Thursday, April 25, 2013

Not-So-Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies





A few years ago, my lovely friend Michelle gave me a recipe that would forever change my life. Her recipe for chocolate chip cookies is so easy, quick and fills one with joy (and possibly/definitely a few pounds.)

I baked these a few days ago for a silent auction my work was having. I figured they would go for $5 but surprisingly, someone actually paid $25 for a batch of 20. Yes, the money was going to charity and not in my pocket but it made me think: Would more people pay me for my goodies?


Oh shit, I have that Ciara song stuck in my head now and I haven't listened to that tune in YEARS. (My goodies, my goodies, my goodies not MY goodies! Good. Now it's stuck in your head.) Also, whatever happened to Petey Pablo?

This recipe calls for walnuts but since my grocery store stopped carrying them, and I'm too lazy to go looking elsewhere, I substitute them with pecans and they taste just as delicious. Feel free to use whatever nuts you like, or, if you're a nut hater, no nuts at all. I've never written the word nut as many times as I just did now.


Thank you Michelle for this gift, and for making me become a fatty lumpkin.

P.S. I'm going to New York City for a long weekend so I probably won't be posting again until late next week.




Michelle's chocolate chip cookies

Yields about 25 cookies

- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup roasted, chopped walnuts (or pecans)
- 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

(raisins or apricots are also a suitable option instead of nuts but I dislike both so I've never tried.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.*

Add eggs one at a time, blending each one in well before adding the next. Blend in the vanilla and set aside.

Using a food processor (I just use a blender), pulse together nuts (or raisins/apricots) with 1/2 cup flour.

Add this mix to the butter mixture and mix in remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop heaping spoonfuls on to the baking sheet. Leave room in between the cookies because they expand while baking. Bake for 10 minutes until they get a very light golden colour.** Cool on wire rack.

*One trick I've learned over the years is to leave the butter out on the counter for at least a few hours before baking so that it softens. That way it's easier to beat and you're not screaming at the butter when it's rock hard and refuses to be beaten.

**Baking times may vary depending on the oven. I usually have to bake these cookies for around 15 minutes. Also, they make look not completely baked because they are very soft when first coming out of the oven, but they should eventually harden.




Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Massage


Lois knew something was wrong as soon as the masseuse told her she was a doctor of Chinese medicine.

"I'm really good at what I do," said the masseuse as she slung burning hot towels on Lois' back and calves.

Lois grimaced into the head rest. She could feel the spit starting to pool at the corner of her mouth.

The masseuse took her hand and Lois immediately tensed up. "Relax," barked the masseuse. Lois did as she was told.

The towel, which was starting to feel uncomfortably wet, slithered off her back onto the floor.

"Oopsy!" said the masseuse, "this is easier when you're lying down." She whipped the towel on Lois' back. Her knees, in crouching position on the chair, quivered for a second.

After the masseuse had finished tugging Lois' fingers, she moved to her back and started to grind at the base of her neck.

"Oh, you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders," she chuckled. Lois started to nod "uh, yeah…" until the masseuse interrupted: "Don't move! It will disturb your chakra." Lois' face was pushed deeper into the head rest, the top of her nose rubbed against it. Lois started to panic. She knew her sensitive nose would likely sprout a pimple. But she resolved to stay absolutely still and relaxed. She tensed her neck.

The masseuse took her arm ("limp!" she commanded, and Lois obeyed) and pulled it behind her back. Gaaaawwwdddaaammmnnittttt Lois repeated over and over as the masseuse shook her body back and forth.

The sound of synthesized waves played over a Spanish guitar track.

The cramped room smelled of the $5 vanilla lotion you can get at Home Sense.

Suddenly the masseuse lifted up Lois' shirt. Ok, this is happening, thought Lois. Still, she did not move a muscle. Relax, she commanded herself. You are relaxing.

The masseuse spread oil over her back and pinched her muscles hard. Gaaawwwwddddaaaammmmnnniiiitttt, she thought.

Then it was on to the neck and shoulders. The masseuse dug her elbows and then her knuckles as deep as Lois' muscles would let her. And still, Lois did not move a muscle.

She felt her shirt rise up again and a hot surface pressed down hard on her back. What the fuck is this witchcraft? she thought. And still, she did not move a muscle.

When the masseuse finished, Lois sat still in the chair, her limbs tense with anticipation. She could feel the beginning of a pimple forming at the top of her nose but she was too afraid to move her head, for fear of retribution.

WHACK.

What the… WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK.

The hard, wide stick kept hitting Lois from the base of her neck to the bottom of her spine. WHACK WHACK WHACK. Still, Lois did not move a muscle.

"Ok, we're all done!" the masseuse chirped.

Lois sat up the chair, bleary-eyed and confused.

"Thank you," she stammered.

Lois tilted her head side-to-side and stretched her back. I'm going to feel this tomorrow, she thought.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Most Delicious Peach Kuchen

When I was little, my mom used to make this wonderful peach kuchen and I was always trying to get my hands in the yogurt top because, as friends and family know, I am obsessed with yogurt (especially of the cappuccino/coffee variety).

So naturally, since I have many containers of yogurt in my fridge, I thought it would only be natural to start off with a simple yet mouthwatering favourite.

Now, peaches aren't in season until the summer but I usually use canned peaches anyway because they sit in a wonderful, sugary fruit juice which I find makes the peaches taste better. But really, sugar juice makes everything taste better, right?

So the morning started off not quite as planned. A light in my apartment blew so I had to find another and then had to ask my boyfriend to replace it because I was too incompetent (for shame!) Thank you Mike for replacing my lightbulb, letting me borrow your camera and running out to the grocery store to get the main ingredient - the peaches!

I quickly realized that the lighting in my apartment is total shit. Witness:


So after trying multiple angles, different surfaces and lots of new cuss words, I moved to the floor by the windows where the light was much better.


It was really cloudy one minute, the next it was snowing and the next it was pure blue sky so that made for some interesting results with the photos.


I think the photo below is my favourite. Mmmmm peaches.


Nothing makes an apartment smell better than cinnamon. There was some weird, toxic smell in my place the other day but now it's gone. I think the smell of cinnamon is masking it.



Fresh out the oven! (Isn't that a JLo song?)



I had to squat in several uncomfortable positions on the floor to take photos. Not very glamorous but it got the job done.



Peach Kuchen

Crust:
- 1 1/3 cups of flour
- 1/4 tsp of baking powder
- 2 tsp of sugar
- 1/3 cup of margarine or butter
-------
- 12 peach halves, sliced
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 egg
- 1 cup plain yogurt*

*For this recipe I substituted plain yogurt with vanilla yogurt to give it a pit more punch.

Heat the oven at 400 degrees celsius.

Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the margarine/butter into the mixture and blend it together with a fork until it resembles coarse meal. Pour the mix into the pie pan (I use a 9 inch pie pan) and pat it down with a fork. You can also raise the edges of the crust by shifting the mix up on the sides of the pan with your fork.

Arrange your peach slices in a circle over the mix.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this mixture over the pie.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Combine the egg with the yogurt and stir with a fork until it's completely mixed. Once the pie is out of the oven, pour the mix over the pie until it covers the peaches. Put the pie back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Take the pie out of the oven and let cool for half an hour. The yogurt top should have a golden colour to it.

Note: I generally wait until the pie has completely cooled until I dig in because otherwise the yogurt will just melt all over your plate and it gets messy. I prefer to put it in the fridge for at least another half hour after it's cooled on the counter until the yogurt solidifies.

The pie can be kept in the fridge covered for up to five days.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rice Queen



Alison could never admit to her boyfriend Dan that she once got fired from a job because she hadn't cooked rice properly. The truth was, and Alison always blushed when she thought about it, the truth was, that Alison had no fucking idea how to make rice.

Her mom, Valerie, never taught her how and Alison never thought to ask even though the rice her mom served at home had to be covered in blobby layers of breadcrumb-filled Becel margarine or with squirts of soy sauce.

Alison always thought that's how rice was supposed to be made; with a good dose of distracting, sweet flavours.

The day Alison got fired, she was contemplating whether to have sex with her boyfriend Steve.

They had been dating for three weeks and Alison had given Steve a total of four blow jobs, all in the basement of Alison's mother's home. Alison always called the house she lived in her mother's home and not her home because whenever her mom yelled at Alison on the phone to come home after being out too late with Steve she would say "Damnit Alison, you get back to my house RIGHT. NOW."

As Alison boarded the Mississauga Transit bus at Meadowvale Mall, she thought, If Steve doesn't ask me to be his girlfriend tonight I definitely won't have sex with him for at least another few weeks. She frowned. I wonder if he will get tired of just getting blow jobs.

She looked at her smudged reflection in the bus window: Her plain brown hair curled at the end as if she had just dipped it in water. She searched for a hint of exotic colour in her brown eyes but was disappointed, again. She tilted her chin up to hide the subtle but growing second chin and sucked in her cheeks. She was 17 going on 25 and she wished she had a boyfriend to make her life complete.

When she got to Mrs. Crawley's house Alison was in a panic. What if Steve is just playing her? Does he even want to have sex with her? Ohmygawd is he gay???

Alison whipped out her cell phone and was about to call Steve and beg him to be her boyfriend but she stopped. She could wait until tonight when she saw him in person. It would be harder for him to say no if she was giving him a handjob, right?

She punched in the code that opened the door to Mrs. Crawley's house and walked inside. Quiet. Alison had no idea what she was doing there.

Mrs. Crawley was a 76-year-old blind grandmother who lived with her daughter, Clarice and her husband, Bill. Mrs. Crawley, blind Mrs. Crawley, lived on the third floor of the massive semi-detached home in a small room that was covered in paintings of Jesus on the cross, Jesus resurrected, close-up Jesus with a crown of thorns, baby Jesus and Jesus as Elvis Presley.

Alison called up the stairs, "Mrs. Crawley? It's Alison." She waited a beat and then went up the stairs to Mrs. Crawley's room. As expected, Mrs. Crawley was sitting on her rocking chair, thumbing through her bible.

"Alison, get me my slippers," she croaked. Alison inwardly groaned, found the slippers and tugged, bended and pulled at the slippers until they fit Mrs. Crawley's misshapen feet.

"I want you to read to me downstairs and prepare dinner," said Mrs. Crawley, who started to shuffle her way to the staircase.

"Sure thing!" Alison said, in what she hoped sounded cheerful but was afraid came off as crazy.

Maybe she was crazy to still be working here. After all, this wasn't what she signed up for when she applied to work payroll at a small company that supplied personal support workers for the elderly, disabled and plain old batshit insane.

But when her boss told her that an employee had just quit and they needed someone to fill her place right away, Alison shrugged when she found herself going to Mrs. Crawley's once a week for four hours at $8.00 an hour to read her the bible and prepare her meals.

Alison wasn't religious. She went to Sunday school once when her mom had to drop her off at the church in Toronto early before a choir practice. Alison didn't listen to the word of God that day because she was too busy trying to remember the lines for the song "Angel of Death" that she was supposed to perform that day.

The chorus went like this:

Angel of death flying overhead,
Crosses of blood on the door shine red,
Death to the firstborn of man and beast,
this is the night of the Passover feast,
Angel of Death pass by.

Alison wondered whether Mrs. Crawley would appreciate it if she sang her some bars from that song. She thought better of it.

Mrs. Crawley sat at the kitchen table. For a blind woman, she was really good at knowing exactly where everything was in the house, Alison admired. Mrs. Crawley also remembered every verse of the Bible and which page her favourite quotes were, much to Alison's chagrin.

"Make the rice and chicken first and then read to me," demanded Mrs. Crawley. "All you have to do is put the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes and then rest it on the table."

Alison nodded. Silence. "Oh, yeah, no problem" she gulped. Into the oven the bird went, and into the pot went the rice. Once again, panic calmly drizzled over Alison's body. Ok, she thought, just add a cup of water and then a cup of rice. Or is that two cups of rice? Or is it one-and-a-half cups? She poured in what she thought was a reasonable amount of water and stirred and waited and waited and stirred.

After 10 minutes of stirring and waiting, the water level seemed to not have moved an inch. Is the water supposed to evaporate? What is the rice supposed to look like? She looked at the clock again. 20 minutes. It has to be cooked. She thought the water level had gone down a little bit. She drained the water and put the rice on a plate for Mrs. Crawley.

"What is that smell?" Mrs. Crawley asked. Oh shit, the chicken. Alison pulled out the bird and immediately noticed the big black spot on the breast. Nothing that blindness and a knife can't fix.

She arranged the chicken and rice on the plate and brought it to Mrs. Crawley, sweat pouring down her back and chest. Mrs. Crawley sniffed it, then tasted the rice. "Is it cooked?" she asked. "Of course!" squeaked Alison. A pause. "Do you cook at home?" she asked. "Oh, all the time," said Alison while shaking her head.

She felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. Steve.
"Babe, gotta cancel 2nite sry."

Alison sighed. At least she wouldn't have to give a blowjob. She sat down at the table and opened the Bible.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New beginnings, some nervousness and a grumbling stomach

Hi,

I'm Chloe and this is my second blog. My first attempt at blogging, about my "insights" on fashion, ended after I realized that I would rather spend my time reading other people's blogs than writing my own. And to be honest, I got bored.

I'm hoping that won't happen this time 'round.

I'm not a professional baker by a long shot but I've always been interested in baking and frankly I'm way better at it than cooking. There are way too many things that can go wrong with cooking and so many ingredients and herbs and spices that I get completely lost and overwhelmed so that many days I end up eating vanilla yogurt for dinner. Sad, right?

But a few years ago, I moved into my own apartment, and discovered that those who can't cook, bake. And so I did: Peach pies, butter tarts, coffee cake, cheese scones, berry tarts, chocolate pudding... oh God, it all went right to my belly (and in some lucky friends' stomachs too).

Two summers ago I took a baking arts class at the local college and I loved it. There's something about baking that is so easy and yet so fun and relaxing. (Except when I'm trying to gently coax a bundt cake out of the pan, then the "fuck fuck fuck FUCKs" come out).

At my job I sit at a desk all day and although I love what I do (I'm an online style editor), I miss doing things with my hands. And since I'm no good at woodcutting, I thought I would start take baking a bit more seriously and improve my skills and I hope share delicious recipes and photos with you.

The second part of this blog has nothing to do with food, although food might be mentioned.

I'm also a writer; I write for my job and I am struggling with figuring out my first novel.

My work writing is completely different from my creative writing and I want to focus more on the creative part and revisit my love for writing fiction.

So, some posts won't be baking recipes at all but short stories which I hope you will like. Even if you don't like them, that's cool! Just skip the crap and go straight to the delicious treats.

I encourage you to write in the comments and send me feedback, criticism, recipe ideas or suggestions or just to say "hello" or "you suck."

Bon app├ętit!

Chloe Tejada