Wednesday, August 21, 2013

(mostly) Wordless Wednesday - Oops

One reason why this....

may be better than this....


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Different than the day before

Costco had raspberries for about $4 for 12 ounces the last time I was there.  I bought 3 packages, with the intent of making Jeni's raspberry sauce with a lot of them.  I made a double batch of the sauce, and ended up with about 2 pints.  Some will almost certainly end up inside or on top of ice cream, and I'll probably eat some with yogurt, but I've been looking for other things to make as well.  I was in a brownie mood today, and decided to try swirling some sauce on top of the batter before it went into the oven. The brownies are the Classic Brownies from Cook's Illustrated--I made half the recipe (in an 8" pan), throwing in some chocolate chips instead of adding nuts.  I dolloped about 50 grams of raspberry sauce on top of the batter and swirled it in with a chopstick.  I baked the brownies for 30 minutes.  

The verdict?  Quite tasty!  Raspberry and chocolate is one of my very favorite flavor combinations.  The girls thought they were good but weren't totally thrilled.  That's okay, since that means more for me! =)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Let the words fall out

I'm tired.  I really need to plan better, since late evening is not my best writing time.  But I can't stand the thought of having a month where I only posted once, so here I am. 

Watching:  Doctor Who--we're happy to finally be into the second half of the current season.  Also Dancing with the Stars, which is one of my girls' favorite programs.  They both have their favorite professional dancers, and they root for the celebrities paired with their favorites.  

Reading:  A lot of online stuff, mainly about yoga.  Since I haven't been posting much, I haven't written about how I started doing yoga through an online 30-day class.  I'm really enjoying it, and it's helping me both physically and mentally.

Listening:  This awesome song that was brought to my attention by one of my courage classmates.  

Making:  I've been in the kitchen quite a bit, even though not many of my creations have made it onto the blog.  I really need to make more time for bread baking.  I put it off, thinking it will take more time than I want to spend, but when I finally do it, I'm so glad that I did.  That's true of a lot of things in my life...  I've also made some fun cakes for birthdays at work, including the one at the end of this post.  Vanilla cake, fresh strawberry filling, cream cheese frosting.  It was a huge hit.  Too bad I can't sell that one.

Feeling:  This morning as I was driving to work, I realized that I was feeling happier and less stressed than I have in quite a while.  The first quarter of the year is often a difficult time for me, but it seemed particularly challenging this year, plus it spilled over into most of April.  But things feel like they're improving.  The yoga is helping.  And while I don't have a daily focus on doing brave things, the habit has been created from the courses I've taken, and I worry less about what might happen or what people might think about what I do.

Planning:  This is the exciting and somewhat scary one.  It took a while to work a lot of things out, but I've finally gotten started on my own baking business.  The people I currently work with have been treated to my baked goods for the better part of a year, and I knew they would be excited to find out that I can sell things to them now.  I filled my first order yesterday, and immediately had inquiries about a couple more.  There are things I still need to figure out, but I have to start somewhere, right?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Pretty pastels

(some of the bulk candy options at Central Market this time of year)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kitchen math

One of the things that Gillian has gotten into is doing Bedtime Math.  We don't get to it every day, but she's definitely getting better at the Little Kids problems over time.  We kind of did our own version in the kitchen today.  G asked me if we could make treats for her teachers (classroom and after-school).  At her request, we settled on David Lebovitz's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies.  (Okay, I just realized that when I wrote that post, I also talked about Bedtime Math, but totally forgot that I had done so!)

The math didn't come in with the measuring this time.  It was after the cookies were baked & Gillian was trying to figure out if we had enough for all the teachers plus some for us.  So, there are three classroom teachers and four after-school teachers.  There are two pans of cookies, one with fifteen cookies and one with eleven.  How many cookies can we package up for each teacher, and will there be enough left for a family of four to have dessert? =)

How to get to Carnegie Hall

I was reminded last weekend that my skill in the kitchen didn't develop overnight.  Sunday night I made dough for rolls and stuck it in the fridge.  (It's the recipe for Hoagie Rolls from Artisan Breads Every Day--a really lovely dough to work with, which I forget when I haven't made them in a while.)  Monday morning, I got up early and portioned the dough and formed the rolls.  I managed to get them baked before I had to go to work.  Boy, did the house smell good when I left. =)  At one time, I never would have had the confidence that I could pull that off, but in the past 5 years of baking and blogging, my baking skills have improved tremendously.  How?  Through repetition, of course.  And also good teachers--Dorie Greenspan, Peter Reinhart, and lots of others.  

Yet I still get frustrated when things don't turn out quite the way I wanted to--when they aren't perfect.  The demons of perfectionism and I-don't-have-enough-time have been really getting to me lately, which is a lot of the reason why I haven't been posting much.  I get hung up on the idea that if I don't have anything new and exciting to post, I shouldn't even bother.  But there's beauty in sharing the things that have gotten better with practice, and in writing just to express what's on my mind. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Festive sprinkles!

(birthday cake for someone at work--doubled recipe for this cake)

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.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

The darkest hour

Do any of the rest of you get up early to bake?  I've always been more of a morning person than a night owl.  Plus, there's something so nice about being up before the sun, when the day is still so quiet and undisturbed.  I get so much more done then than if I stay up late to finish something.

Today, it was getting up to make a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream.  (Dorie's recipe from BFMHTY.)  I've made it so many times now, I could practically do it in my sleep. =)  It helps that I had leftover egg whites in my fridge.  I made the cupcakes last night--the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes from Cook's Illustrated, minus the ganache filling--and this way they had plenty of time to cool completely.  B surprised me by saying that if she had to pick just one frosting flavor, it would be vanilla.  (She originally wanted me to do a chocolate/vanilla swirl.)  She picked the wrappers, and we decided pink edible glitter would coordinate nicely.

It's so fluffy!!!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Double digits

This weekend has been all about Brianna's birthday.  I can't believe that she's 10!  Friday night (her actual birthday), we had her favorite meal of spaghetti for dinner, and she had a friend sleep over for  the first time.  She requested chocolate mousse cake, since she liked the one I made for Christmas.  I didn't make the exact same cake, instead choosing to try different recipes for the components.  The cake was a chocolate genoise that I found in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  I filled the layers with Premium Dark Chocolate Mousse from Cook's Illustrated.  (I would have used the regular chocolate mousse recipe, but I was low on 60% chocolate after making the genoise and needed to use 70% instead.)  The whole cake was covered in a ganache glaze.  I decorated it with a simple vanilla buttercream and some blue edible glitter (B's favorite color).  B said she preferred the last cake I made, but thought this one was pretty good, too.  I found it a little too rich, but finally thought to pair it with some raspberry coulis, which helped.  

Watching:  Doctor Who--The Aztecs.  BBC America is revisiting each of the 11 doctors, leading up to the 50th anniversary later this year.  They are featuring one doctor each month, starting this month.  

Reading:  Still working my way through last week's book, and I've also started on the America's Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook.  I'm not sure how many of the things I'll try for myself, but it makes for interesting reading regardless.  

Listening:  Assorted playlists that I've put together.  B & G are amused by some of the music when we listen to it in the car.  

Making:  Besides birthday cake, I made Cinnamon Roll Muffins for breakfast this morning.  They were pretty tasty, but I wasn't totally happy with the texture.  I think that the biscuit dough baked up a little tough, and I wonder if it needed some fat (i.e. butter) to tenderize it.  I've think I've made another quick recipe that was better, but I like the idea of using the muffin tin to bake the rolls.  There will probably be more to come on this one... 

tea to get my brain going while I convert the ingredients list to weights

Feeling:  Kind of nostalgic and a little melancholy.  Part of it is due to B's birthday, and part is because last week was the anniversary of when my first husband Nate died.  Some years are harder than others, and this one was more emotional than I was expecting.  

Planning:  A trip to Seattle!  I haven't been back to visit in years (I lived there for several years in the mid-90s), and I'm really looking forward to it.  I'm going BY MYSELF, which is going to be so nice.  I'm excited just imagining a 4-hour plane trip without anyone wanting me to take them to the bathroom, or wanting to borrow my electronics, or complaining about being hungry or thirsty...  

Loving:  My awesome husband, who is willing to deal with the girls on his own for a weekend so I will be able to take the above trip.  He also manages to keep his cool and deal with the girls when they're driving me totally nuts.  

Find more Currently lists here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I'm still trying to get back in a blogging mood, so I thought I'd borrow something from my friend Anandi.  Back at the beginning of last week, she posted a list of things currently going on in her life.  The idea originally comes from Kristin, who decided to do this as a series on her blog this year.  I figured it would be worth a try, to give me prompts to write about.  So here goes...

Watching:  HOCKEY!!!  I'm so happy that hockey is finally back.  We really need to make plans to attend another live Texas Stars game, too.  We got a bit of "divorce hockey" today.  My husband's Flyers played my Sabres.  I need to get more familiar with the players again--I kind of wish I was playing fantasy hockey this year, since that forces me to pay more attention.

Reading:  Assorted things, including the new cookbooks I got for Christmas.  Today it was the one pictured up top, Cook Illustrated's The Science of Good Cooking.  Many of the recipes are familiar from the other CI volumes that I own as well as the website.  One of the things that I love most about CI is their explanation of their testing methods and the science behind the recipes they come up with, so this book is right up my alley.

Listening:  Another Christmas gift, Maroon 5's Overexposed.  Yes, it's been out for months, but I didn't buy it because I've been trying to leave stuff on my wish-list for J to buy. =)  He said he would have gotten it for me sooner but he had to order the non-explicit version since he knew the girls would want to listen to it in the car with me.

Making:  Lots of stuff, the past couple of days!  Which is a refreshing change, since I've been feeling kind of stuck with baking as well as blogging lately.  Today's dessert was chocolate mousse, again pictured up top.  I also made an impulse buy at Central Market this morning and picked up a carton of blood orange juice.  I've already made David Lebovitz's orange caramel sauce with it, and will have to see what else I can use it in.  I've also mixed up the starter to make these Asiago Bagels from KAF tomorrow.

Feeling:  Pretty good.  The main thing that I'm focused on right now is the Cultivating Courage course that started last week.  When I took it back in October, it was every day for 30 days, including weekends, and I liked the continuity of that.  This time, it appears to be just Monday through Friday.  I was initially disappointed by that, but having a break from new activities over the weekend allowed me to catch up on reading what others in the class have been up to.  And I can still do new brave moves on my own if I want.

Planning:  Cake, cupcakes and the meal for Brianna's birthday on Friday.  She's going to be 10--how is that possible?!  I'm glad that we have the day off tomorrow (me from work and the girls from school).  That will give me some more time to prep things so the end of the week won't be quite so crazy.  For school, she's requested chocolate cupcakes topped with swirled chocolate and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream.  For the cake at home, she wants chocolate mousse cake.  I made one for Christmas that was chocolate sponge cake layered with chocolate mousse and coated with poured ganache.  She liked it so much that she asked me to make another one.  I wasn't thrilled with the mousse I made last time, so today's dessert was due to me test-driving an different recipe.

Loving:  This great necklace that I ordered from Anandi with my One Little Word for this year.  There's still a post coming with my reasons for picking that word and how I hope it will shape my year.  After last year's focus cake, I want to make another baked good to feature this word.  I'm still trying to decide what to make.

Okay, that's my list for right now.  I'm not sure if this will become a weekly activity or if it will be less often, but I think it will be a good way to help me work through some of my blogger's block. =)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bringing things into focus

I didn't mean to take a couple weeks between posts, especially since I seemed to be doing so much better with blogging more consistently. =)  I've been struggling with figuring out how to wrap up 2012, as well as with figuring out what to bake and cook lately.  I had some ideas on what to write, but couldn't come up with food pictures to put with it.  It finally occurred to me to just borrow the ones I used at the beginning of the year.  The picture above is one of my favorites from the year, though there have been many that I liked.

My one little word for last year was focus.  I've been reading what I wrote at this time last year, something I didn't really revisit during the year.  And I'm pleasantly surprised at how much progress I've made toward what I wanted to accomplish.  It took most of the year, but I'm finally doing a better job with saying no to things I don't want to do or that aren't important to me.  I'm letting other people do some things, and focusing more on the things that only I can do.  I took a chance and moved to a different location at work, which allows me to work with people who appreciate and support me.  I've also been exploring some personal dreams to see where they may lead.  You don't know if you don't try!

One of the things that I did last year to help bring things into focus was to do some things just for me.  That included participating in some online courses that I really enjoyed and would highly recommend.  I have to thank my friend Anandi for sharing her experiences with Mondo Beyondo, which were intriguing.  Unfortunately, by the time I actually looked into taking the course, there wasn't another one scheduled until September.  But there was something called Dream Lab that started in late June, so I started with that.  With themes of play, rest, and kindness to yourself, it turned out to be a good way to start focusing on myself more.  I don't feel like I did as much with it as I would have liked, so will probably sign up for the course again the next time it's available.

Then in the fall I did get a change to experience Mondo Beyondo.  I read something today that said that "Inspiration is an essential part of the creative process."  That's kind of what Mondo was for me.  It helped me figure out what sort of things I want to do.  Not things that other people want me to do, or that I think I should do.  But things that I want for myself.  It got me started on figuring out how to make my dreams happen.  Heck, it got me started on simply believing that the dreams were okay to have.  But then along came another piece of the puzzle that really got the ball rolling.

While I was taking the Mondo Beyondo course, I found out that Andrea was about to start a brand-new course, called Cultivating Courage.  Unlike the other courses that were 6 or 8 weeks long, this one was just 30 days.  But it was every day, weekends included.  And the premise was simple.  Do one brave thing every single day for 30 days.  Some might seem small, others huge.  But the idea was to build a habit of pushing your boundaries, just a little bit at a time.   It was exactly what I needed in conjunction with Mondo Beyondo, the action to go with the inspiration.  It's amazing how powerful you feel when you do something that you were afraid to and survive, even especially when it's kind of uncomfortable.

There will be more to come, since I'm starting on another round of Cultivating Courage today.  Some of my Mondo Beyondo dreams are coming true, and I want to write more about that as well.  And I also have a new word for 2013 that I'll share very soon.  In the meantime, I'm not going to forget about last year's word, since I'm sure I'll still need some focus for this year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Unraveling the mysteries

Yesterday was nice--the year got off to a pretty good start.  I didn't stay up late to usher in the new year on Monday night.  Instead, I went to bed when I was tired (G was too), and woke up refreshed.  Over nine hours of sleep, yay!  I had some quiet time with G while B slept in.  (Unlike her mother, B did manage to stay awake until midnight, along with J.)  G and I decided to make breakfast.  B had suggested scones as a good way to start the new year, and of course we had to have chocolate chips in them.

I turned to one of my favorite sources of scone recipes, King Arthur Flour.  I started with their master scone recipe, and tweaked it a little bit.  I substituted some white whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour.  To adjust for that, I went with the higher amount of liquid since the www flour absorbs more.  I used a bit of half & half (30g) that I had in the fridge, and 1% milk for the rest.  I used brown sugar instead of white, since I like the taste of it with the www flour.  For the chocolate chips, we went with mini chips this time--and not too many (a scant cup--140g).  The scones ended up having a subtly nutty quality about them from the www flour, and the chocolate bits were nice but not overpowering (the way full-sized chocolate chips can be sometimes).  And of course we added glaze.

The rest of our day was good--low-key.  We all went to Book People, a local independent bookstore in Austin.  Then we got some hot chocolate for the ride home.  Dinner was low-key as well.  I went with simpler meals for both Christmas & New Year's this year.  Nothing special, but they were things that everyone would eat without much complaint, which counts for  a lot.  I finally got the rest of my Christmas cookies baked, so they were dessert.  Once the girls were in bed, I thought about writing this blog post, but instead opted to watch some Big Bang Theory with J, which never fails to put me in a good mood.  Bring on the rest of 2013. =)

(edited to add--if you look closely at my photo, you can see my ingredients list; if you go by it, also add 3/4 tsp salt; I forgot to write that down)