Monday, September 28, 2009

Worth the Tears

In honor of our first real fall weather on Sunday I decided to make some autumn comfort food: French Onion Soup. I’d never made this soup myself before, but as it is one of my favorites I thought I should at least give it a try!

I started the way I usually do when making a more or less standard kind of recipe—I looked up a bunch of different ones and picked what I liked out of each. I mostly stuck to my man Alton Brown’s recipe with some additions/subtractions from here and there. I was mostly intrigued by his use of apple cider in the recipe, so I had to try it out. I did use a beef bouillon cube instead of consomme (forgive me, AB! Cubes store much better in my teeny weeny kitchen than cans do!), but to counteract a minor offense, I used my tasty/frozen homemade chicken stock. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any wine handy so I tried to make up for it with some balsamic vinegar. This was unfortunately not as successful as I’d hoped it would be. The soup as a whole was intensely flavorful, but a bit too sweet for my liking. And also a bit thick, more like an onion stew. I might not let the broth cook down so much next time.

I splurged on fresh thyme (which I’m now obsessed with and want to put in/on everything I make) and a $10 block of gruyere cheese for the croutons (which really helped balance the sweetness of the soup, i.e. made it edible).

There’s really no better excuse for a good cry than cutting up a whole mess of onions. I’m pretty stressed these days with school, applications, and composing, I feel like I’m kinda out of it most of the time. I needed to let it out a little. I tell myself that I like being busy and that it keeps me motivated, and this is sometimes true. But sometimes I’d rather just be chopping onions.

Anywho, the real moral of the story is that I will surely make this soup again in the near future, but perhaps not on a Sunday when I am unable to go to the liquor store and get some actual wine to help balance the rich flavors of sweet, sweet caramelization.

If at first you don’t succeed: try, try again. And even then, keep trying until all the tears are gone and there’s nothing left but sheer will.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today I applied to my first composition competition in over a year. It was an art song competition I have entered before and obviously had no luck with. I feel better about it this time around, though. I really feel like my recent work is strong enough to compete.

I reapplied to SCI (Society of Composers Inc.) today as well. They have this fabulous e-publication called the SCION that is basically a list of most of the major competitions and calls for scores out there with all of their criteria laid out in a tidy format. Even with the $30 member fee, if I can apply to several competitions without fees, the thing really pays for itself.

I’m feeling motivated to be more proactive with my career and get my name out there. I want to have more performances and opportunities to write for people—more musical experiences outside of the university.

And let’s face it, I really want more bells and whistles on my resume.

But the first step (well, pre-first step, actually) is to write some more music, which as of now is my thesis. The thesis is the first step to many of my goals, come to think of it. Graduate, get into a DMA program, become a professor, become a better composer—all of these things and more. It is, however, becoming somewhat elusive. I really like some parts of it; some, I really don’t. Unfortunately the ‘some I really don’t’ tend to occur in the beginning, which is what I’m working toward having completed by the end of November for my portfolio. A tall order. I’m convinced I can make it better though. Honestly, I have no other choice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

  My in-laws from Houston are visiting us in Louisville this weekend for my husband, Steven’s birthday. They’re the first of our families to come and visit us here, so we’ve tried to plan the weekend so we can hit most of our favorite Louisville places and restaurants. We went to the zoo, Woodford Reserve distillery, the Slugger museum, Seviche, and Mark’s Feed Store (both on Bardstown).

  Anywho, it is Sandra and Bobby, my mother and step-father in-law, who bought for me my wonderfully wonderful artisan stand mixer that I absolutely adore. On the card they said “we expect cookies!” So, upon their arrival I said “what kind?”, and Bobby answered an emphatic “Peanut Butter.”

  Now, I love me some peanut butter. I like it on sandwiches, with crackers, with carrots, and fruit. I am however not the biggest peanut butter cookie fan in the world. But any excuse to use my stand mixer, right?

  So, I found a recipe through I just searched ‘peanut butter cookies’ and picked the ones that looked and sounded the best (the original recipe is here: ice cream for dinner).

  This recipe turned out to be absolutely fantastic. Soft and chewy, the perfect size, and a great peanutty flavoring without being too sweet. I also ended up with a perfect two dozen cookies (three batches of 8), which never happens! The last batch I decided to throw in about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips I had in the cupboard, which was probably one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. Ever. I’ve finally made a peanut butter cookie I LOVE. Not to mention Steven, Sandra, AND Bobby! There are not many problems in this world that cannot be solved with a little chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 c. Natural Peanut Butter (peanuts, salt, no filler)
1 stick of butter (1/2 c.)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar (I always use dark, no matter what the recipe calls for. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.)
1 large egg
1 1/4 c. AP flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2-2 c. chocolate chips (optional)

  Preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheets with parchment or your trusty silpat. Both work well. Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars in the stand mixer. Blend for 3-4 minutes. Beat in your egg. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together flour, powder, soda, and salt. Incorporate into the wet mixture, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl at some point to get all of that goodness in. Spatula in the no-longer-optional chocolate chips. Spoon with a rounded teaspoon (not as in the measuring spoon, as in the small spoon in your silverware drawer) and roll into balls. Place evenly onto cookie sheets (I got 8 per sheet), and cross hatch with a long-tined fork dipped in sugar. Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies reach your favorite shade of golden-brown and delicious.