Category Archives: Fun Stuff

The science behind the chocolate chip cookie

About 15 years ago…just when my daughter had mastered the art of asking for a cookie, I re-introduced myself to the world of baking and cooking.  I’d been a single corporate businesswoman for so long, that cooking had fallen way, way out of my sights. But now with a curly-haired angel sweetly cooing the words “cookie, cookie, cookie” at me, I had to start baking again.  When I’d been married (many years earlier) my then-husband was a spectacular chef and baker. Thanksgivings at our home was amazing.  He created imaginative delicious stuffings.  Family dinners…delish.  Irish coffee with fresh whipped cream.   Peppered strawberries with Pernod.  But after we split up, my culinary appetite went into a bit of hybernation.  Until my kidlet started chanting and visions of baked cookies with a house filled with scents of vanilla overwhelmed me.  I had to make cookies.

From Seriouseats.com

And so, I became obsessed with finding the perfect chocolate chip recipe.  I was unaware that this was a challenge.  And I became confused over why my perfect recipe from Montreal, Quebec was not working right in Encino, California.   Until I found radio cooking shows (way, way before The Food Channel!).  I listened to every show I could find and there were actually entire shows dedicated to chocolate chip cookies (especially around the holidays) and I started to understand that there was, in fact, more than just a dash of this and a handful of that, but a science that was incredibly appealing to me!

So, for those of you who want to really understand what goes on in the chemical world of the chocolate chip cookie, here is one of the best articles on how and what make for the gooey goodness that we like to munch and savor, written byJ. Kenji López-Alt back in 2013.  http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2013/12/the-food-lab-the-best-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

As for me, I’m going to be hunting and digging, seeking and searching for chocolate chip cookie excellence at the LA Cookie Con on Feb 6 & 7th in Los Angeles.  See you there!

Me Want Cookie.

As Cookie Monster would say…”me want cookie”…and the LA Cookie Con is about to deliver, big-time.  As someone who has eternally been in search of the perfect chocolate chip cookie, I can’t wait to see what is in store.  My friend and baker supreme invited me to join her this year and I’m beyond excited.

Taking place at the LA Convention Center, Saturday headliner is Ron Ben-Israel,  star of Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” and known as the “King of Cakes” for his cake-decorating acumen.

On Sunday, the show’s headliner is Rosanna Pansino,  of “Nerdy Nummies” (YouTube), a popular baking show.

But whether you are an amateur (me), or a superbaker (my companion), this is a fun event and not to be missed.  Tickets are sold out for Saturday, with some VIP tickets still available, and afternoon tickets on Sunday.

http://www.lacookiecon.com/

Owling Replacing Planking? Sez Who?

So, you want to be ahead if the latest viral trends? Remember planking, where people would take pics of themselves, lying like a plank (in a stiff as a board position) in odd places. Except that a few errors in judgement had a couple of kids falling to their deaths from planking in unsafe spots…like on a balcony railing many floors up…yeah. Well here it’s the latest viral trend. Owling. Couple of days old.  Silly, funny. Caution advised in choosing staging areas.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/15/owling-replacing-planking_n_896415.html

Do you practice Safe Breath?

I LOVE innovative marketing campaigns and Dentyne has hit the mark with this one, at least in my books!  Keep reading for a chance to win a very cool, fun prize.

The Safe Breath Alliance (SBA), the first completely made-up organization committed to educating Americans about the importance of practicing safe breath, led by actor, comedian Marlon Wayans, has officially declared February 2011 “Safe Breath Awareness Month.”  I LOVE it! ….more>>….

Together Step

My little thought for the day.

My daughter, in Grade 5, 10 1/2 years old, has a creative teacher whose experiential teaching background (think LAUSD meets Outward Bound) comes up with all sorts of inventive ways to challenge the kids forward.  One of the exercises (pre-pre SAT prep, really) is looking at word derivations and roots.  He’s using word roots so the kids get an understanding of vocubulary construction. 

Our Friday morning drive to school includes me quizzing her on her words, since Friday is test day and a chance to win stars.  Enough stars and you can cash them in for anything from a prize from his secret goodie box, up to being teacher for a day.  So my daughter, who likes the idea of being in charge (wonder who she gets that from…) is very motivated to get her 60 stars and be teacher for a day.  I say the words, my daughter tells me the meaning.  This past week was about walking and stepping.  In-gress.  E-gress.  Di-gress.  Con-gress. 

Being somewhat politically astute, “congress” caught my attention and hit my sarcasm bone, which used to be a funny bone until about mid-2009.  It’s word roots are “con” meaning “together” and “gradi” meaning “walk or step”.  Congress literally means “together step”.  When you think of the US Congress, the idea is that together, the two bodies — the House and the Senate — step our country forward. 

However, when you look at the past couple of years, in fact, it might, should, perhaps be renamed Digress.  Or “away step”.  No?

Battling the squirrels

My garden includes flowering plants and many fruit trees.  Right now the nectarines are ripening, which means that the squirrels will start their annual fight with me.  They try to eat up all my nectarines before they are big enough to ripen off the tree and I try to chase them away (with the help of Daisy the Wonderdog and the occasional help of Roxie the Beautiful) long enough to get a couple of dozen fruit from my tree.  Now that I’m even more invested in locally grown and organic produce, every nectarine won is a triumph over the mulitnational conglommerates that ruin run our food chain.  The squirrels are creatures of nature and just doing their thing,  but they don’t seem to understand my mission.  I’m happy for them to take a nectarine…if they would eat the darn thing.  But they take a fruit, take a bite and drop it back in my garden.  Daisy and I have tried to re-educate them.  Daisy by barking at them viciously with an orange ball in her mouth, and me by running outside and glaring at them.  (That doesn’t work, by the way.)

I’ve tried tying moth balls in pantyhose and dangling them from branches.  Doesn’t work.  Dangling pie-plates from branches.  Doesn’t work.  Wrapping the trees in mesh.  Only works if you seal every possible gap with plastic ties.

I need to reframe my view of squirrels for you.  When I was a little girl, growing up in Montreal, I LOVED squirrels.  Thought they were the cutest things ever with their little bushy tails.  They were mostly grey and some were brown.  Moving to Toronto in 1982, I encountered, for the first time in my life, black squirrels.  Strange looking, but I got used to them, too.  My grandmother, however, did not.  She was convinced they were rats with bushy tails.  She had never liked them in Montreal, but now, in Toronto, the black squirrels were evil rats, ready to pounce on her.  She would NOT take a walk in the park and would only gingerly venture into my mother’s spacious garden, backing onto a stunning park.  Sadly, the image of bushy-tailed rats ready to jump on one’s head, is what has stuck with me.  So my battle with the squirrels, is a battle with rats.

Darn it.  That fat grey rat with the super-bushy tail just grabbed another nectarine.  That’s MY organic produce!  Gotta go and chase it away with my big orange fruit-picking pole (doesn’t work, but makes me feel better.)