Friday, November 25, 2011

Crustless Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

It was a very quiet Thanksgiving this year, and the thing I found myself most thankful for was the understanding of my loved ones when I said what I wanted more than anything this year was to decline all of their invitations and just stay home. It’s been that sort of month.

I made a relatively small dinner, with one token green vegetable and far too many potatoes. I wanted dessert, but I didn’t want pie. Actually, let me clarify; if someone had shown up on my doorstep with pie, “OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE WITH THAT GET AWAY FROM ME NOW AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!” would serve as a fine example of the exact opposite of my reaction. I wanted pie just fine. What I didn’t want was to make pie.

But I had a can of pumpkin. I had chocolate. I had a firm belief that with a bit of ingenuity, I could get very close to the best of all possible worlds; an apartment that smelled like pie baking, something very like pie for dessert, and almost no effort on my part required.

And, as it turns out, I was right.


CRUSTLESS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PIE

1 15 oz can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400.

In a medium bowl, whisk pumpkin and eggs together until smooth. Resist urge to taste this mixture, it looks fantastic but is not all it smells to be.

Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Now you can taste it.

Add flour, cinnamon and cloves, stir until blended.

Add chocolate chips. I used 1 1/2 cups and had a very chocolaty pie. This is not a bad thing. But if you prefer the pumpkin to be a more dominant presence in this dessert, reduce chocolate to 1 cup.

Pour mixture into a glass pie dish, and bake for 45 minutes. Allow to cool for about an hour, until firm. Serve with whipped cream. Lots and lots of whipped cream. Like a 1:1 ratio of pie to whipped cream. And some fresh mint, if you like to pretend there’s something in your dessert that isn’t just sitting on the plate waiting to kill you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hockey, My Little Pony & Filthy Instantly Regrettable Lies

The other day, I found myself in a conversation about sports with a cashier at Costco. A moment before, he had been engaged in a conversation with some guy in a San Jose Sharks sweatshirt, and I overheard mention of an injured player. Now, my dear boys had had a difficult game the night before but to my knowledge no one had gotten hurt, so needless to say I was concerned that I might have missed something. When it was my turn to check out, I asked about what I had overheard, and it turns out Cashier & Friend had been talking about one of the Oakland Raiders. I replied “Oh, I thought you were talking about-“ and caught myself before I finished the sentence with “something important”, choosing instead “I saw the Sharks sweatshirt, I just thought...”

After telling me which specific player had been injured and receiving a negative reply to his query as to whether or not I was a Raider fan, Cashier asked me “So who’s your favorite Shark?”

To which I replied... with a blank stare. Favorite? I said I didn’t have one. He insisted that I must. When pressed, I told him the closest I could get to picking a favorite was a three-way tie between... and even then I had to pause before I said Thornton, Niemi and Murray. (Douglas, that is. No offense, Andrew.)

Thornton for being such an enthusiastic leader by example,



Niemi for reasons I have detailed before,


and Murray because, really, how can you not have a soft spot for this?



Or, frankly, this.


As soon as I walked out of the store, my mind started throwing out snippy little guilt-laden tidbits like you forgot Marleau, how could you forget Marleau? What, Clowe isn’t good enough for you now? Pavelski hasn’t done anything for you lately? Nice “favorites” list, if you don’t mind that you neglected to mention... and on and on until I had no choice but to head straight to the nearest mall and spend an hour looking at nothing but My Little Pony displays and layered pastel clothing with ruffles, to drive the very idea of the existence of hockey as far from my mind as possible. I was a terrible fan, and I had no right to pretend otherwise.

It wasn’t until later, when I’d had enough wine to chase the My Little Ponies from my thoughts, that I recognized the source of my original dilemma. The reason I had been so hard-pressed to name a favorite player is the very same reason I like hockey so much in the first place. It’s never about the individuals. It is, more than any other "team" sport, all about the team, both in the way the game is played and in the attitudes of the players themselves. There will always be highlights, there will always be standouts and great nights for certain players and things you will always associate with one particular guy, but at the end of the day, hockey isn’t just a bunch of people in the same game at the same time. It’s about a group acting as a single unit toward a specific goal (no pun intended, unless you cracked up in which case I totally planned that).

So, Costco Cashier, if you’re reading this, I apologize for the lie, and would now like to come clean and introduce you to my favorite Shark.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tiramisu Bundt with Orange Mascarpone Glaze – Take One

Last year at about this time, my dear sister brought to my attention that November 15th is National Bundt Cake Day. A lovely blogger known as The Food Librarian celebrates the occasion with a month-long Bundt-baking spree and encourages others to share photos and stories of the Bundts they bake. Dear Sis and I had planned to do this together, but since she was not around to bake a Bundt yesterday (she was in Italy, poor thing), I decided to go ahead on my own. Tiramisu being one of my favorite things ever, I wanted to try to capture the essence of it in a Bundt. For a first attempt of a new recipe, it was pretty darned not too bad. This recipe will be adjusted during future bakings and a final version posted when I feel it’s as perfect as it can get, but here’s what happened in my kitchen yesterday.

TIRAMISU BUNDT with ORANGE MASCARPONE GLAZE

2 3 oz. packages ladyfingers, divided
1 8 oz. tub mascarpone, divided
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup coffee liqueur
1/2 cup orange liqueur, divided
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp semisweet chocolate bits, chopped


Preheat oven, 325.

In a small bowl, mix coffee liqueur and 1 package of ladyfingers until soaked and squishy and vaguely reminiscent of 80 proof cat food. Set aside.


Remove 1/4 cup of mascarpone from tub and set aside. In a medium/large (your “I’m making a cake” bowl, you know the one) bowl, blend the remaining mascarpone, butter, and sugar until grainy.


Add eggs and vanilla extract, blend until still grainy but slightly darker and more liquidy.

Stir in baking powder.

Retrieve ladyfinger/coffee liqueur mixture and add to bowl. Stir and ignore nagging voice in back of head that insists nothing that looks like this can possibly end in anything palatable.


Add flour. Stir until you realize stirring is not going to make the batter as smooth as you want it to be. Break out electric mixer. 1-2 minutes on low. Smooth batter is happy batter. Yay.


Grease Bundt pan and spread batter semi-sorta evenly. Open second package of ladyfingers and arrange them on top of batter (see photo). Have extras. Note to self: ladyfingers + bacon + multivitamin = breakfast. But that’s the future and this is the now and the now is all about 1/4 cup of orange liqueur being drizzled over that layer of ladyfingers. Do that.


Place pan in nicely preheated 325 degree oven. Leave there for 45 minutes. If oven is unevenly-heating piece of crap, rotate pan halfway through baking time to keep ladyfingers on back of cake from browning twice as much as those on front of cake.


Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Flip onto anxiously awaiting cake plate and allow to cool for another 10 minutes or so while glaze is being made.


FOR GLAZE: Remember where you set aside that 1/4 cup of mascarpone an hour ago, and retrieve it. Put it in a small bowl, add powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add remaining 1/4 cup of orange liqueur and stir until blended and glazy. Attempt to drizzle over top of cake. Notice that this particular glaze is not inclined to drizzle. Place glaze in a ring atop cake and sort of nudge down sides. Sprinkle chopped chocolate bits on top of glaze.


Admire cake. Resist urge to play “I’m a grownup and can do whatever I want” card, and have real food for dinner instead of cake. We recommend lightly sautéed ice cubes garnished with fresh lemon and a baby carrot.

Eat cake. Make Notes for Next Time.

~~~~~

NOTES FOR NEXT TIME

1 – Ladyfinger/coffee liqueur mixture wants for more cake batter. Since original recipe was cut in half this time, try with full amount next time. Worst case scenario: there is more cake. Booeffinhoo.

2 – Glaze should be decidedly more glazy. Tragically, this will most likely be achieved by reducing the amount of alcohol. Possible solution; serve shots with cake.

3 – Layer of ladyfingers on bottom of cake looked and tasted really cool. Try to make layer more concentrated next time. Ladyfingers are squishy, more can fit in pan. Have toast for breakfast.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Professional Courtesy 101

Print-on-demand magazine publishing has created a fantastic opportunity for creative people to get their work on paper and into the world. It’s like the Internet equivalent of a wealthy benefactor; you invest your time and creative energies in a project, and someone else picks up the tab.

Unfortunately, unlike an actual wealthy benefactor, print-on-demand publishing requires no real accountability and, as a result, professional conduct is falling further and further by the wayside.

I’m speaking as someone who has been on both sides of this equation. I’ve been an editor in the past, and am currently working on a new project that has put me back in the editor chair. I’ve been a contributor, as a writer and a model, published by both print-on-demand and traditional publishers. And some of the things I am seeing lately, from both print-on-demand publishers and hopeful contributors, just make me want to cry, throw things, and consume far more chocolate and tequila than I can reasonably consider healthy.

Lack of money changing hands anywhere in the process does not give any parties the right to not behave like professionals. These are a few things I’m seeing a lot of that are just not okay:

1) NOT REPLYING TO CONTRIBUTORS

I don’t care how well-established an artist or model might be, it takes guts to submit work to a complete stranger, and to just leave people hanging by not acknowledging submissions is not only grossly unprofessional but frankly downright thoughtless. I have seen more than one publisher cite the number of other things they have going on in their lives as their reason for not replying to every submission, they “just don’t have time”.

Really? You open the emails to look at the contents, don’t you? If you don’t want to use the contents in your magazine, how long does it actually take to click “reply/paste/send” with this message (which I will happily allow you to copy & paste)?

“Thank you for your interest in our magazine. Unfortunately, your submission does not meet our needs at this time”

Because if you really don’t have time to do that, 3 seconds of time to acknowledge a contributor as a human being and treat that human being with the basics of common and professional courtesy, do you really have any right to be asking people to put themselves and their work out for you to turn into something YOU will ultimately be profiting from? No news is NOT good news in this scenario. A swift “no, thank you” is infinitely preferable to just leaving people hanging indefinitely.

2) REPLYING TO CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS WITH SCAVENGER HUNTS

A call for submissions is exactly that; a call for you to submit work. Replying to such a call with “Here’s 12 links to places you can view my work on the Internet, go look and see if there’s anything you want” is not appropriate. If you want to submit work, submit it. If, in that submission, you want to say something like “Here are 3 poems/photos for consideration for your magazine. More of my work can be viewed at YesIAmAwesome.net.”, that’s fine. But asking an editor to chase down your work online and look through multiple portfolios isn’t okay. I have a form letter for that, too, if you’d like it:

“Thank you for your interest in our magazine. Please visit this page for complete submission guidelines and instructions: DoItRightOrDontDoItAtAll.com”

3) NOT READING SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

When an editor takes the time to write down specific and detailed submission guidelines and instructions, there’s a reason. It’s so contributors know what work to send and how to send it. For example, I recently received a submission of political and 9/11 tribute poetry in response to a call for love poems, with the poems in the body of an email after I had specifically requested they be sent as an attachment in .doc or .rtf format. And the contributor got rather belligerent when the poems were not accepted, because he hadn’t read that we weren’t looking for political and 9/11 tribute poetry.

Editors ask that things be done certain ways for a reason. And that reason is usually because doing things that way allows them to review a greater number of submissions in the time they have to review things. A lot of magazines won’t even bother looking at your submission if it isn’t sent in the way they’ve asked for things to be sent in. So do yourself a favor, read the guidelines and FOLLOW them, you will stand a much better chance of your work being accepted. And if you have questions, ask them before you send your work in. The people who write guidelines aren’t any more perfect than anyone else, if you have a question it’s probably because they forgot to specify something in their instructions, and they need to fix that. So you’re doing everyone a favor by asking those questions upfront.

Okay, there’s my rant. Anyone have anything to add?