Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Berry cake and late nights

It's summer vacation. Again. While that makes my days chaos clusters, it frees up my nights for writing without curfews. It was last summer that I ripped through Will & Maggie by staying up all hours of the night and sleeping in every morning. 170,000 words in a couple of weeks. It was glorious. The productivity, not the finished first draft.
My arsenal of writing tools is well-stocked; Diet Cherry Coke, espresso beans, energy drinks, chocolate, and booze. Unless one of the three agents currently perusing my manuscript offers to represent me and sends a long list of revisions, I will be plugging away at REM this summer.
In celebration of my freedom from early mornings, I present you all with this morning's breakfast: A pile of fresh berries suspended in rich butter and cream cheese cake. Since all the seeds in the berries help promote bowel regularity, consider it health food. You're welcome!
The Seeds of Love (a.k.a. berry cake)
This recipe yields one 9" round and can easily be doubled for a 9x13" pan.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 t vanilla
2 cups fresh (or frozen, if you're a loser) berries.
Cinnamon sugar, optional
Powdered sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9" round cake pan. If you're doubling the recipe, use a 9x13" pan. The berries will stick mercilessly, so I highly recommend lining the pan with parchment paper for easy removal.
Beat butter, cream cheese, and sugar until combined. Beat in egg. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into butter and sugar mixture until just combined. Fold in vanilla and berries. Spread batter in prepared pan and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if using.
Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert onto serving plate and dust with powdered sugar, if using.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lemon bars and an open apology

I admit it was kinda fun teasing my Twitter friends about the lemon bars I baked this morning, but now I'm in a world of tangy-sweet butter bliss and feeling pretty guilty about it. Guess I owe you all a great big apology and my recipe for lemon bars.

I'm sorry. I'm truly, deeply sorry you aren't here to taste the powdered sugar on the tip of your tongue and sink your teeth into the fragile crust. I regret spilling details about the ingredients, like fresh lemons and real butter. I am a bad person for being so thoughtless.

Now here's the recipe:

Pure Sunshine (a.k.a. Lemon Bars)

2/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
6 eggs
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 T fresh lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 t baking powder
Powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar 2 min. or until fluffy. Beat in 2 cups flour until mixture is crumbly. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 10x15 baking pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes in a 350 degree oven until golden.

Meanwhile, for filling, combine eggs, 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and baking powder. Beat 2 min. or until combined.

Pour filling over baked crust. Bake 20 minutes more or until filling is set and just starting to color around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Dust tops with powdered sugar and cut into bars.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Finding strength in the p-trap

My 2yo is an angel. Most of the time. Actually only part of the time. Okay, very rarely. ANYWAY, he's helping me learn important lessons about life; like finding strength in the p-trap while he learns life lessons of his own; like potty training.

Today my 2yo wandered back to the bathroom to go potty with a Capri Sun in one hand and half of a pink pencil case in the other. He toddled back out a few minutes later with just the Capri Sun and made the "come here" motion with his hand. (For those of you who don't know, 2yo is a little man of few words.) I followed him back to the bathroom where he stood beside the toilet and asked "gone?" Indeed, the pink pencil case was gone.

I gave it a test flush and everything seemed fine. A few hours later, it was not fine. No amount of plunging would move *things* through the pipes and clear out the toilet bowl. The Gunny, who built bathrooms for a short time before joining the Marine Corps, said he'd have to take the toilet out and free the pink pencil case when he made it home from work. I decided that was too long to be subject to the terror that is the kids' bathroom.

On a related note, I am not mechanically inclined. At all. I have a tendency to break everything I touch. I'm the one who takes something with a minor problem and turns it into a major disaster. That's me. I coerced my kids into reaching their skinny hands up into the toilet before I did anything myself.

So, when that didn't work, I headed into the bathroom with a wire coat hanger, some rags, and what little strength I could scrape together. Amazingly, I knew to turn off the water and disconnect the hose from the wall before attempting to remove the toilet. I also knew that I'd need to stop up the hole in the floor (in the center of the gooey wax ring) so the room wouldn't fill with sewer gas. I know, I know; I was impressed with myself too.

A few nuts later, the toilet was upside down and I was jabbing the twisted coat hanger into the p-trap to dislodge the pink pencil case. The stupid thing finally slid free in a rush of opaque, brown um... water.

I was so proud of myself that I didn't notice how slow the toilet flushed after I had it put back in place. By the time I was ready to go to bed, however, the toilet wasn't flushing at all. Again. I stressed about it for a bit, plunging like a madwoman to keep from looking incompetent in front of The Gunny. Still no luck.

Then I remembered the wire coat hanger, which had mysteriously disappeared.

Let me back up for a minute here. After the disappearing/reappearing pink pencil case ordeal, I'd washed two loads of soggy towels, bleached the crap out of my bathroom (literally), and scheduled therapy for my emotional scarring. I sure as sugar didn't want to go through all of that again. But I also didn't want to have to tell The Gunny that I left a mangled wire hanger in the p-trap.

My pride won and I dismantled the toilet. Again. I did two loads of laundry. Again. I bleached the bathroom. Again.

The moral of this story? 2yo is the spawn of Satan. No wait- I'm stronger than I first believed. I did what I had to do to make things work, even when it meant going back into the fray. Again.

Getting published isn't a whole lot different from dislodging a pink pencil case and a wire coat hanger from the p-trap of a toilet. You might go into it feeling like it's going to be a piece of cake, or you might have to force yourself to send off that first query-- but you do it anyway. And then you suffer. You find yourself up to your elbows in crap, standing in a *muddy* puddle, and dry-heaving over an unusable toilet. Or not. Whatever. But you get through the rejections, and you get your pretty pink requests for partials and fulls.

This is where I am in the publishing game right now; having procured my pink pencil case and discovering there's still more to be done. I'm stronger than I first believed though, and I'm diving back in to finish the job. I'm familiar with the plumbing this time, and I know I can get this done and get it done right.

How far into your p-trap are you?