Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How do you overeat Girl Scout cookies? (A personality quiz)

What is your preferred way of overeating Girl Scout cookies?

Thin Mints

You're not really a sweet-eater normally, you're more of a burger and bacon person, but you find yourself unable to stop eating these, once you open up a sleeve. It is a proven fact that Thin Mints look more lonely in the box than any other variety of snack food, with the possible exception of frosted Pop Tarts. Perhaps it is because the taste is slightly reminiscent of minty toothpaste, which makes you feel virtuous, even while you are chomping away.  They are for charity, after all and anything that tastes a bit like Crest can't be that bad for you. Unfortunately, these things are a bitch to floss out of your teeth.  Mint chocolate is never pleasant to eat in large quantities for the digestive system, and you vow not to buy them every year, but you do.  No one eats these for breakfast or lunch--they are made to be eaten late at night, during guilty situations, like when you should be studying for an exam or you cheated on your ex-boyfriend and you have nothing stronger than milk in the house.


You tend to be rather judgmental and have different morals than most of your friends. You make elaborate meals. You're a bit of a foodie, and consider yourself to have a rather refined palate. You rarely overate as a child.  If you have children, they drink milk rather than soda. If you eat dessert, you like cheesecake and are willing to pass up inferior-quality stuff.  You reached for the Almond Joy or Skor, rather than the Reeces Peanut Butter Cups in the treat bucket every Halloween. However, there is something about this gooey, coconut cookie that sings to you.  You ask your significant other to hide the box, kind of like Odysseus asked his men to plug his ears so he wouldn't hear the song of the Sirens.  It isn't helpful.  You can undo an entire day at the gym with a couple of boxes of these babies. They call to you, and you get secretly mad at your kids if they eat any of them.


Despite the name, you were a bit of a loner as a kid.  You liked to eat alone because eating with others made you nervous, maybe because others made fun of your lunches. Maybe you were fat, or you mom just made you smelly tuna sandwiches, or both.  Either way, the true pleasure of these cookies are only revealed if you can eat them in an asocial fashion.  They're wonderful, because every one is like a totally different experience. You can suck off the chocolate and peanut butter first, then eat the crust.  Or nibble around, saving the creamy center for last. You really look forward to getting these and actively seek our Girl Scouts for your 'fix,' without any pretense that you buy them just to be nice. Chocolate-dipped Nutterbutters are a pale substitute the rest of the year.


You eat these at breakfast, as well as after dinner, with milk or tea.  In their own way, these are the easiest to overeat, because they taste the most like real food.  They are like freebasing butter in cookie form and are very filling, and because they are old-fashioned shortbread you convince yourself you're not eating junk food.  You buy many boxes because you like to have lots of them on hand.  You like stocking up on food in general, and are the sort of person who has rice from 1994 because it was on sale one week.  You like to knit and watch a lot of Masterpiece Theater.  The Jennifer Ehle-Colin Firth adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was awesome, but it was first shown in the 90s.  Get over it because it's so not going to happen with Colin.


You could always be relied upon to trade lunches in school, because you really liked the granola bars, carrot sticks, and lame little cheese crackers with wands the other kids wanted to trade for Pixy Stix, Doritos, and other faddish snacks.  You appreciate the simple things in life, like oatmeal cookies and these often- overlooked treat in the Girl Scout pantheon. If female, you were a Girl Scout, and used the boxes to make crafts, like furniture for your dolls, after you finished eating the cookies.  Like Tagalongs, these sandwiches of peanut buttery awesomeness can be eaten in different ways ways: sucking out the filling (although you'd rather not let that creepy guy in the cubicle next to you see you do it), eating them intact, or dunking them in milk, again and again. You sometimes store tissues in your sleeve. You suspect you're turning into your mother, but you try to laugh it off. You have to lie about your drunk stories in college to make them sound more exciting than they really were.

Lemon Chalet Cremes 

You were clearly never a Girl Scout, nor did you grow up eating Girl Scout cookies.  You probably don't really 'get' the whole Girl Scout cookie thing.  You got guilted into buying these by the kids staked out in front of your supermarket, and bought them because you like lemony things.  But these are a new, inferior form of cookie, not some kind of creamy version of lemonade in baked form.  You have them occasionally after dinner until they grow stale and you throw them away.

I end with a moment of silence for all of the discontinued varieties of Girl Scout cookies.  Google tells me I'm wrong, but I could have sworn that there used to be chocolate and vanilla sandwich cream cookies in the same box.  Perhaps I'm thinking of another line of cookies, but they were quite good as well.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Honey yogurt corn muffins (small batch)

The Oscars have passed, so we can talk about them now.  I'm not bitter, although I didn't watch them this year.  Once again, I was not nominated.

My standard acceptance speech has changed over the years. When I first composed my address it was somewhat longer than Bill Clinton's 1988 speech to the Democratic Convention. I was twelve. Inspired by the child actresses I loved like Jodie Foster and Margaret O'Brien, I wore a fuchsia-colored ankle-length gown in my mind and elaborate braids with lilac and white ribbons in my hair. I gave an inspiring speech paying tribute to all of the old movies I loved .  In my later teens, I played Morgaine (Morgan le Fay) in a cinematic adaptation of one of my favorite books, The Mists of Avalon and favored a dark green plaid gown and green and black nails. And fishnets.  It's probably good I didn't win, because my speech would also have been kind of long and bitter and about the kids who made fun of me in high school.

Later, my speeches grew shorter and marginally more realistic.  I would write, direct, and star in an edgy indie film. I would show my defiance of The Beauty Myth by wearing an off-the-rack gown from the Gap that still made me look incredibly hot.

However, by my mid-twenties, after making a stab at trying to have an acting career, it had become clear to me that most of what we think of as acting is really casting, and my personality and body type didn't neatly fit into any in-demand category at the time. I certainly wasn't leading lady material, but I wasn't quite ugly or 'ethnic' enough to be the unattractive shrill neighbor/overweight best friend and certainly not sexy enough for soubrette roles.  I suppose if I had more talent, I would have found a way to make myself fit into the industry.  But the truth is, although I love fiction, I really hate all of the cellophane and falseness around the acting business, award speeches aside.

I also had an unfortunate tendency to be honest about the productions in which I was appearing, many of which were directed by young men and could have been subtitled (regardless of the intent of the playwright): Women who dumped me in the past, and why they suck. "Really, it's okay if you don't come," I'd say to my friends. "It's called Manfred, based on an unperformed play in verse by Lord Byron. The director is going through some things. We can grab some carrot cake and a couple of Mocha Frappuchinos at Starbucks when it's over. "

I didn't see the nominated films this year, and I'll wait for DVDs if I see any of them. So instead of a golden statuette, I present you all with a golden muffin. The recipe only makes six, which is deliberate, because it's designed to be a perfect-sized batch for a quick breakfast.  Just a bit out of the ordinary, without chewing the scenery.

Note the liner: Courtesy of the half-priced Valentine's Day sale at the supermarket!

Honey Yogurt Corn Muffins

--yields 6---


1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup honey
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used full fat)
1/4 cup vegetable oil


1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Line six muffin tins.
2. Sift cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder together.  Combine honey, egg, yogurt and oil.
3. Spoon dry mixture into 'wet' mixture.'  Do not over-mix.  Pour batter into muffin liners.
4. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick can be extracted clean.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Giant Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Valentine's Day is tomorrow.  I suppose you're expecting a cynical or angry post for me, since I'm a middle-aged woman with no significant other.  I honestly don't like jewelery (cash before diamonds, please), and while I am still fond of stuffed animals, I prefer stuffed horses and Snoopys rather than teddy bears. I loathe gardening (no roses, please) and most romantic comedies give me hives.

However, one of my favorite films is Sense and Sensibility.  In the period film, the cool, contained sister Elinor, her heart broken because the only man she ever loved is promised to another woman, eventually breaks down and turns on her more emotional, passionate sister:

"What do you know of my heart? What do you know of anything but your own suffering? For weeks, Marianne, I've had this pressing on me without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature. It was forced on me by the very person whose prior claims ruined all my hope. I have endured her exultations again and again whilst knowing myself to be divided from Edward forever. Believe me, Marianne, had I not been bound to silence I could have provided proof enough of a broken heart, even for you." 

I haven't seen the film in a long time, but watching Elinor unfreeze, and drop her guard, tormented just as much by her sister's concept of her as an Ice Woman as she is by the fact that she can never marry Edward, is emblazoned on my brain.  And she still uses whilst correctly, even when distraught!  Take that, Gossip Girl (which I have never watched, but have experienced by proxy, through the bad grammar of teenagers).

The truth is, in my past, I've had many romantic moments. Reading "She walks in beauty like the night," and imagining Lord Byron composing it about me. His sexy club foot. And his chained bear cub beside him. (With his frustration at the difference between modern Greeks and the Greeks of the Iliad, and his fondness for crash dieting, we could have totally bonded). Imagining myself as Elaine, pining hopelessly for Lancelot. (I could have given you more than Guinevere!) Singing "On My Own," from Les Miserables so many times, off-key in my room, that my mother asked me if I wouldn't mind listening to some death metal instead. Burning with jealously even in the second grade when a girl came to school in a perfect ensemble of a red sweater and leg warmers decorated with hearts. Watching the boys stare at her, even at that young age.  Sending an anonymous small Valentine to my crush in the 4th grade.

These chocolate cookies are totally over-the-top.

But sometimes, if only once a year, extravagant gestures in the form of chocolate, or otherwise, are acceptable. Poetry, chain mail, and chained bear cub are optional.

Giant Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

--makes 6 huge cookies--


6 tablespoons of cooled, melted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large, beaten egg
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse, crunchy sea salt + more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350F, line two baking sheets with parchment paper
2. Mix butter and sugar together, followed by the egg. Sift the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking soda together in a separate bowl, then incorporate into the wet mixture slowly.
3. Fold in the chocolate chips.
4. Spoon out in 1/4 cup-sized heaps onto the baking sheets.  Sprinkle with additional sea salt, if desired. Bake for 10 minutes.  Cookies will be slightly underdone.  Best eaten the day after since these are a bit like 'brownies' in cookie form.  Give as a gift, or eat yourself while reading some Victorian literature.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Blossoms.

I went to the ophthalmologist yesterday, for my annual eye exam and to renew my contact prescription. "You're getting to be the age when we need to test you for reading glasses," she said.

Outside: "Sure! I bet that will be almost as fun as the visual field test!"

Fortunately, I don't need reading glasses. I'm only nearsighted, not farsighted.  A metaphor if there ever was one.  Still, it's depressing to think: "I'm more than mid-way in a lifetime quest of self-improvement and THIS is where I'm at?"

I can't pinpoint exactly where my determination to Change My Life began. (For the poet Rilke, it began when gazing on a naked, headless statue of Apollo in a museum).  But as good a beginning as any to cite was when I was nineteen and working as a camp counselor at an academic camp in upstate New York. The experience was dreadful, partially because I was responsible for enforcing the arcane laws of the camp, which insisted that every camper had to sit down to breakfast, have lights out at an ungodly, early hour in the summertime, and had to make sure the little darlings didn't miss Evening Activities, no matter how miserable and overstimulated they were.  In short, I had to be the mean mom that I never wanted to be--and it was my job. I was bumbling and incompetent at my task, and tended to sway between hesitant, wimpy permissiveness when no one was watching, and hysterical shrewishness when I was being observed.

However, there was another counselor my age, whippet-thin, cool and icy, who took a ironic disdain for the rules. Her campers were always perfectly behaved, but she seemed to lead them with a kind of ironic bravado, as if she knew how ridiculous it was that you weren't allowed to grab a muffin but had to do 'morning check in.'

She was nice to me, but I remember in particular one night standing there, when all of the other counselors were talking, and I watched her playing basketball and holding her own with a group of male counselors, just like she was able to 'play' with the temperaments of her campers and our bosses and always win. And beating them on the court and at life, and making them like her for it, as well.

 I felt (and was) physically as well as mentally flabby.  Ever since then I've tried to get 'better' at so many things, and while there are many dreadful aspects about being in your 20s, at least you know, theoretically that you are on an upward trajectory, even if your path to greatness is more up a molehill than Everest.

Depressingly, I am still the nineteen-year-old inside wishing that I was the girl who could play basketball with the cute boys and beat them.   Only just with lots of more mileage on my eyes, and on all of the other bits and pieces.

After that experience at the eye doctor, I decided I needed a sure-fire winner of a recipe.  Two of my favorite bloggers and peanut butter lovers, Anna of Cookie Madness, and Adam of The Baker's Nuts, had made these peanut butter oatmeal cookies and called them near-perfect. The cookies are unusual because they are dairy-free, unlike most (non-vegan, anyway) oatmeal cookies.  Adam made some changes to the original, and got a much higher yield of cookies. I used Anna's version, with only a few small alterations, and got exactly 36. 

I decided to 'blossom' some of the cookies or decorate them with a flower of salted peanuts, rather than using cranberries and walnuts.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

--yields 36 cookies--

3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 large, beaten eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups quick rolled oats
36 Hershey's Kisses OR salted peanuts (for decorating)

1. Preheat oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Mix oil, peanut butter, and eggs together in a bowl.
3. Sift sugars, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, flour, and oats together. Incorporate 'dry' mixture into the wet.
4. Scoop in rounded tablespoons onto the parchment sheets. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.  While still cooling press an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss onto the surface of each cookie, or decorate with salted peanuts.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Potato Chip Personality Quiz

It's Superbowl Sunday! 

I admit to not being much of a hot wings fan.  My favorite place to eat on my undergraduate campus was called Wes Wings, and during my entire tenure as a Wes student, I never ate a single wing.  My favorite cut of chicken is the thigh, which I think has the perfect chicken skin-to-flesh ratio.  When I eat a wing, it's like eating skin and bones. And fire, because I am not that into hot sauce, either. But I suppose that is the caveman appeal of the unofficial snack of all Superbowl parties.

There really isn't an official menu for all Superbowl parties, although I know some people like to make representative snacks of the participating teams. Good luck with the bagels and New England clam chowder! (Or, if you wish to be perverse, bagels with New England Brugger's cream cheese and Manhattan Clam Chowder).

However, potato chips are ubiquitous at all Super Bowl parties.  And, even if you're going to a party hosted by a single guy whose idea of hospitality is pizza by the foot and a bunch of salty snacks he grabbed an hour before the game, you know there is going to be potato chips.  So what do you choose?

Wise or Lay's (or another common brand) plain, thin chips
You're the kind of person who eats things because you're supposed to eat them, not because you're really into food.  You ate tuna fish sandwiches with plain potato chips every day from your Star Wars or Strawberry Shortcake mental lunchbox in the fourth grade.  You eat chips because everyone eats them at parties.  You don't even notice that the burnt, bent ones are the only ones worth eating.

Sour cream and onion (all brands)

You like strong-tasting foods, and you have trouble controlling yourself around really tasty, fatty food.  You're pretty talented as a cook or at very least an assembler of ingredients.  You'll bake a loaf of bread and fill its hollow with a sour cream and onion or spinach dip that everyone loves.  The trouble is, you'll make another loaf for yourself and eat that as well, and you consider hot artichoke dip a vegetable.  The really thin, neurotic woman who brings cut up vegetables to the party kind of annoys you.

Salt and vinegar chips (all brands)

You have a reputation as someone who is a healthy eater or who works out a lot, or both.  However, you love this particular variety of chips.  You get a bit nervous if you see the stock of this flavor going down at the party.  You're the type of person who starts off hardly eating anything, but you lose control around the foods you really like, like those tasty turkey meatballs made with grape jelly that get dipped into the host's zesty Asian sauce.  You tell yourself that because these chips have vinegar in them, they're really detoxifying, kind of like a juice cleanse or doing seated spinal twists in yoga.

Kettle chips (all brands)

You're not super-into potato chips, but you love these.  You're the kind of person who will look at the salty snack table and say, "what, no THAI FLAVORED KETTLE CHIPS" if your host forgets them, kind of but sort of not joking. You're not a big eater, but you're very mindful of what you do eat. Waiters hate you and you're probably rooting for the opposite team that is popular in your area, just to be annoying. Or you're making a big deal about how you don't care about football at all.  Don't worry, you don't need to try so hard.

Barbecue flavored chips (all brands)

You were the lucky bastard who always had the cool, new flavor of snack food in elementary school. (Cool Ranch Doritos, anyone?)  Your mom gave you Hawaiian Punch and you always had snack cakes and money for ice cream.  You have a pretty sweet palate, although you also like snacks like hickory-smoked, salted almonds. You don't mind that these stain your tongue and fingers and makes your breath smell funny even though it grosses out your significant other.

Ketchup-flavored chips (all brands)

The Rangers are doing surprisingly well this year, although I think it's a little premature to say they have the Stanley Cup in the bag.  It's a shame about Sidney Crosby.  Oh yes, you're Canadian if you chose these, and are checking the hockey scores if you're at a Superbowl Party. Which you're attending, just to be polite, because that is the Canadian way.

Thick, 'ruffled' potato chips (all brands)

You like using chips as a spoon.  You consider the dip just as important as the chip. You still make elaborate sandwiches of tuna or peanut butter with potato chip crumbs.  Or just potato chips and mayo on toasted bread. You always eat potato chips from the bag down to the last morsel. The thin chips, however, seem like sad, waif-like copies of their thicker salty brethren. Like Gweneth Paltrow is as an actress, standing next to the talent of Kate Winslet.

'Healthy' potato chips

If you're on a diet, you know your going to fail if you reach for these.  Have the chips you really like and just try to eat less of them.  These sad chips taste like sand, not sun.

Cheddar potato chips (all brands and varieties)

You loved cheese even as a four-year-old, and always ordered the cheeseburger meal from McDonald's.  You try to hide your excessive love of cheese by affecting to love high-priced brands, sometimes, but really, you'll eat anything slathered with cheese. You also love cheesecake.

Steak-flavored, curry-flavored, or prawn-flavored 'crisps'

So.  You've probably been feeling very superior, taking this quiz, because you call potato chips 'crisps,' and Americans can't even figure out what football really is, and we just play rugby with lots of extra padding.  And forget trying to explain cricket to an American or the back story behind Shakespeare's Henriad. But before you feel too superior, remember that your culture produced these monstrosities.  And they don't even contain real meat--most brands are vegetarian.  So think of that when you're reading about Manchester United on iPad if you have to go to a Superbowl Party tonight.