Saturday, January 20, 2007

Supernatural Brownies

...Really, they're out of this world!

16 T. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
8oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 t. salt
1 C. granulated sugar
1 C. firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 C. all-purpose flour

13x9x2 pan; buttered and lined.
Oven 350 (conventional) 325 (convection)

1. Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler until smooth.
2. Whisk eggs; add salt, sugars & vanilla. Stir in chocolate mixture.
3. Fold in flour.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan & spread evenly.
5. Bake 45 minutes, until top has formed a shiny crust and batter is moderately firm. Cool in pan on rack. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature until next day.

To cut brownies, unmold onto a cutting board, remove paper and replace with another cutting board (on top). Turn cake right side up and trim away edges. Cut brownies into 2 inch squares, or for more servings, cut again into triangles.

Storage: It is best to wrap brownies individually and keep them at room temperature in a tin or plastic container. You may also freeze them.

Variation:
Add 2 cups of chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter.

Recipe

Friday, January 19, 2007

Scared...

I hate to admit this, but, I'm a little bit scared in my house tonight.

It's cold and creaky. And it's dark outside. So dark...

And last night, while I slept, someone, a man, walked up to my front door, turned around and walked away. I don't know why, I don't know who, all I know is when.

It snowed yesterday, really, for the first time this year. It started while I was at school and when I came home at 11pm, there was about 1/4 inch of that slushy icy stuff that happens when it sleets and snows at the same time. I parked at the very top of my driveway just in case there was more. I left 1 set of foot prints which walked directly to my door, and went inside.

I was wearing my chef clogs, which are heavily ridged on the bottom of their heavy rubber soles. It helps with the slippage.

I have motion lights installed in the front, back and side of my house, so when someone or something walks up, I can see their arrival. I guess the Jamie fiasco makes me super sensitive to it, because I always notice when they are on.

I was in my computer room until about midnight, and then retreated into my bedroom, door shut, alarm on.

At 7:30 this morning I opened my front door and saw a set of footprints that did not belong to me. Right in front of my door.

I was so startled that I didn't even step outside of my house. It was easy to see that they were not mine, and that the imprints were fresher than the others. It looked like they were at least 2-3 hours old.

They were from a man. I have a size 10 shoe. That's considered big for a girl. These were easily a 12 or a 13. They were dress shoes. No tread on the bottom. Weird in a snow storm. Even more weird for a lurker.

So now my head spins tails...who came to my door in the wee hours of the night? Why was he wearing dress shoes? What were his intentions and why did he stop? No one knocked, there was no doorbell rung. There wasn't even anything left in my mailbox or stuck inside my door-I thought perhaps the Jahova's witnesses came by again...but after midnight? Not on your life.

Or mine.

So, now I sit alone on a Friday night, jumpy and angry that I feel this way. I'm supposed to be a grown up. I'm supposed to be strong and independent. But I'm just freaked out.

After I drove away to work this morning, I thought about what I should do. Should I have photographed the footprint just in case? Should I have notified the police? I know, it sounds silly, but if you know my history, you'll know why I had that thought.

I also received 4 hang ups on my machine. I no longer have caller id.

I think I'll go read in my room, with the alarm on now...

Morality

Tuesday night I had a moral dilemma or sorts. Know-it-all, the arrogant guy at school who thinks he is better than everyone, messed up pretty publicly.

I have a few new readers, so let me explain why most of you who know me can imagine why it was hard for me to hold back my smile when he took this nose dive...

During orientation in April, this kid already put it on the table that he's experienced, that he knows what he's doing, and that he doesn't wait around for others to catch up. He was arrogant, cocky and overall, quite annoying. I worried about him at first, but then looked at it in a positive light, hoping that we'd become friends and he would teach me what he knows.

School started, and I hated him. He was everything I mentioned above, and worse. The slower kids in class were made fun of. He complained all of the time, and picked on people who weren't naturally talented. But there were 4 of us who emerged as leaders and we quickly learned to stick together.

As our class has diminished (from 10 to now just us 4!) he's grown on me. Though I still think he's all of those things I mentioned above, I also have seen a sensitive, inquisitive and sometimes-for a split second-humble side of him. He sees me as his direct competition in class (because I always kick his ass in our cooking practicles!) and has grown to respect me. He does, however, still boast about his skills ("You know how much calamari I've fried in my days?"), make fun of the new people and basically talks too much about nothing.

He is my driving force-the one who keeps me motivated to study for 30 more minutes when I can barely keep my eyes open, and why I obsess about my grades. It kills me that he's got a photogenic memory and that he scores almost perfect on almost all of our tests.

11 weeks after our junior mod, Know-it-all effed up majorly. Tuesday we turned in our biggest project of our careers. It included researching, planning, creating and presenting an imaginary restaurant. We had layouts to design, menus and recipes to write, cost cards to create and a whole lot of demographic data that had to be compiled.

We had 11 weeks to do this.

K-I-A waited until 1 hour before class to print everything out. His files didn't download correctly at the school, he lost 3 of his recipe procedures and never got to draw his footprint of the restaurant. He was almost in tears when I arrived.

So this was my dilemma. Inside, I was thinking, "This is a major part of our grade, and he's going to get less than 100%." But my heart also sank for him. He ran past me in the hall and said in an ever so sad and desperate voice, "Please help me."

What could I do? I worked my fingers as fast as I could stuffing plastic protectors, consoling him as I went. He'd do fine, I said...and I really hoped it was true.

It's funny how I could be so torn. Here I am, thinking this is finally a way that his GPA will drop a bit so I can inch forward. With 4 people in our class, competition is really getting fierce. But then, I was thinking how I would feel if this happened to me. I just couldn't let him out to dry.

It appears that K-I-A has become someone I care about...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fed Up!

That's it! I'm putting up a sign.

I usually hate it when people put up anonymous signs stating something they think everyone feels, but this company is ridiculous with their bathroom manners.

The women here use the bathroom as a social hangout, often lingering for as much as 15-20 minutes gabbing about nothing and everything. The other day, while I was standing in the stall's door trying to close it so I could pee, a woman from my office talked to me about her daughter.

For 10 minutes!

Finally, I just said, "I don't mean to be rude, but I really have to go to the bathroom." And I shut to door.

And I love the talking through the stalls thing...does no one else want privacy while they do their stuff?!

Today was the worst-I went in there and 2 ladies were talking. One started brushing her teeth and the other one...wait for it-laid down on the couch to take a nap!!!

It's out of hand. There's no hope for me ever peeing in private here-let alone if I need to stay a little longer to...er...you know.

What should my sign say? I'm totally posting it tomorrow, so suggestions are welcome!

House of Boo

I have a lot of new readers, and so it's hard for me to simply go into a story about people I've talked about in the past. So, before I write about a most excellent (and strange) discovery, I must preface it with a "who's who in the land of Mags" story...

I have a crazy neighbor. He's in his mid-late 40's, lives in the nicest house on the block, never drives anywhere and keeps all of the lights off in the house. He walks to the bus stop down the street at odd hours-like 11pm. He shops at this hour, and walks home from the market (with a stolen cart) at like, 12:30 am. He wears the same coat all year round. He has a crazy comb-over hairstyle. When it snows, he's been known to start snowblowing his driveway but then retreating when he sees me shoveling.

I call him Boo. (Or Crazy Boo) It's a nod to one of my most favorite books. You may have heard of it. "To Kill A Mockingbird".

So, this whole time (2+ years) I've lived next to a crazy man who seemingly lives alone but has a very old father who comes to take care of him once a week or so. I never see anyone taking care of the place, but yet, it's immaculate. One night, we did see lights on, but an hour later saw Boo walking home...indeed, a strange character.

This is my startling announcement: Boo's parents live with him! Yes, that's right-he has a mother!

The other day I made an impromptu trip home during work to check on my basement. As I pulled into my driveway, I saw the old man (who sometimes smokes outside=father) and waved. He is, incidentally, the only one who waves. I could never figure out if he lived there or just visited...BUT-I also saw a little old lady with a hankercheif on her head waddling toward the door inside the garage!

This, to me, is amazing. 2 years I've lived here! 2 years I've been trying to figure out what's up in the Radley house...and for 2 years I've only come up with a handful of clues-most of which pointed to Boo is a crazy dude who's daddy takes care of him! NEVER have I seen a mother-any woman for that matter!! I feel like I should bring her a caserole or something...

This may not seem like a big deal to you-but it's immense, really...now, if only Boo would leave me little gifts in my tree...

*T-I know I said I had a culinary story today, but really-this ursurps any story about food at the moment! I hope you understand...

Thursday 13

Thirteen H'or Derves I'm Thinking of Making for My Next Job...
1. Mini Artichoke Tarts
2. Shrimp Wontons with Sweet Chili Soy Sauce
3. Lobster Quesadillas
4. Chicken Liver Crostini
5. Crab & Endive stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
6. Stuffed Shitakes w/ Chestnut & Apple Chutney
7. Warm Red & Yellow Tarts with Goat Cheese Sauce
8. Tuna wasabi Wontons
9. Samon & Goat Cheese Crostini
10. Mini Mushroom Pizzas
11. Chorizo & Potato Tortilla Bites
12. Blue Cheese and Onion Tarts
13. Tequilla Marinated Shrimp Pizzas





Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Light Saver

I remember the first time I realized Matt tried to kill himself. I was embarrassed, bewildered and scared.

I couldn't imagine why someone so talented, personable and smart could fall into the person he'd become. I didn't know how we'd gotten there or how we'd get out. I didn't know what I would do if I found him dead.

I was afraid I'd react inappropriately.

There were days where I'd panic when I saw he was home first-worried I'd open the bathroom door to find a bloody bathtub and a stark white husband. There were nights where I'd sit in the corner of our large bedroom, begging him to come home while we talked on his cell phone. He liked to dare the cars to hit him.

I could hear the wind as they just missed, the horns blaring with affirmation. Who's affirmation it was is still a question.

I remember feeling like I was a failure-that I wasn't worth being married to. Why else would he be so miserable and want to end his life? Why else could he not pull himself out of the depths of hell to become the man I married?

The thing about those situations is that there are always too many why's. And never a single person who can give you an answer-at least not one that makes any sense of the craziness and unpredictability that has become your life. And the reality of that, simply put, sucks ass.

But there's another reality-the reality that certain people are born to be survivors, and other people are born to test them. Sometimes, the survivors feel like crossing the line-turning in their gloves for a beer and a razor or even perhaps, for complacency.

But they don't have it in them. They are fighters. They are winners and losers. They are rebounders.

They are mothers and Jedi's.

And they have it in them, even when they don't.

May the force be with you. I pray...

Over the Edge

"You never know how far you can go until you fall over the edge. Then, you can regroup and figure out where your limit was, and work on moving it closer." ~Chef B


Every mod (semester in culinary school) I have a new "most favorite" instructor. Last mod it was my baking teacher, who showed genuine interest in who we were as people and how she could help us be who we wanted to be through cooking. Yes, she's still on the top of my list, but I do believe her title has been usurped by Chef B.

He's goofy, I think that's why I like him. He's silly and carefree and talks in crazy voices. His eyes dance when he talks about his experiences and he tells really good stories.

He's also a human bank of inspirational quotes, metaphors, French terms and advice. He likes to fish, which sucks for us, because he's the one testing us on fish.

Chef B is lovely to cook with. He teaches classic ways of doing things, and then tells us how he does them and why. Sometimes he takes the classic route, other times-not so much. He hates curly leaf parsley and table grind black pepper.

I'm sad because this mod ends next week, and though I'm excited to be considered a senior (but I have 2 more mods left) I will miss spending 2 nights a week with this eclectic man who's taught me more than any book ever will. Yes, there is a chance we will have him again in our last mod, but he eludes to not being here by then, and too often to ignore it.

I plan on giving presents of gratitude to the 3 chef instructors (so far) who have really touched my life. Chef B is one of them, however he may not be here in July. I'm wondering if I should give him a card next week just in case.

It's tragic, to me, to meet someone who's touched your life but to not tell them they did so. Perhaps it's silly, but I think about how good it makes me feel to have someone tell me I've inspired them, made them smile, or make their lives better, and I want to be able to do that for someone else.

Should I do so now? Or should I wait? My only concern is that he won't leave, and then there's that possibility that I will look like a suck up. Teacher's pet, yes. Suck up, no.

Overall, it's my own insecurities that make me wonder. Telling someone you appreciate them can never be a bad thing...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Toosdae ?'s

It's Toosdae once again, and you know what that means! Question time! There are 4 today, but feel free to only answer the ones you want...of course, you KNOW that I'd love to see you take them all on. They're easy today, as my brain is fried from finishing a huge project and studying...have fun!

1. There is a letter sitting on your door step. It doesn't say who it is from, and there is no postmark. What does it say? (And do you know who it's from?)

2. Would you consider working for the secret police organization in your country? Why or Why not?

3. Are you more apt to be gobsmacked or to lollygag?

4. Would you rather have to always wear a superhero costume or always talk in an obviously fake voice?

1. I recently entered a drawing to win a trip to Italy. This letter is thanking me for my entry, and telling me how to redeem my prize. It's unmarked because the sweepstakes people are secretly filming my reaction and feel they'll get a bigger explosion of joy if I don't know who sent the letter.

2. Not unless they were blackmailing me. (Who gave them those pictures anyway?!)

3. I tend to be more of a lollygagger myself...but I have had some damn fine gobsmacking moments too.

4. Unless the superhero was super chic, I'd choose the obviously fake voice. After a while, people would get used to it, and they'd act as though it were my own.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Swan, An Umbrella and Doritos

In my 6th year of elementary school I was in love with a boy named Billy. He was tall with dark hair and dark eyes and freckles that graced his slender nose.

He played the drums.

6th grade was the year we'd all meet by the big slide after stepping off of the bus to find out who asked who out the previous night, and who was still single. It was a small school in a small town, and so after a few weeks, our meetings focused on how long each couple kissed.

That is, except for me. I was not be asked out by a boy until 7th grade. And wasn't kissed until 9th. (But I digress)

Billy also avoided sweet coupledom just long enough for me to create a very romantic and unrealistic picture of why he chose to stay single. It was, of course, because he was in love with me! Oh, this shy, drum playing boy with chocolate colored eyes and spiky black hair...how he stole my heart.

Yes, he stole it, and gave it away to a girl months later. I found out in this manner:

Billy: Mags! I just kissed Tiffany for 17 minutes in the woods!

Billy B made my heart pound harder than anyone I had ever met before. He is the first boy I remember standing close to just so I could smell him. Our desks were often arranged side by side and by the end of the day, I would be drunk with love and longing. He made me laugh but also made me cry.

As the summer approached, my parents suggested I throw a party. It was the last year we would all be together as one and old friendships would be harder to uphold. And so it was that all but (about) 5 of my classmates came to celebrate our graduation. We played volleyball, kickball, and had a bon fire.

And then there was the dancing.

There's really no way to describe the level of self-consciousness that a slightly chubby, taller than everyone else by 2 inches, never been asked out girl feels when everyone at the party is slow dancing, but you. It's awful. It's terrible. It makes you want to run.

Some will say this next part is heroic. But to me, it's just plain mortifying...

My father paid Billy to slow dance with me. He even handed him the money before the dance, thinking I wouldn't see him because it was dark. I am sure he was drunk. My father, not Billy.

We never danced, Billy and I. I don't remember who said no to the proposition, but I'm sure it was mostly a mutual decision. Though we had a class together in the beginning of 7th grade, Billy and I hardly spoke after that. By 8th grade, he moved away.

Looking back, I'm not terribly certain what exactly I saw in him. Perhaps I saw him as the boy who would most likely go out with me, or perhaps he just smelled right, but in my 6th year of elementary school, a boy named Billy stole my heart.

I still remember his phone number.