Wednesday, June 20, 2007

One Week!!!

I'll be more than halfway to Vancouver in just seven days. YIPPEE!!!

They say "a change will do you good" (or at least Sheryl Crow sings those words of wisdom), so not only am I moving to a new city in a new country, but I also have a brand new haircut. I cut six inches of hair off yesterday (and I'm not quite sure I like it now, but too little too late at this point).

Since I still have lots of things left to do (learn the metric system, learn the words to "O Canada" and pack), I am going to say farewell to this blog for a while. However, check out my Vancouver blog here. I will start it as soon as I get settled out there. I will update it a few times a week so check back often. As usual, keep the emails coming, but make sure you send them to either of my AOL addresses instead of the current (and soon to be disconnected) Bellsouth addresses.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Tyler and Austin

The two (adorable) reasons my friend Luisa is looking forward to spending six days (solo) in Vancouver with me in September:

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day, Poppies!!!

I've already talked to my dad on the phone today, but I just wanted to wish him a Happy Father's Day on my blog. He is hands-down the hardest person to buy gifts for, but I managed to think of a few things to get for him. I bought him a Home Depot gift card as well as a ticket to Alcatraz and a pending belated Father's Day crab dinner that he'll have to wait for until next month when I see him (for a whole day and a half) in San Francisco.

I love you, Poppies!!! I hope you have had a nice day. Your Indians won for you, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I FINALLY have a condo in Vancouver!!!

At long last, I have a place to live for the next five months. My new digs are five minutes to Robson Street and 10 minutes to both Coal Harbour and Stanley Park. I've had quite a time over the past few weeks dealing with realtors in Vancouver. I finally found one that I liked who actually responded to my emails and phone calls. Gee, what a concept to actually do your job. (In all fairness, one other realtor responded with an available crackhouse-like condo on Smithe Street.)

I didn't get a water view like I was hoping for (and I wasn't willing to pay an additional $1,000/month to get it), but I can walk to the water in less than 10 minutes. I did, however, get two outside balconies, a solarium and insuite laundry (yes, that's a big deal in a lot of these buildings).

So, I'm thrilled yet a little edgy about this whole Vancouver move. It'll be nice to finally get out there so I can just settle down and start enjoying all Vancouver has to offer (instead of worrying about what to put in storage, what to pack and how to get everything else done in the next week).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Black and White Cookies

When you think of black and white cookies, you usually think of the cookies you see in almost every bakery window while storming the busy streets of New York City. You know the cookies I'm talking about...the big and thick, chewy and cakey cookies that are painted with chocolate frosting on one side and painted with white frosting on the other side. However, Sunset magazine has a different take on the traditional black and white cookie (or perhaps this is the west coast version...or the distant cousin...of the NYC classic).

After this failure from Sunset, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about trying another Sunset cookie recipe. Then again, my philosophy on baking is "nothing ventured, nothing gained", so I risked the Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate bars and Lindt Excellence White Coconut White Chocolate bars in my pantry and ran with the recipe.

At first glance, I was pretty sure that this was going to be yet another Sunset flop after seeing the way the cookie dough resembled brownie batter, but I continued on my way, added the chopped white chocolate and chilled the dough.

Here's a picture of the cookie dough before adding the white chocolate and chilling:


The recipe instructs that you chill the dough until firm, at least 1 hour. (At least are the key words here.) Let me just tell you right now that your dough will be nowhere near a firm dough at 1 hour. I let my dough sit in the fridge for four hours before continuing on with the recipe, and it still wasn't anything near what a firm cookie dough batter usually is. I just pulled out the cookie scoop, crossed my fingers and hoped that somehow (and magically) the oven would bake up two decent batches of cookies.

VoilĂ ...

These are really good cookies. These have a crunchy/flaky exterior and a chewy brownie-like interior. The white coconut white chocolate added a great flavor. I love the tiny pieces of coconut in the Lindt bars. You get the taste of coconut without the stringyness (is that a word?) of shredded coconut. The big, irregular chunks of white chocolate look great in contrast to the dark bittersweet chocolate in these cookies, too.

And who did I make these for? Kristen, of course. She's stopping by tonight, and a big plate of cookies always puts a smile on her face. I figured these cookies were perfect to make for her since she loved these so much. And in keeping with the chocolate/white chocolate theme, I know she'll love these cookies, too.

Black and White Cookies

Adapted from Sunset

12 ounces Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate bars, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 ounces (two 3.5-ounce bars) coarsely chopped Lindt white coconut white chocolate

Preheat oven to 325°. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (but not touching it), stir chocolate and butter until smooth, 5 minutes. Remove bowl from over water; whisk in sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture and stir until well blended. Stir in white chocolate. Cover and chill dough until firm, at least 1 hour.

Shape dough into 2-inch balls and place about 3 inches apart on buttered or cooking parchment-lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheets.

Bake until set at the edges but still soft in the center, 12 to 15 minutes; if baking more than one pan at a time, switch pan positions halfway through baking.

Let cool for 5 minutes on sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely.

Yield: Makes about 28 cookies

Notes: Use quality chocolate can use either bittersweet or semisweet chocolate depending on your tastes and/or what you have on hand. Do NOT overbake these...mine were done at 12 minutes. You can use regular chopped white chocolate if you cannot find the Lindt white coconut white chocolate. I got 24 cookies.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


This is Day 2 of having all of the water in my apartment shut off from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from nearby sewer and water pipe construction (that has gone on for well over a year now...Go, State of Georgia workers, Go!!!) This is what the full-of-orange-Georgia-clay-and-dirt water has looked like at the end of both days (even after running it for seven minutes in the bathroom sink).

I promise not to show you what the toilet water looks like. You're welcome!!!

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Saturday, June 9, 2007

Pumpkin Muffins with Milk Chocolate Chips and Sliced Almonds

Nope, Halloween is not right around the corner, but I had a can of pumpkin to use up. (I never got around to making that Pumpkin Tiramisu last Thanksgiving. And it looks like that same Pumpkin Tiramisu won't get made this Thanksgiving either.) Since my baking is going to come to a screeching halt next week and since I need to stock my freezer with breakfast goodies for the next few weeks until I move, I decided to make some muffins this afternoon. Along with the can of pumpkin, I had a partial bag of both milk chocolate chips and sliced almonds that needed to be used up, so I just pulled all of the usual baking ingredients (flour, sugar, etc.) out of the pantry and whipped up these muffins. You can adjust the spices to your liking, but I like anything with pumpkin to have an obvious "spiced" taste, so I just dumped in a teaspoon of this and a half teaspoon of that until I got the taste I wanted. These baked into very dense, very moist muffins. I liked the creaminess and the more-subtle-than-semisweet-or-bittersweet flavor that the milk chocolate chips gave to these muffins, and the toasted almonds added a subtle crunch and nutty flavor. These are delicious and very filling.

Pumpkin Muffins with Milk Chocolate Chips and Sliced Almonds

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used Penzey’s Vietnamese Cinnamon)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin generously with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg); set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla extract, pumpkin and butter. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until combined. Fold in chips and almonds.

Divide batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let stand in muffin tin for 2-3 minutes before removing to wire rack. Eat warm or let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container.

Makes 12 muffins.

Mindy's notes: Adjust the spices to your preferences. If you prefer, you can use canola oil in place of the butter. You can probably leave out the milk, too, but I just happened to have a very small amount in the fridge that I wanted to use up.

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