Friday, May 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' May Challenge - Chocolate Marquise on Meringue

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle. (Recipe HERE.)

This dessert has four components to it -- the chocolate marquise, the caramel sauce, the spiced/candied nuts and the meringue. I made each of the ingredients on a different day.

The chocolate marquise is actually a frozen mousse. But when it's time to plate and serve the dessert, the frozen marquise is cut into serving sizes and rolled in powdered Dutch cocoa. After placing the frozen, dusted marquise on top of the meringue, drizzling with caramel sauce and decorating with a few spiced nuts, the dessert is left out so that the frozen marquise can thaw. It turns into a soft, creamy mouse, but holds its shape.

The caramel sauce was supposed to be flavored with tequila, but I omitted that and added extra vanilla.

And now for my "true confessions." It took me three tries to succeed in preparing the spiced nuts. The original recipe called for almonds, but I opted for pecans.
Attempt #1 went into the trash after the nuts and the coating burned to a puffy black mass in far less time than the recipe called for. I decided that the problem occurred because I left too much of the sticky batter on the nuts.

No problem! For attempt #2 I drained the nuts after dipping them in the egg white/sugar/spice combination, and kept them well-separated from each other. I also lowered the oven temperature. They looked perfect as I placed the pan into the oven. As they began to roast, I started putting away the ingredients -- sugar, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and . . . WHAT? CHINESE FIVE SPICE!!!??? That was supposed to be CINNAMON! I knew better than to taste the nuts coated with this bizarre combination, so batch #2 promptly joined batch #1 in the trash. (Do you know how much pecans cost?!)

I didn't have it in me to try batch #3 that same day, so waited until the weekend. I even pulled a new recipe from the internet, and prepared my few remaining pecans for roasting in the oven. They turned out beautiful and delicious. At last. I guess it's true, what they say about the third try being a charm.

The meringue was made a bit differently from any I've made before. The egg whites and sugar were cooked over a double boiler, just until all of the sugar was dissolved and the egg whites began to thicken. How did you know that all of the sugar was dissolved, you may ask. Easy . . . the recipe requires that you continuously stir the mixture with your fingers, feeling for grains of sugar! I was afraid I might burn myself, but came out unscathed. This hot egg white mixture is then beaten, like regular meringue. It makes a silkier, smoother, and, I think, lighter version of meringue. The meringue was supposed to be lightly browned using a kitchen torch, but I don't have one, so simply used a long-handled fireplace lighter.

Our neighbors and their grown son, who had joined them for dinner that evening, came over to sample the completed dessert. I was the only one who couldn't eat the entire serving. It was just too rich for me. And the chocolate was too intense. But Dan and our neighbors all raved over it, so I'm calling it as a success.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More Zoo Animals

Dan and I took a little time today to go to the zoo (AGAIN, for me). We have season passes, so it doesn't cost anything for us to stop by for a visit, and I tend to do it a lot; Dan, not so often.

Today I camped, with my camera, near the giraffes and the elephants. Aren't giraffes beautiful animals? I love their eyes.


The giraffe in the background of this photo, below, is the baby, born in May 2009. He's getting tall, isn't he?




I hadn't seen Daizy, our baby elephant, since she was a newborn. She's going on two years old now. In the first two pictures, you can see Rozie, Daizy's mother on the right. I'm not positive, but I think that the elephant on the left is Albert, Daizy's father. Don't you see a family resemblance? :-)


When I first arrived, they were playing in the water.



After the water play, a little dirt bath seemed in order, apparently!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Few Ten-Second Rants

Call me grumpy Today. That's okay. Every now and then it just feels good to stomp my foot and holler (figuratively) about a few things:

Parents who consistently bribe their misbehaving child into compliance (or silence). Isn't this just rewarding the bad behavior? The child's thought process must be something like this: Whenever I do something naughty, especially in public, Mommy will give me a cookie!

People who text while driving. So scary!

Fast food employees who wait until you’ve placed your order and driven to the first drive-through window, to pay, to tell you that their credit card machine is down this morning – cash only. I never carry cash, so have to drive off, leaving my Egg McMuffin sitting at window #2.

Scoundrels who hack your Facebook and/or email accounts and use your identity to send fictitious emails to everyone in your address book. I’m still a bit touchy about this one!

Realtors who make an appointment to show your house, and then don’t come.

People who toss cigarettes out their car windows. Don’t they realize this is littering? And don’t they know it’s a fire hazard, here in drought-stricken New Mexico?

Hair stylists who look at a photo you’ve brought in and send you out the door with a completely different “do.” I’ve even had them tell me, “Oh, you don’t want that.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hanging Out With the Polar Bears

I stopped at the zoo on my way home from work today, but didn't get much beyond my favorites, the polar bears.




Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dentists - A Love/Hate Relationship

Yesterday I finally completed the lengthy dental process, which started in early December when I lost a crown from a tooth that had had a root canal many years ago. Because the titanium post had broken, the tooth could not be saved, so had to be extracted. It was not a front tooth, but was far enough forward to be visible when I talked or smiled. The dentist recommended an implant (my second one, by the way).

Tooth implants are marvelous . . . and marvelously expensive! They involve the extraction of the tooth, the installation of the implant, six to eight weeks of healing, the creation of an abutment to hold a crown, and the placement of the permanent crown. For me, this process spanned five months.

Sometimes I think I’ve spent more time (and money) in a dentist’s chair, in my lifetime, than anyone else on the planet. Probably not, but, as some say, “Perception is everything.”

I still have nightmares about the dentist I went to as a child in Juneau. He used a jack hammer for a drill, and his assistant was trained in torture techniques. She used to slap my hand if I grabbed onto the arm of the chair too tightly. I know that my fear of the dentist stems from those days I spent in that stuffy little office.

As I grew older, dentists became gentler, their drills became faster and less jarring, techniques became more high-tech, and the anesthetic become more effective and easier to deliver. I still get a little knot in my stomach when I have a dentist appointment, but nothing like I used to. The fact is, in recent years I’ve had some of the most considerate, capable and gentle dentists I could hope for.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like, had I lived centuries ago, when the only resolution for a toothache was to liquor-up the patient and pry the tooth out. I’d hardly have a tooth left in my mouth, and I might have died, any number of times, from complications due to abscesses. I haven’t had many serious health issues, thank the good Lord, but my Achilles heel is in my mouth (talk about putting your foot in your mouth!). What a blessing that I live in this modern age, when dentists can work their wonders.

Thank you, Drs. Roholt and Cook, who cooperated in this successful and non-traumatic implant procedure.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Last Sunday afaternoon Dan said, "Let's go down and see your Mom for Mother's Day." It sounded like a great idea to me, so we started making plans to do just that. But by Wednesday it was clear that Dan had come down with a doozy of a cold. We still held out hope that he could go to Carlsbad on Saturday, but he got progressively worse. By Saturday he had lost his voice entirely and was not feeling up to the trip. So I packed my bag and headed Mom's direction myself.

I got there Saturday afternoon - it's about a 5-hour trip down - and took her to her favorite Mexican restaurant, in Artesia, for dinner that night. It was great food, and we had a good time together. When we got home we stayed up until midnight talking. I went with her to Bible class and worship this morning, then hit the road again to return home.

It was a very brief visit, but we made the most of it, and I'm really glad I went.

About half-way between Albuquerque and Carlsbad lies Roswell. I always get a kick out of the Roswell UFO mystique. The downtown plays up that 1947 UFO crash to the hilt. This time through town I stopped for about five minutes and snapped a few alien shots. This first picture I took through the window of a shop. Hanging there is an old, water-stained copy of the Roswell newspaper, from the day of that famous and controversial event. I enlarged the date, from the banner of the paper, and inserted it at the bottom-right because that date -- July 8, 1947 -- is ALSO the day that Dan was born! Speculate all you want on any possible connection!

Here are just a few more shots -- just for the fun of it -- of a few of the aliens that seem to peek around every corner of downtown Roswell.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Early Morning Email

I woke up this morning and checked my email. There was a message from Takashi saying he and his bride, Yoko, will be coming to see us in August! Needless to say, we are happy and excited to see him again and to meet his bride of about one year, Yoko.

We may still be in our house, trying to sell it. We may have sold it and be packing to move out. We may already be out and living in a small apartment. But none of that will matter. It’ll just be great to see them, whatever our situation.

Takashi has come back to America to visit us a number of times since his exchange year. The first two times were in Oregon, and once again in Juneau. Now, for his fourth visit, he’s coming to see us in New Mexico – just in time, since a Texas move is on our radar.

Takashi’s first visit was a real surprise. You can read about it HERE. His third visit, to Juneau, was a little disappointing for him, because he had planned to do lots of sightseeing and outdoor adventures, but it was October, and the heavy, cold, windy rains had begun. Most of the tourist activities had closed for the season. He ended up hardly even catching a glimpse of the tops of the mountains or of any of the awesome scenery there. It was all shrouded in Juneau’s famous heavy, thick, low-hanging clouds, and the rain never did let up.

That kind of weather shouldn’t be a problem this time, but our guests should be prepared for HEAT at that time of year. I hope we can take them on a few day-trips out of the city, to see some of the beauty of New Mexico.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Robert's Book

I've finally completed Robert's book about his great-grandpa, my Dad.

To view it:

1. Go to
2. Click on "Flip Preview" (below the cover image)
3. Click on a page that you have finished viewing to turn to the next page