Eat, Pray Love

I saw the movie trailer this week.  It was much better than I expected.  This book is so important to me, it means so much to me and I just want the movie to be a decent adaptation.  I understand that not every element of a book can be captured on the screen, but from the trailer alone I saw plot pieces that I’m so glad are there – lines that I’m glad are there – characters that should be.  And Julia Roberts looked good.  If I had been casting I would have put Elizabeth Mitchell in the role.

 ::Elizabeth Gilbert, author::          ::Elizabeth Mitchell, actress::
Doesn’t it make good sense??
I think Julia will do just fine though.  I think I’ll plan a movie going event for August 13th.  Oh my gosh…I didn’t even realize…huh, that would have been my 5th wedding anniversary.  The irony abounds…  And even more reason – plan a trip to St. Louis friends, take the day off work.  I declare that day, Eat, Pray, Love – and then do a little drinking day.  

Girls Night In

Tonight I’m hosting some girls from work for girls night.  
These are on the menu
Taquitos from Rachel Ray
These to drink
In addition to eating, we have Wii games to play, The Hangover to watch and work gossip to share.  It should be a great night.  I’m looking forward to having some fun this evening.  Also excited to entertain – it’s been a long time since I’ve had a group of people over.  I’ll let you know how everything turns out!

UPDATE:  Food and margaritas were a giant hit.  I highly recommend a night with this delicious combination as soon as possible.  Find some authentic Mexican cheeses and green tomatillo salsa for the top of the taquitos, (which I happen to think of as enchiladas more) and you have an amazing dish.  I made fresh guacamole also – which is soooo easy!  Where has guacamole been all my life??  


Tale of Two Cookies

The chocolate chip cookie.  Few things are as perfect as a warm chocolate chip cookie.

On my unexpected day off last week I decided to make not one, but two different batches of chocolate chip cookies.  My friend Cyndi has been talking about this new cookie recipe that she has found on the blog Stephmodo that will be her standard recipe from here on out.  Last summer, I had made the “Perfect chocolate chip cookie” recipe according to Cook’s Illustrated. 

Knowing that there were two conflicting “Best cookie ever” recipes – well, it seemed practical to make both of them and do some taste testing of my own and among my friends and family.

The recipes:

Recipe and photo From Stephmodo
Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temp if possible)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (feel free to throw in the whole bag if you like them super chocolate-y)

Cream butter, brown sugar and white sugar together in a mixer. Then add the eggs, one at a time. Beat until creamy. Add the vanilla.

In another bowl mix the dry ingredients together before slowly adding them to the creamed mixture. When combined, stop the mixer and add the semi-sweet chips. Mix up and then drop by the teaspoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Mold them into a ball as best as you can with the spoon for a more shaped cookie.

Bake on 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool. Enjoy! 

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, photos by me
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie – Cook’s Illustrated

1 3/4 cup ubleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used the whole bag – I like a lot of chocolate chips)

Heat oven to 375

Whisk together flour and baking soda

Heat 10 tablespoons of butter in skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 – 3 minutes. Remove skillet and pour into mixing bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into the hot butter and stir until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat that process two more times. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon stir in flour mixture until just combines. Stir in chocolate chips giving dough final stir.

Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons. Arrange 2 inches apart. Bake 10 – 14 minutes, until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, edges are beginning to set, but centers are still soft. Cool. Eat. Enjoy!

I made both recipes.  The biggest differences are the butter (one uses melted and browned butter, while the other is the more traditional softened butter), amounts of flour and size of cookie.  Also, the mixing method for the Cook’s Illustrated cookie is different, requiring it to be mixed and then rest over a period of 10  minutes.  The difference in the baked cookie is that the Stephmodo recipe is softer overall, while the Cook’s Illustrated cookie has a crisp edge, but a very soft and much chewier interior. 
Once the cookies were done baking and cooling, I prepared the samples to be given away.  I labeled bags or containers with A (Cook’s Illustrated cookie) and B (Stephmodo cookie).  My test subjects included:
My grandparents
My friend Matt King and his wife Erin
three co-workers, 1 female, two men, if you think the male/female perspective is important

The results: 
My grandparents were split; Grandpa liked B, Grandma liked A.  Grandma may have just wanted to be fair and give both cookies a vote.
Matt and Erin both went B.
Two co-workers went A, one went B

It’s fairly split down the middle. Clearly indicating there is no bad chocolate chip cookie.

My own opinion?  I’m with the Cook’s Illustrated version.  The complexities of flavor that you get from the browned butter are subtle and amazing.  It’s toffee like, caramel like and brings layers of flavor not found in other cookie recipes.   

Unexpected day off

I decided to take the day off.  
What to do?
I’d like to go for a walk outside before it starts raining.
I’d like to bake some chocolate chip cookies for a co-worker’s birthday.  He is new to St. Louis and doesn’t know anybody outside of work yet.  And I think birthdays should be celebrated.  Cookies for him.
I’d like to visit my grandparents.  I missed both of their birthdays in February due to casino opening activities.  This is really unacceptable.  So I will visit them today.  Maybe I’ll bring them some cookies also.  
I’d like to sort through the stack of mail I have sitting around.  Almost assuredly there are some bills that I should be paying.  
And tonight I’m heading back to my former high school to see their production of Guys and Dolls.  Yes, it will be painful theatre.  Yes, it will be a strong trip down memory lane as that was the musical we did my junior year and it was a very memorable time.  However, my friend Matt is helping out in the pit and we’re going to hang out 1996 style by going to Denny’s afterwards.  Wish me luck.  
Happy Friday to you. 

Goodness in the world

or, Why I choose to not be a cynic…by Sarah

This morning around 11am I realized that today would have been my father’s 60th birthday.  My father died 7 and a half years ago, and the day I seem to think of him the most has come to be the day he passed away, not on his birthday.  Before you think I’m a horrible person for not recalling his birthday, you should know that it was never a big deal when he was alive.  He was a tough guy and didn’t particularly care to have a fuss made.  Also, he couldn’t have told you when anyone of his kids’ birthdays were without my mom there to remind him, they just weren’t his thing.

But his 60th birthday.  That would have been something.  We would have celebrated, there would have been dinner on my parent’s china and we would have gotten him some kind of tool that he wouldn’t really use or a cd he may or may not listen to because he was impossible to shop for.  And there would have been a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, because that’s what we got for his birthday.

::A picture of my dad on his 50th birthday – with his ice cream cake::

So when I realized what day it was, I sent a quick email to my new pal Claire that said, “Today would have been my dad’s 60th birthday.  Sad.  There would have been DQ ice cream cake.”  And she replied that was sad and she was sorry.  I told her thank you, and that I was fine, just needed to acknowledge the day.

An hour later Claire comes walking into my office.  (Please understand that Claire works at our downtown casino about 12 miles away from my casino.)  Claire is holding a DQ ice cream cake that she had them write “There can still be cake” on.  I cried.  Another girl in the office cried.  It was a remarkably thoughtful thing to do.  Then she sat down and said, “Will you tell me about him?”  And I told her a few stories, the funny ones.  My dad was a joker and teased me about having no common sense all the time.  I told her about the chores we did for his paving company.  About the only story he ever told me about when I was a toddler and climbed a ladder onto the back porch roof and all he could think was, “Man, if she falls off her mom is going to be so mad at me.”  We laughed and joked and she listened and then she had to go back to work. 

There are people who love me in this world, and who think of me even when I’m not standing in front of them.  I don’t think I realized how very, very lucky I am, that I am someone who is deserving of this kind of love until Claire reminded me today. 

:: Dad and me – I had eye surgery at 15 months.  I rock the pirate look, don’t I? ::

We’re open!

Cheers to opening a casino!

Cheers to a phenomenal turnout on opening day
Cheers to really wonderful employees who handled it all with smiles and grace
Cheers to returning to a mostly normal schedule, returning to the Y, returning to socializing, and to blogging
Cheers to loving what you do

Juror 267

On top of opening this new casino, I was summoned to Jury Duty this week.  I had actually been summoned for February 15/16, but since I had a class of 275 employees scheduled for New Hire Orientation that day I sent in my calendar and our opening scheduled and told them I would not make it.  The Jury Supervisor sent back a note saying my excuse was unacceptable, they would be recalling me soon, and if I tried to get out of it again I could be prosecuted for contempt of court.  When you have an active gaming license (a requirement of working in a casino – and a very strict process) you can’t be prosecuted.  So, report to jury duty I did. 

I was willing to sit through Monday and Tuesday of jury duty, but had it gone into Wednesday and Thursday – our big employee opening pep rally and opening day – I don’t know what I would have done.

Luckily, I didn’t even have to think about that.  I reported for duty Monday morning and sat in a giant waiting room with other prospective jurors.  I had books, I had my laptop, I had downtown for lunch at Rooster; not a terrible day.  At 2:30pm my number was called.  42 prospective jurors made our way downstairs where we sat in a different room for about 20  minutes.  We were then walked across the street to the courthouse building and sat in another room for a while.  Finally a baliff walked in and put us in an order.  It was clear the first 12 numbers called were being considered the jury, and the rest were going to be the alternates.  I was picked twelfth.  We were then walked into the courtroom, I sat in the jury box with the other twelve.  We were introduced to the lawyers and they began questioning for jury selection.  The case was about burglary, so one of the first questions they asked was if anyone had ever been victim of a robbery.  I was shocked when 80% of the people in the room, primary and alternate jurors, raised their hand and explained the crime they were the victim of.  I knocked on a lot of wood at that moment, fortunate to have never had that experience. 

They asked if we found police testimony  more credible or less credible than a layperson, asked if there was only one witness would that sway us one way or another, and about what kind of proof we would need in order to come back with a verdict.  At the end of the selection, I was chosen to remain on the jury.  The judge made it clear that he anticipated that this would be a one day case.  This was really a best case scenario, as I wanted to be out by Wednesday. 

Arriving Tuesday morning I learned that jurors in this judge’s courtroom get donuts!  That was a nice surprise.  We filed in to hear opening statements, one eye witness, two police officers testify and the victim.  I won’t discuss details of the case.  It seemed fairly open and shut. 

During all of this, the thing I noticed the most was the proof that public defenders must make no money.  This poor lawyer was wearing shoes that were falling apart, and his briefcase had this giant rip in it.  It made me want to start a program where each public defender gets a decent briefcase upon taking the job – some kind of Adopt – A- Defender program. 

We went in for deliberation after lunch.  I immediately volunteered to be the foreperson.  I mean, if I’m going to be at jury duty, I’m going to have the full experience.  I wanted to live out all of my Law and Order fantasies by being the one who responded to the judge when he asked if the jury had reached a verdict.  We only needed to discuss for 20 minutes, as I said, the case seemed pretty clear.  And even though the defense was rigorous, we still found the defendant guilty. 

That was a strange feeling.  To determine someone’s fate that way.  To be a part of justice.  Heavy.