Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cinnamon Chubbies: A Tasty Holiday Treat

2 cups flour (plus extra for rolling dough)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sugar, split
2 eggs, well beaten
4 Tablespoons of ground cinnamon

Combine and set aside flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg

Cream together butter and vanilla
Gradually add 1 cup sugar and beat well
Add eggs in thirds and mix until fluffy
Gradually add dry ingredients and mix until smooth

Cover dough and chill for at least an hour

Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon in a flat, shallow baking dish

Dust a clean, flat surface with flour
Remove 1/3 of the chilled dough from the refrigerator
Using a rolling pin, roll into a flat, even circle
Sprinkle a light coating of the cinnamon sugar mix over the dough
Fold the dough inward from the edges until you end up with a lump
Repeat rolling, adding the cinnamon sugar mix, and folding 2 more times, ending with a lump of dough
Using your hands, roll dough into 1 1/2” balls
Toss lightly in the cinnamon sugar mix and place on a cookie sheet, 2” apart
Sprinkle tops with more cinnamon sugar mix
Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes

Repeat twice with remaining chilled dough

Yield: approximately 24

Monday, November 21, 2011

What I Learned From The Muppets

In honor of newly canonized Yummish Saint, Jim Henson:
Kermit the Frog: Sufficient imagination can transform an old coat and a ping-pong ball into one of the most beloved children's characters in history.

Gonzo: You don't need talent or good looks to succeed in show business... if you are willing to be continually humiliated and subject to injury. (The patron saint of reality TV?)

Miss Piggy: a) Sex appeal excuses even the worst behavior. b) Girls should learn to love their curves... and to throw a mean "karate-chop."
Don't hate moi because I'm beautiful.

Fozzie Bear: Oft-repeated catch-phrases are an acceptable substitute for wit

Dr. Teeth: Musicians are the coolest, even if they are made out of foam and felt.

The Electric Mayhem: a) Best band name ever. b) Best backing band ever. (Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, Rita Moreno, Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte, Jean-Pierre Rampal... They played with them all!)

Sam the Eagle: Ultra-conservative blowhards are funny. (I keep expecting him to show up as a commentator for Fox News.)

The Swedish Chef: a) It is perfectly acceptable to break dishes and throw utensils hither, thither, and yon while preparing a meal. b) Cröonchy Stars was an awesome breakfast cereal, but if you ask for it at your local IKEA, they will give you a dirty look.  

The original inspiration for “Mythbusters"?
Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker: It's funny when things go horribly awry and the skinny red-haired guy gets hurt.

Pigs in Space: Pigs are surprisingly well adapted to space travel. (Still my favorite sci-fi show.)

Statler and Waldorf: It's really, really fun to be really, really mean.

...But the muppet who has had, hands-down, the greatest influence over my daily behavior and way of thinking: Animal
The resemblance is uncanny, no?

Today's lesson: Appreciate those odd things from your childhood that helped shaped you into the awesome person you are now.

Next: Cinnamon Chubbies!

25 Things For Which I Am Grateful (In No Particular Order)

  1. Bacon
  2. Buttermilk pancakes with real maple syrup
  3. That there are so many different types of cheese
  4. My mother's homemade jam
  5. Ritter Sport with cornflakes
  6. My bathrobe
  7. Spell check
  8. Hockey in HD
  9. Electric heated motorcycle vests
  10. Warm showers
  11. The view from the top of Albany Hill
  12. That the 49ers don't suck this year
  13. Peet's coffee with Irish cream
  14. Hand sanitizer gel
  15. Control top pantyhose
  16. My hula hoop
  17. That Nicklas Lidstrom took off his shirt for the cover of Café 
  18. The taco truck near my apartment
  19. That someone once answered the question “What should we do with all of these pumpkins?” with “Make pie.”
  20. That my cats like me
  21. That my husband puts up with my crap
  22. Cupcakes
Today's lesson: Count your blessings
Next: What the Muppets taught me 

Dysfunctional Families, National Novel Writing Month, & Shameless Self-Promotion

In recognition of National Novel Writing Month and in honor of dysfunctional families everywhere as we begin the holiday season (and, because frankly, it would be cool to sell some copies of my book), I present to you:

Thanksgiving Day with the Pearsons
An excerpt from “Homecoming: A Novella”
by Yours Truly

My mother was just at the apex of her sugar/alcohol buzz when my aunt and uncle arrived, so they were treated to the most gracious of her host personae. Uncle Cliff had a cold bottle of beer in his hand and was stretched out in my father's recliner chair in front of the TV before he knew what was happening. Aimee was tasked with carrying the bags to the last empty bedroom so her mother and mine could finish off the pitcher of mimosas.

Once they'd had a chance to relax, my mother informed everyone we'd meet Jimmy at the club for a special holiday brunch. I curled myself into the far corner of the couch and started flipping through a magazine. Aimee sat at the other end, picking the chipped nail polish off of her toes. It was my mother's show now and there was nothing to do but sit back and watch the circus.

My aunt oozed sugar as she admired the house and the decor, which my mother greedily lapped up. The sisters went on an inch by inch inspection of the lower level of the house as they sipped their cocktails, my mother nonchalantly pointing out what was new since her sister's last visit and her sister praising her sister's exquisite taste, while letting it slip that she had recently acquired something similar and more expensive. Uncle Cliff had fallen asleep before finishing even half of his beer, the warm house and the white noise of female chatter and football being too much for him. Everyone was settling nicely into his or her rut.

"Cliff! Are you asleep?" chided my Aunt when the Grand Tour returned to the living room.

"Uhn," replied Uncle Cliff, who shifted in his chair, threatening to spill the half-full beer resting limply in his hand.

"Clifford!" she said sharply and there went the beer, all over his pants, the chair and the carpet.

"Dammit, Cherilynn, look what you made me do!" He struggled to haul his notable girth out of the chair.

"Well, who told you to go to sleep with a beer in your hand?"

"OBVIOUSLY, I didn't intend to fall asleep with a beer in my hand..."

"He falls asleep everywhere were go," Cherilynn confided to her sister. "He doesn't sleep right though the night. I think he has that sleep apaplia thing..."

"Sleep apneepa," 'corrected' my mother, knowingly.

"That's it. Anyway, I told him to go see Dr. Mills about it, but..."

"Cheryl!" Uncle Cliff stood dripping, helpless. "I'm soaked here. Quit going on about sleep apnea and get me a towel."

The two sisters made a great flurry of getting towels to dry and soothe Cliff. Soon his ego was assuaged and he was comfortably reseated with a fresh beer.

"You know, I think you're gonna just have to change those pants." Cherilynn hovered over her husband. "Look where it's starting to dry. You can see a line. It's going to stain."

"Hell, honey, I didn't bring any other pants but these. We're only going overnight and I figured I could get two days out of these." My aunt's face burned with embarrassment. A man with a single pair of pants was not a husband to be envied, even if the situation was temporary.

"Then there is nothing to be done about it. We're going to have to wash those. Go upstairs and take those off."

"And what do I wear in the mean time?"

"You can wear your pajama bottoms."

Uncle Cliff considered this and decided it sounded fine to him as his pajamas were more comfortable than the wet dress slacks.

"Wait. What about brunch? He can't wear pajamas to the club!" My mother's eyes were wide.

"Of course not, but he can't go like this." My aunt had a good point.

"Just send them girls out for some donuts. They aren't doing anything," my Uncle offered generously and in a moment my mother's fine plans vanished and were replaced with an overweight brother-in-law sitting around her magnificently appointed living room in his pajamas gorging on donuts and beer. "Get some of them Krispy Kremes. On the way in I saw some kids selling 'em in the parking lot of the Baptist church. Raising money for their Youth Group, I think is what the sign said."

By this point, my mother's buzz was on the decline, as was her blood sugar. The fruit salad and yogurt as well as the club's champagne service would have been the boost she needed to keep her in the Happy Hostess Zone. A box of cold, stale donuts baked who knows how many days ago as part of a fundraiser and purchased in a parking lot was not a satisfactory substitute. I could see the storm clouds forming.

"I think bringing something in is a great idea," I volunteered. "Mama, Aimee and I'd be glad to go pick up something." My mother smiled. She felt safe that, whatever I managed to put together, it would not be Baptist fundraiser donuts.

"OK, honey. You girls probably want to get out of the house for a bit, anyway. Take my car and there's some money in my purse." We all waited a moment for Uncle Cliff to offer some funds. He nearly missed his cue, absorbed as he was in the football game. A gentle smack from his wife's hand to the back of his ear brought his attention around.


"Cliff, give the girls some money." He reached for his wallet and proffered a $5 bill, for which he received another swat.


"Cliff, they need more than that."

"It's $5 a dozen. How many damn donuts are they planning to buy?"

"They aren't getting those nasty donuts. Stop being so awful." Cherilynn relieved him of his wallet, counted out several bills and handed them to me. "Now, go upstairs and get changed so we can get those in the wash." We made for the door as Uncle Cliff dutifully climbed the stairs.

Shameless Self-promotion: “Homecoming: A Novella” is available from Amazon.com, B&N.com, The Sony Reader Store, iTunes, Pegasus Books, Diesel, a bookstore, and Page and Palette.

Today's lesson: If I can write a book, anyone can. National Novel Writing Month isn't over yet. Give it a try. You might find you enjoy playing with words on paper.

Next: 25 Things for Which I Am Grateful

Monday, November 14, 2011

Acequias, Holy Dirt, and Green Chile: A Yummish Pilgrimage to New Mexico

Next time you're driving from Albuquerque to Taos, New Mexico and you see a couple of gabachos standing in the snow on the side of the road, excitedly photographing an ancient irrigation canal, know that John Nichols is to blame.

Though I am a newcomer to the work of this recently canonized Yummish Saint, his 1978 novel The Magic Journey is currently tied with Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow for "Most Mind-blowing Book I've Read." It is the second novel in the New Mexico Trilogy, which also includes The Milagro Beanfield War (on which the Robert Redford film is based) and The Nirvana Blues.” The Berkeley-born* writer has also written about a blue-zillion other books, which I am extremely eager to read. (Great stocking stuffers! Hint, hint... )

“The New Mexico” trilogy is remarkable in many ways, not the least of which are the author's brilliantly complex stories and his extraordinary gift for languages and dialects. Even more impressive is Mr. Nichols' approach to writing about poverty and the impoverished. The characters he has created are both admirable and idiotic, virtuous and flawed, extremely clever and utterly clueless – often simultaneously. To read these stories is to understand that there are no “simple” people living “simple” lives, only people struggling to live, and that the struggle can be as ridiculous and hilarious as it is inspiring. 

Based on my extreme enjoyment of these three books (along with the fact that my brother has recently established a very cozy Yummish Mission in Albuquerque), I decided to take a short trip to New Mexico to sample the culture I'd read about, like dipping a tortilla chip in so much spicy salsa.

Except it wasn't salsa.

It was chile. Green chile. And like so much of New Mexico, it was both different and more compelling than I'd imagined.

I will not even try to sum up the climate, culture, or cuisine of New Mexico. For that, I will direct you to the works of St. John. Instead, I have included some photos from my Pilgrimage to honor this new Yummish Saint.

Fino Chevere, on top of Sandia Peak, Albuquerque, NM.
Factoring in the wind chill, it was about 8 degrees F.
I don't like heights.
I don't like cold.
Yet, I do like this.
Chiles. Not chili. Old Town Albuquerque
Note: I seem to be wearing the same outfit as in the Las Vegas Post.
Note to self: Hie thee hence to H&M. Your wardrobe has gone stale.
High desert, on the road to Taos, looking back toward Santa Fe.
A church in Truchas, NM
Note the icicles. High desert does not equal warm desert.
Wondering if this is what Joe Mondragon's field was like. 
Also wondering if I will ever feel my toes again. 
The only inhabitants of Truchas that we saw.
I saw some of the prettiest, most well-cared-for horses in NM.
The inspiration for Tribby Gordon's Castle of Golden Fools?
I have no idea who lives here, but I am sure that I adore them.
Floodgate of an in-service acequia.
Why do I feel compelled to bust it open with a shovel and plant beans?
Picture it. Two gringos, freezing our white tails off, standing by
the side of the road, taking pictures a wooden aqueduct.
Every time we did something hyper-touristy like this,
we imagined locals driving by, shaking their fists
at the sky and yelling "Damn you, John Nichols."
Outside El Santuario de Chimayo, where we touched holy dirt.
El Santuario y mi hermano, Fino Chevere
Outside Rancho de Chimayo
One bag of green chile. One bag of red. Very Christmas-y.

Inside Rancho de Chimayo.
OK, sometimes there *is* salsa...
and guacamole,
and a roaring wood fire,
and pinon coffee... 

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge with the Taos Ski Valley in the far background.
This is as close as I ever got to the rail.
Me + heights = :-( 
There and back again.
Albuquerque at night from the rooftop bar of the Hotel Parq Central
(Pisco Sour, Sazerac, Caipirinha, and something else I can't recall...
and then we were off to the Two Fools Tavern.)


Today's exercise: Read a John Nichols book... or at least click on the link to his website (http://www.johnnicholsbooks.com) to see if we can drive enough web traffic there for him to notice us.

Next: Something to help you feel better about your family this holiday season... and a little shameless self-promotion.

John Nichols' white rabbit = muse
My white rabbit = Mose

*If anyone happens to know John Nichols personally, would you be so kind as to mention to him that “Beanfield” is misspelled on his website? Gracias.