Failure is Always an Option

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IMG_0071Yesterday I tried to bake a cake. Not for any particular reason; just because I don’t think I’ve ever baked a layer cake before.

It did not go well.

Both layers were gently slanted, as I placed them too close to the front of the oven. When the toothpick (bamboo skewer) came out clean, I let them cool for a bit, and when it came time to turn them out on my makeshift cooling rack, one of the layers stuck to the pan, leaving a chocolate crater. I patted the hunk back into place, and hoped for the best.

I left the other in the pan longer, and it came out, a little begrudgingly, but it came out.

Ah, but that first layer. It then stuck to the rack, falling apart into boulders of, I’m honest, not terribly good cake.

For that I blame the recipe. I followed it exactly. I’m pretty sure.

I thought I could make cake pops, which I see all the time as recipe suggestions, as the frosting turned out well. And then I figured, ah, to heck with it.

Into the trash it went.

It was, in all, a rather spectacular failure. Would it have worked if I’d just made cupcakes? Probably, though I still wouldn’t have loved the cake itself.

But the point was the trying. It’s OK to fail, even if it means digging chocolate crumbs out of the burners of you stove. It’s OK to fail, even if it means laughing at yourself as you carry handfuls of broken cake across the kitchen.

It’s OK to fail.

The point is the trying.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Cultural Explosion Commences C

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I’m a sociologist at heart, it’s what I studied in college, and it’s never left me. I am a student of people, and today, C is for “culture.” But I discovered something, looking for my morning book: there are too many amazing-looking books on culture to pick only two for the day. So I’m going a little crazy–also a C word–and posting a bunch, sans descriptions, covers and titles only. And you’ll see what I mean.


The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style

 

 


Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture

 


Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

 

 


American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

 

 

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Another Easy Yummy Recipe

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So I have a very, very persuasive sweet tooth. I could probably live on candy if it wasn’t likely to give me scurvy. Or rickets. Can a grown person get rickets? I have no idea.

Anyway, sometimes I try to go with slightly better sweet things, because I don’t think there’s any point in trying to cut them out completely. It seems wrong somehow.

Here’s one of my go-to favorites: I cut up a ripe banana, spray a baking sheet (I actually spray foil on a baking sheet because I like to have as little clean up as possible), and put the slices in a hot oven (450). I let them cook until I can smell them and the start to brown on the bottom. Once they hit that point, I change the oven to broil, so the heat comes from the top. This way you can brown both sides without turning them. Yes, you might have noticed, I’m a lazy cook.

Meanwhile, I melt a few squares of chocolate in the microwave. Go slowly, and try stirring it before giving it more time, because it burns. In my microwave, 30 seconds did it, but it doesn’t look melted until you stir it.

Then comes the vanilla Greek yogurt. I love that stuff. You can use plain, too. Or the kind with fruit. Lots of fruit is always good.

Stir the yogurt and chocolate, letting some chunks form, because they are awesome. Add the banana and voila!

Not an Actual a Vegetarian

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You might get the idea from my food posts that I’m a vegetarian. I’m not. I’ve tried it in the past, and it simply doesn’t work for me.

I like the term “flexitarian.” From the first moment I heard it, it seemed to fit. I don’t tend to cook meat at home, but I’ll eat it when I’m out, most kinds of meat, except for pork.

Never pork.

When I found out that pigs were smarter than dogs, it was over for me. It’s always been a tight balance, being carnivorous and accounting for how that’s accomplished, and that bit of knowledge took me over the line as far as they were concerned.

A recent study suggests that chickens are much smarter than we think, as well. I may be doomed.

Fish, though, have never been an issue. It might be that I prefer fish to meat, and thus my convictions mold to fit my tastes. Or maybe it’s that they don’t seem to have much in the way of brain power, just vacuousness, almost like swimming vegetables.

Who knows.

I’m Giddy over My Fridge, and I Don’t Care Who Knows It

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For the first time in my life, I was excited to put my groceries away. If you saw Friday’s bit, you know that my former fridge is no more: the fridge is dead, long live the new fridge.

And it’s a beaut. I came home with a heavy cart loaded with fresh foods, and the fridge swallowed the groceries all in one dainty bite. I haven’t yet stocked the freezer with my beloved frozen veggies, and probably won’t today, given that the sky seems to have forgotten how do do anything but snow, but there’s all this blank space, ready to host bag upon bag in a way I can find them.

No struggling with drawers happier closed than open. No vying for shelf space. Knowing that if I put something in the door, it was likely to stay there without secretly planning its thrill-seeking jump to the floor. Or my foot.

The produce bins took all the fruit and vegetables I bought and then seemed to ask if maybe I didn’t have more. And when I took my Greek vanilla yogurt out of the fridge to make my breakfast of yogurt, berries and nuts, no part of my brain wondered if it would exact revenge.

Thank you, presidents, for having a day that naturally lends itself to sales. My new refrigerator and I will be very happy together.

 

Veggie Patties So Easy It Was Like I Was Cheating

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So I have to share yet another insanely easy recipe with you. This one also works for vegans.

Take about a cup and half of stew-style frozen veggies. The stew-style has carrots, onions, celery and potatoes—usually heavy on the onions and carrots, but that works for us here. Microwave them with enough water to steam them (a tablespoon or so if you’re into measuring). It took about four minutes in my microwave, but yours could be more enthusiastic.

Then you need about ¾ of a cup of grain. I had leftover brown rice, so that’s what I used. You could also use quinoa, or anything else you have. My rice was hard, so I reheated it with some water. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do that. I think you can get a deadly disease, but so far, so good.

After the vegetables are soft, mush them. I used my Magic Bullet (I love you, Magic Bullet) with the flat blade and tried to leave some chunk here and there as opposed to a paste. Salt and pepper, and then I mashed it all together.

I made patties, sprayed a baking sheet, sprayed the patties, and into the oven they went, at about 350 degrees. I say “about” because my oven is older than I am, so the number on the dial is an estimation.

After about ten minutes, when I could smell them, I resprayed them and set them to broil to do the tops.

It’s almost as though they made themselves.

In Honor of the Humble Frozen Vegetable

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You walk past them in the freezer case of the grocery store, bag after bag lumpily stacked. They sit there, quietly, waiting for someone, anyone, to notice them. They don’t even know that they are superstars.

I am, of course, talking about frozen veggies.

They are, frankly, brilliant. With one little bag, you can get a single vegetable, or a range of three, five, even more. They are washed. They are cut. And they’re ready for business.

You can use them in literally anything, and you don’t even have to make an effort to prep them. You just dump them into whatever you’re making, and most of the time, you can do that even when they’re frozen.

You may be familiar with my love of frozen veggies from my earlier post, Easiest Sauce Ever. But the love doesn’t stop there. With a quick pour and a touch of a microwave, you have steamed veggies of any denomination. Throw them on baking sheet with salt, pepper and some oil or cooking spray, still frozen, put them in a hot oven, and you have roasted vegetables. Thunk them into a pan and saute them.

They’re not fussy. They’re only there to help.