Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows and Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Marshmallows


Peppermint marshmallows, two ways. I asked Kavi which she liked better, and she couldn’t decide — the peppermint swirl ones are more intensely peppermint; the chocolate-peppermint ones actually have more peppermint (same marshmallows, plus bits on top), but the dark chocolate has a strong enough presence that the overall effect is less peppermint-y.
 
Sometimes you just have to accept that you love them both, and it’s impossible to choose.   
 
*****
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 c. water
2 t. vanilla
1 t. peppermint extract
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
butter (for greasing the pan)
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar (about 1/2 c.)
a few drops of red food coloring
tempered chocolate for dipping (about 8 oz.)
crushed peppermints for topping
 
1. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with water, vanilla, and peppermint extract. Stir briefly to combine.
 
2. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.
 
3. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.
4. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes.
5. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan. Prepare an oiled spatula.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with the oiled spatula. (If making peppermint swirl, add a few drops of red food coloring and use a toothpick to swirl it around.)
7. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. (If making chocolate-peppermint, melt tempered chocolate, dip marshmallows, and set on wax paper. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints immediately, then let dry.
 
May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

Plurality U (and Facebook note)

(Meta note:  I mostly try to copy at least the most significant posts over from Facebook to here, but if it’s not clear, I’m mostly living my digital life on Facebook these days, and I just don’t have the time to copy all of the posts over.  So if you want to see all the Paris photos from the last few days, or the Mexico photos from last week with the family, etc., please do head over to my FB page.  Sorry!)

*****

I know you just want to see more of my Paris photos (gargoyles are coming! lots of gargoyles!) — but I need to wind down a little mentally first. I’m once again in this weird place where I’m having a very hard time deciding what I should work on.

– This weekend at Plurality U sparked a host of new ideas for projects, but none of them are my own fiction.

– Walking around Paris for a day actually did spark several good ideas for my own fiction.

– Spending a little time in the governance track at the U today reminded me that by now, I have a fairly developed skill set for governance, and I really would like this Plural U project to succeed, but getting involved with that aspect would take precious time. Maybe I can give them a year (by which I just mean a few meetings over the course of the year, hopefully, not an actual year of work) on the governance thing, just to help it start on the right foot? (How many boards can you sit on, Mary Anne? Be realistic here. No, really. I said REALISTIC.)

– I spent a little time just now reading about the current competitive field of trustees for the next Oak Park election (9 people running so far for 3 slots, and I know of at least 1 more), and while I’m not running this time around, it means that there’s a good chance that if I run in two years as planned, for trustee or village president, there will likely be serious competition necessitating a time-consuming campaign. I don’t have to run — but I am worried about most of the current slate of candidates, many of whom are clearly running on platforms that I do not support. There are 52,000 people living in Oak Park who depend on good governance, even if they’re mostly just living their lives and not paying attention to the decisions that are being made in the room…

I don’t expect you folks to give me any answers here. Just…feeling painfully torn.

This may be kind of the perpetual state from here to the end of my life?
Mortality, it is not very convenient when you have a lot of stuff you really want to get done. Is it time to start training my replacements yet? Training takes time too, but I will have to pass the torch eventually…

(Feeling so grateful to all the people who took over Strange Horizons after me and ran it so beautifully. Susan Groppi, Niall Harrison, Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, and all the rest of the staff over the last two decades — thank you thank you thank you for not dropping the baby.)

#PluralFutures

(This is the last conference photo, as Tomo Kihara and I walked to our Uber back to the hotel.)

 

Dark Caramel-Cashew Pralines

There is something pleasantly meditative about making sweets late at night, even if you burn the first batch a little. I forgot that my burners are misaligned and run hot (long story), so that even when I’m using my own recipe, I need to notch everything down a little — when I say ‘medium-high,’ I mean ‘medium’ on my own stove.

But it’s okay — milk toffee with cashews is still delicious even when it’s turned into dark caramel-cashew pralines. I wouldn’t serve it to Sri Lankans expecting our milk toffee, but otherwise, we’re good.

Welcome to Dystopia: Farewell

Pleased to note that trade paperback editions of Welcome to Dystopia are now available. I basically took some of my worst fears about the current administration we’re living in: raising a daughter whose reproductive rights are under threat, raising a brown-ish son, living as a naturalized citizen in America, etc. — I stuffed them all into one compact little story. Fun times!

“The noise at O’Hare is a dull roar of voices, rising and falling, dissolving into chaos. We must almost shout to hear each other, packed into long lines that press against each other, sticky in the June heat, waiting to get into the building.

My mother frowns, raising a folded newspaper over her head to block the relentless sun. “Keep Raj inside. You know how dark he gets at the end of the summer. He looks like such a blackie – he won’t be safe.”

“I know, Amma.” I wince to hear her use that term, but my mother is an old woman, and there’s only so much you can expect of her. And she’s not wrong – since the latest growth spurt, Raj could easily be mistaken for a young black man. Especially at night, should he venture into the wrong part of town. Lately, it seems like everywhere is the wrong part of town; John and I have started making Raj come straight home from school. It feels like we’re stealing away his childhood, what’s left of it.”

— “Farewell”

Melissa Elsmo Supper Club

On Friday night, I visited an Oak Park underground supper club. It’s called Kindred, and it’s someone cooking out of a private space; I gather this is quite a thing in big cities these days? But I’ve never been to one before, and it was fabulous. My favorite bite was perhaps the chicken sausage and sweet potato in the second course; my favorite presentation was probably the third course salad of edible flowers, micro greens, and soft cheesy dressing, served in a little glass cloche. But it was quite wonderful all around.

  

  

Usually Chef Melissa Elsmo does 12 courses; we only did 8, because we were intercutting it with the other event of the night, a powerful and moving storytelling session organized by Cynthia Martz. I was deliciously replete by the end, and also emotionally rejuvenated by the honest storytelling and warm fellowship of the women Cynthia brought together. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get it handed to you.

This was just splendid, and I’m hoping to take Kevin for supper there another time, perhaps for his birthday, if we can arrange 6 friends to come with us. (She also puts together blended tables, if you don’t have 8 people on hand.)

More about Melissa here: https://www.oakparkeats.com/…/meet-the-ope-t…/melissa-elsmo/

Find her on Facebook and send a message to reserve your spot!

Avocado-Mint

It was a very, very long week. Almost everything in it was good, but there was just too much of it. Today, I had just two meetings (both good), and planned to spend the rest of the day puttering. Then Kev reminded me that we needed to go look at cars, ugh, so we went. I know some people love shopping for cars, but that is not me — I just want a car that reliably works, that can safely haul all my stuff, and that I don’t have to think about.

It needed to be done, so I went, and then thankfully came home to watch dumb yet delightful holiday movies (currently The Princess Switch, which has no surprises in it whatsoever) and putter in the kitchen. Making soaps and sweets is all I want to do right now. I also have to do some e-mail, I’m afraid, but mostly, this weekend I am immersing myself in making little lovely things to sell at Pem Hessing‘s Colorful Holiday event coming up in a few weeks.

Pictured below, avocado-mint garden scrub. Coming soon, fairies trapped in sparkling crystal. Oh no! Who will release them? Kids, you better take your baths tonight…


Art and garden and writing, oh my

Plan for today — stop watching GBBO (Netflix, now was not the ideal time to drop season 6, I have things to do). Finish grading papers. Finish grading mid-terms. (I’m so close to done — why is the last hour always the hardest???)
 
At 11, go take a look at some possible spaces (some in Scoville Square, probably out of our price range, one just south of the highway on Oak Park Ave). Feel drowned in choices and possibilities, but hopefully in a good way.
 
12 – 2, monthly Garden Club meeting; I’ll probably be late, but I do want to stop by, at least. Today’s talk — “A Rose By Any Other Name” — Jack Shouba, on “The importance of scientific names.” I don’t actually know anything about this topic! Would like to learn.
 
Then prep for evening monthly writing workshop, more grading, work on condensing my scattered maker space notes into something coherent that I can hand to people, instead of the 20+ page monstrosity I have now.
 
Maybe write a little? Last night, I started work on the Domestic Resistance book, cutting and pasting my running for office posts into one file. That’ll form the core thread of the book, I think, balancing that with the political trauma of the last two years, and the domestic makings (cooking, gardening, time with family and friends) that keep me sane.
 
I’m having more novel thoughts too, off and on, esp. as I keep reading Jemisin’s work. She’s so good with the world building and really thinking through rich cultural elements — I’ve skimped on that on this first draft, and rather than just plowing forward with the plot, I kind of think I want to stop, go back, and really layer that through. The book will get more dense, but I think that’s a good thing. I also hope to find room for more dialogue and scenes of everyday life. If I write a novel that’s mostly people sitting around and talking to each other, you guys are okay with that, right?

Curried Tamarind Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Apples

I wasn’t sure if this would work, and I have to say, it’s a little nerve-wracking taking a great big pot of delicious pork curry and adding something to it that might ruin it….but I do love pork and apples and pork and sweet potatoes, so I thought maybe, just maybe, adding sweet potatoes and apples to my traditional Sri Lankan curried pork would work nicely. And it does!

Minor modifications — used apple cider vinegar instead of regular vinegar, added an extra cup of water when I added the sweet potatoes (just as the pork was becoming tender), because the sauce was getting a bit thick and I wanted to be sure there’d be enough liquid to cook the sweet potatoes, added the apples about 15 minutes after the sweet potatoes and cooked 15 minutes more — which was a little too much; they started to dissolve, but I just used the somewhat soft apples I had on hand. But with firm cooking apples, I think 15 minutes would be about right.

(1 1/2 hours, serves 6-8)

3 medium onions, chopped fine
1 TBL ginger, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, sliced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 TBL red chili powder
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
1/3 cup ketchup
1 T tamarind paste
1 heaping tsp salt
3 pieces cinnamon stick
3 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 dozen curry leaves
3 lbs pork shoulder, cubed, about 1 inch pieces
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 c. red wine
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 apples, cut into large chunks

1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed. Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately stir in curry powder, ketchup, tamarind, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and curry leaves.

2. Add pork and stir on high for a minute or two, browning the meat. Add vinegar & wine and stir well, scraping to deglaze pan. Cover, turn down to medium, and let cook one hour, stirring occasionally.

 

3. Add sweet potatoes, stir well, and cover again (adding water if needed). After fifteen minutes, stir in apples, cover again. Cook until sweet potatoes are cooked through, adding water if needed to maintain a nice thick sauce (and to keep food from burning), stirring occasionally. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Weekend Cooking

If I make them every week, eventually I will be able to make them perfectly every time, right? Sometimes my batter is too thin, or too thick, or not fermented enough. Out of a dozen hoppers this morning, this was the only one I liked the look of enough to photograph.

They were all excellent to eat, though. Jed had his with leftover saag and the last of this week’s batch seeni sambol. Kevin and I had ours with leftover lamb vindaloo. The kids tried them with maple syrup — Kavi didn’t like it, but she doesn’t like anything she eats this weekend, so we’ll try again. Anand only liked the lacy crispy bit, not the spongy sourdough part. If I make them every weekend, though, they are going to learn to love them, right? Well, we’ll see.

#weekendsareforhoppers

Make

There was a moment in grad school. Kevin and I had split up and I was desperately broken-hearted. I’d been getting up at 4 a.m. every morning to an alarm because it was the best time for me to concentrate, when the world was dark and still, writing by the light of a candle. I’d gotten about halfway through drafting Bodies in Motion at that point; I had been working so hard, for so long. I loved the book, but I was otherwise very tired and very sad. I cried all the time.

There came a day when I just couldn’t stare at the computer screen any longer. I found myself — and I honestly don’t even remember making the decision to go — at the art store, ringing up $200 of supplies (money I didn’t really have, but I just didn’t care). I came home and I made things — candles and collages mostly. They weren’t very good but I needed to do something that wasn’t just brain work, that didn’t require so much deliberate thought. I needed to use my hands. It helped. (My mother still has the candle I made her that year. She thinks it is too pretty to light it.)

• Welcome to Memoir
• Designing in Inkscape for Cricut
• Survival Cooking

I was talking to Jed a few nights ago, trying to explain why I haven’t been able to let go of the idea of the maker space, even though it takes lots of time that would perhaps be otherwise spent on writing (I am still writing, but inevitably slower than I would normally be).

• Fix Your Own Garbage Disposal!
• Checklist for a Renovation
• Visible (Beautiful) Mending

I did try to set the makerspace aside, over and over, for the last few years. I told myself, “This would be a nice retirement project, but first, write the damn novel.” Then I’d find myself scouting out spaces, or making workshop lists again, or thinking about whom I knew that had skills they could teach. (Lots of people, it turns out. Lots and lots.)

• Stop-Motion Animation with Legos
• Intro to Weaving on the Rigid Heddle Loom
• Botanical Soaps and Candles

Workshops I wanted to teach, workshops I wanted to take. And many of these don’t fit neatly into some conceptions of a ‘makerspace,’ but to me, these are all making. Making with hands and mind and generous creative hearts.

• Getting Started with Arduino Controllers
• Firespinning!
• Drawing Comics

A friend just offered to pass along some shoes for Kavi, and she didn’t want money for them. I am going to leave her some handmade soap and caramels and a book. Gift economy, and how much more satisfying that is.

• 3D Print a Custom Drop Spindle
• Planting a Wildlife-Friendly Garden
• Jewelry Making with Resin

I am not quite old enough to be focused on my legacy yet, but the thought does pop up now and again. I’ve done some good things in politics, and hope to do more. I’ve done some good things for science fiction and fantasy too, and ditto. But if I can leave behind a thriving Oak Park makerspace, one that might even (a girl can dream) spin-off into Austin and Berwyn locations too, encouraging collaboration, artistic expression, and entrepreneurship throughout our community, bridging silos and ending isolation — that would be a legacy to be really proud of.

• Worm Composting
• Knitting with LEDs
• 3D Printing for Cosplay

I can just see it, humming with life, in my mind. A makerspace, an artist shop, a free art supply exchange, cafe and lounge, co-working space, an artist residency program, low-income artist housing, and more. I hope we can make it happen.

• Stained Glass using the Copper Foil Technique
• Songwriting
• Welcome to Podcasting

(Pictured, dried marigold petals harvested from my garden for marigold-turmeric soap, made with a coconut milk base, unscented. I’ll be selling them at Pem Hessing’s Colorful Holiday fair, featuring the work of makers of color in our community, Saturday 12/15, 10 – 3:30. I’ll also be donating some to the Garden Club holiday sale, where they’ll be incorporated into hostess gift baskets to be raffled off at the December meeting, to support club activities. We’re hoping to host a fundraiser for the makerspace in December as well — details soon.)

• Art Journaling
• Resume Writing
• Crowdfunding for Beginners