Thinking Time

Tick tock, tick tock. Our time in Singapore will be drawing to a close in 9 weeks. Everyone tells me that the next few weeks will just fly by but I feel like we're stuck in slow motion. There are little decisions that need to be made daily about this or that but nothing earth shattering.  Well at least for now.  I do anticipate needing a seat belt for the CRAZY ride that I know will be upon us. For now though, I have time to think.

Here's what I've been thinking about:
-The endless decisions are surprisingly manageable.
-Second guessing the endless decisions makes me crazy.
-If the movie Toy Story is real, then I can expect to be smothered in my sleep by the now homeless stuffed animals that were culled from my daughters bedroom last week.
-I need to start sorting through all the things we collected while living here.
-I need to find a place to donate the things that really weren't worth collecting.
-I need to resist the urge to keep everything.
-I need to resist the urge to get rid of everything.
-This waiting to leave and waiting to start is making me a little psycho.
-Why am I fascinated with bronze pumpkins from Cambodia and do I really need to keep 5 of them? This is a rhetorical question by the way. I'm keeping all of them.
-I really detest packing peanuts. Just saying.

Those are just the thoughts fit for publishing. You do not want to know what my inner middle school girl thinks about this upcoming move in the middle of the night......

Last week was our spring break. I had hoped to blog a bit more, and cook a bit more, and do a lot more than I did. But after the earthquake and tsunami, and the continuing wave of protests sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, what was there to say or do? So, since I am much better at thinking than writing or talking I did a lot of thinking.

On the weekend some friends who are also relocating to Tunisia stopped by for lunch. They had gone to Tunisia for a visit and we were eager to hear their thoughts and impressions.  Their words were reassuring and they coaxed out a bit of excitement in our girls. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. In honor of the citrus season that is winding to a close in Tunisia I made a bright and citrusy Grilled Chicken with Mojo Criollo. 

For those of you not familiar with Cuban cooking Mojo is a very common condiment, sauce, or marinade in the Cuban kitchen. It uses lots of orange juice, lime juice, garlic and a few other things. It is in a word easy, and works just as well with pork, and seafood as it does with chicken. It comes together in a flash, leaving you lots of time to be alone with your thoughts.

Grilled Chicken with Mojo Criollo
serves 6
12 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
1 1/2 cups of fresh squeezed orange juice from approximately 6-8 oranges
1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice from approximately 6 limes
1 whole head of garlic minced
1/4 cup of fresh oregano leaves lightly chopped
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Place the chicken in a container large enough to hold the chicken and the marinade in a shallow layer. You may need to use 2 containers.  In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients and whisk well to combine.  Pour all but 3/4 cup of marinade over the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours. Place the remaining marinade in the refrigerator.
Prepare your grill. Turn on all the burners of your gas grill to medium high and close the lid.  Allow to preheat for 10 minutes.  Turn off half the burners, this will create an oven effect in your BBQ.  Cooking times are approximate, the times I have given worked for the size of chicken thighs I used.  Cook your chicken until it is golden brown with good grill marks on the skin side, the juices run clear, and they reach an internal temperature of 165-170 F. Place the chicken on the hot side of the grill skin side down and close the lid for 3 minutes. Give the chicken a quarter turn, close the lid and cook another 2 minutes. This will make those great grill marks.  After 3 minutes flip the chicken and cook another 3 minutes with the lid closed.  Open the BBQ and move the chicken to the other side of the grill skin side up. Close the lid and cook an additional 10 minutes or until the juices run clear and they reach an internal temperature of 165-170 F.
Remove the thighs to a platter and tent with foil.  Meanwhile bring the reserved marinade to a boil. Boil until reduced by half, then brush on the chicken prior to serving.

Patty O'Brownies

Making new friends. Sometimes that is easier said than done.  Elementary school? If you just offer to share your crayons or your snack you have a best friend. Middle school, well that's a beast of a different color and we won't go into that trauma here. As an adult and you've moved halfway around the require nerves of steel, a little luck and perhaps a few gin and tonics.

I happened to not need the G&T's (well at least to not make friends) but fell into a big pot of lucky gold as far as friends go. One of these women who has blessed me with her friendship also happens to have a wicked sense of humor and is gifted in the hospitality department. Translation: she throws great parties.

This past weekend was her annual St. Patty's Day party.  Besides the wearin' o' the green, we feasted on Corned Beef sandwiches, a not so traditional but still green guacamole, Green Beer and Bog Margaritas (beer margaritas with a lot of green food coloring thrown in) and I brought along Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. I first found the recipe at Smitten Kitchen for a Guinness Stout cupcake with Irish Whiskey ganache filling and Bailey's Irish Cream frosting. That's a mouthful to type, but they've become a St. Patrick's Day staple around these parts, you should check them out.

And this year, in honor of the party on her newly renovated Patio, I made Irish Whiskey Brownies. Get it, Patty O'Brownies....They are deeply chocolaty, moist, and you get just a sense of the whiskey.  They're not boozy, the whiskey is just a background note breaking up the intensity of the chocolate.

For Lisa:
Irish Whiskey Brownies

The Brownie
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
9 tablespoons Irish Whiskey, such as Jameson’s
4 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
The Glaze
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a 9 inch baking pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler or a bowl set on top of a pan of barely simmering water, do not allow the bowl to touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the sugar in a medium size mixing bowl, and pour in the chocolate mixture. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla and 6 tablespoons of the Whiskey. With the mixer on, add the eggs one at a time until the yolk is just blended after each addition. Scrape the bowl and blend until the mixture is velvety.

Add the flour on low speed and mix for about 20 seconds. Finish the mixing with a rubber spatula, making certain to incorporate any flour at the bottom of the bowl.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake the brownies in the center rack of the oven until a thin crust forms on top and a tester inserted in the center come out with moist crumbs. 45-50 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and using a small pastry brush glaze the surface of the brownie with the remaining 3 tablespoons ofWhiskey. Allow to cool for at least one hour.

When the brownies are cool, prepare the glaze: Place the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips in a sauce pan. Over medium low heat melt them together. Stir until very smooth and shiny. This amount makes for a very thick layer of glaze, I only use half of the glaze and use the rest on ice cream.

Using a frosting spatula spread the glaze evenly over the surface of the brownie Place the pan in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours so the glaze will set and it is easier to cut the brownies’. Cut them into 1 ½ inch squares.


Many things have perplexed me over the years but this week topped them all. Okay, I may be overstating things. 

I do that sometimes.

Here are some of the things that cause me considerable thought and concentrated effort to understand.

Drivers in Singapore. I used to believe that no one should have told the Italians about the invention of the automobile. I was wrong. Driving in Singapore is not good for my soul. It would seem that the rules of the road here are merely suggestions. You can do whatever the heck you want to do as long as you put your flashers on.

Pirate Guy. We spend our summers in Bellingham Washington. It is a beautiful college town with sweeping views of Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands. We do have our fair share of quirky people, but that just give us character.  Every summer though I see the same guy dressed as a pirate. Why? Why a pirate? What does he dress as in the winter? It doesn't keep me up at night but it does make me wonder.

Paris Hilton.  I don't think I need to go into details here.

Which brings me to this week.  My daughter turned 16. How did that happen? Where did the time go? I found myself wondering, did I hold her enough, have I told her how extraordinary she is, does she really need to learn how to drive?

That wasn't what puzzled me. It was the request she made for her birthday cake. In preparation for her birthday dinner I had been looking at recipes and made a little list of some particularly scrumptious sounding cakes. There was this one from Epicurious, a Fudgy Chocolate Cake but I ruled it out because it used a cake mix and I wanted to make something homemade. Then there was Tyler Florence's Gooey, Decadent Chocolate Cake and even Ina's Beatty's Chocolate Cake  Any of which would have been fitting for such an occasion.  So which one did my lovely daughter choose?

A Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip cake mix and Rainbow Chip frosting from a can. It killed me to make it, but she giggled and clapped hands when she saw the mix at the store and after all, it was what she really wanted.

What's a mom to do? Happy 16th Birthday McKenna!  I hope the year ahead is as remarkable as you are!