Weekly Links

My humblebrag excuse for 2013

Thanks for saying it, W. Somerset Maugham. And thanks for posting it, thisisnthappiness.com.


Nigella’s Clementine Cake — For my family’s Christmas dinner dessert, I needed a dessert that was gluten-free (for me), dairy-free (for seester), chocolate-free (for dad), and relatively low-carb (for mom). I used a couple of tangelos instead of the clementines — we’re not Rockefellers, jeez! — but it still worked perfectly and was dead easy.

Cranberry Cake with Warm Butter Glaze — I haven’t gotten around to making this yet because I can’t stop saying “Warm butter glaze. Warm. Butter. Glaze.” over and over in my head.

Pimento Cheese Twice-Baked Potatoes — Sorry, no link because I made it up, but they were awesome with a pressure-cooked mushroom-garlic gravy pork roast and sexy broccoli.

Food for Thought

Shipment of 18 human heads found at Chicago’s O’Hare airport — If I were the Customs agent bureaucrat who intercepted this shipment, it would have been the best day of my life. The next day, I would retire, because I know I would never be able to top this. NEVER.

Suds for Drugs — Speaking of weird news, I’d seen mentions of Tide thefts in the local media. This piece helped explain why.

The Right to Die is the Right to Live — I’m starting to really appreciate some of Vice’s profiles of people who are sick (see also “Zak Loves Mandy,” from a few months ago). Coverage with no trace of treacle and no flinching from the weird shit that is being human and sick.

The Truth about Phones on Airplanes — This struck a chord because I’ve had cause/obligation to fly…4 times?…in the last year or two, after a blissful 10-year hiatus.

I find it infuriating that I have to turn off my electronic distraction exactly when I need it most. And especially after receiving the full TSA treatment last month, wherein the TSA agent, during my patdown, felt the need to comment on my “heavy-duty” bra and then to opine that [my] big boobs are a “good thing” and make for the most pleasant overall body shape.

But it’s the weekend!

Happy time. It’s sunny here for the first time in a week or two, and my flu is over.

Pinned Image
I don’t care if they’re venomous freaks of nature. They could be MY venomous freaks of nature.

What have you found this week that was worth keeping?

Link us up.

My favorite health app is: cooking (NHBPM 12)

Cooking: 5 stars

I started cooking around age 7. I had to stand on a chair to be able to see into the skillet, but my dad showed me how to make pancakes and eggs scrambled and fried. My tormented mom objected and made me run drills so I would know what to do the day my long hair would inevitably catch fire at the gas stove.

Correct answer: grab a dishtowel and wrap it around my head, then stick my head under the faucet at the sink.

Anxiety — not just for breakfast anymore!

But in spite of her warnings (or maybe, in part, because of them), I felt like a wizard caught up in an alchemical romance. I could take simple elements — water, egg, bread, cheese — alone or in combination, put them in a metal pan, apply fire, and end up with something entirely new: scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich.

I held the spatula AND the power.

Ever since, cooking has been something I do to create and to relax. For me, cooking is natural mindfulness. When I’m doing it, I don’t have the resources to think about anything else, and my mind is unusually focused yet aware. I use all my senses, including instinct, to make a steady stream of evaluations and decisions. I flow.

It’s perverse, but I even like that the end product is ephemeral. It helps keep my ego in check and keeps the focus on the process, not any particular outcome.

But. I would still like to share an outcome with you, because I made a lovely cake this week. You might have trouble tracking down one of the key ingredients, though, because it is rarer than rare — leftover champagne.

KK recently received a beautiful personalized bottle of real champagne (from zee Frahnce!) as part of her work anniversary. We waited to open it until a dinner with friends because she kept saying, “We can never drink all that ourselves!”

She’s so cute.

But because nobody wanted to drink all of her champagne, and she couldn’t, we ended up with nearly a cup of it leftover. (Beware those self-fulfilling prophecies.) It kept for a bit in the fridge, but of course wasn’t great for drinking anymore. It was great for cooking, though.

I would say this cake was worth making even if you have to open a fresh bottle to make it. These are the sacrifices we sometimes have to make, you know.

Champagne Vanilla Pound Cake

Inspired by this BHG recipe and this description of real pound cake.
Makes 1 9×5 inch loaf pan (8 servings). Double it to fill a 10-inch tube pan.

For the cake:
Butter a loaf pan. Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Weigh out 8 ounces of gluten-free all-purpose flour in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon on xanthan gum and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Soften 8 ounces of butter (that’s two sticks). Add 8 ounces of sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Beat in 8 ounces of eggs (for mine, 3 large eggs ended up being 7.something ounces and it worked fine).

Add 1/2 cup champagne or sparkling wine and the scrapings from 2 vanilla beans (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, but the beans taste better and look pretty in the cake).

Slowly add in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides to incorporate it all. Pour the batter into a buttered loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until it tests done.

Cool in pan for a bit, then turn it out onto a plate and add the glaze.

For the glaze:
In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with 1 Tablespoon of champagne. Add a few drops more champagne until it becomes a drizzling consistency. Pour over slightly cooled cake.

I served this for dessert with Philadelphia-style Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream (this recipe + 1/2 cup canned pumpkin and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice).

KK”s review: “Oh my god, I LOVE pound cake. You would never know this was gluten free. Can I have some more glaze?”

My review: Easy to make and easy to enjoy. The cake had the large moist crumb it was supposed to, and the champagne kept it from being overly sweet. Next time, I will poke holes in the top of the cake and add extra glaze. Because when you’re a grownup, you get to do that kind of thing.

And like the true primary beneficiary on her life insurance, I introduced KK to toasted pound cake with butter, for breakfast.