?)
Some amaretto liqueur (few Tbsps, maybe 1/4 cup?)

Warm the jam over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, stir in amaretto. Keep stirring and possibly add more jam or more liqueur until you like the consistency. Pour glaze over cake, spreading with a spoon, spatula, or pastry brush.

Ideas for future experiementation:
Reduce margarine to about 1/2 cup, supplement with 1/2 cup applesauce
Mix semisweet and bittersweet chocolate
Add 1/4 cup liqueur to batter
Glaze with berry sauce or mango sauce

If you have other ideas, feel free to let me know!

This Thursday night, a friend of mine has decided to host a Mexican-themed erev Simchat Torah dinner. So she wants me to make a Mexican-themed dessert. I’m making this cake, but I’ll add 1.5 tsp of chili powder to the batter. Then I’ll top it with sliced strawberries, and pour the following glaze over it:

Tequila Glaze
1.5 c powdered sugar,
3 Tbsp tequila
2 tablespoons melted margarine

Mix well. Prick holes in top of cake. Pour glaze over cake. Usually you’d do this while the cake was still warm, but since I don’t want strawberries sitting out that long and there isn’t room for the cake in my fridge, I will put the glaze in its own tupperware so I can transport it to my friend’s place, and I’ll glaze the cake just before serving it.

Rosh HaShanah meals

11 September 2007

I’m hosting erev Rosh HaShanah dinner and second-day lunch. I’m also making desserts for the other four meals (1st day lunch, erev 2nd day dinner, Shabbat dinner, and Shabbat lunch).

Dinner Menu:

Butternut squash soup (from a box, plus frozen pureed squash, plus lots of curry powder)
Pastrami-wrapped dates [done]
Apricot chicken and apricot tofu (coat chicken with mixture of apricot preserves and mustard and bake 45 min at 350; garnish with aprioct halves) [done]
Brown rice with roasted pecan and garlic
Zucchini with cranberries and almonds (couldn’t find currants) [done]
Green salad
Carrot ring (my mother’s recipe, see below) [done]
Flourless chocolate torte [done]

Lunch Menu:

Crudites [done, i.e. bought]
Stuffed artichokes (based on this, but quadrupled and slightly modified, including using canned artichoke bottoms) [done]
Chicken satay (based on the initial recipe here) [done]
Red onion and orange salad [done]
Rosemary potatoes
Green beans amandine
Chocolate mousse (see bottom of this post; of course I skipped the whpped cream since it’s a meat meal) [done]

Desserts for other meals:
Amaretto cake (this recipe minus 1/2 cup rum, plus 1/3 cup amaretto) [done]
Apple pie [done]
Strawberry angel trifle
Pavlova [done]

Mom’s Carrot Ring

3 cups shredded carrots
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup margarine
dash lemon [juice, I presume]
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix all ingredients and pour into a well greased tube or bundt pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

I’m tired. Surprising, eh?


15 August 2007

Karaoke was awesome. My friend Fun J organized it, and I invited Math Boy (remember him?) to join the fun. J., Math Boy, and a couple other friends of mine (and J.’s), including I. (who will come back into the story next paragraph) hung out — along with a LOT of other friends of J.’s, people I don’t know — and had a great time. I rocked, if I do say so myself. (And I do. Math Boy said it, too. And on a side note, I think he and G. in DC are the only two guys I’ve dated with whom I’ve stayed friends. Well, and rebound-J from college, who’s now married to my former (post-college) roommate A.) Anyway. It was a ton of fun. Yay for having a microphone.

Monday night was dinner with I. She’s someone I should have been friends with in college, since we ran in overlapping circles, but we didn’t really meet and get to know each other until a few years ago in LA. She’s pretty cool, and I enjoy spending time with her. Over dinner, she more-or-less said, “You should host a Shabbat dinner again soon. And you should invite me.” I laughed and agreed that she was right; both of those things ought to happen. So next week I will host dinner here. I am hoping for a table full of people who are not in relationships. So far I have 1 yes (Harvard Boy), 1 presumable yes (I.), two maybes, 2 nos, and one no-response-yet. I would like to have 6 or 8 total, though a coworker of mine suggested I should have an odd number, with the “extra” being a guy. That way, she says, the men will get competitive and fall all over themselves attempting to impress the womenfolk. Interesting thought.

I’d been e-mailing with a JDate guy who sounded promising; we’d e-mailed two or three times each when he disappeared. About a week and a half later (last Thursday or so) I sent him a follow-up e-mail: “Just figured I’d say hi once more, because you sound like someone worth meeting. Figured it was worth a shot before you get relegated to the ‘guys who disappeared’ folder…” And it worked! He apologized, explaining he’d been on vacation with his family in celebration of his 30th birthday, etc., whatever. And he sent me his phone number and asked for mine, which I gave him (after making him wait a few days – I’m not a complete pushover), and he just called this evening. We are meeting for coffee/tea Sunday evening. And he specifically said “after dinner,” so I don’t have to worry about going through that awkwardness again.

Work continues to rock. Moving to this company nearly 2 years (!) ago increased my quality of life by decreasing my commute and my hours. But switching to this new position has increased my quality of life even more qualitatively (oh, the redundancy) by making me a much happier person. Today I had lunch with the summer interns (along with a couple other fully-credentialed folk, one from my old department and one from a different area entirely), and one of the interns asked what was the most fun part of my new role. I started to smile and said, “Really, everything is so much fun.” I talked about how it was a much better fit and how I enjoyed doing this, that, and the next thing, and the girl who’d asked said, “Wow, I can see that you really are having fun. You just light up when you talk about it!”

This Friday night, the cool minyan (PE for short) is having a potluck dinner. I am making dessert…but I’m wimping out (shhhh, don’t tell) and making chocolate chip cookies from store-bought dough. In my defense, I’ve got rather a lot on my metaphorical plate at the moment:

1) reviewing High Holiday services (I’m leading about half the services at my synagogue), and learning 6 lines of Torah (with special High Holiday trope) for Yom Kippur. (RH is 13-14 Sept; YK is 22 Sept.)

2) studying (voluntarily!) for the first of a series of exams — before y’all try to throw me into one of those nice rooms with the soft walls, be aware that these exams are far, FAR easier than the ones I took for my profession. These are insurance-related exams, but the first one recommends about 30 hours of studying, at most, which is perhaps a tenth of the time I spent studying for those other tests. (Test is scheduled for 6 Sept; if I fail I have to wait two business days, then I can re-register for $150 and take it again. It will be humbling but not utterly defeating.)

3) writing a question for one of those other tests. I’ve made a decent start, but I don’t know if what I’ve written is too easy or not. (First draft is due 31 August.)

So it’ll be a busy month or so. But after that, things should be somewhat calmer…

Oh, and the brownie cheesecake recipe I promised (as noted, it’s my Mom’s recipe; my comments are at the end) —

Brownie cheesecake — 6-8 servings

* 8 ounces (1 Pkg) brownie mix + water, oil, & eggs as per package

* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1 large egg (I use egg beaters)
* 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup maple syrup

Grease pan and dust with flour. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package; spread 1/2 of batter evenly into 8×8 pan. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. (use reminder for brownies in another pan)

Combine cream cheese, sugar, egg, and maple syrup; mix at medium speed with electric handheld mixer until well blended.

Pour the mixture over brownie layer in the pan. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Chill. 

If you use pareve brownie mix and pareve cream cheese it’s pareve. Or use real cream cheese and it’s dairy.

I guess you could use a 9 x 13 pan and all the brownie mix and double the cheesecake part for a larger group.

my notes: I use a 9-inch round springform pan, and use the whole brownie package for the crust. I bake it for 20-25 minutes. I do not double the cream cheese recipe. I’ve made it twice; once I used half fat-free cream cheese and half whipped cream cheese; the second time I used 12 oz fat-free and 4 oz whipped. It has been a huge hit both times I’ve made it.

Cookin’ with gas

12 August 2007

Picnic last Saturday:

Broccoli Soup (recipe courtesy of my mother)
1 lb broccoli, chopped
3 Tablespoons margarine
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 carrot, sliced, a few sprigs parsley, 1 stalk celery, or whatever I may have around
2 1/2 cups pareve chicken stock
2 1/2 cups milk
Handful chives

Boil broccoli until tender in chicken stock with seasonings, veges.
Food process/blend
Add milk.
Sprinkle chives on each serving.

Spinach and Articoke Casserole

24 oz   artichoke hearts, drained
30 oz   cooked spinach, drained and squeezed dry.  (3 pkgs thawed frozen spinach)
12 oz    cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp  margerine, softened
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

(1)  Preheat oven to 350. Spread artichoke hearts in the bottom of greased casserole dish, in roughly one layer.
(2)  Top with spinach.
(3)  Cream  together  the cream  cheese, butter and cheese, and spread evenly on top.
(4)  Bake covered for 35 minutes, then uncovered for 10 minutes.

Next time I make this, I will make several changes: reduce cream cheese to 12 ounces, reduce margerine to 2 Tbsp, and mix the ingredients all together, instead of layering. I like the individual flavors, but would have preferred them blended. I don’t remember where I acquired this recipe, so I can’t attribute it.

Roasted Tomato and Feta Salad
inspired by this recipe

2 pints pearl tomatoes (couldn’t find cherry tomatoes that looked good)
16-18 fresh basil leaves
crumbled semi-soft white goat cheese (or feta cheese)
handful of pine nuts
salt and pepper

1. Arrange tomatoes in a single layer in a greased/sprayed baking dish (cut in half if cherry tomatoes) and roast 1 hour at 250 degrees. Cool for 30 minutes, then put in bowl.
2. Cut basil into thin strips and add to tomatoes.
3. Add cheese and gently toss.
4. Add pine nuts and gently toss.
4. Season with salt and pepper.

Last-Minute Fruit Pie
1 store-bought 9-inch crust
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 pint blueberries
1 can boysenberries (or, 1 pint blackberries)
1/3 c flour
1/4 c sugar (or less, I may have only used 1/8 c)

Preheat oven to 375.
Toss berries with flour and sugar. Pour into pie crust. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.
Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool.
Could top with whipped cream, if you remembered to take whipped cream to picnic.

And for this Shabbat, I made two desserts: a chocolate-raspberry pavlova, and my Mom’s chocolate brownie cheesecake. Recipe to follow, but right now I have to go get ready for karaoke.