*domo arigato, mr. risotto.

My one experience making risotto prior to tonight involved my spending 14% of the time paying attention while trying to make arancini, which I had no patience for. They came out tasting sort of like what you'd get if you flash-fried a hush puppy and it was completely uncooked inside. Yum?

Tonight, the woodside hit the road. JLB was kind enough to host the cookstravaganza, to bank roll it, and to make ZERO snide comments about the number of dishes I dirtied. It's good to have friends. The main event? Smoked Gouda Risotto with Spinach and Mushrooms. The setup wasn't labor-intensive, but it was a lot of stuff. I had to photograph it in two shifts! First string:

Black pepper, arborio, creminis, chicken stock, button mushrooms, smoked gouda, and parmesan. That contraption in the front makes an appearance to honor Ermie. A terrific lady, and the passer-on to JLB of what I like to fondly call her "can't opener."

Second string:

That's butter, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and the delinquents in the back row: spinach and shiitake mushrooms (FYI, de-stemming those babies is a bitch. Hi grandma!)

Risotto is something that's never terribly intimidated me. There are a lot of techniques that boggle the mind ... anything involving a piping bag comes to mind. But pour and stir? That I can do. Into the pan went butter to melt, then arborio to toast, along with a little white wine. Then the add-broth-and-agitate progression began. It only takes about 20 minutes, which is taxing for an attention span like mine. But the transformation is sort of ... transfixing. Only a few broth additions in, the whole thing looked like it was riddled with cheese, despite the lack of any dairy whatsoever. The rice is promiscuous with its starchiness, giving it up almost immediately.

It thickens quickly, but that carby goodness is calorically counteracted by stirring. Twenty minutes of stirring. That's exercise, ladies! When the liquid is absorbed and the rice is silky and pourable, in goes gouda and spinach. Instant velvety wilting melting. Big Brother, pay attention. There's some vegetarian Valentine's potential here.

In another pan, three kinds of mushrooms join the herbs, garlic, sweet onion (in lieu of shallots), and white wine. That, my friends, is some deliciously fragrant stuff. And it cooks for a grand total of seven minutes.

A pillowy bed of cheesy risotto, studded with greens and topped with meaty mushrooms and a smattering of parmesan. Clean Eating, THIS is how it's done.

Damn, my stirring shoulder is going to be sore tomorrow.

*egg spearmint.

Ali and Foreman. Kerry and Bush. Lohan and Duff. The opponents are legendary. The battles, hard-fought and hard-won. The legacy? One fat-busting indoor grill, one aw-shucks disaster, and some tremendously awful pop music.

But I introduce to you a new rivalry: Cooks Illustrated vs. Gourmet. Bear with me; it appeals to a niche audience. The outskirts of Vegas, we'll say. Cooks is considered "America's Test Kitchen," and the reputation is deserved. G is the domain of nouveaux foodies and Ruth Reichl devotees ... the NKOTB, if you will.

The dispute? How best to hard-boil an egg. What's that? "Easy," you say? A "no-brainer?" HA! I scoff. This is science. There are always loopholes. So here's how the cookies crumble:

Cover eggs in cold water in a saucepan.
Bring water to a boil.
Remove pan from the heat.
Let eggs sit 10 minutes.*

Cover eggs in cold water in a saucepan.
Bring water to a boil.
Reduce heat to moderate/high, and cook eggs at a gentle boil, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Pour out hot water and cover eggs in cold water.
Let eggs stand in cold water 15 minutes.**

*This is America's TK version. According to the American Egg Board, the eggs should sit 15 minutes. Fun with variables! We'll attempt one of each option.

**Why? What if you peel the eggs and don't let them sit 15 minutes (who has the time)? Let's allow one to rest 15 minutes and peel one right away.

The gloves are up, the bell has rung, the spit buckets are in place. The eggs go in:

Then ... there's some waiting. The first batch are CI eggs. They get all excited until the water boils, but then the fun is over. They move to a back burner to wait out their 10 and/or 15 minutes.

The second batch are G eggs. They have a big time. They bounce around in the (gently) bubbling water for the requisite time.

And then? Every egg is down for the count. The contestants rest, and the judges deliberate.

At the risk of complicating things, the above photo portrays (clockwise from top): 1. CI eggs left to sit 10 minutes. 2. CI eggs left to sit 15 minutes. 3. G eggs immediately removed from boiling water and peeled. 4. G eggs left to sit in cold water 15 minutes and then peeled.

The most vital point about the variables is that, in both cases, the "sit time" made virtually no difference. #1 and #2 were almost identical, as were #3 and #4. The CI versions looked like this:

and the G versions looked like this:

The first was orangey, soft, and creamy yolked. The latter was light yellow, dry, and firm. Both ways managed to elude the dreaded green-gray ring around the yolk, but the verdict lies with personal preference: How do you like your eggs? I prefer the softer (#1 and #2) versions, but that's if I'm having a hard-boiled egg for breakfast (and I think I will). If you're making egg salad, you probably want something more sturdy.

But the real surprise was the trouble factor. The first two eggs, while delectable and moist, were HELL to peel. Like are-you-kidding-me hard. The second two, chalkier and more "cooked," shed their shells like hermit crabs. Despite the trouble, though, I still give this one to Cooks Illustrated. I prefer smooth, yielding egginess to dissolving styrofoam peanuts. Even if it is encased in steel.

And now I really want these. If only because I absolutely must make this.

*shut up. YOU'RE weird.

I know, I know, I've given you a lot of "glamour." A lot of "epicurean delight." A lot of "room" for "improvement." But there's only so much a single lady (even one with an appetite for life like mine) can accomplish in terms of eating. Over the past week I have accumulated a LOT of leftovers. Some of those dishes will get reinterpreted (please, anyone, give me some ideas for that mushroom pasta dish. But before you comment, you should know J is less than thrilled about fungus). In the meantime, I introduce you to my breakfast.

Given my druthers, I really want this for breakfast. But they're not always available in the myriad Woodside grocers' freezer cases, and when they are, they aren't generally on sale. They taste DELICIOUS, though, and I highly recommend. I'll just say on a scale of 1 to IHOP, these are decidedly Waffle House hash browns. And for 1:15 in the microwave, that's not much to sneeze at.

In the interest of heart health, though, and acknowledging that I generally rouse myself 17.5 minutes after I need to be out of the shower and drying my hair, I know that my oatmeal will always be there for me.

A little water over a half cup of oats (just enough to cover):

And into the microwave for 1:00. One! On your average Monday, that's enough time to half-heartedly apply your makeup. Or, at the very least, time to spit-clean the mascara from your bottom lids and blink the whites back into your eyes.

For four years, I didn't have a microwave. In fact, I didn't think I needed a microwave. JLB bought me this one for my birthday, and I lurv it. Yes, all microwaves do precisely the same thing. But don't you wish you had one this pretty?

So here's where it gets questionable. The trick to oatmeal that is healthy, stick-to-your-ribs, not cloying, and not rubber cement is ... trust me, here ... cottage cheese. I know, I know! I blame mother superior. She used to make us spinach linguine with cottage cheese, and its transformative taste has stuck with me. Look:

Yeah, OK, that looks gross. But it tastes really good. Throw away the raisins and cinnamon and sugar! Plus, half a cup of oats and half a cup of cottage cheese will keep you full until ... February 12. Give or take.

There are selfish motives here, I admit. Papa T says commenting isn't necessarily intuitive, so click on "0 comments" or, god willing in the next few minutes, "116 comments", and berate me for my questionable first-thing-in-the-morning taste. I court controversy. Happy Super Duper Tuesday!

*leader of the bland.

Oh premiere issue of Clean Eating magazine, why have you forsaken me? It should have been a sign, really. All those white-flour admonitions and too-good-to-be-true parsnip promises were bound to be hazardous to my health.

It all started so well. "Penne with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce," it whispered. A rustic pot of tender pasta, earthy fungus, and sharp green thyme stared back at me. "Cost per serving: $1.59," said the cocky little rag. And I swooned, I admit. I mistook that arrogance for culinary confidence, and all I was left with was a growing belly and the lingering aftertaste of acid and regret.

I didn't have any wild mushrooms in the cupboard, but no matter. We all got along so well at first: meaty creminis, dried whole-wheat penne, low-fat ricotta, garlic, vegetable stock (in lieu of the dried-mushroom-rehydrating liquid) olive oil, dried thyme, salt, Parmigiano, and an egg.

It seemed so simple. I laughed, I cried, I threw mushrooms and garlic and dried thyme (a single girl who can't get her pajama pants into the hamper when playing laundry-ball really can't be expected to have fresh herbs on hand) into a pan.

And there was heat, people. The smell of garlic and mushrooms on a flame fills the senses with longing. Whole wheat pasta went into boiling water, and the synergy was electric. The ricotta, the vegetable broth, a pinch of salt, and an egg yolk joined forces in Tiny Cuisinart to complete the love triangle.

That velvety goodness poured over the mushrooms ...

then thickened over medium-low heat for about five minutes, until it coated the back of a spoon.

The creamy mushroom sauce stirred beautifully into the pasta, and was apportioned into a bowl, certain to seduce with hearty deliciousness. And yet, it consistently disappointed. With each bite the promise of a bright future dissipated. There was no spark. No connection. No ... salt.

It did look pretty. I really wanted to take it out, and let it meet my friends. Alas, it was cardboard. One-dimensional and certain to humiliate me when the conversation turned to literature. I'd like to say I dumped it. But I was afraid of what it would cost me. Apparently my dignity comes cheap. $1.59 per serving.

*full of beans.

It's Saturday night at la casa de K, which means two things: I bailed on appropriate 20-something weekend activities because I'm basically a grandma, and I'd snacked all day long. So I knew I wanted something light but satisfying. Preferably something that would distract me from the disintegration of my social life.

That said, I was feeling pretty lazy. So I needed to concoct something with the contents of my kitchen. And that meant Mark Bittman. I love him from his New York Times "101" articles here and here. His recipes in the HtCEV cookbook are uber-flexible, which makes them easily adaptable to whatever specific ingredients you may have on hand. Here's what I had:

The bean burger recipe, for example, calls for canned or dry beans of almost any variety. I had chickpeas (I always have chickpeas) in the lazy Susan. And I wouldn't be my mother's daughter if I didn't have rolled oats always at the ready. One medium onion, an egg, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of chili powder make things flavorful but simple. Falling in step with my new love affair with all things Cuisinart (or, in this case, Black & Decker), everything went in for a chunky chop.

It rests for a moment whilst you ready the buns. I know! Kinky! then gets formed into patties. Which is made easier when you're working with vegetables, because there's no ... erm ... shrinkage. A couple of three minutes on each side in a spritz of olive oil ...

And you have a veggie burger. I'll never go frozen again! The whole thing, start to finish, took probably 16 minutes. Eight of which were spent searching for the can opener.

And yes, those are the evil potatoes of doom you see there on the left. I can't throw away perfectly acceptable wallpaper adhesive masquerading as a side dish. Now, I'm off to sleep. It's way past grandma's bedtime.

*fickle fridays.

I love:

I tried desperately, and failed majestically, to take an in-focus picture of this. But I'm officially in love. It's a terrific idea (and oh-so-necessary in small and/or badly ventilated kitchens), has adorable retro styling, and manages to make people utter words previously unheard outside of communes: "mmmm ... patchouli ... " Get one!

I loathe:

Don't get me wrong. I know there's something reprehensible about instant potatoes generally. But every so often they make for lovely comfort food, in the way only foods that are "instant" and "embarrassing" can. Stay far away from the generic brands, though. I'm a loyal cheap-choice adherent, but these have the consistency of paste, and when you open the container of leftovers, you will be assaulted by the faux-garlic stench. Which is a shame, because if they didn't smell so bad, I'd caulk my tub with them.

*pressed for sandwiches.

To me, there's nothing better than a sandwich. And ever since I wrote a teensy little story about them, there are some who consider me an expert. A title I accept under any auspices, without question. I don't look a gift horse.

So tonight I was hosting a get-together, which threatened to host a vegetarian, a diabetic, and two standards. Unfortunately, the diabetic had to bail for mechanical reasons, so the door was open for ... well, virtually anything. And herein lies my dilemma: How in the world does one formulate a menu? Seriously, if any of you out there have clues/tips/expertise to offer, I'm all ears. And I'm not talking in a how-to-please-everybody sort of way. I mean ... how do you even start? Or, if you have a specific recipe in mind, how do you round it out? And how do you plan for certain numbers of people? All ah-ha moments are welcome in the comments.

The best news about the recipe I chose for tonight is that it gave little TC (tiny Cuisinart) a chance to regain his honor. No less than 8 ounces of cheese, PLUS dijon mustard PLUS butter PLUS garlic was pulverized by the motor that could:

Beautifully whirled, you old dog. That gets spread on bread slices and topped with deli turkey, then thrown on my new Krups panini press, which I swear to you seems like a frivolous kitchen appliance but ... is. In the way the best frivolous kitchen appliances are. You will think, why does this thing take up so much cabinet space? Why did I get something they keep telling me skillet + foil-wrapped brick can do (and come on, who has a brick laying around?)? Could my seven-year-old Foreman have done the trick? Have I been duped? The answers are, respectively, I'm not sure, because it's not the same (no one), no, and maybe. It seems I'm an independent.

Truly, though, this is something I put on and took off my Christmas list. I was impressed by the machinery, but unsure that I was getting any real pay off. I've been making panini on a George Foreman for a while, and it totally works! But there's certain satisfaction that comes from having the right tool for the right job. I think all Italian panini makers would disagree that this is necessarily it, but it's easy to use and easy to clean and produces even, perfect heat.

I went with Giada's Venetian Panino recipe, because it's simple and trustworthily Italian. Unfortunately, the Publix (greenmarkets, right?) didn't have any Gruyère, so I bought Monterey Jack. I know technically some sort of fancy Swiss is the appropriate substitution, but MJ is a nice, mild cheese that appeals to everyone, so I knew it would please, crowd-wise.

And it got raves! But frankly, I can't judge. My friends are pretty darn nice. Here's what the result looked like. I got the board for $2 at a prop sale at work, so I wanted everything to look suitably retro. Thanks to iPhoto ...

Oooh! Bring out the fondue and tube socks!

Anyhoo, a night with the girls always involves a few things from bags and a few things from the freezer, so it's not always a culinary decathlon. But a few days ago, I stumbled upon something I couldn't ignore. Something so amazing, so oblivious, so wonderfully stupid that I could not, despite my fever, pass it by. This is the kind of marketing idiocy that warms my heart. Most of you will read this post on Friday and so I say to you all: When you raise your glasses, please raise them on behalf of Dale Jr.

And all the Big Mo's in your life.

*one moody foodie.

What does a sometime cook do in times of stress? She eats! Well, first, she makes a pan of Ore-Ida Extra-Crispy from the freezer. More specifically, she throws the rock-hard potato sticks onto a sheet pan with huffy tears. Then she sits on her sofa and sees this:

You may not be fluent in dog, so let me translate. This face says, "Factory spuds? Won't help. Can I have some?" Seventeen minutes later, when the sad little frites emerged, I could not but agree. And deny the pooch the taters. Sorry, J. They joined the blackened doodles in the heap. But what? What was it I craved? I wandered the vast expanse of my 6-square-foot kitchen, and stumbled upon this. Or, more specifically, this:

That's "Crunchy Fried Eggs on Darphin Potatoes with Spinach." I didn't realize that was the title of that recipe until now, and good thing! Crunchy eggs. Blech. This helpful (and most of all, incredibly photographed) book is full of the basics of egg-doings. Which reminds me: My sincerest, most heartfelt apologies to M@rtin Brigd@le (that's the google-can't-find-me spelling) for the awful rendering of his photo above. I'm pretty much just trying to keep the shadow of my head/arm/camera out of the shot. You will see, momentarily, that I do not always succeed. Anyway, I'm not trying to win any photography awards. I know you were wondering. But back to the crunchy eggs. All I could do was look at that crispy potato cake with the sharp greens ... and think of the pungent vinegar with the smooth, silky egg, and ...

I fled, like the histrionic gal I am, and got me to the Winn-Dixie (the Woodside is flush with greengrocers). Their greens were DEVASTATING, however, so I grabbed a potato and a box of wine and scooted back to the waiting arms of J (he loves when I come home smelling of carbs). The first step was to peel the Idaho. Just my luck, papa F had bought me the World's Best Peeler for Christmas. If you think all vegetable peelers are the same, you are wrong. Imagine if George Clooney asked the potato to take its clothes off. THAT EASY. Slutty little spud.

Utilitarian and authoritarian. Vegetables obey. Now the second step was to julienne Madam Potato Head on a mandoline. But I don't have a mandoline. Oh, wait! Yes I do! Thank you S!

Verdict? I need practice. In the space where clouds of white ribbons should have been lay a sort of pinkish-brown mush. Something to do with someone not shredding fast enough to beat oxidation. And being a little afraid of the blade.

Into a small skillet went some oil, and onto the oil went a potato cake.

Whose head is that in shadow? Sheesh. The oil was starting to smoke, but clearly wasn't hot enough for the potatoes, which instantly leeched it up like a thirsty sponge. That limited browning and crisping.

A lighter, stouter vegetable oil (peanut? canola? run o' the mill?) probably would have worked better. The plus side? A fat-soaked potato is, on its worst day, more appetizing than a lot of other novelty food items. Drive past McDonald's with your windows down. You'll agree.

And THEN, I had to poach an egg. A first and, thanks to Monsieur Roux, so easy. This easy. Boil water, throw in some white vinegar, spill in a golfball yolk, and let the milky clouds swirl for a minute and a half. Ninety seconds, I kid you not.

The recipe calls for a quick vinaigrette of extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper (for the spinach). I kept the potato cake warm in a low oven, swirled some romaine in the vinaigrette and had tomato slices on standby. You'll know the poached egg is ready when it seems ... totally not ready. The minute that hot egg hit that pretty stack, it burst with happiness.

And that beats stress and chemicals any day. J agrees, don't you?


*mortal and pesto.

You heard correctly. The girl who, one day ago, cut her finger (badly) whilst baking cookies (which required no sharp implements of any kind) tonight attempted pesto. I bought a big bag of baby spinach at the grocery last week, which desperately needed using. And, for reasons I can't now explain, I somehow had a bag of walnuts in the larder. But a google search of "spinach-walnut pesto" pretty much just produced a Rachael Ray version. So I guess that's where I heard of it. Still, coming from the inventor of this, I wasn't so sure. NOTE: It took me four minutes to find something that crazy from RR. Sandra Lee took considerably longer. Maybe my threshold for crazy is higher for her, but it bears mentioning.

Anyhoo. I consulted the experts. According to the good old FL of C, pesto is, "Italian for 'pounded' ... an uncooked sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan or pecorino cheese, and olive oil." Excellent! I have ... garlic. And Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil. That's it. BUT WAIT! Addendum! "Now," it sayeth, "there are 'pestos' made from myriad other ingredients from cilantro to mint." I like cilantro. But cilantro pesto? That's just ... chimichurri. And I see those judgmental quotation marks. Now there are "pestos," you say? I love you, FLC, but you are a stern taskmaster.

So, I returned to my old friend Cooking Light. And look! Mis en place!

OK, crappy mise en place. There are no nuts. I kind of forgot them until the last minute. The recipe calls for four garlic cloves. There are six there. For one thing, me likey the garlic, and for another ... those are some puny-ass garlic cloves. Shameful, really.

This whole endeavor was a vanity project. I wanted to use my adorable new Cuisinart. The momster gave this to me for Christmas. I did lots (read: 11 minutes) of research, and it turns out this particular model is LEAST LIKELY to cut off your hand. How smart am I looking now?

Alas, it was utterly, utterly impotent for this task. See those spinach leaves on top? They had no interest in meeting their doom. And, like the snickerdoodles, they were laughing at me. Woefully, they represent about 15% of the necessary spinach. Tiny Cuisinart was no match. But look! Garlicky goodness!

Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute. But ... argh! Too small. The poor dear. His (ahem) larger friend had to step in and take over. Another first in Chez K: one recipe, TWO dirty Cusinarts. I am nothing if not a record-setter. (In the interest of full disclosure, I did cram tonight's leftovers into Tupperware that had no lid, thus dirtying two separate sets of Tupperware in the effort. One lid is still AWOL.) Into the chute went four-ish cups of baby spinach, the aforementioned garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, pepper, six tablespoons of olive oil and, oddly, half a cup of warm water. The warm water really gave the whole scenario the texture of baby food. Or ... spinach soup. There may have been some green splatter all over my upper cabinets. I'll never tell. An extra thick bunch of spinach seemed to bring things back to their appropriate consistency. Et voila!

I've never been much of one for the taste of oil. Your average soggy french fry will put anyone off that thick, compressed taste. Like licking the Tin Man. But the rawness of this pesto was really very nice. Fruity and light, and not overly spinachy (a lot of recipes for spinach pesto call for part-spinach, part-basil, to cut spinach's brassiness). I like that mouthy green. It has attitude. Mixed with some hearty spaghetti and cannellini beans, topped with some abjectly forlorn Roma tomatoes and a healthy snowfall of Parmigiano, this was even better than expected.

That's a handmade pasta bowl from Tuscany, courtesy of the paterfamilias. Byooteeful. A full tummy (and a snickerdoodle) later, it was storage time. The serving size for this pesto, according to CL, is 1 tablespoon.


Whew. Sorry. Seriously? One frickin' tablespoon? That's ludicrous. But I did have a lot left over. And I read that a handy way to store it is to freeze the remainder in an ice cube tray. That way you have perfectly portioned pieces for easy defrost later. I've seen Giada recommend it, too, so it has to be smart, right?

Next time I'll aim for "elegant and organized forward-thinker," as opposed to "who threw up in the ice tray?"

*oh sandra, no.

I don't get all the dust kicked up over Sandra Lee. Seems like complaining that SL can't cook is like griping that Ashlee Simpson doesn't sing live. Firstly, did she ever pretend to? And second ... would we want her to?

I think what you see with Sandra is what you get. She's fun! This is a woman who made a cocktail with orange juice and red wine. No, you goof, not sangria. Burgundy! With Tropicana! It's like ... well, it's basically a recipe for homemade stomach acid.

She's also precisely as advertised. She even demonstrates this with FACTS and FIGURES. "70% store-bought ingredients. 30% homemade." That's both helpful and specific. Have you ever heard of a better idea than this? They're nachos ... but instead of chips ... you ready? You use frozen waffle fries. Genius. I will not be persuaded otherwise.

Still, I've never really been able to support Sandra's faux kitchen. I also sort of want to tube-feed her waffle fries, because her physical fragility is worrisome. And then, something happened today that made me think someone needs to be prepared for an intervention. And that something is this:

Sandy, what is that? Is that your rib cage? Has your body actually turned inside out? Or did you enjoy some sort of Laura-Ashley-in-bondage fantasy last night (and no one's judging) and forget to change? I read an article in the New York Times the other day about Ingrid Hoffmann and was put off by the writer's description of her as a "cleavage cook." (I do, however, agree with her assessment. I'd like Ingrid to quit yelling at me, too. But Bobby and Mario are arrogant and testosterone-charged. No one calls them "gonad gourmets." All women have breasts. Not all women are screaming meemies. Is all I'm saying.)

Darn it, Sandra! Now look what your corset made me do—and really, do, look at it again—I digressed.

I can't get enough. Check it out from the side.

Did you have organs removed? You're just not doing yourself a service here. I'm not saying the Food Network isn't a lot of fluff a lot of the time. I'm saying we live in a world where, in a lineup of competent cooks/TV personalities, there are some who still think the most notable thing about women is the length of their sleeves. And you're not helping.

I'll give you this. But think about some nice J. Jill. Please.


Yes, these cookies scoff at you. Or at me, that is. The marriage of cinnamon and sugar seemed just right for a desire to bake born of a day off work (Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of cinnamon sugar. A little-known fact.) and *just* enough time having elapsed since the last baking disaster. At the risk of sounding like Rachael Ray, I seriously cannot bake. When I bake, things turn out fine. Or, as you will see here, about 50% fine. But never ... transcendent. That's ok, because I'm not really crazy for sweets. Still, try Giada de Laurentiis' florentines some time. I guarantee yours will be orange-scented, almondy doilies of deliciousness. Mine were soppy nut-butter pancakes.

So, with baking amnesia firmly in place, I embarked on this snickerdoodle recipe. For one thing, it's Cooking Light: no guilt. Secondly, I had all but one of the ingredients (the egg ... after some mental anguish, I decided to take "'Best by December 30" on the ones in the fridge at its word) already on hand. So after a quick run to the grocery store, I was ready to doodle. Note: If you are anywhere near the Woodside, and think it is advisable to go to the Bruno's because the desperate state of that store means that is where your bra-less-ness will have the least likelihood of being noticed, you are correct. However, the aforementioned desolation attracts crazies of all shapes and sizes, and I can't promise a stringy-haired man? Maybe? Won't make a noise in your direction that's something between a groan of appreciation and a burp. You have been warned.

Into the pretty stainless bowl went two sugars (granulated and light brown) and some lightly microwaved butter. I don't have the time or patience for "softening," my friends. Which may be at the root of my remedial baking skills and a harbinger of things to come.

Then the egg and the vanilla get a whirl. Isn't she a lovely mixer? Her name is Coppertone, and she was a gift from the father figure. He will have to partake of the doodles for this contribution. She is the most beautiful appliance in all the Woodside.

Dry ingredients go in the tub. I don't understand all of the panic about over! mixing! because I've never tasted anything, even from a novice, that made me think, "Oof. CLEARLY mixed for four hours instead of 30 seconds. What a shame." I just mix it until it looks ... mixed. There were some careful words about flour measuring, too, involving spooning flour into the measuring cups and leveling with a knife. I was as consistent as I could be, but the clean measuring cups I have go from this:

to this:

which seems kicky, but really just makes me skeptical. I recently discovered I have been feeding J less than his allotted amount because the 1-cup measure had half collapsed and I didn't notice. Well-intentioned technological failure, or chronic attention-paying problem? We may never know. Also, Dear Santa: I need a new whisk. I don't know what this shady piece of worthlessness is, but it sucks.

After the dough had quickly mixed, I set to forming it into balls. The recipe said it should form 30, and of course I came up with ... 29. So these are all 1/30th bigger than they ought to be. See that strange little white dish? That's full of cinnamon sugar. It's a completely pointless yet somehow irresistible piece of china, which has no match in my kitchen and virtually no use. It's small, and it has a silly handle. But it was perfect for this purpose. All those little dough boys got a liberal dunking in cinnamon sugar and then plopped onto two baking sheets.

And into the oven. Which is where the problem developed. They only have to cook for eight minutes (awesome!) or, the recipe says, "until tops crack." As you will see, my tops never cracked, but that was the least of my worries. The top pan came out beautiful and golden, but not cracked, while the bottom pan came out ... billowing smoke. These are moderately acceptable snickerdoodles:

These, it takes no expert to note:

are not. So there you have it. From 29 snickerdoodles to 14. Well, technically, 13. I had to eat one. Here's how they looked on my modified cookie rack (otherwise known as that stupid "browning rack" that came with my microwave and officially browns nothing).

Pretty, no? You'd never guess that the smell of warm cinnamon and sweet sugar was overwhelmed by the rankness of char. The other 15 took a swift trip to garbage town. Next time, I'll probably take the oven liner out from under the second pan. Or ... put the racks further than 1 inch apart. Or ... use cinnamon that's not six years old (it smelled fine, but had lost most of its punch).

Or maybe I just won't bake again until I forget this experiment. That's a pretty safe bet.



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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.