Free Books!

I am such a geeky nerd. Or is it a nerdy geek? I’m not sure, but It’s whatever you are when the communications department chairman at the university Old cookbookswhere you somehow were asked to teach a media-writing class cleans out his office and leaves a big box of used books in the lobby with a “Free to good homes” sign and it’s like a mega sale at T.J. Maxx — you are THAT excited. So you pull the box over to a nearby chair and ignore the student chatter around you and delve into the treasures: “Ethics in Media Communications”! “Communicating for Results — A Guide for Business andBooks the Professions”! “Media Flight Plan III”! Was there ever a greater collection of (used and possibly outdated) media textbooks? Strangely, I seemed to have been the only person interested in this unexpected bounty, and the department chairman walked by and whispered approvingly that I could ignore the two-to-a-customer posted limit. I cannot wait to browse through these and revel in the grownup luxury of getting to read textbooks without having to study them — and that right there, I believe, is what marks me as a nerd. And THEN, to make this day even better, my newspaper-editor husband brought home a couple of Junior League cookbooks from the food editor’s giveaway stash. Both  were published in 1977, when only single women got to use their real names and everybody else got to hide behind their husbands’. The golf-themed cookbook from Augusta, Ga., is in green, of course, and features adorable golf illustrations. The hardback cookbook from Nashville is rather more posh — as Nashville believes it is — and starts with a formal-dinner menu that starts with caviar soup, which I don’t think I’ll be making but it sure is fun reading about.

Valentine’s Day

chocolate-rose-0011Making chocolate roses is a simple yet impressive Valentine’s Day chocolate-rose-0031project that I promise you can do. Because I did it, and believe me, that’s saying something. Chef and caterer Emily Kelley, of Florence, Alabama, demonstrated this recently for local American Association of University Women members. To make the dough, add 1/3 cup clear corn syrup to 10 ounces melted semi-sweet chocolate. Stir until doughy. On wax paper, flatten into circle and let harden between wax-paper sheets. To make roses, peel away wax paper and cut circle into triangles. Use one triangle for one rose. Pull pieces of dough from triangle and roll into balls. Using your hands, flatten balls into thin circles. For center stem of rose, roll one circle jelly-roll style. For rose petals, fold and shape chocolate circles around stem. Make these whenever you want, store at room temperature and use them to decorate your fabulous Valentine’s dessert. Or they can be your fabulous Valentine’s dessert — they’re completely edible and taste sort of like Tootsie Rolls. White chocolate and peanut-butter flavored baking morsels would also work, although Emily was unsure about corn-syrup ratios with those ingredients.

Valentine’s Day Gifts

christmas-with-the-gingers-016Sarah — my friend who’s a super cook, former caterer and an Episcopal priest — christmas-with-the-gingers-017gave bottles of cranberry homemade liqueur for Christmas presents this past holiay season. So lovely! I thought they’d make great Valentine Day’s gifts, too — the red is such a gorgeous deep color.  The recipe is from Cooking Light and needs to be started three weeks ahead of time, so this is the perfect weekend to gather supplies and get started. Since cherries and raspberries are the traditional red fruits associated with Valentine’s, I wonder if you could use those instead of cranberries. If anybody tries that, please pass the results along! Sarah put the liqueur in these very cool bottles and added the cocktail recipe — delicious! 

Ingredients

  • 2  cups  sugar
  • 1  cup  water
  • 1  12-ounce package fresh cranberries
  • 3  cups  vodka

Preparation

 Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Place cranberries in a food processor; process 2 minutes or until finely chopped. Combine sugar mixture and cranberries in a large bowl; stir in vodka. Pour vodka mixture into clean jars; secure with lids. Let stand 3 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking every other day. Strain cranberry mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Carefully pour liqueur into clean bottles. Note: Liqueur can be stored refrigerated or at room temperature for up to a year.