Yes, I woke up early to see the "Super Blue Blood Moon" this morning, and it was worth it.
photo from Space.com
Here's the photo I took in my backyard--doesn't do it justice!
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet up with a long-distance friend in person for the first time. She's someone I met in one of my online writer's groups, and while we've always gotten along well in our internet interactions, I wasn't sure how it would go: you can never be sure how things will go "in real life."
Or perhaps you can--because she was every bit as lovely and genuine and down-to-earth as I knew her to be online. The conversation flowed easily, and the visit was over far too quickly. I'm so glad that we got to connect with one another in person: as much as you can enjoy "speaking" with a person via social media or messenger, there is still no substitute for being in the other person's presence, breaking bread with them at the kitchen table, hearing their laughter, sharing emotional stories that make you both tear up, and connecting on a basic human level, without the buffer of a keyboard in the way.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 10:26 PM
Posted by Lisa Yak at 2:26 PM
I've heard of the TV show, "My 600 lb Life" but never watched a single episode--until tonight. I was flipping channels and caught her episode just as it started, and the preview where she says that her mother and pediatrician put her on diet pills when she was only 4 years old got my attention.
Learn more about her story on TLC at this link.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 10:29 PM
Yes, friends, it's that time again....time to take a bullet in the name of "research" and taste test the two newest "Limited Edition" flavors of Oreo cookies.
First up: Hot & Spicy Cinnamon Oreos
I'll admit, I was not looking forward to trying these when I first heard about them. They're supposedly infused with the flavor of cinnamon red hot candies, something I have not eaten in many years. (And even then, it was as part of a "special recipe" handed down by my cousin's husband, "Pineapple Red Hots": a side dish meant to go with ham and/or turkey, and it's actually not bad--a sentimental favorite, because it came from Jimmy's mom, and she was an amazing lady. Genius Kitchen has a recipe HERE, if you're curious.)
First impressions on this one: disappointing.
The cookie itself is off-putting. There's a faint scent of fake cinnamon when you open the package, but not nearly as strong as I expected. (There's a huge difference between "fake cinnamon" flavor and real cinnamon. This cookie doesn't even attempt to imitate real cinnamon--the filling is supposed to taste like the artificial "red hot" version of cinnamon, so that's the standard to which I'm holding these.) The color is also an eerie, saturated shade of Devil Red.
The cinnamon red hot flavoring is almost non-existent, and the chocolate sandwich cookie totally overwhelms it. I tried eating just the filling, and still, you can barely taste the red hot flavoring. You can smell it--faintly--but there's zero tingle on your taste buds....absolutely nothing like having red hot candies. Bummer.
Next was the Chocolate Hazelnut Oreos, and my expectations were high from the moment I saw the packaging.
This cookie definitely comes closer to duplicating the flavoring of Nutella, the commonly-known chocolate hazelnut spread from Italy that this cookie clearly seeks to imitate. What's interesting is that the filling in this cookie is thicker and more substantial than actual Nutella spread--it has the consistency of a hazelnut fudge or ganache, and I tell you what--I think I like it even better than Nutella (I know, that's treasonous, but I have to be honest here. The filling is A++)
The only downside is that the vanilla sandwich cookie gets lost in the equation---totally overpowered by the Chocolate Hazelnut filling--but this is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you're a chocoholic. In fact, I would nominate this cookie "Most Likely to Eat Only the Filling and Put the Cookie Part Back in the Package." Note to Nabisco: you might want to consider selling this filling on its own, or turning this into a candy bar version.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 1:32 PM
Gnocchi has long been one of my favorite types of pasta, but I was always too intimidated to try making it myself at home. After 3 attempts, I can say that it's actually one of the easier types of pastat to make from scratch, and I've finally managed to perfect it to the point where I'm willing to post about it.
First things first: the potatoes. You need to make sure you use the right kind: light, thin-skinned butter potatoes. Yes, it makes it a difference, especially if you want to get the texture just right.
The first time I made gnocchi, I was careful to use these type of potatoes, but they were still gummy and lacked flavor. I realized afterwards that I had made several key mistakes:
1) I didn't use a potato ricer, and mashing the potatoes just wasn't the same.
2) I didn't add an egg (which the recipe said was "optional"...trust me, it's not)
3) I followed the recipe too closely, and used too much flour.
So, after being forced to eat the not-so-great first-attempt at gnocchi, my husband surprised me for Christmas by buying me a ricer. He looked at the reviews on Amazon and ended up purchasing this one by Bellemain. It had great ratings, and was only $18.95. Well worth it!
I used the disc with the most holes in it, which produces the finest potato rice. It's important to make sure the potatoes are cooked fully, so that they're soft enough to go through the press easily. If you can get a knife through them without much resistance, they're done.
The gnocchi recipe itself is one from the legendary Italian chef and cookbook author Marcella Hazan. In my last two attempts, the gnocchi came out perfectly, and here's the ratio that worked for me:
-- 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes (about 4 potatoes, but I weighed them on a digital scale just to be sure)
-- 1 beaten egg (this was said to be optional, but it isn't)
-- 1 cup of flour (her recipe says "up to 1 1/2 cups" but 1 cup was plenty. I used the extra half cup the first time, and didn't add the egg, and it was...not good)
Most pasta recipes tell you to mix everything right on your cutting board, but this one works best using a mixing bowl, and it helps to keep everything contained and keeps the mess to a minimum. After cooking the potatoes until tender, I plunged them into cold water to loosen the skins, then peeled them with a paring knife while the potatoes were still warm.
The Bellemain ricer is fantastic. I really thought it would be a struggle--I didn't think I'd have enough leverage to squeeze the potatoes through--but the gadget is very well designed, and it worked like a charm. After ricing the potatoes--which were still warm, but not hot--into a bowl, I dropped in a lightly beaten egg and blended it all with a fork. Then I added in 1 cup of flour, and used my hands to mix it all together, like you would meatballs. Using your hands is definitely the way to go--it allows you to feel the texture of the gnocchi dough, getting everything smooth and well incorporated. The dough will be soft and still a little warm, but not sticky. If it is sticky, add just a tiny bit more flour--you can always add more while you're rolling it on the cutting board.
I sprinkled a little bit of flour onto the cutting board, and took half the dough out of the bowl. Then I set half of that to one side, and started rolling 1/4 of the dough into a thin "snake" about an inch thick. Once it's rolled out, I used a knife to cut the roll into little pillows. NOTE: Most recipes call for you to roll the gnocchi across a fork to give them ridges, so that they cook more evenly. I tried--it was not good. So you know what? I skipped that step, and they cooked up just fine. Pillows it is!
After repeating the process with the rest of the dough, I put a big 6 quart pot of salted water on to boil, set the gnocchi aside, and start to work on the vodka sauce.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 9:18 PM
Last night, I received some terrible news from an old friend: her husband passed away this week, at the age of 57. They had 3 children together, and were married for over 26 years. I remember so clearly the day that they met, their early days of dating and falling in love. Right from the start, the attraction was instant, and they fell in love quickly--their relationship was passionate and fiery, but above all else, there was a deep, abiding love for one another that swept them both off their feet. Their engagement coincided with my own, and together, we got to survive the giddy-yet-stressful experience of planning a wedding. They were married just a few weeks after I got back from my own honeymoon, and to this day, their reception remains one of the most lively and joyous parties I've even attended. I served in their bridal party, watched their family grow, and then mourned the inevitable distance that grew between us when they moved hundreds of miles away for her husband's job.
We reconnected periodically via Facebook, but like so many (smart) people, she kept her most personal business off of social media, so his death came as a shock to me.
I've spent the last 24 hours thinking about them, and the way their story first began. Theirs was not a picture-perfect, fairy tale relationship: they had their share of ups and downs, difficulties and obstacles that had to be overcome--it was not an easy road at times. Yet theirs was a true love story; they stayed together and toughed it out, building a life together and doing their best to fight back the health issues and personal demons that ultimately proved too much for him.
I am so sad for my friend, and for what she's going through. Her heart is broken at the loss of her love, and mine breaks for her. But I am grateful for the love that they shared, and the privilege of witnessing that love grow, deepen, and endure.
All of this brings to mind a quote by my favorite author, Richard Bach: "True love stories never have endings." Their journey together was not a fairy tale, but it most certainly was a true love story.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 9:08 PM
I know, it's a privilege to live in a country where Democracy is the law of the land, and each of us is innocent until proven guilty, and has the right to a fair trial, judged by a jury of our peers.
But I still cringed when this came in today's mail. #pleasedontpickme
Posted by Lisa Yak at 10:30 PM
Let me get this straight: we live in a world where people say they can interpret the planetary positions from your date of birth to tell you what kind of month you're going to have, there are computer algorithms that will match you up with your ideal soulmate based on a simple questionnaire, and those who claim they can actually communicate with dead people...and yet, no one can seem to agree on how much snow we're getting tomorrow?
Posted by Lisa Yak at 4:03 PM
Consider this a PSA: steer clear of Biore Baking Soda Acne Scrub. Within days of buying it, I ended up with a terrible scratch on my cornea--one that I'm still being treated for, two full weeks later.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 10:55 PM
Posted by Lisa Yak at 1:59 PM