Class and Cake: Using your Twitter powers for good


Or, show your class, not your ass.

Earlier today, a professional blogger tweeted, “Hired some drywallers for a project. The pregnant lady in flip-flops on a ladder & smoking? Yeah. She’s with them. #Really #NoReallyReally.” Then, a bit later, “I agree with you guys: perhaps we could coax her off the ladder with a stiff drink. 😉 #RethinkingOurHiringStandards.”

I replied rather, uh, stridently, that I found such behavior to be tacky. You can see the blogger’s reply here.

Yes, smoking while pregnant is not the best choice one could make. Neither is climbing ladders while pregnant and shod in flip-flops. No one is disputing that it’s a less-than-safe idea. But you know what else is a bad choice? Making fun of a stranger who’s trying to make a living in front of 1,216,469 followers. And you can justify your comments all you want by expressing concern about safety and lawsuit issues, but once you start making cracks about enticing a pregnant woman with a cocktail, you’ve crossed out of “concern” territory and into mocking someone you consider to be beneath you.

Let me break it down further: I think we can all agree that if you’re drywalling someone else’s house the day before Thanksgiving and you’re wearing flip-flops (and you live in Florida, ZING!), you’re probably not rolling in cash. You’re probably doing what you need to do to keep the lights on and maybe finance a box of Stove Top and a turkey for tomorrow. And if you’re a professional blogger who has access to the funds to hire a team of people to come drywall your house, and you then take to Twitter to make fun of those folks you’ve hired, you’re probably extremely blind to your own privilege. Which you will then, of course, deny (even though you’re not a dude!).

Again, my issue is not with expressing “concern” over a pregnant woman’s (fetus included) safety; rather, it is using a platform such as Twitter when you have a following in the seven digits to perpetuate the hegemonic construct of the woman’s body as public property, available for any- and everyone to comment upon, not to mention perpetuating classist attitudes about working-class individuals. Which, invariably, takes us straight to Eugenics Land.

Of course, if you dare call said professional blogger out on their tackiness, you are of course, branded as the stupid pariah feminist who “us[es] feminism to excuse the woman’s behavior.” Or, when you initially express your frustration with the commentary, you get told you have an unwarranted sense of entitlement. And she’s right, this blogger owes me nothing. But I do think that when you’re a public figure who blogs about silly desserts, and you have 1.25 million followers, you do bear some responsibility for what you put out there. You help set the tone. And it’s not about feminism, it’s about being a decent human being.

Nutella scones


Hello, and welcome to my inaugural entry into the Baked Sunday Mornings bake-and-blog-along! When I saw that someone had set this up, I was beyond thrilled because a.) I am a huge fan of Baked and 2.) I had just bought Baked Explorations and had already gone through and marked the recipes I wanted to try, some of which overlap with this project. Hooray!

So, the first entry in this saga is Nutella scones, which I had singled out as the first thing I wanted to try. I don’t normally keep Nutella in the house due to the fact that I like to eat it straight from the jar at any given opportunity. Fortunately, I had a tub of it hidden in the pantry as part of my BlogHer Food swag, so I didn’t have to make a special purchase.

The verdict on these scones is that they are pretty rich, with a deep chocolate flavor that comes from the quarter-cup of unsweetened dark cocoa powder (or, if you’re me, an accidental one-third cup! ZOINKS!). There is not much sugar in them, so what sweetness they have comes from the Nutella that is folded into the dough near the end and the glaze on top. I actually found them to taste better and less UNSWEETENED DARK COCOA WOAH after they’d sat overnight (the cookbook says that they have a shelf life of 24 hours, but I made them on Friday afternoon, just had a tiny piece of one now on Sunday morning and they are still yummy). Ironically enough, they taste like “natural” chocolate hazelnut butter, a la Justin’s.

I did find the dough to be a bit … dusty? Broken? It didn’t hold together very well, and when I tried to roll it out on the counter, it was a big mess, so I turned it back into my mixing bowl and added another tablespoonful of heavy cream, which helped pull the dough together. That said, the scones still had some structural integrity issues after baking (note the broken scone on the rack in the picture above; it fell apart as I removed it from the baking sheet).

Oh! I forgot to mention that I pressed the dough into a cake pan a la Smitten Kitchen’s recommendation for ease in cutting.

(You can find the recipe for the scones on the main project page, linked above.)

I don’t know if I’d make these again. If I did, I’d probably use less cocoa (obv) and maybe a touch more sugar. For a creative, nontraditional twist on scones, though, these are pretty ace.

Chicken Delicioso


This is quite possibly the easiest dinner you will ever make for your family. This week is crazy bananas busy for me, so I planned the menu accordingly.

Here are your ingredients, plus a pound or so (I used 1.75 lbs because my chicken was an impenetrable frozen-solid chunk) of chicken breast, frozen, and a chopped-up bell pepper:

Toss it all (don’t drain the beans and corn) in a crockpot (sans bell pepper, which you will add during the last hour or so) and cook it on low for 8 hours. Before serving, shred the chicken with two forks. Serve with tortillas, cheese, and a big green salad.

Soup’s on. Matt came up with the name when Harry asked what we were having for dinner. It must have worked, because I heard not a single whine or complaints of dinner being “disGUSTing!”

Makes 8 servings, 4 Weight Watchers POINTS per serving.

Puff Pastry Croque Monsieur


When Matt and I went to Paris in the summer of 2008, the dollar was doing terribly against the Euro, so we very much ate on a budget. There were lots of croissants, baguette sandwiches, fresh snacks from the farmers market, and early dinners at the bistro around the corner from our hotel. (I was about five months pregnant at the time, so we would spend the whole day walking after rising early, then collapse for the night before it even got truly dark! Despite having spent a week there, I have still never seen Paris at night!) I fell instantly in love with macarons (in general) and truffles from Cacao et Chocolat and Leonidas, but that’s not really surprising given my sweet tooth. Matt, on the other hand, LOVES cheese and meat and so his favorite Paris bite was the croque monsieur.

Croque monsieur is a hot ham and cheese (usually Gruyere or Emmental) sandwich that originated around 1910 as a fast-food-type snack. Dressier versions include a Mornay (bechamel + cheese) or bechamel sauce, which is how you see it today. I hear that here in my hometown, Bess Bistrooffers up a lovely croque monsieur, but I have yet to dine there (soon, I hope!). A croque monsieur served with a fried or poached egg on top is a croque madame, which I will never try because I don’t eat eggs.

Anyhoo, over the past couple of years, Matt has tried to replicate the croque monsieur a few times, but has not been satisfied with his results. I finally realized that it was because he was omitting the bechamel that his sandwiches weren’t fulfilling that Platonic croque for my monsieur (and I’m sure that terroir plays no small part in this experience). So, when I came across this recipe, I decided to give it a whack as a treat for my husband and as a gesture toward the truly wonderful time we had together in Paris.

Puff Pastry Croque Monsieur
adapted slightly from Everyday Food

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed (seriously, plan ahead for this one. They need to sit out for 40 minutes before you can use them. PLAN AHEAD, says the woman who made two attempts to make this before getting the puff pastry thing mastered)
1 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
1 c 2% milk
coarse salt and ground pepper
a peeeeencsh of ground nutmeg
6 oz thinly sliced deli ham
1 c grated Gruyere
1 large egg, beaten

While the pastry thaws, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring and cooking until golden. Add milk, whisking constantly, and simmer, stirring until thickened (about 5 minutes). Add salt and pepper and nutmeg to taste. Set aside and let cool for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface to a slender 10×13-inch rectangle. Place one on a baking sheet, which have been prepared with parchment paper or perhaps cooking spray to prevent stickage.

Arrange ham evenly on pastry sheet, leaving a 3/4-inch “margin” all the way around. Top with cheese and sauce. Brush the margin with the egg. Place second pastry sheet on top. Press the edges together and brush the top with the egg. Cut vents in the top pastry sheet. Bake 30 minutes until golden brown and puffy.

I served the croque with steamed green beans that were finished by lightly sauteeing with garlic in olive oil and crispy smashed potatoes. I didn’t eat very much of the croque because it’s not too WW-friendly, but the sliver I ate was delightful. I made two of them (one was for a bereavement meal) and have tons left over, so I popped the excess in the freezer. I, uh, hope such a dish freezes well!

Ofrenda


My mom had a long-running joke with her sisters about their collective tendencies to snitch slivers of leftover desserts, usually pie or cake. The malingering treat would rest on the counter of my grandmother’s kitchen or dining room table, perpetually visited by my mother and aunts (and me, as I grew older and more autonomous/prone to snitching), who would whittle off the tiniest slice (or chunk, depending on how brazen they felt) in the interest of “evening it out.”

Desserts, it seems, were forever uneven in our home, an unforgivable condition.

This spiced applesauce cake reminds me of my mom. Not because she was known for a signature apple cake, but because this cake invites endless snitching. It seems wholesome, what with its primary ingredient, homemade applesauce, but also because its comforting fall flavors beckon from wherever you’ve stashed the uneaten portion. It’s particularly gratifying to revisit again and again when you think about the layers of flavor composing the cake, from the tart, cinnamon-tinged applesauce to the gratifyingly fattening spiced cream cheese frosting. It bears a depth of flavor that you can’t say no to, not that you’d want to anyway.

Maybe it’s because I don’t spend as many holidays with my mom’s family as I used to (marriage with children has a way of dividing your attentions, especially on pie- and cake-centric celebrations/holidays), or maybe it’s because we’re (seemingly) all on Weight Watchers these days, but it seems like the dessert-straightening practice faded away after we lost my mom in 2004. But I suspect we’re all honoring her every now and again when we notice anything less than a perfectly straight line on a sheet cake or a precise right angle sliced out of a pecan pie.

I finally had to take the rest of the cake to my students today, who cooed over it and called me an Angel in the House. I felt virtuous (for getting the calorie bomb out of my house), generous (for sharing with my students), and stealthy (because I know that there are two secret pieces left in the back of my fridge, crooked as can be).