Monday, November 29, 2010

Turtle-y enough for the Turtle Club.

The inverse relationship between form and function is well-documented when it comes to clothes. Are my flannel pajamas and shearling moccasins the most deliciously cozy items to ever adorn my person? Probs. Am I going to be successful/generally perceived as attractive if I wear them around on the daily? Doubtful. It's unfortunate, but unavoidable: stilettos will always trump slippers in the game of life (which is why I bought two pairs of stilettos today. Leopard-print calf hair pumps and gray suede ankle booties. Casual bankruptcy, don't worry about it).

You may or may not have realized, however, that a similar pattern arises with desserts. Close your eyes and conjure up a memory of the best cookie you ever ate. Is it a perfectly formed, wafer-thin, painstakingly embellished tea cookie? Also doubtful. The best cookies are the homely ones: the monster mounds of butter and sugar and oats and nuts and gooey baking morsels in your flavor of choice; the ones that look more like turds than like tulips. Cupcakes more readily lend themselves to kitsch, but even they require you to stay en garde (spoiler alert! Fondant flowers are not as tasty as buttercream rosettes). I generally find that the tastier the dessert, the uglier the presentation. It's fine. I'm over it. I'm willing to occasionally sacrifice my sense of sight for my sense of taste.

Imagine my delight, however, to discover a recipe that manages to straddle the line between "cookies to look at" and "cookies to devour until you can no longer zip up your J. Brand jeans." These turtle thumbprints nail the hearty texture of an ugly cookie with all the charm of a lemon wreath or almond sand dollar. These cookies are winners. You might, in fact, say that all they do is win. Feel like winning today? Set out a stick of butter. Take a preemptive spin on the elliptical. And prepare yourself for several hours of assembling:

Turtle Thumbprints

After making my daily blog rounds in search of a dessert that would satiate my pregnancy-caliber chocolate cravings (reasons I should never have children), I decided on these because a) they're so darn cute and b) I had all of the ingredients in my kitchen. Yep, I've become the kind of person who has things like heavy cream and semi-sweet baking chips on hand pre-grocery run. Sign me up for the nunnery. Anyway, I'm not gonna lie: these are labor-intensive. But if I, former domestic rogue and relative kitchen novice, can turn them out à la the above photos, so can you. Recipe adapted from Baked Bree.

1 egg
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 caramels
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/4 finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Separate the egg. Reserve both parts (the yolk you'll use now, but the white you won't need until later).
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Combine the cocoa, flour and salt in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for two hours.
3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is heating, roll the dough into balls about one inch in diameter. Whip the reserved egg white until foamy. Roll the dough balls in the egg whites, then in the chopped pecans (I had a nice little system going where one hand dealt with the egg white and the other hand dealt with the pecans. Kept my whites from getting chunky and my nuts from getting eggy. Highly recommend it). Place the balls about an inch and a half apart on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Using your thumb, press to form a well in each cookie. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until cookies have set (I always figure it's better to underbake than to overbake and burn, so I went for the lesser cook time).
4. While the cookies are baking, place the caramels and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until fully melted. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack (slip a sheet of waxed paper underneath to facilitate clean-up) and fill immediately with caramel.
5. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in the same 30-second intervals. Add the oil. Drizzle over cookies using a fork or a pastry bag (do
not try to use a regular Ziploc bag with molten chocolate. It will burst. Fortunately, I didn't make this mistake because I'm really good at Googling, and because I also have pastry bags in my pantry. FML). Makes about two dozen cookies.

Apparently they freeze like a dream, so grab a few to enjoy with your afternoon tea and pop the rest in the freezer for the next time an epic chocolate craving strikes. Or, if you lack self-control, Cady Heron that shit and dutifully tote them along to work to fatten up your co-workers (total frenemy move. Jaykay, guys!). Or bring them as a really impressive housewarming gift to your next holiday party. The possibilities are endless!!!!!11!!!11

P.S. Decided to keep the blog title as is. I may not currently be a redhead, but I will always be a ginger.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fake it 'til you make it.

I have an exceptionally low tolerance for things that are fake. Fake people, fake Christmas trees, fake designer handbags, fake orgasms (don't be a quitter. You're only cheating yourself), fake conversations. You get the picture. With the exception of faux fur and the occasional diet Coke, I pride myself on only engaging in those pleasures in life that are 100% gin-u-wine.

Then, at an undisclosed point in the past week, my blog's title became wildly inaccurate.

And I joined the mighty legions of the bottle brunettes.

I know my ginger locks were rare and supposedly enviable. But they had been rare and enviable for upward of 21 years when I finally decided to do what I've been talking about since my junior year of high school and sample life as a sultry brownie. I've gotta say, guys: I don't know if I can ever go back. Ginger prejudice is real, y'all, and I didn't even know it until I was no longer on the receiving end. Strangers understand my sarcastic jokes better now that I'm a brunette. I get hit on less (in a good way). I no longer have to subconsciously match my clothes to my hair. This is the Em Aub Rob you're looking at for the foreseeable future, so you had better get used to it.

So here's the pressing issue: what shall I re-christen my blog?! La Vie en Chestnut? La Vie en Cinnamon? La Vie en Ginger[bread]? Sound off in the comments, please! I'm desperate for suggestions from minds more clever than my own.

Yesterday's Thanksgiving came hot on the heels of one hell of a fall. The past few months have tested me in ways I never imagined possible, but they have also taught me more about priorities and friendship and the strength of my own character than I could have hoped to glean from less trying times. As I sat down to consider my many blessings yesterday - family, friends, this vintage Ferragamo sweater I snapped up for less than the price of a Whole Foods grocery run - I was reminded to be thankful for the eternal possibility of change. Be it a new hair color, a paradigm shift or simply a switch in your daily coffee order, sometimes a new you can help you feel more like your old self than ever. And like all the best things in life, it doesn't cost a penny.

Sweater: Salvatore Ferragamo.
Dress: I Love H81.
Tights: L'Eggs.
Shoes: Zara.
Headband: Aldo.
Earrings: H&M.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Find your center.

OMFG WHAT I HAVE A BLOG?! Yeah, sorry about that. High time I stopped living my life and got back to writing about it instead. Rude of me. Won't happen again.

Today I felt like Moses. Wanna know why?

Because I parted the red sea. Right. Down. The middle (that last part was meant to be said in a Lindsay-Lohan-circa-Parent-Trap voice, obvs. 4:40. Warning: You may be tempted to stop whatever you're doing to re-watch this entire movie and weep for Lindsay's career trajectory/general life choices. I support this decision).

People are quick to pin the blame for middle parts on Gossip Girl, but for me, the clincher was The City (New York, what do you have to say for yourself?). Serena van der Woodsen's bouncy golden locks may have lit the spark, but Whitney Port's long, face-framing waves escalated it to SoCal forest fire levels (let the record show that I am making this insensitive pun at a time when there are no actual forest fires in Southern California).

Whit wasn't the only City cast member to make me swoon over symmetry.

I'm a tad bit obsessed with The Liv. Her whole entitled-uptown-bitch act totally makes me hard in a girl-crushin', wanna-be-ya kind of way (not that I would ever speak to any senior co-worker the way she does to Erin Kaplan. Or any subordinate co-worker, for that matter. Oh, hi future employers!). What can I say? I'm gay for a fierce strut and a well-honed bitchface. Olivia may be utterly useless in her fake job at Elle, but her hair is certainly fodder for some maj middle part inspiration. Or at least the purchase of a wide-barreled curling iron. Excuse me, I have to go practice my jaw clench in the mirror now.

For anyone who, like me, struggles with a widow's peak and an obnoxious cowlick that makes it all but impossible to make bangs lie flat, the middle part is a godsend. There's no better way to instantly smooth a rebellious hairline. I'm also way into the boho '70s thing right now, which pairs perfectly with a center part and long, loose waves (see: Hudson, Kate).

The catch? While a side part draws attention to your eyes, a middle part brings the focus right. Down. The middle (to your nose). Not something I'm particularly excited about. Not something many of us are particularly excited about, I would imagine. Even if you don't have a well-seasoned beef with your schnozz, it's likely that, if given the choice, you'd sooner showcase your peepers. A strong brow and some liquid liner can help offset the effects, but it's hard to commit to starting off your beauty regime climbing uphill.

So do we sacrifice the close-up for the sake of the overall silhouette? Unless you're a rare beauty with a tiny, perfect sniffer, it would seem these are our options. Exhibit Z bearing witness to why life just isn't fair. If if makes you feel any better, it wasn't any more fair at the birth of Venus, either.

Really, Botticelli? Goddess of beauty? Even the mighty Aphrodite is struggling to pull off this look, so don't be disheartened if your mortal strands aren't up to the task. Think of it as a system of checks and balances put into place so that your beauty doesn't become too overpowering. Or something. Then choose wisely as to which days you're willing to sacrifice your face for your hair. And if you're Olivia Palermo, just keep doin' whatchu do.