Thursday, May 19, 2011

A formal "thank you"

I am incredibly fortunate to have awesome people in my life, whom I am even more fortunate to call my friends. I know that they're my friends, because they do things like weave scarves for me, wave them around all weekend while I'm lusting away after them. This forces me to fight the urge to knock them to the floor and steal the aforementioned scarf off of their bodies until they are done teasing me and bestow Things of Beauty upon my completely undeserving self.

Like this one.

Scarf woven out of Abstract Fiber Matisse on a Schacht Flip Loom
The picture doesn't come close to doing the scarf justice, but it's the first picture I've taken of a scarf I've had for over a year. I've been wearing it at every opportunity, and I loveloveLOVE it. I love it so much that I match my eyeshadow to it. (You can't really tell in the photo.)

I'm ashamed to say that I simply forgot to send a "Thank You" card to the charming and talented creator of my favorite scarf. I was remiss in my manners, and for that, I am utterly mortified at my own boorishness. I blame the bright colors for distracting me, you know how I am.

 Dear Evil Jasmine,

Thank you for my beautiful scarf. I love it and wear it all the time.

Wicked Jasmin

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


My friend Laura, The Joy of Cooking Fairy, is hosting her first blog contest. You should enter. There are lots of reasons why- but the most important is the trying. You can't win if you don't put yourself out there.

I'm not a creative person, but I am a great editor. I can adjust things and make them juuuuuuust right. Laura says that's okay, and insists that it *is* creative to make fixes. I'm still not sure I entirely agree, but that's neither here nor there. This is my contribution to her contest.

Because I'm me, I think there's nothing better than homemade ice cream for dinner, *especially* on my good china. Let's face it, it doesn't really matter what you eat for dinner anyway if you have a spectacular dessert; a phenomenal dessert can completely eclipse a merely "eh" meal.

We all this flavor "Coexist":


Coexist is based on an ice cream we had ten years ago at a place called Urban Ice Cream in Campbell. Urban Ice Cream was solely responsible for my 40 lb weight gain at the end of 2001, most of which I still carry around with me. They had a small range of exceptional, original flavors, and when they closed, it was a loss I felt deeply.

Since I am both brave and have the tools, I decided to make an attempt at making Andrew's favorite flavor, one that they called "Diversity".

I take the Ben & Jerry's sweet cream base, follow the directions exactly, and then I add a little flair.

Once the mixture has cooled, I pour the ice cream into the machine (I have this one), and let it run for 25 minutes.

During those 25 minutes, I chop 1/4 cup each: semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. I use good chocolate because you don't need very much, and also? Good ingredients make for a most excellent finished product. That is a total of 3/4 cups of chopped chocolate. I recommend tasting them, to make sure that the chocolate is adequately delicious.

Of the 1/4 cup of each, I chop 2/3rds finely, and leave that last 1/3 coarse. (Did that just make your math brain explode?) You can eyeball it, I promise nothing bad will happen.

When the 25 minutes are up, slowly add the chocolate to the mixture, and let the machine run for about five more minutes. Scoop it into an container to be frozen, and make sure to get every last bit out of the ice cream bowl. Preferably with your fingers, because it tastes better that way.

Scoop into beautiful china, and share with your loved ones.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Thirty-two years ago today, someone incredible was born. He was two weeks (or so) early, but that's just the kind of guy he is. Prompt. Timely. Reliable.

Have a birthday scone!
I'm going to be honest, he's kind of my favorite person ever. When we first were married and I declared that I NEEDED a dog, he agreed. When our dog (Niki) needed a dog, we got Elphie. (It bears mentioning that Andrew was a Cat Person when we met.)

Someone once told me that in every relationship there was a Nice One and there was a Mean One, which she punctuated with, "and Jasmin, YOU are the Mean One."

She was, and still is, right.

He reaches things on high shelves, opens jars, and builds me things. He laughs at my jokes, does the heavy lifting, and tastes my culinary experiments. He is enthusiastic when they turn out well and tactful when they turn out... not so well.

He listens to my complaints, agrees to my Official Proclamations and Decrees, and sometimes brings me coffee while I'm in the shower. He leaves me roses from our yard to brighten my day. When I'm unhappy, he does his best to make me smile; if I can't smile, he rubs my shoulders and feet.

He is funny, charming, smart, and so, so good with people. He has an infectious chuckle, he is passionate about the environment, and he is a good sport. When my crazy is dialed all the way up, he makes sure to accommodate whatever it is that I need- no matter how weird, no questions asked.
He is also a great dancer. His good qualities are endless. I would keep listing them, but then you'd all realize that he was the best husband in the whole world and my life would be in danger. For my own safety, the list stops here. So, I'll share a story or two.

Around my 23rd birthday, I got a new driver's license.

"Why am I getting a new license?" I asked Andrew, confused.
"Because your old one is expiring," he answered.
"It's a five-year license," I said.
"When did you get it?" Andrew asked.
"When I was 18."
"Yeah. And how old are you now?" he asked.
"Try again," Andrew says.
"21," now I'm getting agitated.
"Nope," Andrew says. "23."
"What? Oh. Right," I answer, the math being obvious.

Fast forward to last year, Andrew hit what I'll refer to as a Career Milestone. In conversation, Andrew mentioned how blown away he was when this happened, because he NEVER thought he'd hit this particular Career Milestone by the time he turned 30.

"Thirty, huh?" I said, smiling.
"I know!" he was very excited.
"Not to burst your bubble, but you're thirty-one, dude," I pointed out.
"Oh. Still awesome."

I may have pointed out that I, too, can't keep track of my age, and reminded him of the "I am 21!" incident, lo those many years ago.

I love you like the wind, Monkey. Happy birthday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quality time with a master

I like to be prepared.

I'm a list-maker. A dry-runner. It keeps things orderly, and that's how I like them. It also means that when The Time comes, I'll know what I'm doing, whatever that time might be. In this case, it's the Tall and Handsome Man's birthday coming up on the horizon, and he requested s'mores in lieu of a birthday cake.

What's an adventurous cook to do? Find a couple of recipes for marshmallows and try them out. For science. So, I pulled the ingredients together and I spent some quality time with an old friend:

Readers, meet Mixmaster K

We've been together quite a few years, but he didn't really earn his spot on the countertop until recently, when I started baking like the zombie apocalypse was on the horizon. (It might very well be. Won't you be sorry that you didn't partake in butter and cream when you had the chance?)

Mixmaster K has been whipping cream, kneading dough, and generally beating the living daylights out of everything I've thrown in his path. We had a slight disagreement about incorporating frozen butter into dough, but I recognized the error of my ways, and have since changed. There is a lot of give and take in relationships, you know.

Yesterday was a day where I was especially grateful for Mixmaster K. I made two different marshmallow recipes- one from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, one from Smitten Kitchen. I think making marshmallows is impossible without some sort of mechanical intervention, be it a stand mixer or a hand mixer- I know that my yoga muscles aren't enough to whip up marshmallows.

(My yoga muscles, for the record, *are* enough for things like lifting bed frames, hauling luggage, and flexing in the mirror.)

Let's face it, I get sweaty and exhausted whipping egg whites into stiff peaks by hand with a whisk, nevermind the sugar/corn syrup/gelatin mixture that's burns like Napalm if it hits your skin. This is all moot for me, since I have Mixmaster K in my life.

The recipe for the first batch was intended for use in ice cream, and I can see why. They aren't fluffy, but they are dense and taste better than commercial marshmallows. I was frustrated because they didn't turn out the way I had imagined. In fairness, I have an unusually fertile imagination, and things generally don't turn out the way I imagine them. Usually. I'm also blaming this on the music I was listening to- the Sweeney Todd soundtrack is a little dark and heavy.

The second batch, using the Smitten Kitchen directions, and made listening to the light and fluffy soundtrack from "Zanna, Don't!", turned out much better. There was the addition of whipped egg whites (which are plentiful, since I made goat milk ice cream last week), and what I affectionately refer to as "the Napalm component" is added to the gelatin/water mixture a little differently. Instead of wrestling with the proto-marshmallow goop like I had with batch #1, it pleasantly oozed into the oiled and sugared pan.

Here's the catch: I hate being sticky.

I can deal with mud, dust, damp, but not sticky. It just drives me crazy. I had worried that making marshmallows would end with both me and my kitchen looking like the closing scenes from Ghostbusters, but really, there was a minimum of marshmallow on my person, and the kitchen cleanup was a breeze. (The secret is hot water. A lot of hot water.)

For my next trick? We'll see how batch #2 measures up, and how they do in some test s'mores. Because being prepared can be fun *and* delicious.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Then and now

KidBrother Sam is the funniest person I know. (Sorry, 'Feff.) His humor is dry, his wit is quick, and he has a knack for taking things six steps too far.

He called me in December with a great idea- to do a photo album for Mom where we re-shoot old photos, and do a "then and now" photo album for her. Time was at a premium, and there was no way that way that we could have managed it for Christmas. Mother's Day was a totally different story.

Our Mother's Day tradition is to try to make Mom cry. We have a good track record, but it has upped the ante over the years. That's the problem with being awesome; flowers and chocolate just won't do it anymore.

Sam and I plotted, planned, and did this project in a couple of days. I recommend sitting down, and swallowing your sip of coffee/tea/whatever before you scroll down.

For safety, here is the breakfast that Andrew and I made. It's our variation on Eggs Benedict- Andrew's special hash browns, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce. (We're doing it with bacon next time.) Sam would have helped but we have a One Butt kitchen (meaning, it's too small for more than one person at a time).

Eggs a la Jasmin
Sam told me this was called a "Dutch angle".

Are you ready?


Sam had to squeeze into one of my shirts for that one. He's barrel-chested, like our dad. I am not.


When Sam was little, he loved Matchbox cars. Mom, with the aid of Matchbox cars, could get Sam to do pretty much anything. When Sam was little, he could point at any car on the street and tell you what it was. He could do the same with dinosaurs, but we didn't see many of those on the street.


It is remarkably hard to get tomatoes to stick to facial hair. Notice the artful tomatoes-down-the-shirt.


This is one of my parents' favorite stories, we were taking care of a cat and I was completely enamored with it. In this photo, it is alleged that I was saying "Kiiiiiiitty, I miiiiiiissed you so much!" as I squeezed the living daylights out of the poor cat. We tried to get Elphie to sit in for this shot, but she knew that something was amiss, so she refused to cooperate. Niki, on the other hand, loves to be squeezed and squished. There also might have been cookies.


Me versus the laundry basket. I think this is a picture that everyone has one of, you know, the one where your parents leave you in MORTAL PERIL and laugh while they photograph your shame before they rescue you from your own foolishness. For the record, I am still too heavy for a laundry basket.


Dr. Sol, our pediatrician, told Mom that I would be ready for solid foods when I started stealing them off of her plate.


Ah, Sam's old preschool. We were going to try and shoot it at the original spot using Sam's alumni status. Notice how different the "now" shot is? They've taken down all the wood-and-metal play structures and replaced them with safe and modern ones. Pfft.

After going through the photo albums preparing for this, I'm honestly surprised that my parents kept us. Sam and I spent the better part of our documented childhoods being crazy. Mostly me, actually. There are a lot of pictures with a Small and Demented looking Jasmin. A Lot. (Again, not much has changed.) It's a little terrifying, to be honest, but a testament to loving parents, and the nurturing home that Sam and I grew up in.

Oh, and Mom? She laughed so hard that she cried.

Mission accomplished.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Plate-lickin' good

I love good food. I don't know many people who say, "I love bad food." But I'm sure that those people exist.

To be fair, sometimes I sometimes indulge in bad food. I love mixing a can of Hormel chili with mac and cheese from a box. We call it "chili mac" and I insist that I invented it in college. I am not perfect.

When I'm planning my meals, I think about what I'm in the mood to eat, go buy the ingredients, and then I make it. I usually pick a cookbook to work through for the week, and decide what I'm in the mood to make. I'll occasionally take requests, but they need to be placed at a reasonable time.

This last week, I worked through this one, which I bought at Recycle Books in Campbell:

That's the bottom of my Seneca sweater. I sit on the couch and read cookbooks.

This is a really good cookbook. Historically, I wasn't a fan of either Julia Child *or* Jacques Pepin. My childhood, while enriched and loving, was one where we didn't watch a lot of TV. Every Saturday, KidBrother Sam and I would get up and get to watch cartoons until 10am, and then Mommy Dearest would change the channel and it was time to watch Julia Child, Martin Yan, or Jacques Pepin. KidBrother Sam and I hated cooking shows for YEARS because they meant the end of cartoons.

I'm sure in retrospect, this was partly because Mommy Dearest (which is what Mom prefers to be called, and yes, I know the reference) wanted us to get up and go play, which we did, and partly because she wanted to watch her cooking shows. Since KidBrother Sam and I are (mostly) healthy and balanced adults, I have found it in my heart to forgive Julia, Jacques, and Martin. I can't speak for KidBrother Sam.

Anyway, back to the book. I looked at the contents, and it was all fancy schmancy foods, but the directions made it seem... easy. And it is. I poached a chicken for the first time. I made my own chicken stock out of the leftover bits (that was from Mastering the Art of French Cooking). I made a list of foods that I love to eat but I've never made at home, and now I'm making them.

It smells heavenly, if Heaven is full of fresh salmon. Mine is.

Like Salmon Tartare. If it's Tartare, I love it. Before this, I had never prepared fish at home. I would walk past the fish counter at Whole Foods and gaze longingly at all the beautiful fish, and then think to myself, "I can't do that yet, but someday I will. Someday."

Jasmin 2009 made an appearance, and she and I went to Whole Foods last Tuesday and bought a beautiful piece of salmon. 

Guess what? This thing that I've wanted to do for years? Not so hard.

I had to take the skin off of the beeeeeautiful cut of salmon myself, and I got some direction from my friend Uschi. The beginning wasn't pretty, but halfway through I Got It. Fortunately, this is cut into tiny parts, so my initial job was covered up by the small cuts. I also learned how to pull bones out of fish, which is - in my opinion- the best use for a pair of tweezers that have lost their oomph. It's also oddly satisfying to do.

I normally don't fool around with garnish, but since Jacques has yet to lead me astray, I made the cucumber ribbons, too, and those added an extra bit of freshness and texture to the dish. (Also, following Jacques' directions, I ended up with a rather interesting looking cucumber when I was done. Use your imagination.)

The results were delicious, and we paired it with a nice white wine, by Little Black Dress Wines. Since we're all friends here, my mother liked the salmon tartare so much that she licked her plate. For effect, of course. (It seems to have become the signal for "this is really good" in our house.)

Things I have learned:

- Fancy food requires a lot of lemon zest. My kitchen looks like a scene from Silence of the Lemons.
- Garnish isn't always frou-frou or a waste of time. Sometimes it adds a necessary note to the dish.
- Cucumbers are always funny. That is both science and a fact.