Friday, June 24, 2011

14 Things That Make Me Happy

Why 14?  Good question.  I really don't know.  I wasn't a high school or college athlete who wore jersey #14.  I wasn't born on the 14th.  I just like the number.  As a mother, I've been known to say "If I've told you once, I've told you 14 times!"  "For the 14th time, will you please straighten up your room?" "You've asked me that question 14 times and the answer is still no."  The Ex-Ex thinks 14 is too many.  He wanted me to change the number.  Said it was too ambitious.  I can't do that.  You can't just change something because it is a little (or a lot) difficult.  But he and I are coming to this list-making from different angles.  I think that making a happy list is not that hard.  His list-making runs along the lines of 14 Things That Didn't Go Wrong Today.  Oh well.  Funny how we are all born with a certain personality type, isn't it?

This list is in no particular order and doesn't include anything deep or really maternal.  Just random things I've thought of that I like.  I am also sure that it isn't complete and that as soon as I hit the publish post button, I will think of more.  (The Ex-Ex, however, came up with only 13... and no, I will not finish it or put words in his mouth.  Nope, no way.  Not me.)

The Sabbatical Chef's List

1.  Lavender
2.  Going to the beach with my family in the summer
3.  Really good, hot coffee with just the right amount of half and half
4.  A good wine glass-- Riedel or Spiegelau (thin rims, just the right weight)
5.  Getting a letter or package in the mail from a friend or family member
6.  The Eiffel Tower anytime, but especially when it sparkles at night
7.  A comfortable pair of jeans
8.  Planning my next trip to France
9.  Sugar maple trees in the fall
10. Making something for dinner that my family really likes
11. Hearing a great song on the radio that makes me sing out loud and not care who sees or hears me
12. Soft brie cheese on warm French bread
13. Baking in my kitchen early on Sunday mornings when the house is quiet and everyone else is still sleeping
14. Ripe cherries

The Ex-Ex's List

1.  Hearing my all-time favorite song on the radio when I was not expecting to
2.  An unexpected professional compliment
3.  The anticipation of going to the beach with my family
4.  An unexpected, unsolicited compliment about one of my kids
5.  Seeing my favorite team win (Nebraska football, Durham Academy anything)
6.  A good drink with good company (a bad drink with good company is better than a good drink with bad company)
7.  A good road trip with my wife
8.  Kicking my son's butt in boules at the beach-- in a fun way, of course
9.  A cool summer morning
10. A warm, sunny winter day
11. A neat kitchen counter
12. Finishing a good crossword puzzle
13. Looking at old photos of my kids

Elmo's Cherry Cobbler  from Elmo's Diner, Durham, NC
(serves 12)

For the fruit:
2 1/2 - 3 lbs of cherries, pitted  (if using frozen, defrost and drain)
3 Tbsp. sugar

For the topping:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs, beaten

To finish the topping:
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
4 tsp. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Thoroughly drain the fruit in a strainer.  Blend the fruit with the sugar (3 Tbsp.) and spread evenly over the bottom of a 9x12x2-inch baking pan.  Blend the flour, sugar (1 1/2 c.), baking powder and salt.  With your fingers, work the eggs into the flour and blend until you have achieved a moist and pebbly crumb (aim for blueberry and cherry-size chunks).  Spread the topping evenly and lightly over the fruit.  Drizzle the butter evenly over the topping.  Blend the cinnamon and the sugar (4 tsp.) and sprinkle evenly over the butter.  Bake uncovered at 375˚F for 35-45 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling at the edges of the pan (baking time will depend on pan and oven).

**Elmo's cobbler recipe is extremely forgiving.  Feel free to adjust the amount of fruit, the amount of sugar added to the fruit, the amount of melted butter drizzled on the topping and the amount of sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over the butter.
A 12-oz. bag of cherries yields about 11 oz. of drained fruit.  You will need 4-5 bags of cherries, depending on your preferred ratio of fruit to crust.
Cherries shed a good deal of moisture while baking.  Some love a cobbler that swims in its own soup, while others consider this soupiness a technical defect and eyesore.  To eliminate the soupiness, coat the cherries with 1-2 Tbsp. of flour before baking.  Two tablespoons of flour will produce a liquid-free, pudding-like consistency.
By all means, experiment with fresh fruit, keeping in mind that fresh fruit will be juicier than drained frozen fruit and may generate Campbell's level of soupiness.  Especially if using fresh cherries or blueberries, you may want to stew and drain the fruit before adding it to the cobbler.  Alternately, you may blend the fruit with flour to absorb the excess moisture.  If using apples, choose a tart, firm apple, like Granny Smith.  To make the other cobblers in Elmo's repertoire, simply substitute one fruit for another without adjusting the recipe otherwise.  One exception:  if using blackberries, which tend to be tart, add 4 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. of sugar to the fruit instead of 3 Tbsp.
Serve warm from the oven or reheated by microwave.  The crust loses some of its crunch this way but assumes an appealing cakey quality.
For the full cobbler experience, spoon into deep bowls and top with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

(This is a fun recipe to read.  I have no idea who wrote it out for Elmo's, but I like the style!)

Bon appétit, happiness!

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