Blueberry-Swirled Soursop Marshmallows

  (45 minutes + cooling time, makes about 50)

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup water
1/2 c. soursop puree (from frozen is fine)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
butter (for greasing the pan)
blueberry simple syrup for marbling:
– 1 c. blueberries
– 1/2 c. granulated sugar
– 1/2 c. water

1. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with soursop puree. 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, granulated 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, make simple syrup. Bring 1 c. blueberries, 1/2 c. granulated sugar, and 1/2 c. water to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring, then pour through a sieve. You’ll only need a few teaspoons of syrup; the rest of the berry mixture and syrup can be reserved for adding to yogurt, ice cream, spreading on toast, etc.

 

6. Butter a large 9 x 12 pan and dust with powdered sugar. Prepare an oiled spatula.

7. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with an oiled spatula. Add a few drops of blueberry syrup scattered across the top and drag a knife through the marshmallow, lengthwise and crosswise, to create a marbled effect.

8. Dust the top with enough of the remaining powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

9. Turn onto a board, cut into squares and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

Chocolate-Tamarind-Chili Marshmallows

When the kids have gone to bed, the grown-ups get their own marshmallows; tangy-sweet tamarind at the forefront with just a hint of chili at the end, dipped in luscious bittersweet chocolate.

1/2 c. tamarind puree
1/2 t. raw red chili powder or cayenne
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
butter (for greasing the pan)
14 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
edible gold stars and crushed red pepper for decorating

1. Combine tamarind puree with chili powder. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with tamarind-chili puree. 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, granulated 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 and dust with powdered sugar. Prepare an oiled spatula.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with an oiled spatula.

7. Dust the top with enough of the remaining powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. 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 remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

9. If dipping, melt chocolate (either in microwave on 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, or over double boiler), stir until smooth. Dip each marshmallow and let dry on waxed paper. Immediately sprinkle after dipping (you can dip the whole set first) with crushed red pepper and edible gold stars.

Strawberry and Soursop Marshmallows

Fruity with just a hint of tang, these are the marshmallows of summer. They’re the ones I’d make for a child’s birthday party — Kavya loves them best of all the ones I’ve made so far. Sweet enough to please the kids, but light and fruity enough to delight adults as well.

Soursop (also known as guanabana, custard apple, and Brazilian pawpaw) tastes something like a cross between strawberry and pineapple, with just a hint of banana. In northern America, your best chance at finding it is probably in Mexican grocers; look for frozen purees. Combine with fresh strawberries for a delicious treat!

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup water
1/4 c. soursop puree (from frozen is fine)
1/4 c. strawberry puree
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
butter (for greasing the pan)
red food coloring (optional)

1. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with soursop and strawberry purees. 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, granulated 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. Add food coloring, if using, during this stage.

5. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan and dust with powdered sugar. Prepare an oiled spatula.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with an oiled spatula.

7. Dust the top with enough of the remaining powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. 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 remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

   

Summer Schedule

Thinking about my upcoming summer, getting writing done. I think I’m going to try to start each week by planning out what I’ll write when. I’m going to aim for spending two hours every morning writing, whatever else is going on, and if I accomplish that, great. If I want to keep writing, that’s bonus. I will try to take an actual hour-long lunch break, even if the writing is going well, to stretch and clear my head. Afternoons for domestic / cooking / reading / relaxing. Evenings for the kids, and then check in to see if I want to write more after they’ve gone to sleep, because that’s another 2-3 hour stretch, and often, that’s a good writing time for me. But if I want to hang out with Kev instead, or knit and watch tv, that’s fine too. And I’m going to plan out what I’m actually working on in advance, rather than feeling paralyzed by choice.
 
I looked at this week just now, and it looks like this:
 
***
 
Monday: Go to airport @ 9:30, settled into a cafe by 10:30. Revise “Moon Maid” for George, and send to him by 4. Yes, I’m already breaking my pattern, but it’s a travel day, and travel is weird. Flight home @ 5, rest and relax with family in evening. (I’m going to the airport that early to save the con staff an hour-long extra trip to take me; I can work in an airport cafe just as easily as a hotel cafe.)
 
Tuesday: No writing in morning — doctor appointment which takes priority. Health trumps everything. Then drop off two baskets’ worth of supplies to the Garden Club, spend an hour helping them make baskets for the raffle. Go into campus, lunch with a colleague, pick up student portfolios, finish grading by end of day. Summer doesn’t really start until grading is in, and I’m going to try not to procrastinate it this year.
 
Wednesday: Real start to summer schedule. 7:30 – 9:30: Work on revising “Flight” to novella-length (I’m cutting down 80,000 words to 40,000; it’s going to be an adventure). 9:30 – 10:30: Decorate hat with fresh flowers from the garden for the ‘parade of hats.’ 11 – 2: Garden Club spring luncheon. Evening: go into city for book launch of Good Company at The Book Cellar.
 
Thursday: 7:30 – 9:30: Work on revising “Flight” to novella-length. 10:00 – 11:00: Therapist appointment. Afternoon: Make strawberry-soursop marshmallows, and tamarind-ginger-chili marshmallows. Think about intergalactic chef / florist story, maybe sketch some of it out.
 
Friday: 8:30 – 9:30 coffee with Capuder (kids’ principal). 9:30 – 11:30: Work on revising “Flight” to novella-length. Clean house, get set up for evening. 7 – 10: Host OPALGA potluck.
 
*****
 
So that’s only hosting one event (good), going to four things (more than optimal, need to watch that), and lots of moving things around to make it work, which is not ideal; better to get into a routine. But it takes time to settle into things — hopefully the following week I can do a better job of protecting that 7:30 – 9:30 time slot for writing.

Intentionality

I want to be less haphazard about my writing, more intentional, on various fronts. What I work on, when I work on it, and when I do other activities that take time away from writing / family, which have to be the main priorities.

WHAT I WRITE AND WHEN:

Part of the problem is that I write in multiple genres, which means I have to read in multiple genres and I love reading but it is time consuming, and it also works best if I immerse in a genre for at least a little while, reading at least 3-5 things, so I can start making connections between them. And when I’m jumping around between things (for both writing and reading), my brain starts getting really stressed and anxious, trying to keep track of everything, so I think focusing down would help.

So I have sent some WisCon workshopping friends the opening 15K of the new SF novel, and we’ll workshop it at WisCon at the end of May. June I’m going to dedicate to trying to finish a full draft of that novel (need at least 50K more words, but working full-time, that should be feasible.) July, I’d like to go back to the memoir; I have a ton of material that needs to be drastically reorganized and knocked into shape. August, it would be nice to actually be on vacation, before the semester starts up again in mid-August. Two weeks with no writing expectations would be good for me, I think, and I tend to get so anxious about the start of school and the summer days slipping away that I have a hard time concentrating to write anyway. That leaves May for finishing up one Wild Cards story, drafting another, and either continuing the mainstream YA novel or drafting this new middle grade fantasy novel. Or both? And then slip in short stories and food writing here and there all summer, when I need a break from books. Okay, that’s a plan.

SCHEDULE:

May: Wild Cards (2 stories due), mainstream YA novel, middle-grade fantasy, food writing

June: SF novel, short stories in that universe, food writing

July: memoir, lit fic short stories, food writing

Aug: vacation

TRAVEL:

I’ve also been thinking a lot about what takes me away from writing. I love to travel, but it’s inevitably disruptive. Maybe I need to take a break from it for a while, or at least limit it severely. Six trips / year? If there’s one to visit Kev’s parents and one to visit mine, that doesn’t leave much room for conference travel, but maybe that’s what needs to happen. I already have more than that scheduled for this year — I think 7 total at the moment, but I can put a hard lock on it now, and try to pull back in 2019.

OTHER ACTIVITIES:

Similarly, I need to be more careful about local events, esp. ones I’m hosting. I hate to say no, when there are so many interesting things that people are doing, and I want to come out and support, but time is limited. It just is. Attending one event / week, and hosting one event / month? Is that a reasonable limit? Maybe I’ll try it for the summer and see how it goes.

Cancer Log 201: Capacity

It seems like I should be done keeping a cancer log at this point, years out of treatment, but I occasionally run into weird things in my brain that I think are probably related to cancer.

I’ve always said, since college anyway, that I wanted to live my life as if I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. (That prospect is a lot more terrifying now that I have children, because of what the consequences of my death would be for them.) Both then and now, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of saying yes to experiences, choosing to do and pursue the things I deeply wanted, not letting fear stop me. It’s a pretty fundamental part of my character, I think, to try to live as fully as I can.

Where that intersects with cancer, though, is I think that tendency has ramped up since the diagnosis. My first thought on diagnosis was the kids. I got the call at work, at the end of the day. I sat in my office, shaking, not feeling safe to try driving home yet, imagining what I would put in the videos I would make for them, all the mother-wisdom I would try to pack in, so they’d have it when they needed it, when I wasn’t there.

The second thought was about the books. All the books I hadn’t written. Isaac Asimov wrote over a hundred books; supposedly when he was interviewed late in life, the interviewer asked what he would do if he only had a little time left to live, and Asimov said, “Write faster.” I drove home eventually, sat next to Kevin on the couch, silently pressing my body into his, imagining all the books I wouldn’t get to write.

Then there was treatment, which took all the time and energy for a year and then some. And then I got back to writing, and since then, I have been writing and writing and starting gazillion projects and finishing some of them and not finishing others and it’s all kind of a mess right now. I hired a part-time assistant and then I hired another one (for just a few hours a week, to do different things), and slowly, I’ve been catching up on all the backlog, and getting back to writing properly again.

I’ve been running flat out, and there are days, weeks, when I wake up in the morning and I’m just going from morning to night, crash in bed, repeat the next day. I take a little NyQuil to keep me asleep most nights these days, because otherwise my brain is racing too much and I wake up over and over. That’s new since the cancer.

The good thing about hiring assistants to make time to write is that they do a lot of the household chores and SLF tasks and so I do have more time to write. But writing, it turns out, is exhausting. It is mentally and physically and sometimes emotionally draining, and if I try to do more than 3-4 hours of it a day, the writing suffers and I feel horrible.

Hiring assistants has helped me become more productive, but I am also paradoxically more tired, I guess because there was some mental rest and downtime built into the tasks that they’re doing now. I would watch tv while doing laundry, and now, I’m working in that time instead, and at the end of the day, I’m more tired than I was before.

All of this makes me a worse parent too, exhausted and too drained to want to play with the kids, and if I say, “I have to work,” to Anand one more time, I’m going to cry.

My dad worries that I work too much. I tell him I’m fine, and I am basically fine, but he’s also probably right. The urgency that is driving me to produce produce produce is also driving me to exhaustion, and I have got to figure out how to do a better job of resting.

I love my work. I love it to pieces. I am happiest when I am working to capacity, but I just can’t do that all the time, because then I fall down. I got to this convention, and I had planned to write today, but I basically checked into my hotel room, took off my pants, and climbed into bed for the rest of the day. I did a little work from bed, but just e-mail, nothing creative. The well is dry.

I need to work to capacity, but not past capacity. I need to allow time to refresh capacity. Without feeling guilty that someone else is doing my chores and I’m just…sitting there? Reading a book, taking a nap.

I’ll figure this out, but none of it is as simple as I want it to be. And I am terrified that I will fail to write my books. I wrote one book I’m really happy with, Bodies in Motion. I was satisfied by that. I managed another eventually, The Stars Change. (It’s not perfect, but it does most of what I wanted it to do.) But there are least 3-4 more books in my head that I have not managed to get out properly yet, probably more like a dozen, and it’s making me a little crazed. If the bus hits tomorrow, I’m going to be furious.

The only real solution is to get the work done, but I have GOT to pace myself.

Middle

Folks, there is something wrong with me. I just looked up how long a middle grade book is — about 15K – 35K — and I am having the worst temptation to try to draft one this weekend while I’m out of town. I already have ENOUGH writing projects.

I just want to write something for Kavya to read. Something with a Sri Lankan-American girl and magic in, ideally with unicorns, because she is unicorn-obsessed at the moment. I have other writing projects; I have a host of them. But the temptation to try to knock this out right now is STEEP.

I am going to stall it by reading one of her favorite middle-grade books first, The Menagerie, book 1. That’ll help, right?

Detroit

I head to Detroit for PenguiCon tomorrow — hope to see some of you there! My schedule below (the link has a fancier version).

Friday, May 4
– 6 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies

Saturday, May 5
– 1 p.m.: Writing Excuses Podcast
– 2 p.m.: Teams & Types
– 3 p.m.: Code of Conduct
– 6 p.m.: Writing Productivity

Sunday, May 6
– 10 a.m.: Crowdfunding for Creatives
– 12 p.m.: Writing Excuses Reading
– 3 p.m.: Closing Ceremonies

Fizzy Ginger Beer-Lime-Arrack Marshmallows

(45 minutes + cooling time, serves dozens)

Inspired by a classic Sri Lankan cocktail made with ginger beer, lime, and arrack, a bourbon-like liquor derived from coconut flowers.

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. ginger juice
1/4 c. lime juice
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 c. ginger beer
1/4 c. arrack
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
butter (for greasing the pan)
green food coloring (optional)
1/2 c. culinary crystals (optional)
crystallized ginger, chopped fine (optional)
crystallized lime, cut into thin wedges (optional)

1. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with ginger juice and lime juice. 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, granulated 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. Watch carefully to ensure it doesn’t overheat.

3. Add ginger beer and arrack, which will reduce the temperature; continue simmering until it returns to soft ball stage / 240 degrees. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.

4. 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.

5. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes. Add food coloring, if using, during this stage.

6. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan and dust with powdered sugar. Prepare an oiled spatula.

7. Turn mixer to low and add culinary crystals, stirring for a few moments to blend. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with an oiled spatula.

8. Top with crystallized ginger and lime if desired, pressing in slightly. Dust the top with enough of the remaining powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

9. Turn onto a board, cut into squares and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.