I can’t even begin to know what to say about the Sandyhook Elementary tragedy. There are neither adequate words, nor ways to put them together that could express what I think the nation feels. Kind of like how in some religions, there is no spelling for “god”; because such a force cannot be bound by human methods of expression. Here, there is nothing-no words, sounds, images-that could convey the depth of sorrow, disgust and bafflement in response to the tragedy. So you do what you can do and hug those you love. That’s right. Hugs do everything words, sounds and images can’t. And cookies–but only to drown your own sorrows. I suppose a pint of Ben and Jerry’s get’s the job done too.
I little story to lift the spirits: Guardian ad Litem, for those of you not familiar with the organization, is one that provides advocates for minors in abusive or neglectful situations. The volunteers visit the children once they are placed in foster or some other safe care to see how they are doing, if they need anything (and I mean anything-clothing, glasses, school supplies, mental or other health care, etc.) and-most importantly-to acknowledge their desires. Do they have siblings in other foster houses? It’s our job to make sure they can visit them. Do they want to see their Grandma? Go to the zoo? Want a PS2? Done.
Every Christmas, Guardian ad Litem partners with its sponsors to buy gifts for the kids. Guardians themselves aren’t allowed to directly buy the kids anything (much to my dismay, because it applied to baked goods), but it’s our job to find out what they want. So, when I went to my girl, I was expecting at least an iPod, or a cell phone. Hell, Hello Kitty pajamas. Something. Nope. She couldn’t think of anything. So I had to. I thought a Kindle would be super cool. She’s a music buff, and she could download music books without all the clutter. So I put in the request.
On the pick-up date, I parked my now-totaled car a good walk from the place. I figured it wouldn’t matter because all I was picking up was a Kindle. My case coordinator met me inside.
“Did you bring your car?”, she asked
“Where’d you park it?”
“Behind the building”, I answered
“Why don’t you park it up here, with the rest of the Guardians.”, she suggested
I looked outside and noticed that there was indeed a special area for Guardians. Fancy.
“I’ll go grab Andrew to help carry things out.”, she said.
“Am I picking up for other families?”, I inquired.
She smiled conspiratorially. “Nope. Just go get your car.”
I did. And when I pulled up, she and Andrew (another case coordinator) were walking out with piles of gifts balanced in their arms. Like. Piles.
“Which one’s yours?” she asked
I pointed. She looked worried.
“I can always make two trips, right?” I asked
She nodded and seemed satisfied, stuffing what she had into my back seat, and Andrew stuffing gifts in my trunk. *No gifts were damaged in the stuffing of this delivery*
I could not believe the astounding show of generosity by those who donated their time, energy and dollars for all of the children administered a Guardian. She didn’t ask for anything. I was the one who had to come up with something, and here everyone thought to give her, literally, a carload of gifts. I was on the verge of tears. And dancing.
I arrived at my girl’s house the next morning and knocked on her door. And waited. Knocked again. And waited. Texted, got no reply, and waited. Okay, my style was being cramped just a little. Until she finally answered and I told her to get her slippers on and come help me unload stuff. She looked at me funny.
“Stuff…?” she murmured.
I beamed. “Come, chitlin’. And prepare to dance.”
She was floored. Well. As floored as a groggy teenager can be at 10:00 am. She seemed in a daze making several trips to and from the car, carrying her gifts into her house. There was no tree, so we put it at the foot of a green La-Z-Boy.
Just the thought of the generosity of people who didn’t even know her-didn’t know of her humbleness and humility; of her quiet kindness and intelligence; of her resounding strength; of her talent, her patience and wisdom. These people knew she was facing things that no teenager should ever have to face, and that was enough. Enough to part with the money that they worked so hard to earn, and that now couldn’t be spent on something for themselves.
That is what it means to be human: compassion, empathy, kindness, generosity. Reason…sometimes…but really, it is these attributes that distinguish us from the rest of the species out there (not saying we’re better–because let’s face it: cheetahs are way cooler that us).
Oh, yeah. And I made cookies.
I frequent a sushi joint and a frozen yogurt joint at least 3 times a week (what?! You tell me it’s better to be spending that time and money at some shady bar with a sticky floor and bar stools of lost hopes and dreams!) to the point where the entire staff knows me. Mama Tsu tells me “how beautiful” I am, and how much she loves the drawings I leave on the check. Andy the server is always there to offer conversation, and Jo makes some of the best damn sushi I’ve ever had–though he’s never said a word; but he always gives me more tuna than anyone else and never skimps on the ginger.
The guys (and gals) at the yogurt place always smile and say hi when I walk in–and it’s genuine. I spark up meaningless conversation about the flavors, my hair, the weather, and Mitch Headberg. They always leave me to my yogurt without it being awkward even if I’m the only one there, and they, without fail, tell to have a “Smiley Evening” even though I never have cash on me to tip them.
The cookies are for them.
They are the people who I see on a weekly basis that truly brighten my day. People that are awesome just because. And people who seem to really love what they do. These are the people that remind us that humanity isn’t all that bad.
So, Cheers, guys. Way to be.
Awesome Sushi Jelly Roll Thingies
I’d like to point out that although I had access to an entire binder of secret French Culinary Institute recipes, in which was a recipe for biscuit joconde….I was too lazy to go upstairs and get it. This recipe came from here.
1/3 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons cake flour
2 egg whites
1 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and prepare a sheet pan (your standard jelly roll stainless steel sheet pan) with either a silpat or parchment paper (no greasing, folks. You really do need the heavy duty not-sticking-even-if-you-were-Ryan-Goseling-and-had-just-asked-me-to-be-your-girlfriend.)
2. Whisk the egg white and regular sugar until stiff peak stage
3. Set aside the whites for a hot minute and combine the almond meal, confectioners’ sugar and egg.
4. Fold in a third of the whites to the almond mixture (was that proper grammar? Oh, well. I talk good days in four of a week and when then I am sitting during a class.)
5. Once the mixture is lightened, add the remainder of the whites and fold.
6. Add the butter, fold and turn out onto the prepared sheet pan.
7. Bake for about 2-3 minutes. Trust me: any longer and you get a fine almondy cracker.
8. Remove immediately from the baking sheet to stop the cooking process
3/4 cup Chocolate chips of your choice
1 tablespoon Vegetable shotening
1. Combine and microwave on high for about a minute (if you’re using anything but semi-sweet morsels, check every 15-30 seconds)
1/2 cup Apple jelly
1. Heat that shizznit up til’ it’s melted (about 30 seconds on high)
1. Once the joconde is cool, cut it in half horizontally and spread on a thin layer of that awesome you-have-to-admit-it’s-pretty-damn-good store-bought frosting (both halves…not necessarily at the same time)
2. Roll horizontally and chill for an hour.
3. Cut the rolls like a roll of sugary sushi (about an inch in length each)
4. Dip the bottom in the chocolate, then paint-yes paint-the jelly on all exposed cake…wouldn’t want it going all stale.
*I used a cheapy craft paint brush with nice soft bristles.*
1/2 cup Butter
1/4 cup Flour
1/2 cup Ground almonds
3/4 cup Confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 Egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a mini muffin tin (or these awesome tiny tart molds) by spraying lightly with non-stick spray
2. Brown the butter in a saucepan…that’s like saying take a shower in…the shower.
*Bring the butter to a boil on medium high heat and cook until the color of peanut butter and fragrant*
3. Combine the flour, almonds, sugar, salt, vanilla and egg whites, and beat until everything is all…gooey
4. Add the browned butter, and stir-CAREFULLY-to combine. I got a not-so-awesome browned butter facial but not being careful. On the upside, I’m glowing.
5. Transfer to the prepared baking vessel(s) and bake for about 10-ish minutes, or until they look pregnant (the center bubbles up) and the edges are slightly darkened
6. After they’ve cooled, you can pull the same trick with the joconde and brush on some jelly (apple or otherwise-I used strawberry)
Recipe from here
Tiny Green Cakes!
1/4 recipe of Pandan butter cake (add a 1/4 teaspoon Pandan extract)
1. Spread the batter on a Silpatted or parchmented standard jelly roll pan and bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes (until no longer glistening)
2. Remove and allow to cool BEFORE removing the cake. Or else it’ll crack.
3. Once cooled, cut into four sections horizontally and layer with the jam (don’t spread a layer of jam on the top)
4. Chill for an hour, then cut into squares-size to your liking (I did about a square inch)
5. Melt the icing and dip the tiny cakes’ sides (don’t worry about the bottom or top)
6. Top those suckers with something perrty.