First Winter Storm Of The Year

The Midwest has been getting pounded by a winter storm that is rolling through.  Today, it is our turn here in Columbus.

It rained all day yesterday and into this morning, but by mid-morning the rain turned to snow.  It has continued to snow since then, and the accumulation has been rapid, quickly covering the back yard and the front yard and leaving our bushes and shrubs with a heavy coating of white.

Snow falling outside the kitchen window is a good accompaniment to holiday baking and holiday music.

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Baking Day, Round Two

Lots of people will be getting cookies this year, so multiple days of baking are required.  Today is round two for 2010, where I will be trying some new recipes and revisiting some old favorites.

Time To Hire A New Press Secretary

On Friday, President Obama released a statement about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.  It comes from the Office of the Press Secretary, and to put it mildly it is not one of the White House’s best efforts.

The three-paragraph statement begins by reminding everyone that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, notes that the award has been “claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice,” and then modestly states that Liu Xiaobo is “far more deserving of this award” than the President was.  The statement notes, in its last paragraph, that “Mr. Liu reminds us that human dignity also depends upon the advance of democracy, open society, and the rule of law” and that the “values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released as soon as possible.”

I don’t for a minute believe that President Obama had anything to do with crafting this statement or even saw it before it was released.  He is much too savvy a politician to write a statement that plays directly into a persistent theme of his opponents — namely, that the President is arrogant, egotistical, and mostly interested in himself.  There was no need for the President to remind people that he won the Nobel Peace Prize last year; that context could be provided by the news media in case anyone has forgotten.  Nor should the President unthinkingly be placing himself among purported “giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice.”

This is a situation where the President needs to rely on his staff.  In this instance his staff clearly let him down, and he has sustained a self-inflicted wound as a result.  I would guess that the statement was written by some junior speechwriter who thought, wrongly, that it would be a good idea to give a currently embattled President some props for winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  But wasn’t this statement read by Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, or some other more senior White House aide?  Or do they think the American people want a President who reminds them of his receipt of an award that many thought was awarded as a political statement rather than on merit, when he should, instead, be focusing exclusively on the specific activities of the courageous activist who has been awarded the Peace Prize this year for work that has nothing whatsoever to do with President Obama?

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes (2010) (Cont.)

Ms. Martha, one of my mentees at work, offered this recipe.  I made it yesterday and it is just an excellent cookie, period.  Ms. Martha is an experienced baker with very strong opinions about baking-related issues.  She insisted, for example, that this recipe must be made with King Arthur Flour, as “the true baker’s flour,” and that I not substitute green and red M&Ms for the semisweet chocolate.  Of course, I complied with her wishes, and I was pleased indeed with the results. And, given the name of the cookies, I tip my cap to Aunt Ann, whoever she may be.

Aunt Ann’s Delicious Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:  1 cup unbleached all-purpose King Arthur flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup natural peanut butter (about 9 ounces), 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped.  (I used large semisweet morsels for the coarsely chopped chocolate, and they worked well.)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease three large baking sheets.  Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

In a separate large bowl, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended.  Stir the flour/baking soda/salt mixture into the peanut butter mixture, one half at a time.  Stir in the chocolate.

For each cookie, scoop about three tablespoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheets, spacing about 2 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookie puff, begin to brown on top, and are still very soft to touch.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then use metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a rack.  Eat warm or cool completely.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes (2010) (Cont.)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes (2010) (Cont.)

2009 Christmas Cookie Recipes