*RAINBOW CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES – A GOOD WAY TO SAY THANK YOU

Her kindness astounded me. First she buys me dinner when she’s struggling herself and then she strategizes ways for me to stay in Los Angeles and continue to fight for my dream of working in entertainment industry. That one dinner changed my life.
___________________________________________________________________

I like food. I was a foodie before being a foodie was trendy. I’ve baked cookies or big meals to stuff my dates (or potential dates) in an effort to show love. But, like your Italian grandmother, stuffing friends and family with food has been a way for me to show love too.

TV Trenches and I met in college and bled for the various TV organizations we belong to. Like Multi-Cam Maven, she and I were hungry for a career in TV and these organizations satiated that hunger. While in our Los Angeles, “semester abroad,” I learned two important things. To survive Los Angeles, you need a Thomas Guide and a good friend.

TV Trenches was that friend.

Oakwood ApartmentsDuring our semester, students in the L.A. program lived at The Oakwood Apartments in Burbank. While a lot of colleges use it for their “semester abroad” housing, real people live there too. Most of these people are traveling professionals and child actors accompanied by their families. TV Trenches lived in a double with her best friend and long time roommate. I was living in a quad with girls I met the day I moved in. I was on the shy side and lacked lots of life experience. They had lifestyles of excessive drinking, drugs and sex. One roommate sold ‘shrooms and liked dropping acid or E depending on the circumstance. Another would have sex in our shared bedroom while I tried to sleep. Heck, they almost got us kicked out of the student housing for throwing a wild party and serving alcohol to child actors! We had a disciplinary hearing. I was in tears and the only reason we didn’t lose our housing is because the head of the program didn’t have the heart to punish me with the three roommates.

I was adrift.

I didn’t understand my roommates and I understood Los Angeles even less. TV Trenches recognized I was struggling. She had recently become acquainted with a local church and invited me to go with her to the college and young professionals service on Sunday evening. It was very different than the small New England church I was raised in. The room for the young professional service was cavernous and the exposed steal beams reminded me a lot of Costco. Despite lacking two things I needed, liturgy and hymns, the praise and worship band provided an element of Church Camp.Church - Pasadena

TV Trenches and I sat next to each other almost every service. Despite the differences from my New England church, Rock Band church soon felt like home. After we “graduated” the L.A. semester, we continued to go, but rarely sat together since we were commuting from different parts of the city.

One March, the minister announced a community dinner to encourage members to commune as “a body of Christ.” We could pay whatever we wanted or could afford. I was depressed with my financial and career struggle and intended to sneak out.

TV Trenches found me. With her limited funds she dropped money in the basket for me and then for herself. Over dinner she gently said, “Sarah, you’re broke. You’ve worked hard to get here. You need to do something to stay in Los Angles.” She pointed out Linens-N-Things (LNT) was opening in Pasadena and doing a massive hiring. She worked at another LNT and said I should use her as a reference.

Even though she was a friend, her kindness astounded me. First she buys me dinner when she’s struggling herself and then she strategizes ways for me to stay in Los Angeles and continue to fight for my dream of working in entertainment industry. That one dinner changed my life.

Linens-n-things-towelsWith her reference and key words to use on my application, I got the job. It took a team of eight of us over four weeks to unpack boxes to stock the Bath Department. We even learned to fold towels in the proper LNT way.

There was a lot of refolding.

I hated it less than the job I had for a day selling cheap merchandise at Pavilion’s under the auspices of child advocacy, but all that folding dried my hands, lint got caught in my throat and it was over eight hours a day standing on a concrete floor. Days became more difficult when the store opened and I had to wear fancy shoes with no support while being nice to rude customers who were frustrated by the largeness of the new store, abrasive when I asked the required, “What can I help you find today,” and unsympathetic when I had difficulty running a new register system.

Despite the cons, the relatively steady paycheck made the woes of retail less bad. Besides, Sonodoro and I had just met through Yahoo Personals. Our routine after-work phone calls were a reward for a difficult day. We officially started dating in late April and that’s when the inevitable layoffs began. The employees knew it was coming; when opening a new store, it’s customary to hire a big batch of people and then systematically release them. I made it through four rounds of lay-offs before I lost my job. They handed me my last paycheck and then handed me a severance check. I was blown away.

PlatedShortly after the layoffs, TV Trenches had a game night. I needed something to show my love and appreciation. She guided me through a crazy semester and guided me to get my first legitimate job in Los Angeles. During times of financial struggle, I was often regulated to the 99 Cent Store for party food, where spending a little over $2 on chips and salsa was normal. This time, I could splurge on chocolate chip cookie ingredients! I decided to make them extra special by adding M&Ms.

Whenever I make chocolate chip cookies with M&Ms, I think about that batch of cookies and their significance. Often you hear creatives reminisce about struggles during their early Hollywood days. While I use food to show love, the night of TV Trenches brainstormed ways for me to stay in Los Angeles and fed me dinner stands out in my mind. She gave me a big push to continue to fight for the dream.

UPGRADED CHOCLATE CHIP COOKIES
Ingredients
*Inspired by the Original Toll House cookie recipe from Nestle.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup (2 sticks) margarin, softened
2 large eggs
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 16 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 16 oz bag plain (FROZEN) M&Ms

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

  1. CREAM TOGETHER margarine and sugars. Add eggs and mix again.
    Cream
  2. Gradually add flour and baking soda.
  3. When thoroughly mixed add in chocolate chips and frozen M&Ms.
  4. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  6. Cover your sheet trays with parchment paper.
  7. With your cookie scoop drop your cookie rounds.
    Sheet Tray
  8. When the oven is up to temperature, bake 10-12 minutes.
  9. Transfer baked cookies to a wire rack.
  10. Repeat.

INSIDER’S TIPS:
*Keep cookie batter in the refrigerator while you’re waiting for one round of cookies to bake.
*Wait 1-2 minutes after you take the sheet tray out of the oven before transferring cookies to the wire rack. (They will hold their shape better.)

*MY VERY FIRST BREAKUP DINNER (AND A SIDE OF POTATO SALAD)

I had tried to turn my rapist into someone special. I had found things to love, and even had a list of reasons for not breaking up with him. Believing that list was becoming harder and harder to do. Despite my lack of conviction of love, the primary reason we stayed together so long was because the 21 year-old me lacked the fundamental skills to break up.

________________________________________________________________________________

It’s not real life, but I with love, Comicbook Crook can change. It’s not real life, but with love, Comicbook Crook can change. It’s not real life, but with love, Comicbook Crook can change.

Sigh.

Will he?

I don’t know. My mantra was losing conviction.

I tried so hard.

I tried so hard to make him love me.

I tried so hard to love him.

I tried so hard to undo what he did in that hotel room.

I was tired. I was tired of trying. Comicbook Crook had his good points. And I firmly believed everyone deserves to be loved. (I believe that to this day.) I had tried to turn my rapist into someone special. I had found things to love, and even had a list of reasons for not breaking up with him. Believing that list was becoming harder and harder to do. Despite my lack of conviction of love, the primary reason we stayed together so long was because the 21 year-old me lacked the fundamental skills to break up.

I was at a loss for what to do. When confronting breaking up, many follow their heart. I couldn’t do that. I trusted the thing I understood most. I reasoned with my head and made a list.

List

By the time I was shipping Comicbook Crook Brownies in Box, I had already stopped working at summer camp to spend more time with my family before my move to Los Angeles. I stayed home and worked for my mom this summer as well.

My mom gave me the book 10 Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives written by the incomparable Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Coming from my very liberal mother, you knew she was desperate. I read the book. While I didn’t agree with the conservative rhetoric or Schlessinger’s view point, there were truths that one could grab on to… like break up with idiot boyfriends.

I wasn’t keen hurting Comicbook Crook’s feelings and wasn’t quite sure I could stomach breaking up with him.

Maybe staying with him won’t be so bad. That way I won’t hurt his feelings.

He may have been dense, but he knew I wasn’t happy. He added to my summer reading list: Are You The One For Me by Barbara De Angelis, PhD. With conviction, he said, “It’s how my dad decided he should marry Jane. (She would never be a step-mother and only his dad’s second wife.)

I read two chapters.

One list, one book and two chapters of another, I had resolve with what I should do.

His July visit was around the corner and it coincided perfectly with his half-birthday. While most don’t celebrate half-birthdays, the Crook’s mother got him in the habit of celebrating them as his birthday is December 26. I was delighted, after a long search, I had finally found that blasted Transformers comic he had been looking for.

The visit was filled with ups and downs. Squabbles. Weirdness from him.

Did I ever mention Comicbook Crook like comics…. And sci-fi and fantasy? Well, he did. Xena: Warrior Princess was one of his favorite shows. In the early evening, in a moment of unquantifiable geekdome, he insisted on transforming his Nissan Altima into the ultimate fan car. To do this, he would pry the M & A off so the car read, Nissan Alti. He rationalized a true fan would appreciate the nod to Alti, (the Siberian Amazon Sameness that taught Xena her evil ways).

Alti

My parents held dinner.

Half an hour later, Crook still wasn’t done. Apparently, Nissan used some super strong glue for the letters on their car.

No kidding.

I was growing increasingly impatient with his behavior. He told me he wouldn’t come in until he had successfully pried the M & A off, so I left him outside while I ate dinner with my parents.

Eventually, he came in. We were already done.

nissan altima

The next day, Comicbook Crook kept trying to keep me to himself. I was annoyed. 

My family graciously invites you to their home and this is how you act?

We had more conversations. I let him know I was dissatisfied. He assured me that this was just a bump in dating.

On his second to last night I took him to celebrate his half-birthday. Before dessert, I presented him with his (parting) gifts. While I had found and purchased most of the gifts before I convinced myself breaking up was necessary, the gifts in large part were to assuage my guilt.
At least I’m doing one nice last thing for him.

The next day, he had to go back home. While we were saying goodbye, he said he wanted to work on things. I blurted out, “I just can’t take it anymore.” And like that, it was over.

I was sad but deeply relieved I managed to get through breaking up with him. He drove away. I went inside to have dinner and told my parents what happened. They tried to be sympathetic, but I’m pretty sure I caught my mom smiling.

Mom had made her famous potato salad for the Crook’s visit. She’s accustomed to making it for a party, so as often happens if she makes it for the family of four, we had extra. I had two helpings and nothing more.

Plated

That night was a milestone. And with each forkful, I celebrated I was gaining myself back.

POTATO SALAD (for 4)

INGREDIENTS:
4 Organic Russet Potatoes
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
3 Eggs
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Purple Onion. (Purple onions are sweet, and add some extra color)

Ingredients

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop onion.
  2. Put onion in a bowl and mix in 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Fill a large pot 3/4 full with cold water.
  4. Wash, Peel, and wash potatoes again.
  5. Put potatoes in cold water. This will help them from oxidizing.
  6. Slice potatoes down vertical axis and then again the wide way. Pieces should be approximately 1 inch square or larger, but roughly the same size.Diced Potatoes
  7. Put back in cold water.
  8. When all potatoes are cubed, cover pot, put on burner and set to medium heat.
  9. Cook 20 minutes.
  10. Put eggs in a small pot of cold water. Cook 8-10 minutes.
  11. Timer will go off.
    1. Check potatoes. They should be tender. If your fork doesn’t slide in easily or they still taste starchy cook slightly longer.
    2. The eggs should be done. You want them hard-boiled. Take a slotted spoon. Remove one egg and spin it.
    3. (If the egg does not spin, it’s not done and needs to be cooked more. This egg is done.)
  12. When potatoes are done drain into a colander.*
  13. When eggs are done, carefully pour out hot water and fill pot with cold water (to stop cooking process)
  14. Put potatoes in a large bowl. Let cool about 5 minutes.
  15. Add: ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, and salted onions. Gently mix.
  16. Peel eggs.
  17. Chop eggs into large pieces.Potato Salad
  18. Add eggs to potatoes. Gently mix.
  19. Cover and put in refrigerator.

Potato Salad Mixed

*COOK’S TIP:
I like catching the water from my potatoes so I can use it to for vegetable stock later.

*BEDROOM EYES QUESADILLA

I never told Comicbook Crook I went dancing with Bedroom Eyes. Perhaps, I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating. My love of BRE and what we shared on the dance floor may have even prolonged the relationship with Comicbook Crook. BRE was certainly giving me some of the safe emotional and physical connection I needed… the kind would be standard in a relationship.
__________________________________________________________________

My college had a student body that was mostly women. The popular statistic was that women out-numbered men 3:1. With that ratio, dating was tough. But, to compound dating woes, allegedly, 65% of those men were gay. I’m not sure of the validity of the statement, but it seemed accurate.

The school paper even substantiated the statistics with a comic…
Frame One: Snaggle Tooth boy-troll wearing an I LOVE COMICS shirt.
Frame Two: Buxom hot girl.
Frame Three: Snaggle Tooth sees girl. Caption: How to pick up a girl at our college.
Frame Four: Snaggle Tooth, “I’m straight.”
Frame Five: Hot girl whisks Snaggle Tooth away.

I laughed. This wasn’t a little bemused laugh. It was a laugh that welled up from my belly and crossed my lips before I remembered who was sitting across from me.
Comicbook Crook was not amused.

He wasn’t bad looking, he just wasn’t going to win a beauty pageant. At any other college, he’d have a date or two… maybe. But, here, he was one of the few straight men. I was just one in a laundry list of women Comicbook Crook dated. I got to meet all his exes, even the one that broke up with him one month before he and I met. Part of me was happy to be part of the list. In some twisted way it validated my insecurity- I was somehow desirous. (Again, at this point, I didn’t realize that our first date started with date rape.)

Today I wouldn’t put up with his quirks, but part of being good at dating is ending something that doesn’t work. With my inexperience, I wasn’t good at dating…

…yet.

It’s not real life, but I was hoping that with love he would be the man I needed. I had invested considerable emotional energy, but the rose-colored glasses were slipping off. Me laughing at the comic was just a symptom of my growing discontent.

My three summers of working at camp helped me find my voice and undo the negativity that “friends” from junior high and high school heaped on. Camp had a compounding affect:  It taught me to confidently stand within myself and while doing so I gained more confidence. But, even with jokes, camaraderie and safe flirting, there were certain lines you didn’t cross… It was church camp after all.

3-7-14 Hubble Chapple Cross

I crossed those lines with Bedroom Eyes. There was no sex; he was one the 65%. We danced. We danced our asses off. (Yes, I know I’m quoting Footloose.) During my junior year, it became our Monday night tradition to go to Axis on Lansdowne Street. Monday night was “Gay Night.” Looking back on it now, it seems funny to have a bar with a theme of “Gay Night” where they proclaim they’re LBGTQ friendly. But this 2000/2001; Boston and America were still changing.

My first dance with BRE was awkward.

Dance - 1 Awkward

Awkward in the sense that he was a boy. Prior to him, the most I had done with a boy, dancing wise, was the HS shuffle with a friend. I had never danced a fast dance with a boy. He pulled me close. I moved with him as best I could. But, even with my years in Band and understanding the rhythm of music, I didn’t have experiencing moving my body to that rhythm. He pulled me closer. Hips gyrating. His hands on my ass.

I better do something.

Dance - 2 Gettin w it

The moment when you figure out how to dance at a club…

I put my hands on his bicep. I didn’t want to be in his personal space. Besides, even though I wasn’t a virgin, I was quite virginal in my mind and practical experiencing. Putting my hand on his bicep was non-threatening and the best I could do at the time.

I looked around and saw how other people were dancing and decided I better do something more… I put my hands on his chest. He didn’t recoil. We just got more in sync. It was completely fluid and absolutely freeing. I felt sexy. This was safe sexy dancing. Then, I learned a key component to BRE’s sexy dancing— It’s all in the eyes. His big, beautiful, deep and penetrating Bedroom Eyes. I felt one dancing with him. Forget Sabrina, I had the post Patrick Swayze Baby attitude. Nobody’s going to put me in a corner!

D Dancing - Baby Working It

I never told Comicbook Crook I went dancing with Bedroom Eyes. Perhaps, I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating. My love of BRE and what we shared on the dance floor may have even prolonged the relationship with Comicbook Crook. BRE was certainly giving me some of the safe emotional and physical connection I needed. Combined with the flirting and safe sexy dancing, my shaky confidence was becoming stable and even blossomed.

BRE and I didn’t even need alcohol to loosen us up to dance, it just happened once we walked through the doors. With the pulse of the music and everyone moving we fell into the momentum of dance.

In April the school had a big end of year dance where the leadership within the school clubs was handed down to the successor(s) for the next school year. It was a lot like prom. This time, I didn’t have to take a camp friend. I took Comicbook Crook and was excited to show off my moves. We both wore black and looked super slick. There was dinner, speeches and then it was time to dance! I’ve always loved dancing and now I had moves I could use. Comicbook Crook didn’t want to dance. I found Bedroom Eyes. I was a dancing machine, a monster. I owned myself. I loved dancing with BRE.

But, I didn’t go to the dance with him, I wanted to dance with my man.

Dancing Machine

It took some effort, but I was able to coax Comicbook Crook to the dance floor. He wasn’t thrilled, but slowly, he relaxed. Then there was a slow song. Easy stuff— Hold each other close and shuffle your feet. A fast song came back on. We stayed close.

Then I did what the music commanded me to do, which was walk backwards and beckon him to come get me. It was a cute move and I thought he’d walk forward to chase me. Instead, he had a bona fide temper tantrum. He needed a formula and pre-determined steps.

Why can’t he just go with the flow and dance with me?

Again, I had to console him. He was ruining my very first dance I had a boyfriend for.

I know I was stiff my first time, but at least I tried. I expected him to do the same. It was part of his job as my boyfriend to make me happy. I had reasons to stay with him, but coming up with new reasons to stay was becoming harder and harder to do. The big reason for not breaking up was boiling down to:

I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

But, the months of childish behavior, stealing, not eating crust and not letting me be me were adding up. This tantrum was put into my column of “reasons to break up.”

QUESADILLAS

Bedroom Eyes and I would often grab some food before a night of dancing… it was simply practical. On his side of campus they served diner-like food. Everything was loaded with starch, which would be good for sustained energy on the dance floor. Quesadillas have it all. While the traditional quesadilla is made with flour tortillas, really any kind of tortilla works.

INGREDIENTS
Guerrero Tortillas
Cheddar or Tex Mex Cheese
Pickled jalapeños

For the sides:
Sour Cream
Pace Salsa

 

Quesadilla Ingredients

Layer 1

Don’t be like some of the cooks at my school and scrimp on jalapeños like the one on the left.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Preheat toaster oven or oven to 375F.
On a tray lay out your tortilla and put the cheese and jalapeños.
Add more Cheese.
Cover with another tortilla.

Bake 10 minutes.
Quesadilla Baked - Done

Slice to desired size.
Serve with sour cream and salsa.
Quesadilla Presentation
TIP:
While putting the oven to toast for the last couple minutes is tempting, it will make your quesadilla to crispy and it will fall apart when you cut it.

*BROWNIES IN A BOX

The joy I got out Cosby Sweater’s possible embarrassment of receiving a bedazzled-saccharine-laden package at his mailroom job outweighed the expense. I budgeted postage for future batches and sent fewer brownies.
————————————————————————————————————

Cosby Sweater’s musings of a future proposal helped on two levels.
1. It soothed my sadness that I lost my virginity before I was ready.
2. It assuaged my worry that he wasn’t going discard me and was actually interested in dating.

At the end of the ideal camping trip, the reality of a long distance relationship set in. I went back to Connecticut to live with my family and he went to Boston to work in the school’s mailroom for the summer. He would be sorting and delivering mail sent to campers living in the dorms attending summer camp. (I still don’t now how he managed to get a job through the college even though he graduated, and I don’t feel like tracking him down to ask.)

It was a 4-hour trip max, CT to Boston, but with no license and not being as convenient as going up 7 stories, it was long distance enough. This time apart would be tough. While I was not ready for marriage, Cosby Sweater’s earnest statement, “I knew how I wanted to propose after two weeks” made me eager to do hallmark relationship things. Even though there was a possibility of a future proposal, I wanted to do something that would guarantee a relationship.

Baked goods! It’s how women in my family have won men for generations.

3-7-14 Chocolate Chip CookiesMy mom sent my dad cookies while he was away at school, but they would usually arrive in crumbs. My dad would quip, “sometimes a whole cookie would make it.” Hearing The Broken Cookie Story my whole life, it took only a minute to abandon sending cookies and choose to send brownies. The brownies would be able to withstand whatever abuse the USPS could dish out. I had a passing thought of cutting them into hearts, but after one attempt and one mangled brownie, I decided on the classic square.

I was in my early twenties and excited to continue the family tradition. Besides, I loved baking and I wasn’t baking at camp that summer. My baking was powerful; I baked The Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies for Red and he asked me prom. PK liked my Church Camp Chocolate Cake and English Teacher swooned over my Church Camp Pie and invited me to hang out after hours.  Now, I had a real boyfriend. I needed to get my baking fix. Was baking and sending food to my underweight boyfriend too maternal? Maybe. But, if I can get asked to prom and get good flirting based off of my baking skills, this would guarantee a commitment from Cosby Sweater (hopefully). Almost as much as the baking, I LOVED bedazzling the shipping box with stickers and overly-saccharine messages.

I was so excited I accidentally went to the post office during lunch. It was closed. (This is a well-known thing in my small hometown.) I went back and presented the package to the Mail Lady. She weighed it.

Ten dollars to ship Connecticut to Massachusetts!?

She encouraged me to purchase a USPS flat-rate box.

“Can I decorate it?”

“No.”

The joy I got out Cosby Sweater’s possible embarrassment of receiving a bedazzled-saccharine-laden package at his mailroom job outweighed the expense. I budgeted postage for future batches and sent fewer brownies.

Cosby Sweater's name is not Vlad, but he received packages like this. See. I'm not the only one that likes to send embarrassing packages.

Cosby Sweater’s name is not Vlad, but he received packages like this. See; I’m not the only one who likes sending embarrassing packages!

He did not get embarrassed. In fact, each time I shipped a package I had to ask if he received it. I was disappointed by his lack of embarrassment, that he didn’t comment on the box or even the quality of the brownies. Disheartened and broke, after the first batch, he only got two other batches.

My desire to pique Cosby Sweaters interest was earnest. I wanted to make him happy by doing these gestures. Even though I didn’t expect something back, when he didn’t return his affection with a small gesture I was hurt.

Has Cosby Sweater received brownies through the mail since me? Probably not. I have had a real long-distance relationship since Cosby Sweater, but have I mailed baked goods? Hell, no. Sending baked goods through the mail is a luxury only for dreamers or people in old movies sending their incarcerated loved one a cake with a file to break out of jail. I am no longer obsessed with being cutesy and have decided that if I ever date someone who deserves to have baked goods shipped, I’m going to use the local baker that delivers. (My long-distance relationship didn’t even deserve that.)

Small towns being what they are, every man I’ve dated since Cosby Sweater has had to go go with me on a field trip to the post office to meet my beloved Mail Lady.

The recipe below is not what I used on Cosby Sweater; I can’t find that one. An additional 15 years of baking and brownie consumption experience, I’ve finally mastered the perfect brownie. The recipe below combines the classic Fannie Farmer recipe with my Grandmother’s fudge recipe.

BROWNIES (THAT ONE CAN SEND IN A BOX)

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS:
1 10 ounce package dark chocolate chips
¾ cups butter (1.5 sticks)
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup mini marshmallows
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups chopped walnuts

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

  1. In a heavy pot, melt together butter and sugar over a low heat. Cook to softball stage, (takes about 5 minutes) Stir constantly.

Butter and Sugar

  1. When butter and sugar are melted together, add mini marshmallows and melt more. (You may need to reduce heat.)

IMG_4097

  1. When sugar, butter and mini marshmallows are all melted, turn heat off and add chocolate chips. Stir until blended.

(If you’re cooking on an electric stovetop, you will need to take the p0t off the heat so you don’t burn your batter.)Mix in Chocolate

  1. When butter, sugar, marshmallows and chocolate are blended, add eggs and cream together.
  1. Slowly add flour.
  1. Stir in walnuts.
  1. Butter your baking dish. (It should roughly have the dimensions of 9x13x2.)  Spread batter evenly. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  1. When done, test with a toothpick. It should come out clean. If it’s clean, take brownies out of the oven. If it’s not clean bake in 1-2 minute intervals constantly testing.
  1. Let rest for 1-2 hours. If you’re greedy like me, you may want to let cool (slightly) and test for quality control. If you intend on shipping your brownies, let the brownies rest for a couple hours before you cut them. Without doing so, they will be difficult to cut and they likely will have that mangled appearance.
Brownies

I managed to wait several hours before I cut these guys.

*PARENTS MEET

The first year of dating is exciting. You’ve already established your commonalities, like breathing air… Now, everything you do together is noteworthy. Sonodoro and I were no different. He gave me a promise ring, he attended my baby sister’s wedding as my Plus One, we moved in together… you know, the usual. By anybody’s count, we were moving at lightning speed. But, that’s okay when you’re in love. Don’t question it. Just go with it and have faith that it will be wonderful.

And, it was.

Despite living (and sleeping) together, I still believed the right choice for me was no sex before marriage (as my fornicating college friend decreed was possible). We abstained as much as we could and when we couldn’t, Sonodoro always apologized.

What a caring guy.

Somewhere during this exciting first year of dating Sonodoro, my parents took a road trip to visit, stopping first in Salt Lake City to see my sister and her freshly-minted husband and then to see me and my wonderful new boyfriend.

It seemed as though Sonodoro and I were moving towards wedded bliss and there was a quorum that this would be the perfect opportunity for the families to meet.

The night of the family meeting, while Sonodro was out retrieving his mother, I stayed home to prepare a dinner that blended food traditions of both families.  I don’t remember what Mom&Dad and I talked about; I know I was just nervous as hell. Not only were we crossing the big step of having the families meet, I was cooking for his mom for the first time.

Would my cooking be good enough for Sonodoro’s Mom?

To cap it off, his mom spoke almost* no English and my dad had to repeat Spanish 3 times! (Mom took French, so what good does that do anyone?)

(*Almost meaning: “I love you” and a few choice swears.)

For the appetizer I made my mom’s famous (and fail-safe) “cream cheese mushroom things.”

Once Sonodoro came back with his mom, we introduced the parents. His mom exclaimed that my father is guapo (handsome) and threw a “que bonita” at my mom (how pretty). There was small talk. (Very small). Me mostly gorged on the appetizers.

Dinner conversation was difficult as Sonodoro had to translate between families.

Before dessert, Sonodoro and I turned on music, figuring it would bridge the language gap. His mom was quite eager and more than happy to teach my rhythmically challenged dad how to dance a cumbia. (I know the video is in Spanish, that is what the lesson was like, exempt without the fun graphics.)

This appetizer makes you look like a cooking genius. It is flavorful and satisfies the salty and savory camps. For a party, you never know what last minute hiccups may happen, so I prepare these in advance. I only bake them (in a pre-heated oven) as soon as a couple guests arrive.

INGREDIENTS:

4 tubes Pillsbury crescent rolls
1 60z jar Green Giant mushrooms
2 bricks Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 Egg & ¼ milk (for egg wash)

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350*
2. Soften cream cheese over night (or on a low temperature in a microwave safe bowl)
3. Stir cream cheese so it no longer looks like a brick. (If need be add a splash of milk to help)… This step is necessary to help mixing when you add mushrooms.
4. Drain liquid out of mushrooms.
5. Add mushrooms to cream cheese.
6. Mix well.

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7. On a cookie sheet roll out two sheets of crescent rolls. (The images below are a half-batch)
8. Pinch together the perforated edges and the two sheets, so now you have one big dough base.

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9. Evenly spread cream cheese mixture. Bring it just shy of the edges.
10. Then unroll the other two tins of crescent rolls and put them on top of the cream cheese. Pinch the perforated edges together here too (along with where the two sheets meet).

11. Firmly press top and sheet and bottom sheet together. (You don’t want the cream cheese melting out….)

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A twist and roll method to secure top and bottom sheets.

12. IN A SMALL BOWL COMBINE:

Egg
Milk

12A. Whisk together so the eggs aren’t stringy and the wash is thoroughly mixed.
13. Lightly brush egg wash on top of pastry.
14. Place appetizer in pre-heated oven.
15. Bake at 350 for 10-17 minutes.
16. Remove when golden brown.
17. Let stand for 5 minutes.
18. Cut into squares
19. Put on warm (but not hot) plate. Serve immediately.

 

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Be prepared to put out reinforcements almost immediately.

 

TIPS:

1. When I first started making this recipe, I would roll out the top piece on a separate surface and assemble it into one sheet before I transferred it to my baking sheet.

2. There are several methods to secure your cream cheese pocket, I like the press, twist and roll method the best. It adds a little extra flair while ensuring cream cheese won’t melt out… Mom says this makes the edges too crusty. She prefers the press and seal, so the edge pieces have more cream cheese.

 

*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.