On Maybe

Remy has recently discovered the concept of “maybe.”

As in:

“Mama, where is fire trucks going?”

“hmmm… what do you think?”

“Maybe…. the library! Maybe. Maybe…. the park!”

or:

“Mama, where my red shoes? Maybe in closet!”

I had never thought about maybe as a concept that had to be learned until I realized Remy had crossed the threshold from “I must know exactly the right answer” into “I can offer up my own theory and it’s okay if its not right.” I’m fairly certain that I didn’t consciously cross that threshold until well into my adult life.

Of course, I should have had the realization that this is a thing that must be learned about half way through the first day of law school. Sure, there is the law, and the law is exactly the right answer. But…. but look how differently the law is applied in those two expertly chosen sample cases in your over-priced tomes! What now, 1L?

And, at the very least, within my first week of practice. Sure, there are conflicting cases from other jurisdictions, but just try to guess how this district court judge is going to apply the law in your case. I bet you didn’t even realize there were still questions of first impression left to discover. You found one! Good luck!

The beauty of watching Remy unravel the magic of maybe is, I must admit, a lot more gratifying than deconstructing even just one of the “maybes” in the law.

Remy’s maybe is: maybe I don’t have to be right; maybe I can influence what will happen; maybe I can figure it out for myself. These are all downright magical lessons in childhood agency.
Whereas the maybe in neglect cases is more often: maybe I can prevent harmful visits; maybe we can find a forever home and be supportive to both the foster parents and the child; maybe I can find funding for a child’s therapy.  Less magical on the surface of things. But perhaps no less empowering. Because, in any area of the law, isn’t the maybe always: maybe I can influence what will happen; maybe I can figure out a way to harness an uncertain law for the best interest of a client? That is pretty magical, or at least has the potential to be.

fire-pirateAlthough I will concede that the fact patterns that drive Remy’s maybes are a lot nicer than any that I encounter at work.

“Mama! Maybe this pirate is a fire-man!”

“Maybe… Remy take alligator for walk to the moon!”

“Maybe a-day Remy is a dragon! Rrar!”

Even before law school re-wrote the processes in my brain, I’m pretty sure I was never an absolute truth kind of girl (although, not certain because, let’s face it, I don’t remember that much about my thinking process before law school). I can’t imagine ever being the mom that rolls her eyes and says with exasperation, “No, Timmy, that fire truck is going to a fire or to the fire station. End. Of. Discussion.” I mean, I know I would never say that because I also know, for a fact, that the fire truck also spends a fair amount of time at the King Sooper’s parking lot while the firefighters stock up on tasty treats and hand soap.

What I do remember, though, is spending a lot of time looking up the answers to questions in books (yes, books, I was a little kid a long time ago) and, if it was a question from school, looking up the answer in the designated school book. This kind of learning did not serve me well in law school, is frustrating when working with a question of first impression, and is downright impossible when muddling through questions about parenting a child who is nothing like the sample children in parenting books.

What I wish I had even imagined as an option was thinking about what the answer might be, why that might be an answer, and how I might go about testing that hypothesis. This approach was hard to learn as an adult but is much more gratifying and infinitely more effective in maters of the law and parenting. Even if Remy ends up looking up the answers to his future fire-truck-location questions on real-time tracking in Google Maps, I hope that he knows he has other options. Like guessing, “Maybe…  at King Soopers” and then asking to go there to get a tasty treat.

Stained Glass Cookies

stained glass cookies

the flavor possibilities are basically endless. and delicious…

Cookies with jam in the center are called a lot of things, but I like the name stained glass cookies the best. The best thing about these cookies is they take a simple almond short bread and allow you to play around with a million variations. For this batch, I used apricot peach jam but you could just as easily use another kind. I prefer to use jam that doesn’t have seeds, but if you have a favorite, go ahead and try it.

I tend to think that the secret to any cookie is really well beaten butter. Throw  1 cup softened unsalted butter (2 sticks) into your stand mixer and walk away for at least five minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, try to enlist some back up help so you can take it in shifts. Beating butter is easier with a hand mixer if it’s been out on the counter for a while and is pre-softened a bit. This requires planning ahead, which I almost never do. The butter should be pale and look like frosting before you add 1/4 teaspoon salt2/3 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp almond extract. If you’re not a big fan of almond (or if you’re allergic) you can add vanilla or another extract that you are partial to. I think these would be quite tasty with a lavender, coffee, or maple extract. Walk away for a while.

Turn the mixer down to low and add 2 cups all purpose flour, 1/3 cup at a time. Wait until each section is almost totally incorporated before you add more. If you need to at the end, mix by hand.

Preheat your oven to 350F

Pull off a little dough at a time, rolling into small balls using the palms of your hands. You want them to be about an inch across. Set them 1 or 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Using your thumb, make a small indentation in the middle of each cookie. You want there to be a clear crater with walls so the jam doesn’t leak out and burn in your oven (trust me, not fun to clean out). You can rebuild a little wall if you need to.

Fill each crater with your favorite jam. Don’t overfill, or you’ll get a lot of burned jam. Sprinkle the tops of each cookie with some larger grained sugar, if you have it.

Bake for about 18 minutes, trading your cookie sheets top/bottom half way thorough. The edges of the cookies should be lightly browned. Set up some newspaper or wax paper under your cooling racks if you are planning to drizzle something yummy over the cookies.Let cool for about a minute on the baking sheets before transferring to cooling racks.

If you want to drizzle with chocolate, microwave 2 tablespoons heavy cream for about a minute. Add about 1/4 cup chocolate chips and stir to melt. Add more cream if needed.

If you want to drizzle with powdered sugar, combine 3 tablespoons powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon water and 1/2 tsp almond (or other) extract. Add more water if needed.

Sparkling Cranberries

sparkling cranberries

mmm… the best part of the fall eating season

The Mathematician and I don’t have very many holiday traditions. Unsurprisingly, food plays a big part in the traditions we do have. One of my favorites is making sparkling cranberries. They are delicious and fairly simple. Deceivingly time consuming. But well worth the work.

I first read about sparkling cranberries from Heidi over at 1o1cookbooks.com.  I am a huge fan and highly recommend her website for inspiration, rainy days, and anytime you have a few extra moments.

All told, a full batch of cranberries takes me about 2 hours of active time, spread out over two days. So just know what you’re getting into. If you have help, it can go a wee bit faster.

Day One

The night before you want to enjoy your cranberries, pick through 2 bags of fresh cranberries while a simple syrup of 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water is doing its thing on your stovetop. If you’ve never picked through cranberries before, don’t be intimidated. I use a large, clear pyrex bowl. Fill it with water and dump one bag of cranberries at a time inside. Any cranberries that don’t float should be tossed. You can also throw any that look too swishy. I keep the first picked through bag in a strainer while I do the second batch since I only have one giant glass bowl. When you’re done, drain all the water and put both sets of picked through berries back in the big bowl.

Once you’re done picking through, your simple syrup should be about done. Something I’ve played with is adding a big of flavor to my syrup, which you can do with orange rinds, a vanilla bean, some red hots, or whatever strikes your fancy. Try it plain first, and then have fun with it. Anyway, once your syrup is done, turn off the heat and let it cool for about a minute. Then, pour the warm (but not crazy hot) syrup over your berries. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight.

Day Two

You’ll need two kinds of sugar for day two, at least two half sheet baking pans, and some slotted spoons. You can pull the soaking cranberries right out of the syrup filled bowl.

For phase one, you’ll want larger grained sugar. You can buy fancy candy sugar but I have had really good luck with “natural” sugar at the mexican market in my town. You want the grains to be larger than your basic c+h blend. Pour about a cup into a cereal bowl and use a slotted spoon to scoop out a few of the soaking cranberries. You can stir the berries around in the sugar, or pick up the bowl and shake it like you’re sifting flour. Once generally covered, set the cranberries out on a baking sheet.

This takes a long time, leave yourself at least an hour. Then let set for another hour or more.

For phase two, you’ll be using regular grain sugar. Same idea, pour about a cup (or less) into a cereal bowl at a time to give the berries another coat of sugar. This phase goes much faster than the first phase. Give your self at least 30 minutes, then about an hour after to dry on the cookie sheets. Sneak a few to reward yourself for work well done.

Put in a pretty bowl. Enjoy.

 

The Mathematician’s Chili

Chili

Mmmmm Chili

You may have heard that it’s been a bit stormy in Colorado. My law school’s been closed since Wednesday night (but will be opening tomorrow) due to flooding. My Aunt was also in town this weekend for a short visit – and it was awesome! We made waffles (perhaps another post later) but first, The Mathematician taught me how to make his chili.

ribs

cubed boneless pork ribs – doin it right

 

In a large pot or dutch oven, fry cubed boneless pork ribs in a little bacon fat or, if you don’t have any saved, some olive oil should do. Brown it up nicely but don’t worry too much about cooking all the way through. Then drain most of the fat away.

bell pepper

bell pepper from the garden

The Mathematician has a great garden going, so next I sautéed one green bell pepper, chopped and two small onions in a little olive oil. While they were softening up and getting delicious, return your big pot with the pork in it and add one cup rice, 2 cans dark red kidney beans, 2 cans diced tomatoes with chili seasoning, 1 can diced green chilies and 1.5 cups water. We also had a few tomatoes from the garden that I threw in for good measure.

Then just let it do its thing on low or medium heat for a few hours.

Oh it was so good.

Back to School Bento

back to school bento

the end of everything fits nicely into a bento

It is only the beginning of school, so I have no reason to be making an odds and ends bento so early. I guess that’s what I get for not going to the grocery store with a proper bento in mind.

In any case, this was simple to throw together and turned out quite good. From upper left to right: ritz crackers, string cheese, peanut butter mixed with apricot jam, raspberry yogurt, grapes, and carrots.

For the Mathematician, a slight variation:

back to school bento 2

The Mathematician’s end of everything bento

From left to right: tuna salad (only slightly frozen because I forgot to make it the night before), cherry tomatoes from our garden, string cheese, ritz crackers, grapes and cheetos.

A bit boring perhaps, but very functional and fast.

More exciting things to come (hopefully)!

Guten-y and Gluten Free Carrot Cupcakes (With cream cheese frosting!)

Every year my lovely friends Anne and Krissy recite their wedding vows on their anniversary. This year, they had a big party to celebrate finally being able to have a civil union here in Colorado. The Mathematician officiated and I had the extreme pleasure of recreating their wedding cake by baking a little more than 100 carrot cupcakes.

cupcakes

This is literally only half of the cupcake spread

First, for the Gluten. This recipe makes about 25 cupcakes and is adapted from this amazing carrot cake recipe over at stickygooeycreamychewy.

Realistically, the first thing you want to do is get someone to start shredding a pound of carrots.

carrot shredder

shredder to the rescue!

 

The Mathematician brilliantly figured out how to use our pampered chef parmesan cheese grater to do this job. Five pounds of carrots later, it’s only been dyed the faintest orange.

carrots!

yup, that’s a pound of finely shredded carrots…

Once you’ve gotten your helper started, preheat your oven to 350F and dig out your fridge ingredients (see wet ingredients below) so they can be ready to go.

Then whisk together your dry ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon – I used cassia for these cupcakes, but whatever you have
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Your wet ingredients should be warm-ish by now, so another largish bowl, combine:

4 eggs
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 milk
2/3 packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ginger extract

I like to use a fork to hand mix the wet ingredients in cakes, but plenty of people use their stand mixers. If you don’t have ginger extract, you can add some powdered ginger in with the flour mix. Add the flour mix, about half at a time. Then your shredded carrots and finally 2 cups chocolate chips until just mixed together.

cupcakes

cupcakes!

 

Fill those lovely cupcake pans (I like to use an ice cream scoop for consistency) and let them do their thing for about 30 minutes.

If diary and gluten free is your thing, here are the sub-in ingredients, using the techniques described above:
3/4 cup gluten free baking mix, 1/4 tapioca flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp xanthun gum. 1/2 cup sugar, 1/6 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup silk soy creamer, 1 cup shredded carrots, dark chocolate chips. This made 12 cupcakes.

The Frosting

frosted cupcakes

delicious frosting

Each batch of this frosting will make plenty for a single batch of cupcakes. I made three batches of frosting to cover four batches of cupcakes, and had plenty left over.

In a large stand mixer, beat 16 oz cream cheese and 4 oz butter until light and fluffy. Add 2 tsp vanilla and 1 tbsp pineapple syrup. Finally, add 3-4 cups powdered sugar, to taste and consistency.

If you want dairy free icing, combine 1/2 cup earth balance, 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, and 2 tsp pineapple syrup. Finally, add 2-3 cups powdered sugar. Since this frosting is not as thick as the cream cheese frosting, I refrigerated it for a while before frosting the cupcakes.

And there you go! Each batch start to finish took about one hour since I had help with the shredding.

trunk full of cupcakes

cupcake-poluza!

To make things a bit easier, I packed up the cupcakes without frosting in a million (maybe a slight exaggeration) plastic shoeboxes.

Meanwhile, my kitchen is a bit trashed.

kitchen carnage

kitchen carnage

 

French Toast

French Toast

The best way to start the morning…

Even though we woke up late today, the cloudy morning made me hungry for french toast. It’s so simple and delicious. The first time I had real home made french toast was at my Aunt Karen’s house. My Aunt is a great cook and was a big influence in my belief that regular people can make delicious food at home without much fuss.

Here’s what you’ll need to make french toast at home:

brown butter

brown butter in the making

First, start browning the butter. I use about 1.5 tablespoons butter per pan. Set on medium or low heat. Because I like everything to be done at once, I use two pans, but you could easily go in stages if you only have one. There is just something better about browned butter, I don’t know why.

Meanwhile, make the custard.

all the fixins

french toast fixins

(not pictured) french bread. I like to buy the day old bread at the supermarket, or use something left over. For two people, I use 8 to 10 slices, because most mornings we aren’t also eating a lot of other things. You could easily use less if you are also making bacon or eggs or potatoes (or all three!).

In a pie dish or other shallow-ish pan, combine two eggs, a glug or two of milk (maybe 1-2 tablespoons), a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla.

When your butter starts to smell nutty and delicious, it is time to move on to the next step.

Using a fork to help you turn the bread over, dip each slice of bread into the custard and transfer to your waiting pans. Turn over when golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Serve hot with whatever you fancy. The Mathematician and I particularly enjoy Biscoff spread, apricot jam, and powdered sugar.