Friday, June 30, 2006

Dad and Joann asked me to make favors for their 20th anniversary party. I've proposed these three milk chocolate candies in a clear acrylic box from Michael's. The fillings of the top two are a Kona coffee flavor, and the bottom one is filled with a dulce de leche caramel that my parents enjoyed at my house one visit. I might be able to fit a tiny solid on the side of the caramel, but it's a tight squeeze.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Confessions in a Group of Five Meme

Yet another meme circulating. Here are my replies.

Five Things in my Freezer
1. Easy-peel, uncooked shrimp
2. Homemade orange sherbet
3. Whole wheat sub rolls
4. Frozen spinach from Trader Joe’s
5. Frozen peaches from Trader Joe’s

Five Things in my Closet
(I chose the big downstairs closet since my bedroom closet is just clothes and shoes.)
1. Camelbak backpacks (they have water bladders – good for hiking)
2. Insulated shipping boxes and food-safe packing material for Deb’s Delectables chocolates
3. A case of St. John’s wort tea
4. Ziplock freezer bags
5. My late Grandpa Joe’s old 8 mm film projector

Five Things in my Car
1. Roadmaps for at least 5 counties in NJ and a great foldout NYC map
2. NJ Parkway tokens (which I no longer use because I have EZ Pass)
3. A tennis ball for my back
4. Bottled water (because you never know)
5. Surprise love note John left on my dashboard when we were first dating (in the map holder)

Five Things in my Purse
1. Wallet
2. Kiehl’s lip balm
3. Sony Clie’ (electronic date book like a Palm pilot)
4. Glasses case with either my prescription sunglasses or regular glasses in it, depending on which of the two I’m currently wearing
5. Cel phone

Feel free to join in. Consider yourself tagged.

Friday, June 23, 2006

More Shameless Self-Promotion

Adam had mentioned that he was also posting at Cooking for US, so I took a look and saw that they were still looking for writers. Hey! I thought, I'm a writer! I wrote Sean, CFU's editor a note asking if they needed someone to write about how to deal with sugar sensitivities and how to eat more organically. He said that it was a good idea and signed me up.

My first article appeared this week here. I'm looking forward to posting there every other week. I enjoy collaborating with others in the foodie portion of the blogosphere. It reminds me of when I wrote reviews of fancy and organic foods for the BBS FoodBytes (back in the very early '90s when mentioning that you worked online meant another 10 minutes of explaining what "online" was).

It's been a good publishing month overall -- a well-paying piece in EE Times magazine (on the engineering brain), my 1st monthly column at Very Good Things, a piece on Whitman's sampler for a book that will be published in January and now Cooking for US. Best of all, my consulting contract has been renewed. Yay!

In Deb's Delectables land, I will be making a lot of chocolate between now and mid-August, so there will be postings of new flavors and shapes.

It's been a busy month, and I'll be glad it's over. John will be fishing with his Dad in Utah for a week, and I've booked some fun NYC time next week. I expect to take some photos to share here, at Very Good Things, and Cooking for US (different items for each). Maybe I'll even have time to post between now and next Friday. Probably not, though. Lots of deliverables in a short time. I'm apologizing in advance if there's nothing new posted for a week.

Enjoy your week!

Poofy! Robyn, The Girl Who Ate Everything, made these great T-shirts, and I bought two of them. John's modeling his in black here right before we went out tonight for dinner and a movie. Mine's in purple, of course. I wear it to physical therapy and to go walking with Candace. The owner of the Edison Diner on Rt. 1 in Edison, N.J., where we dined tonight said that we should try to sell the shirt to IHOP. Funny idea, but I'll tell Robyn, and maybe we'll get a cut of the profits. :D I do keep a list of John's million dollar ideas since he comes up with a few every now and then. This wasn't his though, so it doesn't go on the list.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Friend Who Listens

My friend Richard is a very good listener. He's such a good listener that he's involved in the SETI League. He has several antennas on his properties for that kind of listening, and I always look forward to his annual 4th of July party to see what kind of fun things he's up to now. I plan to bring some new chocolates that I'll be making while John's away fishing with his dad in Utah (photos to come next week).

Richard was one of the first people to try my chocolates and was involved in the naming contest for the company. He's generously endorsed me on his site here in his blog entry on chocolate. But, the real reason you should definitely visit his site to is to learn how he's using his Toyota Prius as an emergency generator for his home. He calls it the PriUPS because it's an uninterruptible power supply.

There's a lot to be said for having a variety of friends in one's life. Especially eccentric genius types like Richard. There's an interesting story behind how we met and what a very small world it truly is.

Many years ago, when I was Copy Chief at Electronic Design magazine in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, I also served as section editor of a light and newsy section called QuickLook. Richard had sent me a press release on the SETI League that was intriguing enough for me to interview him about the project. Later, I printed a story and let him know.

Richard asked me to lunch as a thank you and asked me if my last name related me to a fellow he knew through the small airport where he took flying lessons. Turns out, the fellow was my father. Even more interesting, he didn't actually know my father, but rather, Dad's ex-girlfriend who worked at the airport, and who Richard befriended years ago.

Of course, flying small planes is not the most common hobby, but it's an interesting connection nonetheless. Ever since Richard and I discovered our common links, we've stayed in touch. Since I know he's a bit of a chocoholic, I try to keep him abreast of new Deb's Delectables items.

By the way, if you're interested in seeing the type of stuff I've been writing about lately, EE Times magazine just printed a story I wrote on the human brain here. Scroll down to Research: spatial abilities key to engineering. They'll make you register to see it, unfortunately, but it's free, and they won't send you anything unless you ask for it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Garden update -- Remember our friend the praying mantis from September last year? Well, it might have passed away, but before moving on to mantis heaven, it left its progeny (see bottom center photo). There are at least two of these fellas living in the garden bed by the front door. They're about two inches long and bright green. In the other photos, you can see that my roses are in bloom as well as the purple pin cushions and the gorgeous blue ground cover.

It's been World Cup l and around here lately, so lots of meals have been spent tensely watching the TV, waiting for yellow cards to be shown and points to be scored. While I have definitive opinions about various teams and their performances, I won't share much here since it's not over until it's over. John's picking the German team, though. So, to make dinner and lunches easy to heat, I made a cheesey pasta bake that we could enjoy this coming week. Here's a photolog of the preparation.

Cheese shreds about to become melty goodness.

Yummy, yet ever-so stinky cheese.

The best pasta in a box is Barilla. Their gemelli is excellent and cooks up perfectly every time.

In a pyrex baking dish I coated with a mixture of softened butter and organic olive oil from Trader Joes, I put a light layer of the gemelli.

On top of the gemelli layer, I put a mixture of my tomato sauce and ricotta; swiss, mozzarella, aged provolone and asiago cheese; and dried oregano.

Wow! That's a ton of cheese. OK, it's not a ton, but it's a lot of mozzarella, aged provolone and swiss. John likes to sprinkle oregano on most things Italiano, so in honor of his preference, I sprinkled about a quarter of a teaspoon of dried oregano on top of all that cheese.

Mmmm. Cheese! It tastes creamy with ricotta, tangy with the tomato sauce, and savory with the aged provolone. I also can taste the Swiss and asiago cheeses mixed with the mozzeralla. John enjoyed it as well and said it reminded him of baked ziti.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Weekend Cookbook Challenge Entry

Ali asked for picnic food, so I dug into a cookbook I've had for years, but hadn't used yet for this. It's the Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking by Roz Denny and Christine Ingram. I found the following recipe and made it with (of course) my own wee changes, such as using whole wheat flour instead of regular flour, and adding some vital wheat gluten. Enjoy!

The recipe I chose was the Courgette Crown Bread. Just the idea of making a savory bread intrigued me. Then, the art of making it look like a crown with tear-away rolls to share was a bonus. Lessons learned: use other spices as well (this only called for black pepper), use more cheese. I didn't taste any of the cheese. Yesterday, at Wegman's I bought some really stinky Asiago cheese that would have been lovely for this. Makes a fine grilled cheese (lots of butter, sundried tomato pesto from Trader Joes, baby spinach and yummy bread), too.

Shredded courgette, or as we know it, zucchini. The recipe calls for 2 lbs of the stuff, so I dragged out my kitchen scale and weighed it. This pile is 1 lb. It's the result of one medium zucchini shredded all the way to the top nub. After it's shredded, it should be salted and drained in a colander for 30 minutes. I found that mine didn't drain easily, so I had to squeeze out the liquid after half an hour.

I decided to add some of this vital wheat gluten from Hodgson Mill since it's worked for me in the past with pizza dough.

The recipe asked for two risings -- once in the bowl (this is the result of the first rising) and once when the dough has been separated into the sections.

The recipe seemed to give the impression that this should be a single crowns' worth of dough, but I wound up making two. Like your typical tear-away-roll-bread, I made the outer balls first and used the leftover lump to make the center of the loaf.

The second rising.

This is what it should look like (photo from the recipe page). I didn't have sesame seeds on hand, so my crowns were less decorated.

I made two crowns: one in a non-stick, dark aluminum pan; the other in an Emile Henry pie dish (cream interior, forest green exterior). This one, the aluminum pan crown, was uniformly browned on the top and the upskirt (technical food term for the bottom. This is the one I'm saving for Mom and Dave. I tried the other one and it reminded me a great deal of the kinds of foods my great Aunt Anna used to make. If you go back in my archives to November 2005, you'll see photos of my great Uncle Hy. Anna was his wife for more than 70 years until she succumbed to Alzheimer's. But, when I was a child and living in California, we used to visit my Mom's aunt and uncle in Long Beach. Anna made most of her food by scratch, and most of it was pretty bland. She probably would have enjoyed this bread. When Mom and Dave try it, I think they would agree.

If you compare my whole wheat version to the book's plain flour version, it's not that far afield. OK, their version looks much more appetizing. Oh well. Overall, not bad with a schmear of cream cheese (or other soft cheese), but I'd play with the recipe again to make it much more savory and tasty.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Rave Review

Thanks to Adam at Men in Aprons for his very nice review of my Deb's Delectables chocolates. Reading his happy thoughts on the candy made my week. I hope you'll go visit Adam's blog to see the review as well as his well-written site. He has many tasty recipes as well as helpful cooking tips.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Here's a box I've put together for a new visitor to my site. I'll be making some new dark chocolates soon and will be posting photos of the results -- especially the very pretty ones. :D From left to right, top to bottom: White Chocolate Coconut Fantasy, Dark Chocolate LOVE, Milk Chocolate Ganache Swirl, Dark Chocolate Solid Fancy Heart, Milk Chocolate Solid Mini Butterfly, Dark Chocolate Caramel, Milk Chocolate Fancy Cherry Heart, White Chocolate Coconut Crunchie, Milk Chocolate Cappuccino Rose, Dark Chocolate Solid Mini Starburst, Milk Chocolate Marzipan Wonderbow, Milk Chocolate Crispy Jewel, Dark Chocolate Solid Mini Butterfly, and Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunchie. Whew. I packed it in purple tissue in my purple Deb's Delectables box with a nice white ribbon. I hope he enjoys it!

I'm sorry, I must have moved when I took this, but you get the gist. From top to bottom, the middle layer is: White Chocolate Coconut Crunchie, I LOVE Coffee (milk chocolate with a Kona coffee flavored filling), Dark Chocolate Ganache Swirl, Solid Dark Chocolate Puffy Heart (in pink foil), Cappuccino Rose (milk chocolate with cappuccino creme center), White Chocolate Almond, Milk Chocolate Caramel, Solid Mini Dark Chocolate Starburst, Double Hazelnut (dark chocolate and two whole hazelnuts), Milk Chocolate Fruit Creme, Solid Dark Chocolate Fancy Heart (in purple foil), Blue Surprise Gift Box (it's a surprise, duh), and the Marzipan Wonderbow (milk chocolate with marzipan).

The bottom layer looks like this: I Heart Coffee (milk chocolate with a Kona flavored filling), White Chocolate Almond, Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunchie, Solid Dark Chocolate Fancy Heart (in purple foil), Solid Milk Chocolate Mini Butterfly, Marzipan Wonderbow (marzipan filled milk chocolate, white chocolate bow), Solid Mini Gift (milk chocolate), Dark Chocolate Ganache Swirl, Double Hazelnut (two whole hazelnuts inside milk chocolate), Dark Chocolate Caramel, White Chocolate Peanut Butter Heart.

Earlier this evening, my gardening friend (and neighbor) Candace and I visited the Rudolf W. Van Der Goot Rose Garden at Colonial Park in East Millstone, NJ. The park is about 15 minutes from our neighborhood, so I don't hesitate to visit when I can.

This red flower carpet shrub greets you at the gate.

From the gate, the gazebo and the roses beyond.

Playboy, a 1976 florabunda, starts as an orange-tipped, yellow bud, then spreads to reveal this almost pink inner petal with a yellow center.

This hybrid tea rose is called Love and Peace.

Yellow roses are a favorite of mine. This one has almost a salmon-shaded outer petal while the inner side is lemon yellow. Appropriately, it's called About Face.

Candy Mountain seems like a perfect fit for this pink shrub rose. It spreads nicely and grows low to the ground. The classic, tight buds are pretty, but I think I prefer the "flat" roses like these.

I'm sorry I didn't take a photo of the sign for this one since I found it so intriguing. Each flower had a completely different, painted appearence.

The kniphofia praecox (red hot poker) is located at the tail end of the garden, past the roses. It's in a lovely round section that many people use for weddings. Actually, there are several places within Colonial Park where very nice photos can be taken. You'll have to buy a permit first, though.

When we walked all the way through the roses, we visited the circular rock garden. At the left side (facing the end of the garden) is a magnolia tree just coming into bloom. I'm sure Candace had a better shot of this since she's a good 5 inches taller than I am.

This is the view from the back of the rose garden. The gazebo all the way at the end has beds on the other side, extending to the fence by the parking lot.

This All-America Rose (2004) is called Honey Perfume for good reason. I could still smell it's heady sweet scent after I'd walked 7 feet away. Of course, all the fragrances hung in the air because we visited the garden about an hour and a half before the sky opened up and let loose with a fury of heavy rain, lightning and thunder for two hours.

Of course, I couldn't walk by this one without taking a photo. How nice of them to call it the Julia Child. It starts as a deep, golden yellow and pales to a creamy, lemony yellow as the bloom ages. This photo doesn't do it justice.

One of the more lovely roses is the Dainty Bess shown here. It's a hybrid tea from 1925. This particular bush had to be at least 9 feet tall and 6 feet wide.

If you're in the tri-state area, you might consider paying the garden a visit on Saturday. It's a full day of events, and you might just win a plant! The address of Colonial Park is 156 Mettlers Road, East Millstone, NJ. The Rose Garden is across the street from the main park (which is a nice park for a walk, but doesn't have the beautiful plants).

Feeling Meme-y

This one comes from Alfred's Mom.

1. What curse word do you use the most? I have very firm rules for myself about vulgarity in my blog. I just won't do it. However, offline, I have a favorite which I will only reveal in person.

2. Do you own an iPod? No, I own a wee Creative MP3 player that really comes in handy when I travel.

3. Who on your MySpace “Top 8” do you talk to the most? I don't participate in Myspace.

4. What time is your alarm clock set for? 5:00 am, which is not to say I actually rise at that time, but if I triumph over the cushy bed, I walk for an hour before starting the day. If I'm very lucky, John walks with me.

5. What color is your room? I'm assuming this means bedroom, but if you want to see the paint job in other parts of the house, click here. You'll have to scroll down through some chocolate photos, but you might enjoy them, too.

6. Flip-flops or sneakers? Neither, these days I'm either in Dansko clogs, Born sandals or Ecco technical sandals.

7. Would you rather take the picture or be in the picture? Take it.

8. What's the last movie you watched? Capote. I highly recommend it. It's very well shot, colorful and well acted.

9. Do any of your friends have children? Yes.

10. Has anyone ever called you lazy? No.

11. Do you ever take medication to help you fall asleep faster? Not for the last 10+ years.

12. What CD is currently in your CD player? It depends where I am. In my office (the room across from the bedroom), I use John's CD jukebox. It's filled with many CD that are agreeable for concentration, such as classical music, Hawaiian Slack Key guitar and other atmospheric music. In the car, that's a different story. I have White Stripes, Queen, Fiona Apple, The Proclaimers, The Pretenders and Prince. If you don't have it, invest in Prince's first album. It's brilliant and you'll love it. Same goes for Fiona and The Proclaimers (you'll need to read the lyrics first for that one).

13. Do you prefer regular or chocolate milk? Neither, I'm more of a juice and herbal tea drinker.

14. Has anyone told you a secret this week? Yes. Just yesterday.

15. Have you ever given someone a hickey? Probably in junior high school.

16. Who was the last person to call you? Mom.

17. Do you think people talk about you behind your back? Yes, on occasion. I was hoping for a good rumor, but it's never happened.

18. Did you watch cartoons as a child? Definitely. We watch cartoons as adults, too. South Park, Bullwinkle, Ren and Stimpy.

19. How many siblings do you have? One brother, two step-brothers and one step-sister.

20. Are you shy around the opposite sex? No. I'm not shy, I just try to be friendly and approachable in general.

21. What movie do you know every line to? None. I'm much better with song lyrics.

22. Do you own any band t-shirts? I still wear the Cars t-shirt from the very first concert I saw back in 1982.

23. What is your favorite salad dressing? I really like what Mom does with the artichoke juice left over from a jar of artichoke hearts.

24. Do you read for fun? Yes, everything by Alexander McCall Smith.

25. Do you cry a lot? No. Just once a month.

26. Who was the last person to text message you? Robyn.

27. Do you have a desktop computer or a laptop? Laptop. It's a build-your-own from Tiger Direct.

28. Are you currently wanting any piercings or tattoo? Nope. I'm done there.

29. What is the weather like? Sultry. Feels like it might rain today. It would make the plants very happy, I'm sure.

30. Would you ever date someone covered in tattoos? Nope. I'm very happily married.

31. Is sex before marriage wrong? Murder is wrong, prejudice is wrong, theft is wrong. Nookie is not wrong.

32. When was the last time you slept on the floor? At least 10 years ago.

33. How many hours of sleep do you need to function? To function well, at least 5. To get through the day, an hour or two.

34. Are you in love or lust? LOVE.

35. Are your days full and fast-paced? Definitely full. Sometimes fast-paced.

36. Do you pay attention to calories on the back of packages? Most of the time.

37. How old will you be turning on your next birthday? 38

38. Are you picky about spelling and grammar? Very much so. Once an editor, always an editor.

39. Have you ever been to Six Flags? Yes, Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ.

40. Do you get along better with the same or opposite sex? I have good friends of both genders.

41. Do you like cottage cheese? Yes. When I was little, Mom used to toast rye bread and spread cottage cheese or farmer cheese on it.

42. Do you sleep on your side, tummy, or back? It depends on what's hurting. If my back is bad, it will be my left side. If it's my knees, I'll be on my back.

43. Have you ever bid for something on eBay? Yes. This week, I won Tupperware cake keepers and freezer pop sets as well as a pair of Born sandals.

44. Do you enjoy giving hugs? Yes. I'm a hugger. People often compliment me on my hugging.

45. What song did you last sing out loud? I'm really not sure, but any of the CDs I mentioned earlier have songs I'll accompany.

46. What is your favorite TV show? It's a toss-up between House and Gilmore Girls, I've been a bit disappointed by Gilmore Girls lately.

47. Which celebrity, dead or alive, would you want to have lunch with? Either Julia Child (for obvious reasons) or Ceasar, the Dog Whisperer. He seems like such a great person. John picks him or Jeff Corwin, the Discovery channel personality. He seems like a load of fun.

48. Last time you had butterflies in your stomach? I had to give a presentation on a topic that I wasn't sure if I knew 100%, but it went well regardless.

49. What one thing do you wish you had? One thing? My wish list is very long. Well, much more closet space to start...

50. Favorite lyrics? Currently, I've been listening to Fiona Apple's Tidal and Extraordinary Machine CDs, and the lyrics are impressive.

So, if you read this, your turn to Meme...