Monday, December 29, 2008

Parting Gifts

For the past three years, I have taught Primary in my ward. I was first called as the Sunbeam teacher in 2006, and my class consisted of four little 3 year olds: Elijah, Brigham, Iverson and Maria. They had been attending primary for several months without a regular teacher, so they hardly knew what to expect. Plus, they were accustomed to Nursery where they got to play for 2 hours and be treated with a snack every Sunday. After our little bunch formed we had a few regular occurances. One little girl cried every Sunday; fortunately, she later got to the point where she only cried if I wasn't there, and another jello legged little boy fell out of his chair every chance he could get! And of course, I loved them to pieces.

The next year the children moved up to CTR 5, (CTR stands for Choose The Right) and since we had a good thing going I moved up with them. I was elated! Being older, we were supposed to cut out the snack portion - but along with my counterparts, I never quite accepted that guideline. We often had visitors in our class, Ian, Zack, or Noah, and finding a regular Sunbeam teacher still proves difficult so Shannon and Ellie joined our class on occasion.

This year, I moved up again to CTR 6 with my original four kids but our class was combined with all of junior primary ages 4-7, (with the exception of Sunbeams) so our numbers often exceeded our regular 8 class members not to mention visitors and the sometimes frequent Sunbeams.

When I found out a month ago that in 2009 I wouldn't be moving up once again with my primary kids, I was heartbroken. I really wanted to give the children something that would commemorate our time together, and something that would remind them of me. Finally, 2 nights ago, on Saturday about 10pm it came to me, and I solicited my husbands help which prompted him to ask:

"Why do we have to do this every Saturday night in the middle of the night?"

"Because," I answered. "That's when it comes to me, I can't help that I get my inspiration at the last minute."

I checked at Desert Book, but nothing seemed right - not to mention cost a fortune! They do have adorable puzzles with a picture of Christ blessing the little children, and you can write a message on the back that they can read after they put the puzzle together, but they only had 1 in stock.

My inspiration: CTR pillows!! Now, I am certainly no master seamstress, but in this case I don't think it mattered one bit! I got the pattern from my Primary Lesson Manual - sort of. I took the CTR badge and enlarged it 150%. I cut out the shield and used it as my pattern for the base.

Then I cut out each individual letter and used those as a pattern for the CTR. That is where I solicited my husbands help; I owe a huge thank you to my wonderful husband! I could not have finished those before Sunday without him, and you'll see below how adept his cutting skills are! As I mentioned before it was 10pm when I got the idea - so I simply stitched atop each letter around the edges, I've used this technique before and I actually really like the effect. And since I didn't have the time to hide all the seams, I simply sewed the edges on the outside of the pillow deepening the impression of the CTR. They aren't perfect, but I just loved them, and my kids seemed to feel the same way!

Then of course we celebrated with Peppermint Bark - the easiest Christmas treat!

Line preferred pan with wax paper and coat with a very thin layer of butter.
Melt dark chocolate to spreading consistency and spread over wax paper to line bottom of pan.
Allow to set in fridge until hardened.
Melt milk chocolate to spreading consistency and spread over dark chocolate.
Allow to set in fridge until hardened.
Crush peppermint candies/candy canes, your choice, into tiny pieces.
Melt white chocolate to spreading consistency and spread over milk chocolate.
Immediately pour peppermint over white chocolate so that it can set into chocolate.

(This is not my peppermint bark, per se, the photo is courtesy of an unnamed source via Google images.)

Next year, I'll be ringing in the new year as Sunbeam and CTR 5 teacher (Sunbeam teachers are hard to come by). I am looking forward to it; I'll have two children that I frequently taught this year, plus the younger sister of my crier, and the younger brother of Mr. Jello Legs.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cat's B-day Cake

Hello Peeps. This is Cat's Husband Gabriel.

I am not nearly the baker Catherine is. Though, I am able to cook a pretty mean breakfast, which I attribute to the years I spent toiling away at a breakfast restaurant in Provo Utah.

Anyways. I made Catherine a cake for her Birthday this year and had some fun. So I decided to keep the tradition going and make a better cake for her every year. I set the bar pretty low this year I think.

Here are some photos of my mad cake making skills!

Boxed cake mixes are a big no no! I went beyond that and made the ultimate taboo! Not only did I use a yellow cake and a chocolate cake. But one is Betty Crocker and the other is Duncan Hines! I think I've broken some culinary laws with this one!

I did make the butter cream frosting by hand though. There ended up not being enough so I made another batch. I wanted to make a pink cake, but we were out of red food coloring, so I added some pink sugar sprinkles (I know, I am pretty fancy)

With candles!

And here is the Birthday Girl digging in! She was kind and insisted that it was delicious. I have lived with her long enough to know when she is lying. Thanks babe! Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Guiding Light

A Christmas Tree just isn't right without a star adorning the top stem. For me, a star symbolizes everything that constitutes what Christmas is. When Christ was born it signified His birth, the very birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ; it led the shepherds and the wise men to Him; and it is today representative of His guiding light and wisdom. The first year Gabriel and I were married, we didn't have money for ornaments or decorations, much less a star to light the top of our tree. Instead I stitched together a little homemade star, and sewed a small loop on the back out of yarn. 6 years later, this is what happened to our star...:

In this photo, Scooby Doo is representing Tipsy our 1 year old Lhasa Poo who should be aptly named for the untold amounts of mischief she conducts... or so I thought, until this morning when I found our star hiding below a smattering of ribbon rolls. I was elated! I hope that this star will last as long as we can perch it atop our tree. It is representative of our marriage, a shining beacon of what celestial glory we can attain as we place the Lord at the helm of our lives.

I love Christmas! In our home, decorating the Christmas tree lasts as long as the season itself. Of course we have one big trimming party to kick start the festivities, but like much of the rest of the season I just can't get enough of it. Plus of course, as the season progresses items are placed on sale, especially whole cranberries, and nothing is better than red strung cranberries on a green Christmas tree.

Starting with our first Christmas together we have retained, not only our tradition of keeping our scratch made star, but our tradition of scratch and earth made ornaments for our tree. The smell of fruit and pine couldn't appease my senses more delightfully. In addition to strung cranberries we slice lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges sprinkled with a little bit of sugar. We leave them to sit overnight, and hang them to dry on the tree throughout the season. The tree lights shine through them and cast a beautiful glow upon the room. You can see a bit of a grapefruit ornament behind Scooby.

For fun, I kept a few limes whole and whipped up a lime tart, but then I ate it just as quickly so I don't have any photos!

Tart: Lime
Topping: Whipped Cream

(Crust courtesy of Ginny Johnson)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup butter

Cut ingredients together until they resemble small pebbles and then press into tart pan.

Whip together:
4 eggs until they turn light yellow
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice (2)
Grated limes (2)

Pour into crust. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Remove and cool.

This year, I don't know how I came up with it, I brilliantly thought of wrapping tee balls in my own fabric. I tried for many hours, and then commissioned my husband, and then bought a new hot glue gun to wrap the balls tight with fabric-like store bought ornaments. I now believe that is impossible, so I settled for wrapping them up and tying them with ribbon; I'm thrilled with the results.

Fortunately, I also had on hand a delightful assortment of ribbon including Christmas ribbon. Some of the ribbon is polka dotted as you can see, the striped ball has cute little chickens on it, below the yellow ball has gorgeous cupcakes on the ribbon, but most of the ribbon says, "Ho Ho Ho", "Merry Christmas", "I've been good", or Santa is Coming". No glue, tape or staples are involved, so if you like you can unwrap and reuse for alternate purposes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Warm Buns

My favorite memories are of any day, any event, any occasion as long as Bammieroo's Orange Rolls were involved, (Bammieroo being my adored Grandmother on my Mom's side as featured in Turkey Lurkey) even funerals.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints we do not view funerals as a sad occasion, but as a joyous opportunity to celebrate a person's life. I didn't know my great Aunt Deltsa, but I remember her funeral because of the orange rolls. I remember everyone laughing and reminiscing as we all wrestled over getting the first glimpse of the Orange Rolls as Bammieroo pulled them out of the oven. We probably ate 4-5 dozen that day and each time laughed and wrestled as they came out of the oven. I remember Bammieroo smiling, commenting how much her sister loved Orange Rolls.

Like German Chocolate Cake, I don't need an excuse to make Orange Rolls and I make them often to appease my senses, or so I can hear oohs and aahs reverberate off the walls when I have dinner guests.

A few years ago my husband and I realized were living in Briar Patch Heaven. It was late August and blackberries were everywhere! We had recently found a large chest freezer on Craigslist and filled it, quite literally to the brim, full of blackberries. I decided to attempt a substitution for my cherished orange rolls, and swapped oranges for blackberries. The results were incalculable! Divine and delicious and delectable.

Then I got crazy and attempted a few other variations. The result? Sweet Roses: Choc o làt.

First: You need an excellent sweet dough. I will never divulge my Bammieroo's recipe... so sorry!
Second: One 8oz. jar of Fahrenheit 350° Sweet Sauce: Choc o làt.

Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. Spread sauce over dough and roll up tight. Place in cupcake tins, or desired baking pans - making sure to grease extremely well! Allow to rise double the size and spilling over the tops of the pan. Bake at 350°F until done. For cupcake tins: 8-10 minutes, for larger pans 19-22 minutes.

Remove immediately from pan. While still warm, coat with more Sweet Sauce and enjoy while hot, with a dab of butter on each bite.

Another variation is with Fahrenheit 350° Sweet Sauce: Càr à mel. Substitute caramel sauce for chocolate sauce and sprinkle sauce with toasted pecans. Roll up tight and follow recipe same as above. The result? Sweet Roses: Sticky Càr à mel.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Frightful Weather

I remember one snow day in high school, not one snow day in particular, but one snow day in totality. That wasn't because we had to trudge to school in the snow no matter what, but because it doesn't snow in Portland. I took pictures of that one solitary snow day because that is what a huge deal it was.

I remember one snow day in college too, again because it was such a big deal. It was in 2004 and the entire city shut down. It started with snow but then turned to treacherous ice. Gabriel had to go to a meeting across the Fremont and was stalled on the over pass, watching car and truck after car attempt to go over... but slam into the eastern facing side railing because it was so slick.

I've been told the Farmer's Almanac predicts world wide this year to be the worst winter ever, maybe worse for those in -26° F Minnesota, but here it's a novelty and I call that best! Church was even canceled (Thanks Bishop!) and the missionaries were forbidden from driving or teaching. Fortunately we live across the street, and I got to play hostess while we enjoyed hot chocolate, marshmallow popcorn, cupcakes, butter toffee and pumpkin pie.

You can find the recipe for Toffee at my sister Pamela's blog: French Knots although personally I prefer equal parts white sugar and butter; quite tasty.

The marshmallow popcorn is conveniently called: Yummy Popcorn by my sister Jill from whom the recipe derives:

Pop 2-3 bags of butter microwave popcorn

Melt over medium heat:
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup Karo syrup
1 cup butter

Bring to boil for 3 minutes. Watch closely because you don't want to cook it any longer.

Remove from heat.

3 cups mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Stir until mallows are melted and pour over popcorn. Stir to evenly coat popcorn.

Good luck keeping your sticky fingers out of this and pray for more snow here in Portland!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Compulsory Addictions

We have been known to throw a couple of pretty sensational parties in our day - all with the same theme: J.J. Abrams.

Lost is easily and profoundly, not only the most intelligent television show to air to date, but it is disturbingly entertaining. I possess a compulsory addiction to Lost. I have expelled my theories regarding the island, the wheel, the foot statue, the plane crash, intermediary relations, the conspiracies, philosophical connections, Dharma, and/plus the stations, etc. upon... well if you know me, you.

Every Christmas, Gabriel and I write an adorable little diddy for Christmas entitled: "The Go Ahead." It's our version of a family newsletter. A year back, we wrote a story about my missing gray sweat pants... where did we find them? On Sawyer, in episode 26 "Man of Science, Man of Faith".

And, one such party is anticipating an arrival date of January 21, 2009. We are all prepared to take work off January 22, because yes, it is going to be that epic.

Well, J.J. Abrams has done alright so far with Fringe. Yet, that's all I'm willing to give him until he starts expanding the underlying storyline. However, every week we host a little Fringe party. Recently I graced the attending geeks with pumpkin cake, honoring the season, the occasion, and J.J. Abram's genius.

Cake: Pumpkin
Topping: Cream Cheese Frosting

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil
Beat until creamy

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Mix until just incorporated

Stir in 16 oz. pumpkin

You can make these in bars, cake rounds, or cupcakes - I don't play by the rules, so neither should you.
Bake at 350°
Top with frosting

(camera phone picture)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom

I never need an excuse to make German Chocolate Cake, but every once in a while an excuse does present itself, such as my mother's birthday a few days ago on November 17. German Chocolate Cake has long been the Johnson cake of choice dating back to at least 1965.

My mother always made a big to do about birthdays! I remember the beautiful bows my mother would adorn our presents with; I remember plenty of meals at The Old Spaghetti Factory; and I remember German Chocolate Cake. My favorite memories are birthday memories, but not just my birthday memories. Since my parent's made such a to do about birthdays they all seemed extra special; especially Michael's birthday on August 25. Even though he left our home to be with our Heavenly Father more than six years ago, we still make a cake in commemoration every year and every year it is German Chocolate. We always knew when Michael's birthday was coming up, because he started a countdown directly after New Years, in January!

Needless to say, birthdays are a big to do in my home too! whether you are a pet, a friend, or a family member. Some years we are able to to do more than others depending on the green rubbing off our fingerprints, but no matter what, I can always make a cake!

Making German Chocolate Cake this go around, I tried something a wee bit different. The cake itself and the gravel was all by the book, courtesy of Baker's German Chocolate - the one and only recipe you should ever consider when making German Chocolate cake. Typically I make 3 cakes, and slice each layer in half. Chocolate frosting goes between each slice, and gravel between both layers, but since we moved and our oven is the size of my thumb, I can now only make two.

The chocolate exterior frosting called for a change because dear Ginny is the only person you will ever meet that will not fall comatose, or get tingly tongue when eating highly maniacal amounts of frosting and requests that the edifice contain more frosting than cake.

Cake: German Chocolate Cake
Frosting: Sweet Sauce: Choc o làt

Simple. Take one jar Fahrenheit 350° chocolate sauce, mix with 1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar. To avoid tingly tongue, omit powdered sugar, but you will need to increase amount of chocolate sauce needed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My First

Today, I am pretty excited about the fact that I was invited to a cookie exchange.

I decided to make what my cookie book called: Chocolate Peppermint Refrigerator Cookies, but I am calling them Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies. The reasons are two fold: 1) I simply like the name better, 2) I should have pinwheeled them; it would have been a lot easier.

Having never been to a cookie exchange before, let alone a Christmas cookie exchange, I didn't know any of the basic rules... such as "regular cookies" aren't part of the foray. I figured we would have chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, gingersnaps, chocolate crinkles and I was very concerned with not submitting a rerun cookie. In actuality though, the spread was almost unilaterally composed of variations of the sugar cookie. Mine, of the peppermint persuasion, spritz, by definition sugar cookies, brown sugar cookies, store bought sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, praline cookies, orange cookies and so on that you get the point. Which honestly, I should have been able to deduce prior to the event.

If there is one thing that defines me as a baker it is this: I can't will myself (no matter how hard I try) to stick to a recipe without deviation. Oh wait there's another thing too: I can't will myself (no matter how teeming my calender is) to make my showcase earlier than the day of. I didn't have peppermint candies to crush, and I didn't have peppermint extract. I did however have white chocolate peppermint Hersey's kisses though, and I figured they would do the trick - the morning of. They are delicious by the way!

All in all they turned out sufficient. I would make a few changes, should I ever make this recipe again, and I have made those adjustments in the recipe below. I will say however, this recipe has inspired me for how to make my birthday cake in 15 days (which is all that matters, and all I've been thinking about for the past 2 months)!!

Cookie: Peppermint Pinwheels

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg

Mix well until fluffy.

2 2/3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Add to butter sugar mixture until combined. Seperate dough in half.

To one half add:
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup baking cocoa

To other half add:
1/4 cup Hersey's Peppermint Kisses
1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract.
1/4 cup crushed Peppermint candies

Roll chocolate dough flat 1/4 inch thick on wax paper. Press peppermint dough on top of chocolate dough until they are parallel and no chocolate dough is visible. Using wax paper roll doughs together until they form a long log. Transfer to a fresh sheet of wax paper and roll until the shape is smooth and circular. Wrap with wax paper and aluminum foil and refrigerate until firm.

Cut slices to desired width, and bake in preheated oven at 350° for 6 -7 minutes for soft and chewy, 8-10 for crispy but melt in your mouth.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Lurkey

One Thanksgiving stands out to me more than any other. I don't remember the table settings, the food, or how old I was, but I do remember that my Bammieroo came to visit (Bammieroo is my Mother's Mother). Seeing Bammieroo was always a cause for celebration as she lived far away and we didn't get to enjoy her visits all too often. Of all the things I could potentially remember from that blessed day, this is what I remember: My sister Pammy and I sitting on either side of her pulling on her loose neck skin repeatedly clucking, "Gobble Gobble!" and calling her a "Turkey Lurkey!"

I remember Pammy and I giggling uncontrollably and Bammieroo playing right along with us. If you took a midnight trip to Meridian, Idaho no matter what time you arrived whether it was 8 PM or 3 AM, Bammieroo would present a handful of pies at the door with excitement written all over her face, and then she would sit up with you eating pie, until all the recent events had been covered and rejoiced over.

This Thanksgiving year I was commissioned to make a few pies, one of which was apple.

Pie: Caramel Apple
Topping: Whipped Cream

I try and not get things too complicated when it comes to apple pie.

Peel and core enough apples to fill your pie pan heaping full! My pie pans require 8-10 apples. I know that some people are particular about which apples to use, but I don't think it makes a difference. In fact, one woman from my ward came to me who had had a slice of my pie, and said, "That is the absolute best pie I have ever had! I've decided it must have been the apples you used - what apples did you use?" I grinned, "Just the cheapest ones I could find!"

The secret is the caramel.

Slice apples one inch thick - I use my shredder/dicer/slicer attachment on my Bosch. Use a potato peeler, or salad shooter for your own convenience. My mom does it by hand and so more power to her!

Place in a bowl and mix with 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour and juice from half a lemon. I also add a dash of cloves, and a generous amount of cinnamon.

Fill unbaked crust with half the apples. Pour Fahrenheit 350° Caramel Sweet Sauce over the apples to completely cover them. Fill your pie pan heaping with remaining apples and cover once again with Fahrenheit 350° Caramel Sweet Sauce. Cover pie with top crust, brush with whisked egg and sprinkled sugar, and bake at 350° until juice inside pie is bubbling hot!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Defending a Title

A previous company I worked for held a summer work party in July. Many of my fellow employees would schedule their vacation to coincide with the date of the party; but not me. I made it to the work party every year for 3 years, because every year they had a dessert contest. Every year I strived to win it, and every year I went home miserable and gloomy (I'm the worst kind of sore loser you can imagine).

When we moved into our new ward, (The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints) we discovered they held an annual Chili & Dessert Cookoff + CO2 Derby Car Race. It was heaven sent! I had an opportunity to prove myself without any previous held biases against me. I spent weeks deciding what to make, how to display it, how to maximize the number of pieces through cutting styles, and I settled on a favorite recipe of my mothers: Caramel Walnut Flan.

The anticipation was grueling... but finally, for the first time, I didn't go home with funeral bags until my eyes! I was the champion baker and I wore my badge of glory proud.

So satisfied was I that I had finally won my prize, I barely remembered the date of the party the following year. The day of I simply whipped up a German Chocolate Cake and tore into the cookoff 3/4 of the way into it. My efforts were not in vain: I was the prize winner again!

This year I went back to step one. I lamented over what to bake, a revered or new recipe? A comfort dessert, or risk my luck with something out of the ordinary? I finally decided on an amended comfort version of pumpkin cheesecake.

Cheesecake: Traditional Pumpkin
Crust: Chocolate Coated Butter Cookie
Topping: Butter Frosting with Vanilla Buttercream Chocolates

Warning: We are back to the camera phone pictures!!

I started with a butter cookie crust:

1 cup of butter cookies crumbed
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of sugar

Melt together and press into bottom of pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 325°.

I then thought it would be fun to create a layer of chocolate sauce between the crust and the cheesecake, so I layered the crust with a thin layer of Fahrenheit 350° chocolate sauce, (2-3 tablespoons) warmed up a bit.

Then I added a layer of cheesecake and poured it over the chocolate layer:

16 oz. of cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 egg yolks

Whip together until smooth. Beat 2 egg whites, fold into mixture.

And then I added a layer of pumpkin cheesecake:

16 oz. of cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 egg yolks
8 oz. canned pumpkin

Whip together until smooth. Beat 2 egg whites, fold into mixture.

The two cheesecakes will combine when baking so no need to combine or incorporate the two.

Bake for 45 minutes at 325°.

Remove from over and immediately run spatula along sides of pan. When cooled remove outer edge of spring form pan.

After the cheesecake had cooled I topped with a layer of butter frosting.

6 oz. cream cheese
1 stick butter
1/4 powdered sugar

The decorative toppings on the cake are scratch made vanilla chocolates. The center is comprised of a vanilla buttercream and then the candy is dipped in chocolate and topped with a orange pumpkin candy sprinkle.

Typically there are 3 winners: Best Crust, Most Fruity, and Best Overall. I wasn't paying attention to all the categories I was just listening for the third name... and when my name wasn't called I'll admit I started falling into my dejected state. The organizer pulled a little trick though and added a third category, Best Texture or something, so my name was called fourth - for Best Overall! Title Defended!

When I accepted my golden trophy, I held it up with one hand, raised my other hand into a fist and shouted: "3 years in a row! Whooooooooooooooooooo!"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sell Out!

Thursday night Gabriel and I were sitting at our favorite burger dive, Cruisers, talking about how excited we were for Tom and Lucy's Art Shoppe and I commented how much I wished we could go. Gabriel agreed, and we paused to look at each other for a minute. We had just purchased half a tank of gas for $6 and I knew we were thinking the same thing: "Why not?"

We are notorious for making midnight trips. One year my good friend Allison Hanna was playing her last college golf tournament in Stanford before she went pro. We hadn't made it to any of her tournaments and I felt guilty and wanted to go. We got off work the night before at 10pm, drove all night, watched the tournament, and drove straight home. About 2 hours away from home we had to pull over and sleep. We learned a valuable lesson that trip: Take turns sleeping and driving, don't both stay awake.

We cleaned up, packed, and hit the road at 10:30pm. We told just a few people, none of which included my sister the boutique owner, or my mother who had offered to go to the show to help sell and sample my product. I love surprises!

The show was incredible. If you missed it this year, make a note not to miss it next year, times to be announced but it will be sometime between Easter and Mothers Day, and again before Thanksgiving. They had adorable aprons, ballerina shoes and tutu's, crafts, hair clips, baby shoes, onsises!

Fahrenheit 350 did excellent! Thank you to Ginny Johnson for her amazing selling skills - we would not have done nearly as well without her! Here is a sample photo of the largest selling item: Sweet Logs, Pecan. to be up next week!

Some of my favorite vendors include:

Sawdust Daisy
Tootsies for Tots
Baby Rags
French Knots
Baby Tai
Baby Bumpkins
Tika Kids
well and me of course Fahrenheit 350!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sweet Crunch: Càsh ew

As a younger girl I loved playing basketball, particularly on Coach Hanna's All Star Team. Starting in grade school Coach Hanna went around to all the local grade schools in the district and elicited the best girls to compete on a club team, and coached us through junior high. In fact, our team claims the club basketball championship victory of 1995!

I sort of had an innocent crush on Coach Hanna; the type of crush you don't really know what it is, just that you know you admire someone and you want to please them because they've assisted in your discovery of finding something that you love. And for basketball I can attribute that to Coach Hanna. One Valentines Day I wanted to express how appreciative I was of him, so I took him some scratch made cookies... with a balloon. Being Valentine's Day, the only balloons they had were love note balloons, and for this I blame my mother. She thought it would be harmless to give Coach an "I love you" balloon. For the record: it wasn't harmless and I lived that decision down everyday until the day I graduated HS, and sometimes even still.

Coach Hanna taught us to be very passionate about the game. This was easy for me, I was very passionate about everything. I'm dubbed in my family the: too sensitive one. On the same note, Coach Hanna wasn't always the best example of how to curb that passion. I rarely remember a game that he wasn't ejected from for getting two too many technical fouls. In a few games I also found myself the recipient of a technical foul or two, accompanied by a broken tooth or two. Upon repair of those teeth I was warned by my dentist not to eat toffee or brittle with my front teeth.

I offer the same warning to you: Don't eat this brittle with frail front teeth, use those molars and incisors.

Brittle: Cashew
Tasty: Indeed

Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat:
2 cups sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Allow to reach a temperature of 310°, or hard crack stage and then add cashews, 2 cups give or take. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, and remove from heat.

2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar

Using a heavy wooden spoon stir until thoroughly mixed and candy stops foaming.

When I made this last, I decided it would be a fantastic idea to pour out my candy onto a buttered marble slab, as I would do with candy fondant or sometimes caramel (though not necessary with caramel), when typically I would butter a cookie sheet and instead pour onto that. The marble is flat and unmalleable and acts as a suction cup when the candy is poured onto it. Much better to use a candy sheet, trust me.

Pour the brittle onto a buttered candy sheet and spread it out. When cool, use the edge of a counter to release the brittle and break into chunks.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Smells like Christmas

I have been looking forward to tonight's dinner with friends all week long, even though I couldn't decide what to make until early Friday morning. These friends we have rarely seen over the past year, a disappointing realization, but no matter! we had a delightful time and their new (1 year old) baby was darling, cooing and cawing to the delicious smells from the kitchen. Yes, a kitchen that smelled like Christmas.

Dinner always revolves around dessert in this house, because dessert is all that matters. When I saw Tartelette's Poire D'Eve blog, I was inspired. It is a rare occasion when I read Tartelette's blog and do not become inspired, however I was not inspired for Poire D'Eve, but for poached pears.

As is often the case, my decreased budget sometimes requires modifications of Helen's delectable and elaborate desserts though Helen deserves all the credit for this evenings adventure.

Pears: Poached
Topping: Chocolate Sweet Sauce

Peel, half and core 4 pears.

Mix together first in a separate bowl, then pour over pears:
3 cups of water
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon of cloves and nutmeg each
3 tablespoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons almond vanilla
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 shakes of ginger

Simmer over stove top for 1/2 hour.

My beautiful pears were ripening in the kitchen last night, and because I had been savoring them all week while I decided what to make, I couldn't resist them any longer! They were beautiful, juicy and decadent! While they were poaching my wonderful, and very handsome husband declared: "It smells like Christmas!"

After poaching was complete I allowed them to cool in the pan, fastened the pan with a tightfitted lid and slipped them into the refrigerator. The next day all that was required was simply to heat them over low until they were moist and warm and serve them with chocolate sauce, preferably mine, which you can buy at Tom and Lucy's Art Shoppe this weekend.

Because the poaching liquid smelt like Christmas, I had a difficult time pouring it down the drain - so I decided to try an experiment. After dessert was over and friends had left I took my flashlight and ventured outside to scour for some pinecones. When I returned I laid those cones in the liquid, turned it up to high and began poaching the pinecones!

The result was amazing! I can not guarantee how long this makeshift potpourri will delight my senses with it's sweet fragrance, but for tonight I am tickled. And thank you so much to my dear friend Melinda for allowing me to borrow her camera for a few days. I think we all want to thank her!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Under The Sea

I have a video of my now 18 year old niece when she was barely 3 years old singing, "Part of your World," along with Ariel from (of course you know) The Little Mermaid. It is as priceless as it sounds.

When a co-worker commissioned me to make her some whimsical cupcakes, with the help of that long lost 3 year old, I knew just what to make; because we all know what Ariel really wanted was some cake.

All in all, the creation process went fairly smoothly which I was more than delighted about. My biggest difficulty was that although simple, without my artist husband I'm not sure I would have gotten the shapely figure of Ariel quite right, in fact towards the last cupcake she started looking a bit stiff. They taste as good as they look; if you don't trust me order some.

(I'll be saying this a lot until I get a camera) blasted that I don't have a camera!

Jumbo cupCake: White chocolate with coconut
Filling: Lime pineapple frosting
Topping: Layer of candy fondant

I went with Wilton star Sprinkles for the bikini top, and once the design was complete used a pastry brush dipped in water with dissolved white sugar to create the wet ocean, while the eyes were added by simply dipping a toothpick in food coloring.

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