Embossed Spiced Chocolate Cookies

Embossed Spiced Chocolate Cookies
(makes about 50 medium size cookes)

This is a good base chocolate cookie for embossing, with a little spicing for interest, and a touch of cayenne for warmth and to enhance the chocolatey-ness — but not enough to make it actually taste spicy. Do remember to chill for at least 10 minutes after molding / cutting, so the cookies don’t spread.

5 c. flour
1 c. cocoa powder
1 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cayenne
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 lb. butter, softened
2 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 vanilla bean pods, scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla)
for decorating: embossing pin, cookie cutter, embossing dust, vodka (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and spices.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat until well-combined.

3. Slowly add the flour mixture at low speed, pausing and scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until the dough is well combined.

4. Dust the surface of your cutting board and rolling pin; roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thick.

5. If embossing, roll the embossing pin across the dough, creating an impression. Then cut out cookies in the shapes desired. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

6. Chill for at least 10 minutes in the fridge, then immediately bake in a preheated oven, approximately 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack and enjoy. (If desired, mix luster dust with a bit of vodka and brush on to highlight embossing effects.)

Shipping Curry Powder

Question. When I ship out my home-roasted curry powder in a plastic bag (a cheaper option for me and customers than shipping a jar in a box), it is VERY pungent.

People usually like that fine, if they’re ordering curry powder, but it does perfume the entire package, which is a potential issue if they’re also ordering masks (which I hope people are washing with soap-and-hot water on arrival before use), and more so if they’re also ordering bath salts and soaps (which have their own scents).

Any thoughts on how better to segregate scents? I can try double-bagging the curry powder, and/or plastic-bagging the bath products (kind of hate to do the latter, as it’s a less attractive presentation, but needs must, I suppose), but wondering if there’s something not obvious to me that I’m not thinking of.

Bagels for Breakfast

I had an Amanda Daly onion bagel for breakfast, and I have 5 bagels left. (Well, I expect Kevin will eat one soon, but the kids probably won’t, more fools they, and if I were a good mom, I would have gotten chocolate chip bagels for them, oh well. So probably 4 bagels left.)

I’m going to eat something fruity or salad-y or yogurt-y for lunch, but am already craving another Daly bagel, so planning on it for dinner. I had my morning bagel with her goat cheese spread and lox, v. good, but want to do something different for dinner. Variety = spice of life.

So here’s the crucial question:

a) mackerel curry
b) beef curry

You decide — I throw my dinner fate entirely into your hands. (You have until 4 o’clock or so, when I’d start cooking, to vote.)

BONUS: If I feel like I have the energy, and if Kavi is willing to play videographer, I’ll make a teaching video out of making the curry, so factor that into your vote!

(Hm. I need to take better photos of both of these. Well, this is what I could easily grab, in case it helps. Not pictured with bagels!)

Waste Not, Want Not

I tried substituting in 1 cup of coconut milk for 1 cup of the heavy cream in tonight’s ice cream experiment. Mostly because I only had 1 cup of heavy cream, and I had an opened can of coconut milk in the fridge with 1 cup left. Waste not, want not…

As expected, the result tasted lighter than usual — coconut milk is 552 calories / cup, as opposed to heavy cream’s 821 calories / cup. I don’t know that I’d want that for chocolate, but I was making passionfruit ice cream and the lighter mouthfeel paired well with the tropical flavor. And of course, the coconut milk brought its own tasty deliciousness as well. I reduced the sugar by 1/4 c., since coconut milk is sweet.

Verdict for coconut milk & passionfruit ice cream? Recommended — would make again, especially on a hot summer day. I had it with the last bit of yesterday’s waffles, and if I’d had fresh mango on hand, I would’ve added that too.

Here’s My Newest Thing

Okay, so here’s my newest thing, and don’t even start with the whole “Mary Anne, you already do too much,” because a) I know, and b) my goal is to do this as low-effort as possible and make other people do most of the work, especially Stephanie, and c) it really does feed very well into everything else I do, so shhh… (Also, the semester will be over in a week, so now is an excellent time to poke at this.)

I’d like to start a new magazine. (I say magazine, but I kind of mean magazine / podcast / website — is there a word for that? Broad cultural thing.)

I don’t have a name for it yet. One option is to just call it Serendib, staying on brand. The other is to pick something that’s less directly identified with me. I’ve toyed with words like “Heritage” (which has the problem of being co-opted by the conservatives, and maybe we can’t get over that, but it annoys me, because heritage is such a powerful concept, and they shouldn’t get to own it). Or “Hearth” (which I kind of love, but there’s this Magnolia Hearth and Home line at Target, and maybe that’s too confusing?) Naming is difficult — I could use help with that.

What I’m imagining is sort of “Granta meets Martha Stewart Living Meets Progressive Politics.” I’ve gotten so interested in domesticity lately, but in very particular ways. I want a publication that does the kind of educational work that Milk Street does for food, but also does that for gardening, crafting, teaching, game design…just ‘making’ generally.

(This would work in harmony with the Maram Makerspace project — we’re hoping to have a place in Forest Park open as soon as social distancing allows. Possibly as early as June for limited use. Another possibility for a name is ‘Maram,’ which is Tamil for tree. Imagine the outstretching branches, and the roots.)

I want a place that takes the labor women do seriously, and that will highlight how labor is always political — think of how Samin Nosrat curated her Best American anthology collection. I’d like to be able to showcase work like what Paul Goyette has been doing locally with photographing political events. I want Angeli Primlani and Nicole Walker thinking about the environment. And I want poetry and fiction in the mix.

This sounds huge. It is huge. But I think it can start very small — my tentative plan would be to start with a website and Facebook group and maybe a podcast, invite some contributors to start posting there, and then see if people want to follow it, see if it has legs.

I’ve been getting so much comfort out of Samin Nosrat’s “Home Cooking” podcast and “Staying at Home with Emily and Kumail,” I’d like to see if we can provide something similar. Warm, funny, welcoming, thoughtful, ardently progressive. Helping to dream a better world.

That last bit is where the SF comes in too — I would kind of love to have a column of SF stories as part of this — both ‘hope punk’ and darker visions. Definitely landing on the literary side, with attention to language and style.

Can I jam everything I’m passionate about into one place? I think I can.

Locally, I’ve already roped Maria Teresa McKee and Laura Young into this — Maria’s been doing yeoman’s work in Cicero and on our local garden club group doing teaching videos about seed starting, and Laura’s been doing the same with sourdough making.

There are people doing all kinds of interesting work, and I’d mostly like to collate it, give it a shape, and find it a central location that’s easy to access.

I’m also imagining a sort of local / global focus that’s a little hard to describe, but imagine each issue offering something local to the Oak Park area, grounding us in this place where I live, but also including something from far away.

So this is really a very early brainstorming thread, I suppose. Tell me what you think of this — what ideas does it spark for you, what seems problematic, what should I name it, what would you want to write for it, if you’d be interested in editing for it, or helping to organize it, etc.

Let’s talk.

(Photo of me just ’cause I needed a photo to put in here to make it more visible. Good morning! And oh, while I have you, note that from 3-4 CST, we’ll be doing a craft-and-chat that you’re all welcome to; Zoom details in the Serendib group.)

Sometimes You Just Want to Indulge

Sometimes you just want to indulge yourself, even if no one else in your house will eat crab cakes. (Fools.) I had stopped by our local butcher and food store, Carnivore Oak Park, to drop off some hand-sewn masks for the staff, and they had these gorgeous ramps in the refrigerator case.

Now, I’ve never eaten ramps before, or even seen them, but they were so pretty, I had to try them. I brought them home, along with some asparagus and fresh made crab cakes from Carnivore, looked up recipes, and discovered the consensus was to treat them like leeks or scallions, and that they would respond well to grilling.

A little olive oil, salt, and pepper later, voila! I even plated it up pretty, even though it was just for me. Well, and for you guys. I did the asparagus and crab cake in the toaster oven, sliced the ramps in half (both because they wouldn’t fit in my grill pan otherwise, and because I thought the onion-y parts and the greens might need different cooking times), and twenty minutes later, I tore into this deliciousness.

The white and red ends of the ramps are sweet and onion-y; the green leaves are just slightly bitter, and they pair beautifully with the the roasted asparagus and crab cake (which I tossed on the grill pan a bit at the end, just to brown it nicely), esp. accompanied with a bit of tartar sauce.

There’s lots of both roasted asparagus and grilled ramps left (crab cake all gone, thank you very much), and my tentative plan is to take some of the chicken stock I froze a month or so ago at the start of all this madness, and turn it into a soup. Toss them in a pot, add the stock, add cream, simmer for a bit until blended, then use a hand-blender to puree into creamy deliciousness.

The only problem is, I really would like to top that with a little fresh crab — I might have to go back to Carnivore later today…

D20 Waffles

Kevin made waffles for us yesterday. It’s a little cheerful thing in these dark times, having a d20 waffle maker, and some fantastic local barrel-aged bourbon vanilla from Mackinac Bluffs Maple Farms, Inc., picked up at our local Sugar Beet Food Co-op, to indulge with. I slathered it with butter, and then I slathered some more.

(Funny thing — he made them from scratch, but then was annoyed with himself because we actually have waffle mix in the pantry, and he could have saved the precious flour and eggs. I told him not to stress about it. Poor munchkin.)

Fun with Lighting Kit

This was fun — I ordered a lighting kit a while back because I had started getting really frustrated by how hard it was to light food photos well sometimes. I mean, some days I can go outside for natural light, or to a window, but sometimes it’s night when I’m cooking, etc. and so on.

I’m reading a book on lighting food photos, and he suggests that even using white card stock can help to bounce light helpfully, but I thought umbrella lights would likely work much better than me trying to balance pieces of card stock. So I ordered this kit months ago, and finally set it up today, and used it to take photos of mask fabrics. Helpful!

My tentative plan is that if we manage to get the makerspace up and running, that I’ll loan this out through there, so that members can borrow a light kit to take home, or anyone can walk in (on our free walk-in days) to use it on-site. I also have neon green fabric, and am planning to get a bar to go across the top of the stands, so we’ll have a green screen for Zoom calls or making videos or whatever.

It’s honestly a little hard to imagine the makerspace being open and ready for use anytime soon, but maybe with restrictions being lifted, it’s not unreasonable to think that we might be able to find some way of using the space without congregating.

Maybe a limited set of members who clock in and out individually, using it as a workspace away from kids, wiping down everything they use? I’m not sure when that will be feasible, but surely someday. Can’t hurt to start planning for it now, I think.