A Crisis Averted

Remember when I was pity-partying over my lack of chocolate chip cookie skills? My sister-in-law just shut it down with a life-saving recipe.

Okay, that’s a tad dramatic, but having a good cookie recipe up your sleeve is pretty much crucial for things like making friends, impressing co-workers, or surviving the winter. 

When I told my husband his sister sent me a recipe to try, his eyes widened with excitement and his voice took on a reverent hush: “Nina is a great baker!”

Fall has arrived in our neck of the woods, bringing with it the blustery wind I hate and the blushing leaves I love. With football on TV, it just felt like a cookie day. Armed with the recipe my sister swears by, annotated with her own tips, I took a deep breath and opened my heart to the chance I could make a perfect chocolate chip cookie after all.

I was not disappointed. If you are struggling to find the *perfect* recipe (and if your definition of perfect is golden outside, fluffy, chewy, not-cakey inside), let Smitten Kitchen rock your world.

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This guy is so happy to become my delicious dream-come-true!

The most reassuring bit of advice from Nina: The cookies will still look gooey when you take them out at 11 minutes, but they cook more on the sheet. Also, if — like me — you are in a rental with a standard, inexpensive oven, don’t beat yourself up if they don’t come out perfect every time. It’s the oven’s fault!

Thank you, thank you, to my lovely sister — and to Smitten Kitchen, the source of this great recipe. My husband has already eaten about half the batch.

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Salty Meatballs

It sounds inappropriate, but it’s what I just told the head of security at my office I was going to eat. Which yes, was inappropriate, but I did not mean to say it out loud. I meant to just say lunch. This is why I try not to interact with people.

Following this Pinterest recipe kick, I decided to make Salisbury Steak Meatballs last night. I went to the grocery store without my husband, which (depending on how you look at it) was a huge mistake. I got everything on my list…and then a bunch of snacks (because 2/$3 cracker snack packs was a great deal…and because I was freaking hungry, man!).

I got home and got ready to make this tasty-looking dish, only to remember I didn’t get potatoes to mash for a side. I kind of did that on purpose ’cause I wasn’t really feeling like cooking potatoes, but I still felt all “aw, man” when I realized I’d want some sort of starch. My husband was not feeling great (and has had horrendous experience with ground beef in the past) so he opted for a rice-and-Chick’n nugget-burrito instead. Therefore, I made him cook extra rice. Problem solved.

The meatballs turned out pretty spectacular. Side question: why is meatloaf pretty gross, but tiny meatballs made with condiments and spices are not? My best guess is because tiny food is always awesome (it’s adorable and you can justify eating a TON). Basically, it’s science.

Anyhoo, I turned to making the gravy only to realize I don’t have any cornstarch. I feel like that’s a lie because I really hate cornstarch, therefore I’m super aware that it’s in my cupboard. It’s weird to me that something powdery can create such friction on your fingers when rubbed together, and now I’m giving myself a minor seizure just thinking about how to describe it SO needless to say, I know about cornstarch. It sits with my baking stuff and laughs at me when I need it for cookies or whatever. I get a weird burst of triumph when I throw out a box. I think I would have remembered such an occasion.

Sadly, I couldn’t find it. I suspect my husband went on one of his raids to throw out all the expired food in our home and tossed it, which is rude because he stole my moment and also didn’t let me know I had to buy more of the stupid stuff.

I could have asked the Google for other suggestions to thicken up gravy, but I decided to just add a cup or so of water to the recipe and toss in a heaping handful of egg noodles. Because they make starchy water, right? It kind of worked, too. It was pretty thin gravy, but still a decent sauce so I’m counting it as a win.

Where I went wrong: I told my husband I didn’t need anything in the dishwasher before he ran it. I knew things like measuring cups/spoons were in there, but I was feeling superior about my eye-balling skills (especially after that fantastic soup turned out so well). Word to the wise: DO NOT TRY TO EYEBALL 1/4 TSP OF SALT. Or 1 tbs of Worcestershire Sauce. Especially if you are the type to err on the “little more than necessary” side like me. Because I way overdid it on salt and sauce and it made everything a bit salty. This is coming from a gal who loves salt. Pretty much anything “salted” is better than not. Still, I was chugging water with this dish.

Otherwise, the meatballs were tender and juicy and delicious, and the noodles were a nice (ingenious — if I do say so myself) addition. Again, the recipe I butchered can be found here. I would highly recommend trying it out — just be sure to measure that salt appropriately! 😉

 

P.S.: In case you were concerned about a minor plot point — My husband way overdid it on the rice. I was a sport and ate a bowl of straight up rice (partially to neutralize all the salt) but there was still so. much. left. I now know to be more specific when asking him to cook “extra” rice.

 

“I’m Hungry!”

Once my brother-in-law pointed it out, I can’t help but notice my father-in-law says this phrase often. There’s an emphasis on the “I’m” and the “hungry” follows obediently, the only logical conclusion to the phrase. I’ve started saying it this way myself. He and I are two peas in a pod when it comes to our bellies: we are usually in the mood for a meal.

Recently in NYC, he said “I’m hungry! Annie, are you hungry? Let’s eat!” and I knew we were kindred spirits. We left my sister- and mother-in-law shopping and went to find some grub. My husband tagged along, of course, but he’d had a bagel four hours earlier so he wasn’t very hungry (I will never understand this).

Richard is a character I could never capture on paper, though I’m going to try. We were walking to a nice restaurant for his “birthday prequel” dinner one weekend and he announced:

“If I smell like dog urine, it was for a good cause!”

Their aging Bichon was the culprit. “Yeah,” he said with a shrug, “I picked him up and he peed a little. But you know what? It’s okay!”

Sometimes, in the middle of a conversation that has been going on for several minutes, he’ll giggle and agree with something he said much earlier in the evening. We’ll be discussing politics, and he’ll chuckle and nod and say to himself something like “yeah, I really like the new Fiat.” And my mother-in-law will utter an exasperated “Richard!” and my husband will laugh because he’s the same way (I am constantly reminding my husband that I don’t get to go along with his trains of thought, so he has to tell me how he got from talking about a new bumper for his Wrangler to making a statement about business schools in Southern California in the space of thirty seconds).

My father-in-law adores his kids. When I say Richard adores them, I mean there are moments where it’s almost tangible. Whenever my sister-in-law is in town, there’s a subtle shift. Richard uses pet names like “sweetie” in almost every sentence he says to her. If I’m standing next to him, I can almost feel the warmth and pride filling him when he talks to her.

My husband, too. He and his dad will go out for burgers just because it’s a Wednesday night and they want to. After college, my husband lived at home for a while, and they got used to being buddies. Even though it’s been a few years since my husband moved out, I can tell Richard misses having him home. They’ll talk on the phone and he’ll ask when my husband is coming home next, but instead of the usual way parents ask, it will be something more along the lines of “you’re coming for dinner Sunday, right?” and my husband’s answer is always “sure!”

I can tell you almost word-for-word how every one of their phone conversations will begin. It doesn’t matter which of them calls the other:

“It’s a beautiful day to be outside, you bum!”

“I know, we’re out walking (or on our way to Old Town/Georgetown/DuPont to walk around…).” This family takes a lot of walks.

They go back and forth a little bit, trying to one up each other about all the time they’re spending outdoors, then they discuss the coolest cars they’ve seen recently, then one promises to call the other back in ten minutes and never does. Like clockwork.

As a fairly recent addition to the family, I’ve enjoyed getting to know my father-in-law the way his family does, as a man of wonderful characteristics and even better quirks.