Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

A brand new type of cookie

December 21st, 2014

As you all know, I don’t generally follow recipes very closely, except as you probably also know (if you bake) it’s more important to follow directions in baking than in other types of cooking. However, once you’ve baked, oh, a thousand kinds of cookies or so, you can certainly start to fiddle around with recipes and create your own.

“Snow Bites” are one of the most popular types of cookies I make; lots of people pick them out of the crowd as a particular favorite. It’s also an easy dough to turn to many uses.

Original Snow Bites

4 oz cream cheese
ÂĽ C butter
6 Tbsp margarine
1 C sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
ÂĽ tsp salt
2 1/5 C flour

Cream the cream cheese, butter, and margarine with the sugar. I’ve made this with butter + cream cheese and with margarine + cream cheese, and although I generally follow the proportions given in the actual recipe, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference. There really isn’t any baking powder in this recipe, so I didn’t leave it out by accident. The cookies are supposed to be dense. They have a great texture, trust me.

Beat in the egg, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the flour. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill an hour or until you’re ready to get around to making the cookies. Then divide the ball of dough into quarters, then into eights, and ultimately into 64 evenly-sized little balls. (I would make them bigger for normal purposes, but I like very small cookies for Christmas.) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or so, until tops appear set and dry but they are only a bit golden on the bottom (they should be pale in color; that’s why they’re called “Snow Bites.”

Now, variations. First, you can add about a cup of dried cranberries to the dough, which I’ve found very popular. This is a Christmas standard for me. Or you can add mini chocolate chips, which I personally especially like, but it isn’t as popular or as Christmasy.

Here’s a variant I made this Christmas for the first time:

Along with the above ingredients, you will need:

Juice of one lemon
Finely grated zest of four or five lemons (I had a lot of lemon zest in the freezer because when I made preserved Moroccan lemons earlier, I needed the juice but not the zest of a lot of lemons, and it would be a crime to throw away all those lemon rinds without zesting them first.) (A microplane grater is the just the ticket for quickly and finely zesting citrus fruits.)
¼ to ½ tsp baking soda (Adding lemon juice made me feel I should probably add baking soda.)
4 oz white chocolate
Additional lemon zest

Along with the egg, vanilla, and salt, add the juice of one lemon and the zest of four or five lemons. Add the baking soda to the flour before you stir in the flour. The extra liquid will make the dough a little softer than usual, but it is still easy to handle. Chill, form into balls, and bake as above.

When cookies are cool, melt the white chocolate. Coat the tops of the cookies. The easiest way is to dip your finger in the chocolate and smear it on the cookies, but whatever. You can certainly try dipping the cookies, but I found smearing easier and quicker. Drop a bit of lemon zest on the top of each cookie before the chocolate sets.

Now, lemon and chocolate is an excellent combination, so I also added ½ C of mini chocolate chips to the cookie dough. But if I were doing it again, I would either leave the chocolate chips out or double the amount. You could certainly try it both ways and see what you like best.

Cookies

Enjoy!

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 21st, 2014

Art held hostage

December 18th, 2014

A post from Chuck Wendig, who is absolutely right:

Hackers, which may or may not be connected to North Korea, found Sony’s new film, The Interview, quite disagreeable — so much so that they hacked the unmerciful shit out of Sony (thus releasing emails and scripts and other internal company information, which our news media flocked to like a pack of starving vultures) and threatened terror attacks in the style of 9/11 if the film was released. Some big theater chains understandably capitulated, and then Sony folded like a paper airplane, too.

Were you all aware of that? I was aware of the hacking bit, but not that Sony rolled over like a scared puppy. Chuck then goes on to excoriate Sony for caving to threats, and taking apart arguments that they were justified. He is, as I say, right about all of that.

I also want to pick out commenter Megan:

December 18, 2014 at 10:10 AM // Reply

I agree with [the previous commenter] about the content of the film…probably…but the fact is, this pressure was not a peaceful or democratic protest aimed at Sony. It was not a capitalist decision. The hackers threatened to bomb theaters and KILL the audience that sees the movie. (Yes, they hacked Sony, and while that’s a huge invasion of privacy, I was less concerned about that.) Sony’s decision not to release the movie is capitulating to terrorists. It is letting another nation, a VIOLENT OPPRESSIVE nation dictate what our country, our citizens are allowed to see, or risk actual death by their hands. And not just the audience of that film, but potentially any film viewed in a theater that day. It is a threat to our freedoms.

Shame on Sony, [and] shame on us for not fighting back.

Yes, what she said. I also am ashamed of the Sony executives, and ashamed of our political leaders, whose behavior has led North Korea — North Korea, of all places — to think they can get away with this. And, apparently, be right.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 18th, 2014

Dangerous comparisons

December 18th, 2014

From tor.com, this:

Jonathan Strange Meets Georgette Heyer: Pan Macmillan Acquires Zen Cho’s Regency Fantasy Sorcerer to the Crown

And my first thought, Wow, I’d love this.

But my second, firmer thought was, Wow, nobody could live up to that. Do I want to court disappointment?

It’s a tricky business, comparing a forthcoming title to classics that have been out for ages.

Anyway, here’s the book description:

The book takes us to a Regency London where the Crown calls on magic, and English high society holds an uneasy truce with the land of the Faerie. Even though Zacharias Wythe has only begun his work as England’s first African Sorcerer Royal, he’s is already facing three non-magical problems: The Fairy court thinks he murdered his predecessor, a dangerous faction is scheming to unseat him by any means necessary, and…Prunella Gentleman. Prunella, an orphan who has spent her life toiling at a school she hates, has just uncovered a secret that might change the course of English Magic. Wythe doesn’t want to work with her, but it looks like he doesn’t have a choice…

I see why people might glimpse echoes of Jonathan Strange in that. Georgette Heyer, not so much, but then there’s only so much you can put in a single paragraph of description and witty dialogue that burbles gently along is not going to be possible.

On a side note, can a character actually be named Prunella Gentleman? Is that a terrible idea for a name or could it possible work in context? Horrible names bother me all through a book, even if I love everything else about the book. Could that conceivably be a typo?

Anyway, sounds like one to keep an eye out for. It’s supposed to hit the shelves late next year.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 18th, 2014

Philip K Dick

December 16th, 2014

Here’s an interesting post on Philip K Dick, over at tor.com. This bit, a quote from Dick himself, is what caught my eye:

“I used to dig in the garden, and there isn’t anything fantastic or ultradimensional about crab grass…unless you are a sf writer, in which case, pretty soon you’re viewing crabgrass with suspicion. What are its real motives? And who sent it in the first place? The question I always found myself asking was, What is it really?”

Next summer, I am going to eye my crabgrass with far more speculation. What is it really?

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 16th, 2014

A memorable turn of phrase

December 16th, 2014

So, I’m reading PLANET NARNIA, by Michael Ward.

1800794

It’s a nonfiction book about the underlying coherent organization of the Chronicles of Narnia, not something I ever worried about, actually, when I was reading and re-reading them as a kid. Actually, I’m not sure I even have copies any more. Hmmm.

Anyway, it’s a bit erudite, but interesting. I haven’t gotten too far into it yet. Then I hit this bit, which made first pause, then re-read, then laugh out loud:

“We must remember that each Narnia story is “something made” as well as “something said”. Too often critics (both friendly and hostile) have treated the Chronicles as if they were principally works of propaganda and have exchanged their poetry for a pot of message.”

Congratulations to Michael Ward for pulling that one off!

Anyway, I’m reading nonfiction because, as you may have guessed, I’m busy. I am working on revisions for MOUNTAIN, I just got hopefully final comments back from Michelle about KERI (Now officially THE KEEPER OF THE MIST) and have a fast-approaching deadline to turn that around, I am baking (though at a slower, more sane pace now that I have mailed the cookies I send as gifts — eighteen kinds counting the marshmallows and other candies), AND I am running my two older girls up to the cardiologist in St Louis tomorrow for their biannual heart checks. I hope their murmurs haven’t progressed one bit since last July, but I want to check before they have their dentals later this month.

ALSO, Honey has come into season. Ishmael hasn’t noticed yet, but he will very soon. Yet it would be unkind to pen up either of them with no playmate. By a handy coincidence, my friend Deb’s Natalie has also just come into season and her boy is also going to be making himself a nuisance. So tomorrow we are doing a puppy shuffle. I get both girls, Deb gets both boys, and in a few weeks we’ll switch back.

But at least my last Christmas present has arrived! I can wrap it and put away the wrapping paper.

Here’s hoping all of you are having a smooth (if probably busy) run up to Christmas!

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 16th, 2014

2014 End of Year Book Survey

December 12th, 2014

I can hardly believe we’re already at the end of 2014! This year has really dashed by, especially the last couple of months. But here we are, nearly at 2015. Wow.

I’m glad I started keeping a reading list a few years ago, because otherwise there would be no hope of remembering what I read way back in January, much less deciding on standouts. But as it is, I can actually provide statistics! Actually making choices for my personal favorites from 2014 is much harder, but I’ll try.

1. Number of books read per genre in 2014:

Contemporary: 6

Science-Fiction: 10

Fantasy: 42

Urban Fantasy / Paranormal: 11

Historical Fiction: 2

Mystery: 4

Romance: 9

Middle Grade: 5

Young Adult: 15

Independently Published: 14

All the MG, YA, and Indie titles are also included in the genre categories above, so that is 34 books that are double-counted. That means the total number of books I read in 2014 is . . . 84. This is *terrible*. By far the smallest number since I started keeping track. Even if you add the 13 Shadow Unit books I re-read in April, that’s only 97! Less than a hundred books read in the whole year! !!!

On the other hand, this low number of books read is because I spent a lot of time writing, including the huge hack-it-up-and-rewrite of KEHERA in April — that’s why I re-read all the Shadow Unit books that month, and nothing else. And then KERI took a lot of my free time for most of the summer. I may still read a few more books this month, but not many, because I do need to seriously tackle the revision of MOUNTAIN. One project after another!

So, moving on. Where I wrote a review or comments about a particular title, I linked to that.

2. Favorite books read in 2014:

Middle Grade: Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Jinx

Young Adult SFF: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Jenna Fox

Contemporary YA: Fangirl

Fangirl

Contemporary Adult: Blessings

Blessings

Now, I never wrote a review for this one, because, you know, I just didn’t. Sometimes that happens. But I liked it a lot. Here’s what Goodreads says about it: Late one night, a teenage couple drives up to the big white clapboard home on the Blessing estate and leaves a box. In that instant, the lives of those who live and work there are changed forever. Skip Cuddy, the caretaker, finds a baby girl asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep the child . . . while Lydia Blessing, the matriarch of the estate, for her own reasons, agrees to help him. “Blessings” explores how the secrets of the past affect decisions and lives in the present; what makes a person or a life legitimate or illegitimate and who decides; and the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community.

What I particularly liked was how warm and nurturing Skip is in this story, and how reserved and even cold Lydia is. I loved the reversal of the normal gender stereotypes. Quindlen weaves together past and present as well as different points of view and it all works beautifully. A bit heartbreaking at the end, but then one can see how far both Skip and Lydia have come in their personal journeys by that time, not to mention many of the secondary characters, and the whole story is satisfying — more so than if it had been too saccharine. And how Lydia sorts things out at the very end — so characteristic: both cool and kind at the same time.

Science-Fiction: Ancillary Justice

Ancillary

I never reviewed this one, either, but then everyone else has. And you’ve all read it yourselves already, right?

Fantasy: The Goblin Emperor

Goblin

Urban Fantasy / Paranormal: Written in Red

WrittenInRed

Historical Fiction: Code Name Verity

CodeName

Mystery: Sinners and Saints

SinnersAndSaints

I met someone who beta reads for Eileen Dreyer, and so I tried this book, and I liked it a lot even though I never quite got around to reviewing it. Goodreads says: Forensics specialist Chastity Byrnes is trying to put the past behind her. It has been ten years since Chastity made accusations against her father that shattered her family…and ten years since she’s seen her sister, Faith. First, Chastity gets a call from Dr. Max Stanton, the brother-in-law she never knew she had. Then she finds out that her long-lost sister is officially missing. Even though Faith never wanted to see her sister again, Chastity decides to go to the Big Easy to find her.

What I liked: The writing was good and Chastity’s voice was clear and engaging. I really liked how the stuff that happened in the past was not just shaken off by anybody, but remained intensely important to everyone involved. I loved how *plausible* all the effects of the past were, too. It felt psychologically real to me. The setting is evoked well, the romance is handled well, the story is good if a bit predictable in some ways. I expect I will be picking up more stories by Dreyer.

Romance: The Chocolate Heart

Chocolate

Fairy Tale Re-Telling: Castle Behind Thorns

Castle

Independently Published: Across A Jade Sea

JadeSea

3. Book I thought I was going to love but was disappointed in:

Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

For the former, I was driven mad by how the issues resolved by the characters in the first book turned out to NOT REALLY BE RESOLVED, thus negating the characters’ arcs from the first book and imo ruining the second book. Phooey.

For the latter, I just could not get over what seemed a sharp drop in sentence-level writing quality from the author’s work as Myra Grant. Also, the intense ridiculousness of the story. I get that this was supposed to be light, but it was *too* light for me.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2014:

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

I have found Bishop’s work catchy and engaging but flawed. This story was catchier and *extremely* engaging, and also good. Sure, the world has plausibility issues. Those issues didn’t bother me a bit while reading the story or the second book. I can’t wait for the third.

5. Book I most often recommended to people in 2014:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Probably. After all, I read Ancillary Justice way back in January, which gave me lots of time this year to recommend it to everyone.

6. Favorite series I discovered in 2014:

The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

Catchy, engaging, charming, I zipped right through the whole series.

7. Favorite new author I discovered in 2014:

Sage Blackwood. I’m really looking forward to the finale of her JINX trilogy, and to whatever she writes after that.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2014:

The Martian by Weir. What a page turner!

9. Book I am most likely to re-read next year:

The Goblin Emperor by “Katherine Addison”. I’m already looking forward to reading this again.

10. Favorite cover of a book I read in 2014:

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch.

Republic

The book was pretty damn good, too.

11. Most memorable character in 2014:

Maia in The Goblin Emperor. Awww. Maia. I am *dying* for a sequel. My brother points out that Maia’s wife would make a good pov character, which is true. I hope this book sweeps the awards next year and “Katherine Addison” changes her mind about not writing a sequel.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014:

Jonathon Strange and Mr Norril My God, this was long. But without question beautifully written, both on a sentence-by-sentence level — that turns out to be especially important to me in an audiobook — and overall. Watching everything finally come together at the end was fantastic.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on me in 2014:

The Goblin Emperor. I want to write that book. Only different.

14. Best alien species in 2014:

A Darkling Sea by Cambias. Fabulous job.

15. Favorite romance from a book read in 2014:

Amaranthe and Sicarius from The Emperor’s Edge for new-to-me authors. Luc and Summer from The Chocolate Heartfor re-reads.

16. Favorite friendship from a book read in 2014:

Maddie and Julie from Code Name Verity. I know, everybody says this. But it’s true.

17. Best 2014 debut I read:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I hear that’s the first-ever novel-length work Leckie ever finished. Whoa.

18. Most vivid world/imagery in a book I read in 2014:

Stories of the Raksura by Martha Wells. For me, no one does more vivid, cinematic worldbuilding than Martha Wells.

19. Book I read in 2014 that made me cry:

Code Name Verity, but only at the very end. And, fine, The Chocolate Heart, and not just at the very end, either.

20. Book read in 2014 that was published earlier but that got way too little buzz the year it came out:

The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy by Martha Wells. Seriously, if you still haven’t read this, you should pick it up. It’s even better re-read than it was to read it the first time.

LOOKING AHEAD

1. One book I didn’t get to in 2013 but will be my #1 priority in 2015:

Hild by Nicola Griffith

2. Book I am most anticipating for 2015:

Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

3. 2015 debut I am most anticipating:

So, apparently Greg Manchess wrote a book inspired by this painting of his:

polar-bears

He said at the World Fantasy Convention that he expects this book to come out next year. If it does, I’ll be looking for it, because WHAT A GREAT PAINTING.

4. Series ending I am most anticipating in 2015:

The fourth Raven Boys book by Maggie Stiefvater … if that comes out next year? Not sure it’s going to. But if it does, I will finally be able to go back and read the wholse series.

5. One thing I hope to accomplish in my reading in 2015:

Read more nonfiction. This will probably happen, because I sure didn’t read much nonfiction this year — just a couple of books for the whole year. I’m pleased that this year I managed to read a lot more indie-published work than usual, which was one of my goals, and a lot more MG than usual, which ditto. The imbalance toward fantasy was pretty extreme, though. Maybe I can even it out more in 2015.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 12th, 2014

Baking failures

December 11th, 2014

Sometimes I wonder, I really do. Like that time I suddenly couldn’t open the oven door without burning myself: have you ever had a particularly klutzy month like that? Probably not, probably just me.

So, this year, so far, I’ve made 12 kinds of cookies. And three of them — THREE — have not turned out well. I’ve been baking beautiful little cookies every Christmas for more than a decade and this year? Phooey. So annoying.

The little pastry cookies that you roll up into crescents around a pecan and honey filling? It’s one of my favorite kinds and I’ve made it several times and THIS time, the pastry did not cooperate and actually neither did the filling. Well, I only used half the dough, so I will be turning the other half into tiny little turnovers and sealing the filling in — maybe that will work better. In the meantime, the bad cookies were not pretty but were excellent re-interpreted as breakfast pastries.

The curry shortbread cookies I made last year? I got two requests for those, so I made them. Except I plainly forgot to put in half the flour. They are not actually terrible, but they are not what they are supposed to be. I’m calling them “Curry Butter Crisps” — or, if that would freak people out, “Spicy Butter Crisps.” I may remake the whole recipe later, too, and prove I can do it right.

I will say, the dogs like the curry butter crisps. They got the ones that were more over-baked. Not one spaniel was heard to complain about the quality of the cookie.

And, I forgot to put the caramel layer on the hazelnut thumbprint cookies. They’re good, but not as good as they should be.

On the other hand, the double chocolate ginger cookies turned out great. I made a bunch so I could eat . . . um . . . well . . . let’s just say, more than a couple.

Anyway: tonight, not sure what to try. Paciencia, maybe. I have made paciencia twice and once they failed completely, so evidently there’s a fifty percent chance of adding to my failure rate for the year, so there’s that. But I want to try them again this year anyway, so onward!

Or marshmallows — I have this great new recipe from Bon Appetit for layered coconut/orange marshmallows.

marshmallows

Maybe I’ll try both!

Update: I did try both. Here are the paciencia:

Paciencia

As you must surmise, they did not work out for me this time. The egg whites beat up stiff, I added the sugar and the meringue beat up stiff, then I added the flour and the whole thing collapsed. So I added more flour and milk and the egg yolks and some oil and made pancakes instead, because there’s no point in *wasting ingredients.*

But the marshmallows turned out fine!

LayeredMarshmallows

There! I didn’t use coconut milk because I hate to say this but coconut milk by itself is NOT going to give you much coconut flavor. I used a different coconut marshmallow recipe that uses water and coconut extract. I know that works fine. Then this morning I sliced up the marshmallows and tossed them with unsweetened ground coconut, which I happened to have around. Yes, I nibbled marshmallows before I even had breakfast. What? Sugar is good for you.*

So that was my baking experience last night and early this morning! This evening: chocolate truffle cookies.

* Not actually true, unfortunately

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 11th, 2014

Recent Additions to the TBR shelves: First Lines

December 9th, 2014

They’d told Aristeas that the Arimaspians were horrible, but he wasn’t prepared for how horrible they were, and it nearly cost him his life.

This is the first line of Beyond the North Wind by Gillian Bradshaw, which I have never read. I picked it up recently because of this post at By Singing Light. Well, the post and following comments. So. Pretty catchy first sentence, isn’t it?

BeyondNorthWind

I definitely want to dive right in.

Anyway, next:

On a windless summer day in an uncertain year, more than a century after the founding of Cornell, a man who told lies for a living climbed to the top of The Hill to fly a kite.

This is from Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff, which I borrowed from my brother during a recent visit because I really enjoyed Ruff’s Set This House in Order. I would say that’s definitely a promising beginning.

Here’s one you might recognize:

I stare at my gravestone. Locke Jenkins. They paid too much for it. More than they could afford.

I know, that’s more than one sentence, but hey, they’re very short sentences. What a different feel that gives to the opening of a story! This protagonist sounds, what? Closed in, defensive, bitter. Or maybe that’s just me projecting from the second book to this one, the third. This is Fox Forever by Mary Pearson, as you may have recognized, because I wanted to finish the trilogy after reading The Adoration of Jenna Fox and The Fox Inheritance. I do expect a tolerably happy ending, though I’m not actually familiar with Pearson’s other work, so I can’t be sure.

Okay, another:

Happiness, Luc thought as he stroked his wife’s bare shoulder, was not like chocolate. It didn’t melt if you held it too long in your hands.

I bet you all immediately guessed that this might be that new Laura Florand story, and you would be right: The Shadowed Heart. I read this one this past weekend — actually, I went back to The Chocolate Heart and re-read that first. Honestly, it’s amazing how Florand makes the luminously beautiful amazingly rich Summer Corey into a woman you just weep for. Also, I now have a faint but perceptible urge to write some kind of Persephone / Hades retelling. I wonder if that will ever turn into anything?

Moving on:

Sunset fell early over the wintry moorlands of northern England, and prudent men abandoned the road to the criminal, the desperate, and the mail coaches.

This is from Season for Desire, Theresa Romain’s newest Christmas-themed Regency romance, which just came out a couple months ago. These are fun, light, charming, and just right for the Christmas season. Also, I like the chapter titles: Chapter One: Wherein the Adventure Begins, Much Against the Will of Certain Participants. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of thing — and it establishes the tone right off, doesn’t it? Light, fun, charming.

Here’s one I just have as a sample, so far:

Call me Ishael. Yeah, I know, but in this case it’s really my name. Ishmael Horatio Wang. My parents had an unfortunate sense of humor.

I don’t know — the first line is obviously copied from my puppy’s name, so how can I turn it down? Maybe Ish would like me to read this to him? He would probably wag his tail whenever I said “Ishmael.”

Anyway, I got this sample because of a recommendation I saw around somewhere. Here’s what Goodreads says:

THE GOLDEN AGE OF SAIL HAS RETURNED — IN THE YEAR 2351

When his mother dies in a flitter crash, eighteen-year-old Ishmael Horatio Wang must find a job with the planet company or leave the system–and NerisCo isn’t hiring. With credits running low, and prospects limited, he has just one hope…to enlist for two years with a deep space commercial freighter. Ishmael, who only rarely visited the Neris Orbital, and has never been off-planet alone before, finds himself part of an eclectic crew sailing a deep space leviathan between the stars.

Join the crew of the SC Lois McKendrick, a Manchester built clipper as she sets solar sails in search of profit for her company and a crew each entitled to a share equal to their rating.

Space adventure! Who doesn’t love space adventure? It’s got really good ratings on Goodreads — over four stars with about 300 reviews.

So that’s an even half-dozen of the titles I’ve most recently added to my TBR pile, virtual and physical. They all sound pretty promising!

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 9th, 2014

Perfect winter breakfast: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes

December 8th, 2014

First, no, Honey didn’t get Best of Winners on Sunday, either. The blenheim dog I described as “plodding” showed with a lot more verve and beat the tricolor boy, which I think was fair since the tri had this movement fault. I did hope the judge would go on to put Honey over the blenheim male, but no. There’s another fairly nearby show in January, so I suppose I’ll enter that one, but it sure is too bad Honey didn’t manage to get that one last point this year. :(

For consolation after disappointing winter days, very little beats these pancakes. Actually, they’re great on any occasion, especially special occasions such as Christmas morning, though actually I make them all winter, for any reason or no reason.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes

2 C quick oats
2 C whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 C flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp sugar
2/3 C mini chocolate chips
1/3 C melted shortening

Combine the oatmeal and milk. Crack in the eggs and set aside for five minutes. Stir together the dry ingredients. Melt the shortening in the microwave. (I don’t know why this recipe uses shortening instead of butter, but I actually do make it just the way it says. Naturally you can use butter if you want and see if you like how that works.)

Now, whisk the oat-milk-egg mixture until well combined. Whisk in the dry ingredient mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Stir in the shortening.

Cook as you do any pancakes, EXCEPT, the batter is thick, so don’t wait for little bubbles to appear and stay open all across the surface of the pancakes before you turn them. Just turn one when the edges look dry and judge whether the others are ready to turn by that one.

Any recipe for pancakes which tells you that the first batch doesn’t usually turn out was written by someone who is trying to use a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. Instead, invest in a cheap nonstick electric skillet. Set the heat to 350 degrees. Poof, all your pancakes will now turn out perfectly.

The amount of sugar in these pancakes suits my personal taste, btw, which means they come out sweet enough to eat plain, without syrup. If you insist on pouring syrup on your pancakes, you might want to reduce the sugar in the recipe.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on December 8th, 2014

Busy busy. Also, cookies!

December 7th, 2014

I’ve had a pretty busy couple of days, though honestly they’ve been the kind of day where you seem to be doing stuff all the time and yet at the end of the day you haven’t got much to show for it. I suppose we all have days like that.

Anyway! Today I wasted an hour and a half driving to a dog show. And an hour and a half back. I was so peeved, because Honey needs just one (1) point to finish her championship, and there were only two bitches entered, so it was a one point show and she just had to beat this one other bitch. And then the other bitch didn’t show up! Aargh!

I’m going back tomorrow, though. Because there are two dogs, so one of them will get a point. If Honey beats the Winners Dog and gets Best of Winners, she would get his point. This is called a crossover point. It’s rather unusual for a young bitch to beat a mature male, but I think it could conceivably happen this time. Neither of the dogs at this show is particularly great. One has no coat to speak of — I can’t think what can have happened to give a male Cavalier such a short coat, he might as well be a Welsh Springer, seriously — and he also has a rather plodding manner in the ring; the other has a nice head and decent body and a showy attitude, but only a snippet of white instead of a full blaze and (more important to me) a very visible movement fault. Now, Honey has white showing in one eye (in Cavaliers, the sclera is supposed to be pigmented, so that’s a cosmetic fault on a par with lacking a full blaze) and, of course, she is still rather puppyish in both head and body. But she has great movement and a charming, lively attitude. So it will all depend on what the judge prioritizes. A head judge will probably put the no-blaze male up, but a movement/structure judge should go for Honey. Or a fault judge, the kind of judge who just puts up whatever dog has the fewest obvious faults regardless of his actual quality, might say “No blaze! White eye!” and put up the plodder. I don’t know about this judge, so I’ll have to show to her to find out what she likes. I will certainly be taking notes about what she does.

Anyway, I really did not feel like working on my current WIP today. Technically I should be revising MOUNTAIN for Navah at Saga Press. And I will! Before Christmas if I am fairly on the ball, or by the middle of January at worst, I should think. But not tonight. Tonight I made cookies, because, you know, priorities.

I don’t think I’ve ever posted this recipe before, and it’s a favorite for both me and my mother, so you may want to try it:

CHOCOLATE ALMOND COOKIES

1 C butter
1 C sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp almond extract, which I realize as I type this, I forgot the almond extract. Well, the cookies are fine anyway. I just ate a couple to make sure. It’s a tough job, taste-testing cookies, but I’m willing to take one for the team. Anyway:
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1/2 C baking cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 C mini chocolate chips
1 C finely chopped almonds

Additional sugar or demerara sugar

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and extracts. Combine the dry ingredients and stir in. Stir in the mini chocolate chips and chopped almonds. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill an hour or until you get around to baking the cookies. Divide the dough into fourths. Divide into fourths again. Do that once more and you will have 64 little balls of dough. Roll each into a smooth marble and then roll in the sugar or demerara sugar (if you want a slightly fancier cookie and more crunch). Flatten cookies gently with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes. Try not to overbake, but you don’t have to tell me about what a nuisance chocolate cookies can be. Try touching one gently at 6 minutes and seeing if it seems to be mostly set, and if it does, take that tray out. You may want to bake and cool one tray of cookies first and eat a cookie to see how they turned out, then adjust the timing.

Anyway, these are great, even if you aren’t ordinarily super fond of almonds.

Posted in: Blog, News, The Best Cookies In The World by Rachel on December 7th, 2014