Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ten Days

As I sit here tonight, I realize Christmas is ten days from today.  I have a tree up, a few decorations, other than that, not much else done.  Since we are celebrating the extended family Christmas on Jan 1, I do not feel as rushed as usual. After all, I have an extra week!

All the snowstorms of the past weekends, have also put a damper on my shopping.  Hard to get to the shopping malls!  Last weekend most of the stores I would normally go to were closed.

It's also very different having my youngest in college.  No more high school concerts, madrigal dinners, etc.  We did go to her college concert two weeks ago, last weekend we went to the Charity Ball at her school.  So, my holiday is now taking a different direction.

In the catholic church, this is the season of Advent, the time to prepare for the birth of Christ.  I have been spending time going more inward, and using this time as a time of spiritual reflection. Advent is a time of rebirth, and also the beginning of the new church year.

My wish is for all to take some time during this busy season to reflect on our lives, and how we can improve our spiritual self.  Spend less money, and instead spend more time with others. When walking into a busy store during this time, take a second to smile at someone.  There are many,many lonely and sad people, who do not get the chance to see a smile. Remember, Jesus is the reason for the season!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Great site

For all those who have a cricut, this is a great site for files!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Multi Tasking

I had baked some puff pastry cheesecake filled turnovers this morning. Unfortunately I was not paying very close attention- and they burned.  This got me to thinking about multi tasking.

As these were baking, I was also watching Fons and Porter quilting show on TV.  Had my computer opened to read my emails and check facebook, and knitting while reading the email message. All the while drinking my coffee!  Not suprised I burned something.

On Fons and Porter, they were making an elaborate log cabin Christmas quilted top.  Because of the log cabin strips, there was lots of stopping and starting.  For those of us who have tried quilting, you know how exact your seams need to be. I was startled when I heard one of the woman say you can make this while baking your Christmas cookies!  Even a TV show expects us to be multitasking!

Multitasking used to be a women's thing.  With the advent of technology, it now seems to be a dilemma of men and also our children.  Focusing on just one thing has become an actual problem for many.  Studies have found that those of us who think we are accomplishing so much in a day, are actually getting less done than if we gave our attention to one thing at a time.

As the holiday season approaches, I would like to challenge my readers to spend some time each day giving complete attention to just one thing.  Whether it is talking to our loved ones, making our cookies, doing our sewing, even when shopping.  Shutting off the phones, TV and computers for a half hour a day, may make a difference!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Deep Dish Pizza Cake

My daughter had a birthday a few weeks ago. This being her first birthday away from home, I was determined that she have some kind of birthday cake.

While she attended a private school from kindergarten through fifth grade, for her birthday party, I used to get pizza for her classmates for lunch. So, after trying to figure out what kind of cake I could make and send to her, I came up with the idea of the deep dish pizza.

I wanted to have the crust higher on the side with a space in the middle for the ingredients. I could have carved out the middle, but wait! After looking through my baking pans, I found the flan pan! So, I baked one layer in the flan pan, the second layer in a 10 inch round pan, as that is the size of my flan pan.
I iced the round layer with buttercream, placed the flan piece on top. I placed it in the freezer for easier carving.  The next day, I took it out of the freezer, and carved the flan edges to make them rounder.
 After the carving, I covered the cake in a buttercream crumb coat.

Since the cake was going to be mailed, I had to make it as indestructable as possible. I chose to cover the outside of the cake with white fondant. I painted the fondant using gel colors. I used a brown and yellow gel colors, as that is all I had.  I covered the middle of the cake with a red buttercream for the sauce. Since my daughter's favorite pizza is black olive and cheese, I needed to find a way to make the black olives.  I rolled out black fondant, and used the end of my decorating tips to cut out the olives.  I let them dry before placing on the cake.
For the cheese, I grated white fondant using a cheese grater.  I needed the fondant first, found that if the pieces were cooler, they grated better.  I assembled the ingredients on the top as you would for a pizza.
Here is my finished product. Not bad for the first time!  I then wrapped the cake in plastic wrap.  To mail it, I cut cardboard to fit around the edges. I also put multiple layers of cardboard on the top and bottom, as the cake turned out very heavy.  I had used a pound cake recipe, so the cake would be sturdy enough for the trip.  The cake fit in a large flat rate priority box, which saved on postage.

The cake made the trip intact!  In fact, the cake ended up traveling back and forth multiple times!  My daughter new I would be missing her on her first birthday away from home, so her boyfriend picked her up from school, and brought her home.  The cake came with her.  Since there was still plenty left by the time she needed to go back to school, I had her take the cake back with her.

Moral of the story- you can send a cake through the mail, it can make it in one piece and on time!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Websites I like

The past ten days have been a real whirlwind, hopefully now the fall will calm down, so I can get back to baking.

This past weekend was parents weekend at my daughter's school. Both of us love books, it just so happens there is a Half-Price bookstore about six blocks from her school.
Such Fun! I enjoy buying used books, such a way to use recycling to the max! One of my best finds was:

CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooki… (Hardcover)
by Shirley O. Corriher

I found the book to be very informative. One of the recipes int he book is for microwave caramel.

The other great thing we did, was go to the Whole Foods Market. I am astonished by the amount of food they can fit in a small store. Some of the best buys were the organic navel oranges and the organic wine grapes. The grapes have an intense flavor, not usually found in standard green or red grapes.

In the book cookwise, she has a recipe for navel oranges that are sliced and topped with the microwaved caramel to which thin orange strips are added. Tomorrow I am going to try to make that dessert.

One of my favorite websites for baking is

It is called Joe Pastry. He has wonderful explanations of ingredients, and how the recipes work. Great pictures also!

As you can tell, I am trying to learn the whys of my baking and cooking, instead of just following the recipes. I enjoy watching the cooking shows, have always wondered how they come up with all the recipes. Now I am learning myself!

Monday, August 16, 2010


I logged on today, and realized I hadn't updated my blog in quite a while-SHAME ON ME!

Today marks a new beginning! After thinking over my life and relationships last night, I found I needed to head myself in a different direction. Ina bout two weeks, my youngest will be heading off to college, and I will be a proverbial EMPTY NESTER.
While this happens to the majority of parents, and I know I will get through it, my life is now in the midst of change. Having been raising children for 34 years of my life, my parenting and life are now diverging on a different path.

The road will be winding, with many curves and choices for both of us. We will end up at our destination safe and sound, and right where we are meant to be.

The questions is, are we ready for the RIDE?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all those who celebrate!

This has truly been one of my busiest Easters yet! It seemed I have been so far behind. My house did get cleaned before my daughter and her children came up Thursday. My husband, daughter and I sing in our church choir, so we have spent a lot of time in church recently.

Did lots of cooking. Saturday night we celebrated Easter with my son, his girlfriend, and her daughter. We had prime rib and crab legs, along with asparagus, salad and baked potatoes. For dessert, I made a tres leches cake from the Cake Love book, and my daughter made the Italian Meringue Buttercream frosting. We mixed heath bar bits in the frosting, then sprinkled some on top. I also made a heath bar cheesecake and a plain cheesecake.

This morning for brunch, we had ham, fruit salad, hashbrown casserole and greenbean casserole.

I made our traditional easter Lamb cake, but it looked like it was going to fall over, I couldn't figure out why it looked so tipsy, but my daughter came up with the answer. The cake I made did not rise as much as the ones I have made in the past, making the back half of the lamb slightly smaller than the front. The difference was just enough to tip the cake, since the back did not have enough support. Did not take pictures, wish I had!

This week I am going to make the cookies I never finished, and hopefully have some time to start to practice my cookie bouquets.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Toy!

Haven't been doing much baking lately. Last month I went out and splurged-bought myself a Cricut Expression machine! I have been having so much fun with that machine! I bought the Sure Cuts A Lot software and some svg files from I have been practicing so much.

The goal in buying the machine was to be able to use it for cake decorating. You can use it to cut out pieces of fondant. Before I start using the fondant, I figured I'd practice with paper. The past few days, I have been making various little bags and boxes. My idea is to make a small box to use as a base for a cookie or lollipop.

Off to practice some more!

Friday, February 5, 2010

How Many Calories in a Frappe?

Last week, our McDonalds was sponsoring a grand re-opening. They had completely remodeled the restaurant so, it wasn't exactly new. Remodeling is nice. I rarely go to McDonalds, since they had many free and very discounted items, we had more food from there last week than I have had in the past year!

One of the items they had a special on was a "Frappe". The only time I have had these. was from a coffee shop at the Minnesota State Fair, I had no desire to try one again. But, since one they the "Frappe" was given away FREE, my husband and daughter decided to try them.

The marketing concept worked well, as my daughter had decided she really enjoyed the drink. For the past few days, since the McDonalds is right next to the high school, my husband and daughter stopped there on her way to school. She got her Frappe, he got his breakfast.

Yesterday, after I picked her up from school, we were talking about how the machine was broke in the morning. She was unable to get her usual frappe, so got a mocha instead. Her next comment was "Since I've been getting those in the morning, I'm not as hungry in the mornings."

DING, DING- Light bulb went on! How many CALORIES were actually in the small frappe? I was thinking there had to be alot, dear daughter thought they were very few. After all, she stated, it is made up from coffee, and coffee does not have any calories!

Needless to say, we had a great discussion about various coffee drinks and the amount of calories in them. Her logic was there did not appear to be any syrup added to the frappe, so it couldn't have many calories. I on the other had, am always skeptical of fast food items- I figured it had more than she imagined. So, the first thing she did when we arrived home was to get the calorie count. Wow, was she suprised.

Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces (small) – Mocha – 450 calories, 20 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 56 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 20% calcium and 2% iron. Caramel – 450 calories, 20 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 57 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 20% calcium and 2% iron.)

It turns out, the small Frappe she has been drinking, has 450 calories! To put that in perspective, we compared that with other groceries we bought yesterday. for the 450 calories, she can have 2 servings of the cranberry pomegranate instant oatmeal and a carton of yogurt which we had purchased. She would have to drink water, which she was drinking with her breakfast prior to the frappe.

Here is my point. The majority of us eat out a couple of times a week. I am included. We are also battling a huge obesity problem with our society, especially our children. I am not saying to deprive ourselves of the foods we like to eat and drink, I want to encourage us to be aware of the calories we consume in a day!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More Cookies

My daughter's Model Un group was running the concession stand st the high school girl's basketball game today, so she asked me to make more chocolate chip cookies. I made the recipe from the book "Ratio" again as we all liked that recipe last week. Made three batches of cookies, made about 8 dozen cookies, which doesn't sound like much, since I can only stand for 10-15 minutes at a time, it took a long time to make those.

One of the reasons I like this recipe, is the decreased sweetness. I also used kosher salt, which seems to add a salt flavor I haven't gotten with regular salt. The saltiness works well with the chocolate and the sweetness.

When making baked goods for others, it is important to keep in mind the group who will be consuming the product. I knew these were for teenagers, which I have read have increased taste buds for sweetness. Therefore, using less sugar would be better. As people age, the taste buds usually decrease, so if making products for elderly, the sweetness may need to be increased. At our church, when people are asked to bring cookies for occasions, it is the bars not the actual cookies that go first. After noticing that, I now bring bars which are easier to make, and are eaten first.

My next cookie is going to be a lemon poppyseed. Hopefully I will get to that tomorrow.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies

I started reading my new book "Ratio" decided for my first recipe, I was going to make the chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies has to be the cookie with the biggest variety of recipes out there. There are recipes for big and small cookies, with and without nuts, mini chocolate chips and chocolate chunk cookies. Some use butter, some a mixture of butter and shortening. There are also those which use just brown sugar, and those that use a mixture of brown and white. With this variety, no wonder there is such a variation in the cookies when baked.

Most people are familiar with the Toll House Cookie recipe. In my experience, this is the recipe used most by my friends.

The difference with Michael Rulman's recipe, is the fact that he uses weights for his flour and sugar, not just measurements in cups (which is also listed). I find this comforting. Ever since I started to take my baking seriously, and wanted to learn more about the science of baking, I have been weighing my ingredients.

My cookies came out excellent! They are not as sweet as most recipes, which ito my liking as more of the butter flavor comes through. They came out crispy around the edges, chewy in the center. In the book, he states to bake them for 10 minutes, mine required about 14 minutes.
Can't wait for my family to come home so they can try them!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Four Weeks

It has now been four weeks since my surgery, I am amazed at how well things are going! The hardest part of the recovery is being still while the tendon heals. I can semi-sit on my right side, can walk using crutches with a peg leg. Now that it has been four weeks, I can also start bending my left leg, making it much easier to sleep.

So, what have I been doing for the past four weeks? The first two weeks, I basically spent lying down and watching TV and sleeping. I had my first post op visit after two weeks, and have gradually been trying to do some things to build up my stamina. I'm not normally a big TV watcher, and found that after two weeks, a lot of what I like to watch is reruns.

Lsat week I mixed a batch of chocolate chip cookies from a recipe which I received at It makes a big batch of cookies, which can be frozen for later use. I use a small
disher (like an ice cream scoop) and placed the dough on the cookie sheet, then placed them in the freezer. My goal was then to place the pieces of frozen dough in the freezer, that way if you wanted just a few cookies, you did not have to make a big batch. Before I could do that, my daughter baked them up for the concession stand for a game at school. Guess I need to mix another batch!

I have decided I want to branch out my baking skills, so I bought the book
4.4 out of 5 stars (59) $17.82
49 used & new from $13.45

It describes the ways we can use ratios in our baking and cooking to come up with our own recipes. So far, the book has been very imformative. One of my weakest cooking points is using sauces, so I want to branch out into making those.

I enjoy sewing, and have decided to learn pattern making. For Christmas I made many pairs of flannel pants, and branched out at that time to changing the patterns for what I wanted. Great fun for me!

I found a quilt I had started working on about 10 years ago, and now I am going to work on finishing it. I have about 1/2 of the quilt blocks made. Hopefully I will get it finished soon.

Haven't been able to do much baking, due to inability to stand as long as I need to. Since I need to use crutches, it is difficult to get all the ingredients I need easily. I did make up batches of bread dough for the soft whote, caraway rye, and brioche dough from the artisan bread in five book. Baked a couple of loaves, tonight I am thinking of making beignets from the brioche dough.

So, for now I will continue to progress slowly as I should be, being gentle with myself and my new tendon.