Em ơi! #333: Sucks to be Me


This was meant to be a follow-up to the comic from the week before last, #332, about giving up sugar.  But even though the comic was finished last week, the week itself was a total write-off in terms of getting things done, so it didn’t get scanned until today.

I just burned the fuck out of my hand failing at fudge making, so excuse me if I’m not as apologetic as I should be about completely missing an update.  Ugh.  I’ll have an amusing illustrated essay up Friday or Saturday to make it up to you.

Not eating sugar/candy was a weird experience.  I basically wanted to eat the biggest most chocolate-y and fat filled cake I could imagine.  Instead I think I had some low fat frozen yoghurt.  But whatever.  While I was not eating candy, Bryan and I were planning a big dinner party, so basically every time we were out running or driving around or whatever, it devolved into a case of, “So, what should we make for dessert?”  Bryan thought for some reason we should focus on the main course.  I don’t get it.

Anyway, I wish I could say I’m eating less sugar or something now that I’ve had my time off.  But I’m not.  I am eating more dried fruit, which I guess is a plus.

So my hand.  I usually don’t fuck up recipes this badly, but I just threw away like five cups of burned crystallized sugar and peanut butter.  All I can say is, “Go fuck yourself, Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.”

This comic is filed under TX553.S8 L86 2010a, for:

Home economics–Nutrition.  Foods and food supply–Examination and analysis.  Composition.  Adulteration–Dietary studies, food values, experiments, tests, etc.–Special constituents, A-Z–Sugar

Compound Butter: Maple

Considering that almost everything I cook is pretty low in fat, making compound butter was a weird experience for me.  But just like I wouldn’t dare to use fake maple syrup, I couldn’t very well make this with fake butter.

Let me warn you in advance that it is delicious.  I licked it off my fingers and had to forcibly restrain myself from eating it out of the bowl with a spoon like cookie dough.  Is that gross?  I would think so, but it is so delicious, I’m not sure I care.


  • 3 sticks of butter (sweet butter, or else omit the salt)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. plus 1 T. maple syrup
  • 1 T. powdered sugar
  • A pinch of cinnamon

Other equipment: piping bag, if desired.  Jars for storage.


  1. Let the butter come to room temperature.  Mine was out of the freezer and in the fridge for a couple of hours, then on the counter for about two or two and a half hours.  You have to plan a little bit ahead, is what I’m saying.
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and put it into the food processor.  If you have a stand mixer, that will also work.  Or one of those electric egg beaters is also good.  By small pieces I mean about tablespoon-sized.  You don’t have to be too precise.
  3. Beat the pieces of butter until relatively smooth.  It will still be kind of lumpy and weird at this point.  Add the maple syrup and beat until smooth.  You will have to stop from time to time to scrape down the sides.
  4. Add the salt, cinnamon, and powdered sugar.  Mix and taste.  Adjust flavors as desired.
  5. Using a spatula, transfer to an empty, clean jar (like a peanut butter jar).  Alternatively, load up your piping gun/bag and pipe the butter into the jar.  Very pretty.
  6. Put jar in fridge until butter is firm.

How to Truffle

Peanut Butter Truffles

Bryan went out of town on a business trip.  I wanted to make him some peanut butter cups (because he loves peanut butter cups), but it turns out PB cups are kind of complicated.  Truffles, on the other hand, are easy.  And when B got sent home two days early, I decided the easy route was the way to go.

I’m not entirely satisfied with the truffle centers — they needed a little more PB to hold them together, or they needed to be frozen before coating or something (a couple of them started to fall apart while dipping).  And they’re definitely not pretty, but I’m not actually sure how to make pretty truffles.  I will leave that to professionals.  This recipe comes from Chow Hound, but with a few changes (I cut it in half and added some dark chocolate).  They note that the cups will keep up to three weeks in the fridge.  That is a lie–they kept a bit less than 24 hours (because B had eaten them all.  Well, I had a couple.  They were delicious).


(Makes 24 teaspoon-sized truffles.)

  • 1/6 c. graham cracker crumbs (I used cinnamon graham crackers crunched up in the food processor.)
  • 1/3 c. powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1/3 c. + 2 T. (approximate) peanut butter (I used a smooth,  “natural” pb, not JIF or some crap something like that which is full of sugar.  If you’re using pre-sweetened PB, consider adjusting the amount of powdered sugar downward.  Chunky should be fine, and you can probably use almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter.  Whatever floats your boat.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • A pinch of salt – I forgot this.  But it would have been nice.
  • 1/2 c. plus a handful milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. plus a handful semi-sweet chocolate chips

You’ll also need a saucepan, some heavy glass bowls, tin foil, and an ice cream scoop or large spoon.


Part I — the middles

  1. Put the graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and peanut butter in the food processor and mix it together until it has the texture of cookie dough or similar — it will clump together readily.  If it seems crumbly, add more peanut butter.
  2. Using a teaspoon, scoop mixture into teaspoon-sized balls and place on a cookie sheet or baking dish lined with foil.
  3. Put these into the fridge or freezer for at least an hour.

Part II — Tempering the chocolate

There are a lot of discussions on this–here is one of the better ones.  Basically you have to maintain the crystal structure of chocolate as you melt it, otherwise it will not solidify correctly.  People don’t want truffles to get all over their fingers.  If you’re thinking tl;dr or just don’t care about the science, I’ll tell you approximately what I did.  Otherwise feel free to use your favorite tempering method for melting the chocolates (melt them separately and keep them warm over a pot of water–don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl they’re in).

  1. Place chocolate in a heavy glass bowl (like Pyrex).  Put it over a pot of water and bring it (the water) to a boil.  Keep an eye on the chocolate during this period.  After a while, it should begin to look melty, but still be in the shape of the chocolate chips.
  2. Remove the bowl from the heat and mix the chocolate.  All the chips should mush together into a smooth mixture without lumps.  At this point, add a handful of chocolate chips (of the same type, milk or dark chocolate) to act as seed crystals.
  3. Because we melted the chocolate at a fairly low temperature, the seed crystal step may not be necessary, but it can’t hurt.  The residual heat should melt the newly added chips; otherwise, scoop out anything that doesn’t melt.  Put the bowl back over the boiling water briefly if the chocolate gets stiff.  You are now ready to dip.

Part III — Dipping the truffles

  1. Dip an ice cream scoop or large spoon into the chocolate.
  2. Shake it off so it is coated with chocolate.
  3. Put the truffle center in the ice cream scoop/spoon and rotate it until it is covered in chocolate.  Then put it on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Do 12 in milk chocolate and 12 in dark chocolate, then use the remaining chocolate to touch up the bald spots (use the semi-sweet here on the milk chocolate truffles and vice-versa).
  5. If one of the centers starts to break up while you’re dipping it, don’t panic.  Just put it on the baking sheet and put a big dollop of chocolate on to hold it together.  It will harden into a truffle.
  6. You can top the truffles with: powdered sugar, sugared walnuts, honey-roasted peanuts, whatever strikes your fancy.  I went with a little of everything on the off-chance that if they were ugly to begin with, becoming really ugly would somehow make them cute again.
  7. This strategy was unsuccessful.
  8. When all the truffles are coated, put them into the fridge for another 30-60 minutes, until the chocolate is hard.  Because you tempered the chocolate, you shouldn’t have probTruffles!lems removing the truffles from the cookie sheet and putting them on a plate.

That’s it.  Not too hard; the active parts of the recipe only take about 30-40 minutes all together.  If you’re really patient you should make a big batch with different flavors and give them to people for Hannukah.  I’m not really patient, so I only make truffles for people I really like.

Em ơi! #332: I Think He’s Serious

"Maybe we can go to Cold Stone and I can just...stand outside and inhale..."

In the last panel there, B is actually making fun of me–that’s something I would say.  He has never shown any concern for what he eats in conjunction with how much or how little he runs.

EDIT: So originally I had the above sentence phrased differently.  B protests that he does care about staying svelte, which is why he runs several times per week with me, lift weights, and so on.  Which is totally fair — I don’t mean to imply that he’s a slouch or not fit or something.  He’s quite fit.  Mm.

Sorry.  I got distracted.  Anyway, my point was not that he is unfit or spends his entire life eating frosting out of a canister with a spoon (which is something I have possibly done in the middle of a sugar craving, ugh), but that he doesn’t freak out when he eats too many sweets.  If I eat a lot of candy, I feel like I have to run more to run it off.  He just shrugs and eats less the next day.  Both systems work in terms of weight maintenance…but his is definitely more relaxing.  So that is how he’s making fun of me.  He’s not a monster or anything.

Anyway, I found it amusing.

Things that count as “candy”: ice cream/frozen yoghurt, candy, chocolates, flavored syrup that goes in coffee, granola bars that have chocolate chunks in them, honey-roasted peanuts, sugar-coated pastries such as cupcakes or donuts or chocolate-chip muffins.

Things that don’t count as candy: sugar or hot cocoa mix in my morning coffee or afternoon tea (I need sugar and milk to drink coffee, and without coffee I cannot function, probably.  And Bryan said he would move out.), cough drops, dried fruit.

Today is actually day two of this experiment.  It runs until the end of the day Sunday (meaning “when I go to bed”).  I drew this picture to indicate how the first two days have been:

"Meh."I had a presentation today that was quite terrifying (I hate presentations generally, that’s why I want to be a novelist and sit in a cafe and not talk to people).  Most of my energy has been directed toward that and not to thinking about the sugar I am missing out on.  I notice I want some (for example, I usually have a small sweet after dinner, and I missed that today), but it isn’t overwhelming.  Since I still get sugar in my coffee, I don’t feel totally deprived.

I probably won’t have dramatic weight loss (all the running means my weight fluctuates a lot depending on my hydration), but maybe I can restructure my diet to have fewer cookies and more apples.  Not a terrible idea.

This comic is filed under TX553.S8 L86 2010, for (you ready for this?):

Home economics–Nutrition.  Foods and food supply–Examination and analysis.  Composition.  Adulteration–Dietary studies, food values, experiments, tests, etc.–Special constituents, A-Z–Sugar

LCC almost never fails.  Amazing.

Am I the only one who does crazy experiments-of-one like this?

Comfort Food: Baked Squash with Lentils and Rice

I had this marathon dentist appointment yesterday.

Dentist: Well, not quite a marathon, more of a half marathon.   (True, he actually said this.)

Emily: My half marathon PR is about an hour shorter than this appointment.

I went in at 9:30 and left at 12:15, is what I’m saying.  And that was for four cavities, as mentioned previously.  Yikes. That much terror is exhausting, though luckily the appointment was relatively pain-free.

So with Bryan out of town and the election results not coming up in favor of the candidates I was backing (Go Tammy Baldwin, though!  I’m so glad she beat Chad Lee, who was an ass of the first degree), I needed something comforting to eat.  Comforting and soft.  And easy.

Then I remembered we had an acorn squash!  Since Bryan dislikes squash, I told him I would be cooking and eating a bunch of it while he was gone.  Alas, all the recipes I found on the internet were for squash coated in brown sugar.  Now brown sugar and squash are a good combination, but after all that dental work I was a bit reluctant to make something hugely sugary (this resolution lasted until 22:00).  So I had to make up a recipe.  This is it.  It takes about an hour to make, but that’s about fifteen minutes of actually doing things and the other forty-five minutes of sitting in the next room reading blogs doing homework.



  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half (equatorial, not longitudinally–you want to wind up with rings of squash when you are done) seeds removed.
  • About 1 tsp of pesto and 2 tsp of margarine, mixed, with a pinch of rosemary and cayenne.
  • 1/3 c. of (brown or green) lentils and 1/3 c. rice.  The lentils I buy are brown in color but technically I think they are green lentils.  I don’t know.  Lentils.
  • 1/4 c. of red lentils.
  • 2/3 c. + 1/4 c. water.
  • Spices like 1 cube veggie bouillon, a bit of the margarine/pesto mix, whatever you like on your lentils.
  • A handful of sliced Crimini mushrooms.
  • A splash of Marsala.
  • Some pasta sauce (I like Newman’s Own).

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.  Smear the insides of the halved squashes with the butter/pesto mixture and drizzle with balsamic vinegar if you want.  You may want to score the squashes — I didn’t but it would have been a good idea.  Also salt and pepper (I forgot).  Put the squash in a foil-lined baking dish and stick them in the oven.  Set timer for 30 minutes and get the rice cooker ready to go on the rice and lentils, but don’t turn it on yet.
  2. At the 30 minute mark, turn on the rice cooker and set the timer for 15 more minutes.
  3. At the 45 minute mark, check the squash.  If it’s done, take it out, otherwise give it another 10 or so.  Saute the mushrooms in a little butter.  I usually do this over high heat because I like my veggies to get brown and kind of seared.  Bryan thinks this is heretical and does them over medium when he’s cooking.  So pick the method you’re comfortable with.
  4. When the mushrooms are done, deglaze the pan with Marsala and add a half cup or a cup of tomato sauce, just long enough to warm up.
  5. Plating: Ring of squash on the bottom, stuffed with lentil/rice mixture in the middle, topped with mushrooms and sauce and Parmesan cheese after that (if you want cheese).

This recipe would be good without the tomato sauce too.  Go with what you’re feeling, that’s what I’m saying.

Em ơi! #331: Keeping Fear Alive

"Odontophobia" is the pathological fear of dentists.So while I was driving to Barriques I heard a song on the radio.  The only lyrics I understood were “You could be a G.”  The rest of the song was in Hindi (or I assume it was Hindi).  If that is gangsta rap in India I am all for it, it was quite good.

No, okay.  I’ll tell you what you want to know: Four cavities.  Me.  Tomorrow.  So I did this comic in advance because maybe I won’t survive?  And Bryan is working the night shift out in VA, so I wanted to give him something to amuse him.

I’m not exactly afraid of dentists per se.  I’m just not fond of them.  And afraid of whirring tools in my mouth.  And afraid of pain.  When I went for my first checkup in a number of years two weeks ago, the dentist and the hygienist were trading quips about how difficult two of the cavities were going to be to fill.  That was really reassuring.  Bryan just said, “Dentistry isn’t scary.  It’s warm and fuzzy.”  I’ve been repeating this to myself like a mantra.

It is weird having to amuse myself all day and night.  Not that I am complaining about the ability to get up when I want without someone suggesting that it is too damn early and maybe I should come back to bed, but the evening does get a bit lengthy and dull.  I spent three episodes of the Daily Show/Colbert Report drawing the comic.  Then I realized it was only seven, and what the hell do I do with myself for the rest of the night?

That’s a rhetorical question.  The answer is “Go to a cafe to write overly dramatic blog posts and not do work.”

This comic is filed under RK60 .L86 2010, for Dentistry–Dentistry as a profession.  Dental hygiene as a profession–General works.  Although there is a “fear of doctors” heading, there’s no heading for fear of dentists.  Apparently all the headings contain the fear.

If you are bored and you want to see some of the hundreds of photos I take (well not really, but I take quite a few photos), you can check out my flickr site.  I will try to keep adding stuff for your amusement if you do.