Monday, May 11, 2009

When An Attempted Murder-Suicide Didn't Stop Mother's Day Coffee Cake Success

Deciding that my mother would for sure enjoy a chocolate chip coffee cake for Mother's Day, (okay, to be honest, i was unsure about what she'd enjoy but my sister knew!) I purchased all needed ingredients at the local supermarket. I also purchased a pineapple, as a stand-by dessert should my first-ever coffee cake experiment not succeed. The pineapple even touted itself as "extra-sweet," and i'm not sure how they know that, but who am i to question? After a pitcher of (delicious! fruity! just-sweet-enough) red sangria at hoboken's gem of a cuban restaurant Zafra on Saturday evening, i decided the baking would have to wait until the day-of, for best (sober) results. The next day, with all coffee cake ingredients in tow, i left to visit my mom (who would love me even if my cake sucked, score!) The recipe came from my roommate's Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. The recipe called for all of the usual suspects, a big town meeting with flour, sugar, eggs, butter, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and vanilla with special guest speakers chocolate chips. (Ghirardellii f you know me at all) and pecans. I followed all directions- and i know precision is NOT my thing and so i was extra-cognizant of correct measurements and such.... Batter was placed into the loaf pan, save for one-cup on reserve.... Filling was sprinkled and spooned onto the first batter layer, a concoction of pecans and all things sweet (brown and white sugar, chocolate, etc). Reserved batter placed on top of filling, as directed. The recipe called for 40 minutes of baking time, and at about 20 minutes, all of the right smells were wafting through the house (full disclosure- so were smells of all-natural? ant killer to remove the onslaught of little-buggers applying for residence in my parent's kitchen). At about 26 minutes in, half of the top part of the coffee cake decided a fast death would be better than human-consumption, and it hurled itself onto the bottom of the oven. I removed the large chunks as to not burn down my house, and opted for the self-clean oven option later. All systems go again, i spread the batter back over to the vacant side and put down tin foil for any potential suicide-minded batter. It took over an hour (40 minutes does not an hour make, better homes and gardens) for the goo to turn into just brown- enough edges coffee cake. The end result was sort of ugly in an almost pretty and rustic sort of way- my wise friend larry (6 beers deep and maybe not-so wise but more buzzed) explained that nobody has to know about the perils of the cake- he told me to wait until it cooled, and cut that bad-boy into purdy little mother's day slices. Buzzed or wise, he was right! Arranged on a plate with a pile of whole pecans and chocolate chips in the middle, nobody would know about the attempted murder-suicide of the top half.... Except in my expose here, of course. Anyway, he was right. Plated, the whole thing looked just fine. My mom, she's an audible-eater- if she likes something, you'll know from the elicited and sometimes awkward (when in public!) moans. When I heard a dreamy satisfied sigh and some mumble of "good cake" I knew I had succeeded.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hey, Lazypants, Let Me Google That For You

I realize this is old news, but alas my colleagues are a little slow on the uptake, so perhaps this news is not so old? JUST in case, let me share this heavenly piece of sass (and you can thank me later).

The problem:

It happens often. A person asks you a question, when in fact, they should be asking google the question. Cutting out the middle-man is obviously not something that interests this person, or they are just lazy, or they think you are very smart and hold inane bits of information right in the front of your skull at all times. Whatever the reason, you don't know the answer but you know that the internet does!

The solution:

Let Me Google That For You, a wonderful little service that lives at:

Let's say that somebody asks you the age of Connie Culp, the face-transplant lady who was shot in the face by her apparently very charming husband. Unless you're crafting a thesis on the now-hamburger eatin' Connie, then there's no reason that you'd have this information on-hand. Instead of googling FOR the lazypants who asked you this, go to and type in "how old is connie culp" and then send lazypants the resulting link: A helpful demonstration will ensue, teaching lazypants how to find information on the internet. Problem solved.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese with a Side of Self-Expression

As the cold rain falls, most people feel anger or sadness creep in, a slithering reminder of all things dismal. A portent for negative things to come, the rain evokes feelings of cold, hard disarray. For me, though, the cold rain stands for an excuse to make some comfort food! In each rain drop I see macaroni swimming in a heavenly bath of just-brown-enough cheese. This is perhaps a little bit sick and twisted, but moving past the fact that i'm just a wee bit odd, doesn't this sound good? It was. The thing I love most about cooking? It's a form of self-expression. For this recipe, as an example, I started with the work of Alton Brown:

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.
In the interest of my waistline, though, I tweaked Alton's (admittedly delicious and rich) recipe around to be a bit more healthful. And, because I like to put my own spin on things, I added a bit o' Lieberman to the mix. Here's mine:
Baked Wheat Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe Inspired By Alton Brown
1/2 pound wheat pasta shells (shells do a great job of holding the gooey-goodness hostage)
3 tablespoons butter (I use fancy french Pamplie, but not sure it matters in this recipe)
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups Skim Plus (the *best* skim milk, hands down)
1/2 cup yellow onion finely diced (i've recently acquired a Cuisinart and oh my god i will never use a knife again, LOVE LOVE LOVE)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
a Teensy bit of Cayenne powder
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar shredded
2 Tablespoons of Blue Cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to JUST under al dente. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, cayenne, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes. Temper in the egg. What the heck does this mean, you understandably ask? The egg will cook (scramble) if you throw her into a pot of hot bubbling liquid and chunk of egg in your steamy pile of comforting love is NOT what you want. Therefore, add some of the hot liquid to your egg, stir, do this again, stir... just bring the temperature of the egg up and THEN pour it in. Stir in 3/4 of the cheddar cheese and all of the blue. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.
Okay, so I didn't have all THAT many changes. You don't mess with a good thing. BUT I did swap the regular pasta to wheat, the whole milk with skim, and I nixed the buttery bread crumbs. Let's be honest- if you have a vat of cheddar cheese and pasta, the breadcrumbs are just not important anymore. The cooking part made me feel good on an otherwise status quo evening. Biting into the end result? Not much is more comforting.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I'm Good At Other Things

Le Sigh. I'm just awful at keeping up with my blog, and admittedly so. That said, don't give up on me just yet. Microblogging is taking the wind from my long post sails- and that's not to say it's to blame. Only, I'm pretty sure that the constraint of twitter's 140-characters or less induces creativity. And so, my dear readers, i'm totally still blogging. I'm just doing it over at There are some things that will still require long form explanation. And that's okay with me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Alliteration City: Facebook is for Friends

In a myriad of social networks, how do we decide which friends are for where? In an internet informational highway, how do we presume to know what personal information to post? How much is too much?

I remember when Facebook was solely a virtual space for my friends from Towson University and high school friends- a way to keep in touch intermittently through semesters. Because of this, my profile shaped up to be quite personal - a photographed documentary of my weekends, vodka consumption, spring break debauchery, last-semester celebrations, festivals, etc. Facebook was for high school friends, people I met along travels, and college friends. And for a long time, i kept it this way.

I had a rule: Linkedin is for industry contacts and facebook is for friends and twitter is for everybody who is interesting. I'm in the midst of a theoretical struggle, as of late. Okay- maybe that's a bit dramatic- i'm not losing any sleep. But in any event, here's the problem: Strangers are adding me on facebook. Many of them live in New York, are in social media/PR/advertising/web/SEO/communications/marketing/what have you, or we share 10+ friends in common. And still, strangers. Certainly not friends. To deny facebook friend status seems silly- i mean, come on. it's just facebook. And we have all of those friends in common. And yet still, do I want complete strangers to know exactly where I work, hang out, who i convene with, etc? I sort of flounder back and forth. Also, I feel like saying "no" is silly. After all, it's just facebook. See, i flounder even in this blog post.

If you read this blog, then you know that this is the year of the yes. So, therefore, i'm saying yes. And so, mister Wall Street Journal reporter and mister NY PR guy and miss search engine optimizer expert, fine- we can be facebook friends. But please don't stalk me, okay?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Treasure Island Hotel Troves

Hotels around the world, listen up. Do you want to win the hearts of geeks, pop culture enthusiasts, music lovers, and pretty much everybody? Sounds beautiful, right? It's easy. Make like Treasure Island in Las Vegas. According to Dave Taylor, who is staying in this little slice of heaven while he's at CES this year, Treasure Island Hotel as Ipod Dock Clock Radios! Don't know about you, but this is enough to make me stay there.

This is how i know:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Lieberman Family NYE