Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers

My Daring bakers June challenge will be posted shortly! I am on vacation and trying to stay as far away from my computer as possible! I promise to post my disaster in the next few days! Check back soon! 

Here is a sneak peak of my "braid." My sister Rebecca says it looks "rustic" and delicious. I'm still deciding whether or not I'm offended! 

All Rights Reserved 2008 © Books and Bakes 

Monday, June 23, 2008

Or maybe not

I got two comments from two lovely Daring Bakers on the Swoon excerpt that I put up the other day and both seemed to want more where that came from. Karen from Do Better wanted to know what was wrong with the guy and so I figured it was only fair of me to fill her in! And Clumbsy Cookie said she wanted to keep reading, so how could I deny her that! 

So here is a little more from that yet to be titled chapter. This portion, as well as the one I posted the other day, takes place in a train station. Eddie, the main character, is on her way to New York from D.C. for a freelance job in the Big Apple. I picked up right where the other post left off. 

“Have you ever been to Philadelphia before?” he asked.

“Um, yeah I actually grew up right outside the city in Bucks County,” I said, realizing I had momentarily forgotten this fact due to the hotness spell I was under.

“I’m from Bucks County too! I went to CB East, where did you go?” he asked with a stunned but happy look on his face.

“Oh my god! I went to Council Rock! I cannot believe you went to East! Didn’t we always kick your asses in football?” I joked, having no idea if we had ever in fact kicked their asses in football.

A dark cloud seemed to pass behind his eyes, but it went as quickly as it came and I soon forgot about it. He stuttered for a moment and then said, “Uh no, definitely not. There was never a time when Council Rock beat me in football.”

“Oh you played in high school?” I asked, not really caring, but pretending to.

“Yeah, I was all state! Bobby Masterson, don’t you remember my name? You gotta remember my name!” he said enthusiastically.

“Oh, um,” to lie or not to lie, “no, I’m sorry, I don’t. I wasn’t really all that into football in high school,” I said.

“But you are now though, right?” he asked with an eager look on his face.

“Oh totally!” I lied. “Go Skins!”

“Go Skins! You’re a Philly girl rooting for a Washington team?” he said, shock and disappointment spreading at lightening speed across his handsome features.

“Nooo! Of course not! I was just teasing,” I said, rolling my eyes in a goofy way.

“So you’re an Eagles fan then right?” he prompted.

“Totally!” I said, grateful that he told me where it was my loyalties should lay.

“Phew, that could have been awkward! I meet this beautiful girl in the train station and she turns out to be a Skins fan, what a nightmare!” he joked.

I’m sorry, did he just call me beautiful!? Today I met the boy I’m gonna marry!

“Nope, not a Skins fan, how could I be coming from Philly?” I laughed, shaking my head and rolling my eyes while fluttering my eyelashes at the same time. Freaking exhausting!

“I had no idea you were a football fan Eddie. All those months we spent together and I only ever heard anything about NASCAR,” Dr. Johnson chimed in despite the fact that my back was turned to him.

All I could think of was Son of a Bitch! Which then made me feel guilty because I had just learned that his mother had Alzheimer’s. How about Bastard! Yes, I could see no problem with Bastard! You Bastard!

“Who is this guy?” my new hometown hottie asked, looking back and forth between Dr. Johnson and I.

“I’m her doctor, Dr. Johnson,” he answered before I could, “and you are?” he added as he reached his hand across me to offer it up for a shake.

Hottie stuck his out as well and their hands met for a strange display of male bravado that more closely resembled an arm wrestle than a handshake. The young lioness inside me leapt with joy, while licking her chops as the two male lions roared to determine who would take possession of her. Wait, something about that is not right. What is unsettling here, the fact that I’m excited that Dr. Johnson is one of the male lions, or the fact that I am excited about the idea of one these two men taking possession of me? Of course I could just revel in the joy that hottie male lion from Philly seems to have won the wrestle shake as his smile seems to be larger then Dr. Johnson. My, his mane is thick and shiny. Um, wait is that hair gel in his mane? Oh well, I can change that given a few weeks.

“Bobby Masterson, good to meet you doc. So why is it that you are traveling with your doctor? Are you sick or something?” he said, turning his attention back to me.

“Oh gosh no,” eyelashes fluttering, “we just happened to be at the train station at the same time, and he sat down beside me. That’s all.”

“He’s not your gyno or anything is he?” he snorted.

Did he just say Gyno? Oh come on, are you kidding me? I have just been taken possession by a handsome male lion that uses the word gyno? What went wrong I ask you? Who or what far off in the cosmos ordered this cruel twist of fate, and why did Aphrodite not intervene?

“I believe the term you are looking for is Gynecologist, but no I am not her gynecologist. I was an ER doctor, but I’m not anymore. And what is it that you do Bobby?” He said Bobby as if it were an insult.

“I own my own business, selling tools,” Bobby answered.

Oh I like tools. “Wait, when did you leave the ER?” I suddenly said, turning towards Dr. Johnson.

“About a month ago. I’ve decided to specialize in Oncology.”

“What’s Oncology?” Bobby asked.

All right, so he wears gel in his hair, says Gyno and doesn’t know what Oncology is. I think Prince Charming just got stripped of his royal title. Now the question remains, is there enough Charming left to cover up the stupidity. God lets hope so!

Dr. Johnson smiled, but he might as well have roared to alert the jungle/train station of his moment of triumph. “The practice of Oncology refers to the treatment of cancer,” he answered, a bit less smugly then I had expected.

“Ohh, gotcha!” Bobby said. “Wait, so you have cancer?” he said, turning his attention back to me.

“Um no, I had a car accident a while ago and he was my doctor in the Emergency Room,” I answered, stretching out the words Emergency Room in reference to Dr. Johnsons mention of being an ER doctor.

– Copyright 2008 © Shoo Elephant Shoo

All Rights Reserved 2008 © Books and Bakes

Friday, June 20, 2008


Just another excerpt of my writing. I'm in the groove and wish I could keep writing, but I have to go meet my college girl friends for dinner and drinks! Alas, the life of a writer is never dull (except maybe five days out of the week!) 

“Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?” I looked up to see an extremely hot guy standing next to me, pointing at the open seat next to me.

“No, no one at all,” I said sweetly with a smile and a small eyelash fluttering.

“Great,” he said, returning the smile. “Where are you heading?” he asked as he sat down.

“New York,” I said, “and you?”

“Philadelphia. It’s where I grew up. My best friend is getting married this weekend, and I’m the best man,” he said enthusiastically.

“Awe, how sweet,” I said for no real reason at all.

He flashed me another great smile, showing off his perfectly straight, white teeth. “Yeah, I’m really excited. He’s marrying a great girl and I’m really happy for him. Course this now makes me the last of my childhood friends to not be married, but what can you do.”
“Guys actually think about that kind of stuff?” I said, my mouth dropping open a little bit, which obviously wasn’t all that attractive and was corrected quickly with another smile.

“Sure,” he said. “Well I guess not all guys. But I do, I’m 31 and I definitely thought I would be married by now.”

Hm, 31, hot and wants to get married. And most importantly he is sitting right next to me. And actually even more importantly than that he is smiling at me. ME! Thirty-one-year-old hot guy who wants to get married is smiling at me! There must be some sort of happiness alarm that I should be sounding right now. Oh, I know! Church bells! Not that I want to get married in a church, but still it seems fitting. Suddenly the song Today I met the boy I’m going to marry started playing in my head.

“I actually thought I would have kids by now too,” he added, garnering that sad head tilt half smile half frown kind of reaction from me, also known as Swoon! He’s all I wanted all my life and even more!

“Do any of your friends have kids?” I asked, turning towards him a little bit and gently moving a piece of hair away out of my eyes.

“Yeah a couple of them do. I love playing with them. My friend Joey just had a little baby boy. He’s only four weeks old. I was there where he was born. I mean not in the room or anything, but at the hospital and I was one of the first ones to hold him. It was so cool to see someone that new!” He smiled at me and the music started playing.

“That is so sweet!” I squealed, barely able to contain my excitement over this man. This hot 31-year-old wants to get married and have babies and is smiling at me man!

“And my sister’s kids are awesome, being an uncle is the greatest thing in the whole world. I never knew it could be so cool to watch someone grow and learn new things. But watching my niece and nephew is like watching the world unfold in front of my very eyes.” Here comes the bride when he walked through the door!

– Copyright 2008 © Shoo Elephant Shoo

All Rights Reserved 2008 © Books and Bakes 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating… um muffins

A few months back I had been on the search for the perfect chocolate cupcake, which I eventually was able to put together. But lately my new quest has been for the perfect muffin. Don't ask why… it just has been. 

So last week I made the boyfriend some blueberry muffins. They were good, but they didn't rise all that much, which bummed me out a bit. The next day I used that same recipe to make strawberry muffins, and I filled the cups higher in hopes that they would happily mound up some more. No go. The flavor was there, but the batter just wasn't giving me what I wanted. 

I always find the Foodnetwork website is a great place to go searching for lots of different versions of the same recipe. The recipe I used a few days ago came from Gourmet magazine I believe, so I was surprised it didn't turn out to my liking. I came across an Ina Garten recipe that I figured I should try out. After all, it was the Barefoot Contessa that provided me with the base for my perfect chocolate cupcake… maybe she was a bit of a muffin maven as well! 

I decided that instead of just using blueberrys, I would throw in some strawberries as well. I wasn't really trying to be patriotic, but when I coated the two fruits in a bit of flour so that they wouldn't sink to the bottom of the batter, the National Anthem did start playing in my head! 

Oh say can you see! By the dawns early light! 

The recipe called for sour cream, as most of Ina's baked goods do, but I wasn't really up for wasting my $4.13 a gallon gasoline to run to the store for just sour cream. I had organic plain yogurt so I decided that would substitute nicely… and who can scoff at cutting a few calories whilst baking, not I! 

Hey batter batter batter! 

I was supposed to get 16 muffins out of the batter, and just like always for me, I got 24! I don't care what the recipe says, I always get more out of it. And believe me, I filled these babies up to the top! The first batch came out of the oven and while it had risen nicely, it spread out over the muffin tin giving me that flattened type of top. I'm a rounded muffin kinda of girl, so I was a teensy bit disappointed. 

I'm trying to be more environmentally friendly these days (as evident by my unmentionables currently sunning themselves in the backyard!) so since the first batch took thirty minutes, I figured I would turn on my convection fan and try and speed things up. Yes it occured to me that using the convection would mean I was using more energy. However (!), it would mean I could turn the oven off sooner, therefore pumping less heat into the kitchen, requiring the air conditioning to do a little less work in order to cool the house. See how nicely I justified that! 
I got another benefit from my convection – the muffins rounded out nicely on the top instead of spreading out.

These muffins taste delicious! The combination of blueberries and strawberries is wonderful - I highly recommend it! Once again Ina has done me proud! Unfortunately for my boyfriend, he is out of town for the week and these will surely be gone by the time he gets back! Poor boyfriend! That's what he gets for going out of town for a week ;) 

Muffins out of the sun!

Blueberry & Strawberry muffins

adapted from Ina Gartens recipe for Blueberry Muffins 

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream or yogurt 
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup strawberries, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup blueberries (watch for stems!) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 16 paper liners in muffin pans.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup just over the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean. 

Muffins in the sun! 

All Rights Reserved 2008 © Books and Bakes

Paperclip Pig says:

Why thank you Paperclip Pig! You are the most lovely, encouraging desk top organizer I've ever known! 

All Rights Reserved 2008 © Books and Bakes

Eat, Pray, Love

For quite some time people have been telling me to read Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love. Some have felt that the book is similar to my own despite the fact that my main character barely leaves her house let alone travels around the world. But still the message is the same, falling in love with yourself is really what the ultimate goal is. 

Last fall I was assisting my sister Rebecca and her husband Patrick with a photo shoot/advertising campaign for a friend of theirs who owns a dress company called Simple Silhouettes. I was their style assistant and they hired another young woman as their photo assistant. Her name was Marlene, and although she was quite a bit younger than me, we connected on a few levels, which made the week of work a little more fun. 

Marlene was the first person to bring Eat, Pray, Love to my attention. She said she had received the book from an acquaintance who felt she should read it. And then Marlene told me she would like to pass it on to me. She brought the book in the next day with the instructions to pass it on when I came across someone who could benefit from it's message. I was really flattered and happily planned to read the book soon and pass it on to the next deserving young woman.

Well life happened for awhile and then I was reminded of the book again, which had been sitting dormant on my bookshelves for months, and I finally pulled it out and read the darn thing. It was wonderful and it aided me on my current journey in many different ways. 

I just wanted to share a few of my favorite lines from the book… they inspired me and I hope they will do the same for you. 

"You've got to stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be."

I want God to play in my bloodstream the way sunlight amuses itself on water.

Let go and watch the stars come out—on the outside and on the inside.

I found the answer—you can finish the business yourself, from within yourself. It's not only possible, it's essential. 

I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen. 

– All excerpts from Elizabeth Gilberts Eat, Pray, Love 

All Rights Reserved 2008 © Books and Bakes