Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve walk in the rain

It's Christmas Eve, and it's raining, but I set a goal to leave my apartment once a day during the break and I already skipped it yesterday. Even though the only place I needed to go was the grocery store, I decided to make a brief trip downtown, where it was oddly quiet.

tree in window

Market Square was mostly deserted, except for a few people on the temporary ice rink, and Gay Street was equally empty:

Gay Street on Christmas Eve

Christmas tree in the rain

I ended up walking to both bridges and back up Main Street:

round building

united methodist steps

because it was warm and had stopped raining, and I spent some time looking at the nativity scene in front of the First Baptist Church:

first baptist church (1)

first baptist church (2)

first baptist church (3)

(I really like that one)

first baptist church (4)

first baptist church (5)

and then I went to the grocery store, where I watched someone try to park in the cart corral and a student came up to me at the register to thank me for helping her get her late fees and payment issues resolved.

I hope everyone has a good Christmas, if they are celebrating one, or just a good day tomorrow.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Maybe This Time: The Return of the Carnation Famous Fudge Kit

Two years ago, I tried to make fudge with the Carnation Famous Fudge Kit, with mixed success. I had some tasty fudge, but the top layer was grainy and flaky. I summed it up at the time with this quote:

"My fudge looks like an old pioneer woman's face."

Last year, I tried again. I believed that I had conquered the original problem because I realized that I used margarine instead of butter and I paused for several seconds before adding the marshmallows and chocolate chips rather than dumping them right in like the box said to, because I hadn't pre-opened their bags as part of my mis en place.

It was, again, a partial failure: Creamy middle, flaky top.

This year, I was sure it would be different. I decided to switch to a different pot, as the old pot was possibly unlucky, and carried the taint of past attempts. I decided to slightly lower the temperature of the sugar/milk/butter mixture, in case it was so hot that it was crystallizing the chocolate chips instead of melting them. Possibly most importantly, I decided to maintain a positive attitude by blasting a preplanned soundtrack while making the fudge, and singing along at the top of my lungs: I set "Maybe This Time" from "Cabaret" on repeat, and belted the hell out of it while stirring.

It is a song of hope, an anthem of optimism, but after this year it could also end up being a tragic ode to culinary failure.

Whether this was the case wasn't immediately apparent, though. My fudge spread smoothly into the pan provided, and while it didn't look swirly and glossy it also didn't look like I ran sandpaper over the top. I put it into the fridge to set, and then I had some potentially disgusting holiday snacks to entertain myself while waiting.

Snack #1: Target's Red Velvet Holiday Chocolate Milk

red velvet milk (1)

I saw this in the grocery department of the Supertarget the other night, and was curious enough to buy it. I like red velvet cake, but I also know that it's just chocolate cake with dye in it. Logically, this should just taste like chocolate milk, right?

Before you can see what it tastes like, though, you have to get past the color:

red velvet milk (2)

It looks like a cup of paint. It looks like the blood of some animal that Klingons would feed their children. Worf should be slamming a glass of this onto the table in front of Alexander and telling him to drink his blood milk or go to bed without dinner.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't drink it, though, right?


You shouldn't drink this.

The color has nothing to do with that, though. As predicted, this tastes like chocolate milk, but it tastes like white chocolate, that vile, waxy fake chocolate that doesn't have any real chocolate in it at all. It's a very distinctive flavor, and that's what this "holiday milk" tastes like: the worst kind of chocolate in the world.

Eager to cleanse my palate, I reached for:

Snack #2: Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles

pumpkin pie spice pringles

For when regular Pringles aren't gross enough.

I'll be honest: I like pumpkin pie, but I'm rather dubious of anything else that's flavored like it. I don't enjoy the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte that everyone seems to go crazy over every year, but I did like that pumpkin spice eggnog that I drank once, so maybe the Pringles would somehow be delicious.

When I opened them, they smelled really strongly of pumpkin pie, not just the spices but the whole smell of filling and crust. The chips themselves look like regular Pringles, but if you look closely they have little brown spots on them, which I guess are the flavoring. They could use a ton more spots, though, because they don't taste like anything. It's like eating a can of unflavored Pringles. Intrigued, I tried eating two at once, then three, and finally four at the same time before I got even a slight hint of something other than Pringle.

I don't understand how they can smell so much like pumpkin pie without tasting like it. They're like eating chips of potpourri.

Somewhat disappointed, I turned to the final holiday snack:

Snack #3: White Chocolate Peppermint Pringles

white chocolate peppermint pringles

I had the lowest expectations for these, because of my feelings about white chocolate, which I mentioned above, but I figured that they would probably end up being as bland and tasteless as the Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles were. When I opened them, the smell convinced me that I was probably right: it smelled like the cardboard inside of a Pringles can. Remembering how blandly flavored the other ones were, I stuck three into my mouth at once.

And then lurched to the sink to spit them out.

I'm not sure I can properly convey this, but imagine a baked potato topped with white chocolate chips and a spritz of creme de menthe. Now imagine that you have a mouthful of it. I went for the sink because the garbage can was further away and I didn't think I would make it.

I will not eat another bite of these. Instead, I will take the can to work, put it on the table in the kitchen, and walk away.

What happens to them after that isn't my affair.

What is my affair, though, is this year's attempt at the famous fudge.

I had so much hope.

I stirred vigorously, as instructed.

I belted over my stove, at the top of my lungs, that, "It's gonna happen! Happen sometime! Maybe this time... maybe this time, I'llllllllll..... WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN!"

And what did I end up with?

Fudge that is slightly rough on top, but so glossy, smooth, and creamy inside that it reflects the pan in its surface. Look:

shiny fudge

Look at the white pan reflected in the fudge. It's so close to perfect that I could weep.

Or my eyes may just still be tearing from the effort not to vomit up those Pringles.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

New York, in pieces

I spent last week in New York State for Thanksgiving, as I usually do. I didn't really do anything exciting, but it was nice to have a quiet trip where I hung out with family, read books, and played with the dogs.

Here are some random shots of the trip in chronological order:

The Old Port Ewen Bridge

When my grandfather turned the corner and started driving us across the old bridge into Port Ewen, NY, my first question was, "Are you sure this bridge is still open?"

Look at it:

the old port ewen bridge

See the rust? The peeling paint? The cracks? According to my mom, this bridge was supposed to come down when she was a teenager and the new Port Ewen bridge was constructed, but apparently they're just going to wait for it to fall down instead.


I wanted to remember to put a book that I looked at on my amazon wish list (linked here in case random people want to send me presents), but I don't have a smart phone, so I do this instead:


I have so many photos of books in bookstores.

Pickens General Store, Heuvelton, NY

Rather than braving the big box stores on Black Friday, my mom drove me into Amish country to go to Picken's General Store in nearby Heuvelton. The building is a former vaudeville hall, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

pickens hall

Inside, the store is on the first floor:

general store

cheese curd thursday

straw hats

cabin quilt

and the second floor is a performance venue:

venue (1)

venue (2)

with a small collection of antiques and historical objects:

antique books

It was a nice trip, and got us out of the house without taking us anywhere near the crazy rioting people.

Sad Santa

sad santa

Something about that Santa decoration seemed more bleak than festive to me.

The Globe Mall

Mom and I tried to spend part of Small Business Saturday at the Globe Mall, where there is an indoor flea market and antique mall, or, rather, where there was an indoor flea market and antique mall.

They picked Small Business Saturday to be the weekend when they closed and moved to another building to re-open next week, leaving behind only peeling paint and a collection of broken dolls:

globe mall (2)

trash collection

globe mall (1)

The Globe Mall, like a lot of Northern New York, has seen better days.

Carved Turkey

I found it momentarily amusing that my mom was carefully carving one of the solid milk chocolate turkeys that my grandparents gave us for Thanksgiving into tiny slivers:

carved turkey

It never occurred to me to slice it up. Every year I just gnaw mine, slowly and messily.

The Frosty North

It snowed the day that I was supposed to leave, enough to delay my flight out.

81 South, with snow

Everything turned out ok, though, and I had a really nice mini-vacation and trip home.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homemade Mini Quiches

If you're like me (and, if you're not, maybe you should be?) you often end up with little nubs of cheese in your refrigerator.

lots of cheese

Sometimes those lumps go together, and I usually just dice them and sprinkle them on homemade pizza. Other times, like today, they don't really go together all that well, and I sit around with these little scraps of cheese and wonder what to do with them. The other day, for example, I realized that I had blue cheese, havarti with caraway seeds, and cheddar with chocolate shavings, and I can't melt those together into anything without it ending up kind of vile. (If you look at the above photo, I also have a lump of stilton with mango and ginger, but that's just going onto crackers.)

Thinking about it while I walked through the grocery store, I decided to try dicing it into quiche. There isn't enough cheese for a whole quiche, and I still had the problem of not wanting to mix those particular cheeses, but there was plenty of cheese for mini quiches, so I grabbed a box of shells and a cup of heavy cream, and I was ready to go.

Here's what you'll need if you want to play along at home:

1 box of frozen premade (but not prebaked) mini pastry shells
Cheese of any flavor
4 eggs
1 cup of heavy/whipping cream
Salt, pepper, and any herbs you think might be good
Bacon bits (real ones or turkey bacon)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

The pastry shells said to defrost for twenty minutes before baking. I figured that it would take about twenty minutes to finely dice the cheese and mix up the filling, so I set my shells out on a cookie sheet (covered with parchment paper in case of drips), and started slicing cheese.

You want the cheese diced up pretty small, so that some of the quiche filling gets in between the pieces. You also don't want the cheese to melt into one big lump in the bottom of the quiche. Once I diced the cheese, I dropped one type into each of the shells, and then added some bacon bits:

quiche shells (1)

Then I mixed up the filling. 4 eggs and 1 cup of cream whisked together should give you enough. I added salt and pepper, and then threw in a handful of dried chives. I mixed my filling in a mixing bowl with a spout (one of the best items I liberated from my mom's kitchen when I moved out), which made it really easy to pour into the shells over the cheese and bacon:

quiche shells (2)

For a full sized quiche, you'd bake 40-50 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, but I didn't know what to do with mini ones. I set the timer for 20 minutes, checked, set it for ten more, checked again, and watched them puff up while baking:

baking quiches

Your oven may vary, but my knife came out clean from three different quiches (I checked more than one because sometimes my oven heats unevenly) after 33 minutes. I pulled them out and let them cool on the baking sheet for a half hour, and then I cut one:

finished mini quiche

and then I ate three of them and put the rest in the freezer.

I will totally make these again, and you should, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Twinkies Saved the World

lois with breaking news

Thanks for the update, Lois.

As you may or may not have heard, Hostess has gone out of business, spelling the temporary end of Twinkies, Hostess Fruit Pies, Wonder Bread, and a bunch of other stuff that most people probably don't buy in a week but are now suddenly, if Facebook is to be believed, realizing that they can't live without. I think this photo sums up most of what I've read:

ferro lad reacts

Most of my friends have reacted in the following ways:

1) "Oh, that's sad. Oh well."


3) "One less thing to make children fat. Good riddance."

I'm not particularly broken up about the whole thing. I do think it's a little sad that I will possibly never again have a fried Twinkie:

fried twinkies

but then I remember that, despite my love of fair food, fried food, and snack food, I've only ever had a fried Twinkie once, and didn't finish it. The filling in the center coagulated and got so sweet that I had to stop halfway through. It was so sugary that I felt like I might vomit, but now I feel kind of bad that people might never have the chance to violently sicken themselves on deep fried snack food the way that I did.

I feel like America has lost something.

Not only that, but I'm worried about the disastrous consequences that the loss of Hostess snack cakes can have on our society.

How will Batgirl foil well-dressed jewel thieves?

batgirl hostess ad

How will Wonder Woman save astronauts from a fiery death?

wonder woman hostess ad

And why aren't those fruit pies burning up on re-entry? What the hell are they made out of, and why did we cover the space shuttle in heat resistant tiles when we could have just covered it in apple pies instead?

Hostess snack cakes helped Captain Marvel prevent an alien invasion:

captain marvel hostess ad

helped Spider-Man find love:

spider-man hostess ad

and once even saved Thor from a family of rampaging hillbillies:

thor hostess ad

which, I've heard, could be the plot of the upcoming "Thor II".

Hostess snack cakes helped Hawkman quell a riot:

hawkman hostess ad

helped Green Arrow rescue some endangered schoolchildren:

green arrow hostess ad

helped Captain America rescue Nick Fury:

captain america hostess ad

and helped Aquaman clean up a beach and save the suntan lotion and bikini industries:

aquaman hostess ad

Hostess snack cakes are part of the fabric of America, one of our many icons, and once they even helped Batman save our American icons:

batman hostess ad

from the Pigeon Person, who was stealing all of our statues, possibly to poop on. (Don't look at me like that. When have you seen a pigeon do anything with a statue BESIDES poop on it?)

So, where does this leave us? What will become of us in this new, harsh, Twinkie-free world?

ferro lad's travesty

invisible kid, snack cake

We'll be fine. Calm down, people, and for the love of God, stop buying Twinkies for $40 a box on e-bay. Hostess will be auctioned off, someone will buy the brands, and you'll see Twinkies and Ding Dongs and Wonderbread again.

In the meantime, try to avoid the impending crime wave.