Archive for November, 2008

TRY IT

November 20, 2008

David and I have been having stressful, rotten times at work lately. Yesterday his bad day outweighed mine, and so I took care of stuff and let him chill. I was productive and washed a ton of dirty dishes that had taken over our kitchen, and then I baked, which was so relaxing to me, even though it took a while. I’ll post more details if I remember to take pictures of the final product, but TRY THIS.

I wanted to try out this Vodka Pie Crust from Cooks Illustrated, but I didn’t want to make a whole pie. So I combined the crust with the recipe for the apple pocket pies. Pie crust seems kind of advanced and scary to me, but trust me, this was SO EASY. I had heard this crust could be kind of sticky, so I was worried when mine was on the dry and crumbly side. And when I rolled it out, I saw some huge chunks of butter that I didn’t see on Smitten’s blog entry, because I have a crappy pastry cutter. But I went with it, and hoped for the best. O.M.G. AWESOME! I don’t know if I can choose a favorite between this crust or the pastry from the original pocket-pie recipe, but I think this one was definitely flakier. It totally melts in your mouth. O.M.G.

I am thinking about making an apple pie to take to Thanksgiving, but I’ve been hesitant because my mom makes awesome pie crust (she totally goes for it and uses lard) and I sometimes wonder why I should try to perfect the already-perfected. So I tried this crust just to see which crust I would use if I made a whole pie. I was hoping for a clear winner, but I don’t know!!

I think I would like this vodka crust better for a whole pie, but the other crust is good for the mini pies? I don’t know! Maybe I’ll just have to make both again and have a side-by-side taste test. Any testing volunteers?

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SKI

November 14, 2008

I did it! I went at lunch today and got fitted for my skis. A season long rental. I got to take the poles with me, and I can go pick up the skis next week. YAY! I will be ready for that first snow.

Paying for it hurt a little bit. $168 after tax. And now I’m committed to going, which means buying lift tickets. I know I could use that money for other things, but I wanted this so badly! I haven’t skied for the past two years, and I don’t want to let about 14 years of practice go down the tubes. I have to go about 5-7 times to make this rental worth it, but I plan to go much more than that. There’s a two-three day ski trip with some friends in January. There’s good deals on night skiing in December. After December, I have no shows for the rest of winter, so I hope to hit the slopes at least three times a month.

That $168 would have made a tiny dent in my credit card debt. Now it is going to give me several months of winter enjoyment.

Plus, if my dad wants to take me back to Colorado, I’ll be ready. 

A few years ago my family went to Copper Mountain. It was the only time I’ve skied in Colorado, and I’ve been dying to go back. Upper WI and upper MI have some good, big hills. But there is just no comparison to the real mountains. Now excuse me while I spend the remainder of my afternoon drooling over fabulous Colorado ski resorts. Sigh, why do I like rich people hobbies?

It’s Me Again

November 12, 2008

Am I too talkative lately? It’s probably because work is insane right now and I’m training on new stuff, and in my few spare moments, I just bubble over with thoughts.

Right now, it’s about how my dad is awesome.

When I had to buy a “new” car last year, he helped me out with a loan. My bank’s loan wouldn’t cover the cost of the car, and combined with my own money, I was still down about $1,000. So he covered the rest of it. I’ve been SLOWLY paying him back via “his bank” of no interest. $50 a month, which was really nice and easy for me to handle. Things were fine until my major dental bills of late. Suddenly I realized I hadn’t paid him in three months and was quite broke in all my accounts. He had talked about helping me with the bills for my root canal and crown, and so finally I confessed that I was struggling and didn’t know what to do.

He said don’t worry about the car. We “argued” about it for a few minutes, but he wasn’t having any of my protests. He told me to forget about the money I owed him and to use that to pay off my dental bills. Amazing.

Today I got an e-mail from him, asking about plans around my birthday. Nothing has really been talked about yet, and I told him so. He told me to keep my birthday afternoon open. He says that if the stock market goes up, he will have some extra money and wants to take me shopping. WHHEEEEEE!

That would be so much fun! I could really use a couple high quality pieces, like a good sweater and a great going-out shirt. And I have no work pants that fit me well right now.

And if that’s not motivation to drop another size by my birthday, then I don’t know what is. Guess who’s going to be going to the gym ever day at lunch from now on!!

Lighter

November 12, 2008

My dad sent me this. I imagine this is how he feels sometimes in Milwaukee, with our lack of authentic Persian restaurants. Heck, even I feel this way. I would do much for a kebab.

Prop 8

November 12, 2008

Of course I am outraged at this. That comes as no surprise. But it seems that everyone I know is outraged by its passing, and if not outraged, than at least indifferent. I can’t say that I know anyone who would have voted to pass Prop 8. I don’t even think my Catholic mother would have. And even if I have met the occasional person who is still so backwards in their thinking or so “religious” that they would vote YES, how on earth does it make up over 50% of the voters in California? HOW?! This just doesn’t compute to me.

If you would have voted “YES,” on constitutionally banning gay marriage, please let me know why. You can even e-mail me at tashamort (at) hotmail.com. If you can read or watch the following things and still argue against it, then I am even more curious.

A great, PRO gay marriage blog post. These are some amazing arguments that I had never even considered.

Keith Olbermann’s special comment. His passion is on parallel with what I feel. How can you deny a couple the same rights you enjoy? It’s so unfair that it hurts.

Don’t tell me it leads to worse things. No one in Massachusetts is married to their dog.

Don’t tell me marriage is about God. I know people who married without God. Specifically, my future sister-in-law. They did not marry in a church. They did not use a religious figure as their officiant. In fact, the woman who married them was a good friend who happens to be a lesbian! They did not have any bible readings (I don’t think…). They had readings from books and poems that expressed their love in the truest way. One of their readings was even from the MA Ruling about gay marriage!

And they are married. They are not civil unionized. MARRIED. Should they not be married because they didn’t marry under God? That is not the God that I believe in. Will I have God in my marriage and ceremony? Yes I will, but that will not make me any MORE married than them. And you know what? The fact that they married the way they did, does not in ANY way infringe upon my marriage.

No one wants to force churches to perform gay marriage ceremonies. That’s not the issue. So the fact that religion has entrenched itself in this part of the government is kind of ridiculous. How does the fact that a same sex couple would be married diminish your marriage?! Does it bother you so much that there are states that allow this? Perhaps you should move to Iran, where they don’t have any gay people!

It doesn’t surprise me that there are people out there who harbor these views, generally based on their religion. People who believe homosexuality is wrong, immoral, an abomination. There will always be extreme people in this world. What is absolutely shocking to me is that more than 50% of California voters harbor this particular view.

Why?

Hello Winter

November 11, 2008

Even though temperatures were in the 70s less than a week ago, I think I am ready for winter. Winter was always my favorite season. Now that I’m an adult (Ha, kind of…) it has lost a bit of its luster. But only a tiny bit! Snow is not as magical because I have to shovel it and drive in it, but it’s still pretty fantastic. Lets just say that I’m not dreading the first white ground covering.

Good bye Halloween, perhaps my second most favorite holiday.
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I don’t remember if I bragged about these yet, but these are Vampire Cupcakes. Perfect for Halloween. Or, sigh, your crazy “Twilight” movie watching parties.
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I’m not going to talk about my favorite holiday yet, because I don’t do that stuff until the day after Thanksgiving. But this year, I’m actually kind of starting early because I am going to bake tons of cookies for gifts. And eating. And that stuff has to be done in advance, especially since I will be in a show this December!

My other favorite holiday is, of course, my birthday. Which is EXACTLY ONE MONTH FROM TODAY!!!!! Wow. Kind of scary. The number is… well, young, I know. But I will officially be in my mid-twenties. And that freaks the crap out of me! Not because I’m “old” but because I feel like I should be more grown up by this age, and be more accomplished, and blah blah blah.

I’m less concerned now with presents than I was a month ago, because now my number one wish is to go on a ski trip with some friends to Indianhead Mountainin mid January. AND I am planning on getting my season rental this week! It is really more than I should spend, but I’m giving up an awesome and expensive birthday dinner for it. Maybe we’ll go out for apps and drinks at Cubanitas instead…

I just thought I’d post this on here. My wishlist is almost exclusively baking stuff, which is kind of funny. But I neeeeeeeed it!
My Amazon.com Wish List

So YES, bring it on winter!!

Sunday Food Wrap

November 9, 2008

I got a little out of hand with my baking, I know. Anyway, I’m back on the strict Phase One of the South Beach Diet, again. I know I’ll stick to it because in just a couple weeks I’ll have plenty of indulgences. Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas are just around the corner!

David and I have started a little Sunday tradition. We try a new food or a new preparation and watch Iron Chef America and The Chef Jeff Project on the Food Network. It’s so much fun to cuddle up on the couch while eating and watching yummy food. It’s the best way to end a weekend.

A couple weeks ago I experimented with a soup. Soup is not something we make from scratch very often. Like, ever. We made this Zucchini and Yellow Squash Soup with Parmesan. It’s South Beach friendly, and it was delicious. It made a huge amount and we had it for lunch and dinner many times afterwards.

On the theme of soup, I made this Roasted Red Pepper and Red Lentil Souplast week. Also South Beach friendly, this had an amazing Southwestern and Mediterranean flavor. I will most certainly be making this one again. I made some changes from this recipe. I don’t have coriander, and didn’t want to spend $5 on it, so I used some black pepper and curry powder instead. Instead of onion, I used shallot. Instead of garnishing with cilantro, I used some Italian flat-leaf parsley and powdered Parmesan.
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Today we went to a birthday/bon voyage party for our friend Marion who is leaving on a trip to France in a few days. (Jealous!!) I was asked to bring fruit. I went to Metro Market thinking I’d buy some berries and grapes and put together a fruit tray. Well, they didn’t have ANY berries! A fruit tray of apples and bananas didn’t seem that interesting. They had a big variety of tropical fruit, however, and much of it was on sale! So I decided a tropical fruit salad would be delicious.

And it was. I mixed it up with a Vanilla Dressingcourtesy of Alton Brown (instead of lemon juice, I used lime, and I didn’t use the mayo). I had the following: pineapple, papaya, kiwi, persimmon, Asian pear, mango, and pomegranate seeds. OMG YUM! And pretty…
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Tonight was back to the South Beach approved food. David butterflied some chicken breasts and gave them a nice sear, and finished them in the oven. With a few minutes left to go, he smothered covered them in some dried herbs and cheese. YUM!
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We apparently had a white theme going on, as we roasted cauliflower (our new ingredient for the night) for a side dish. I tossed it with a little olive oil, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and powdered Parmesan. I roasted at 400 degrees for about a half hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, or until golden brown and delicious.
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I never thought I’d look forward to a Sunday night!

For My Reference

November 7, 2008

And maybe yours? What can I say, I am dying to ski and had some downtime at work. I think I’m going to get a season long rental at Les Moise for $150. If anyone knows of a better deal than that, let me know! If anyone has skiing recommendations, also let me know! This list is not necessarily places I’ve been or liked. (For example, I personally would not go back to Alpine Valley. Especially at this price.)

 

CRYSTAL RIDGE  7900 W Crystal Ridge Drive, Franklin, WI  (20 minutes)  http://www.crystalridgeskiarea.com/

                $25 Saturday, Sunday 10am-4:30pm, 3:30pm-10pm
                $20 Saturday, Sunday 5pm-10pm
                $18 Weekdays 5pm-10pm
                Ski Rental: $18

SUNBURST   8355 Prospect Drive, Kewaskum, WI  (45 minutes)
http://www.skisunburst.com/sunburst/

                $28 Monday-Thursday 4pm-10pm
                $28 Fridays 10am-10pm
                $38 Saturday, Sunday 10am-10pm

ALPINE VALLEY   W2501 County Road D, Elkhorn, WI (45 minutes)
http://www.alpinevalleyresort.com/index2.php

$31 Weekday 10am-5:30pm or 3pm-10pm ($28 beginner)
$45 Weekday full day ($39 beginner)
$41 Weekend 9am-5:30pm or 3pm-11pm ($37 beginner)
$50 Weekend full day ($48 beginner)
Ski Rental: $24

WILMOT MOUNTAIN   Wilmot, WI  (approx 1 hour)
http://wilmotmountain.net/

$30 Weekdays 10am-4:30pm
$40 Weekends 9:30-4:30
$30 Evenings 4:30pm-11pm
Ski Rental: $23-$25

CASCADE MOUNTAIN   Cascade, WI  (approx 1.5 hours)
http://www.cascademountain.com/

$44 8 hour ticket
$49 All day opening-closing
$25 Last 4 hours of the night
Beginner package: $79 (includes 8 hour ticket, rental, and lesson)
Ski Rental: $22(night)-$32(8 hours)


 

DEVILS HEAD RESORT  6330 Bluff Road, Merrimac, WI  (2 hours)
http://www.devilsheadresort.com/?gclid=CNC_i7S145YCFQikHgodui_WNQ

$40 Weekday
$45 Weekend
$14 Thursday night (6pm-10pm)
Ski Rental: $25

HIGHLANDS OF OLYMPIA  Oconomowoc, WI
http://www.gottagoitsnows.com/skiareas/1269.html
                ?

 

TYROL BASIN  3487 Bohn Road, Mt. Horeb, WI  (approx 2 hours)
http://tyrolbasin.com/

$35 Four hours
$42 All day
$27 Night (starts at 4pm)
Ski Rental: $26
Friday night special (Jan2-Mar6) $12 lift ticket 7:30-11pm

GRANITE PEAK  3605 N Mountain Rd, Wausau, WI  (3 hours)
http://www.skigranitepeak.com/

$50 Open-4pm (internet prices)
$50 Open-close
$96 Two days
$28 Night Skiing (4-9)
Ski Rental $32-$38

WHITECAP MOUNTAIN 9106 W County Road E, Upson, WI (6 hours)
http://skiwhitecap.com/

$45 Full day
$78 Two days

 

Frosting

November 6, 2008

There is no comparison to homemade frosting. I have bought, used, and eaten frosting in a can, but it’s not the same. I wouldn’t attempt frosting without an electric mixer, but a handheld mixer should work just as well as a stand mixer. Your arm might get tired, though. Frosting is also great because it is EASY. SOOO EASY! You can start with a recipe, but the amounts are all a little variable. It’s easy to add flavors or other ingredients, and still have a stable frosting. So, by “popular” demand (and my own memory)…

Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
(Please note that when making this, we did not actually measure anything. We kept drizzling in Nutella until it tasted “Nutella-y” enough. It turned into frosting with a silky, slightly gooey, creamy, “soft peak” texture.
Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese (cold/cool)
4 TBSP (half stick) of butter (room temperature)
2-3 cups powdered sugar (sifted before adding would be nice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup Nutella
1-2 TBSP milk

Directions:
Blend together cream cheese and butter on medium speed until creamy, scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add in powdered sugar. <You could stop here for a plain old cream cheese frosting.> Check texture after two cups. If frosting seems spreadable, gradually add in Nutella. Beat for about a minute to fluff it up. After Nutella is added you may need to add more powdered sugar and/or a little milk to reach a thick, creamy, frosting consistency. I added almost another cup of powdered sugar after the Nutella.

VARIATIONS:
I didn’t do any of these, but it could be yummy!
-Before adding the powdered sugar, add about a half cup of unsweetened cocoa powder for a really chocolatey flavor.
-Instead of milk, add a couple tablespoons of Kahlua or other coffee liquor.
-Add finely chopped hazelnuts at the very end.
-Do they make hazelnut extract? If so, use that instead of vanilla. YUM.

I’ll be honest. I would make this frosting even if I had nothing to frost. One doesn’t need an excuse to consume anything when Nutella goodness is involved.

Here’s another Nutella frostingrecipe that I found online.

Here’s my favorite(so far) easy buttercream frosting. You can add different flavors or some cocoa powder and melted chocolate. You can usually fix a runny frosting by adding more powdered sugar, and fix a too-thick one with a little milk.

Cupcake Madness

November 5, 2008

So, now that politics is mostly done punching us all in the face like an attention-starved child, I will recap a cupcake baking spree I went on with some friends.

Cristina’s friend Jenny was getting married on October 31st. She must be a very laid back bride, because she just wanted some friends to make some cupcakes instead of having a wedding cake. Due to my baking obsession and access to an additional stand mixer, I got invited to help out. We were very disorganized, deciding on what cupcakes to bake on the night we were baking them, purchasing ingredients, not starting baking until after 7!! Sandy volunteered her kitchen for us all, and everything turned out great.

We decided on doing basic vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, and making a variety of frostings. We used this cupcake recipe, minus the apple pie filling, and this chocolate cupcake recipe, minus the filling. We also made this chocolate orange vegan recipe.

We split into two “teams” of two and went to work on the vanilla and chocolate. I had made the vanilla before, so I wanted to try the chocolate. I made a couple mistakes by not reading the recipe thoroughly enough, but everything turned out just fine!

The batter was kind of runny, which worried me a little, but wasn’t a problem. Also, this batter was not that tasty before being cooked. But the cupcakes tasted delicious!

The other team made some mistakes in mixing up the vanilla batter too, but nothing unfixable. In fact, it turned out great! And the batter was yummy enough that we all had to try it.
    

After making a huge mess in Sandy’s kitchen, all the cupcakes were in the oven or cooling on the counter top. We sampled one of each, you know, for quality control. I call this piece Relaxed, happy bride, with mess:

Then it was on to frosting. We decided on five flavors:
-Basic Cream Cheese
-Nutella Cream Cheese
-Peanut Butter
-Butterscotch
-Vegan “Buttercream”

We started with the basic cream cheese, from a recipe that Sandy found. It made a HUGE amount, so we split it in half and started scooping in Nutella to the other half. Well, and into our mouths.

Though there’s not much that can make Nutella much better than eating it straight out of the jar, this made a frosting worth offering to the gods.

And licking off every square centimeter of beater and bowl.

Then we got to my favorite. I don’t actually know how a frosting surpassed the Nutella frosting, but my peanut butter frosting did it. I was planning on using this recipe for the frosting, but we didn’t have any cream cheese left. So here’s about what I did:

Peanut Butter Buttercream:
–1 stick of butter (8 TBSP)
–1/4 cup-1/2 cup of peanut butter (I used a well mixed natural creamy peanut butter. I probably used just over 1/3 cup. You don’t want the texture to be sticky or runny, but you want a lot of peanut butter flavor)
–2 cups of powdered sugar (can add more if the frosting is too runny)
–1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
–1/8 teaspoon fine salt
–I added about 1 TBSP of heavy whipping cream while beating.

Directions:
Beat butter in mixer until smooth. Add peanut butter. Slowly add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until smooth and fluffy, adjusting amounts if necessary.

SO easy, and so delicious!! I licked the bowl and beater, and kept going back to the pile of fluffy frosting for more. I gave myself such a stomach ache, but it was so tasty!

The colors are kind of off in my picture, but the finished chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. And Cristina’s sprinkles.

The fourth frosting was a fuchsia butterscotch buttercream. Why pink? Why not! I made this using a regular vanilla buttercream frosting, but swapped out the vanilla extract with a concentrated butterscotch flavoring.

The vegan frosting DID NOT turn out. It just was a weird lumpy mess. Who wants to eat a frosting made with margarine anyway? Jenny’s vegan guest couldn’t make it anyway, so we frosted the vegan cupcakes with the basic cream cheese frosting. The vanilla cupcakes were frosted with the butterscotch or Nutella, and the chocolate cupcakes got Nutella or peanut butter.

Cupcakes were still being decorated when I finally had to leave after 10:30. I was exhausted but had a total sugar high. The cupcakes were nothing fancy, but I bet they tasted delicious and I hear the guests liked them. And… it was FUN!!