Sunday, February 24, 2008

procrastinating and random weekend tidbits

I have spent this entire weekend deliberately avoiding doing any work. And I've been successful at it. Although I know I will regret this decision tomorrow, I just cannot bring myself, at 8:30 on a Sunday night, to open that pile of work I dragged home from the office on Friday night. The truth is, I'm bad at working from home. There are just too many other wonderful things to do at home - such as watch tv, nap on the couch, read blogs (okay, I do that at work too), snack, bake cupcakes, go to parties and even cleaning my apartment. I did all these things instead of working this weekend and right now I'm fine with that. Not sure how I will feel tomorrow night working until midnight to catch up on what I have avoided today but . . . I'm just going to have to live with that decision.

My home computer has died. DIED! I watched it slowly slipping away from me - first itunes vanished and my computer absolutely refused to re-load it. Then internet explorer inexplicably disappeared and likewise refused to come back. I took these as warning signs and finally purchased myself an external hard drive to back everything up a few weeks ago. Last Friday, before I left for my whirlwind trip to Salt Lake, it died. I wanted (NEEDED) to order some dinner and nearly panicked without internet access. Unlike the old days, I do not keep the menus shoved under my door. Luckily I had the card of a favorite restaurant and have committed their menu to memory after frequent dining over the last 7 years and was able to call something in. I had to do the same thing again this last Friday night because I had not given my computer any attention. I dragged my laptop home (along with the piles of papers I am supposed to be working on right now) and have managed to cope with my lack of computer a bit. But I'm still in itunes withdrawals. Over a month without it is causing some serious issues.

Last night I went to a friend's birthday party. I offered to make cupcakes and since she and her husband are supportive fans of my baking they took me up on it and requested vanilla with chocolate. I decided to do a bit of experimenting and tried out this recipe. It turned out great although I couldn't find cake flour at Whole Foods (although I did find nearly every other type of flour imaginable from the ordinary white and whole wheat to the more experimental such as oat bran and buckwheat to the positively exotic including blue cornmeal, spelt, amaranth, semolina, soy and wheat germ. But no cake flour. I did see pastry flour but I wasn't convinced it was the same thing so I passed and hunted down a substitute on the wonderful internet, the answer: place 2 tablespoons cornstarch in the bottom of every cup of regular flour. It worked well. Although I did have a panicked moment with the first batch of cupcakes that fell miserably. Apparently these cupcakes don't like to crown and really must be only filled 2/3 full as suggested. I reduced the batter in the next two batches and they came out beautifully.

But then I decided to be a bit experimental. My friend Wendy loves spicy Mexican food and while I was hunting around for vanilla cake recipes I stumbled onto a recipe (no idea where at this point) for a spicy chocolate frosting. Well, that sounded delicious to me so I decided to try it out because I have been addicted to the Aztec or Mexican hot chocolates that have been out there lately with lots of cinnamon and chile flavors so why not in a cupcake? I realize this sounds crazy and if you aren't into spicy foods then steer clear but I thought it worked and now I'm going to have to eat one of the ruined left-over cupcakes with the ganache after I finish this post because my mouth is now craving it.

I made my usual ganache: place about 4 ounces of chopped up unsweetened chocolate, I like about 60% cacao at least, in a heat-proof bowl; heat on the stove over medium-low heat about 4 ounces of heavy cream (I heated the whole 4 ounces but didn't use it all, so maybe about 3 ounces is all you need). Keep a close eye on the cream so it doesn't scald or reach a boil. I pulled it off after it was steaming but before it was even hinting at boiling. Pour the cream over the chopped up chocolate and blend until the chocolate is completely melted. Then came the fun part. I just started shaking in chili powder and cayenne pepper until I liked the flavor. I added a bit of powdered sugar (about 3 spoons full) because I used too much cream and needed to thicken it up a bit and just stirred until it was smooth. I popped the bowl into the freezer to speed up the process of cooling it down and thickening it up. Then I took each of the good cupcakes and dipped them straight in the spicy ganache and transferred them to my cupcake caddy. I was running a little late at this point and since I really love adding whipped cream on top of cupcakes I stopped at the store on my way to the party to pick up some whipping cream to whip up (hehe) at the party.

A brief word about my friend Wendy. When she says she doesn't cook, she means she does not cook.

When I arrived I asked if I could raid their kitchen to put the final touch on the cupcakes. Bryan pointed the way to the mixing bowl and hand mixer (I believe they have these only as a result of recently getting married) but when I asked for a little bit of sugar they had nothing. Nothing! So I improvised and used a couple of pinches of the colored sugar sprinkles I had brought along as a topping in the whipped cream. It was perfect and turned the cream a slight lavender color.

Everyone told me they liked the cupcakes and I had to refrain from eating two myself. It was a fun party despite the fact I was the only single person to show up. It was low-key and full of interesting conversations - although I think the one about pumping breast milk was a bit much for me (two women in attendance had newborns).

I should have just gone home. Or stayed a little longer.

But I decided, since it was in the same neighborhood, to stop at a singles party a few blocks away. I took some of the leftover cupcakes and made my way to an apartment full of 20 something girls and about 4 boys who thought they were essentially god's gift to women-kind. I half-listened to one irritating conversation after another and longed for the last party. The one where no one was trying to impress anyone and where everyone could just be themselves.

One particularly irritating boy from Philadelphia was telling a couple of girls I had been talking to about this place he lives with a bunch of rowers (I have no idea why, I started listening in half-way through) and how these girls would get a lot of attention there because all they do is train and don't get out much. I attempted a sarcastic remark about how that isn't too complimentary to say they would pay attention only because they don't get out much . . . but he did not get it. At all.

So I drifted my attention to a conversation wherein a friend of mine was making a case for the Simpsons to a girl who has never watched it. Ever! Not once. That kept my attention for a bit until I overheard a girl telling another about my cupcakes. She was urging the other one to taste the one last discarded one with a single bite taken out of it. She was trying to describe how strange it tasted when she noticed me with my smirk and they turned away. I was not offended, just amused. At the last party my cupcakes were complimented and since I enjoyed them and the birthday girl enjoyed them, I really didn't care what random party girls thought of them.

Today I have managed to accomplish very little other than go to church, nap and watch a movie. Very eventful. Oh, I have also managed to completely confuse myself as to which tv I should buy.

I thought I would continue the divorce stuff but I don't think I have it in me tonight. Thanks for all of the great feedback so far, it is really helping me push through this and I haven't even hit the hard emotional parts yet. And for those of you who have not heard any of this - just be prepared, it gets really ugly.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

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