Thursday, January 29, 2009

Eat More Fruit

Perhaps, one of the greatest compliments my Mother ever gave me was when she said, "You bake just like your Bammieroo!" Translation: You are too messy!

I suppose this trait was inherited because my Grandmother didn't teach me how to cook; if anyone it was my sister Tina - and I don't remember her being a messy cook, but being messy myself I don't suppose I'm a good judge.

I've always believed messiness was a relative term. Now that my kitchen is the size of my thumb it seems perpetually much messier than my previous two kitchens ever were! And as a side note, on the off chance that any architects might be reading this blog, this cook doesn't consider the space underneath kitchen cupboards as 'counter space'. Growing up I remember my Mother unceasingly grumbling about the placement of her kitchen cupboards - the majority of which were placed straight above the sizable island, whose size was wholly diminished by those cupboards. I remember returning home from school one day, as my parents took it upon themselves to move the cupboards from above the island to their new place against the wall: brilliant!!!

Another thing: In whose mind is it a good idea to do laundry in the kitchen? I understand the plumbing issue, in terms of convenience, but the only people for whom this is convenient is the builders.

When Gabriel and I were first married, he discovered early on that while I love baking I despise doing dishes (this is not the aspect my Mother was referring to - she was alluding to the flour on the face and floor type of messiness). Gabriel is a wonderful person for more reasons than bills being printed currently by the United States government, one of which is that he always does the dishes for me. And in this thumb sized kitchen, that's a pretty hefty and continuous job.

This dessert was inspired by Tartelette, and as such, I am naming my tiny creations after her inspiring vision. These little tartelettes incorporate a delicate balance of soft and mildly sweet cream and posses a faint tender allure of spice. Just what a little heart needs no matter the reason or season.

Flaky Butter
Tartelettes: Walnut Pear
Garnish: Gobs of freshly whipped cream

Helen gives credit for this crust to Dorie Greenspan
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 stick of butter
Pulse in a food processor or blender until small pebble shaped balls form

Add 1 egg yolk and pulse until dough forms a ball
If using a blender, you may only be able to get so far along in this process, and will need to knead the dough to fully incorporate the egg

Roll dough thinly between two sheets of wax paper and lay in tart pan so that it forms the shape of the pan
Bake at 350° for 3-5 minutes
Because you will bake the tart in this shell for additional time later, it is not necessary to bake the crust fully at this stage

This filling is enough for a 9" tart pan, 4 mini tart pans and plus a little remaining
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup walnuts (or your choice of nut)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Grind all ingredients in blender until smooth

Cut 4 pears and arrange on the bottom of pan when crust has cooled
Pour filling over the pears to fill the pan
Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes, or until set and golden brown

P.S. Today is the last day to vote for your favorite Lost Scientist (top right), and no one has voted for Pierre Chang!

Creating Beauty

I've been very emotional the past couple of days.

I realized last night (as I contemplated what I would do the following day) it was time to bake when lying in bed alone, sobbing, sounded like a viable and desirable plan for the day. I believe there is a beauty in completely releasing of all your anger, resentment and heartache; when there is no possible understanding for your suffering sometimes the only alleviation is through tears, yet when I find myself consumed with an aching that can't be quenched - filling my world with beauty is often all the healing I need.

More than anything today, I wanted fresh raspberries. I knew my husband would understand, even when I spent $5 on a package of 10 solitary, out of season raspberries. Unfortunately though, he had the car so my grocery options were limited to the Albertsons within walking distance. Sadly, they had none to be found. Instead, I settled for the blackberries in my freezer.

Crust: Graham Cracker
Topping: Sour Cream Sugar
Decorations: Lemon, Chocolate, Blackberries

Grind 1 package of graham crackers, or 1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs
(if you are like me I can never find the aisle these are on at the grocery store!)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
Stir until grahams are incorporated and press into the bottom of an 11" springform pan
Cook at 325° for 5-7 minutes

3 8oz. packages of cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
Juice from half a lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 Tablespoon honey
Beat until smooth and creamy

Add three egg yolks and beat for 2 minutes

Whip egg whites to firm peaks and fold into mixture
Pour into crust
Bake at 300° for 30 minutes or until cake is not quite set in the middle
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir well, and spoon lightly on top of cheesecake, spread evenly
Continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan
When cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan, lightly run a knife between the sides
Allow to cool to room temp before removing rim of pan

Blackberries with a small dose of sugar syrup
Lemon Glaze
Handfuls of chocolate chips

Monday, January 26, 2009

Simply Delicious

Growing up I spent the summers between school terms visiting my sisters in Utah, or Mississippi, or Tennessee, creating some of my fondest memories. One summer I remember, I broke my sister Tina's glass blender. They lived in a small remote town named Magee, in Mississippi about 45 minutes outside of Jackson, on one acre of land. Typically they hired a company to come with riding lawn mowers to cut the grass periodically, but the week I (let me make sure to mention - accidentally) broke the glass blender I received the pleasure of mowing the grass, by hand, with a push mower. Let me also make sure to mention again that this is Mississippi, deep, hot south, land of the fire ants. I had completed the front yard, stepped in 3 ant hills, my feet were swollen from ant bites; I walked inside and fell to the ground, "I can't do it," I sighed and cried and lamented. I distinctly remember my sister's response, "You know, when I was your age I never let anyone or anything tell me I couldn't do something! I could do anything." I changed out of my flip flops and finished the back of the yard.

Okay, maybe this memory isn't as fond as others.

More importantly that same summer, Tina's kids and I were crazy about this one particular sesame street video. It was the 50th Anniversary video, and we watched it non stop day after day after day. I still love it! When a local Toys R Us store was going out of business a few years back, it was the first item in my shopping cart!

One of the classic songs on the video is: I'm an Aardvark!

I'm an aardvark, and I'm proud!
I'm an
aardvark, and I'm happy!
I'm an aardvark,
If I try to be specific
And a little scientific,

I am feeling quite terrific!

I'm an aardvark, fierce and free!
I'm an aardvark, standing bravely!

I'm an aardvark,
And I'm tough and smart and strong

And always right,
And that's the way I'll always be ...

Until I meet another aardvark
Who's bigger than me!

Every time I hear this song, I think of chocolate chip cookies. I don't know, I can't explain it.

I'm a cookie, and I'm great!
I'm a cookie, and I'm delicious!
I'm a cookie,
If I try to be specific
And a little scientific,
I am merely quite terrific!

Chocolate chip cookies are just simply delicious. They are quick and easy, and never disappoint.

Cookie: Chocolate Chip

3/4 cup Crisco
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
Mix until smooth and creamy - and continue to beat until mixture turns nearly white

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat again until mixture turns white

3 cups flour (more or less depending on your altitude)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (2-3 shakes of the salt shaker will do)
Chocolate chips (I prefer handfuls of mini semisweet combined with handfuls of milk chocolate - or shavings of a brick of chocolate)
Fold into mixture

Scoop 4oz or more of dough onto a buttered cookie sheet, spread dough equally apart, and bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes. Wait 30 seconds, and transfer to cool on a paper towel (the paper towel will absorb any oil/butter from your pan).

I made these cookies primarily for a little friend of mine, Madyson, who is sick! But I made a second batch to bribe my primary class, which unfortunately didn't work as well as I had hoped. The 4oz cookies are perfect for parents or primary teachers, because they are the perfect size for little ones. Plus - you can feel better about giving them several, because while the kids think they are getting tons of cookies, you know they are truly only getting the equivalent of 1 or 2.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Destiny Calls

I mentioned before that I have a compulsory addition to the television series Lost, and my hint in Monday's Food Appreciation post regarding my excitement for Christmas, (in terms of excitement) was of course about Lost. This post may further reveal my complete obsession with the series:

What we learned tonight, goes back to the orientation video for the Orchid station. Dr. Edgar Halliwax explains the purpose of the first demonstration of the Orchid station involving time and space:

"We will attempt to shift the test subject 100 milliseconds ahead in four dimensional space. For the briefest of moments, the animal will seem to disappear, but in reality..."
Dr. Halliwax, with his one permanently raised eyebrow, is so cool!... right?

Of course, we know that Einstein first proved the mathematical possibilities of multi- dimensional space in E=MC2, or the theory of general relativity. We know that we live in a three dimensional universe; length, width, and height, and that we can grasp easily a feasible understanding of a fourth dimension; time. We live with this understanding everyday. Dr. Hugh Ross PH.D. provides an easy to grasp analysis of dimensionality in his book: "Beyond the Cosmos." To paraphrase he explains that each dimension can be visualized as a line; one straight line depicts length; add a line at an intersecting 90° angle and one can visualize width; create a third 90° angle and height or volume enters the picture, and so on. In the same manner which we conceptualize our previous dimensions, we can add an infinite number of 90° angles to envision an infinite number of dimensions.

From this we can conclude that an infinite number of dimensions have the possibility of existing and likewise an infinite number of realities and time lines. Because we can only understand four of a possible limitless number of dimensions, does not mean that other dimensions do not exist. So goes the old adage: 'The more I know, the more I realize I don't know.' Therefore, someone with the power, or ability, to find the intersecting 90° angle where all the lines unite could potentially access all or each dimension. I question if that wasn't the equation Ms. Hawking was determining at the end of the show with her fancy chalk pendulum.

Bearing this in mind, with the information we receive from Halliwax, I question then: Has the island disappeared? or in reality is it merely and briefly tottering in another dimension.

With such a possibility, the question remains: Can one intersect or alter a converging timeline? This seemed to be the theme of the Season 5 Premiere of Lost ( ABC, Wednesday nights, 9/8 central) and up till now we have been left in a quandary regarding whether the previous miraculous and unbelievable events have been real or not. The many appearances of Christian Shepherd on the island, Horace repeatedly chopping down a tree to build his cabin though he's been dead for 12 years, the intervention of Ms. Hawking in Desmond's life after he turns the fail safe key, Charlie visiting Hurley at the mental institution, and now Faraday disturbing Desmond in the hatch in a time line prior to the plane crash, number just a few of the many examples that come to mind.

We are given one of two possibilities, either the island is moving through time, or the island inhabitants are, provided that Faraday's theory is correct; who by the way provided a pretty solid explanation to all us non quantum physicists viewers, and if nothing else we learn in the opening revelatory scene, as well as in this little ditty here (thank you Comic Con '08), we know the time shifts haven't ended yet.

Though we have been led to believe that the past, the future, the present can't be changed from the course they are traveling, I believe this is a false notion. I believe we will learn that the past, the future, and the consequent present can be changed, and this bologna about course correction is just that. Evidence for the contrary is strong though - one could argue Faraday inserting a memory into Desmond's past was simply an event that was meant to happen, an alteration designated to occur in the future not in the past, and by such reasoning one could apply the same theory to explain what Alpert means when he finds Locke shot in the middle of the night and says, "Well, you will tell me," and so forth with other various situations... But I believe that Faraday knows that events can be changed, he just doesn't want irresponsible people to know it. Proof of this is shown in the video above, as well as Faraday finding Desmond in the Swan hatch, and sending Desmond to find him at the University.

The primary evidence, however, which alludes to my theory, I believe was given when Dr. Marvin Candle (aka Dr. Edgar Halliwax) tells the Work Man in the opening scene, after giving him a brief explanation of the stations purpose, "There are rules." You remember when Martin Keamy killed Alex, Ben's daughter, Ben exclaimed: "You changed the rules!" Though we haven't been given an explanation of the parameters of the rules of the island, I am convinced that Ben, Alpert, now Locke, and other choice island inhabitants have witnessed multiple time lines of the future; as they have remained on the island when others have moved it. Hence, the rules refer to what must not be changed, not that the future can't be changed, but that it should not be changed.

Here are a few of my other theories:
  • The 70 hour deadline Ms. Hawking gives to Ben refers to the time in which the island will be at present day, and a bearing of either Ben's 325 or Faraday's 305
  • The whisperings on the island are dimensional breakthroughs in which all the previous habitants can be briefly heard
  • As we know the Dharma Initiative has been disbanded the helicopter food drops were actually the same food being repeatedly dropped as a consequence of the time loop achieved by inputting the numbers into computer at the Swan station
  • Halliwax refers to an "incident" in the Swan station where the computer was used for a purpose other than it's designation; knowing that time is irrelevant I surmise that this could possibly have had something to do with when Walt attempted to contact his father Michael via Island chat
  • Locke isn't dead, but is being kept incapacitated by the Medusa Spider
  • Miles is Halliwax's son (credit to Gabriel for this one)
  • The Dharma Initiative, funded by the Hanso Foundation, was involved in life extension experiments; his combined with the theory that one can gain eternal life by killing one's parents before they were born, is my theory on how Alpert seemingly does not age (info gleaned from Bad Twin and alternate reality game)
To mark the occasion we celebrated with fellow Losties and with chips and spinach and cheese dips, pizza, sausages in blueberry blankets, a relish tray and Claire's.

Pastry: Puff
Filling: French Americàine Custard & Whipped Cream
Topping: Chocolate

Bring 1 cup water to boil over med-high heat
Add 1/2 cup butter, allow to melt
All at once add 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt
Rapidly and briskly stir with wooden spoon until dough sticks together and forms a ball
Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly
Add four eggs, one at a time, and beat dough until incorporated

Drop spoonfuls onto cookie sheet dampened with cold water
Bake at 400° for 15 minutes, lower temp to 300° and continue to cook for 30 minutes
Remove from oven and slice to allow steam to escape

Makes 8 massive puffs, or 16-20 smaller (perhaps more reasonably sized) puffs

This is my delightful Bammieroo's (my Grandmother) recipe, with a slight alteration of course. I use this custard for coconut and banana cream pies as well; one of my Bammieroo's specialties.

4 cups of evaporated milk & whole milk
Measure 12 oz. can evaporated milk, fill remainder of 4 cups with whole milk
(approximately 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk, 2 1/2 cups whole milk)
Bring to boil over med-high heat

While heating, take half of milk mixture and pour into blender - and add
2 eggs
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 powdered sugar
3 oz. vanilla pudding mix (do not use instant)
Pinch of salt
Blend on high for a couple minutes

When milk is nearly boiling, add mixture and stir constantly
The mixture will become thick and glossy
Continue to stir until the entire mixture is of the same thick consistency
Remove from heat and continue to stir for a minute or so
Allow to cool slightly and put in fridge to chill

Once chilled, add 1/2 cup of whipped, whipping cream and beat until custard is smooth and creamy

Fill bottom half of puff with heaping spoonfills of custard
Top with a layer of whipped cream
Replace puff top
Coat liberally with a generous layer of melted chocolate
Celebrate Lost with your Claire's, and contemplate the fate of the island inhabitants and the world

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Food Appreciation

Every once in a while my husband and I attempt to perform a body cleanse. It's a wicked three day process of combining starvation and drinking liquid muck, at least that is what I call any form of wheat grass. My sister compels me to try the Lemonade Cleanse, but it doesn't sound very dreadful, and isn't that the true test of something which benefits your health - it must be profoundly rotten?

Well I got horribly sick after the first day, tantamount to what felt like food poisoning so I switched to a fruit/juice cleanse and took it easy while Gabriel finished with long strides. Sunday night, after the long haul, we decided to head off to bed early to sleep off the hunger. We laid in bed for two hours and talked about tacos, pasta salad, peanut butter cake, grilled tuna sandwiches, and all the more food we would consume the following morning and giggling with glee at the thought, which quite honestly did nothing to curb the hunger we were trying to avoid as you might expect. Finally we settled on immediately consuming a platter of homemade Nachos decorated with a mix of Colby and Mozzarella Cheese, refried and black beans, corn, olives, sour cream, and salsa while watching reruns of Lost.

No, this is not a photo taken of professional actors; we are that excited and what I love most about this photo is that we look like a brand new married couple so proud of our first meal, precious!

A few days before the onset of the cleanse I spied a post by Food Blogga which I have been fighting the urge to sneak into the kitchen to bake. Now that we have completed this ridiculous cleanse, it was my first masterpiece.

Cake: Mini Banana Maple Bundt
Glaze: Maple Walnut Butter

I was concerned at first that the called for maple syrup in the batter would be too much, but I trusted Susan and went with it; good call and with reason, it's Food Blogga! I would add more milk, probably double, I like my cakes a little more moist. Plus, I don't know what size bundt pans she has, but I duplicated her recipe with strict adherence and my results were only 12 adorable cakes. Also with the glaze, throw everything in the pan at once - it's fine! Plus, whose not to love her commentary on post-Kenysian economics?

Stay tuned: Wednesday (possibly technically Thursday depending how difficult I find it containing my excitment for Christmas) blog on Claire's!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fondly Reminiscing

Right now, I'm pretty crazy about flaky butter cookies, and lemons just happen to by my favorite fruit, accent, accessory, flavor and substitute. I found this recipe in my trusty cookie cookbook,

but having no limes I plucked out my lemons instead.

I omitted the zest from the dough, and this has now become my new favorite shortbread cookie recipe. Shape the dough into a ball and roll in granulated sugar; press flat. Also, I opted for a glaze rather than frosting (this recipe is a frosting despite the tricky name) so I added the juice from one whole lemon, and doubled the powdered sugar; whisk until smooth.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Piece of Cake

Since November 21, and Pamela and Marie's Art Shoppe, I have had an itch to test a recipe I came up with inspired by Fahrenheit 350° Sweet Crunch: Cashew. The New Year beckoned it's arrival.

Yesterday offered some disappointing news to end 2008; our hopes of making our new home in Akron, Ohio dashed, for the moment at least, so in our despondency we decided to stay home. While ringing in the new year we vowed to never spend another New Years Eve watching Carson Daly and Ryan Seacrest on TV in Times Square - I ask you, does it get any more pathetic than that? But I love my husband and our little family, so we had a great time nonetheless hooting and hollering and kissing and laughing as we reflected on what is really important.

Such as eating cake, and that was our first task of the New 2009 Year! I wanted this cake to taste rich, velvety and buttery, all the things that make you lick your lips with anticipation, and I have to be narcassitic for a moment and brag that I absolutely succeeded. This cake is dense yet moist, rich but not too sweet, buttery and creamy, melt in your mouth goodness with complimentary flavors that make your eyes roll into the back of your head and your tounge lick the back of your throat lameting swallowing that last bite. Excellent!

Cake: Yellow Butter Cake
Frosting: Vanilla Butter Frosting
Topping: Sweet Crunch: Càsh ew

3 sticks of butter (I always have and always will use salted butter)
2 cups powdered sugar

Mix on high until light, fluffy and white

To accentuate the butter flavor I needed to alter my typical cake making technique, and that means going against everything I've ever believed. It was very difficult but I added the flour next...

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix on low until incorporated, and then mix on high for 15-30 seconds.

Now add:

6 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (or, 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar)

Mix until well aerated.

Pour into two prepared 9" round, or square cake pans.
Bake for 25 minutes at 350°.

Run knife along edges of pan and remove immediately to cool on wire rack.

2 sticks of butter
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 egg whites

Mix on high until super fluffy and airy, white and spreadable.
Cut each cake layer in half, and spread frosting to your hearts content!

When finished frosting, pulverize 4oz. Sweet Crunch: Càsh ew, and liberally drape over top and sides of cake.

Then, enjoy the heaven you have just created.

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