Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween 2009

Happy Halloween!


All that is left is to wait for the doorbell to ring, pass out treats to the little ones, and watch scary movies. Here are some fun, some scary, and some delicious, all blood red - drinks to enjoy this Halloween when the door bell isn't ringing!
Pomsicle

This fun drink tastes like your favorite dreamsicle!
1 or 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
8 oz. POM Wonderful Pomegranate juice


Tracy says,
"These are POMtastic!"

Witches Brew

What could be more perfect for Halloween than a witches brew full of blood, spiders, eyeballs, frogs, worms, beating hearts, and witches hair?

8 oz. blood red POM Wonderful Pomegranate juice
8 oz. orange Soda
Spiders: Large Gummy Spider
Eyeballs: Green M&M's
Frogs: Gummy Frogs
Worms: Gummy Worms
Beating Hearts: Red Heart Shaped Runts
Witches Hair: Black Licorice Laces
Quarter sized piece of dry ice

Pom Nog
Who can resist a little flavored egg nog?

8 oz. POM Wonderful Pomegranate juice
8 oz. your favorite Egg Nog; (Sugarcrafter has an excellent recipe)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Award Speech

I'm just so amazed at how vast the blogging world is. I thought it was just about writing, but there are challenges and conferences, feed burners and followers, get togethers and giveaways, politics and photography, and now I've discovered there are awards!

Blog awards given from one blogger to another is the most rewarding aspect of blogging, in my opinion. Being that blogging is a public venture, you put a little bit of yourself out there every time you blog. When people respond to that, enjoy it, or even relate to your passion, makes it worthwhile! And then, on top of that, to present you with an award-to think of you amongst the millions of blogs out there, is pretty awesome.

I've actually received a few awards, lucky me! and it's l.o.n.g. (embarrassingly l.o.n.g.) overdue for me to pay it forward.

Frieda @ Lovin' From the Oven presented me with the: Lemonade Stand Gratitude Award. This award represents just what you would think it does based on its name. It is passed from one blogger who exemplifies gratitude to another blogger who does the same.


Frieda is an extremely talented cook and baker, who always gives step by step photo tutorials with every one of her posts! Over the summer she shared an insane number of fabulously looking and sounding ice creams, she always blogs about delicious breads, and during this fall season she's shared scratch made grape juice and all about freezing, canning, jamming and storing!

The rules of accepting and sharing this award are:

  • Put the logo on your blog or post
  • Nominate at least 10 blogs that show an attitude of gratitude
  • Link to your nominees within your post
  • Comment on their blog to let them know they've received this award
  • Share the love and link to the person who nominated you
  • Tell us how you've come to have an attitude of gratitude
Sometimes I don't really think I'm very grateful, and I know that I could definitely use some improvement in that area. I am grateful for friends, and family foremost. Living in Utah has been such a reward; being able to go to nieces and nephews football and volleyball and soccer games, having luncheons, and walking around the block to borrow eggs or spices or something else I didn't plan ahead for.

I would like to bestow this award to the following:
  1. Naomi @ The Larsha Chronicles
  2. Tangled Noodle
  3. Kendahl @ Stepmom Extraordinaire
  4. Audax @ Audax Artifex
  5. Barbara @ Barbara Bakes
  6. Melinda @ Baby Tai
  7. Cat @ Cat Spills the Beans
  8. James, Fatima and Emily @ Literary Food Porn
  9. Sarah @ Gardner Baby Talk
  10. Paige @ Paige's Pantry
Lisa @ Parsley, Sage, Dessert and Line Drives and Fuzzykoala's Caketastic Adventures introduced and bestowed me with the: One Lovely Blog Award. This award is given to those with... you guessed it... One Lovely Blog!


For now, I won't say anything about Lisa - but only because I am sooo excited to feature her during my week long Blogoversary celebration (coming up the week of November 9!). Fuzzy, on the other hand, has one of the most adorable blogs out there! She features a conglomeration of recipes from muffins to cookies to cakes to brownies to candy. I recently found her through another blogger I love, and I can't wait to read and relish more!

The rules of accepting and sharing this award are:
  • Accept the award and post it on your blog
  • Share and Link to the person who has granted the award
  • Pass the award to 10 other blogs that you think are lovely
  • Contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award
Here are 10 blogs that I think are just lovely:
  1. Pammy @ French Knots
  2. PD @ PDOTT Treats
  3. Rhi @ Pink Sugar Desserts
  4. Charmaine @ Pastry Blog
  5. Evan @ Buttercakes
  6. Lynz @ Everything But the Birthday Cake
  7. Camille @ Make it Work Mom
  8. Taylor @ Once Upon A Cupcake
  9. Leslie @ The Hungry Housewife
  10. Tonic @ The Speed of Life
Lastly, Ziggy @ Ziggy's Blog gave me the: Honest Scrap Award! This award is gifted to blogs that are encouraging, inspiring, or brilliant.


Ziggy tells it like it is. I found her when she posted about a very touchy subject, and she hit it dead on, at least in my opinion. She embodies everything this award represents; she is encouraging, inspiring, brilliant and fearless!

The rules of accepting and sharing this award are:
  • Thank the person who gave the award and link to their blog
  • Share "10 Honest Things" about yourself
  • Present this award to 7 others whose blogs you find encouraging, inspiring, or brilliant
  • Contact the bloggers and inform them they've been given this award
Here are my favorite encouraging, inspiring and brilliant blogs:
  1. Gabriel @ The Art of Gabriel Olson
  2. Heather @ Cullimore Family
  3. Kim @ Today's Creative Blog
  4. Sylwia @ Sugar Rush
  5. Jamie @ My Baking Addiction
  6. Quinn @ Quinn's Baking Diary
  7. Amanda @ Pastry Studio
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
...and now, in my gratitude, a recipe!

Pom Wonderful Muffins


With Swine Flu blowing through our communities faster than the falling leaves we could all use extra vitamins and antioxidants! Plus, when you feel like you couldn't eat anything, these muffins are sure to be gentle enough and sweet enough to comfort your upset tummy.


¼ cup butter
1 cup POM Wonderful Pomegranate juice
Melt together just until butter has dissolved

Add
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon butter
Whisk together until thick

Add
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup mashed banana

Pour into greased muffin tin, or line tin with cupcake liners
Fill ¾ full
Melt ¼ teaspoon butter & ¾ teaspoon sugar over ¼ cup almonds, stir
Cover domes with almonds
Bake at F350°, 10-15 minutes
Enjoy and get better!






Jack says, "I'm already feeling better!"





Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do You Have What it Takes?

After adoring the movie: Julie and Julia I immediately came home, made Julia's Reine De Saba Cake and gushed over the movie for months! I begged my sister to see it with me, and when she couldn't lock down plans, I hijacked her while her youngest was in school for the 2 hour and 3 minute running time of the film (she loved it too - of course!). My mom brought me the book, My Life in France and I danced idly through the following days and months dreaming of beautiful food, french excursions, and life in the 1950's with my own individually seasoned pitched accent.


Regarding Julia Child, my mother observed:



"Julia Child never
cringed at a
baking challenge!"

So, in honor of Julia, she and I made a pact to eng
age in a Macaroon Baking Endeavor. My mother doesn't live exclusively down the street from me, so it wasn't until this week that she came to visit, and it just so happened that her visit not only provided us with the opportunity to finally complete our Macaroon Baking Endeavor, but it also coincided with this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge!


The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Ami S of Baking Without Fear. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Unfortunately, the first batch and the second batch didn't turn out to be macaroons; they more resembled flat, overcooked, round mounds of blob. We tried the DB recipe and several different cooking methods: none successful! We baked, and stirred, and pulv
erized, and whisked, and glared at the oven violently for six hours, and by then it was past both our bedtimes. She went home, and I went to bed sleeping fitfully. When I wasn't asleep I was trying to determine what went wrong, and when I was asleep I was dreaming of puffed, footed, colored macaroons.


She couldn't come back the next day, so I attempted this feat alone. I decided even if I had to finish with a pile of macaroons resembling Julia's pile of crying onions, before I accomplished the necessary end result, I would do it. Luckily I only went through one more batch before I got some results, and that was good because I was out of ingredients! (So much for the pile of onions...)

I still have a lot of questions, such as:
Why didn't I get a crispy outer shell? Why did I not achieve a distinct foot? Did I not cook long enough? Did I not whip my eggs long enough?

Help!
Macaroons:
2 cups almond flour
**Tip: You can grind your own almonds, but make sure they result in resembling flour, not crumbs
2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
Sift together until powdery and super fine
(I added 2 tablespoons cocoa powder to create chocolate)

5 egg whites
Whisk until foamy
Add 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to whisk until light and meringuesque
**Tip: Do not over beat, you want stiff peaks, but not hard peaks (so I read)
Lightly fold egg whites into flour/sugar mixture in thirds
Pour into piping or plastic bag, with a one inch tip
Pipe small mounds onto parchment paper, or baking sheet
Let rest for 15-30 minutes
Bake at 280°F, 15-18 minutes

Finalè:
Fill with the buttercream of your choice, and sandwich two macaroons t
ogether
I made a lemon cream cheese buttercream, and a pumpkin cinnamon cream cheese buttercream.


Still, mine aren't perfect - but they are tasty! and I am proud of them! Though I'm hell bent on making some perfect scratch made macaroons!

I'll leave you with this: “Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet,” Julia Child.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Feeling Toasty

I never quite got around to making last month's Daring Baker's Challenge. I have to admit, I was extremely intimidated by it, (yes! that is the purpose of the DB) and every time I walked into the kitchen to tackle it... I ended up instead with cinnamon chocolate cake, or a walnut tart, or pumpkin pound cake.


The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.


I've attempted Puff Pastry before, from a recipe contained in The Essential Dessert Cookbook; it even has a puff pastry featured on the front cover photograph - but unlike Richard's recipe, that recipe called for chunks of butter sporadically placed throughout the dough which only seemed to accomplish tearing the dough and, consequently ruining my life!

After the 4th try, I honestly had no intention of ever trying to make puff pastry again in my lifetime, but then I peeked at the DB recipe a few times and became far too curious to withhold. I decided to finally bite the bullet and make it for our Sisters That Spook Goblin Feast.

But... in the words of Pammy:


"This Puff Pastry is
too good to be wrapped around hot dogs,"

so, I made it again for Sugar High Friday's.


This month's theme for SHF is toasted, and is hosted by Not Derby Pie. Inspired by the October challenge for the Daring Bakers, (can't reveal what it is until tomorrow!) I played on the almond theme. I toasted a tin of almonds, pulverized them into almond crumbs, and then toasted the concoction again, creating:
Pear Eclipse

This dessert is exquisite; the kind of luxury that makes you gently and unconsciously eclipse your eyes as you relish each bite so that none of your other senses may interfere with enjoying every morsel.

Puff Pastry Recipe
Recipe hosted at the hostesses blog: A Whisk and a Spoon
Mascarpone Cream:
¾ cup mascarpone cheese
Whip until smooth and cream
*If you can't find mascarpone cheese, you can substitute with cream cheese
In a separate bowl, whip until fluffy, 1 ½ cups whipping cream & ½ cup sugar
Add cream and cheese together and whip until incorporated

Finalè:
Spoon Mascarpone Cream into center of Vols-au-Vent
Top with sliced pears
Spoon toasted almonds over pears

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Create Your Own Cookie Recipe

A few years ago, Mrs. Fields and ivillage hosted a cookie contest to celebrate Mrs. Fields 30th anniversary. Prompted by my friends, I decided to enter. I was careful to start experimenting early, and submit ahead of the deadline, but somehow my entry was never accepted into circulation. I like to believe that surely, if my entry had made it into the contest, I would have won!

My entry: Campfire Cookies, the host recipe for August's recipe swap.


If nothing else, I learned how simple and easy it is to create your own recipe. It may seem daunting, but by following these simple steps, you can create a fail proof recipe every time!


How to Create Your Own Cookie Recipe:
Basic Rule #1: Every recipe needs three basic components - fat, sugar, & flour

Fat is what keeps the cookie chewy, as opposed to crunchy; the less fat, the less chewy the cookie. Fat also adds flavor and helps to bind the ingredients. Fat can be used as butter, shortening or oil.


Sugar
, in addition to lending an excellent sweet flavor in cookies, reacts during the cooking process to provide structure and in stabilizing the other ingredients during baking.

Flour
is a main component in most recipes, it is the real stabilizer and thickener. It holds everything together, increases the volume of a dough or batter, and assists the cookie in rising during baking. A lesser known fact is that flour can be created from any high protein ingredient simply by grinding it down to a fine powder, such as oatmeal, rice or nuts.


Basic Rule #2:
Cookies require equal parts fat and sugar

This rule should not be diverted from by more or less than ¼ cup and is important to the overall taste and structure of a cookie.


Basic Rule #3:
The ratio of flour to fat should be double

Depending on altitude, this rule can be tricky. Higher altitudes traditionally require more flour, so it is best to start with an equal ratio and add flour until the dough is slightly tacky; when you touch the dough it should stick to your fingers, but should not remain stuck. Too little flour will result in cookies that do not hold their shape and spread, while too much flour will result in thick tasteless cookies-better to err on the side of too little.


Basic Rule #4
: Cookies need a rising agent

Baking soda and baking powder can be used interchangeably in cookies, and react with the flour as a leavener and acid neutralizer when interacting with fluids. Cream of tartar can be substituted as a rising agent as well.


Basic Rule #5:
Cookies need a binding agent

Frequently this agent is employed by the egg, but honey, or pure fruit juice can do the trick as well. Not much is needed, one or two tablespoons should suffice.


Basic Rule #6:
Order matters

Fat and sugars should be creamed first to incorporate the two; the binding agent should be added next to facilitate a precursor for the leavening agent; and lastly all flours and leavening ingredients should be added lastly in one motion to ensure complete integration into the dough.


Basic Rule #7:
Be creative!

Additions bear little consequence on the final product as they don't react necessarily to the ingredients as a whole. Chocolate, Raisins, Fruit, Nuts: Throw them in!


And that, is how it's done: How to Create Your Own Cookie Recipe!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Healthy Alternative

I'm certainly not the source to go to for eating healthy all the time, but I do try my best. I'm not vegan, I'm not even vegetarian, but I have no problem transitioning to a no meat option. In fact, yesterday my sister and I went to eat at the Olive Garden and I got the Fettuccine Alfredo sans chicken,... avec broccoli.


One of the things specifically that I do love vegan is muffins and cupcakes. The emphasis in these treats is on natural foods, such as fruit and grains, minus all the extra business that often just acts as filler. The aroma and taste is exemplified resulting in a much richer flavor and experience.

I created these muffins the other morning, simply because I was out of eggs. Because you can't rely on the eggs to give your treats a full top dome, you have figure out the science in the method, which makes experimenting that much more fulfilling!

Banana Peanut Butter Muffins

These muffins are a fabulous and delicious alternative to the peanut butter banana sandwich, and a healthy alternative to boot!
¼ lemon juice
½ canola oil
½ peanut butter
Whisk together until smooth
Add
½ cup brown sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Stir together

Add
½ cup wheat germ
1 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ carob chips
Stir to combine

Pour ¾ batter into greased muffin pan, or into cupcake liners
Bake at F350°, 12-15 minutes
Remove and transfer to wire rack

What are your favorite healthy alternatives?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Tipsy!

There was no mindless pawing, crying or whining the first night we brought Tipsy home. Unlike Danger she knew right away how good she had it. She strutted around the house and tore into Danger's toys (and hind legs) straight away.


We rescued Tipsy from her cage where she had been for six straight weeks; she was 14 weeks old already, and without a home. She'd been there so long she was starting to develop canine hip dysplasia, aka cage hip. She was matted, her eyes were full of rheum, and she was pouting so severely it was impossible to deny her affection.

The first thing we noticed immediately about Tipsy was that she was all grey, from the tops of her cute little ears all the way down her tail - except for the very tippy tip, which was white; hence her name: Tipsy. We thereafter immediately recognized the tips of her paws, the tip of her muzzle, the tip of chest and the tip of her head was also white - it was the perfect name.

On October 8, 2009 Tipsy turned 2, and last weekend we celebrated her birthday.


We fitted her cute little ears with a pretty pink bow, and planned a fun night of eating cake and ice cream and unwrapping new toys! I'm proud to say Tipsy has finally learned a few unwrapping techniques from Danger. She loved discovering her prizes under her pink wrapping paper. Danger however, did not like having to patiently stand by and watch her have all the fun!


We played on the October Halloween theme and made Tipsy's cake in the shape of a bone - fitting for the season and for a dog themed party. We filled two pieces of cake with blueberry puppy ice cream, and created Chilled Bones for the occasion.

Doggie Bone Chilled Cake

These recipes were adapted again from Doggy Desserts by Cheryl Gianfrancesco (highly recommended!).
Blueberry Cream
1 5.3 oz container Plain Stonyfield Organic Greek Yogurt
1 cup water
¼ cup honey
½ cup fresh blueberries
Pour all ingredients into blender, and puree until smooth
Transfer to a freezer safe container, cover and chill until firm
Cream Cheese Cake

½ cup natural applesauce - no sugar added
½ cup water
2 eggs
4 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup honey
Mix until smooth
Add
2 cups unbleached wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon wheat germ
Stir into wet ingredients until incorporated

Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan
Bake at F350° for 40-45 minutes
Let cool completely


Tipsy says,
"Bark! Bark!!"

Finalè:
Allow blueberry cream to soften
Use cookie cutter to form bone shapes from cake
Slice bones in half
Spread blueberry cream over one half of cake
Sandwich together and place in freezer to firm

***Always remember to allow treats to warm up a bit before serving them to your special friend; you don't want to burn your little furries tongue.

Until next year!
How do you celebrate your furries special day?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Annoucement! Announcement!

I don't know about ya'll, but I've been having a blast hosting
3 giveaways
in just 3 weeks!

It's been a nice reprieve since both my camera and my dishwasher broke! The infamous hike/dropping camera incident that happened over our Anniversary weekend finally caught up with us and has resulted in a lens start error,... and for half the price of a brand new replacement camera we can choose to fix it (is that worth it????).

Then, our dishwasher broke - for the second time, and we haven't even lived here 4 months yet! The first time it went kaput our lovely lovely landlords refitted us with a used dishwasher. Obviously they are used for a reason, and to no surprise, two weeks later the second dishwasher busted. Over the weekend they attempted to bring us a second used dishwasher, but like we already established - they are used for a reason, and after two hours of manual labor the bad boy refused to work. Finally, and thankfully, this morning they outfitted our gaping hole with a brand new dishwasher.

So at least 1 part of a 2 part problem is fixed. I can do dishes by hand, I don't want to - but I can. I can't take pictures by hand.

Enough of my complaining,
let's get to announcing the winners!


My Turn to Try: $40 Z'Tejas Restaurant Gift Card goes to....


#14 Adam!
"Sign me up! I want to win and eat cornbread."
Be sure to get the Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites for an appetizer!

Now... when I revealed the start of this giveaway I gave you my excellent cornbread recipe, but today I am so excited to give you the real, Chef Gardiner: Z'Tejas Cornbread Recipe!
Z'Tejas Cornbread

1 cup plain yogurt
⅓ cup cream corn + 1 tablespoon
⅓ cup frozen corn + 1 tablespoon
⅓ cup melted butter + 1 tablespoon
1 ½ cups buttermilk

3 eggs
Whisk together in large mixing bowl

Add

cup sugar + 1 tablespoon
1 ½ cups corn meal
1
½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Stir to incorporate


Preheat greased skillet
Fill with 9 oz. of batter
Bake at 400F°, 16 minutes, rotate after 9 minutes
Hallelujah Halloween Giveaway: Sisters that Spook Treat Basket goes to...

#30 Rhiannon! @ Pink Sugar Desserts
"What a cute idea!! and the pictures are fantastic! Thanks for the nice giveaway :)"


And... last but not least!

Haunted Heeber Creeper: Family 4 pack of Tickets goes to...

#22 Carol! @ Songberries "This looks really fun!"
If you aren't Carol, don't cry, fret, or stamp your feet! Just use this code: FHBLOG when purchasing your train passes and get $3 off your adult tickets! Not to mention- save your stubs!, and you will receive a discounted bounce back pass for your Polar Express Tickets that begins the week of November 16!

Many of you asked if this train ride was too scary for young children - absolutely not! There were many children riding the train with us giggling and enjoying the adventure, and when we exited the train, one young boy shouted running to his family, "That was awesome!"

All winners were selected via random.org. Winners must get back to me by October 21! Email me with your address, and then just sit back and wait for the goodies to arrive!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Last Chance for Spooky Giveaway

Today is your last chance to enter the
Sisters that Spook Halloween Fest Giveaway!
Contest ends October 13, 11:59 pm
Just scroll down to the
Hallelujuah Halloween Giveaway to leave a comment.

Up for grabs is this signed portrait of Frankie, by Gabriel Olson...


and one 8oz. Pumpkin Sweet Log...



plus - all the essentials for completing the
Sisters that Spook Halloween treats including -

Piping gel for your Witch Hats and Brooms
Candy sticks for your Caramel Apples
Jar of Halloween confetti sprinkles for your Pumpkin Cake
Oversized Pumpkin cookie cutter for your Pirate Doughnuts
Rubber Spiders for your Goblin Feast
Pumpkin Hershey Kisses for your Hot Chocolate

Contest open to everyone in United States and Canada
Each person can earn up to 5 entries each -
1 entry for leaving a comment
1 entry for tweeting (please leave #handle in comment)
1 entry for entering Pammy's Giveaway
2 entries for becoming a dessert guest (follower)
Please leave all info in just one comment!
Good luck!
Winner chosen at random.org

**Giveaway closed! Winners announced soon!**

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