*ULTIMATE PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE COOKIE TO GET SOMEONE TO FALL MADLY IN LOVE WITH YOU

I was not smooth in high school. My lack of polish was accentuated because all the girls “my age” in TV and film were far more grown up and they oozed fineness. Being exceptionally short, having a small speech impediment, and lacking coordination I felt like a caricature of the awkward teenager nobody wanted to date. This did not make me feel attractive or confident to talk with my deep crushes. I typically crushed in silence. Through junior high and high school, I crushed on all four of my closest guy friends… (Mind you these are the same friends I was virtually mute around.)

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I had an on again off again crush spanning 10 years on a friend that moved to my town in the second grade. The crush grew when he urged me to take Biology with him freshman year and resurfaced when we struggled through Algebra II together junior year.

There was the friend who played sax and sat behind me in Band starting in the seventh grade. He was funny and charismatic with the right amount of snark. He helped me laugh through the muck of high school.  He stopped taking Band senior year to focus on other things, but we still saw each other at lunch.

I met another in 6th grade homeroom. At first blush, he was the most reserved of the group, but he had a killer wit. He was incredibly kind; his yearbook inscription tells me that I made him smile when he was down, but he did the same for me. He and I are still in touch and meet up when we’re in the other’s city.

Then, there’s Red. He transferred to us in 9th grade. He was brilliant and quirky. He took fancy science and math classes, which I was not smart enough for. But, we sat next to each other in our upper division Spanish and English classes. We were theatre geeks and I helped with blocking when he was cast as Schroder for “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” (Every time I hear the Book Report song, I think of him.)

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I was too nervous to do anything about the feelings I had for these boys, even when people tried to push us together.

The only thing I could do to express my feelings was bake.

I remember the Christmas I was crushing on Red vividly. I baked batches of Ultimate Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies (To Get Someone to Fall Madly in Love With You). The cookies were a marriage between a peanut butter cookie and a chocolate chip cookie.

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Not to disclose my saccharine message, everyone in the group got the same tinfoil bedazzled package. I changed the sticker formation on Red’s so I’d be sure to give him the package that had 7 cookies instead of 6.

Several months after Christmas, Red asked me to prom. My heart was so happy, it did summersaults.

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I turned him down.

What if there was holding hands or kissing? I was not prepared for that. I took a friend I met the previous summer working at a church camp. He didn’t have a high school prom and since we were just friends it felt like the right choice.

RECIPE

I cannot stress enough when it comes to baking— Invest in parchment paper! Baking becomes infinitely easier.

INGREDIENTS
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 sticks margarine, softened (2 cups)
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup dry coarsely chopped peanuts (dry roasted, lightly salted)
2 cups of semi-sweet or dark chocolate for melting

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

Set oven racks to the top two racks.

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

MIXING

In a Medium bowl, cream together:
Margarine, brown sugar, white sugar and eggs.

Add baking soda and mix.

Slowly add flour. When well blended, add nuts.

THE REST

Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. If parchment paper is too wide, fold to fit.

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Spoon dough on baking sheets in dollops that are slightly larger than a quarter. You should be able to fit 4 across and 3 down. When you’re done with one tray, put it on a cool surface, then do your other baking sheet. When both baking sheets are ready and up to temperature, put them in. Set timer for 12 minutes.

When they’re “ready” check them. If you press down lightly on a cookie, it should bounce back. If it does, take it out. If it doesn’t, or you want a slightly crispier cookie, put it in for a little longer. (You must keep a close eye on cookies, baking goes very quickly at this point.) Once you take the top baking sheet out, move the bottom baking sheet to the top rack.

Quickly transfer the cookies from the sheet to your cooling racks. When you’re done with that, your second baking sheet should be done. Take them out and transfer cookies to cooling racks.

Now, using the same parchment paper and baking sheets, continue the spooning and baking process until the batter is gone.

Let the cookies cool thoroughly before doing the chocolate glaze.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE
Spread out wax paper for a cooling area.

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In a double boiler on a very low heat, melt the chocolate. I like using dark chocolate candy bars. It might be tempting to add milk to help keep chocolate smooth. Don’t. If you do this, the chocolate won’t set up. Be patient and keep stirring. When chocolate is melted, dunk the cookie half-way in. Then put it on the wax paper to cool. Continue doing this until cookies are all gone. You’ll need to keep stirring the chocolate so it doesn’t stick to the pot, and you may want to have extra chocolate on hand, depending on how generous you are with dunking.

*A SECOND FIRST KISS

Junior High is the worst period of everyone’s life. If anyone tells you, “I loved junior high;” punch them. They’re lying. To make this terrible benchmark of my young life worse, Health Class was morose. You’d think teaching health topics like, “good nutrition” or “ advances in the medicine” would be a priority. Not a chance. For three years straight, it was all about Sexual Transmitted Diseases. We watched movies like “Captain Condom” and learned how to catch/not catch herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis (A, B, & C), Bacterial Vaginosis, HPV, syphilis, crabs, scabies, Trichomoniasis, HIV/AIDS. (Contracting some of the disorders is as easy as sitting on a toilet seat.) If we were lucky, we got a reprieve and learned about teen pregnancy and alcoholism.

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Welcome to Health Class in the early ‘90s.

I had my second first kiss during this time.

When I was 14 (and in the eighth grade) my friend Evie invited me to go camping with her. I was dismayed when I arrived and found out “camping” meant going with her on her weekend visitation to see her dad at the trailer park.

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We barely saw him.

She hung out with five highly-unsupervised boys and the chosen activity was Truth or Dare. Dares involved, up the shirt (sometimes under/over shirt), down the pants, kissing, French kissing, and any sex act the boys could think of. It never involved eating something nasty or doing something crazy. My kissing experience was limited to Robbie Nelson when I was eight. Aside from my extreme shyness, I only knew Evie and this heightened my anxiety about not knowing how to kiss on the lips. What if I did it wrong? What if they laughed at me? I don’t know these boys; do I really want my first kiss to be with someone I don’t know? I was near tears. I refused the first kissing Dare, but was told I couldn’t pass. I refused any kind of Dare that involved some derivation of sex. (They were okay with it, but it didn’t stop them from giving me the dare again a couple turns later.)

It was a cards-on-the-table kind of game and we performed the dares in front of each other. I did kiss incorrectly. And, they did laugh. My “friend” recited her step-by-step kissing manual. It I was beyond miserable and hated every moment of the weekend. I was “busy” for every future “camping” trip.

Even though all I did that very terrible weekend was awkward junior high making out, with the heavy-handed dose of sex-education we received in school, I was convinced I contracted something, or worse, was pregnant. I wasn’t thinking clearly; I hadn’t even had my first period. Let alone have sex. It took time for me to rationalize myself out of the panic:, but I eventually breathed a sigh of relief after deducing I dodged the teen pregnancy bullet. Later, I learned one important fact in Health Class, “you’d have to drink a 5 gallon bucket of saliva from an infected person to get an STD.” I’m not sure how scientific that statement is, but I breathed a little easier.

Between Health Class and that weekend, it no wonder why my fear of boys was reinforced. And made me keep a good distance for years to come.

Sexless STDs:

Drink a 5 gallon bucket of saliva from an infected person.

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*CRUSH YOUR HEART VALENTINE’S DAY SPECIAL

My longing desire to date was fed by the popular Christian Slater romance films of the 1990s. Like most teenage girls who like boys, I crushed on unattainable ones, particularly the letterman basketball player (a junior) who was in my upper-division “Great Books” English class, (he did a brilliant report on Thomas Mann).  The seats and tables were arranged in a hippy circle, so we all faced one another. I spent the better part of my sophomore year staring at him.

Despite my lack of coordination, a friend encouraged me to join the basketball cheerleaders. Cheering didn’t affect my social status or lack there of. Nobody cared about cheer (it was only in its second year at my school), but I got to ogle, I mean cheer, during his games. Cheering for the team by extension brought me closer to him.

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to make gift bags of Hershey’s hugs and kisses, sealing each with curling ribbon. I gave them to the friends (that I barely spoke to) and saved one for the letterman. I carefully crafted the words that would accompany my gift, but shyness overcame me each time I could have given him the chocolates.

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The big game against our rival was that night. It was heated. Players on both sides were ejected, including the letterman. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was completely within his right to throw the ball at the face of the opponent; the other guy fouled him first! I don’t remember if we won or lost. My heart ached from sadness because this ejection meant he’d be benched for several games.

After the basketball game everyone piled into cars and hitched rides to the hockey rink to cheer on our classmates and watch fights that wouldn’t end in ejection.

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He was there too… huddled amongst his teammates and mere feet from where I was standing. I was emotionally and physically frozen. How was I going to do this? I gave myself a pep talk.

First period ended. The chocolates remained in my coat pocket.

Second period ended. I inched closer.

Somewhere during the third period I managed to hand him the bag of un-melted chocolates with crimpled ribbon. My carefully crafted message escaped my memory, and I blurted out, “I’m sorry you got ejected!”

He took the chocolates; said, “thanks,” trying to stifle laughter and passed them out to his friends, who clearly were amused by my lameness.

I didn’t regret giving him the chocolates. My only regret was that he was a junior and the greater embarrassment came from having to see him for another year and a half before he graduated and got out of my life.

CRUSH YOUR HEART VALENTINE’S DAY RECIPE

Put Hershey’s Hugs & Kisses in a baggie. Tie with decorative ribbon. Serve to an un-attainable crush in front of lots of people. Wait for laughter. Embarrassment soon follows.

*FIRST KISS SURPRISE

It probably won’t be a surprise to you, but I was quiet in elementary school. My sweet and quiet demeanor endeared me to teachers, and some boys (I was clueless at the time), and my short stature regulated me to the front row. Often, misbehaved boys shared the row with me so teachers could keep an eye on their shenanigans. Robbie Nelson was one of these boys. He played ice hockey in a local pewee team and is probably why for many years I was drawn to men that were tall and broad. He was a good foot taller than me and was incredibly strong.

Robbie is an October baby. He invited me to every party since Kindergarten, and by the time his third-grade birthday rolled around, I knew the benchmarks. His birthdays were organized chaos. We played in leaf piles, his dad taught us how to make paper airplanes, his little brother would get stuck in a tree and we would watch his dad coaxed him out. I was usually the only girl.

When my dad came to pick me up from his eighth birthday, Robbie walked me to the kitchen. His mom cajoled him, “Don’t you have something to give Sarah?” He gave me a Trapper-Keeper folder with a neon-heart (this was the 80’s after-all) and a kiss on the cheek.

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Holy smokes! It was a magical as rainbows and unicorns. My dad being a good man didn’t say anything about this kiss. During the car ride back, he simply asked me if I had fun.

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Of course I did!!!

Then, I went into my head, reflecting on the most contemporary media I was watching at the time: The Flintstones. After meeting her actor-crush, Betty Rubble was vehement to Wilma that she wouldn’t wash her hands. That’s how I felt; I didn’t want to wash my cheek. Being dutiful, I didn’t question my parents’ authority when they told me to wash my face before I went to bed.  Oh well.

Since then there have only been a few men that have given me a kiss that has elicited the same excitement I felt that day.

POPCORN BALL RECIPE:

As part of the birthday delicacies, there were always popcorn balls.

Popcorn balls are one of those foods that are often over-looked. Making your own for hostess gifts etc. gives what might be considered a mundane gift a little extra panache.

I find that being generous with the marshmallow (and using mini marshmallows) makes for an easier popcorn ball making experience and on the whole a more flavorful popcorn ball. I like the Kraft Foods recipe and have modified it only slightly to suit my cooking preferences.

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup  (1/2 stick) butter or margarine

4 cups mini marshmallows (or 40 large jet-puffed)

½ tsp.  vanilla

¼ tsp.  salt

3qt.  (12 cups) plain popped popcorn (air popped or stove popped)

OPTIONAL: A squirt of dye.

DIRECTIONS

MELT butter in large saucepan on low heat. Add marshmallows, vanilla and salt; cook until marshmallows are completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring constantly.

PLACE popcorn in large bowl. Add marshmallow mixture; mix lightly to coat.

SHAPE into 10 (3-inch) balls with lightly greased hands. Place on sheets of waxed paper; let stand until firm.

*To make mixing easier, separate popcorn into 3 large bowls and evenly distribute marshmallow mixture between them. This way all the popcorn will be coated evenly.

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Special Thanks to The Party Animal Blog for use of the picture.

*IN THE BEGINNING

There was loneliness. 

I was painfully shy growing up and had major body image issues that made me feel like Quasimodo. These insecurities led me to being nearly mute around people I considered close friends. My friendship circle consisted of people I barely spoke to, people that made me feel like I was on a rollercoaster and my sister. Even though I felt close to those I was nearly mute around, we didn’t hang out beyond school walls. Through it all and despite typical sibling disagreements, my sister was my closest friend. It was hard enough for me to make friends, the idea of making myself vulnerable to date was incomprehensible.

When I was in high school, the contemporary version of Sabrina was released. I immediately connected. I wanted that beauty, class, and for men to see my full potential. (I subsequently saw Billy Wilder’s version and fell in love with the food.) When I was younger I desperately hoped by traveling away from my hometown I would magically transform into a sophisticated woman men would fight over.

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From Paramount Pictures’ 1995 Remake of Sabrina.

I first moved to Boston (where I have the esteem of being the subject of a drunken bar fight…), then I moved to Los Angeles (no bar fights yet). The internal me still sees myself as squatty (I’m 5 feet tall) and painfully shy. Genetics doomed me to being short, but, like Sabrina, life experiences changed and matured me (like a fine wine).

Nonetheless, dating has still been a challenge.

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From Paramount Pictures’ 1954 Sabrina. Here, the baron explains why Sabrina’s souffle did not rise.

I almost went to culinary school, but didn’t want a career cooking for strangers. I realized my inadequate dating skills could benefit from my love of cooking. I’ll be the first to admit that my favorite part of dating is cooking, and I’ve probably overlooked some early incompatibility signs all for the excuse to get into the kitchen. Going on dates with the goal of it leading to the kitchen gives the experience a unique shape. I like learning about people and using food preferences to steer the conversation. “You like Mexican. You don’t like bell peppers. Oh, you have a peanut allergy…” These are important points to know when you’re preparing your first meal for the object of your affection. While many practice the “traditional 3 date standard” before they give up the goods, it’s usually 3 dates before I cook.

I had one long-term relationship in college, followed by another in my mid-twenties with a third in my early thirties. Sprinkled around these three questionably long relationships are men. Some got to my kitchen (and only my kitchen), and some stories are included because the early dates were such a fantastic disaster it’d be criminal not to include them.

When you first like someone, you look for the smallest thing to connect to: “You breathe air, oh my God, me too! We’re meant to be together.”  It has been a work in progress, but I’ve figured out what I need (and it’s more than the similarity of breathing air).