Meet Corbin Drake, our new 9 week old Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Dogs have been an intrinsic part of my happiness since my childhood. My parents brought home various puppies over the years. The very first dog I owned, that looked to me, that I was responsible for, was a rescued Lab mix. She came to me in middle school.
Later, as an adult, I spent time with law enforcement K9s learning about their training and how important socialization was for them.
My home had a rescued Shetland Sheepdog, a retired Schutzhund trained German Shepherd Dog, and a retired military explosives detection dog. Each of these brilliant, beautiful personalities passed away of old age in the last few years.
It took time for me to mourn. And during that time, I struggled with my happiness. I have a day job career I love. I also love my writing. And still, there’s a hollow spot, waiting for a warm life. As I struggle with symptoms of depression, my partner and I decided it was time.
Corbin will be the first dog for Matthew J Drake and me as partners. He’s ours. Hopefully he’ll choose us as his. After all, humans can own a dog, but the choice to look to a human is the dog’s. Time will tell and for the time being, there’s a fur-baby in our home giving us laughter and smiles and maybe just a few emotional tears.
It’s time to write. And Corbin is sleeping next to me. My life is warm again.
More stress baking happened this weekend. The result? Chocolate fudge cupcakes with cookie dough filling topped with chocolate frosting and caramel drizzle finished with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt.
This is more of a concept set of directions rather than a step-by-step recipe. I got the idea from multiple photos on Pinterest.
For now though, I’ll share with you the simple tricks of these great cupcakes.
1 14oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk
Batch of favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Batch of favorite Chocolate Cupcake Batter
Batch of favorite icing
Sea Salt, to taste
Remove label from unopened can of condensed milk. Fill a deep medium saucepan with water. Bring to the boil. Carefully place the can in the saucepan. Simmer, uncovered for 3 hours ensuring the level of water is always covering the can. Carefully remove can from heat and allow to cool completely before opening to use the caramel.
Meanwhile, prepare favorite cookie dough recipe. Refrigerate cookie dough for about an hour, until easy to work with and not sticky. Roll cookie dough into 24 small 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls. Freeze these for at least 30 min, longer if you want the cookie dough more raw in the center.
*Note: The more raw you want your cookie dough in the center, it is recommended you use an egg-free recipe. Since my cupcakes come out with the cookie dough baked as opposed to raw, I don’t worry about this as much.
Heat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit or temperature recommended for cupcake batter recipe. Prepare two 12 cupcake tins with cupcake liners.
Prepare favorite cupcake batter recipe.
Fill each cupcake cup approximately three quarters of the way full.
Remove cookie dough balls from freezer and carefully place one ball into each cup of batter. Allow to sit on top if you’d like the dough to be more in the center of the cupcake or press gently to the bottom of the cup.
Bake for the recommended time of the cupcake batter directions. Test with a toothpick for doneness (toothpick comes out clean when done).
Allow to cool thoroughly.
Top with your favorite chocolate icing, then carefully pipe or drizzle the caramel over the cupcakes. Finish with a fine sprinkle of sea salt.
https://piperjdrake.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Piper-Drake-Logo_FullColor.png00piperjdrakehttps://piperjdrake.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Piper-Drake-Logo_FullColor.pngpiperjdrake2016-10-16 23:58:332016-10-16 23:58:33Chocolate Fudge cupcakes with Cookie Dough Filling Topped with Sea Salt Caramel
Khao Mun Gai was my go-to dish when ordering food for friends traveling with me in Thailand, or my younger siblings when they were very small. It’s tender chicken served over fragrant jasmine rice richly cooked in chicken broth and served with a pop of flavor in the form of a soy-based sauce. Often this dish was served with cool cucumbers. Easy on the travel-weary stomach and very comforting, the subtle flavors of this dish always hit the spot.
Growing up, my parents used to steam the chicken and use the resulting chicken drippings to cook the rice. I’ve taken this dish and added quite a few cooking twists of my own so this may have evolved a bit from the traditional street food you might find in Thailand today.
Recommendation: I make a lot of the components to this dish in parallel. Read through the entire set of instructions before trying to make this or you might find yourself in the kitchen far longer than necessary.
1 whole chicken, raw and defrosted if it was frozen
chicken boullion, for 2 cups broth
1 oz fresh ginger root, washed and sliced
2 to 4 spring onions, washed
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt (to taste)
3 measuring cups Thai Jasmine Rice, uncooked
a standard Japanese rice cooker measuring cup is 3/4 cup of a English standard measuring cup, so this is actually 2 1/4 standard cups of rice
3 3/4 cups stock from cooking chicken, give or take a few tablespoons
1 to 2 oz fresh ginger root
4 to 6 cloves garlic
reserved skin from chicken or 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup stock from cooking chicken
¼ cup light soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
Remaining stock from cooking chicken
2 to 3 cups winter melon, peeled and cut in 1″ pieces
Can substitute chayote or firm cucumber, if desired
Salt or fish sauce, to taste
Pepper, to taste
a sprinkle of sugar, to taste
fresh bunch of coriander
Place 2 cups chicken broth (or boullion with 2 cps water) in a large soup pot and bring to a simmer. Add an additional 4 cups water and bring to a boil.
While the stock is coming to a boil, prepare the chicken:
Remove the giblets, wash them, and add them to the soup pot to enhance the stock.
Rinse the whole chicken inside and out in cool water.
Trim off excess fat from the chicken neck and lower cavity, setting the skin aside for later use.
Sprinkle salt (I use sea salt) both in the cavity of the chicken and over the outside, gently patting into the skin.
Stuff ginger slices and spring onions into the cavity and close with toothpicks.
Twist the wings back to ensure they don’t flop around or overcook.
Once the stock is boiling, dip the chicken into the broth gently and ladle stock over the sides of the chicken until the skin tightens. Then gently lower the chicken into the soup pot until completely covered.
Bring to a boil and boil uncovered for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 45 minutes to finish cooking.
While chicken is finishing cooking, place reserved chicken skin in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Cook until oil forms from the chicken fat and skin, approximately 2 Tbsp.
Note: Using chicken fat oil here is a major aspect of the flavor in the rice but you can substitute vegetable oil if desired.
Once the oil is hot, add ginger slices and garlic, sauté lightly until fragrant to infuse the oil with flavor, then quickly add the uncooked rice before the aromatics burn.
Stir fry the uncooked rice until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer the contents of the wok to a rice cooker. Add the 3 3/4 cups stock from the cooking chicken. Start the rice cooker.
Note: Cooking rice is a bit of a science. Older rice could take more liquid. Newer rice could require less. Pre-soaking rice before cooking will help the rice cook faster but requires less liquid when actually cooking. In general, the ratio would be for every standard cup of rice, use 1 3/4 cups of liquid.
Once rice cooker signals the rice is done, open and fluff the rice. Remove the slices of ginger and discard.
Carefully take chicken out of soup pot and place in an ice water bath to cool (or place on a plate to cool).
In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup stock from cooking chicken, ¼ cup light soy sauce, 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp sesame oil. Set aside to serve with main dish. A little of this goes a long way.
Bring broth in soup pot to a boil, skimming off any scum and some excess oil.
Add winter melon and boil for 10 to 15 minutes or until winter melon is cooked and tender. Season soup to taste with fish sauce, a sprinkle of sugar, and pepper. Soup should be mild, subtle and a gentle accompaniment to the chicken and rice.
Serving Khao Mun Gai
Plate the rice first, then arrange slices of the chicken on top or next to the rice. Have a small dish of the sauce next to the plate to be used as desired. Serve a bowl of the light chicken soup on the side.
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Struggling with writer’s block, I decided to get out of the house yesterday.
I ran errands with the boyfriend to mail out ARCs of Ultimate Courage and talked about high cupcake standards with the girl working the counter at UPS. Apparently, cupcake places only last a few months in the Phoenix area and then go out of business. Why? Hmm. But we’re hoping a new place that specializes in cocktail inspired cupcakes will last.
Excellent quirky things to write into a book.
We stopped to get the car washed and detailed. I took my diploma, from the Masters Degree I earned over 10 years ago, to be framed. Then I popped into World Market for tasty international treats and Ulta looking for the Too Faced Peanut Butter and Jelly eye shadow palette.
I didn’t find the elusive eye shadow palette. It’s sold out both in store locally and online. But I fired up a chat with two of the make up consultants as I tried on daring (for me) summer lipstick shades from Urban Decay’s Vice line.
One of the make up consultants told me he once had a client that paid him $85 a day to do her make up for her, every Friday and Saturday. She’d moved to Florida eventually, but still flew him out to do her makeup for special events. And he stayed in her beach house when he was out there.
Whoa. Very cool. Taking mental notes because that’s a fun character idea.
Then we chatted about ill-advised things people do coming into make up stores. Like randomly using the sample make up without disinfecting it. *shudder*
PSA: people, this is seriously unhealthy and could cause infections. Just take the extra time to get a consultant to help you disinfect that lipstick or blush or eye shadow or whatever before you try it on.
And boyfriend walks in, letting us know the police have cordoned off a portion of the parking lot right outside. In addition to standard police, TAC was on site. They’d also expanded the secured area three times in the time it took me to try on two lipstick shades.
Could’ve been a bomb threat. Could’ve been a robbery. There were actually quite a few possibilities. My writer’s brain was going crazy with all the possible plot bunnies.
And for some odd reason, the Ulta suddenly got incredibly busy. The general store manager had to hop on a register with two other cashiers to handle the line. Why the influx of shoppers just yards away from a developing police investigation?
It is a mystery.
And mysteries, puzzlements, conundrums, are fantastic mental stimulation.
I came home with a mind full of What If? Ready to write and ready to take my story unexpected places.
All of this, because I went out to run a few errands and indulge in a bit of shopping.
It was well worth the cost of a lipstick.
I decided to get out of the house and tried on Urban Decay’s Vice lipstick in Wired. This was not the color I ultimately bought.
https://piperjdrake.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Piper-Drake-Logo_FullColor.png00piperjdrakehttps://piperjdrake.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Piper-Drake-Logo_FullColor.pngpiperjdrake2016-07-16 10:32:382016-07-16 10:32:38Reasons to Get Out of the House
There’s also a difference for me between dreams for someday in the far off future and dreams I might work to make come true with carefully defined goals right now.
Today I latched onto a dream for someday. It’s something I’ll tuck away to ponder and smile about, but won’t stress to make happen any time soon. I’m leaving it to incubate. I might do a few things to gather the necessary information or skills to make it happen in an unhurried way. For fun.
Because I have as many immediate goals as I can handle right now and I like the relief of considering something for someday…for fun and whimsy. 🙂
My someday dream is to own my very own bookstore. And there’d be a lovely office space for me above my bookstore. That’s where I could write while my bookstore is run by trustworthy people. The kind of people who love books and spread the love of reading. The bookstore would have a small meeting room for occasional mentoring seminars for aspiring writers.
It’d be a haven. A place to nurture the love of reading and writing.