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.

buzzed on bazza

Yay! A new low-calorie energy drink that doesn’t taste like ass!

In recent years, the bottled drink market has been flooded with a variety of so-called "energy drinks" that claim to use natural (and sometimes not-so-natural) ingredients to boost energy better than the standard caffeinated and sugar-filled drinks. Whether the claims are true or not is a matter of some debate. Most of these drinks contain a higher quantity of caffeine than what the FDA recommends for standard soft drinks (68 mg. per 12 oz. serving). One might unscientifically conclude that the energy drinks get most of their oomph from the extra caffeine and sugar rather than from any herbal additives.

Personally, I do not care either way. Almost every one of the energy drinks I have tried has tasted so nasty that I concluded that any buzz I might gain from them is not worth the effort. Until recently, the only exception to that has been Bawls Guarana — not the sugar-free Bawls Guaranexx, which tastes as nasty as the other energy drinks — but for 80 mg. of caffeine per 12 oz., I would rather drink something with less than 100 calories, like unsweetened coffee or a diet cola.

BAZZA High-Energy Tea bottlesEnter BAZZA High-Energy Tea.

I first noticed this recent addition to the energy drink market a few weeks ago at my local 7-Eleven. I didn't give it much thought beyond an "oh, great, now they're making energy teas." Then the press release for BAZZA came across my inbox, so I decided to give it a try. Color me impressed.

Right now the drink comes in two flavors: raspberry tea and green tea. I had both, and they are quite tasty. In fact, they do not taste like a sugar-free diet drink at all. I prefer the green tea over the raspberry because it is not as sweet-tasting, but your mileage may vary.

As for the buzz, the 99.4 mg. of caffeine per 12 oz. is making its presence known throughout my nervous system. I feel far more jumpy and awake than I normally would, given the amount of sleep I have had recently.

If you are looking for a low-calorie high-energy drink alternative, give the BAZZA High-Energy Tea a try. Just be careful — too much caffeine can kill you.

cooking

I haven’t cooked something in a long time. I don’t think that reheating a frozen dinner or making microwave popcorn counts for cooking, and that’s about the extent of my time in the kitchen in recent months. I baked a few pies, but again, not exactly a dinner entre. Yesterday I was at the grocery … Continue reading “cooking”

I haven’t cooked something in a long time. I don’t think that reheating a frozen dinner or making microwave popcorn counts for cooking, and that’s about the extent of my time in the kitchen in recent months. I baked a few pies, but again, not exactly a dinner entre.

Yesterday I was at the grocery store picking up a few items, and I found myself browsing the beef section. For some reason, the strip steaks caught my eye, so I picked up a small package of them. Today, I made a single portion of rice, and while that was steaming, I fixed the meat. In a pan with a little oil, I added a single portion of the strips, dusted them with black pepper, and fried them until they were done. Just before the meat was thoroughly cooked, I added a handful of chopped onion. When the rice finished, I forked it out onto a plate and threw the steak strips and onions on top. Then I salted it.

Wow! Amazingly good tasting, and it wasn’t too hard or complicated to make. I really need to stop being so lazy about cooking for myself and just do it.

caribbean beer

It’s a tough job to write a guide to regional beers, but thankfully Mark McKenna’s ten years in the Caribbean gave him the opportunity to sample all 75 local brands. His experience is chronicled in his new book, McKenna’s Guide to Caribbean Beers: All the Islands, All the Brews published by Parrot. In the book, … Continue reading “caribbean beer”

It’s a tough job to write a guide to regional beers, but thankfully Mark McKenna’s ten years in the Caribbean gave him the opportunity to sample all 75 local brands. His experience is chronicled in his new book, McKenna’s Guide to Caribbean Beers: All the Islands, All the Brews published by Parrot. In the book, he goes through each of the 22 islands alphabetically, including Bermuda and the Bahamas because of their proximity and beer offerings.

Continue reading “caribbean beer”

afterword

I just finished reading Debra Bacon-Ziegler’s AfterWord column entitled “How Soon is Now? Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s Libraries” in the January/February 2005 issue of ForeWord.

I just finished reading Debra Bacon-Ziegler’s AfterWord column entitled “How Soon is Now? Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s Libraries” in the January/February 2005 issue of ForeWord. In the essay, she discusses her thoughts after a recent Michigan Library Association Annual Conference where the keynote speaker (Marshall Keys) addressed some of the current tech trends and their relevance to libraries. In her reflection, Bacon-Ziegler brings up a few points that I wish to examine in this forum.

Bacon-Ziegler mentions blogs and blogging, but rather than jumping on the “every library/librarian should have a blog” bandwagon, she asks the question, “Should librarians be mining blogs for current popular interests as they develop their collections?” Such a refreshing viewpoint! Yes, librarians should be monitoring blogs to get a sense of current popular interests, but keep in mind that according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, only 7% of American Internet users have created a blog. Not just any old blog will do if the intent is to monitor current popular interests. Librarians would be better served by monitoring topical group blogs that have reputations for being knowledgeable in their specialties.

Another trend that Bacon-Ziegler touches on is information overload. She brings up an excellent point about the difference between your local public library and your local big box bookstore. The bookstore arranges cookbooks under a big sign that says “Cooking” or something of that nature, with shelf labels for the different types of cooking traditions. The library arranges cookbooks in the 600s, and they are grouped by content, but the only indicators of this are the call number stuck on the spines. Bacon-Ziegler asks, “Why then, I wonder, do we cling to this complex, arbitrary classification system?” I would not want to get rid of the system entirely, for it does have its uses, but perhaps public libraries should consider putting up bookstore-like signs over the sections. Call numbers are very handy for finding specific items, but signs are much more useful for general browsing.

The author addresses other trends in the essay, but these are the two that made me think radical thoughts and step outside of the traditional librarian box, if only for the few minutes I spent pondering over this blog entry.