Category Archives: Third Act

Laborless Lemon Shortbread!

September 5, 2005



Caryn lounges on the couch, still wearing pajamas that look like they’ve been on her body for a few days. A cup of lemon-blueberry tea steams from the coffee table. Next to the cup is a severely depleted pile of buttery, lemon shortbread.

Mom walks in from the bedroom, fully dressed for a day on the town. She turns down the volume on the blaring television.


Is that all you’re going to do all day? Lay around eating shortbread and watching weepy movies?


I sense that you don’t approve.


I’m going shopping. Want to come?

Caryn rolls over on the couch and stretches.


Mom, it’s Labor Day and I have no desire to do anything that even remotely hints at the idea of labor.

Mom hooks her little pink purse on her arm, which perfectly matches her pink capri pants.


Suit yourself, but you really can’t afford to eat any more shortbread.

Mom leaves and Caryn reaches for another piece.

Lemon Shortbread

1 1/2 sticks of salted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 TB. grated lemon zest

1/2 tsp. lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream together butter and sugar until light. Sift flour into butter. Add zest and extract and blend until smooth.

3. On an ungreased cookie sheet, press dough into an 8″ square with lightly floured fingers. Smooth top and score into 2″ squares with the back of a knife.

4. Bake until lightly golden on edges, about 20 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Cut into 2″ pieces and continue to cool on wire rack.

Yield 16 cookies.

Near Miss: Gingered Peach Cobbler!

June 8, 2005



The production is in full swing. The CREW hustles around, setting up the next shot. The Director chats with Mr. R. and Miss A. in the middle of the set. Caryn watches the action from a distance.

ANGLE ON a GRIP walking toward Caryn with a long, metal pole directed straight for the back of her head.



Caryn doesn’t budge. The grip doesn’t see her.



The tip of the pole is inches from Caryn’s skull when…


…reaches out toward her. She is violently pulled to the side, nearly falling over.

The grip passes with the pole. He scowls at her as he yells again.



Caryn is stunned to see the grip speaking to her. A man whispers to her in a familiar voice.

MR. R. (O.S.)

Points means to get out of his way.

She looks over to discover that her employer also seems to be playing the role of her hero.


Oh gosh, sorry.

He smiles at her as a parent to a child.

MR. R.

Just try to act like you know what you’re doing here. You’re supposed to be my assistant, remember?


Yes, sorry. I, um, just wanted to let you know that the cobbler is ready.

Mr. R. chuckles.

MR. R.

Thanks. I’ll be done soon.

She stares at a spot on her tennis shoe.


Okay. Sorry.

He laughs again. Caryn steals a glance around at the crew that has suddenly fallen silent. The whole set is now waiting for them, watching Mr. R. and Caryn intently. She squirms under the stares, but he doesn’t seem to care.

MR. R.

What kind of cobbler is it?

Caryn catches Lauren’s disapproving eye.


Um, peach. Ginger peach.

MR. R.

Ah! From a Georgia girl, of course.

Mr. R. straightens his costume.


Try to be more careful, Caryn.

He gently pats her shoulder and then saunters back to set. The Director immediately starts yelling instructions to his crew in anticipation of the shot. Lauren redirects her focus to the monitor before her.

And Caryn sneaks away, relieved to be out of the spotlight.

Gingered Peach Cobbler

It ain’t the prettiest cobbler, but the ginger jazzes up this Southern classic. The pastry crust is thicker than a pie crust which makes it more suitable for a cobbler. Use ready-made pie dough in a pinch.

1 cup sugar

2 TB. cornstarch

10 ripe medium peaches, peeled and sliced

2 TB. lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger


3 cups flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup ice water

1 egg white

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 TB. sugar

1. To make dough: Combine flour, salt and shortening in food processor until even. Add butter in pieces, pulsating until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add just enough ice water for dough to stick together (not necessary to use the whole 1/2 cup). Knead dough a few times and divide into two portions, one slightly larger. Wrap in plastic wrap and flatten slightly. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 13×9-inch pan.

3. Mix sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add peaches, lemon juice and ginger. Toss to coat and set aside for 15 minutes.

4. Roll out larger portion of dough to a 15×12-inch rectangle, no thicker than 1/4″ inch. Place dough in prepared pan, wrapping dough up the sides of the pan. Pour peach mixture on top of dough. Trim dough just above peaches.

5. Roll out remaining dough into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick. Cut into 1/4″-1/2″ strips and arrange in a lattice pattern over peaches (diagonally is easiest). Squeeze edges of strips with bottom dough to seal. Mix cinnamon and sugar together. Brush strips with egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon mixture.

6. Bake about 45 minutes until bubbly and crust is golden. Serve warm.

Serves 8-12.

Skip the Donut, Fry an Apple!

May 28, 2005



Giant tents can be seen from quite a distance on the flat, Southern landscape. Dozens of WORKERS unload heavy, shiny lights from their big-rig trucks. Other FOLKS mill about a couple of steamy, catering trucks, discussing the day’s workload over their cups of coffee and donuts.

Row after row of trailers are lined up, indistinguishable from one another as PEOPLE pass in and out with clipboards and headset walkies. One trailer, however, wafts with the smell of frying dough and apples…


Caryn has already made the new kitchen her home. She stands comfortably over the small stove, dropping rings into oil bubbling madly in her cast iron skillet.

Mr. R. lounges on the couch, script in hand and a napkin tucked into his shirt collar.

MR. R.

I can’t believe you brought an iron skillet all the way across the country.


I would’ve shipped it, but I didn’t know where we were going.

(she pauses)

I’m still not quite sure where we are.

MR. R.

Me neither. All I know is that there isn’t a Starbucks in sight and Lauren has been on a latte-deprived rampage all week.

Caryn winces at the thought as she drains the rings. A timid knock sounds at the door before it is cracked open. The very young, shy SECOND SECOND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR peeks her head in.


Mr. R.? I think they’re ready for you in make-up.

Mr. R. rolls the script up under his arm and walks over to the girl in the door. She is clearly enamored with the star.

Caryn piles some crisp, doughy apple rings onto a napkin.


Wait. Take these with you!

MR. R.

Ah! Perfect. Beats the heck out of craft services.

The 2nd 2nd looks at Caryn in wonder, but is afraid to speak. The pair heads off down the row to find another trailer. A couple CREW MEMBERS wander by nonchalantly, but as Mr. R. passes, they can’t help a quick glance back.


The tartness of a Granny Smith apple will cut through the cakey dough. The batter isn’t sweet, so you might want to add sugar. Or use a sweeter apple, like a Golden Delicious.

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 TB. shortening

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

4 medium apples, pared and cored

vegetable oil, for frying

confectioner’s sugar

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening with a fork or two knives until crumbly. Add egg and milk. Whisk until batter is smooth.

2. Heat 1/2″ of oil in large, heavy-duty skillet until hot enough to fry. Test by dropping a tiny dab of batter into oil. If too hot, batter will burn before apples are cooked, so adjust temperature accordingly while frying.

3. Cut apples into 1/4″ slices. Dip apples into batter until well coated. Drop into hot oil. Fry until golden and apples are cooked through, about 2 minutes each side.

4. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sugar just before serving.

Yield: About 2 dozen rings.

News, News: Cherries!

May 8, 2005



Caryn strolls the aisles in her wide-brimmed sunhat. Her shoulder bag sags with the weight of the vegetables and fruits.

One table has a giant sign that reads “First of the Season.” Cherries of all shades of red are piled around the sign. Caryn stops and samples one.


A little too ripe, huh?

The other PATRONS pay no attention to her as they shove handfuls of cherries in their bags.


Caryn squeezes a cherry to test its firmness and then bites into it.


Mm. Perfect.

The CHERRY MAN smiles at her review. She starts to fill a bag.


My only week of cherries this year.

Caryn stops abruptly.




Yeah, all the rain. My crop is already rotting.



The cherry man nods apologetically before helping another CUSTOMER who seems to be scrutinizing each cherry before he bags it. Caryn resumes filling her bag, saddened by the news.


Caryn shells some fresh English peas as Miss A. bounds in.


Oo! Cherries!

She grabs a heaping handful of cherries from the bowl that Caryn had placed on the counter.


I just love cherries.

Caryn tries to ignore her and continues her work. The cherries in Miss A.’s hand are gone in no time and she reaches for another handful.


I’ve gained three whole pounds from eating here. I guess it’s a good thing I’m heading to the set tomorrow.

This catches Caryn’s attention.


They’re starting the shoot?


Finally! One of my scenes is first, of course.

Miss A. pops yet another cherry in her mouth.


I have to finish packing.

She grabs another handful of cherries before leaving. The once-filled bowl is reduced by half, but Caryn can’t help feeling invigorated by Miss A.’s news.

Yes, it’s true. Many cherry crops in California have been devastated by the late rains. Get what you can at LA Farmers Markets now!

Chocolate Cream Pie!

April 22, 2005



Caryn stirs hunks of dark chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler. A rich, creamy custard waits patiently for its lavish counterpart to melt. A prepared crust anticipates the wedding from the counter.

Miss A.’s strappy, high heels tip-tap on the tile as she enters in a silky dress held on her body only by two capellini straps. Her eyes glance toward the pie crust as she takes a compact out of her purse. She dabs her perfect skin with the light powder.


We’re going out after the premiere. I guess no one told you.

Caryn is mesmerized by the melting chocolate.


That’s okay. This won’t be done for hours–

Mr. R. strolls in wearing a purposely faded t-shirt and dark denim jeans. Miss A. stiffens at his appearance.


What are you wearing? We’re going to be late.

Mr. R. watches Caryn fold the smooth chocolate into the custard.

MR. R.

I really don’t feel very social today. I’m not going.


What? We have reservations at Ago’s!. You love their lobster risotto.

Mr. R.

I especially don’t feel like the scene at Ago’s.

Miss A. snaps the compact shut.


Don’t be ridiculous. The car is waiting.

Mr. R. leans against the counter, not about to budge.


Fine. Do what you want.

Miss A. shoves the compact in her purse and storms out. Mr. R. chuckles to himself.

MR. R.

Nothing special for dinner, Caryn. Something light.

Caryn nods and smiles to herself. Mr. R. heads out the door only to turn back around.


Oh, and a piece of that pie.

Chocolate Cream Pie

This dressed-up pie certainly won’t invoke memories of the one you had at a roadside diner during the family vacation to Florida. Use Valrhona’s Manjari Chocolate (64%) and you could serve it to the most discerning of critics, only to be met with overwhelming success.

Loquacity and Loquats!

April 20, 2005



Caryn’s Honda screeches to a halt and she hops out, but her coat belt catches in the door and she gets yanked back.



She struggles with the belt to no avail. When she finally pulls it free, her bag and all its contents go flying. It lands off the driveway, spilling everywhere. Caryn growls and slams the car door closed.

She is crouched down, picking up her stuff when Lauren comes out of the house with her cell phone plastered to her ear.


Yeah, what a prima donna! He’ll be the only one on set with a personal chef, that’s for sure.

Caryn gasps, but Lauren does not see her in the shade of a large tree. Lauren sits in the leather seat of her shiny, black Mercedes and swings her stiletto’d heels in.


Oh, believe me. I’ll take care of her. She’ll be miserable before she even gets there.

She closes the door, ending Caryn’s eavesdropping. Lauren peels the car out of the driveway as Caryn falls back and sits with her legs stretched out under the tree. She sighs and looks up at the sky.

Her view, however, is blocked by the heavy branches hanging just above her head. For the first time, Caryn notices that she sits under a tree loaded with ripe, golden fruit. Her dismay is immediately replaced with wonder.


What do we have here?

Loquats Poached in a Light Apple Syrup

More delicate than poached pears, loquats can be served as a light dessert or used as a garnish to other confections.

1-1/2 cups apple juice

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

40-50 peeled loquats, cores and seeds removed

1. Bring apple juice, sugar and cinnamon to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

2. Add loquats and simmer until soft, 3-5 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Serves 4.

Mood Lifter: Cherimoya!

April 12, 2005



Dishes and serving platters are lined along the edge of the counter, waiting to serve the evening’s fare. Something fragrant simmers in a large pot. Freshly cleaned spring vegetables lay near the skillet that will bring them to life.

Caryn sits at her table, away from the stove that will soon call her. A heart-shaped, green fruit is sliced open before her. She picks up her spoon and is about to scoop out the creamy, white flesh when Mr. R. enters from the dining room.

He doesn’t seem to notice Caryn as he takes a bottle of water from the fridge, but in one swift movement, he spins around to face her.

MR. R.

What’re you eating?

Caryn winces at the abrupt inquiry.


A cherimoya.

MR. R.

A what?


Some people call it a custard apple.

Mr. R. is silent, deep in thought about something as he looks at the fruit. Caryn waits skeptically until he suddenly snaps out of it.

MR. R.

Can I try it?

She attempts a smile.


Oh, yeah. Of course.

Mr. R. opens a drawer and shuffles through it. Caryn gets up and opens a different drawer. She hands him the spoon she pulls from it. He accepts it without a word.

She returns to the table and gives him half of the fruit. They scoop around the seeds and fill their spoons with sweet pulp.

Caryn chews slowly, trying not to watch her mercurial employer. He swallows his first bite and softly nods his approval before plunging his spoon back into the fruit.

Mr. R. devours the cherimoya in silence and is gone as quickly as he appeared. Caryn pauses for a second to make sure he doesn’t come back and then finally exhales.


I’ve heard a cherimoya best described as a cross between a banana and a pineapple. In California, they can be found in farmer’s markets and some grocery stores between November and June. Once the fruit is ripe, I like to refrigerate it until cold and then eat it like ice cream.

Movie Night: Java Brownies!

April 7, 2005



Caryn, in cozy pajamas, lies on the opposite end of the couch as Matt, dressed like an Abercrombie model. Love Actually plays on the television and a plate of half-eaten brownies is placed conveniently in front of them.


Do you think he’s attractive in person?

Caryn studies Andrew Lincoln’s face.


Oh, yeah, I’m sure he is. But I haven’t met him.


Not him. Your boss.

She pulls at a chewy brownie.


I guess.


You guess? That means yes.

Matt steals another brownie himself.


Whatever. I doubt he’ll be my boss much longer. He’s about to shoot another movie.


No retainer while he’s away?

Caryn laughs. Matt licks chocolate off his fingers.


Oh well. You make a mean brownie, but you weren’t really qualified for the job in the first place.

Caryn scowls at Matt.


You know, I sometimes wonder why a guy like you has such a penchant for romantic comedies. Aren’t you late for another date?


Shh! Here’s my favorite part.

If refrigerated, these brownies are quite a chew. Room temperature keeps them right at the brink of melting.

Java Brownies

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

8 oz. good, bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 eggs

1/4 cup Starbucks Coffee Liqueur

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In large saucepan, melt butter and sugar. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until melted. Whisk in eggs until combined. Stir in liqueur. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour batter into greased 13×9-inch pan.

3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center is sticky (not clean), 15-20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Pour ganache over brownies when cool.


1/2 cup heavy cream

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup Starbucks Coffee Liqueur

1. Heat heavy cream in saucepan just until boiling. Remove from heat and add sugar and chocolate, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in liqueur. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Cupcake Mirth! (IMBB 13)

March 24, 2005



Winnie is sound asleep in her bed, the comforter snuggled up to her chin. The phone rings, piercing the early morning stillness. Winnie rolls over and pulls the covers over her head.

The phone rings again. Winnie sits up abruptly.


Go away!

She takes the phone from the nightstand and looks at the caller ID. She takes a deep breath before answering it.


This better be an emergency.


Caryn lounges on her couch, balancing the phone between her ear and shoulder while she paints her nails.


Good Morning, Sunshine!


That doesn’t sound like an emergency.


It’s a beautiful spring day! Time to get up.


Winnie throws herself back against the pillows.


The one day I don’t have to be at work early and you call and wake me up.


The birds are singing, the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and you are still in bed.


Why are we friends?


Caryn smiles, strolling proudly to the kitchen.


Because I remind you of the important things in life.


Remind me later.

There is a click from the other end of the phone. Caryn laughs and starts to clean up one very large mess of bowls, trays, and dishes.


Winnie lays in bed, staring at the ceiling.


Why are we friends?

She rolls her eyes and gets out of bed. Stretching, she walks to the front door.

As she bends down to get the paper, she notices a small pot of artificial flowers placed on the porch. Winnie carefully lifts one of the flower beds to examine it. Cupcakes. Her eyes grow wide and she grins.


I know why we’re friends.

This entry was created for IMBB #13 hosted this month by Maki at I Was Just Really Very Hungry. Check out the other entries!

Flower Cupcakes

A recipe for similar cupcakes was published in the May 25, 2004 issue of Woman’s Day, but you can use any cupcake recipe. Here’s my adaptation for decorating them:

1. Add a little green food coloring to any white frosting. Frost cupcakes.

2. To make the flowers, melt assorted colors (petal colors, plus white and brown) of Candy Writer tubes or candy melts according to package directions. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and draw/pipe the candy into teardrops about an inch long. Refrigerate until hardened.

3. Peel petals from wax paper and arrange as many five-petaled flowers on the cupcake as you can fit (4-6). Pipe a dab of white in the center of each flower, refrigerate until hard, and then pipe a few smaller dabs of brown.

4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Cherry Cheer: Bread Pudding!

March 20, 2005



Caryn’s Honda screeches to a halt with the same obnoxious sound from before. The door haphazardly swings open and Caryn steps out, right into a large muddy puddle. She groans.

She gathers her things from the car and walks up the steps to the porch where she looks in the mailbox.


Punky screams for his dinner. Caryn drops her bag and coat on the couch and looks through the mail. Bills, bills, bills.

She walks to the kitchen where she dumps food in Punky’s dish and heads over to the fridge. Bare, except for the staples: eggs, milk, diet coke. Deep sigh.

She opens a cabinet and pulls out a wrinkled, paper Zingerman’s bread bag. Out of it comes half of a dark loaf stuffed with chunks of rich chocolate and dotted with crimson Michigan cherries. Punky abandons his dinner to explore the scent of chocolate that has drifted his way. Caryn smiles.

She squeezes the loaf slightly and the smile morphs into a scowl. She taps the loaf on the counter. Hard as a rock.

Caryn stares at the loaf, defeated. She shakes her head and looks at the cat.


Well, Punk, when life gives you lemons…

Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

1/2 loaf Zingerman’s chocolate cherry bread, stale, cut into cubes

4 TBS. butter, melted

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Scharffen Berger chocolate sauce (or the closest thing you can find)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 1-cup ramkeins.

2. Toss bread cubes with melted butter, set aside.

3. Whisk eggs with sugar. Add half and half and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Add to bread cubes and toss to coat. Set aside for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.

4. Press bread mixture into ramekins and pour remaining sauce over the top.

5. Bake until puffed and bubbly, 20-25 minutes.

6. Cool slightly and invert on plates. Drizzle (or dollop) with hot chocolate sauce.

This is an easy bread pudding recipe. It works well with a dense, sweet loaf like Zingerman’s Chocolate Cherry Bread, but any stale, sweet bread would probably work.

UPDATE: This entry is part of a contest! Check out the other entries in Comfort Me: A Cookbook Contest over at Who Wants Seconds?.