I created something delicious last weekend

chocolate salted caramel peanut butter cookies
chocolate salted caramel peanut butter cookies

Some friends host a cookie exchange party every year, and they have a panel of judges determine which ones are the best. I decided to do something a little different this year, rather than following a basic recipe for the same old, same old. I started thinking about it shortly after Thanksgiving, which may be why I decided to take my inspiration from the turducken.

I began with a basic peanut butter cookie dough (mine came from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book), which I chilled while I ran some errands and then made a chocolate ganache (warning: that recipe makes far more than you really need for this). I’d picked up some salted caramels from Trader Joe’s recently, and I chilled them in the freezer before chopping into three pieces each.

Next, I shaped the peanut butter cookie dough into a log and divided it into 24 slices. Carefully, I shaped and flattened each slice into a cookie round, as thin as I could while keeping it from falling apart. I spooned some ganache on a round, added a piece of the salted caramel, and then put another flattened round on top. I sealed the edges together, making a little pie/turnover out of the cookie, and then placed that carefully on the baking sheet. They baked beautifully, and spread out more than I was expecting, so the second round were spaced a bit more.

Ultimately, they did not win the competition, but I received an honorable mention and plenty of compliments. Well worth the effort.

Does anyone have suggestions for what to do with a bowl full of well-refrigerated chocolate ganache?

carpe diem

Mac & Cheese is a vegetable!
Mac & Cheese is a vegetable!

I told a friend yesterday that I felt like I didn’t carpe enough diem at Charleston Conference. It was my first time attending, and I didn’t have a good sense of the flow. I wasn’t prepared for folks to be leaving so early on Saturday, I didn’t know about the vendor showcase on Wednesday until after I made my travel arrangements, and I felt like I didn’t make the most of the limited time I had.

Next time will be better. And yes, there will be a next time, but maybe after a year or two. I understand from some regulars that the plenary sessions were below average this year, which matched my disappointed expectations. Now knowing that there is little vetting of the concurrent sessions, I will be more particular in my choices the next time, and hopefully select sessions where the content matches my expectations based on the abstracts.

The food in Charleston definitely met my expectations. I had tasty shrimp & grits a couple times, variations on fried chicken nearly every day, and a yummy cup of she crab soup. Tried a few local brews, and a dark & stormy from a cool bar that brews their own ginger beer. I’d go back for the food for sure.

dark chocolate

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve never cared for dark chocolate. I know it’s supposed to be better quality than the milk chocolate, and certainly better quality than most American candy bar chocolate. But, it just never tasted right, and if eaten in the same quantities as milk chocolate, would make me sick to my stomach.

Despite that, I decided last week that I should avail myself of the imported fine chocolates available at a local shop and see if I can find a dark chocolate I enjoy. I aimed for Belgian chocolates sold in small sizes (5-10 grams) for a wide sampling of pure and flavored (i.e. orange). This limited me to two sources: Dolfin and Cafe Tasse.Cafe Tasse Chocolate Noir

Dolfin Chocolate NoirAfter doling them out one day at a time, I’ve finally finished sampling all of them, and it’s pretty much a tie between Dolfin‘s 70% dark chocolate and Cafe Tasse‘s 60% dark chocolate, with Cafe Tasse slightly edging out Dolfin only because it tastes more like a delicious hot chocolate as it melts on the tongue.

That’s the other thing that I learned in this process: I can’t eat dark chocolate like I can milk chocolate. I broke the little bars into approximately 1cm squares, and let each square slowly melt in my mouth (no chewing). This made the small quantity last longer, and I found that even that little amount satisfied my cravings.

I thought that perhaps the flavored chocolates would be more palatable, but after trying about six or seven, I realized that I didn’t like the distraction from the chocolate itself. This amuses me because I usually like chocolates with lots of other stuff in them.

beers, a love story

"11 - beer festival" by Dave Morris
“11 – beer festival” by Dave Morris

I drink beer because I’m a librarian. Or, more accurately, I started drinking beers with my library school classmates in grad school. Mainly because bars in Lexington (Kentucky) didn’t carry wine coolers or Zima. Yeah. It was that bad.

I remember my first NASIG conference in 2002. We were staying in dorm rooms and meeting in classrooms at the College of William & Mary. Back then, NASIG had a tradition of having an evening social with snack food and buckets of iced beer (and probably wine, too, but I definitely wasn’t drinking that then). One of my sharpest memories from the conference is of fishing out a Corona Light because it was all that was left by the last night of the conference. And discovering Purple Haze with Bonnie at the Green Leafe Cafe.

The next year we were in Portland, Oregon. I was introduced to many craft beers, and my journey towards becoming a beer snob was set.

Three years in Washington state taught me to appreciate well-balanced hoppy beer, which was hard to find my first year back on the East Coast. But I soon discovered Mekong, and began my now four-year romance with Belgian beers.

Most recently, I’ve discovered that I do like sour beers, and I suspect that is part of the reason why I’m incorporating more wine into my beverage consumption. That, and maybe the semi-regular meetups with a friend (also a librarian) at Virginia wineries.

Librarians. Who knew they were such lushes?

sleep & caffeine, part 2

My friend Brent suggested that measuring caffeine intake by the ounces of the beverages consumed isn’t a good calculation, and he’s right. So, I went back and used this chart to determine the milligrams of caffeine per ounce depending on the beverage consumed. Here’s how the totals break down:

I found it interesting that while I drank about 35 more ounces of diet soda than coffee, coffee was clearly the major source of my caffeine intake.

Comparing the new set of data regarding my caffeine intake with the hours of sleep during the same time period, the chart looks a little different:

I gave the hours of sleep a multiplier of 100 so that it would be easier to compare them visually. There are definitely some points where the hours of sleep decrease and the milligrams of caffeine increase.