meme episode II

September 20, 2008 at 6:00 am | Posted in essay | 14 Comments

When I was a stay-at-home-mom my thoughts were consumed with what I’d bake next.  Now that I’m working, all I can think about is shoes!  shoes!  shoes!  I’ve never been a shoe girl.  I think I might be becoming one.  Here’s a little bit more about me…

Last Movie I Saw In A Movie Theater? Wall-E

What Book Are You Reading? The Shack

Favorite Board Game? Cribbage

Favorite Magazine? Anything with beautiful pictures

Favorite Smells? Vanilla

Favorite Sounds? My hubby’s car door…he’s home!

Worst Feeling In The World? Fear

First Thing You Think of When You Wake? Must.Get.Up.

Favorite Fast Food Place? Rubios

Future Child’s Name? Gunnar (not that we are having any more children)

Finish This Statement—“If I Had a Lot of Money,” I’d quit my job.

Do You Drive Fast? No, gas is too expensive!

Do You Sleep With a Stuffed Animal? No

Storms—cool or scary? Scary

What Was Your First Car? 1972 Mercury Cougar

Favorite Drink? Water

Finish This Statement—“If I Had the Time, I Would…” Bake and blog more. Get my kids 5 year scrapbooks finished.  Wait, get my hair colored and a mani and pedi.

Do You Eat the Stems on Broccoli? Yes

If You could Dye your Hair Any Other Color, What Would It Be? I’m already dying it back to it’s natural brown, so, brown with highlights.

Name All the Different Cities In Which You Have Lived. Here and There.  From the city to the beach.  Capital city to the burbs.

Favorite Sport to Watch? Anything from a luxury skybox.

One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You. She is very creative and I love her food photos.

What’s Under Your Bed? Wrapping paper.

Would You Like to Be Born As Yourself Again? Sure. Yes. I guess.

Morning Person or Night Owl? Morning. Definitely Morning.

Over Easy or Sunny Side Up? What’s the difference?

Favorite Place to Relax? Home

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor? Vanilla Bean

My thanks to Feeding Maybelle for the tag.  Play along if you wish!

my friend and i

September 17, 2008 at 7:51 pm | Posted in Dessert | 8 Comments

My friend.  She’s the best.  Today I came home to this delightful surprise…

The NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Peanut Shortbread Cookies.

Seriously, how lucky am I?!!!  Did I mention the chocolate peanut shortbread?  Irresistible!

The best part is I know she is praying for me and thinking of me.  Yep, she’s pretty awesome.  And I am pretty lucky.  Thanks M!  Now, how about that recipe?

NY Times Cookies

September 10, 2008 at 8:25 pm | Posted in Dessert | 10 Comments
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I made them.

The NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies.

And they were good.

Real good.

NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Jacques Torres, recipe found here)

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups bread flour…I used ap flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content…ya right, I used a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and ½ a bag of white chocolate chips
  • Sea salt...I didn’t care for the cookies sprinkled with the sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.


September 2, 2008 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Dessert | 14 Comments
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I’m a full time working mom and am still enjoying my baking!  Okay, maybe the blogging has dropped off a bit, and exercising…but I’m doing my best.  And I don’t even know how to “do better” at the moment.  All I know is one day at a time.

So today I managed to work a full day, relish my kids’ first day of kindergarten, get them to soccer practice, and still have time to make cookies!  (Yes, I have a great hubby who helps out a lot).

Snickerdoodles (because kids should have milk and cookies waiting for them at home, right M?)

  • 1/2 cup butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

In a mixing bowl beat butter until creamy.  Add about half of the flour, the 1 cup of sugar, the egg, vanilla, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Beat until combined.  Beat in remaining flour.  Scoop batter onto plastic wrap.  Shape into a long log.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Cut pieces.  Roll pieces into circles.  Combine the 2 Tbsp sugar and cinnamon.  Roll the balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Makes about 2 dozen.

From Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook c. 1989

Today I slipped a little note card into their lunchboxes.  Tomorrow my kids will have some homemade cookies.  I’d say that’s doing better!

Here’s a photo from this morning.  I am fortunate to be working at the private school that my kids are attending.  The elementary and secondary students share a campus, so my office is a stones-throw away from the kindergarten wing.

If there is an ideal for me to go back to work full time, this is it.  I am doing teacher support.  It’s my dream job.  I am loving it.

Cream Puffs

August 31, 2008 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Daring Bakers | 20 Comments
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My Chocolate Eclairs look like Cream Puffs, I know.  “And where’s the chocolate?”, you may be wondering.   It’s there, in a bowl on the side.

This months Daring Bakers challenge was hands-down my all time favorite.  I LOVED these!  Given the option of how to use the chocolate (in or out) I decided out and on the side.  Yes, I dipped one (or two) in the chocolate glaze.  I ate it (them).

But these didn’t need the chocolate.  They were perfect as is.  Lovely Pate a Choux (cream puff dough).  Vanilla bean pastry cream.  Lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

I began this challenge by making my cream puff dough, pipping it out into small circles and then freezing them.  I also made the chocolate sauce that was to be used in the chocolate glaze.

The next day I used my chocolate sauce to make my chocolate glaze.  I also made my vanilla bean pastry cream.

With everything ready, it was so easy to bake these, fill, and plate.

And they were so good.  I am counting the days until I can make these again.  Until then, I will be sitting here wishing that I had a few left overs.

My thanks to Tony and Meetak for the great Daring Bakers Challenge!

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream (from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean split and scraped
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs, chilled
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat.

Meanwhile, sift together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the flour, and salt.  Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Add the sifted dry ingredients to the eggs and whisk until fluffy.

When the milk comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and ladle out 1/2 cup of the hot milk and drizzle it slowly into the eggs while whisking.  Once the 1/2 cup milk is incorporated into the eggs, pour the mixture back into the hot milk, whisking constantly.  Be sure to scrape all the eggs into the pan with a rubber spatula.

Immediately begin to rapidly whisk the pastry cream.  In less than 1 minute, it will boil and begin to thicken.  Continue to whisk for about 3 minutes, or until it has the consistency of pudding.  To test the cream for doneness, tilt the saucepan to one side.  The cream should pull away from the pan completely.

Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh strainer.  Add the butter and stir until it is melted and incorporated.  If the cream seems grainy, pulse in a food processor until smooth.  The cream is now ready to use, or it can be cooled to room temp and refrigerated for up to 3 days.  To prevent a skin from forming as it cools, place a sheet of plastic film directly to the surface.

Continue Reading Cream Puffs…

Coconut Cream Pies Gone Bye

August 18, 2008 at 8:06 pm | Posted in Pies | 15 Comments
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When my dad asked for a coconut cream pie, I couldn’t refuse. After days of research, I finally settled on a recipe found on All Recipes (one of my favorite online sources). The original recipe calls for 3 cups of heavy cream, but after reading the reviews I followed the suggestion of 1 1/2 cups half-and-half and 1 1/2 cups coconut milk…it was a hit!

Actually, they were a hit! I decided to try out my new 5″ pie tins found at Sur La Table, (or as I like to think of it, Disneyland for the baker).

My cute little pie crusts (because I cannot resist any dessert in miniature).

Look how darling! There is nothing like diving into your own pie.

Did I mention there is toasted coconut inside and out?

Coconut Cream Pie (from All Recipes)

  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk*
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, toasted and divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Prepared Pie Shell, baked
  • Freshly Whipped Cream

In a medium saucepan, combine half-and-half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, flour and salt. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the coconut and the vanilla extract. Pour into pie shell and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 4 hours of overnight. Top with freshly whipped cream and remaining toasted coconut.

*The first time I tried this recipe I used this coconut milk. No good. The coconut cream was way too thick.

Then I tried this coconut milk. The coconut cream filling was smooth and creamy.

And if you are still reading this post and wondering where I’ve been or what I’ve been up to…here’s a recap…

A trip to Santa Barbara for my sister’s baby shower. She is one of those beautiful pregnant girls that you hate, but then you get to know her and find our she is one of the sweetest people in the world. Check out Angela’s site for more photos, and you’ll know why people (no, not me!) would be jealous.

A trip to Donner Lake for a family vacation. One of our favorite activities is crawdad fishing. Here’s my son actually holding a crawdad!

And now our days of summer are coming to a rapid end…today I saw my office. Yes, that’s right, I said office. I am going back to work. Full time. Beginning Monday, August 25th.

Almond Cake

July 30, 2008 at 12:27 am | Posted in Daring Bakers | 21 Comments
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I didn’t know what to title this Daring Bakers Challenge…Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream? What the heck is that? Oh, it’s one of those cakes. A genoise cake with syrup, buttercream, whipped cream, a glaze and ganache. Ugggg.

Thank goodness for Gretchen. She talked me down off the wall and I got to work. She helped me decide on an almond genoise (cake) brushed with an almond syrup, layered with almond buttercream, whipped cream, topped with an apricot glaze (I know, sounds wierd), covered by a chocolate ganache.

Whew! Did you get all that? If you are still having trouble picturing this cake, maybe this will help…

Or this…

How about this…

What you are looking at is an Almond Gateau with Almond Buttercream. It was…just okay. I had a slice. My hubby had a slice. That was it. Gretchen encouraged me to give it away, but why? It’s just not me. It’s not my kind of cake.

But, I’m glad I made this cake. I finally feel comfortable with genoise. I got a great rise out of this one. And this buttercream was okay. Probably the one I would prefer to make again if I had to.

I’m sure of the thousands of Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercreams, you will find many many more beautiful and great tasting cakes.

coming clean

July 25, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Posted in Diet and Exercise | 8 Comments
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Oh all the things I didn’t eat today (but considered eating).

But oh, all the things I did eat today…

Breakfast started out great. Old Fashioned Oats, milk chocolate chips, and banana and milk.

Lunch was terrific. Salmon on bread with sliced tomatoes, pickles, and a salad topped with brie.

After lunch I wanted something sweet. Darn these things being in the refrigerator (they’ve been in there for about 2 weeks). I was very aware of my decision to eat it. And it was goooood.

At 3:30 I finished making some coconut cream mini-pies that I had been working on for my dad. I had trouble with some mini-crusts, soooo…

Okay, I really didn’t need to eat this. And I wasn’t hungry. When dinner rolled around at 6pm, I was still full. Now here it is 7:15pm and still not hungry. I guess the mangled slice of coconut cream pie was pretty filling. And apparently my dinner.

I did go to the gym today. I went on the elliptical for 30 minutes and the treadmill for 15. After that I did a bunch of core work. Felt great!

when hunger strikes

July 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm | Posted in Diet and Exercise | 6 Comments
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Besides the bit of queezy-ness I felt this afternoon, (I blame my many trips to the bathroom on the steel cut oatmeal for the 4th morning in a row) today has been a rather peaceful day.  But then I got HUNGRY, and it was almost time for dinner.

Here’s a look at breakfast:  A bowl of steel-cut oats with a banana, milk chocolate chips (so perfectly good) and sliced almonds.

Lunch was an open faced sandwich on bread and some Sun Chips remains.

Started to feel the hunger at 4pm.  I had a peach.

And then I had a scoop of chocolate cream pie (I put the can of beans in back for perspective on the size).

At this point I knew it was over and I just needed to eat dinner.  Bean, rice and cheese burrito with a salad and chips.

Truthfully, I ate this amount of chips with some salsa and sour cream dip while cooking and chopping.  I put these chips on my plate for the photo opp, and then returned them to their bag.

I ate dinner at 5pm tonight.  For me, when I’m hungry and it’s almost time to eat, it’s usually better to just eat a meal.   Because if I don’t, I’ll just pick and nibble and pick some more.  And my brain won’t register, “hey, I’m eating”.  And then when it is time to eat, regardless if I’m hungry or not, my brain will say, “oh, now it’s time to eat”.   Does that make sense?

I didn’t make it to the gym today.  So once I get the three of them settled for dinner I’m going on a walk.

slowing to plate

July 23, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Diet and Exercise | 7 Comments

Well, I’ve noticed that the process of plating my food before I eat really makes me slow down and be deliberate about what I’m eating. The simple act of a photo food journal has caused me to eat more fruits and veggies, think about what I’m eating, and plan out my food.

Here was breakfast. A bowl of steel cut oats with a splash of milk, sliced banana, coconut and almonds. Had about 3 bites left over.

I had a snack of grapes and a granola bar. (I also had half a peach)

Lunch was an open faced sourdough sandwich with either a slice of ham or turkey and all the trimmings, including brie cheese.

I had that slice of the chocolate cream pie (it’s okay ’cause it has tofu, right?)

Then dinner was turkey breast (thanks for the recipe Dianne), salad, half an orange (and my kids’ sourdough crusts). I added maybe a cup more salad to my plate.

I was at the gym for an hour this morning.  Started with 35 minutes of speed walking at an incline.  Then did squats, abs, arms and planks.

You know, I woke up feeling much better today. I had more energy. Had a better outlook on life. Felt more like myself.

Could it have been the time spent with girlfriend’s in Bible study and prayer last night? Or possibly the prayers of a faithful friend who checks in with me on a daily basis. Maybe it was a shift in less eating and more moving. Think it was all three?

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