Monday, November 26, 2012

How to make your cookie sheets look brand new

Do your cookie sheets look like mine?  Here are my cookie sheets & pizza screens.  I use a silpat for making cookies but the pans go naked for roasting veggies.  The pizza screens sometimes get sprayed with oil, which tends to leave a sticky residue over time.  All were purchased several years ago at a nearby restaurant supply store.

Aluminum gets grody over time.  You can scrub and scrub and scrub all you like but they'll never look brand new again.

Unless you know my secret.

Here are the same cookie sheets and pizza screens later that same day.  And I didn't even touch them to get them this way.  No chemicals, no scrubbing, no water.  Nothing!  I didn't have to do a dang thing to them after they got all spiffed up, either.

Are you dying to know how I did it yet? 

I put them in the oven during its self-cleaning cycle and walked away for 2 hours.

Now, before you go throwing your bakeware into the oven, make sure it's 100% aluminum and can withstand the high heat of a self-cleaning cycle.  Don't try this on anything with non-stick coatings, handles, enamel, or heirloom items. 

Other than that, bake your grime away.  It's awesome.  Now, if only my bathroom were this easy to clean.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A treasure trove of lebkuchen

A few years ago..

Holy crap.  When did 1997 become a "few" years ago?  It feels like only recently!

Let's start again.

Waaaaay back in the '90s when I was single, carefree, and had (some) money, I spent Christmas in Europe with friends.  They took me to the markets and I adored seeing the season through another culture's eyes.  As much as I love France, Germany's Christmas seems to more fully embody what Americans envision as the perfect holiday season: nutcrackers, spiced wine, snow, trees, ice skating.

One of the things that I fell in love with was lebkuchen, a soft gingerbready sort of thing.  Only it's amazingly better.  It's chewy and sweet (but not overly so) and makes you want to cuddle by the fire.  I love them.  Every year I buy some at Cost Plus World Market and hoard them: mine!  MINE!!  I've thought about trying to make some but never so much as researched recipes.

Last year my girlfriend, Maria, ruined me.  She sent me Nurmburg lebkuchen.  Dammit.  My Cost Plus cookies are stale and flavorless in comparison to the traditionally made lebkuchen.  They were soft, fragrant, chewy, and amazing.

Now we're set to be ruined yet again. 

On Veteran's Day I was sitting in my living room when the FedEx truck stopped in front of our house.  The driver left a large box on our doorstep.  I stared at the delivery label in disbelief.  It was from Germany.  Upon learning that I love lebkuchen so much, Marius' parents decided to introduce us to a German tradition of a Schmidt chest. 

I unpacked the box with my jaw agape.  Gene was on the phone and I couldn't get his attention.  In the box was a beautiful pressed tin box.  I put it on the counter and waited for Gene to see it before I opened it.  Finally, my waving and stomping made him look over.

Inside are 13 types of Germany cookies and treats: lebkuchen (lots and lots of it!), stollen, vanilla cookies, pfeffernusse, cinnamon cookies... oh my!  There was also a perpetual calendar and some ornaments for our tree.

We're incredibly grateful, not just for this bounty of holiday treats, but for the chance to host a young man from Germany.  He's been such a fine addition to our household. 

A year ago I was expecting a son... who knew I would get two.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Election day always reminds me of a conversation I once had with a former coworker.

I walked into our office with my "I voted" sticker on my shirt.

When I asked if everyone had voted she responded, "I'm too dumb to vote."

This woman was the office manager and the lead consultant.  She was a single mother of a 13-year-old girl.  While she and I did choose to live our lives in very ways and I generally thought that the decisions she made in her personal life tended to be quite poor, she was clearly not a stupid person.  In this woman's case, it was her choice to be "dumb". 

I wondered this morning if her daughter, who would be about 19 by now, is voting in her first presidential election, or if she's been told that girls are "too dumb" to vote.  I hope for her sake that she has found her own voice and is making decisions for herself as a young woman.

There's a difference between stupid and uninformed.  If you don't know, find out.  Inform yourself.  Ask questions, even if you think they seem "dumb".  It's your right to vote, and your duty to do so.