In Search of a Perfect Year

Almost every single one has something to do with my mouth—either what goes in it, or what comes out of it.

I’m speaking about New Year’s resolutions.

Nobody with a belly button is perfect, therefore everyone could stand a little self-improvement.  The amount of fixing I need could fill the Grand Canyon with enough left to fill every mayonnaise jar in North America.

So, I decided to improve myself and my year by making a few resolutions.  And the making of them caused me to look back at past resolutions which is when I started to suss out a theme.  Many of them concerned not speaking, speaking (much more likely), and eating.

Oral fixation for $1200, Alex.

I resolve to forgo all those extra calories in my mom’s Christmas cookies.  So for the foreseeable future, I’ll be saving the calories by skipping lunch and supper and eating cookies in their place.

I resolve to remember that I am not the hall monitor of the world.  In the unlikely event, someone asks for my advice, I will happily give it.  But I will no longer offer unsolicited; my judgments, warnings, and wisdom. 

Unless I cut this out, and quick, I face the very real risk of becoming that person; the one who always knows what’s best, knows what you’re doing wrong, and knows the right way things should go.

Nobody likes this guy or is happy to see him.  The people around him are constantly looking for reasons to leave, “OMG, would you look at the time?  I need to pick up my friend from the airport, and help a co-worker move.”

That guy’s like the biter in kindergarten.  That kid never gets invited to birthday parties.

I vow to shut up, be present, and listen.  Far too often in a conversation with someone, I get very enthusiastic, and that causes me to interrupt them.  That’s rude and annoying.  And many times I only half-listen while I feverishly think about what I’ll say next.  Then I jump in by interrupting.  It’s a vicious, irritating circle.

I promise to put down that plastic and back away.  I might put it in cart, but I really need to stop proceeding to checkout.  I need no more bottoms, no more tops, and no more shoes (Really?  No new shoes?  Yes really.  Now shut up and pretend you’re a grownup).  I have enough dog walking/play clothes to walk every dog in North Carolina in clean clothes—twice a day.    

Who knew shopping in one’s pajamas could be such a dangerous proposition?  Amazon, thou art an evil temptress.

One year from today I’d like to have regained my fluency in Spanish.  When we moved to North Carolina in 1979, after three years in Puerto Rico and three more in San Diego, I could read a Spanish-language book and carry on a conversation in Spanish.  I spent a week in Mexico without speaking a word of English.

After decades of disuse, much of it has been forgotten.  My goal is to be able to freely converse  with the young woman at my local panaderia (bakery).  I’d like to be able to order a pastry without accidentally telling her that my cupcake has fleas (it totally doesn’t).

Finally, after years of writing about food, this year I want to learn the skills to make me a better photographer of all things edible.  I want people to look at my pix and think, “Holy cow that looks delicious!”, and not “I can never unsee that and I may never eat again.”

Here’s to growth and change in 2020!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

A spicy tale

Boy, I raised one thoughtful spawn.

Very close, very old friends of The Kid just had a baby (not quite one of those new year babies—they missed it by about 36 hours).

But since it’s not possible to wrap up sleep and deliver it all tied up with a pretty bow, my child did the next best thing; the gift of time was chosen.

Homemade wild rice chicken chowder and a lentil stew were made, along with something sweet with which to nibble.  The chowder and stew were prepared and are in the chill chest in freezer bags.  But because of The Kid’s work commitments, I volunteered to bake and pack up the cookies.

When the couple was asked for their confectionary preference, a ginger molasses cookie was requested.  Since this particular type is not in our family’s repertoire, an internet search was made.

I found a recipe that I felt hit most of the notes, and started with that.  Then I fleshed it out by altering flavor and techniques.

I used a vanilla bean and vanilla extract.  The caviar I added to the butter.  I tossed the empty pod into my sugar canister.  The original recipe, for some reason, never called for nutmeg.  I added it.  I also added nutmeg to the rolling sugar.I used a cookie scoop to portion the dough, instead of just a spoon.  Using one is quicker, easier, and makes all the cookies the same size, which means they all cook at the same time.

I leave you with one crucially important piece of advice.

Do not crowd the cookies in the pan while baking.  And for the love of all that is holy, do not rush them into the oven by cutting short the dough refrigeration time.  They will spread out all over the sheet, and not set up correctly.  I did this, and had to throw away the first batch of nine (See, I crowded the sheet pan).  They tasted really good, but were too thin and gooey to live.

Chewy ginger molasses cookies

ginger cookies 2

1 vanilla bean

1½ cups butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar + more for rolling

½ cup molasses

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 ½ teaspoons salt

 DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Split the vanilla bean, scrape caviar onto butter.  Set aside at room temp to soften.

Whisk together flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Set aside.

With electric mixer, beat together softened butter and 2 cups sugar on medium for 1 minute until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs, molasses, vanilla extract, and beat on medium-low until combined.

Gradually add in dry ingredient mixture and beat until fully incorporated.

Using a medium (about 2 tablespoon capacity) cookie scoop, portion out all the dough.

Refrigerate scoops for 1 hour then remove and them roll into balls.  Return to fridge and let chill another 30-45 minutes.

Fill a small bowl with about 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of nutmeg, and roll four balls in one at a time until they’re completely coated. Place on parchment-covered cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes, spin the pan 180 degrees then bake for 5 more until they begin to slightly crack on top (They’ll crack more while cooling.).  Remove from the oven and transfer cookies, still on parchment to wire racks to cool. Bake off the next four.  Store in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Makes about 2 ½ dozen.

I’ve never been a ginger snap, molasses cookie kind of girl.  But I have to admit, when I tasted one of the rejects, I was really surprised.  Yes, they are very spicy.  But extremely tasty, too.  These are more of a grown-up cookie for somebody who wants less sweet and more sassy to their desserts.  They would also be really, really good cookies with which to make ice cream sandwiches, say with some butter pecan, or peach ice cream.

And again, do not rush these into the oven.  They must be very cold and hard before hitting the heat or you will have delicious manhole covers.

This is bad.  You do not want this.

Thanks for your time.