Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas wrap-up

We made the extended rounds - mom, BFF's family, grandpa (and that part of the family), grandma, dad (and that part of the family), and Mr. L's family. Just over 12 hours in the car over 5 days. Honestly, not too bad.

Unfortunately, I took absolutely NO pictures! I've become such a slacker.

There were many perfect presents, but the best of all had to be from the BFF, who gave me authentic pages of newspapers - one with J. Adams' and T. Jefferson's obituaries, and one with a letter to and response from Pres. Adams (Sr.)! She is officially the ebay queen! They are amazing. Now I just have to figure out how to preserve and display them.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I'm about half done with my baking. Last night, I made a super-batch of cookies, and wrapped most of them. And (miraculously), I still went to the gym!

But my naughty, naughty dog ate about a dozen of the cookies that were cooling while I was at the gym! Deja vu! I think I'm going to have to get a kennel for him again and lock him up while there are tempting cookies... or really, all the time I'm gone, because lately, when he's not eating cookies off the table, he's sleeping on furniture that he's not allowed on. I can't believe I'm having to retrain my dog when he's 7. I think things will be better when it warms up and he can go running with me. (And I'll be glad to get off the treadmill and onto the road again. I'm tired of staring at the cornice over the windows in the mini-gym, and I am terrified of how much harder it'll be to move off the treadmill after months.)

AND, last night while I was waiting (not-so-patiently) for my battery and tail light to be replaced in my car, I found boxes that are the perfect size for packing up my enveloped cookies! I had completely given up, and then there they were, already Christmas-decorated, and the perfect dimensions (and I didn't even have to resort to the internet). I bought one to try out and make sure it was the right size - and it was! So now I can pick them up on my way home (when I also buy more butter. Goodness, I've been through a lot of butter!).

By his time tomorrow, I should be 100% ready for Christmas. How's that for procrastination?

Monday, December 22, 2008


I messed around with the settings, and I think they are working now. Hopefully.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I swear I've been in the kitchen!

Here's what I've been up to:

There was pesto, made with basil that I actually kept alive all by myself! I tossed it in with veggie spiral pasta, grilled chicken, and peas. Yumm!

Then there was meatloaf. I can't remember where I found this recipe, but google seems to think that it's modified from Bobby Flay's recipe. This is definitely making it into the recipe rotation. So much flavor! And I still felt like it had the texture of a full-meat meatloaf. The true test will be what Mr. L thinks of it, but I think he'll go for it. Delish. Here it is, cut into portions (the recipe said it was 10 servings, so I cut it into 10 servings - less temptation, and easier to reheat) and ready to freeze. Aren't all the diced peppers nice and festive?!
Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large zucchini, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
5 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground beef
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan
1 cup ketchup, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat.
Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes.
Set aside to cool.
Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl.
Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.
Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Whisk together the remaining ketchup, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the entire loaf.
Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
*I split it into 2 loaves, in loaf pans, and it took about 50 min to cook.

And that same night, I made spinach and sun dried tomato frittatas from FitAfterThirty, one of my new favorite sites. (seriously, check it out!) It is wonderful. I made mine in giant cupcake tins, lined with parchment, since I'd be taking them to punch for work - I just pulled them right out and stuck them in ziplocks. They were easy to reheat, and I didn't have to remember to bring dishes home. And the parchment liner worked perfectly as a built-in plate. I also cut the amount of sun dried tomatoes in half, worried that they would overpower it (it looked like so much before I added them); this was a mistake. Next time, I'll put the full amount in the recipe.

Finally, it was cookies for coworkers - Robert E. Lee Gingersnaps, to be precise. This is a recipe given to me by one of my law professors, and I think it may be the best thing I learned in law school. They are perfect - they are soft gingersnaps!!! I totally used Martha's idea of cookie envelopes, and made each cookie an envelope from wax paper, sealed with a sticker from etsy's LadyBugLabels. I stacked them by the dozen and tied them up with ribbon.

Robert E. Lee Gingersnaps

3 sticks butter, melted
1/2 c. dark molasses
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
4 c. flour
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
In a large bowl, add molasses, sugar and eggs to melted margarine.
Combine flour, soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Add to margarine mixture.
Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
Make into small balls, roll in sugar.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Makes 12 dozen. (Dough will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.)

Oh! And there were pound cakes - 4 of them, for groups of people at work... but I totally forgot to take pictures of them. Just imagine a plain pound cake. Times 4. That's it. I went with Martha's recipe, which I haven't actually tried. But they smelled good and looked OK, and people said nice things. So I assume that it's good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weekend baking

I had a wonderful weekend, spent around town. Mr. L came down to me, so it was delightfully unstressful (at least for me!). A friend invited us over for dinner, and I promised dessert. We first thought of making banana pudding (yumm), but I couldn't get my stuff together until that afternoon, and was already in the midst of boiling the pudding when it clicked that I needed time for the pudding to set (and I didn't have it). Ooops. So, the banana pudding went to work with me on Monday. (I just followed the directions on the vanilla wafer box, but used banana creme flavored pudding instead of vanilla. I am not afraid of overdoing a flavor).

But cookies are easy. And I can always whip a batch up. So, I followed the recipe on the bag of off brand chocolate chips I had. It was a basic chocolate chip cookie, but with just a few walnuts, and just about 1/2 a cup of oatmeal. I liked the addition of the oatmeal, since it contributed a little extra heartiness to the cookie. Most of these went to the dinner, and the last batch (that came out of the oven as we walked out the door) came to work (and were immediately devoured).

Friday, December 5, 2008

More baby shower preview

What do you guys think? My plan was to use branches to do something like this, but I realized that I already had these guys lying around.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving, the North Carolina Experience

I went to visit my mom for Thanksgiving weekend, and Mr. L came with me. We had a great time (at least, I did), and got a little relaxing in.

I was in charge of baking biscuits and chocolate pie. I got Mr. L's mom's recipe for chocolate chess pie (he worships her cooking, and I'm just trying to come close!), and it did turn out beautifully. Rave reviews all around.

Unfortunately, I totally forgot to take pictures of the biscuits. It occurred to me to get a snapshot of the pie as people were digging in, but those pics aren't on my camera. I think I must be doing something wrong, because lately it seems that this happens to me more and more.

The recipe for the buttermilk biscuits was from a local cookbook. And I learned that biscuit batter is really sticky stuff! Another great recipe (although the directions left out adding in the shortening, so I just cut it in after mixing everything else together, and that seemed to work out fine). I will definitely be making this one again.
After dinner, we went to see Four Christmases, which was a perfect lazy afternoon family (without kids) movie. But seriously - movies are up to $10!? Crazy.
More importantly, the Charlotte (Lowe's) Motor Speedway allows people to drive their own cars around the track (3 laps) on Black Friday if you give a $25 donation to their Children's Charities (or spend $50 in the gift store). I was so in! My step dad drove his car, with my mom as passenger and photographer, and I drove mine with Mr. L as passenger/photographer. Awesome! This was seriously cool. I wanna be a race car driver.

My crazy mom, hanging out of their sunroof to get a photo (photo by Mr. L).

Then, it was down to the southern end of town for coffee with a great friend (and 2L), and then to see my grandma and her husband. If you haven't tried Starbucks' salted caramel hot chocolate, DO SO NOW! It is crack. Seriously. I want to add salted caramel to everything now. It makes great gelato too. And truffles. So good.
Saturday, we all trekked up to Raleigh to watch the NC State football game. It was cold, and there was a little rain, but our seats were fantastic and the game was exciting too. It almost makes me wish that I had gone to a school with a real football program (although UNCC is finally getting a team in a few years!). Even though it was a holiday weekend, and freezing and rainy, the stands were filled with people in red parkas and ponchos. And there are so many support groups - dance teams and cheerleaders, and bands and boosters... I know that this is normal for most people, but this was my first (non-tv) college football game (I'm soooo not counting the W&L game I went to)! The excitement is infectious (especially when it's somewhat close and your team is winning)!
The view from our seats.
On the way back (OK, so it was a bit of a detour), we stopped in Lexington (NC, not VA), and had dinner at Lexington Barbecue. Yumm. That was the perfect ending for a Very North Carolinian Thanksgiving!

*You may notice that I did not mention the 2 games of boys v. girls Trivial Pursuit that took place over the weekend. They need never be mentioned. Our boys are really smart.

Monday, November 24, 2008

About Lauren

in the words of What Posessed Me:

Because nothing really important actually happens until you discuss, analyze and evaluate it on the phone with the friend you love.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lazy Saturday = cookies

I actually had a Saturday free to catch up on things! So, of course, I accomplished very little that actually needed to be done. Although I do have baking planned for Thanksgiving, I just wasn't feeling it today. Instead, I was craving chocolate chip cookies!

I stuck to the basic recipe from the bag of Nestle semisweet chips. However, I realized after most of the batter had come together that the bag of chips I thought I had was actually Ghirardelli bittersweet morsels. So, in went the better part of a bag of bittersweet, and about 1/8 cup of semisweet chips. I was a little worried that I wouldn't like the darker chocolate in my traditional comfort food, but I love it! And it has the fantastic side effect of satisfying me after just one (or two) cookie(s)! I've noticed that with dark chocolate bars - I just need a bite, and it satisfies my chocolate craving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chocolate Chess Pie help

One of the secretaries in my office mentioned yesterday that she was craving pie. And then I talked to my mom about Thanksgiving plans. She's actually taking over hostess duties this year (for the first time), and we were talking about the menu and how I could help. I was delegated bread duty and some sort of chocolate pie duty. Perfect!

I haven't ever made a chocolate chess pie, but I wanted to try it out. Clearly, the answer was to do a dry run of the pie last night and bring it into work, and then, once I proved that it was the most amazing pie ever, use the recipe again for Thanksgiving dinner. Perfect, right?

Only, the pie is not perfect. The crust is (it's Dorie's perfect crust). But the filling ... some thing's not right. It doesn't seem done. Here's the recipe I used from (which I should have known better than to trust), chosen largely because I had all of these ingredients already:

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9" pastry shell

Melt butter with chocolate.
In a mixing bowl, combine chocolate and butter mixture with sugar, flour, salt, milk, eggs, and vanilla; beat with electric mixer for 5 to 6 minutes.
Pour filling into prepared pastry shell; bake at 350° for 35 to 45 minutes, until set.

And that's what I did! I checked it at 35 minutes, and it didn't look done, so I left it for the last 10 minutes. I assumed that it must be done - I don't do a lot of pie, so I wasn't sure how to tell if it was set. The top is solid, and even cracked, but the inside just isn't quite set, especially at the center of the pie.

Do you have a no-fail chocolate chess pie recipe? Did I do something wrong with this one?

Monday, November 17, 2008

An open letter

To bloggers who only publish truncated feeds:

Please stop. Really. At least publish one feed with everything. I love bloglines because I don't have to hop between blogs to read everything. It makes me sad when I see that you've posted, but I have to burden my poor, tired from too much blog-stalking fingers and click over for each of your posts. I'm lazy. Please take that into consideration. Thanks!

Hugs and Kisses,

Mr. Lover's cake

Mr. L celebrated his birthday last month, and of course, I was quick to offer to make a cake for him. He's usually pretty good about not keeping sweets around the house, and he's a bit of a foodie, so I thought he'd jump at the chance to have a made-to-order, made from scratch cake for his birthday. Not so much. I underestimated the power of nostalgia. The order I got was for one boxed mix yellow cake with canned chocolate frosting. He didn't even want any fun decorations like sprinkles! So, he got one ugly sheet cake. But yeah, there is something incredibly comforting and Delicious about a classic box cake. I liked it too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

I know that this is looked down on in the legal profession (and most other professions as well), but I am not above giving a bribe. There. I said it. My future as a member of the judiciary just went down in flames on blogger.

In exchange for the purchase of some tickets to a Junior League event that I'm supposed to sell, I gave a co-worker cookies. I did. She asked for oatmeal cookies, and I delivered - just a little quid pro quo.

I found the perfect recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook - perfect because it didn't require any ingredients that I didn't have in my pantry.* And it called for plenty of nutmeg (or maybe I just put in more than it called for since I don't really measure spices), and it was good.

*As it turns out, I was actually about a cup short on oatmeal, and ended up running to the store anyway to get some more. Of course, this would have happened with any recipe, since the standard seems to be 3 cups of oatmeal (in spite of the fact that the standard container of oatmeal has 5 cups!). And I still forgot to add the second cup, and had to guess at how much to add to the remaining batter after I put the first batch in (which is about when I realized that the reason the batter seemed too runny was that it was missing 1/3 of the oatmeal). Still, a pretty good recipe.

co-worker's birthday

One of the secretaries that I work with is celebrating her birthday, and I was honored that the other secretaries thought of me when planning cupcakes for her! After some subtle interrogation by another co-worker, we established that she needed pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I found a promising recipe (or three) in a cookbook that was a recent gift from a good friend (Ok, really, a GREAT friend) - the Texas State Fair cookbook. I trust a Texan cookbook.

I used elements from a couple of different recipes. I did half all according to the one recipe - a pumpkin spice cake with a crumble topping (although I didn't half the topping). For the other half, I used that same cake recipe, and stole a marscapone spice frosting recipe from another spice cake recipe in the same cookbook. (The recipe called for baking one cake, in a spring form pan, so I adjusted the cooking time down to adjust for the size difference. Also, the recipe made one thick batter, so I had to kind of smoosh the batter down into the cups as best I could.) The frosting is to die for - Next time, I might do both the topping and the icing on every cupcake. They are both delish, and I don't think they'd really compete the way I was afraid that they would.

Finally, I used a few of the left-over chocolate wafers and some leftover royal icing from the monogram cookies, and spelled out her name and set them on top of the cupcakes. *
Here they are, boxed and ready for the trip to work!

* For some reason, people are always suprised at what I have "just lying around" my place. Yes, I do typically have the makings of at least one kind of cookie in my pantry, and yes, right now I have homemade marshmallow fondant and royal icing in my fridge. What's so odd about that?! I'm sure most bakers have something ready to go at most times! (No, I didn't have extra pumpkin puree lying around... but now I do!)

Monogram Cookies

I got an order for a dozen monogram cookies for a wedding coming up this weekend. I love that she was using them for her OOT bags! How cute! She wanted me to try to put the date on them too, but it was just too much to fit on the cookie, unfortunately. Nonetheless, I think they look adorable with just their initials! (And I'm proud of her for following the traditional rules on not using the married monogram until after the actual wedding.) These are definitely some of my favorite cookies to make!

I tried new packaging on this one, and I think I like it a lot. It's very earth-friendly, and custom-fit to the size of the cookies! I lined the cookies up in two stacks, and then rolled the stacks into brown packaging paper (aha - brown paper packages!). I added a sticker to hold it together, and then put the two rolls in the box, side by side. The scrunched ends held the cookies in place in the shipping box, so I didn't need to add any extra packing material. And the cookies against each other hold them tight while they ship. The only things that could hurt these guys would be an incredibly heavy package thrown on top of them (please, USPS, don't do that!).

I've been busy, I swear

Finally, a long overdue update on what I've been up to! Because, yes, I finally uploaded pictures!

I have been baking (though not as much, lately), and I have tons to report - monogram cookies for OOT bags, oatmeal cookie bribes, and cupcakes! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gatlinburg! (way delayed, but now, with pictures!)

I met an old friend for a weekend of fun in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge! We made the most of the 1.5 days I was really there. It was anything but our first time, so we maximized by going straight to all the things we wanted (including trying some new things). We hit Dolly Wood (both mornings), Adventure Quest (new to both of us), the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride (she'd done it once before, but it was new to me), Dixie Stampede, Blaine's (our fav Gatlinburg restaurant), and even a little of the Smokey Mountain Nat'l Park.

One of the many gorgeous fall trees in the Nat'l forest

My friend and I have decided that it's much easier to explain Gatlinburg to people from NC/SC/VA. It's Myrtle Beach in the mountains. And that pretty much gets the idea across. It's a strip of road with wall-to-wall tourist kitsch shops, go-cart and fair-type rides, putt-putt, and cheap family-friendly restaurants. Just add tons of chapels and Bible bookstores. For all the peeps from other parts of the country, there doesn't seem to be a point of reference (or, because we're not from those parts, we have no idea what it would be!).

It's basically what you'd get if you started planning an arcade and suddenly found out that you had an entire small town to fill instead of a small corner room. So... it has things that I can't imagine finding anywhere else (except maybe a fair, and I just can't imagine a fair where everything is so over-the-top, well-done, and permanent). This explains three of our stops - Adventure Quest, Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride, and Wonder Works.

See! Upside down!

We had been to Wonder Works before, but wanted to go back because we had so much fun the first time. It is definitely designed for kids (at least, not for 28 year olds!), but we had a blast. It's all interactive learning activities, like Discovery Place in Charlotte (I know, another regional point of reference!). There was a climbing wall, an earth-quake simulator, a pulley experiment where you haul yourself up (easier on the seat with 3 pulleys than the one with only one), a sound room that demonstrates how the brain gives a 3-d sensation to sound, with only 2 ears. Basically, a ton of interactive, fun stuff for your inner child! Oh! and the entire thing was built to look like a mansion had fallen, upside-down, onto another house. I love that they even had a little upside-down UPS drop box.

What could be more fun than making giant bubbles?!

Adventure Quest only opened four months ago, and it caught our eye because the facade was that of a castle, and it had a mirror maze! They only sold passes for everything, so we got one - it included the mirror maze, an Entrapment/ANTM*-style laser security system to try to sneak through, and pirate-themed mini-golf. Rock! Honestly, if they had been separate tickets, we probably would have only done the mirror maze, but we had fun in all of them. The maze was worth it on its own though. Seriously fun. I could spend hours going through it. We went through once, and then turned around and did it backwards. By we, I really mean my friend did all of the finding, and I followed. I couldn't tell where the mirrors were until I just about hit my nose on them. It was very disorienting (in a good way). They also had great music playing, so I had my own personal dance party as we walked through. I like to think that some one's day was improved by that bit of hilarity.

That's right, a castle!

Black light Pirate Mini golf - need I say more?!

The Jurassic Adventure was pure kooky. It was very fake. But we had so much fun! I think it was the good company. We completely psyched ourselves up over it, and started screaming like little girls every time we sat still in the dark in it. We were even talking about the animatronics that were coming toward us as if they might really catch us. I categorize it as something we made fun, more than something that is inherently fun or scary.

Yeah, these were the animatronics. Scary!

Dixie Stampede is one of our must-do's each Gatlinburg trip. It's fun, the food is good, and it's easy. By now, we know all of the songs, and pretty much sing along, and we cheer for every event as if they will ever let the score come out to other than a near-tie. And we talk to our neighbors as if we've known each other all our lives, and give them tips about how to cheat in the final flag relay race. My friend loves the horses, and i love the fact that the dancers seriously look like Barbies when their dresses light up.

And of course, there's Dolly Wood! It's the thing to do in Pigeon Forge! It's country at it's best! People are nice, music is wholesome, and there are a ton of roller coasters! AND there's a birds of prey refuge/rehabilitation center. Basically, perfect family fun. So what if we don't have a family (well, we're not orphans, but we haven't started our won families yet)?!

*I am appalled that the blogger spell-check doesn't recognize the abbreviation ANTM! Best guilty pleasure ever! And yes, we were tempted to pose our way through it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


This month is crazy!!! I have been/will be gone every weekend! Since weekends are prime bonding time with the kitchen aid, it's been standing alone a lot lately. But it's totally worth it! I've spent the last two weekends in DC.
Last weekend I visited friends, dropped by a housewarming, celebrated passing the bar by going out in Adam's Morgan and being ridiculous, and touring the WEST WING and the White House gardens!!! (It soooo pays to know someone who is working in the White House!) It was kind of a mini-undergrad reunion (only conspicuously missing one of our CR foursome). There was even a Supermarket Sweep-style dash through Ann Taylor Loft as soon as they opened because I'd left my White House-appropriate attire at home (packed, in the garment bag that just didn't quite make it to the car). I was lame though, and my camera batteries died after the first picture I took! So, no more pics for me until I steal them from one of the girls I went with.

The weekend before, I went up with Mr. Lover and we did the Spy Museum (WAY COOL, and I hadn't been before), and the Holocaust Museum (he'd never been before). I thought they were both really well done, and it was nice to get away and spend some time with him. And we stayed in Old Town at this super- shishi boutique hotel that was pet friendly (so Hersh got to come too!).
This weekend, it's off to see my BFF in Gatlinburg for some wholesome craziness! Seriously, I LOVE Dolly Wood - don't knock it until you try it! (But first, tonight, to see Mr. Lover because it's his birthday!!!).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I've been crafty!

I was so inspired by this before and after, that I decided to tackle my own file cabinet. Finding some sort of replacement for this black scar in my otherwise serene office has been floating around the end of my to-do list since I moved in, and this was just the inspiration I was looking for. I would decoupage wrapping paper onto it!

I couldn't find any thick paper in town (and I now that I knew what I wanted to do, I couldn't wait to get started!), so I went ahead and tried it with a thinner wrapping paper from Target, in spite of the alarm bells going off in my own head and the advice of those who had come before me. So... it's not perfect. But I'm OK with that. I know it's hard to see in the picture, but the paper is a pale blue with tiny white print on it. It's actually a wedding print, but I really don't think that's noticeable unless you are really examining it. It's subtle like that (and no, it doesn't have any words on it).

My first attempt, I didn't pre-cut the pieces of paper, thinking that I could cover 3 sides with one sheet, and that I could just trim it afterward. That was less than successful. I ended up sliding it all over the place and tearing it. Boo! So... I had to remove that layer. I peeled most if it off, and then removed the rest by rubbing with a wet cloth until I got it all off. Yay!

Scraping/washing wasn't fun, so I decided to be more careful. I pre-cut pieces for each side this time, and it went much more smoothly! I also let the modge podge dry a little before applying the wrapping paper. This made it almost impossible to reposition once I started applying the paper, but it also kept the paper from soaking through and getting thin and wrinkly (a decidedly good thing). I probably should have gone back and redone the drawer with the lock, cutting out a place for the lock before gluing (because trying to precisely cut wet paper does not end well), but I wanted to be done... so I just covered it with a label. Maybe one day I'll go back and fix it (but that's unlikely).

Finally, I replaced the old drawer pulls with ribbon. This was another move born of laziness. I couldn't very well put black handles on my pretty blue cabinet. Painting the handles just sounded like too much effort. I tired buying cabinetry handles, but the holes didn't line up. So, ribbon!



(I promise, it really doesn't say "impotent stuff" - that's just the low quality of the picture!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh dear.

I just started a post, only to delete it. When I went to delete it, I realized that it was the third post in a row that I'd begun, only to end up deleting. And I'm the worst TWD'er in history. But I just thought I should actually finish a post, even sans pictures, if only to update that there is no update yet. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

You Want Pie With That - II

I call this "I'm the biggest dork ever pie". Or, "1776: Compromise Pie".

I feel the need to give history lesson to introduce this pie. A long time ago (summer of 1776), in a place far, far away (Philadelphia, PA), a group of rebellious men (our Founding Fathers) gathered. The complained a lot and some disagreed on almost everything, but in the end, they all had the good of their chosen land at heart, and they reached a compromise. They agreed on several things.

First, that the windows of their meeting place should remain closed. This was an issue because it was an extra hot summer (and there was no A/C in those days), there was a plague of flies about, and their business was not the sort of thing that you wanted eavesdroppers to hear (in fact, there were no written records of their floor debates because, as their fearless leader so aptly put, "We must hang together, or we must asuredly all hang seperately", because, as their vocal South Carolinian noted, their plot was nothing short of treason). So... they abided the heat, and kept the windows closed.

Second, that the triangle trade shipping routes united them all, in spite of their varied geography (13 different colonies!). Important parts of that triangle trade were molasses and rum (I'd say they are still very important parts of our foreign trade, at least in my house).

Third (and perhaps most importantly - at least for a couple of members), that the stores of rum should remain open to all of their members!

Oh yeah, and they wrote and passed the Declaration of Independence.

Fast forward about 200 years. First, Peter Stone wrote a book about these events. Then, Sherman Edwards turned that book into a Broadway musical (in 1969). THEN, this musical was adapted for film (in 1972). Basically, it was the best film ever to hit screens (that statement may be what makes me a dork).

So... this great film obviously deserved a pie! The pie is something in between a shoofly pie and an apple pie, topped with a rum glaze. Shoofly because they really did endure awful flies, and apple because... well, what could be more American!? The rum for several reasons - There is a song with Rum in the title (that's a big one), that discusses the importance of rum in the triangle trade (the slave trade), AND Ben Franklin and Stephen Hopkins adore rum (and the other Adams uses this as a bit of a reward/celebration for Hopkins at one point) (and I suspect that rum is the culprit in the drunken militiamen that are mentioned later in the movie). Finally (I swear), the molasses is another reference to the triangle trade. To top off the pie, I gave it a rim of 13 stars - one for each colony (even NY, in spite of their courteous abstentions).

The Recipe:

1 c flour
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tbs solid shortening
1 c corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup boiling water
1 beaten egg
3 baking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped, then coated in 1 tbs cinnamon
2 crusts (uncooked)

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix flour, brown sugar and shortening into crumbs.
Split the crumb mixture in half.
Set the one half aside for crumbs.
Pour the corn syrup in the other half of the crumb mixture.
Mix the baking soda in the boiling water.
When this fizzes, pour on top of the corn syrup/crumb mixture.
Add egg an mix with fork.
Pour in unbaked pie shell.
Cut stars from 2d crust.
Top pie with crumbs and then with stars around the edge.
Bake 10 minutes.
Turn oven down to 350 and bake an additional 30-40 minutes.

Rum Sauce

1 c sugar
3/4 c water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 c cold water
1/4 c rum

In medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, and cinnamon.
Bring to boil over medium-high heat.
Boil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat.
In small bowl, blend cornstarch and cold water.
Gradually stir into hot sugar mixture.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens.
Stir in rum; cook 1 minute.
Pour over slices of pie and serve warm.

You Want Pie with That - III

While searching for the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table came across a Killer Rabbit, with sharp, pointy teeth (you remember that part, right?)! Thankfully, they had the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Thank goodness! Afer a count of three (no more, no less, and five is right out!), the holy hand granade was hefted toward the killer rabbit.

And so I present:

Whatever Happened to the Killer Rabbit? pie

This is a traditional rabbit pie (flavored with tons of apples), topped with a baked apple/holy hand granade, and an exploded crust. I don't think it needs any more explaination. ;)

I was shocked at the taste of this. I was really worred about the actual taste of this pie, but I think that it wins as my favorite of all the things I've ever baked - seriously! This is getting added to the regular rotation of comfort food in my house.

The recipe:

For the filling:

1 rabbit, approximately 3 lb (1.35 kg), cut into joints (or 1 - 1.5 lb chicken thighs)
2 medium onions, chopped fairly small
8 oz (225 g) unsmoked streaky bacon, in one piece
1 medium cooking apple, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup dry cider
3/4 cups chicken stock
½ tsp nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 tsp plain flour
1 tbp butter
salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
top and bottom crusts

For the apple filling:

2 tbs pecans
2 tbs raisins
4 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp butter

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.
put bottom crust in pie plate.
Wash the rabbit joints, and place them in a large saucepan.
Add onion and apple to saucepan.
Chop bacon into roughly 1" sections and add to the saucepan along with the bayleaf, a little salt and some freshly milled pepper.
Pour in the cider and the stock, bring to simmering point, then put a lid on and leave to simmer gently for about an hour or until tender.

While that's simmering, cut out the core and seeds of an apple (making sure to leave the bottom intact).
Combine brown sugar, raisins, pecans and cinnamon.
Fill apple with the misture, and top with a pat of butter.

When rabbit miture's cooked, remove the rabbit pieces, bacon, apple and onion (with a draining spoon) and transfer them to the pie dish.
Add flour and butter to the stock in the saucepan
Stir them over a medium heat to melt and thicken the sauce. Sprinkle in the nutmeg and simmer.
When it's reduced by about half, pour it over the rabbit.
Cover with remaining pie crust
Dampen edges and squish together.
Cut an explosion hole, and peel back in the center of the top crust.
Use scarps from edges of pie crust to decorate the apple.
Drop apple into hole in top of pie.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

You Want Pie with That - I

What a great idea! It's a pie contest! This month's theme is "your favorite movie". This was one of those totally random jumping-off points that immediately trigger a landslide of ideas for me (some better than others). In order to conserve my time and money (and keep everyone from realizing just how crazy I rally am), I decided to stick to 2 pies - one based on 1776, and one based on Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail (because I was told a few too many times that no one has seen 1776 - although they SHOULD).

So, posts follow, one for each. And make sure to check out the other entries (and maybe join yourself) at

Monday, October 6, 2008


Voter registration deadlines are starting to hit!

If you live in Virginia, TODAY is your last chance to register to vote for this November. Do it!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Sneak Peak (or, What I Did Friday Night)

There are times when I feel like all motivation completely leaves me. The begining of this week was like that, and it seems like I spent the rest of the week trying to catch up. Yuck!

However, I'm back on track, and starting to plan for a bird-themed shower! I don't want to reveal too much before the shower, but here's what I did with my Friday night. Yeah, I'm super lame.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fruit Roses Tutorial (finally)

This is a super-simple way to add a little fun to a fruit pie or tart. I recommend only using fairly soft fruits (ie. not apples), and cutting the slices as thinly as possible. It takes a little longer and a little more concentration, but it shortens cooking time, and ensures that the slices will bend more easily.

1) Core or pit fruit and cut it in half.

2) Slice each half thinly (don't worry if you can't get all the way to the ends).

3) Curl the first slice into a cone, with the skin side up.

4) Add the rest of the slices, one at a time, around the cone, overlapping each slightlyand keeping the peel facing up. It's OK that the slices aren't all exactly the same size - that's part of what makes these look more like real roses.

5) Transfer to the dish that you're planning to bake in. I like to use a knife to do this, because the fruit can be really slippery, and it's no fun to have it fall apart after all your hard work!

6) Repeat as neccessary, until you have filled the dish. Depending on the nature of the baked good (and the size of your roses), you may want to use fewer or more roses. Less tightly packed means that the roses will naturally open up more, and fewer means that they will stay closer to the shape that you placed them in. In a tart that mostly fruit, I tend to keep them more tightly packed, and in a pie or cake with more filling, I tend to leave the fruit looser - go with your instincts.

With the TWD cake, I left the roses more loosely packed, and pushed them down a little into the filling to make sure that the thicker cake got in between the rose petals.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD - coming soon

If you're looking for this week's TWD, stay tuned. I haven't started it yet (but don't tell anyone!).The plan is to make it and post it tonight. Umm, Tia, you guys want to come over for dessert? I'm going to have way too much creme brulee for one person.

Cupcake Hero Anniversary! (and Happy Birthday to ME!)

Happy Blog-o-versary to Cupcake Hero!!! In celebration, the theme this month is a combination of past flavors.

My entry combines lime, green, liquor, cranberry, and marshmallow. AND, it feature Barbie pink frosting - perfect for my Birthday!

Cosmo Cupcakes!

Marshmallow Fondant Limes
1- 16oz bag of mini marshmallows
2-6 tbsp water
2lbs confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp lime juice

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of triple sec
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dried cranberries

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
stick of room temperature butter
2 tablespoons of sweetened lime juice (such as roses)
1 tablespoon of milk
A few drops of red food coloring

To make Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
Place eggs and sugar in mixer and beat on medium with paddle attachment until light and foamy (about 2 minutes)
Melt butter (about 1min in microwave) and pour over eggs and sugar whilst beating.
Add triple sec to eggs, sugar and butter mixture then turn mixer to low.
Add half the dry ingredients to the mixer.
Add milk and orange juice
Add remaining dry ingredients
Continue mixing until remaining dry ingredients are just combined
Immediately divide batter equally among the 12 cupcake liners. They will be more than 2/3 full, but that's ok, because these don't rise too much.
Sprinkle a little pinch of cranberries on top of each filled liner and put in hot oven immediately.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean, with no crumbs.
Place on a baking sheet to cool.

To Make Frosting:
Place 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, salt and butter in a bowl and cream together using a stand or electric mixer on high until light and fluffy.
Turn the mixer to low, add half of the remaining confectioners’ sugar, the lime juice and milk, then the remaining half of the sugar.
Turn mixer to high and beat until fluffy and of piping consistency.
Add food coloring until the color of the frosting looks similar to Barbie pink

To Make limes
melt 2 tbsp water and marshmallows in a double boiler
in a mixer fitted with dough hook (all greased with shortening), mix melted marshmallows and 2/3 powdered sugar until combined.
Add remaining powdered sugar, and the lime juice.
keep mixing on low until combined.
grease the ball of fondant and wrap in plastic wrap.
store in fridge over night before using.
knead in green food coloring until lime-colored
roll out, cut with a circle cutter, then cut each circle in half with a sharp knife.
let dry out and then use to garnish cupcakes.