Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Love Is

Love is:
*Staying up late to make cookies for her birthday, when you should be packing because you're moving.  In a week.
*Buying her jelly shoes, even though you hate them.
*Letting her crawl into your bed in the wee hours of the morning (because you like it, too).
*Looking like a fool running through the parking lot, because she asked you to.
*Finding the amusement in raspberries blown on your tummy - "it's the best, Mommy, because it jiggles".
*Making her laugh when you both feel like crying.
*Teaching her the hard things.
*Letting her like you a little less, because she'll respect you more.  (Keep teaching the hard things.)
*Sharing your favorite treats.  Your favorite.  Until they're gone.
*Being silly, just because.
*Remembering to say "I love you", and letting her know it will never change.
*What helps me get up in the morning, and keeps me going until that night (which is, technically, the next morning).
*Good.
*Kind.
*Complimentary.
*Trusting (I'm working on that one).
*Perfect, even in all the personal imperfections.

Thank you, to all of you who love me.  You make my life perfect [even amid all of my imperfections].  I love you.

Did I mention that food is one of my love languages?

These cookie sandwiches remind me of the double doozies I used to beg for at the mall - from Great American Cookies (although I though it was called the American Cookie Company).

Chloe's Birthday Sandwich Cookies


Make a batch of Walnut Cookies, but leave out all mix-ins.
After rolling into balls, dip one side into sprinkles of your choice, then flatten slightly with the bottom of a cup.
When you bake, make sure there is no browning around the edges; just cook until set.
Let cool completely.  Put some frosting in between, squeeze together, and serve!

Wilton Frosting

Mix until creamy:
  • 1 ¼ cups shortening
  • ¼ cup softened butter


Add:
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla


Gradually add:
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk (more or less as needed for desired consistency)




Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just When You Think You've Had Enough

I'm pretty excited for Easter.  It's a wonderful, purposeful celebration of love, sacrifice, and life.
And the food.  Let's not try to lie here, friends.  I am religious.  I am spiritual.  I do celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

But the food!

What is it about Easter that recommends peanut butter dipped in chocolate?  Marshmallow everything, and sweet breads?  I don't know, but I like it.

As a little girl, we would always go to the Italian Aunties' for Easter. They would give us enormous Easter baskets, filled to the brim with all the sorts of candy my mother would never let us take home.  So it became an Easter tradition: my sister and I would eat the entire contents of our lovingly gifted baskets in one weekend, usually in one day.  And before we drove home - three long, sickening hours - we would wait to see who got sick first.  Whoever did was the lucky winner.  "Lucky?"  Oh, yes.  Whomever didn't make it to the [one] bathroom in the house had to go to the outhouse by the garden to be sick.  I remember distinctly one year, sitting on the mottled carpet steps, my head leaning against the cool papered wall, willing myself to hold on just a little ... while ... longer.  I was sure my sister was almost finished in there - she had to be! - and I could avoid the trip to the outhouse.

Whoever thought it was a good idea to fill a basket with candy and give it to someone who would make themself sick, year after year??  We turned out to be intelligent women, after all.  [I put games and coloring books in my girls' baskets.]

At home, we had two traditional Easter treats.  Peanut Butter Easter Eggs (think Reese's, but better), and Easter Bread.  As an adult, I've stuck to my childhood promise that I would make them more than once a year. Tomorrow morning, we're choosing our colors for the dyed eggs and will take Little Chick reading breaks while we wait for the colors to ripen.  I'll post pictures as we come along...

Easter Bread

Dye about 6 raw eggs in various bright colors.  Set aside.*

In mixer bowl with bread hook place:
  •  ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Add warmed:
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Add and mix for 2 minutes:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast

Add and combine:
  • 2 eggs

Add and mix/knead for 10 minutes:
  • 2 cups flour

Just before finished, add a handful each of:
  • Walnuts
  • Golden raisins

Cover and rise for 1 hour.

Divide in half and roll into two 24” ropes.  Twist together and form a ring.  *Place raw dyed eggs to create “nests” where the two ropes cross.

Cover and rise 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 3500.

Bake for 30 minutes, placing foil on top to avoid over-browning.
When partially cooled, drizzle generously with vanilla glaze (recipe follows pictures).
Decorate with colored sprinkles. 

Resist the urge to add too many nuts and raisins, which you should
knead in by hand.  (Too many will make your ropes rough and fragile.)
Dough will not be sticky, but lovely and smooth like this.

Finished with the first rise.

Punch down - knead 2-3 times.  Divide dough in two.

Make two 24" ropes.  Start with both hands flat in the middle and
roll to the outside edges until desired length is reached.

Cross one over the top.

Cross the new top piece over the bottom.
Continue to the end of your ropes.

Circle the braided ropes around and tuck in your ends.
Place on a baking sheet.

Insert colored eggs into the crosses to make "nests".  (Number
of eggs can vary - depends on how many twists are in your bread.)

Notice the difference: pre-rise #2...

...post rise #2.

Alternately, you can make 4-6 individual
breads with a single egg in the middle.
Vanilla Glaze
Melt:
  • 1 teaspoon butter

Add and mix until smooth:
  • +/- 3 tablespoons milk (to desired consistency, and I usually use heavy cream to start, and use milk  to thin)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
Great plain, or with butter, or extra glaze, or both....

Monday, April 2, 2012

That's Right, and I'd Do It Again!

You know, those things you do, that you never want to admit to, well, anyone?

I'm coming clean.  Last week, in preparation for an apartment showing, I called my babysitter to come over while I was home so I could clean my room.  And my closet.  For shame.

The good news?  They rented the apartment and we're moving.  The better news?  My room sparkles; I don't feel guilty when I go to bed that my room is a disaster.  It was the best $20 I've spent in a long time.

So go ahead, do something today that you normally wouldn't.  Because - who knows? - maybe it'll turn out to be the best thing you've done for yourself in a while.  Try this, for starters (the final birthday cake recipe!):


Hershey Drug Store Chocolate Cake
Preheat oven to 350o
Combine:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups flour 
  • ¾ cup cocoa 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda 
  • The cake has a beautiful texture.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Add and mix 2 minutes:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Add and mix:
  • 1 cup boiling water
Pour into 2 greased and floured cake pans.  Bake 30-35 minutes; cool 10 minutes in pans.  Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack before frosting.


Peanut Butter Frosting
Melt:
  • ½ cup butter
Add:
  • ½ - ¾ pound powdered sugar  
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Add
  • ½ cup milk, +/- (smooth, easy stir consistency)
Add
  • 12-16 ounces peanut butter 
  • Maybe more milk
Make just before frosting cake.  
*I initially neglected to say that this cake is best served chilled, on the second or even third day.  
I usually take the frosting down
the sides for complete coverage.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pardon the interruption

So I know I still have one cake recipe left.  I know.  I'm making it right now.  No, not for me.  Of course, not for me.  Well, maybe some of it is for me.

Anyway, this is not about that.  This is about the pizza dough recipe that a few of you have requested in the past few days.  And seeing as I just pulled it out of the oven nice and crispy with pesto, tomatoes, pepperoni, and peppers, I figured I could take the time to share.  (Not actually share, mind you - get your paws off my pizza! - but the how to.)  I'm teaching you how to fish here, people.

This dough is so versatile - thick pizza, thin pizza, breadsticks, dessert.  My favorite part is that it will last two days in the fridge.  Don't have time to make it during the day?  Fine.  Take a few minutes before you go to bed, then pop it in the frigo.  Do your own thing and have a ball.  Let me know what you come up with!


Pizza Dough


Combine:

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
When frothy, add and knead:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I like the flavor extra virgin olive oil lends, but you can use vegetable, canola, etc.)
When dough is springy to the touch, cover lightly and let rise one hour.  
Punch down.  Use immediately, or place in fridge up to 2 days.


For pizza, generously oil (again, I prefer olive oil) a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt.  Spread out pizza dough gently, add toppings, and bake at 400* for about 15 minutes (for thin crust, longer for thicker crust pizzas).  

Alternately, you can spread the dough with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar and whip up some [cream cheese] frosting to dip them in.  Mmmm.  

Saturday, March 31, 2012

I'm FINE....

...you know: Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.  Fine.  

Tonight is the first night that my nightmare of what I thought would happen in a shared room for my girls is a reality.  It's 8:37pm (my girls are usually in bed by 7:15pm), and Chloe has already come in and out 5 times: twice to pee, once to poop, once because she forgot her post-toothbrushing drink, and once because Ellie was trying to get into her bed.  
"And I don't want her to."

Sigh.  

But all in all, it was a productive day.  I finished a white bedskirt for Chloe's bed, so now it actually matches.  
[If that bedroom door opens one. more. time!!!!  I'm fine.  FINE.]

I watched most of conference (there were a few crayons-over-the-balcony incidents, and some food demands, and well, a little sleep), and loved Elder Baxter's talk.  

And although I didn't "work out", I did push a heavy double stroller filled with children in about 35mph winds.   I am tough.  As Chloe would say, "Did you know?  I'm amazing.  
I'm Italian and I can do a somersault!"

So here's another one of those amazing Italian things.

Italian Cream Cake
Preheat oven to 3500.
Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans.


Beat until they form peaks and then set aside:
  • 5 egg whites
In a separate bowl, cream together until smooth and light:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
Add and beat until fluffy:
  • 2 cups sugar
Beat in:
  • 5 egg yolks
Alternately, mixing well after each addition, add:
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk*
Stir in:
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites with a spatula.  
Spoon into prepared pans.
Bake for 25-40 minutes, until golden and toothpick inserted comes out with small crumbs.

Cool in pans for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.


*In lieu of buttermilk, you can add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup regular milk.  Do this step first, then set aside until needed (giving the milk time to curdle=buttermilk).

Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat until smooth:
  • 12 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup softened butter

Add and mix until smooth:
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
Frost cake, then sprinkle chopped pecans all over.  
Refrigerate, then serve.
It takes a lot of pecans to cover  -
pricey, but completely worth it!



Thursday, March 22, 2012

The One You've Been Waiting For

Day 4.5
[Day 5 really, but I didn't work out yesterday, so it didn't really count.  But life goes on, so....4.5?]

The girls have been asking to share a room for a while now.  Since I'm selfish, and I value my sanity, I've said 'no'.  Until two days ago.  I finally succumbed and did this:
Obviously, a white bed skirt is on top of my project list.                   Getting there.

Night one went OK - Chloe had a fever and came out a few times, but then all was well.  Even day one afternoon naps were fine.  Night two?  Great.  This afternoon??  NOT.  The girls have been not sleeping for almost two hours now, and are [increasingly] exhausted.  Hoping they'll finally sleep before they need to get up for dinner and bedtime without being grumpy for the rest of the day.  Sounds pretty good in there right now. *3:26pm update: all is quiet.  Ahhh.....

So.  Order of the day.  Cake #2.  This was by far the most popular cake at the party.  Enjoy.


Raspberry Cheesecake
Adapted from Bon App├ętit

Preheat oven to 325*
Butter a 9" springform pan.
Double-wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil.

Crush:
  • 9 ounces oreo cookies, frosting included
Add and mix:
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and halfway up sides of prepared springform pan.
Bake 8 minutes; cool on rack.

Press though a fine strainer into small bowl and set aside:
  • 12 ounces frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed with juices reserved*
*AWESOME EASY TIP: use an old pair of clean pantyhose - cut off about 12" from the toe, use a spoon to add your raspberries, and squeeze out.  

In mixer, beat until smooth:
  • 32 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
Add and mix:
  • 2 tablespoons flour
Beat in, one at a time:
  • 4 large eggs
Beat in:
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Stir in:
  • prepared raspberry puree (about 3/4 cup)
Place springform pan in a deep cookie sheet/roasting pan.  Add about 1" hot water.  Pour batter into prepared crust.  Bake 80-90 minutes, until filling is set in the center and barely browning around the edges.  
Use knife to go between pan and cake (as the cake cools, this will keep the top from splitting), then refrigerate uncovered until cold, at least 4 hours.  

I topped this with a raspberry puree (and fresh raspberries):
In a saucepan over medium heat, stir:
  • 1 pint raspberries (I used frozen, thawed)
  • sugar to taste (about 1/4 cup)
  • lemon juice to taste (I used none)
Bring to a boil and cook until slightly thickened, but still fairly liquid.  Strain (see awesome tip above, but wear heat resistant gloves or wait until it's cooled a bit).  Keeps in fridge for about a week.  But your cheesecake will probably only last a day, so don't worry about it.





Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sting of the Bee

For the next for days, I'll be posting all of the recipes from my birthday party.

[It's penance.]

To remind me that eating four cakes in a week probably isn't a good idea.  

I do, however, still stand firm that is was totally worth it.  

Only 30 pounds to go!  [Today is day four, and this cake is titled remarkably like my legs feel.]

Sting of the Bee is directly behind
the raspberry cheesecake.

Sting of the Bee (Beinenstich) Cake
Adapted from The Lion House Bakery

TOPPING
In a medium saucepan, melt until almost boiling:
-1/2 cup butter

Add, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil:
-1/2 cup sugar

Slowly add and stir carefully, returning to a boil:
-2 tablespoons milk

Add and bring to a boil
-1 cup macadamia nuts (whole, dry roasted is my preference)

Remove from heat and stir in
-2 teaspoons vanilla

Allow to cool to room temperature, or in refrigerator.  It should be thick and creamy.  It should be the same temperature as the cake batter for best results.

CAKE
Preheat oven to 375*.  Prepare a 10-inch springform pan: place parchment or waxed paper on bottom and attach the side, then coat the sides with nonstick spray and dust lightly with flour.

Cream until fluffy
-1 cup softened butter
-2/3 cup sugar

Add and mix well
-2 eggs

Mix in
-3 cups sifted flour
-1 tablespoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon salt

Slowly add:
-1/2 cup milk

Beat until dough is thick and doesn't stick when touched.
Press dough evenly in springform pan.  Sprinkle lightly with flour and tap dough down with the bottom of a cup.  Dough should feel firm and press against the sides of the pan.  
Pour topping on dough and spread evenly.  
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake additional 10-15 minutes until cake looks firm and golden brown.  
Allow to cool.  Slice horizontally.  Fill with Butter Cream Filling and raspberry preserves.

BUTTER CREAM FILLING
In mixer, beat until fluffy
-1 cup softened butter
-2 cups powdered sugar
-2 eggs yolks
-2 teaspoons vanilla

Spread on bottom half of split cake.  Spread about 1/2 cup raspberry preserves on top of butter cream and replace cake top.