Saturday, February 28, 2009

Measure Twice, Bake Once

So far, my Spring Break has been somewhat slow. I tried to make plans for myself on a fast train or an aeroplane, but nothing worked.

Alas, I'll just have to make the most of two weeks off in Maine.

What better to way to start relaxing than with a mega cupcake baking extravaganza?

(The answer should be obvious here.)

Tonight I was so excited about tomorrow's baking that I actually did cupcake prep.

I think I was heavily influenced by Hell's Kitchen last night. The girls won the challenge, so the boys had to do the girls' prep work for dinner service. Unsurprisingly, the boys "forgot" something. "Where's the tomato cream sauce?! WHERE'S THE TOMATO CREAM SAUCE?!"

If tomorrow I find I've sabotaged myself by "forgetting" an ingredient, I fully intend to yell at myself.


Prepping three very different batters was a challenge, but fun in a I-like-to-do-puzzles-and-fill-in-forms way.

Here you can see my craziness sorted out in neat fashion. Maple Bacon, Blueberry Almond Ricotta, and Fauxstess Cake ingredients all ready to go. I haven't measured out the perishables that should stay in the refrigerator overnight, but I think this setup will save me lots of time tomorrow.

Did I mention that I'm making halved and quartered recipes? Well... I am. These tiny recipes would make between 6 and 7.5 regular sized cupcakes, but since I'm feeding each classmate one of each cupcake, I'm making minis. Hopefully I can trust my fraction work.

Oh, and one last thing: I struggled to fry bacon. Who does that?

Apparently I do. Please notice the pile of rejected burnt bacon on the left there. Ugh.

On the bright side, I think that I bought myself enough time to be able to watch episode 2 of season 6 of The L Word before I go to bed tonight AND sleep until I wake up tomorrow.

Now that sounds like Spring Break.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Solo Shopping

I don't shop a lot.

At least that's what I tell myself. However, I am a big believer in retail therapy. Shopping cures all. And for me, it's really just the browsing that makes me happy.

Dressing rooms, believe it or not, also make me quite happy.

I do get a little crazy when I go shopping alone though. That's when I start spamming my sister with picture texts of the "Yes or No?" variety.

This afternoon I sent her a picture of me in this Tommy Hilfiger shirt ->

with the caption, "Look at this gorgeous shirt that I will not be spending $70 on."

I sent my roommate a picture of me in Calvin Klein jeans with the caption "Size 8 Calvin Klein jeans! I am now officially skinnier than Oprah!"

Any fans of 1988 Oprah? Just me? Okay...

In any case, my students would like me to tell you that the Little Red Wagon there is holding 67 lbs. of fat. It's a very educational and inspirational wagon of fat. Just believe me.

Meanwhile back in the dressing room...

I took a picture that I didn't end up sending anyone, so I'm going to talk it out with you.

Inside the dressing room at Macy's they had two signs (that's two inside my individual dressing room) assuring me that the "fitting rooms are monitored by same-gender security personnel."

Now let's just think about that a minute.

If the Macy's dressing rooms are monitored by "same-gender security personnel", then today those cameras were manned by a female who works towards a fierce, yet cute, androgyny with her daily appearance. Sure that her sex does not dictate her daily behavior, she plays tough on the job but obsessively bakes for friends. At turns awkward, deferential, feminist, confused, and girly, this security maven hangs with the guys and doesn't always answer her phone when it rings. And I bet that when she tries on clothes, she looks around (usually unsuccessfully) for the security camera.

I don't know, but I'd like to believe Macy's on this one. And... I'd like this similarly gendered girl's number.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Key Lime Cupcakes with a Twist

Big E's birthday is coming up and he had a pretty specific request for his birthday cupcakes. Two of Big E's favorites are Key Lime Pie and White Chocolate. So, why not combine them in one cupcake?

I started by making The Cake Mix Doctor's Key Lime Pie Cupcakes.

Don't you just love these junky shots? I guess I must, because I just can't stop taking and posting them. :)

I made these Key Lime Pie cupcakes once when I was in VA over winter break. They are, like all of the Doctor's cupcakes, easy to put together and wonderfully tasty.

After the cupcakes cooled, I injected the filling. I used the Pampered Chef icing tools my aunt gave me for my birthday.

I'd like you to tell me that the Bismarck tip on the Pampered Chef... thing... doesn't look like David the Gnome.

Don't worry. No one can.

Moving on...

I decided to incorporate the white chocolate into the cupcake by way of a nice thin layer on top of the cupcake under the meringue. I was worried that the filling would create a problem when it came to dipping the cupcake in the chocolate. I wouldn't worry so much about most fillings, but the filling in this cupcake is literally key lime pie filling and therefore very runny.

In an early morning epiphany, I decided to plug up the filling hole with a white chocolate chip. That way, I could dip without too much concern and I wouldn't be rocking the boat flavor-wise. Here's what the cupcakes looked like with filling and chip intact.

It worked pretty well. The chocolate didn't want to stick to the chip or the middle of the cupcake for that matter, but at least I didn't lose my filling into the white chocolate.

After I took this picture, I smoothed the chocolate with the back of a spoon, and no one will complain, I'm sure.

Finally, I finished out the Doctor's recipe with a coconut meringue and baked those suckers again.

And, I haven't tried one with the meringue, but I did some quality control testing after the white chocolate experiment.

That is one tasty cupcake. The key lime pie cupcake is super light and moist. The cupcake couldn't hold up under anything heavier than a meringue. A true icing would overpower it for sure. So, while the white chocolate is a nice touch, I'm looking forward to trying one with both the white chocolate and the coconut meringue.

That will have to wait until tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Big E!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Did I not mention my band?

So, I'd like to say that I don't do these things, but here we are.

I just led a two and a half hour graduate class, and I think that entitles me to some fun on the interweb.

Please enjoy my album cover:

And now please create your own.

The first article you get here is your band name.

The last 4 or 5 words of the very last quote here is your album title.

The third picture here is your cover art.

Now throw it together and post that sucker.

From experience, I can tell you that it's extremely rewarding.

Oh, and while I'm on the topic, I need a drummer. And a bass player. And a lead vocalist. And maybe another girl to sing with her who can play the guitar. So... I guess... just... a band.


Inquire within.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dunkin' & Deceivin': The Third Tier

I don't have a picture, sadly, but today I stepped up the coffee game.

I walked right in and asked the Dunkin' Donuts girl to fill my Starbucks coffee mug. Our conversation was... expectedly awkward.

Me: "Hi, can I have a coffee with skim milk and sugar?"

Her: "What size?"

Me: "Can I get it in this mug?"

Her: "Oh. Okay."

At this point she fumbled the lid and kind of shot it across the counter. Next time I'll make it easy on them and handle the lid myself. Beginner's mistake.

Her: "Starbucks, ay?"

Me: "Yeah. Your coffee is better."

Her: "Oh. I don't like coffee."

Me: "Fair enough."

We then had a short reprieve while she poured the coffee. Our conversation resumed while we waited for the cash register to do its thing.

Her: "So, do they like write your order on here and then wipe it off?"

Me: "Honestly, I've never used the mug at a Starbucks."

Her: "Oh."

The cash register drawer opened up at this point and the girl slammed it shut again with her hip.

Her: "Have a good day."

Me: "Thanks, you too!"

That conversation will go down as one of my favorite Maine interactions. Nothing particularly Maine about it except, well, everything.

Here's the coffee kicker though. My roommate wasn't in the mood for the Starbucks atmosphere today, so I drank Dunkin' Donuts coffee from a Starbucks mug while sitting in the Border's cafe.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Workout

I love television, but who doesn't feel like sitting through the Oscars or similar awards shows is a waste of time? Sure... it feels like the right thing to do at the time, but then everyone is winning and you don't know who they are or what their movie was about and you just start attacking yourself: "Why didn't I see Slumdog Millionaire?!"

In order to make our Oscar viewing more rewarding, my roommate and I have made a sport of it. Literally.

Tonight we will be Oscarcising.

It's like a drinking game but with exercise instead of alcohol.

So join the fun! Here is our list of common award show occurrences and the exercises we will perform when we see them.

Movie wins Oscar that neither of us have seen -- 2 pushups (Be nice. We haven't seen any movies and our arm strength is so-so.)

Obama invoked in acceptance speech -- 10 chair dips

Financial crisis referenced -- 1 bridge (to the future)

Winner thanks God -- 30 seconds of the pilates V thing

Maldrobe Warfunction (This is how I literally screamed it to my roommate when we were generating our list. I'm just keepin' it real.) -- jump rope

Host or presenter tells joke that falls flat -- side henge (as found in FITNESS)

Misguided actor, writer, etc. on stage who didn't bother to shave for the event -- 20 jumping jacks

Teleprompter failures -- Sumo twist (also from FITNESS)

Anyone on stage walks the wrong direction after giving their schpeal -- 10 lunges

Music played to end a speech -- 30 second plank pose

Butt bow, ruffle, or other adornment -- Jillian Michael's butt move (I saw it on Rachael Ray... It's hard to explain.)

Winner thanks "Beautiful Wife" or "Wonderful Husband" -- partner ab twist with kettlebell

Winner gives acceptance speech with heavy foreign accent -- facial yoga (hell ya!)

Joke made about celeb followed by a close-up of that celeb looking awkward -- plank rotation

Absent nominee/winner -- run out of the livingroom, up and down both flights of indoor stairs, and back into the livingroom for next move

And... here's the kicker... if anything catastrophic happens during the Oscars (think big: lights falling, someone glamorous falling down the steps, another Adrian Brody kiss, etc.) then we both have to attend one of the more embarrassing classes at the Rec Center this week. My scary class is the Boot Camp one. My roommate lives in fear of aerobics, go figure.

I should also mention that commercials are going to be used for hydration, stretching, relaxation, and so forth.

So that's it! Simple, right?

Okay, I'm going to go move some furniture in preparation for the big event.

I'll let you know how long my roommate and I last. :)

Update: I beasted the Oscars and oscarcised the entire three and a half hour program. The workout was intense in bursts but tons of fun. I gave myself 7 stars on the H4H calendar. Success!

Paulerella (Baking Mashup!)

As some of you know, my cupcake obsession recently bled over into my coursework. As an English lit grad student, that is a pretty sweet accomplishment. (No pun intended, but now that it's there... I like it.)

For my Education Literacy course on the writing process in schools, I am putting together a multigenre project on the cupcake.

I've written some fun things and I'm working on a baking soundtrack too. Perhaps I'll blog more of the project over the next couple of weeks.


I decided that just baking a recipe that I found online would be boring and... well... what I do all the time.

So, this weekend I tried out my first cupcake baking mashup. Since I tried Bakerella's cake truffles last weekend, I've been dying to make them again with a new cake flavor.

I debated the merits of both Paula Deen's Arnold Palmer cupcakes and Simply Recipe's Carrot Cake.

I made the Paula Deen cupcakes before and, in all honesty, I didn't really care for them. But... since I made them in August of 08, I've considered them the cupcakes that got away. They somehow got the best of me. By the way, an Arnold Palmer is a drink made of equal parts tea and lemonade. The cupcake is made much the same way.

The Carrot Cake just looks fantastic, but I haven't tried the recipe. Or anything from the Simply Recipes site, actually.

I was still trying to make up my mind on Friday when I pulled this card from my mom out of the mailbox.

Please note two things:
1. My eye color. Nice, right? I'm going to wear hot pink and purple from now on.
2. The writing on the card: "Wanna let's do it?!"

For those of you who don't know Paula Deen like I do, Paula asked her guest "You wanna let's do it?!" in reference to a giant slice of lasagna sandwiched between pieces of garlic bread. It was an epic sandwich that required both Paula and her guest to unhinge their respective jaws.

That is my "You wanna let's do it?!" face, of course.

Understandably, that envelope sealed the deal for me. It was almost like seeing Jesus in my toast or something.

My first mashup had to be Paula Deen's Arnold Palmer cake & icing made into Bakerella's cake truffles.

Here's how it went down.

On Friday, I baked the cupcakes according to Paula's recipe. I halved the recipe since I'm not feeding an army. And I used blackcurrant black tea since it was the only black tea I had in the house.

I then walked away from the adorable cupcakes and didn't think about them again until Saturday morning.

As I decided what to do with my day, I absentmindedly crumbled cake. I highly recommend this practice. It's quite soothing.

Then I walked away from the crumbled cake. I had to (had to) grade 9 student papers before I allowed myself to truffle the cake.

Around 8:30pm, with Hitch on in the background, I whipped up Paula's Arnold Palmer frosting.

Now this was the exact moment at which I remembered why these cupcakes sucked and would most likely suck this time too.


This might not be true, but this Arnold Palmer icing does taste like butter. Ugh. Oh well. I added some extra powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla for good measure. That helped a little.

If you'll remember, my last cake truffles were a touch strong with the icing. This time I was much more careful and I only added the icing to the cake until the mixture was sticky enough to hold together.


Next, I hand rolled the balls. Right, truffles. I'm trying not to call them "balls" for all the obvious reasons.

Can you spot the knot?

After I chilled the cake and icing mixture in the freezer for about an hour, I then dipped them in Candy Melts.

Since this was my first time working with Candy Melts, there was some trial and error for sure.

What works? you might ask. I'll tell you: a hot water bath.

It took a while to dip and roll all those truffles, but the hot water bath kept the melts from solidifying and making me want to use my words.

Here are the troops all lined up.

I didn't plan it, but I like the way the orchid melts complement the blackcurrant undertones in the cake truffle. The orchid melts are vanilla, but color has a lot to do with taste. Or maybe I just made that up.

Finally rolled, set and ready to go, here is the money shot.

That is one fine looking BlackCurrant Arnold Palmer Cake Truffle.

Even though my ideal truffle is covered in semi-sweet chocolate, I think I can call the Paulerella mashup a success. The blackcurrant tea and lemon are unexpected cake flavors that I believe are improved by the sweetness of the candy coating.

Also... while we're on the topic, I'm planning to take three mini cupcakes to my classmates as one of my genre projects. I am planning to make a bacon cupcake (I know... I've been avoiding these hardcore) and a blueberry ricotta cupcake. I'm thinking that my third needs to be overtly dessert-like. So far that means chocolate to me, but what do you think? What would go well with these two?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dunkin' & Deceivin': Done and Done

My day started very slowly.

I struggled quite mightily to actually start grading papers and reading
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

However, when I did get going, I got 9 papers graded and about 50 pages read. Not too bad.

But here is the real accomplishment of today:

I found the perfect Starbucks mug, and I successfully drank Dunkin Donuts coffee while I graded student papers in Starbucks.

It was... blissful.

The next step in the Dunkin' & Deceivin' plan is to gather up all my chutzba and ask the Dunkin Donuts people to put the Dunkin Donuts coffee directly in the Starbucks mug.

I mean, it's the way Al Gore would want it done.

And, furthermore, my Dad thinks that they will do it, and I'll actually only get charged the refill price.

Result = My three Dunkin Donuts gift cards will last forever.

As always, I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Religion? Say What?! (Updated)

I guess that title could be misleading, but just hear me out.

I'm very excited about the recent release of the documentary Religulous. I'm Netflixing it as we speak.

So yesterday morning I woke up with the notion of a blogpost of my "religion", "faith", what-have-you as told through music videos.

These songs may in fact be as close as I'll ever get to pinning it down anyway.

Sit back and enjoy these lovely songs. And with them, my understandings of the world. At the moment.

Careful there.

Okay, let's start at the very beginning. In high school it's not surprising that this first song was constantly stuck in my head.

Losing my Religion by R.E.M.
(Please enjoy the dancing that starts happening around 2:40.)

Well, at least it's not surprising from where I'm standing now.

Now that I've had a lot of time to think about things and talk to people I trust and some that I don't, I'm more along the lines of these songs.

Love Love Love by The Mountain Goats
(I'd like to apologize in advance for this girl's wack video of the rain from her window. The only other videos were of live concerts and very... pubby.)

The Origin of Love from the soundtrack of Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Also... where can I find lipstick like that?

The Minnow and the Trout by A Fine Frenzy

I saw Alison Sudol here, in Maine, for free. I would have paid quite a lot. She's magical. I tried to find a live clip that was not operated by a cameraperson with a crucial tremor, but I failed. Look them up yourself; I just can't post them in good conscience.

Let It Be by The Beatles

Paul's beard, though? Totally ill-advised. I'm embarrassed for him.

That should be enough to get you started.

I've now gotten myself completely distracted with music videos on YouTube, so you all will just have to entertain yourselves.

Update: I just can't let sleeping dogs lie, so here are some more songs that I would feel remiss leaving out.

Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum

Please forgive the jaundice-y tinge. This video is significantly older than I am. And... he's got a friend in Jesus.

Closer to Fine by The Indigo Girls

I <3 torn jeans. Am I too old to wear them convincingly?

Alright, I'm walking away. Again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Coffee Conundrum

About a week ago, I was wasting time in the office by complaining about my blog. The blog wasn't the problem really, it was the clear lack of comments that I felt I was due.

I came up with nothing that needs repeating, but I did stumble upon No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog. And as I was nosing around the reviews, I caught one of the 100 ideas. One of Margaret Mason's tips for interesting blogging is to conduct unnecessary experiments and then (duh) blog them.

And this is where I will tell you about my current experiment.

BUT I will first tell you that I completely planned this experiment before I ever thought about blogging it.

AND it's not at all unnecessary, but I guess you'll find that out momentarily.

My plan is so far unnamed, but I have some possibilities:

Operation Coffee Deception
Project Java Confusion
Dunkin 'n' Deceivin

Here's the dilemma. I have about $72 worth of giftcards for Dunkin' Donuts. Dunkin' Donuts makes spectacular coffee.

Okay... I see the problem; so far there isn't one.

Starbucks has a wonderful cafe ambiance. Dunkin' Donuts does not.


Good, free coffee?

Why can't I have both?

Here's my plan to get both. I'm going to buy a Starbucks mug. I'm hoping for this one:

I need the mug to be very overtly Starbucks.

Once I buy the mug, I will then buy the oh-so-tasty Dunkin' Donuts coffee and classily pour it into the Starbucks mug. Then, I'll drive to Starbucks - mug in hand - and sit, happily sipping, and grade student papers.



If I'm ever approached, I'll blame the economy and they'll just have to assume that I brewed my Starbucks coffee at home.

However, there is a hitch in this plan. When I went to Starbucks tonight, they didn't have any of the super-Starbucks mugs. Hm. I'll find one though, don't you worry.

And... to keep Ms. Mason happy, I'll update you as the project progresses.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

AAA: A Love Story

Since I moved to Maine in the summer of 2007, I've encountered more car difficulties than I ever did in Virginia.

Luckily, AAA has come to my aid every single time.

When I was trapped in a friend's car in Boston, the friend became hysterical and I called AAA. After they left us, the car stalled again, she became completely inconsolable, and I called AAA back.

And they saved us. Again. That driver said I was his first southerner.

A couple of months later when I was in Sanford, Maine (halfway between my starting point and destination) with an overheating car, I called AAA.

A very nice volunteer fireman and part-time tow truck driver drove me and my dead car as far as Portland.

When I accidentally locked my keys in my car, I... oh, I guess I called my roommmate. :)

Anyway, AAA saved me again today.

As it turns out, I must have left the lights on in my car when I came back from the gym on Saturday. I don't even remember turning them on, but they must have been on all afternoon, evening, and into the morning.

Today AAA broke all the records though. I called and within 15 minutes, there was a tow truck driver, older than God, jumping my car. And do you want to know was my rescuer had to say to me at 3pm today?

Well, I'm going to tell you anyway.

Him: "Is the battery really dead, dear?"

Me: "It is. I left my lights on all night."

Him: "Were you out par-tay-ing last night?" (You can almost hear the smile and wink in that phrase, can't you?)

And you know what I wanted to say in response?

"No! I baked a caked and used fondant for the first time. The fondant was really hard to work with and it didn't even taste that great. I threw a party anyway, but only one person came. And we ended up watching tv and fixing my computer because it had a virus that wouldn't let me search on Google. And I do a lot of cooking and baking these days, so Google is like my lifeline. Would you like some cake balls?"

Luckily, I didn't say that. I somehow pulled off a calm, "No, I was here."

The Morning After

Ugh. I don't know about Big E and the roommate, but I am feeling a bit of a cake hangover today.

Allow me to explain why.

Last night I threw a haphazard yet killer party for my roommate and Big E. Big E fixed my computer (and earned my undying devotion) while we watched a Peanuts Valentine's special and the 2nd installment of the Grey's Anatomy/ Private Practice crossover.

Here's the part that you might care about.

We also cut the cake.

Oh... what cake? I'm sorry. This one.

As it turns out, the roommate, Big E, and I were no match for the overwhelming sugar-ness of all that red fondant. Not one of us finished a whole piece.

But didn't she cut up well?

And I managed to take a picture of a white chocolate cake truffle in slightly better lighting. Notice how the truffle is enjoying some modern art.

Such a sassy truffle.

All present for last night's celebration of Saint Valentine agreed that the cake was cute and a good effort; however, we also agreed that actually eating the cake was a bit of a struggle. Too much sweet.

I woke up this morning feeling sluggish and well...heavier than I did yesterday.

So, what can one do when suffering from a cake hangover?

Well... two things.

1. Hair of the Dog - I dumped the cake leftovers last night, but there are still quite a few cake truffles (or balls, as I lovingly refer to them) and I think I've had three so far today. Can't promise I won't have more.

2. Indulge on the Savory Side - I've decided on a menu of Celery Soup (one of Pat's Failures of the Week) and Paula Deen's Tuna Burgers.

This should do the trick.

I'm currently ignoring the third option of time at the gym. I don't think shaking the cake around is the best idea right now.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Cake!

(I feel like I'm blogging on borrowed time, but I'm going to keep doing it as long as my ailing computer allows.)

Today I scrambled to get my work done in the office so I could leave campus promptly at 1pm. That done, I told myself that I would start slow with the baking. Take it in shifts. I'd do part mid-afternoon. Another step Friday night and then I'd do the rest on Saturday before people show up.

Sure. Good plans.

And then I just did everything.

I've been baking and chilling and icing and dipping and decorating and rolling and crying (not really, but almost) since 3 o'clock today. And I have to say, I'm tired. My back is sore and my arms feel jelly-ish.

But! I don't think I completely failed.

My goal was to recreate Bakerella's Valentine's Box of Cake. If you check out Bakerella's site, which I highly recommend, you'll notice that her box of cake is... well... perfect.

Mine is not.

But without further ado, here you go. Judge for yourselves.

I'm fairly pleased with my fondant first run. The top and bottom are not bad, but the side pieces got pretty dry and corn starched by the time I got to them. I should have scrapped those pieces and used new, but live and learn! I might go back to the cake and redo that part tomorrow, but I couldn't face any more fiddling tonight. The arms, remember.

The cake balls (also Bakerella's recipe - you can find them linked on the same page) are so cute and quite delicious, but, alas, I failed a little bit making them too.

I read Bakerella's suggestion to add a little bit of icing at a time to avoid putting too much. And I took that in. And then I put too much icing in the cake right off the bat. So, they are stinkin' moist and heavily cream cheesed, but still tasty. Next time I'll be more careful.

Honestly, how can you stay mad at anything that looks like this?

Okay, so maybe the lighting in that picture fails too. I promise the cake balls are ridiculously tasty.

Retroactive New Year's Resolution: Take one picture for the blog of a home-baked good in proper lighting.

Well, now you know what the red fondant was commissioned for. And now you know the highlight of my Valentine's weekend. So, if you are around, I'll see you tomorrow night, 8ish.

If you're not around, then feel free to be jealous all day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I'm not sure the viruses are completely gone, but it seems that my struggles are now only limited to Google searches.


But something I can avoid.

With practice.

Anyway, I feel like today is somewhat of a wash. Literally, it's been raining off and on today which means that there is a bit of melting happening, but there is also a fair amount of freezing going on.

Walking on our driveway is... treacherous. So I've reinstated the YakTraks as my constant companions.

Today is also washy because tomorrow I am going to convert my kitchen to a Valentine's Bakerarium.

You'll just have to wait and see what comes of all that red fondant on Saturday, but the excitement has rendered me quite useless when it comes to responding to student papers or reading for next week.

If I'm going this crazy over a self-imposed baking schedule, I wonder how boggled I'll be when I get my first Daring Bakers challenge.

Sweet! Something else to look forward to!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

: (

Bad news, kids.

My laptop has been struck down by a porn-flinging virus.

I'm quite upset. I feel somewhat like my left arm has been cut off.

But! I'm going to give my laptop another piece of my mind tonight and hopefully resolve this.


I'm still baking on Friday though. I'll update you A.S.A.P.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Special Delivery : )

Today I spent some quality time at A. C. Moore debating the necessity of several cake decorating supplies.

I emerged with a few things that make my Friday/Saturday experiment even more exciting than it already is.

You'll also be happy to notice that my mail-order fondant has arrived.

Big times ahead!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oatmeal Raisin Bread (No. 2)

Round Two for the Oatmeal Raisin Bread involved my new go to recipe gal, Ree of

I took Big E's bread, cut it up, and made Ree's Bread Pudding for those who think they don't like Bread Pudding.


The recipe is super easy to throw together. I actually did everything from cutting up the bread to putting the pudding into the oven all while chatting on the phone with a friend.

That's easy.

In the interest of full disclosure, I used almonds instead of pecans and halved the recipe.

And it was delicious. As you will see on Pioneer Woman's site, the bread pudding is packed with vanilla then drizzled with a Whiskey Cream sauce.


We'll see what Big E thinks of the bread pudding tomorrow. I'm planning to regift him with his own bread. In new form. How classy is that?!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oatmeal Raisin Bread (No. 1)

In exchange for a haircut, Big E gifted me with a loaf of his homemade Oatmeal Raisin Bread.

The bread is really quite tasty. The oatmeal flavor is light and very smooth. I'm confident these are not the terms that bread aficionados would use, but I'm doing my best here. The bread is good. Oh, and it has raisins.

Big E presented me with the unsliced loaf Friday morning, and I think I was able to hold out for about 10 minutes before I started pulling off pieces and eating them while I prepared for my class.

Once I got the bread home, I started thinking about all the wonderful things I could make with fantastic homemade bread.

Tonight I made probably my favorite bread staple: French Toast.

My French Toast is not too fancy, but it's tried and true. To my egg(s), I add a little bit of milk, and a dash or two of ground cinnamon.

I don't measure, but it's gotten rave reviews.

And voila! French Toast with Big E's homemade Oatmeal Raisin bread.

French Toast is an excellent use for this bread. The raisins swirled through the bread are perfect surprises and the texture of the bread holds up beautifully under all the... frenching.

The healthy slices I cut allowed me to enjoy one piece tonight and look forward to another for breakfast. Success!

Just wait and see what I have up my sleeve for tomorrow.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pat's Tryout

This week I took a stab at Pat's Recipes, better known as The Failures of the Week.

My recipe choices were determined by what I had in my cabinets and fridge already. All in all, I think I got out of the grocery store for under $12. That's TA budget friendly, right there.

Without further ado, here are Pat's Recipes for Chicken Cacciatore and Whacky Cake.

Let's (however illogical) start with the Chicken Cacciatore.

You'll need:

3lbs. chicken pieces (I used breast fillets)
1 c. fresh mushrooms
1/2 c. thin sliced celery
1 med. carrot, chopped
1 med. onion, in thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
14 1/2 oz. can tomatoes, cut up
1 med. pepper, cut into 1/4" strips
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 c. white wine
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 tsp. sugar

Alright, get the veggies all chopped up, and throw them in a 12" skillet with the oil and garlic. It was at this precise moment that I could tell that this was a going to be a nice dish.

The veggies smelled so good at this point that I really had to resist the urge to pull the plug on the full recipe and eat the veg straight away.

I did resist, and you should too. When the veggies are tender, remove them from the skillet and brown chicken on both sides in the same skillet. Pat recommends about 15 minutes for this step.

While the chicken is browning, mix tomatoes, pepper, tomato sauce, wine, bay leaves, oregano and sugar in a medium bowl.

Give that a stir and set it aside. Lovely, isn't she?

Once the chicken is evenly browned, return the veggies to the skillet...

And pour the tomato/pepper mixture over the chicken and veg.

Now cover it up and walk away. Pat is a little bit more specific: Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until chicken is tender and no pink remains. Remove bay leaves; serve.

Just a quick question. Am I the only one who struggles to find the bay leaves at times? I have yet to find the leaf I used in this recipe, and I've eaten 2/3 of what I made.

Anyway... feast your eyes on this dish. I tossed some shredded mozzarella on top and thoroughly enjoyed this meal. I've eaten it two nights in a row and I must confess that I'm not yet tired of it.

I think I can call this Failure a success.

Now onto the cake...

I was drawn to this cake by its complete and utter mystery. It's called Whacky Cake and as I was making it, I just kept saying, "this cake really is whacky."

The whackiness was exactly what I needed today. Just the right amount of silliness and cake.

I quartered this recipe since my roommate and I will be the only ones here to take care of the cake. A challenge we are equal to, but we are also trying to be healthy versions of ourselves these days. I'll put my quartered measurements in italics just in case my fractions are off.

Whacky Cake and Frosting

You'll need:

1 1/2 c. flour (3/8 c.)
1 c. sugar (1/4 c.)
3 T baking cocoa (3/4 T)
6 T oil (1 1/2 T)
1 tsp baking soda (1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt (1/8 tsp)
1 tsp vanilla (1/4 tsp)
1 T vinegar (1/4 T)
1 c. cold water (1/4 c.)
Frosting (recipe below)

I have made a lot of cakes and batters in my day, but this batter was just plain fun to make and it only generates one dirty pan! (Can you tell that I have already done three sets of dishes in the last 18 hours?)

Back to the recipe...

Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt into 12x12" (I used a loaf) ungreased pan. Make three holes in this dry mixture; put oil in one, vanilla in another, and vinegar in the third.

Pour water over all; stir with a fork until smooth.

Can you honestly tell me that you are looking at this cake and not thinking, "that is a little bit whacky"?

I didn't think so.

While the cake is in the oven, prepare the Whacky Frosting.

Mix 2 c. (1/2 c.) confectioner's sugar, 3 T (3/4 T) baking cocoa, 1/2 c. (1/8 c.) margarine, melted and 1 tsp (1/4 tsp) vanilla; add 3 T (3/4 T) cold coffee.
When the cake comes out, pour the icing directly onto the hot cake.

I'd like to take this moment to thank the ghost that held the bowl for me in this picture. Ugh... Maine winter is so serious.

The cake cooled while dinner and tv happened, and a hour or so later, ta da!

I'm pleased to say that the Whacky Cake was possibly even more of a successful Failure than even the Cacciatore. I understand they are apples and oranges, but the cake has several things going for it.

First, the cake was wicked easy to put together.

Second, I made the cake without having to go to the grocery store for eggs.

Third, the short cake and thin, rich icing is reminiscent of those Little Debbie cakes I used to eat in elementary school with one major difference. The Whacky Cake is much tastier.

So, the Pat's Failures of the Week were wildly successful. I think that now that I have tried out an entree and a dessert, I can proceed with excitement into the more interesting dishes.

Like Chris's Moose Meat Stroganoff and Sally's Snowplows.

Stay tuned!