Saturday, February 23, 2013

Life, the universe, and everything

As my friend Ben said, "Welcome to the age of the answer."  I had already thought of that.  Yes, on Thursday, I turned 42.  It was a good birthday.  I did some shopping, in preparation for my running away from home (which is where I am now, in the Pacific Northwest for a few days).  I had a nice lunch out.  I made myself a small birthday cake.  With sprinkles--42 needs sprinkles, I think. =)

Watching:  Less TV.  Well, at least we're trying.  I do have to admit to the guilty pleasure of Food Network's Worst Cooks in America.

Reading:  In honor of my milestone birthday, I'm rereading the Hitchhiker's Guide books.  I found an omnibus edition to read on my iPad.  I'm not actually sure if I ever read the last one (Mostly Harmless), actually.  So far, I've gotten through the first book and about half of the second.  

Listening:  I've been trying to listen to CDs or music from my phone more, in the car or around the house.  I find that I'm avoiding morning radio for the same reason I stopped watching the news--so much of it is way too depressing.  The right music helps with getting my out of the funk I've been in lately, so I'm trying to remember that and play it more often.  Including this.  (Kind of goes with this week's birthday theme.)

Making:  Birthday cake!  (see above)  I did half of the recipe for Dorie's Perfect Party Cake to make a couple of 6" layers.  I was out of buttermilk, but I like the way the cake turns out with that rather than regular milk.  So I thinned some plain yogurt with a little milk and used that.  It seemed to work out pretty well.  The frosting is one of my favorites, this Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting.  It turned out that I was also out of sour cream, but I recently made some creme fraiche.  So I used that and omitted the bit of butter from the recipe, since there was plenty of fat in the creme fraiche.  It seemed to turn out pretty well.  (I doubled the recipe to be sure I'd have enough for decorating.)  I found the pretty sprinkles at Make it Sweet.  I love that place.

Feeling:  A little better since I've had a break from being "Mommy!!!" for a day and a half.  I'm not sure that the recent funk is gone for good, but I'm feeling more rested.  It's nice to have a break from my kitchen, too.  I miss it, but hopefully it's a case of absence making the heart grow fonder.  And eating out at new places is giving me some inspiration for things to make at home.  Here's hoping that continues for the rest of the weekend.

Planning:  Not entirely sure yet.  Mostly gathering ideas right now.  Ooh, except one thing--I am definitely planning a trip to Trader Joe's tomorrow. =)  I made sure to leave some room in my suitcase on the way out here. 

Loving:  Being cold.  Am I nuts?  Probably.  But I'm so glad to be away from Texas at least for a few days.  I'm also loving Jamie for being willing to put up with the girls on his own for the weekend.  

For more lists, check out Kristin's blog.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Have flour, will travel

Gillian and I were looking for something fun to do on Sunday afternoon while Jamie and Brianna went to the Tennis Center.  We started off at the park for a bit, but it was still a little too damp after some overnight thunderstorms.  I remembered that some folks from King Arthur Flour were going to be in town for a baking demonstration on yeast breads.  G had been to another cooking/baking demo with me a couple months ago, and was game to try out this one.  It turned out not to be the best for her--it was a much larger group, so it was hard for her to see, and she spent most of the time playing games on my iPad.  We only stayed for about an hour before her attention span hit its limit.  But I enjoyed the part of the presentation that I did get to hear, including some entertaining stories.  With my level of experience, I didn't learn a lot of new stuff, but I'm intrigued by some of the classes that KAF offers at their Baking Education Center in Vermont.  I'm going to add a trip to Norwich to my Mondo Beyondo list.  It would be a great opportunity to meet my blogging friend Rebecca, too.  Maybe I can convince some of my other baking/blogging friends to meet up with me there and we can all take a class together.  Anyone interested? =)

When we got to the demo, we each got a booklet of recipes.  G immediately pointed out the recipe for Double Fudge Brownies.  When we got home, J & B still weren't back, so I suggested that we could bake something together.  G quickly suggested the brownies.  I knew it wouldn't be a problem to get my employees to eat some of them, so we made the full 13"x9" pan.  The recipe calls for brown sugar, which I think helps keep the brownies moist.  I used natural cocoa powder rather than the Dutch-processed that was called for (I prefer the way it tastes) but did keep the espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor.  The somewhat sneaky ingredient is white whole wheat flour.  Granted, these are brownies, so there isn't a whole lot of flour, but a little extra whole grain is always a good idea, right?

The verdict?  You would never guess that there was whole grain flour in these brownies.  They are fudgy and a bit chewy, and altogether yummy.  The change in cocoa worked out fine.  We added a mix of chocolate chips and m&ms to our batter, but next time, I'll put the m&ms on top instead.  The candy shells sort of melted into the brownies when we let them rest overnight.

If you'd like to try these for yourself, you can find the recipe in the KAF Whole Grain Baking cookbook.  And if you think you'd like to join me on a trip to New England, let me know!

p.s. We got this nice KAF bowl scraper to take home with us--you can never have too many of those!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Should you be dancing?

I'm running a little behind this week.  I started this post last night, but was too tired & unfocused to finish it.  And now I'm trying to get it done before I need to get to bed (early, since I have a very early start tomorrow).

Watching:  Well, at the moment Monday Night Raw is on--background noise for me, but J is watching it.  It's scary how much I've picked up by association. =)  J fully admits, it's basically a soap opera for guys.  I'm a little afraid to admit that my girls can recognize a remarkable number of wrestlers just by their theme music.

Reading:  168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam.  I was inspired to read it after reading my friend Anandi's review--which you can check out here.  I'm not done yet, so I'll have to report back on what I think of it next week.  But I figure it's worth reading, since I'm trying to manage my time/life better.

Listening:  Nothing special.  I've got a playlist of upbeat songs to get me--and sometimes the girls--moving.  One of the ones they really like is You Should Be Dancing, thanks to Despicable Me.  I got some other Bee Gees songs, thinking they'd like them, but I get complaints when I play anything else.  

Making:  The main thing this week was scones.  For the end of the week, I made some for the girls--Triple Chocolate, at G's request.  This particular KAF recipe doesn't call for freezing them like a lot of the others do, but I did it anyway.  I mixed up the dough and shaped the scones on Wednesday night, then popped them in the freezer.  That made it easy to bake them off on Thursday morning.  I made scones again Friday morning to take to work, though I only froze them for about 30 minutes while I showered.  Those were savory, with cheddar cheese and scallions.  I tweaked the recipe a bit, by subbing a little cornmeal for some of the AP flour.  I was also lazy and used my #16 disher to make round scones, instead of making triangles or squares.  

Ooh, and I made ice cream on Sunday, too.  Jeni's Salty Caramel.  I crumbled up some Biscoff cookies, being sure to leave some larger pieces, and layered them in with the ice cream as I packed it into its freezer container.  I was going for something similar to Haagen Dazs Spiced Caramel Biscuit.  I enjoyed that flavor, but thought it needed more, bigger pieces of cookies.  And I always like salted caramel better than unsalted.

Feeling:  Sore.  I went and got a massage yesterday, and had my massage therapist work on my lower back and right hip.  Not surprising that they were bothering me, since I was standing and running around all day on Friday.  (When the 1st of the month & Friday coincide, things are really crazy in banking.)  I've been trying to get better about getting a massage on a regular basis.  As long as I schedule my next appointment before I leave, I do okay.  My goal is to go every couple of weeks; any less and I undo all of the good that was done before I go in for another session.  Sure, it's a little expensive, but I don't spend a lot of other money on myself.  And it's kind of a healthcare expense, right?  

Planning:  I should be planning for my trip, but I'm too busy with work right now to think all that much about it.  I did tell the girls that I'm going out of town that weekend, and that they'd have to keep their father out of trouble.  G thinks for some reason that it's totally hilarious to ask me to bring her back a saxophone as a souvenir.  (Your guess is as good as mine where that came from.)

Loving:  Spending some time with my girls this weekend.  Nothing big, but we had lunch out together at Blue Baker in Austin.  Then we went to a book fair at Barnes & Noble, benefiting the girls' elementary schools.  As if we need an excuse to buy books... =)

Check out more Currently links at Kristin's blog.