Thursday, February 28, 2008

Birthday Cake

Yesterday was my birthday, and since it's a sin to do anything other than shop for oneself on ones birthday, there was no way I was baking my own birthday cake. My dad took it upon himself to lovingly buy my a ridiculously large sheet cake from Costco that had huge icing balloons and confetti on it. Although I would never buy a cake for someone, simply because I love to bake, I greatly appreciated the gesture, and found myself enjoying the cake simply because it was purchased with love, that same kind of love that I put into things when I bake them. It was delicious, the icing was to sweet, the mouse filling was overly rich and the chocolate cake was delightfully spongy - my teeth still happily ache from the two pieces yesterday and the one so far from today. I had planned to bake some Boston Cream Pie cupcakes today, but I certainly can't justify 24 cupcakes sitting on the counter when I have a massive hunk o cake in the fridge. Course it shouldn't take too long to polish off that cake, so expect a cupcake post soon! 

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Quiche to die for … if I don't die baking it!

There comes a point in every bakers life where you begin to think "Hey, I know what I'm doing here!" and you think you can bake anything and everything. 
I had recently begun to think I had achieved a certain level of talent, and could probably tackle pretty much anything. I now know I was patting myself on my back a bit too firmly (and am grudgingly admitting it)!
I've been wanting to take my moms great pie crust recipe and making some alterations to see what would happen. So last night I decided that I would make the full recipe and divide it in half. I did so, and put one half into the fridge to use this morning on a quiche I had been wanting to make. The other half got halved again, and then halved yet again.  
I attempted adding in some honey to one of the small batches, and some maple syrup into another. The honey didn't seem to reveal itself in a wonderful burst of flavor as I hoped it would, and actually you couldn't even tell it was in there. The maple syrup did make a subtle, lovely impact, but in order to have been a real player in the taste, I would have needed to add a good deal more. 

The other portion I rolled out and made into little tiny pies, half filled with a mixture of butter, brown sugar and pecans, and the other encasing yummy sweet cream cheese. Those were delicious and well worth the effort it takes to make pie crust. 
This morning I was excited about making the quiche, as I had never done so before. I had decided on a spinach, bacon and swiss cheese recipe from Paula Dean on the Foodnetwork. She's the master is unhealthy yumminess, so I knew a quiche from her would be divine. I grabbed my dough out of the fridge and set to rolling it out on the counter. It wasn't cooperating as I would have liked, but I forged on. I rolled and rolled and finally got it to the size I needed to cover my tart pan. 
Here's where things went to pieces… literally!! The dough crumbled as I attempted to lift it onto the pan. So, I put the pieces back into their previous place, and tried to roll them back together again. I succeeded, sort of, and then tried to slide it
onto the pan again. About a quarter of it made it, and the rest fell apart. As the stomping up and down and shouting at the top of my lungs didn't seem to be helping, I finally decided just to piece the darn thing together in the pan and use the warmth of my fingers to mush it all back together again. 
It was hideous and it certainly made me thank god that no one was going to see what the crust looked like!
Next came a layer of spinach, crumbled cooked bacon, and swiss cheese. I'm a huge fan of onions, so I decided to add them into the equation. I sauted them a little bit and then added them into the cream and egg mixture that goes on top. I ended up having a lot of the cream/egg mixture left over, which was a shame. Sorry to the chicken who laid those eggs that went down the drain today, and to the lovely cow who made the cream that was wasted as well! It just wouldn't fit in there! 
The recipe called for a 35-45 minute bake time. I pulled it out at 35 because it was starting to brown on top and I didn't want it to burn after all my hard work. 
As I waited for my family to return home to eat it with me, I figured I would pop the quiche out of the tart pan by easily lifting the center of the pan out, just like the tart pan was designed for. So I grabbed a pot holder, placed my hand on the bottom of the pan and the outside rim popped off nicely. Then it slide down my arm and started burning my skin. As I howled in agony I slid the quiche onto the awaiting plate and tossed the scalding rim into the sink. 
20 minutes later I cut into the quiche, slid the first piece out and was greeted with a running mess. It was as if I had made soup and warmed it inside a pie crust shell. Back to stomping up and down and shouting. Back into the oven it went, on the plate and with a piece missing, for 10 more minutes. 
Thank goodness it tasted good!! I swear by the time I pulled it out of the oven I didn't care anymore if it was done, I just wanted to eat it! Luckily the final 10 minutes helped it to set up perfectly. It was delicious, and I will make it again. 
Hopefully you'll have better first time success than I did! Here's the recipe from Paul Dean with my additions:

6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Salt + Pepper 
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 cups shredded swiss cheese
1/2 large onion, sauted in 1 tbs butter 
Your favorite pie crust recipe 
  • Preheat oven 375ยบ
  • Line a 9 inch tart pan or pie dish with whatever pie crust recipe you would like to use.
  • Put down layer of chopped spinach
  • Follow with layer of crumbled bacon
  • Next put down layer of swiss cheese
  • Combine cream, eggs and S+P in blender and mix together
  • Pour mixture into pan and then put onions in (I put the onions into the mixture and next time I wouldn't because they sink and then plop in in lumps)
  • Bake 35-45 minutes (I recommend 45 :) 

Up next… Boston Cream Pie cupcakes! My sweet tooth is aching already! 

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bridget Brilliance

So the good news is, I've found my soul mate. 
The bad news is, it happens to be Bridget Jones. 
Seeing as that I am straight and do not live inside a book, it appears that my true search continues. However, it's always nice to know that someone else's mind happens to be just as crazy as mine!
I have of course seen the Bridget Jones movies, and loved them both, but I had never actually read the books. In one of my weekly trips to the bookstore I happened upon Helen Fielding's work and figured it was time to add it to my bulging bookshelves. My work in progress could find itself in the same genre as this gem, so not only is it a great read, but it's good to know what else is out there.
This book is HYSTERICAL! Honestly, I laid in my bed last night laughing out loud and didn't put it down until 2 a.m. when I finally couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. The novel certainly needs no explanation from me, we all know what it's about. However, if your only experience with Bridg is the movies, then I implore you to read the books. The following excerpt from the first book is quite possibly the funniest thing I have ever read. It's a crime the it wasn't used in the movie! It had me laughing for at least two minutes straight. Which by the way, is a great abdominal workout (v.g.).

I made a complete arse of myself today, though. I got in the lift to go out for a sandwich and found Daniel in there with Simon from Marketing, talking about footballers being arrested for throwing matches. "Have you heard about this, Bridget?" said Daniel.
"Oh yes," I lied, groping for an opinion. "Actually, I think it's all rather petty. I know it's a thuggish way to behave, but as long as they didn't actually set light to anyone I don't see what all the fuss is about." - Bridget Jones's Diary  by Helen Fielding

I'm laughing again just typing it out. I love it!! Thanks to Helen for bringing women to life, in all our neurotic glory! 

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Psychic reading

I walked down the street and followed the same path my parents had earlier. It was still drizzling a little bit as I sat down on the bench outside to wait. I knew the drill, there was always a lot of people inside and waiting outside on the boards, so you just had to sit around and stay put until someone acknowledged you and asked you inside.
I sat there, staring at my flip flopped feet, wondering how long it would be before someone called me in and bled me dry in exchange for a bunch of bullshit. Quickly I began to wonder if they could read minds, which led to a state of worry since I was sitting there, clearly in mind reading range, thinking they were full of bullshit.
As if the psychics called on the clouds in order to punish me for my skeptical thoughts, water began to pour down from the sky, drenching me almost instantly. I looked around for Noah and his f***ing ark as I pulled my wet hood over my head in attempt to stay somewhat presentable, but it was useless. All the other rain soaked souls in need of guidance ran for it, and I debated about following them, but decided to stick it out. I was already sopping wet, what was the point of getting out of line now? Hopefully this meant I was now at the front of what had been a long queue.
I hadn’t brought my cell phone with me, and I never wore a watch, so in reality I had no idea how long I had been sitting there before a woman leaned her head outside to greet me, however, I guessed it had been an eternity, give or take a few millennia.
Thirty-four minutes later I walked out, my pocket $107 lighter, tears mingling with the still falling rain on my cheeks, my left hand clutching the crystals, two purple and one yellow, that were supposed to help me, the instructions on how to clean them in a sunny window still floating aimlessly in my head.

Here is a snipit from a chapter that has yet to be titled and still doesn't have a real place in the book yet… but it's still an important moment in my main characters story. Obviously I'm revealing nothing in an effort to keep you coming back for more!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hummingbird Cupcakes

When I first saw these cupcakes on one of my favorite blogs, Alpineberry, my strange imagination immediately ran away with itself, leaving me with a vision of a cup sized cake encasing a sweet, little hummingbird, waiting patiently inside for me to bite gently in, releasing it from its cakey captor. Not all that appetizing to be truthful! Of course no animals were harmed in the making of this confection, however, the sweet pineapple flower on top gives one the impression that a hummingbird might be along at any moment to sample some sweet nectar. That is if I haven't eaten all the cupcakes before those pesky birds have a chance to bogart any of them! 

These were a lot of fun to make. The batter had 
some real weight to it, leaving me with a rather masculine (if that's possible of batter) impression  of it. It wasn't like some of those wimpy, running concoctions that leave you wondering if you'll end up with soup once the oven and the pan get together to do what ever it is they do in there. This one really stays where you plop it, and I admire that in a batter. Unlike any wildlife, two of my favorite fruits, pineapple and banana, are living inside, accounting for the actual weight no doubt. The pan was actually slightly heavy to lift (leaving me guilt ridden for denying my treadmill and free weights the honor of my presence this morning)! 

I love working with fresh pineapple. There is something satisfying about carving one up. And the happy tops certainly gave my compost pile a festive, Bahamian kind of look, despite the fact that there was snow falling when I hightailed it outside to drop them off. 

I was left with a bit of extra batter, which saddened me because I feel it's a crime to waste good cake batter. I couldn't quite justify heating up the second oven for what would have been about two extra cupcakes, so I over filled my second batch instead. I'm typically an over filler anyway, so it didn't take too much convincing on my own part. 

I have to admit I'm a peeker, I cannot leave well enough alone. I know, I know, it just postpones the enjoyment, but I cannot help myself! Besides, that's when you get the best wafts! On my first peek I was overwhelmed by the scent! So much so that I wanted to climb inside that hot oven and eat the half baked batter, with no regard for my own safety. Luckily I wouldn't have fit, as that's probably all that kept me out of there! 

You can find the recipe here. I found I only needed one large pineapple – half for the batter, and the other half for the flowers – but others may have a different experience. I'm lucky enough to get to bake on a professional range that has that nifty convection option on it. The first batch went a full 33 minutes (ten over) without the convection on. I tried the second round with the convection and ended up at exactly 23 minutes. 

I always end up with 11 or 23 iced cupcakes as one must be sacrificed whilst still warm. The slaughter was just committed and I'm wondering if I'm only going to have 22 to top. The upside to that is that the less cupcakes that get iced, the more icing the others may adorn. It's a cream cheese icing, which is my fav, so the excess might just end up in my belly. 

They have finally reached completion and they are fantastic all around! I love the way they look, and they taste scrumptious!! This recipe is absolutely worth the extra effort. The cream cheese icing is divine and the bite of pineapple on top is the perfect touch. I will definitely be adding these to my repertoire… and I'm confident life will soon give me an excuse to bake them again and show them off! 

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Sunday, February 10, 2008


But in that collective wail Rachel heard some distinctive voices, and now she saw, on the other side of the barrier, Mama and Papa and he siblings, and seeing them, Rachel's resolve crumbled, her tears flowed. The police herded the patients along, discouraging contact with friends and relatives. Already the first of the exiles were being taken up the gangway and onto the ship. Rachel, adults towering on every side of her, could barely make out her family and felt suddenly afraid; she had to see them one last time! She began pushing her way through the mass of people, struggling to get closer. "Let my through! Let me through!" she cried out, barely able to see past the barricade of her own tears; she shoved and elbowed her way over, until at last she broke through the bulwarks of leprous flash and saw them, saw Mama and Papa and Ben and Kimo and Sarah pressed against the wooden fence. When they saw her their hands shot out, they called her name, their bodies strained against the barrier. The crowd surged behind Rachel, she was propelled forward like a speck of foam on a billowing wave; her hand reached out, the tip of her fingers just grazing Mama's palm as she passed, the human wave carrying her away. Rachel would cherish that last touch for years to come, remembering the warmth of her skin, the way her big fingers almost closed around Rachel's, and the desperate love in Mama's face as it was stolen away from her. – Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

I love this book, it's one of my all time favorites. Not necessarily because of the writing, which is what normally wraps me up, but the story is so captivating. The book is set in the Hawaiian islands, with the story beginning in 1891 and ending in 1970. It is the tale of a girl, Rachel, who contracts leprosy, known as the ma'i pake on the islands, at the tender age of six. At that time in history there was no cure for leprosy and the disease was widely misunderstood. Through out the world people were shipped off to colonies in hopes of not infecting others, and Hawaii was no different. The colony serving the islands was known as Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai'i. Rachel is forced to leave behind her loving family and all that she knows to go to the colony. "Luckily" her uncle contracted the ma'i pake before her, and he will be on the island to bring her some comfort, that is until the disease claims his life, leaving her alone.
Rachel's story, although fiction, is still a true story. Thousands of people were shipped off to leprosy colonies around the world, and many were children, left to find their own way. This story is one of adventure, sadness, love and self discovery. It's fantastic, a story that has you crying one chapter and smiling wide the next. I recommend it to everyone, not only because it's a good book, but also because it's a part of our history, one that typically gets no mention in the classroom.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Apple Pie Cupcakes

Life has kept me out of the kitchen recently, which was starting to take its toll of my baking soul… so today I got my bake on and whipped up some Apple Pie Cupcakes! DELICIOUS!! I'm a big fan of Alpineberry, a blog about baking, and when I saw these cupcakes on Marys blog I knew I had to try them out. Not only do I love apple pie, but the idea of apple pie with frosting… now that makes me smile wide. These confections were the product of a Daring Bakers Challenge (which I'm super excited to be joining in March!) and I must say that Mary succeeded! Check out the recipe and her blog… it's tasty all around.
As I write this, I'm already dreaming of a tall glass of milk and another cup of cake. What makes them super special is the fact that there are yummy, caramelized apples laid across the top before the batter is baked. There is cinnamon in the batter and a buttery cinnamony sweet frosting to top it all off. They have been a big hit already in my house… I highly recommend them to anyone who loves apple pie, and even those who don't dream about it the moment their head hits the pillow! 

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Getting a bit a head of myself

I have to admit that while I'm getting better about writing more often, my mind has begun to wander to where things will go after my first book is finished. I have a very general idea of what book two and three will be about, but I'm trying to concentrate on getting the first draft of Shoo Elephant Shoo done before I do any writing on the rest of the trilogy. Tonight, however, I disobeyed myself and wandered a bit farther down the stream then I'm supposed to. 
I thought you might like a sneak peek of book two. To tell you about the setting of this dialogue would be impossible as that has yet to come to me. My favorite moments in writing are those where something seems to just dribble out of your brain and onto the screen… your fingers becoming just a tool meant only for this very purpose… the purpose of story telling. I'm excited to see what comes of this, but I mustn't wander away from Elephant too much… so we will all have to wait and see. 

Peek… peek:

“I always figured my chances of becoming a crazy, spinster, recluse writer were pretty decent. I thought I could wander around my vast property in my Great Aunt Dorothy’s mink fur coat, over my cotton nightgown of course… no socks. And I could bark at the mailman and squabble at the birds. I could spend hours in front of my typewriter, not of course my laptop, as crazy recluse writers do it the old fashion way, and I could swelter away in the summer in that fur coat. But then you came along… and somehow I fell in love with you. And now that plan has gone all sorts to shit. I would have been good at it. I would have been exceptional in fact. But now I have to be normal, and wear the coat like a sophisticated doctors wife, rather than a recluse spinster. How boring is that.
“Promise me this, will you… promise me that at least once a summer I can wander around in the woods wearing a nightgown and the furs, and I will agree to marry you. That’s my one, honest, request from you. Food on the table… a roof over my head… blah. If you can love me through me wandering around in the fur coat and nightgown, oh oh and my green wellies… if you can love me through that than you’ve got a deal.
“Otherwise… I’ll need to sleep on it.”

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