Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Do You Like Monster Cookies?

Frank Zappa once asked, "Do you like monster movies? I looove monster movies." He then went on to describe a particular monster movie and its cheezy production, before cranking into the song "Cheepnis". (This is from the album "Roxy & Elsewhere", a collection of hot live performances from 1973-4. Wanna listen? Click here. Note: this is an audio-only presentation on YouTube.)

Well, I too love monster movies, and I looove Frank Zappa as well. Apparently, it was a Halloween tradition for him to play a Halloween show, which must have been the most fun a person could have at the time, if you like that kind of thing. (Apparently the tradition lives on with his son Dweezil and the band ZappaPlays Zappa.) I've chosen, with much encouragement from Ken, who is the REAL Zappa fan (scary) to commemorate Frank Zappa's contribution to, well, many things in our life. He's definitely contributed to my own madness, and continues to do so, as evidenced here. In addition to the cookie, I'm including a live performance of a great Zappa guitar number, Watermelon in Easter Hay.

If you want to see more stuff, YouTube has a number of juicy offerings, one of which is a BBC documentary from 1992, Jazz from Hell. Also, check out (You can hook up to "Zappa Radio" through this site.)

I've also chosen to pay homage to some monsters who have recently crossed my path, and with whom I'm pretty sure Frank Zappa would be glad to share company. The first of these is a classic. In 1932, Boris Karloff starred in the original version of The Mummy. This is quite a different role from that of Frankenstein, a recent success at the time this film was made. The mummy Ardeth Bey is a speaking part, and for a few minutes appears to have a chance with the girl. Alas, he is too creepy.

The next strange cookie is fashioned after the Brain from Planet Arous, a giant criminal alien brain set on taking over the world. Here is a link to a more complete synopsis of the film, and if that does it for you, here is a link to watch the movie itself. It's a real hoot to watch the brain bounce through the air on a wire. Sometimes I prefer the bad special effects to the good ones!

Speaking of bad special effects, the last movie monster I've chosen to immortalize in Strange Cookie form is a classic of cheap science fiction cinema, Robot Monster.

Considered to be second only to the great (and awful) Ed Wood classic, Plan 9 From Outer Space, this movie has it all, plus a bubble machine. Watch as Robot Monster picks his way through a field, trying desperately not to step on anything. Be amazed at his subtle manipulation of the rabbit ears antenna as he tunes in his magical space TV to get a better look at the human woman's breasts. Amazingly, the man who played Robot Monster in the film went on to make quite a career for himself in a gorilla suit. I can only speculate, as he was terrible in this movie, that he came with his own suit. The director of this movie attempted suicide after its release, not, as it was rumored, because it was so bad, but because he got screwed out of his cut of the money by the film's distributors. Oh yeah, the original release of this movie was in 3-D! (We saw the 2-D version.) For a more complete synopsis, click here. To watch the movie itself, click here. (The movie link I've included was posted in kind of a TV show format, so if you can sit through, or skip through, the little comedy sketches, the whole movie is there. I don't think it would be that hard to find this movie if that doesn't do it for you.) If all this excites you beyond belief, or if you just want to buy the T-shirt and skip the movie, check out this cool site I found.

And finally, I want to mention that a hugely important election is coming up on November 4th, and I urge EVERYONE to get out there. (There is a website devoted to a national pumpkin carving campaign in support of Barak Obama, Yes We Carve. Check it out. I've decided to contribute a strange cookie to the cause.

And a note to all my friends: you can't really vote twice. I'm just trying to be funny. Let's all hope for a smooth and fair election. Wouldn't that be nice?

COMING NEXT: a lovely whole-brain, uh, I mean whole-grain bread recipe. Mmmmm!

Friday, October 10, 2008

At last, Lemon Cookies!

I have a fond memory from several years ago of cookie baking at Christmas with a fellow catering coworker. We each chose several goodies that we wanted to bake for gifts, then baked in quantity, and split up the results so we each had some of everything. We made some great stuff! One of my favorite things was a lemon cookie recipe that I got from an old cookbook that belongs to my stepmother. The book came from her grandmother, and had many wonderful old-fashioned cookie recipes to draw from. The recipe that I'm referring to is a lemon cookie that is meant for rolling out and cutting. I remember that I made lovely small bite sized diamond shaped cookies with scalloped edges, and iced them with a simple powdered sugar/ fresh lemon juice combination.

Lemon Snaps

2 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg + 1 extra yolk
2 T lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest


2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar

To make the cookies:

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cream butter and sugar, add egg and extra yolk and beat until fluffy. Add lemon juice and zest, and mix. Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Chill until firm, roll, cut and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until lightly browned on the bottom (lift one gently with a spatula to check doneness.) Again, I'll guess that these cookies will take about 8-10 minutes, but always watch them carefully and check for doneness. This type of cookie is easy to overbake. Of course, it will be delicious regardless, but it is at its best both in lemony taste and pretty appearance if not allowed to brown up too much.

To make the icing:

Put lemon juice in a bowl, add powdered sugar, and stir until smooth and a bit creamy. Adjust the thickness/ thinness of icing by adding small amounts of either juice or sugar. You may need to try it on a cookie or two to judge whether it needs adjusting at all. ( This icing is also good on the Basic Rolled Cookie. I plan to post a more detailed discussion of icing recipes and methods.)

When thinking about how to shape lemon cookies, the obvious choice is, of course, a lemon.

Actually, I've already done a lemon shaped cookie in the kale soup recipe. It is more fun to know that the cookie will taste like a lemon as well as look like one! To truly qualify as a Strange Cookie, however, one needs to exercise a little more imagination. My next obvious choice was a can of furniture polish.

The Ford Edsel was a popular suggestion from the peanut gallery, but my featured strange cookie is a Volkswagon Rabbit modeled after an ex- boyfriend's car that haunted my life for several years in the late 80's- early 90's.

I think people either loved their Rabbits, or hated them. I'm not sure why the boyfriend who owned the Rabbit I'm speaking of loved his so much, but his love inspired the sinking of many paychecks into the Rabbit's cause, with very little return. Oh yeah, some of this inspiration was fueled by the Repair Your Own (enter name of Volkswagon product here) literature available for starry- eyed wanna-be weekend mechanics. Sadly, these projects seldom ended well at our place.

Apparently, Volkswagon has a new Rabbit to offer the world. I doubt that the floorboards will rust out as readily as those in the older models were purported to do, but who knows? I do know that I enjoyed eating this cookie. All the lines were drawn with a chocolate/ lemon buttercream, mmmmmmmmmm!.

I'm currently testing my bread recipe before sharing it. I'd love it if anyone wants to try these recipes and leave comments-- anyone can.