Trader Joe's used to carry the most awesome chocolate covered peanut clusters, packaged in an easy-to-eat-all-at-once sized container of one pound of clusters. Although I really loved the milk chocolate covered peanuts, I recognized very early that purchasing a pound of chocolate covered peanuts meant having it in my hands for only a few hours. After that, they'd be in my digestive tract.

Trader Joe's stopped carrying said chocolate covered peanut clusters, to my dismay, about a year ago. I lamented the fact, asked them when they'd carry them again, mourned their loss, and tried a different tact.

I started going to See's Candies down the street.

The problem with See's is that each cluster was 50¢. Now, this would normally be okay, I'd just purchase less of them because they were so expensive. And because See's hours were awful, closing at 5. When am I ever home by 5?

Given the expense, and the time difficulties, I switched tacts AGAIN. This time, I made them myself. Using a pound of Trader Joe's Belgian Milk Chocolate (mmmmmmmmm!), and a pound of lightly salted (you need some salt, really) ...

... I broke up the chocolate ....

... I melted the chocolate in a double boiler ...

... added the peanuts once the chocolate had fully melted ...

... stirred the peanuts until they were covered in chocolate ....

... then dropped them in clusters onto both parchment paper and silicone baking sheets.

For the record, the parchment paper worked better than the silicone, and peanut clusters don't spread. It's okay to drop them really close to each other.

I ended up with two pounds of peanut clusters. The ratio of 1:1 is perfect.

Always washing dishes


Gah. I feel like I'm always washing dishes.

Sure, I'm cooking a lot, which makes sense that there will be lots of dishes to wash, but good lord, I am tired of washing dishes.


First savory souffle


I'm not sure what happened, but this baking experiment was a near complete disaster.

Yeah, I'm confused about this event. Sure, I have my culinary problems, a tragic meal that makes my guests think I've gone insane, but they are typically few, and never with souffles. My souffles are always light and fluffy, rich and exotic, and, oh, so very tasty.

Of course, they've all been chocolate souffles until today.

I mean, what's the point of making a souffle, if it's not chocolate?

I mean, really!

I picked up the cheddar-bacon souffle recipe from the Williams-Sonoma store where Mom and I went when she was visiting, where, of course, I spent too much money on kitchen items (but just try to wrest those new kitchen shears from my cold, dead hands, and see how much luck you have). Given the recipe called for a half pound of bacon, how bad could it be?

Not bad at all. If you like bacon bread.

Examples of my baking prowess


Tomorrow's Master Gardener class is actually a tour of various Master Gardener projects. We're to head out some time this week to see the different projects and report back in small groups next week.

I'm heading out tomorrow with my mentor group, and Mom is going with me. I'm not sure we're going to spend the whole day touring projects, but we'll tour at least in the morning.

The group is doing a potluck lunch. I've been dying to make some of Shirley's peanut butter cookies, which she had made for me like six months ago after I helped her move a couch. Since I'd lost my sense of smell, most peanut butter cookies taste like cardboard. These, now these I could taste.

And I wanted some.

So, I told Mom we were going to make some tonight. We had dinner and watched the most recent episode of Heroes before starting on the cookies at 9:00 at night.

Only to realize the recipe calls for the dough to chill for 2 hours in the middle.

2 hours.

TWO hours.

Yeah, I'm not staying awake that long, I thought, we'll just chill them in the freezer for a few minutes, they'll still turn out.

Ten minutes of chilling, one minute of dropping balls of dough onto the baking sheets and twelve minutes of cooking later, I pulled the two dozen cookies out of the oven.

Now, for the record, they taste wonderful. Mom ate three lickety-split, and she doesn't eat cookies very often. I downed two before accidently dropping one on the floor and dodging out of the way of the doggie feeding frenzy.

So, they taste good.

They just look like little piles of doggie puke:

Maybe I won't take them to the potluck tomorrow.

Cookin' time


Our trip to Australia wasn't the best trip we've ever had, certainly not the best trip I've ever been on. Actually, it's one of the most not-fun trips I've had, and that's including the trip to France back in the early ninties. Now that was a trip to forget (travelling companion: marvelous; braving french culture without a thick skin: forgettable).

Because it wasn't a particularly good time, I had a lot of time to think: when things aren't good, I try to figure out why not, and how to fix them so that they are good. This quirk often backfires, but didn't this time.

I spent the time thinking about what I want to change about myself, because the self is both the hardest to change, and the easiest to attempt to change. The first change I decided to make was to stop biting off my fingernails. Not sticking my fingers in my mouth every moment I'm still, which isn't often, since I'm always bouncing around.

Clipping my nails is now a weekly chore, one I haven't had since, well, since never.

The other decision was to cook on a regular basis. Instead of going out to eat for dinner six nights a week and cook for one, I decided we were going to cook for six nights a week, and going out for dinner would be a treat.

I started cooking each night for the both of us. Kris didn't mind that we weren't heading out for dinner: he'd arrive home and dinner would be ready for him. Dinner couldn't have been much easier for him than sit down and eat. After a few weeks of making dinner for us, I told him what I was doing. He was encouraged, and began cooking with me: sometimes making side dishes, sometimes making the main course.

I'm not sure we're saving money on eating in each night. I'm not sure we're not. It's been a good trend so far, though. We've started eating healthier. We're eating far more regularly. We're spending more time together, talking about the day, what happened and suchk. We're also throwing away significantly less food than we used to throw away. Since returning from Australia, I think I've thrown away maybe two items; instead of our previous two items a week or so.

I'm happy by these changes.

I'm now trying to figure out what other changes to make, continue this trend.