Chocolate Crinkles

Warning: Do not inhale the powdered sugar.

These cookies are amazing. They have a texture somewhere between cookie, brownie and chocolate cupcake. And they’re way easy to make.

Chocolate Crinkles
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

4 eggs
2 c. granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (I used 4 of the already melted packets)
1/2 c. cooking oil
2 t. baking powder
2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sifted powdered sugar (for rolling)

In a mixing bowl beat eggs, sugar, chocolate, oil, baking powder, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer (or be old-school like me and do it by hand).

Beat in flour, 1/2 cup at a time until combined. Dough will be really soft. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours or until dough is easy to handle (or be impatient like me and pop it in the freezer for an hour).

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, roll them thoroughly in powdered sugar and place them 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until edges are set and tops are crackled. Transfer to a rack and cool.

For giant cookies:
Make 2-inch balls and bake for 13-16 minutes.

Reggie

Reggie and me, we didn’t always get along so well. This is our story.

As soon as I got my first job and apartment in 2003 I wanted a dog. I missed having a warm body to curl up inside the crook of my legs, especially during cold Iowa winters. I’d always had a little dog at home – first a miniature schnauzer and then a Boston terrier. So that’s what I imagined myself getting. Little dogs, little poops. Unfortunately, my apartment, and the next one, didn’t take dogs.

But then Mike came along and my dog fantasy became our dog fantasy. He grew up with a black lab and couldn’t picture a day at the dog park (that’s the “dp” in our house) without a thigh-high mutt in tow. He was also adamant that we get a rescue dog. So while we were living in different states for nearly a year we planned our eventual life together with a middle-sized rescue pup in it. We even picked out a name, Reggie, after the Des Moines Register, the newspaper where we both worked when we met. Reggie was gonna be awesome.

A few months into our cohabitation we finally decided we were ready for dog ownership. We scoured the Animal Rescue League Web site a few times to see if our Reggie might be there. Then one day we finally took the plunge and went in person. After pet sessions with a couple dogs that just didn’t seem quite right, we almost gave up. But someone told us there were a couple ARL dogs at a nearby pet store, and we headed that way. I think we knew right away which one was our Reggie.

She was medium-sized, mega affectionate, brown eyed, floppy eared. A little ragged and dirty, but in pretty good shape. She drug us all over the pet store the next day while we piled our cart with everything a spoiled dog could ever need. And when we took her home and let her into our huge backyard she seemed right at home.

The adventure started right away. Most of the dogs’ cages at the ARL warned of kennel cough, but Reggie seemed to be free of it. We also didn’t notice that her scar from being recently spayed was getting infected. Within 24 hours she began coughing and vomiting pretty much constantly. We took her to the vet, who pronounced her one sick puppy. High fever, respiratory infection, open wound. After dropping something like $250 on that visit we took her home, overwhelmed. As we were about to leave her alone in her kennel, wearing one of those horrible Elizabethan collars to keep her from licking the oozing wound, she looked at us with the saddest eyes. I think we humans were both near tears.

Thankfully she got better, but she was a different dog. With her energy back she ran wild, tearing out blinds to see through the front windows, peeing on furniture, chewing shoes, digging holes under the fence. And she absolutely came undone when we left her alone. Twice left at the ARL, she was understandably anxious about separation. Would we abandon her, too?

When I took her for walks she nearly ripped the skin off my fingers pulling. So we got a Gentle Leader. She constantly jumped on me, and with her strength and sharp nails, would leave long scratches and purple bruises down my legs. So we taught her to jump straight up instead of straight at people. She found out how to dig under the fence and escape the yard. So we patched it over and over and over. After a while, owning Reggie was painful and exhausting.

Believe me, I think of myself as a big-hearted person (maybe too big sometimes) and still I was ready to send her straight back some days. She made me absolutely furious. She’s everything I’m not – a natural athlete, bursting with energy, easily social with other dogs. I’m mellow, low-energy, independent. I love my alone time. I just didn’t understand her.

The incidents came, one after another. The broken glass incident, the spilled coffee, the bloody toenail, the time she jumped out of a fast-moving car, the time she locked me out of my car on a hot summer night at a gas station in the middle of Missouri on a Sunday night and began honking the horn at me. I could go on. She tested my patience like a kid with ADD. She howled endlessly when we left her alone, that deep, guttural yelp she gets from her beagle blood.

But we steeled ourselves. This was what we wanted so badly, after all. And she was so cute in her Halloween costume, so proud of her speed at the dog park as she smoked every pup in sight, so cuddly at night. She loved us hard. She literally laid on us to sleep. She didn’t know anything about personal space. Maybe she thought if she gave us any, we were bound to leave.

Getting her to the dog park or to a local doggie daycare were the only ways we could burn enough of her energy to see a remotely relaxed dog at home, so we tried to keep up. There were plenty of vet appointments. The time she ate a whole box of heartworm medicine. The time she ate an azalea leaf. That sort of thing.

I didn’t want to admit it, but the truth was that Reggie was not the dog I wanted. She was the dog I got. And everything inside me fought her at every turn – why can’t you just be normal?! I didn’t like what she brought out in me. The fear that if I were to have a child that wasn’t everything I wanted someday, I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I wouldn’t be strong enough. I was probably going to be a bad parent.
So I stuck with her, partly because she needed me and partly because I needed her to teach me that I could handle this.

I don’t know that we ever had a breakthrough, per se, but we have come to an understanding. I accept her for the crazy dog that she is and she licks me when I’m down. I let her run, she naps all afternoon. We’re still working on the part where a guest comes over and she plows into them with her full body weight. Where is Caesar when you need him?

The incidents will always be there, but they are growing fewer as we learn each other. Something in me had to change for us to work out, and I think it has. It’s the kind of patience no one can teach you. If it’s in you, it will take a Reggie to find it.

Rice pudding

Rice pudding is one of those dishes that I never thought I would like until I tried it. Mixing something that’s usually considered savory with sugar and cream just seemed strange. But the first time I had good, chilled rice pudding I gave in completely.

My favorite recipe so far is from Barefoot Contessa. I believe she uses raisins and a splash of rum, but I skip those and have it plain.

Rice Pudding

3/4 c. white basmati rice
1/2 t. kosher salt
5 c. half-and-half (really)
1/2 c. sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1-1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. cinnamon

Combine the rice and salt with 1-1/2 cups water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stir once and simmer, covered, on low heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed.

Stir in 4 cups half-and-half and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end.

Temper the egg by adding a few ladles of liquid before stirring it into the pot (this is optional — it will still taste great without the egg). Cook for 1 minute more. Off the heat, add the remaining cup of half-and-half, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir well. Chill and serve.