Remixed cookie cutters

This past weekend E and I went out to the Berkshires to visit some longtime friends.  Since St. Patrick’s Day fell on Saturday, E suggested that we all make St. Patrick’s Day cookies, and decorate them.

While the dough was being assembled, we started looking through the house cookie cutter collection for  shamrocks or four-leaf clovers, but no luck.  There were all kinds of other shapes, though, and twenty minutes and a pair of needle-nose pliers later, I had remixed one small cookie cutter into a shamrock, and one large cookie cutter into a four-leaf clover.

When the dough was ready, I cut a test cookie

Looking good (enough!), we baked and then decorated the cookies.  The shamrock was a little bit on the small side, but the four-leaf clover came out respectably well!

That totally worked!

So What Did We Learn? We learned that metal cookie cutters can remixed and remade into new shapes.  We learned that the best overall shape for a cookie is “blob”, and that “blob with minor details” is the second best shape.  Fine detail doesn’t work, and remember: you’re not making stamps that will be inked and pressed onto paper: spindly tendrils of design – skinny peninsulas- don’t work.  Filigree is right out.  If you’re going to make a new shape out of an old one, pick an old one with roughly the same length perimeter.  Small old cookie cutters make for (too) small new cookie shapes.  When you start with an old cookie cutter, bend it out into a flat circle first, then work into the desired target shape.  Cookies are dangerously tasty.

-Mark

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Jerk Chicken, Sugar Reef Style++

This extremely tasty jerk chicken recipe comes from the awesome and sadly now-defunct Caribbean restaurant in New York City called Sugar Reef.  It appeared in the sadly now-out-of-print Sugar Reef Caribbean Cookbook. Despite all the sadness, this recipe still makes people very happy.

The original recipe called for half the quantities of dry spices (except salt) as these, and included the note to double them for a more authentic flavor. These quantities have already been doubled (except the salt), and it’s delicious and spicy.  If you wish, you can cut the dry ingredients (except salt) in half for a more mild flavor, but if you’re looking for a more mild flavor, then what the heck are you doing cooking jerk chicken?

I’d note that the heat of peppers can vary almost as much as peoples heat tolerances; carefully taste-test your peppers and adjust the quantity accordingly.

Dry Ingredients

  • 2T ground allspice
  • 2T ground thyme
  • 3t cayenne pepper
  • 3t ground black pepper
  • 3t ground sage
  • 1.5t ground nutmeg
  • 1.5t ground cinnamon
  • 2T salt
  • 4T garlic powder
  • 2T sugar

Liquid Ingredients

  • 0.25c olive oil
  • 0.25c soy sauce
  • 0.75c white vinegar
  • 0.5c orange juice
  • juice of one lime

Chunky Ingredients

  • 1c chopped white onion
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet, habanero, or other very hot pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped.  I’ve used more when the peppers have been too tame for my taste, and on at least one occasion, it still wasn’t enough for me.  But maybe that’s my problem.

Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts, trimmed; 6-to-8oz ea, or at least that’s what the recipe said in the cookbook, and that’s what they served in the restaurant.  I’ve used boneless chicken thighs and been at least as happy, if not happier, with them.

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  • With a wire whisk, add the liquids.
  • Add the chunky ingredients and mix well.
  • Add the chicken breasts, cover, and marinate for at least one hour, longer if possible.
  • Preheat outdoor grill.
  • Grill chicken breasts for 6 minutes each side or until fully cooked. While grilling, baste with marinade.

Alternatively, instead of grilling the breasts (or thighs) whole, you can cut the chicken into large chunks, and grill it on skewers, turning them every couple of minutes.

The original recipe ended with “Heat the leftover marinade and serve on the side for dipping,” and while I’m skeptical about serving goo that’s had raw chicken sitting in it, I think if you “heat” it all the way to a boil first, it’s probably fine.

They also say that this recipe “serves 4”, but I’ve found that if you make up the specified amount of jerk marinade, you can easily marinate twice as much chicken in it.  Put the marinade and the chicken in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag for efficient marinating.

Enjoy!

-Mark


Glowing bubbles?! Yes! …but no.

The other day I was in the store and my attention was caught by “Super Miracle Bubbles® GLOW FUSION™ Bubble Solution” — bubble soap that claimed that it made bubbles that glowed.  These were not bubbles that glowed-under-black-light (fluorescent), not bubbles that glowed-in-the-dark (phosphorescent), but actually bubbles that glowed-of-their-own-accord (chemiluminescent), or so the package claimed.  $3.99 later, I was the proud owner of a bottle of this magic elixir.

Later that night, well after dark, Rosa and I carefully followed the instructions, adding the two included packets of “activator A” and “activator B” to the bubble soap, and stirring (not shaking!) for a minute.  Lo and behold, the little bottle began to glow bright orange, like the innards of a glow stick!

Excited, we dipped the wand in the glowing solution, and blew some bubbles!  In the cold, dark, winter night, they looked like this:

…nothing.  Blackness.

We tried and tried, and sure enough, after a while from the right angle, for a fleeting second, you could see that the bubbles had a tiny glim of light.  But in practice, the drips of bubble solution that fell on the ground far outshone the bubbles themselves, and the full bottle itself was the brightest thing around.  There was no hope of getting enough light out of it to photograph them.

The directions (inside the package!) point all this out.  They tell you to cover the (clear) bottle with black tape or a black bag, and to let your eyes fully adjust to the dark to see the glowing bubbles.  Any other nearby light will drown out the few photons escaping from the bubbles themselves.  Also of note: the instructions repeat several times that these are for outdoor use only.

So, do they glow?  Technically, yes.  Practically, no.  You cannot get a good, satisfying, “glowing bubble” from this bubble solution.  On the other hand, it is pretty nifty to have a bottle of bubble solution that’s glowing in your hand while you’re blowing bubbles.  Fun?  Kinda.  Worth $3.99?  Not for regular use.  Worth trying once?  Yep, and I’m glad we did.

-Mark

Updated April 4, 2012: Here’s a video of some Occupy folks experimenting with adding the contents of a chemical glow stick to some bubble soap.  They got more or less the same results I did, but by a different route.  Clearly, we need some SUPER glow chemicals…


My favorite riddle

My favorite riddle is this:

Q. What do you sit on, sleep on, and brush your teeth with?

Now before I tell you the answer, walk slowly through the question for a moment with me.  It starts out simple enough (what do you sit on…?), and mid-way through seems like there’s still an answer (…sleep on?), and then it throws you a curve ball (…and brush your teeth with?!?), and you’re left wondering What’s the trick this time, Mark? But wait! There is no trick!  Observe:

Q. What do you sit on, sleep on, and brush your teeth with?

A. a chair, a bed, and a toothbrush.

I love this to pieces.  Three pieces, to be exact, and there’s a real moment of aha! lurking in here.  Although it maybe have been suggested, or not, the question is not asking you for one object with which to do these three different things.  And in fact, if you try to find one such object, the best you’ll do is one that doesn’t exactly fit the needs of all three tasks very well.

So the lesson here is this: if you’re me, and you’re trying to figure out what you can use to make a blog and a wiki, the answer to the riddle is: a blogging setup AND a wiki setup.  Welcome to the former.

-Mark