Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer 2017: The Beginning (in pictures)

To say my kids were ready for summer would be like saying the Titanic nicked itself on an iceberg. They were crawling through the desert of school on their hands and knees, and summer was the oasis that was maybe just a mirage until it wasn't, and it came, and they drank and drank and are still drinking. They have been sleeping until 10, 11, 12, the poor, exhausted ducks.

They rouse themselves to eat and play Mine Craft. It was a difficult and tiring school year, and it makes me so happy to see them refueling.

Other Mine Craft compatriots come and go. They've only been on vacation for 5 seconds, these kids, so their binging goes unchecked for now.

Birdy takes gaming breaks to read a little bit. Michael and I took her to see the touring company of Fun Home, and I think it was the best thing we ever saw on stage. I got goosebumps no fewer than a dozen times. Birdy is now loving the book. (FYI, my Survivor column about teenagers and reading should go up tomorrow.)

If you're not already, try making cold-brew ice coffee: shake together 1/3 cup of any medium-roast grounds with 1 1/2 cups of water, and leave it at room temperature overnight. In the morning I pour it through my porcelain pour-over cone, but you could totally line a sieve with a basket filter, and use that instead. It makes about 2 cups of coffee, and it is caramel-sweet, with a striking absence of bitterness, burntness, or sourness. Keep extras in the fridge.
My current everyday, anytime meal: Put an egg in a small pot of cold water. Bring it to a boil, shut off the heat, and leave it for 7 minutes. Run under cold water, peel, halve, and top the yolk with a tiny pat of butter, a sprinkle of salt, and a shake of hot sauce. Perfection. 
But a person cannot live on eggs alone. So there are popsicles! These are from a recipe for Sour Cherry, only I used bing cherries and added lemon juice. There is also almond extract. They are possible the best popsicles ever.
I actually wrote the People's Pops people to remind them how wonderful their cookbook is. I mean, I know I've written about it before, but we use it at least twice a week, all summer long, and every recipe is delicious and perfectly crafted. It always makes exactly enough to fill our mold--no more, no less. Amazing. If you know anyone with a summer birthday, the book along with the mold makes a great gift.
Juxtabo is a very good summer game: the tiles are these gorgeous, sherbetty colors, and it's a perfect quickish but interesting on-the-carpet-by-the-fan sort of game. Plus, we can take it camping because the pieces are wonderfully heavy and won't blow away. What is it, though? It's like a cross between Othello and Blokus and Colorku, but not exactly. Sorry.
The kitten is under the impression that under = cooler. 
Maybe he is right!
A couple other things, re SUMMER:
  • Another great summer game is this.
  •  If you are resisiting Kan Jam because you don't want to spend $40 on two pieces of plastic and a shitty frisbee, I hear you. But we actually play every single day
  • They no longer make the old sunscreen I recommended all the time, but we are really liking this one
  • If you've got animal-loving kids, they will love my friend Cammie's latest book.
  • If you want to be harrowed in a good way, read this. If you want to be harrowed in a bad way, read this. If you don't want to be harrowed at all, read this.
  • Speaking of harrowing, the S-town podcast really is great. My whole family loved it, but there are very mature themes in it, just so you know. I would say 14-and-up, but would really depend on the kid. 
  • Maybe pre-order this

Please share your best summer game, book, audiobook, recipe, and whatever else ideas! Please!

Monday, June 05, 2017

Marzipan Blondies (+ links)

I am wild for almondy baked goods. Not so much the kind with real actual almonds, which I can take or leave, but the kind that has marzipan or almond paste, with its intoxicating scent of almonds wafting out. I will choose the almond croissant at the café, the almond macaroon at the Italian bakery, the chocolate-covered marzipan at the candy shop. I love, love, love that flavor, as do my kids, and I love to bake with almond paste. This recipe, for example, which is wonderful (and gf to boot).

You will swear these have almond paste in them! Which is crazy, because you're the one who made them.
But often I don’t have almond paste. (Because I used it already and it is expensive and I am too cheap to buy it again.) So I have been forever looking for a recipe that communicates all the pleasure of almond paste, without the actual almond paste, and this is it. I only found it because a friend’s son baked it, and she posted about it on Facebook, and I could just tell from looking at it that it was going to be exactly perfect: crunchy-edged and with a soft, sticky middle, exactly like an almond macaroon.

It turned out to be a Marion Cunningham recipe, called simply “Almond Butter Cake,” and it has more almond extract in it than seems wholesome, and I wouldn’t do it any other way. I’m calling it blondies and baking it in a square pan because I think it lends itself better to bars—and to the idea that it’s texturally way more like brownies than like cake. Sticky, chewy, and like brownies, leavened only with eggs.

Wake us when it's not cake.
The original recipe calls for a topping made of sugar and sliced almonds, but I’m a weird purist about my almond-flavored things, and find it more distracting than enhancing. Feel free to add it back in: after the batter is in the pan, sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of sugar and then ¾ cup sliced almonds. If I were eating this all by myself, I might sprinkle the batter with pignolis, à la my favorite Italian almond macaroons. But that is not a popular idea around here.

p.s. I have written some things! This, over at Full Grown People (with my favorite tags ever: "anger, Catherine Newman, men, misogyny, rage, sexism, woman's anger, work"), and this over at Motherwell. Also, my (and Ben and Birdy's) parenting-teens column continues over at SheKnows. Please send me questions if you think to! 

p.p.s. This book, The Bright Hour? It will wreck you, and you'll be so glad you read it. It changed me.

Marzipan Blondies, baked as a cake, makes a perfectly acceptable Yay, It's Wednesday Cake! cake.
Marzipan Blondies
This is the kind of cake where the batter is ready to bake long before your oven is preheated. So, so easy.

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter (I use salted)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour

Heat the oven to 350. Butter and flour or cooking-spray a baking pan that is either an 8-inch square or a 9-inch circle. (I used geometry *and* algebra to figure out the equivalent! [pats self on back])

Melt the butter in a small pot and then transfer it to a large bowl. Or, because you’re lazy and don’t want to wash the pot, melt it right in the large bowl either in the microwave (not a metal bowl) or over a pot of simmering water (a metal bowl).

Stir in the sugar until smooth (I use a sturdy rubber spatula for the whole recipe), then add the eggs and stir until the batter is blended—kinda creamy, kinda gritty. Add the extracts and the flour and stir “briskly” (that’s Marion Cunningham right there) until smooth.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and bake until just set, and toothpick emerges with sticky crumbs on it, 30-35 minutes.

Cool in the pan at least 30 minutes, then cut into bars.