Sunday, January 27, 2008

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are for tonight's watch party for Masterpiece Theatre's adaptation of Mansfield Park. The recipe is here. I made a couple changes. Instead of using a blender, I just use a spatula. Since the butter is melted and there is only 1 cup of flour, it's not very difficult to mix by hand. Also, I find cutting chocolate to be extremely messy, so I use Guittard milk chocolate chips (2/3 c = 4 oz.). One more thing: the recipe says to use a 1.5" ice cream scoop to scoop out the cookies, but to get 3 dozen, you have to use a tablespoon because the ice cream scoop makes enormous cookies (16 per batch). If you scoop with a tablespoon, the cookies only need to cook 10 minutes instead of 15.

Whisking the cocoa and flour:
Chocolate and butter ready to be melted:
Melted chocolate/butter creamed with sugar, salt and baking soda to which we add eggs and vanilla:
After folding in chocolate chips:

Here's the finished product. They were a big hit! (I think it's because they're a successful combination of cookie and brownie with a yummy chewy center.)

Round-up of the Past Few Weeks

It's been forever since I posted. Graduate school seems to take a lot out of me. I'll really be glad to be done with it! The most exciting thing to happen since school started is that my friends (in alphabetical order) Allison, Ariana, Erika, Kristyn, Rebecca, and Nicole have been coming over to watch Masterpiece Theatre's adaptations of Jane Austen's novels. So far we've seen Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Tonight we'll watch Mansfield Park, which is not my favorite Austen, so I'm hoping Masterpiece Theatre will make it as good as possible.

Here's a photo of a cupcake I made for the week we watched Persuasion:

Don't worry--those specks are vanilla beans! The cake is a genoise with rum glaze and a whipped cream frosting, adapted from this recipe.

Lastly, here are two recipes I've made that turned out really well. The first is Chicken au Champagne from French Women Don't Get Fat with a side of Frozen Peas from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I love this recipe because it's easy and the chicken stays super moist even after it's been reheated.

The second meal is Spice-Rubbed Turkey Breast with Sweet Potatoes and Sauteed Escarole. The escarole wasn't really that impressive, maybe because I had to substitute turnip greens, but everything else was really tasty. I love sweet potatoes anyway and the turkey was actually juicy.
To finish up, here's a look at the books for the French seminar I'm attending. I told you I like uniformity!

Monday, January 7, 2008

North by Northwest and Wichita

Since I needed a movie to watch while I waited for my nails to dry (why does that always seem to take so long and why are quick-dry nail polishes so sub-par?), I chose North by Northwest from my collection, which I hadn't seen in a really long time. I had actually forgotten most of the plot. In fact, all I could remember was: Oak Bar at Plaza, drunk driving, mother, U.N. murder, train, and Mount Rushmore. That probably would be all there is to the movie if it weren't directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I absolutely adore him. I also absolutely adore train travel (not like I've ever traveled any farther than between Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, VA, but I do like the idea of it). Everything seems so glamorous: observation cars, white tablecloths, watching the scenery pass by while feasting on brook trout (that's what Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint eat on the 20th Century Limited). I like almost any movie where there is a lengthy train sequence. Murder on the Orient Express and From Russia with Love both come to mind. You know, I just realized Sean Connery is in both of those films. There's probably a film major essay in there somewhere.

I remember reading about The Royal Scotsman in Victoria magazine years ago and have been wanting to take its tour of the Highlands ever since. It costs £3190 per person, so I had better start saving up! Check out the cabin. Forget 4 nights, I could live on this train forever!
(Photo from Royal Scotsman website:

In November, Paul accepted a job with Hawker Beechcraft and he'll start in June, so we spent Saturday and Sunday driving around Wichita looking for a place for us to live. We'll have to go back over Spring Break and keep checking the listings online, because we didn't really find anything. I did, however, become attached to the Hillcrest Apartments in the College Hill area. They were built probably in the 1920s and are a high-rise Tudor-style apartment building. Absolutely charming. I definitely want to see inside.

Paul and I narrowed our "areas in which we prefer to live" list down to College Hill and Riverside, both historic neighborhoods located in the northern central part of town and both close to the downtown area. Growing up in a house built in 1909, I feel more comfortable in historic areas. I also feel they have more character (and more trees!).

I have already made Paul promise to take me to movies at the Orpheum downtown. According to, the theatre opened in 1922 and was the "first atmospheric theatre in the United States." It has a Spanish gardens theme that has been maintained since its opening. There is a virtual tour and slideshow here. I can't wait for the All About Eve/Jezebel double feature! It reminds me of reading the scenes in the American Girl books when Molly goes to the movie theatre with her friends. I loved those books; they were required reading in my group of friends in 1st grade since we acted all of them out at recess.

To finish up, two great places to eat in Wichita: Caffe Moderne and Il Vicino. Caffe Moderne is in Old Town and has art deco furnishings (including a beautiful bar) and serves, honest-to-God, the best paninis and quiche Paul and I have had in a restaurant. I had the Garbo sandwich, which had chicken, artichoke, arugula, and lemon mayonnaise. Awesome! We also had gelato for dessert. It was homemade and so very very tasty. The prices were reasonable, too. My sandwich (side salad included) was $7.50 and the gelato was $3.50.

Il Vicino is on Douglas Street near Oliver (Paul and I had a whole lot of fun saying "let's take Oliver north" oh we're such dweebs). Great wood oven pizza! I had a small (the small size isn't on the menu, but just ask for it, perfect personal size) Rustica which has artichoke, kalamata olives, and capers. Il Vicino, like Caffe Moderne, is classy and not very expensive.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Will Knit for Philosophy

One of my favorite BBC radio shows is In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, billed as a discussion on the history of ideas. It is broadcast every Thursday and I have a subscription through iTunes. While I worked on Paul's socks, I listened to this week's discussion was over the life and works of Albert Camus. When I was working on my undergraduate degree in French, I had to take a class entitled "French Literature 1800 to present" in which we read Flaubert, Claudel, Duras, Colette, and, naturellement, Camus. I don't remember actually enjoying reading La peste (The Plague), but I was intrigued by it and I thought Camus was a rather intelligent man. There are two ideas from his writing (both of which were discussed in the radio program) that have stuck with me. One is because of the nature of mortality, we all have a right to be happy right now because none of us can know how much time we have left. I know it's morbid, but it puts things in perspective. Another of his tenents that arose from his atheism is the idea that religion is unnecessary for establishing the moral compass of a human being. He argued that we instinctively know what is right and wrong and that fear of the wrath of God hasn't prevented many Christians from behaving immorally. This also places a lot of social responsibility on the individual, which I like. I think that there are too many people out there looking to blame someone or something else for their own shortcomings. However, Camus also understands and laments the fact that the majority of people will never take the responsibility we should be bound to take.

I really mean to read the rest of Camus's work. I think I will read L'étranger or La chute this summer. With thinking of reading Camus comes thinking of reading Sartre and de Beauvoir. I actually enjoyed Simone de Beauvoir's La deuxième sexe, but Erika has made me a little wary of reading Sartre after telling me about La nausée.

Check out this week's broadcast of In Our Time here. The "listen again" option is only available until the next episode. It's also available free on iTunes.
Above: my copy of La peste; Below: excerpt from back of novel, click to enlarge
Below: My collection of folio novels--I love how they are all the same height and all have the numbers at the top and the titles all in the same typeface. I am a great admirer of uniformity.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Delusions of Southern Belle Grandeur

Above and below: Pumpkin Pasta for dinner

I wasn't sure what to expect with this dish and I wasn't sure if Paul was going to eat it (or if I was going to eat it for that matter but I do love most forms of squash). My fears were put to rest with the wonderful smell of the sauce simmering. It was really good and the recipe can be found here. The only thing I didn't like was that I thought that 1" pieces of kale were much too big. I might even substitute par-boiled broccoli instead of kale next time. I got to use my Le Creuset casseroles which I bought at an antique store in Edmond for super cheap. I think the large casserole was $25 or $30. I love them and I understand why people could pay full price for them and now I really really want one of their large dutch ovens. Call me crazy, but I get super excited over the Williams-Sonoma catalog.
Well, I've been claiming that I would buy the 4-disc Gone with the Wind and I finally did, along with the Southern Cooking edition of Gourmet and didn't realize the connection until I got home. There are so many things I have to make out of this issue! I could go for a biscuit or two right now...

I watched Gone with the Wind yesterday while I painted my nails, ate lunch, needlepointed, and worked more on Paul's socks, which seem to be the never-ending knitting project. I really didn't mean to watch the entire movie yesterday, but I did. And (don't read the rest of this sentence if you are one of the five people on the face of the planet who hasn't seen the movie or read the book) I still cry when Melanie dies even thought I've seen the movie at least 10 times already and I would read the book again in a heartbeat if it weren't so long. It's much quicker to watch the movie. The quality of the DVD is amazing. The film transfer is flawless and the sound could have been recorded yesterday. I was fascinated the entire time by how fresh the film is and it was made almost 70 years ago! Except for the look of three-strip Technicolor (which I love anyway and would use if I ever made a film) GWTW doesn't seem dated. I was also struck by how no one else possibly could have played Rhett Butler but Clark Gable. I just read the novel early last year and Margaret Mitchell's descriptions of Rhett and his mannerisms and speech are Gable and not just in GWTW, but in his earlier films, especially It Happened One Night and Manhattan Melodrama. Anyway, that's enough of me as a film critic, especially reviewing something that has been written about as much as GWTW.
From Gone with the Wind to one of my own Southern belle qualities--
The photograph above is my china pattern, Lady Carlyle by Royal Albert. I honestly picked this out in elementary school and have been collecting it since. Unfortunately, it was discontinued just a few years ago, so I have to look for it every time I go to an estate sale (I actually have found cup/saucer sets and a cake plate) and my parents keep an eye out on the internet. The last big shipment of Lady Carlyle had to come all the way from Ireland and took months and months. My parents are such lovely people for not having discouraged the bulk of my eccentricities and contributing to my collection on birthdays and Christmas.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Have a Delicious New Year!

Here's hoping that your 2008 (and mine!) is as delightful as this cream cheese and jam stuffed french toast!

Paul and I both enjoy breakfast for dinner occasionally, especially if it involves french toast, pancakes, waffles, or biscuits. Long live simple carbohydrates!