Graduation Prep

24 05 2010

I’ve been sadly remiss in posting the last two months.  Suffice it to say, life has been hectic.

Jesse graduates from 8th grade today and I spent a little creative time yesterday preparing for that.  My cake decorating in recent years has gotten extremely simple.  So this time just an easy sheet cake for the two graduates.

I found the idea for the mortar boards at Bakerella and made up a whole Reese’s miniature bag worth.  I was cheap and in a hurry so didn’t hunt down the Godiva chocolates, instead I cut up Hershey bars.  The Godiva would have looked more professional, but hey they are just going to get eaten by a bunch of kids.

It is almost 7am and I need to take off to help drive 7-9th graders around and do what I can to help set up for graduation.  With school letting out tomorrow, I expect to be making my presence known here more often.





Beware Baker at Work

23 01 2010

Jesse bought this book for my birthday last year.  Sadly my birthday is less than a month away again, and I just tried out the first recipe in the book.  It is super easy,  just dump all the ingredients in a large container and stir (no kneading).  Let it rise for a couple hours, then put it in the refrigerator and use it any time in the next two weeks.  I mixed up the batch last week-end, but we ended up in the hotel before I had a chance to bake.

Yesterday I decided it was time to make a loaf.  I cut off about a one pound wad and shaped it into a loaf.  Let it rest for about 40 minutes.  Preheated the oven with a baking stone in it to 450 degrees, slid the loaf onto the stone, and poured 1 cup of water into the broiler pan.  Then it was just a matter of waiting about 30 minutes for that wonderful loaf.  This is how the finished loaf looked —

Yep, it looked great, smelled great and the boys compared it to Panera bread  when we ate it.  There was just one hitch. 

I turned on the light in the oven to watch the bread bake and about two minutes after inserting the bread dough and water I was surprised to hear a very small pop.  The baking stone which we received as a wedding present over 22 years ago split into 4 pieces.  I figured I might as well finish baking the loaf, but this is how the stone looked.

I have enough dough in the refrigerator for 3 more similar loaves, but now I’m not only looking for a pizza peel, but  also a new baking stone.





More Cookies

24 03 2008

It is Spring Break and already I’m trying to find something for the boys to do besides play video games.  Some of you will remember, Nolan got stop motion software for Christmas.  He was looking for a new subject for a movie and I suggested he bake cookies again and use that as his subject matter.  These cookies took longer to make than any have before in this household, but see if the results were worth it. 

Here is Nolan ‘s finished movie. (Turn on your speakers, there is sound this time.)





Snow Day

17 03 2008

img_0233.jpgIt has been snowing off and on all week-end. This is a look out the back door on Friday.  It has been a nice wet snow, not our usual.  Shortly after I took that picture it warmed up and I wouldn’t have needed to shovel the drive and walk if I hadn’t already done it.  It snowed again Saturday night and started again yesterday afternoon.  The roads were icy this morning and a two hour delay was called.  The principal called me at about 8am (I’m the school board chair for our private school) and asked if I thought we should close for the day.  Several of the public school districts had closed.  I called Guy to see how the drive to work had been.  He said the roads got progressively worse as he got closer to the school.  We called our first snow day of the year. (March is typically one of our snowiest months.)  The boys were ecstaic.   It was a mistake.  When I went to the bank at about 10am the roads were perfect.

img_0263.jpgNolan and Jesse think they should be able to game all day.  I disagree.  They took a two hour break this morning, and I’ve made them give up the screens again this afternoon.  They cleaned their bathroom and this afternoon I suggested they bake cookies.  We still had eggs left from Jesse’s birthday cake (I have stopped buying eggs on a regular basis).  I thought I had everything we needed.  Guy had opened the bag of chips this week-end so we were a little short there, and when we check the margarine we were short 1/4 cup.  I did the math to reduce the recipe and Nolan has done most of the work. He is pretty good in the kitchen with just a little instruction. 

Jesse finds it more entertaining just goofing off in the background.

 img_0264.jpg

This is probably THE favorite cookie recipe in this house.  You can find it on the back of the Nestle’s Butterscotch Morsels bag.

Oatmeal Scotchies

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups quick oats

11 oz. pkg. Nestle Butterscotch Flavored Morsels

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in small bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large bowl.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in oats and morsels.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies; 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

 





Past Interests

5 03 2008

I have had many hobbies and interests through the years.  During the first couple of years Guy and I were married I took Wilton cake decorating classes.  I took all three courses they offered and I ended up making cakes for people at work for several years.  I would make and decorate as many as three cakes a week in the evenings.

cakes-002.jpgThis was the final cake for the third course and it started that whole era.  I spent hours making all those flowers and this was a full size wedding cake.  There was no way I was keeping all that cake at home for just the two of us (Neither of us were ever overly fond of eating decorated cakes.)  I took it to the office and by the end of the day, that whole cake was gone.  People came from several different offices to the contracts office to get some.  All of a sudden people knew I could make cakes and I made them for just about every occasion imaginable.

Here are just a few others from those years.

cakes.jpg

I used candy melts on this one to make the bags and charge cards.

cakes-001.jpg

The center medallion was done using color flow icing. The pattern for the dragon came from a scroll saw book.

cakes-004.jpg

This one was made for a coworkers wife who was a huge Stephen King fan.  He brought one of the books to me to look at the type and this is what we ended up with.

cakes-003.jpg

This was my sister’s wedding cake.  I think just about every cake was a different flavor.

After making more cakes than I care to count, I got tired of cleaning up the greasy mess after making frosting.  Unfortunately, this loss of interest in decorating cakes happened somewhere near the time my boys arrived on the scene.  I have pretty much stopped making frosting and just buy the stuff in the plastic containers these days.  Now that Nolan is older he usually chooses and Angel Food cake so I don’t even have to frost that.

Jesse’s birthday is tomorrow and he had specified he wanted a Funfetti cake.  I thought I was going to get away with just frosting the cake and putting sprinkles on it.  When I asked him what shape he wanted, I learned that wasn’t what he was thinking.  Several shapes came under discussion.  He suggested a cake shaped like a Wii.  That wouldn’t be a big deal, but our Wii stands upright and I didn’t think the cake would stay in that position for any length of time.  He finally decided he wanted Mario on his cake.  Bear in mind this is this afternoon and there is limited time remaining.

I baked cupcakes for his classroom first.  This is my style of cake decorating now!

cupcakes.jpg

I kept trying to get him to decide on something simpler.  I found a star pan among my huge inventory of pans and he decided that was good, but we still needed to put Mario’s face on the cake.

If you have stuck with me this far, I have a tip for you when baking cakes.  If you will place the cake in a pan of water until the last ten minutes of baking time the cake will rise evenly avoiding that unsightly hump in the middle.  The pan of water also results in a more moist cake. Here is a picture showing what I mean.  The only catch is getting the cake out of the pan of water for the last ten minutes of baking without burning yourself or pouring hot water everywhere.

img_0162.jpg I didn’t have to slice any excess off this cake.  It was very level.

Even though I finally caved on actually decorating a cake, I still had no intention of making my own frosting.  I had purchased two containers of the frosting that went with the Funfetti cake.  I thought the frosting was a cream color.  It wasn’t. It was a light yellow, so that posed some challenges when trying to color the frosting.  Another challenge was the many years old paste food coloring.  I threw several hardened containers away tonight. 

If I had made my own frosting this cake would certainly have had better detail.  But the important thing is Jesse is thrilled with it.  I feel a little guilty that I have decorated so many cakes for other people’s children and this is what mine get.

img_0167.jpg

I still have a big mess to clean up in the kitchen!





Am I turning into (gasp) a Domestic?

21 12 2007

I’ve done more cooking in the last two days that probably the last three weeks combined!  My in-laws arrived near midnight on Wednesday so I do have more people to cook for than usual.  Tomorrow is our Sabbath so I was working on our dinner today.  The main dish tomorrow will be Tofu “Meatballs.”  These are Vegan if you ever need a fairly easy dish for someone that doesn’t eat meat.

img_1992.jpg

Tofu Meatballs

1 pkg. Mori Nu Tofu, firm
1-1/2 c. onion
2 T. lite soy sauce
½ t. garlic powder
1 c. pecan meal (or ground walnuts)
1-1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 t. parsley flakes
½ t. sage
¼ t. oregano
¼ t. basil

Combine first four ingredients in a blender and whiz smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add the last six ingredients and mix well. Scoop walnut sized balls onto cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. (I use a cookie scoop for this.) Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. These will freeze nicely at this point. When ready to use, thaw and place in flat shallow casserole in a single layer. Cover with favorite gravy that isn’t two thick. (I will add mushroom gravy to mine tomorrow.) Bake uncovered in 350F oven for 25-30 minutes.

I also made Garlic-Herb rolls.  This is actually a bread machine recipe for a two pound loaf, but rather than letting it bake in the machine I ran it on the dough cycle and then formed into 24 rolls and baked at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes.

img_1993.jpgGarlic Herb Bread

1-1/2 c. water
4 t. margarine or butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 c. whole wheat flour
3 c. bread flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. salt
½ t. dried rosemary leaves
¼ t. dried thyme leaves
¼ t. dried basil leaves
1-3/4 t. regular active dry yeast

Our church is holding their annual Christmas program and Slice of Pie tonight so I baked a couple of pies this afternoon.  I had some eggs left from doing the schools dinner theatre and wanted to use them up so these are the pies I made.

img_1991.jpgCreamy Peanut Butter Pie
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
2 T. flour
1-1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 9 inch pie shell

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the sugars, peanut butter, eggs and flour. Gradually stir in the milk. Heat at 70% power, stirring every minute, until thick. Don’t boil.
Remove from microwave and stir in the vanilla. Pour into the baked pie shell and chill.
Serving Ideas : Serve with whipped cream

The original recipe on the peanut putter pie had you make it on the stove top.  I modified it for the microwave and it made it much easier and quicker.

img_1990.jpgLemon Meringue Pie 

Filling:
1-1/2 c. sugar
½ c. cornstarch
1-1/2 c. boiling water
3 egg yolks
½ c. lemon juice
1 T. butter or margarine
1 t. grated lemon peel

1 9-inch pie crust

Meringue:
3 egg whites
¼ t. cream of tarter
6 T. granulated sugar.

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a microwave safe bowl. Slowly stir in boiling water. Cook on Full Power for 4-6 minutes, or until thickened and bubbling. Stir twice during cooking time.

Mix part of the hot mixture into slightly-beaten egg yolks. Return all to remaining hot mixture. Cook on Full Power for 1 to 2-1/2 minutes, or until mixture begins to boil. Stir halfway through cooking time.

Stir in lemon juice, butter, and lemon peel, until butter is melted. Pour filling into 9-inch baked pie crust.

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine egg whites and cream of tarter in a small bowl. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and gradually add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Immediately spread the meringue over the filling sealing meringue to the curst of the pie. Bake about 5 minutes until golden brown.

While I was in the middle of making the pies, I looked out the kitchen window and there were 6 mule deer standing right below the window.  I raced up stairs grabbed my camera and opened the slidder door to snap a picture.  The camera wouldn’t come on!  Oh, come on, I just charged the batteries last night.  I popped open the battery door and duh — I charged the batteries, but forgot to put them back in the camera.  Another race up the stairs to grab the batteries and in the mean time the deer are on the move.  I went out the front door and snapped these pictures.  One fellow even stopped to pose.

img_1987.jpg

img_1988.jpg

img_1989.jpg

You can see on this last picture that it had just started to snow.  I think this is as close to reindeer as we will see around here.

I made homemade chili today too, but am not going to bother with the recipe tonight.  Just a word of warning to my family if they are reading this — don’t get used to this!  I don’t want to spend my whole life in the kitchen.  Also thanks to my MIL who did all the clean up behind me.  If you’ve gotta cook — that is the way to do it!





Christmas Sweets

20 12 2007

Today was the first full day of vacation for my boys and we finally got around to make goodies for Christmas.  [I had intended to do it earlier, but am fighting another nasty cold.  It is the third so far this school year and puts me ahead of where I usually am for the whole school year.  Not sure what is going on, Guy suggested stress.]  My weakness is sweets — forget the salt give me the sugar.  I tend to overdo it with making sweets for Christmas. So in an attempt to restrain myself I’ve started making just one choice per family member.  The boys each helped to make their pick.  I think the number one sweet for Christmas in this household is Chocolate Scotcheroos.  We can count on Guy to pick that one so everyone else can come up with another option.  I’ve decided to include recipes for each pick here.  There appears to be a theme to our choices — the majority contain commercial cereal and the other equally used ingredients are peanut butter and chocolate. 

img_1979.jpgGuy’s Choice — Chocolate Scotcheroos

1 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. peanut butter
6 c. Rice Krispies
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
6 oz. butterscotch morsels

Combine sugar and corn syrup in microwave safe bowl and microwave until the mixture bubbles, stirring about every minute. Remove from microwave and stir in the peanut butter. Mix in the Rice Krispies. Press into a 9 x 12 pan which has been sprayed with cooking spray. Using waxed paper to press the mixture into the pan and avoid burning your fingers.

Combine the chocolate morsels and the butterscotch morsels in a microwave safe bowl and microwave at half power until the mixture melts. Stir once every minute. Spread the melted mixture over the Rice Krispies and allow to set up. You can chill to speed the process. Cut into bars. These are very rich so smaller bars are better than larger ones.

img_1981.jpgNolan’s Choice — White Trash

2 lb. white chocolate (white morsels work)
2 T. vegetable oil
3 c. wheat chex
3 c. rice chex
3 c. corn chex
½ lb small pretzels
½ lb. pretzel nubs
3 c. Crispix
1 can mixed nuts

Combine the last seven ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine white chocolate and vegetable oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at half power until the chocolate is melted stirring every minute. Pour the white chocolate over the other ingredients and stir gently to coat. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Break into pieces and store in covered container.

img_1982.jpgJesse’s Choice — Peanut-Butter & Chocolate Kisses

½ c. margarine, room temperature

½ c. peanut butter

¾ c. packed brown sugar

¼ c. granulated sugar

1 egg

1 t. vanilla extract

¼ t. salt

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

3T. granulated sugar

48 milk-chocolate candy kisses, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375F.  In medium bowl, beat together margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar, ¼ cup granulated sugar, egg, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy.  Add flour and baking soda, beating until thoroughly blended.  Shape dough into 48 balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each.  Roll balls in the 3 tablespoons granulated sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until light golden.  Immediately top each cookie with a candy kiss, carefully pressing down firmly.  Remove cookies from baking sheets; cool on racks.  Makes about 48 cookies.

img_1985.jpgMy Choice?  I’d have picked the Chocolate Scotcheroos, so I let the boys sort of pick the fourth — Muddy Buddies
9 c. Chex cereal (any variety)
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
½ c. peanut butter
¼ c. margarine
1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
In a large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, stir together chocolate chips, peanut butter and margarine. Microwave uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until the mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into a 2-gallon resealable food storage plastic bag.

Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.
So that and a long nap pretty much took up my day.  There are enough sugary treats in the house to make me even sicker, unless I can find will power somewhere.  Anyone know where I can buy some?