Friday, April 30, 2010

Oh Baby, Baby, Baby (Cookies)

Alright... I guess I've put this off long enough.*

You may or may not remember when I lost my mind over some royal icing in a condiment squeeze bottle. Well... that went down while I was painstakingly (it really wasn't that bad) piping out the decorations for these subtle, white on yellow cookies.

But these were no decorate-for-the-heck-of-it cookies. No ma'am. These cookies had a purpose. An inspiration. A (horrors!) deadline.

My friend Katie is having a baby and my friend Blair was throwing a shower. So... the only smart thing for me to do for both of them was... well... bake.

And since I'd recently seen this post on monogrammed cookies, I thought I'd try my hand at some flowers and swirlies.

I think they turned out really well. The flooding (the yellow base icing) was not my best work. I let the piped edge dry too much before I filled the cookies in, so you can see where one stops and the other begins. Not an eye sore, I don't guess, but also not amazing.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I had about an hour and a half to flood these cookies before I was picked up for a Project Runway finale festivus. I might have left the house in heels and a shiny blue dress, but I'm pretty sure I had some icing on my arm. You can take the girl out of the kitchen, but you can't take the kitchen out of the girl.

Anyway... the next day, the cookies were shoved in a big Ziploc bag for the 3 hr roadtrip to Katie's. They made it without incident and I think they went over pretty well.

If you want to know the details of how these cookies came to be, you can find it all right here.

Brownie Roll Out Cookies & Royal Icing recipes
Monogrammed Cookie tutorial

Oh... and I also helped the girls bake iced tea, margarita, and coconut lemon snowball mini cupcakes.

So... if you have a baby shower that needs catering... Call me. ;)

*It's an inside joke, but I'll let you in on it since we're friends. An admittedly odd friend's wife once prefaced her "Hi, I'm _______" with that very sentence. She had invited me to her house, but she made it extremely clear that meeting me was not high on her list of anticipated experiences. That fateful night still cracks me up. It ended worse than it began, if you can believe it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Suspense is terrible...

I hope it will last.

It was brought to my attention that my last post read like an end-of-semester meltdown. Well. Since that wasn't really my intent... I thought I'd follow that post with another on just exactly why this week is AWESOME.

+ I have a new friend. And she's nearly a pharmacist. (Therefore... cooler than you.)

+ I've gotten to watch The Golden Girls three nights this week.

+ I updated ye olde CV and now it's in God and my boss's hands.

+ The weather in GA is beyond fab.

+ A friend is visiting this weekend. There are already pool plans.

+ My stack of ungraded papers has been chiseled down to 13.

+ My car just needed a good night's rest and a full tank of gas.

+ Blair had leftover cupcakes on her counter today. She may have four fewer now than she did when I found them. (Shut up... they were mini cupcakes. And besides, who are you to judge me anyway?)

+ I huggled two different dogs today.

+ My credit card bill came to a humorous nine dollars and sixty two cents. Big spender!

+ I heard "Mr. Big Stuff" and Billy Joel's "My Life" on the radio in the same, 9 minute car trip.

So there! You happy now? I think... Yes, I think that this list might have been easier to come up with than the downer one. Oh! But I forgot something...

+ It's the last week of classes!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Scenes from our next episode...

I decorated these. In a pretty serious way. And soon I'll give you the dirty (read: extremely clean and even kinda cutesy) details.

But not now.

Now I'm going to tell you exactly why this week sucks.

+ My car has a cough.

+ I lost my wallet (for a minute, but it wasn't ever really gone).

+ I've been putting off a trip to Walmart for weeks. I went today but... I thought I'd forgotten my wallet and didn't go in.

+ I've read a little over 2/5 of my students' final papers. Can't tell you for sure b/c I left my gradebook in the office.

+ My hair is an awkward length.

+ Today I had pickles for lunch.

+ I've started drinking coffee again and it's all I think about.

+ So far this week, I've left my headlights on twice. Both times nice people have told me within 5 minutes (Represent, GA!).

+ Justin Bieber's mom fell victim to a Belieber stampede today.

+ It's the last week of classes.

+ It's the last week of classes.

+ It's the last week of classes.

How are your weeks, loves?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Do I have a problem?

Or a really impressive, 43 pair collection?

Related: My walk-in closet doesn't have a lot of room for walking.

Also related: Maybe if the economy takes my job, I can become a reality tv star.

Worth considering.

Help me out... Give me a frame of reference. How many pairs of shoes do you have?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Video Post: Straw that broke the camel's back, I guess.

I'm a rational person. I keep it on the level. I'm not easily chuffed.

That said... I don't hesitate to share what's on my very rational, very straightforward mind.

That's exactly what happened today while the camera rolled...

Sorry about the angle... you got a lot of chest and only half of my head. I realize that... but I was focusing on the icing until the rant began. Hey... I'm just taking my cues from the professionals.

Like Giada...

This chick... (anyone know?)

Rachael Ray...

and I can't mention Food Network cleavage without my nemesis, Sandra Lee...

Holy Cow. Anyway... see... you came to my blog to see what I was yammering about... but then you got the fringe benefit of cleavage. Don't say I don't love you, reader.

Monday, April 19, 2010

This Weekend I...

Read chapter one (and learned why I can't stand blank, unresponsive faces).

RSVPed (and came up with a great idea for sugar that involves neither pink or blue).

Bought this personal blender (and admitted that my smoothie phase may be my obsessive way of accounting for the coffee and beer slashed from my diet last week).


Cleaned my kitchen (and discovered I'm out of sandwich-sized Ziploc bags, leading to today's disaster of salad dressing transportation).

I also made disaster brownies, cuddled with a dog named Lola, ate two really great meals cooked by men, vacuumed up that damn roach, and made two dates for this evening, but I can't quite take pictures of those things during office hours, now can I?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake

This weekend, I made a Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake. I think I'll let the pictures (and Facebook comments from friends) speak for themselves.

Blair: "Yeah, that was basically amazing. Must wait until tomorrow for a second peice . . ."

Katie: "Come to Momma."
Scott: "Katie, you have nooooo idea."

Scott: "Your cinnamon roll cheesecake was a hit with the guys today. They better be glad my parents taught me to share, cause I didn't want to. Each requested their wife be given the recipe at seperate times. You basically rock."

The only thing better than spending the day putting together a five-layered cheesecake is giving it away to happy eaters like mine.

Wow... and after that uncharacteristically sentimental confession... I'll rebound by saying that the day that I watched these Facebook comments roll in, I also ate probably about a lb. of leftover cheesecake while I graded papers.

And... then... the next day when I had my fitness consultation at the new gym, I realized why cheesecaking like that is such a poor life choice. : ) But, I promise you that - in moderation - this cinnamon roll cheesecake is an amazing experience that you should probably have soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Fools!!! (Burger & Fries)

I hate April Fools Day. Hate it. More than Valentine's Day (which I don't fully hate, truth be told). April 1st makes me nervous. This year I accidentally scheduled student conferences over April Fools Day and breathed a deep sigh of relief when the day ended and not one of my students did anything stupid.

What does any of this have to do with the burger?

Not much. Only that I made it in April. And there is no meat to be had in this Bacon Cheeseburger. Honest.

Watch. We'll start from the bottom.

One whole wheat English muffin, toasted in the panini press.

One chargrilled Boca burger, fried up in a little bit of oil in a skillet. A piece of pepper jack cheese on top.

Two strips of facon.

English muffin top.

I'm sure you're skeptical. I mean, I was. I'm a fan of the meatless products, but I don't put too much stock in them. They are usually blandish, rubbery, or otherwise just passible as foodstuffs. How-ev-er, this burger was excellent. Frying it up allowed it to brown really well and cook without being tough or soggy. And you all know how I feel about facon. So... as you can see... I started noming on this burger as soon as I assembled it. About 10 minutes later...

the fries were done and made a quick stop on some paper towels before being piled high on my plate. And there is a little April Fools-like twist to the fries too. They aren't potatoes, as you can tell, but they aren't sweet potatoes either. Those are carrot fries. And they are amazingly delicious.

To make them, just cut carrots into fry shapes, toss in olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for about 25 minutes, flipping them once at the midpoint, and then... eat them all. I used three big carrots for this one portion and it was perfect.

Oh em gee. This was a really great meal.

A Note about Vegetarianism: Sunday night when I mentioned this meal to friends, Blair scoffed at it and informed me that our continued friendship hinged on my continued enjoyment of actual meat. Just in case some of you are ready to take your carnivorous ways elsewhere, I'll say that I love animals and I love eating them.

And... as a matter of fact, thanks to Blair, I sucked on my first crawfish head this weekend. And went back for more. So there's that.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cranberry Walnut Bread Leftovers

So did you come up with your guesses for my Cranberry Walnut Bread leftovers?

Evan got one of them. So he gets all the points.

With my half loaf of Cranberry Walnut bread, I made...

French toast in the usual way.


Bread Pudding a la Pioneer Woman. I went without the Whisky Cream Sauce this time and none of my coworkers complained.

Both were quite delish. The bread pudding was bomb. Make it now. ; )

Friday, April 9, 2010

Step-by-Step Braided Bread

It's been a while since I wrote up a labor-intensive step-by-step post of a complicated kitchen endeavor. Well, good sirs and madams, wait no longer. What follows is the 11 pic procedure for baking a gorgeous loaf of braided bread. I made the Cranberry Braided Bread by Two Fat Als with only minor changes.

Whisk 3 c. bread flour, 1/4 c. sugar, 2 envelopes quick-rising yeast, 1 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 T buttermilk powder together in a large bowl.

Add 1/2 c. water, 2 eggs, 2 T melted butter, 1 1/2 T vanilla extract and stir until combined. Gradually add 1/3 c. hot water until the dough forms a soft, sticky ball.

Knead dough until smooth. This will take about 7 minutes. Mine wasn't uber-smooth but I knew I'd keep kneading it in the next step.

About 1/4 c. at a time, knead 1 c. cranberries and 1/2 c. chopped walnuts into the dough.

Place dough ball in lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel, and place in a warm place to double in size, about an hour and a half. (While kneading the dough, I heated the oven to about 200 degrees and then turned it off. The residual heat works like a dream.)

See what I mean? Punch down the dough and...

divide it into four equal(ish) parts. Set one part aside and roll the other three into about 13'' long snakes.

Braid the three dough snakes together and turn both ends under. Move the braided loaf to a lightly greased baking sheet. Beat one egg and brush the braided loaf.

Divide your remaining dough ball into three equal parts and roll them into about 10" snakes. Braid the snakes and place this smaller braid on top of the larger. Brush the small braid with egg and allow the loaf to rise a second time, about another hour or so.

After the second rise, brush the loaf with the beaten egg again and bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

And it's just that easy. Two Fat Als insist that you allow the loaf to cool for at least 45 minutes before you slice it, but that didn't happen for me. I was already late to the party since I mis-timed the rises, so I hack the loaf in half and ran out the door. No one was any the wiser.

The bread itself was quite good. The cranberries brought a sweetness to the bread that was refreshing. I'm sure this would have only been bettered by the orange extract that Two Fat Als used (I substituted vanilla extract here), but I didn't have any of that in the house. For me, the bread toed the troublesome line between sweet and... bread... so the next day I used the second half of my loaf to make two other dishes.

I bet regular readers already know what those two dishes were. I'm nothing if not consistent. (I'd appreciate any comments to the contrary. Things like "No way, Amanda! One of the things I love about you is your spontaneity!" will do nicely.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Video Post: A Response to Blogger Beef

Last week when I made my little Yeasty Bidness video, I might have sassed Kate a little. And, Kate might have fired back with a surprisingly pointed video in which she informed me that we had beef.


Never one to ignore a glove to the face (and I'm not talking boxing glove, I'm talking gentleman's glove... like a formal challenge among dandies), I present you (and Kate) with my humble response.


And just to remind you all that I do know my way around some yeast:
Yeast Pancakes
Sticky Buns
Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Strawberry Shortstacks

Mmmmm... delicious sleep of the weekend. How I love it.

I meant to put together an overnight yeast pancake batter before I went to bed last night, but I forgot about it when I decided to turn in around 11pm. No worries though! This morning, I met some friends at the farmer's market and before I ran out the door, I mixed up this recipe for Yeast Pancakes* so it could do its thing while I browsed.

Please note the little yeasty beasts in the dry ingredients.

So you don't get worried if you make these yeast pancakes on your own, I'll tell you that the batter (when it first comes together) is extremely thin and liquidy.


Ah, but after a couple of hours, the batter is a bit thicker and definitely weirder. After I gave it a quick stir, it looked like normal pancake batter.

While I fried up the pancakes in the usual way, I cooked down some strawberries in a little bit of sugar. I threw in some cornstarch at the end to thicken the juices and... voila!

Strawberry Shortstacks.

I layered the strawberry sauce between the pancakes too... just because I felt like it. It was a delicious Spring-is-here-and-Summer-is-around-the-corner! breakfast.

*If you use this recipe, I'd recommend cutting the amount of salt in half. I thought it looked like too much when I was adding it, but I checked the recipe again and decided to trust it. The pancakes were a bit saltier than I'd prefer. This was another reason I schmeared the strawberries throughout. I also made some subtle Amanda changes to this recipe by swapping out the whole milk in favor of soy and replacing a third of the white flour with whole wheat flour. It's how I roll.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cranberry Walnut (Fail) Bagels

If you caught yesterday's post on my bagel flub-up, then you can probably guess where this post is going. : )

My cranberry walnut bagels are... tasty... but, as improperly yeasted bagels will be, they are flattish.

The flavor is great and actually pretty close to the Panera original, so I'll try these bagels again with the proper Active Dry yeast. Lesson learned!

Overall, I count this bagel-making experience as a success, despite the yeast faux pas, because the bagels are 1) beautiful and 2) breakfast for the next two days. Allllright.