Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why are dinosaurs green?

Really. I'm asking.

I feel like dinosaurs are green, green in cartoon form but drab browns and greys in the Museum of Natural History form.

The reality must have been somewhere in the middle. If you think about it... the animals with cool colors are the most badass ones... the ones that afford to stand out because if anybody starts anything, they are ready to lay the smack down.

Now answer me this: who, if not a dinosaur, is ready to kick ass and take names?

Exactly. So... I believe that the dinosaurs must have come in some pretty rad colors. Like pink. And electric blue. And paisely (Yes, it's a color. Don't fight me on this one.)

All of that said, I have no idea why - when given free choice - I chose to make my dinosaur cookies green. Call me traditional.

Brownie Roll-Out Cookies
from Smitten Kitchen

Recipe from Deb’s mom

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup lightly salted butter, softened (Deb note: I don’t really see “lightly salted” much these days, so I used one stick salted, one stick unsalted)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used the “good” stuff–Droste or Galler–but I can assure you that my mother only used Hershey’s growing up, so your choice)

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.

Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Royal Icing
(Wilton method)

**For Piping Outlines**

1 and 1/2 tablespoons Meringue Powder
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons lukewarm water

Mix sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add water slowly (you may not need all of it) until consistency is right for piping. Mix on medium low speed for 7 - 10 minutes until icing loses its sheen. Add coloring if desired.

**For Filling In**

Slowly add up to another few tablespoons of water to leftover piping icing. Be sure to mix thoroughly before you add more water. It doesn't take much to make a difference. "Flooding" icing is ready when you raise the blender and the icing that drips from the beater is invisible in the bowl after a few seconds.

Royal Icing Tips:

+ Royal icing sets up hard very quickly. Keep all icing bowls, utensils, piping tips, etc. covered with wet paper towels when not in use.

+ Allow piped edges to dry for 1 - 2 hrs to prevent color bleeding. If you are piping and filling with the same color, you can be impatient like me and cheat on this.

+ Use a spoon to drop some thin flooding icing onto one cookie at a time. Use the back of the spoon to spread icing to the piped edge.

Delish, right?


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Give us this day our daily Guinness

And forgive us our box mixes, as we forgive those who store buy against us.

Or... something like that. I may be off... but I'm close, right?

Ladies, Gentlemen, and the rest of us, sometimes the easy way out really is the most rewarding. Right before Christmas, I picked up a beer bread mix that had been discarded near the onions at Walmart and it might have been the smartest decision I made in 2009.

(Call shenanigans and see if I don't smack you. I dare you.)

Anyway... here's how I went from two bottles to heaven.

This beer bread mix requires only 12oz of beer (not lite), so I used what I had... Guinness Extra Stout. Mmmm...

Now... about this pic... I took a normal cheesing-with-ingredients-pic and then forgot that I set the camera to take 2 pictures. So, pic 2 caught me dancing to the electrofunk I was playing at the time. Of course I liked the bizarre pic more.

Back to the bread... the most difficult part was opening both bottles. That's... not bad.

Then again... getting the mix out of the bottle was also a bit of a challenge.

I mean, really, is the kitsch factor great enough to justify the literal bottleneck?! In the packagers' defense, they do include a helpful "Tip" on the back: "Use a long kitchen utensil to loosen flour if any remains in the bottle."

Oh... okay... sure... but I just have a question for ya. What "long kitchen utensil" would you recommend I use to reach about 12" into a bottle that has an opening smaller than a nickel?

In the end, I just shook it. Like a polaroid picture. And that did it.

The beer goes right on top of the mix, gets stirred in with a wooden spoon (per the bossy bottle... I used a bamboo spoon and I don't think the bread was any the wiser), and then the whole shabang goes into a greased and floured loaf pan.

While the bread was baking for 45-50 minutes (I pulled it at 42) at 375 degrees, I whipped up a Vanilla Cinnamon Honey Butter to go with.

Of course I didn't think to set out my stick of butter earlier, so my non-microwaving self chopped up the butter and set it on top of the stove for a few minutes.

I then whipped the butter into submission and added 1 and 1/2 tablespoons honey, 1/6 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/6 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt since my butter was unsalted.

And then I waited patiently for the bread to bake. And when it came out...

Uhhh... I was... pleasantly surprised.

Kids, this bread is wicked good. My loaf was perfectly baked at 42 minutes. It formed a perfect crust all the way around without browning much at all. The insides are tender and so delicate for a bread mix. It might as well be from scratch. No one would call you out if you showed up with this goodness, I promise.

Now, the Guinness Extra Stout does pack a punch. The bread tastes pretty stout itself. I love a good stout (which is why you can find it in my fridge), so I couldn't tell you how this will go over with non-fans. I'll update with that info later.

But... may I recommend that you pair the bread with a sweet butter? Perhaps... a Vanilla Cinnamon Honey Butter? That just might do the trick.

Ungh. This bread and butter combination is really. really. good.

I finished that piece you see in front of you, and I immediately cut and buttered myself another one.

Since I can't imagine that there is much difference between one odd beer bread mix and another, I'd give you a great big thumbs up for the beer bread mix. If you see one... especially if it is oddly placed... I think that must have had something to do with the goodness of mine... then pick it up and try it out. Hopefully you'll be as deliriously happy with yours as I am with mine.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Video Post: Paula's Gooey Butter Cake

My shiny new Mac and I spent some quality time together today and made this little vid for you, my loves.

Though the Mac has many new bells and whistles, I am just the same, bizarre girl. So... the video is just as awkward as ever.

Enjoy, kids!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you a few things.

1. The cake was dark on some of the bottom bits. I'd probably only cook it between 40 and 45 minutes next time. I went for the full 50 this time and it was too much.

2. The sides stuck and my sous chef did some serious prying to free the thing. I sprayed, of course, but next time I'll douse. Or maybe butter and flour. I don't know... I'll do more.

3. The gooey butter cake tastes amazing, but it should be cut into really small pieces. The gooey part is redonkulously rich and even big fans of the thing can only handle so much. So... make it... but make it for a large crowd of sweet tooths. (Teeth? The tooths are in separate heads... which is why I think it might... hmm... I'll stop.)

And here are links for some of the things I mentioned in the video.

Amber (giver of super cool magnetic spoons) at Newly Domesticated.

And here's the Gooey Butter Cake recipe.

So... give it to me straight... should I ever step in front of the camera again?

Monday, January 4, 2010

So... my sister has this blog...

And I think it's high time I shared it with you guys.

My semester is getting ready to start on Monday (the 11th) and I'm in that crazy planning space. So my posting will be sporadic at best. And my sister is so far demonstrating that she is in the blogger zone. Her faire is a bit hipster (and by "a bit" I mean, "like woah") and that makes for fun reading.

Her latest post includes a Rilo Kiley-backed video of her mending my mechanic father's workshirts on her new sewing machine.

Yeah. I know. She's adorable.

Okay... go read!

Later, dudes. ; )

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Family Oddities, it is.

Interestingly enough, you all were most interested in my family.

Hmm... perhaps when I offered you this option, I should have had some funny little family stories in mind.

Let's see. I could tell you about my family's yearly tradition of lightlooking... but this year we worked that adventure down to about a 35 second experience.

I could tell you about my family's first experience with a turducken, or... as they referred to it "turkenducken", "churchucken", "urckenturd", and "just plain wrong." But... we were all pretty disappointed when we cut into it and found it was mostly turkey cutlets with some indistinguishable chicken and a duck nugget (I know... but I don't know what else to call just a tiny piece of duck meat).

I could also tell you about playing with my nephews third cousins and having my age guessed as 17, 60, and 23... in that order, and being told by a two foot tall, one year old that I'm short. But that is neither humorous nor particularly surprising.

What I will tell you about, dear readers, are the horror films that punctuated the time I spent at home with my family. For some reason, there were a lot them this Christmas. Not quite the idyllic white Christmas post you had in mind?


I'll start with my favorite, just in case this is the only review you read.

High Tension /Haute Tension (2003)

This French film is flawless. Perhaps that's a lot of praise to give away, but I don't pretend to know anything about legitimate film review, so I'm okay with that. Basically, two friends drive out to the country to spend some time studying and visiting the one girl's family. How-ev-er... before they even get a chance to see the farmhouse in the daylight, a crazy psycho killer makes life very interesting (and bloody) for both of them. The movie is disgusting, empowering, unnerving, and a really good time.

My recommendation: Watch it more than once. The second time with newbies. And please, please, please watch it in French with subtitles, if necessary. Dubbing is an extremely poor choice for this film. Anyway, once the good stuff starts to go down, there isn't much talking at all.

IT (1990)

Well... this Stephen King gem is a classic. And... that is about all I can say about it. My brother had been after IT since I arrived in VA (and probably long before that... but I wouldn't know), so when we started it just before I left to come back to GA we were all atwitter. Sadly, the clown is not that creepy, the "special effects" are laughable, the acting is subpar and overall the film seems to be more about the evils of bullying than the evils of that yellow-fanged clown. There are reasons you should watch IT though; John Boy (of The Walton's fame, duh) sports a rockin' ponytail but you totally wouldn't know it from the feathery banged front. It's like the ultimate party-in-the-back situation.

Caveat: I didn't finish IT. I watched the first DVD but started falling asleep about 20 minutes into the second DVD.

My recommendation:
Watch this clip, starting at 8:15, to see the most tender love story I've seen in a long time. And don't forget to admire the ponytail. See how you'd never guess it were there from the front? Amazing.

The Plague (2006)

Now this one is not so easy to peg as High Tension (love!) or IT (snore!). The Plague, an indy film about the reawakening of all children aged 10-19 who became catatonic a decade ago, boasts a cast that includes... James Van Der Beek... and no one else we've heard of. The previously catatonic teenagers closely resemble zombies and their killing is ritualized and creepy enough, but the production value of this piece is what really sets it apart. For instance, I'm pretty sure that they used a high school in the first third of the film, hung plastic along the interiors and posted a sign about renovations, and used that same high school as the sheriff's office of the 20 minutes of running-around-scared action.

My recommendation: Watch it with those friends who will help you create a Mystery Science Theater atmosphere. The best part of this movie for me was when my friend yelled out, "OH! She got her with the pants pistol!!!"

This Christmas I also kinda watched The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and another one that I can't even remember that involved zombies and a "To Be Continued" that has... well... yet to be continued. But... the three movies I presented you with here were the standouts for me.

Take away message of this Family Oddities post, Winter '09 edition: My family is odd. Given the opportunity to be together and have warm chestnut-roasting times, we will play nice during the daylight hours and do our very best to horrify each other come nightfall.

I'll leave you with a statement my dad very quietly made in the kitchen one night while my brother, sister, and their friends watched one of the Texas Chainsaw movies in the livingroom:

"Ya know, I have a chainsaw... "