Friday, December 30, 2011

What Did Santa Bring You For the Kitchen?

Well, if I ever decide to open a bakery, I think this Christmas took the cake (< see what I did there) when it comes to getting set up for it. I got about 9 million kitchen items to get the bakery started on firm ground in 2012. I think the most impressive gift I received was this:

The Cricut Cake Machine
This little machine cuts fondant and "icing sheets", whatever those are. It is like the Cricut machine that people use for scrapbooking, but made for cakes. I can't wait to use it. Let's hope it works as well as it promises.

Jon got me cake decorating lessons from Hobby Lobby. Those start in January and are twice a week. Very exciting. Maybe I will finally learn how to make super smooth cakes with butter cream. That is something YouTube just can't seem to teach me.

My mom got me one of these from Ross. It was just so cute she couldn't pass it up.

Hopefully it will make cupcake transport easier.

Strangely enough, I got two pressure cookers, two 9" round cake pans, and two bread pans. One of the pressure cookers will have to be returned, as will the 9" cake pans. Unfortunately, the cake pans have slanted sides. That will not work for cakes that are to be stacked. You need the pans to have straight sides. I might keep one as a biscuit pan. We'll see.

So... did Santa bring you for your kitchen?

Grandma H's Kolache Recipe and Other Disappointments

As my loyal readers (all 2 of them) know, I have been trying for year to get Jon's gran to give me the family recipe for kolaches. There's been a lot of back and forth.

In comes Christmas, and our obligatory family visit. I'm sitting alone, minding my own business, when Grandma H walks up to me with the biggest smile on her face and a little, folded piece of paper in her hands. She makes me come to dining table before she explains that she is giving me something special this Christmas:


I was so excited I almost wet myself! Finally, after 6 years of begging and pleading, I finally got a copy of the recipe. Gran, all proud, smiles and moves on about her holiday party. I quickly unfold the paper and scan for a clue about what I am doing wrong all this time. Then I realize this recipe is a little...vague. What I had clutched in my hands was not a recipe, it was a list of ingredients and their measurements. No other instructions whatsoever. It was as if Santa had shit in my cereal.

I finally get a chance to corner Gran and say very gently..."Um...this recipe seems to be missing the instruction portion, Gran." She laughed and said, "All you have to do is dump this stuff in a mixer. Nothing to it!" All of you that have seem my last June 11th kolache bomb know that is NOT all there is to it. So now I'm doing the delicate dance of "what is she hiding from me?"

Ten minutes later she comes back over and says, "oh, you want to mix your wet ingredients first, then add them to the dry." I dive for a pen, "DOES ANYONE HAVE A BLOODY PEN!!!"

Thirty minutes later she wanders back towards me with a quizzical expression, "Oh you want to make sure that you don't knead the dough. Just pat it down gently or the kolaches will be tough. I think I forgot to mention that."

*me feverishly writing, and thinking, I've never seen a kolache recipe where the dough was pressed flat*
"Pressed flat, Gran?"
"Oh yes," she said. "You have to cut it with a biscuit cutter."

Now I'm beyond confused. That is TOTALLY opposite from what I learned from the Kolache Master several years ago. I sit and stew over this a Gran rejoins the party.

Later I realize, I have no idea how long to cook these for and how many I can expect to get out of a batch. Is she purposefully trying to be elusive?!

I corner Gran in the kitchen again and ask her what to bake these on and how long. She gives me a rough temperature, and says the batch will produce 4-6 dozen. That's a huge variance!

One of Jon's aunts saw me plop down in a fit of exasperation after all of this and kindly wandered over and said this: "You are never going to be able to make them the way she does, because every time you try, she will sneak behind you and put something in the bowl while you have your back turned. That's how they always come out right."

So essentially, I think I am still at square one with the kolache recipe. It's been about 6 months since my last try. I guess it's about time to try again. Perhaps I'll see if I can 1/2 the recipes I do have in order to spare my poor soul kitchen for the tempest that is kolache making.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bacon Candy

Well you asked forit: bacon, chocolate and caramel candy. I was supposed to make it last week for my #1 fan's birthday, but alas it was just too hectic of a week to get it together.

I am making up for it this weekend by making a gagillion things at once in my tiny little kitchen. It's like Thanksgiving in the home of my favorite blogger, NeNe.  Here's what's going down:

  • Burner One: Pinto Beans and Sausage
  • Burner Two: Stew 
  • Burner Three: Double Boiler of chocolate
  • Burner Four: Bacon.
  • Oven: Sugar Cookie trial batch for snowflake cookie sales.
  • Microwave: Carmel sauce.
  • The very very afraid.

We just spent a ton on groceries, despite doing much better with stacking our coupons. I am determine not to waste any food this go round. So, today starts the cooking for the week so we can pack some of the leftovers away for another time.

Right now, the bacon candy is in the fridge hardening up, but I couldn't resist breaking off a bit to show you and um...consume unmercifully. Here it is.

I wish I wouldn't have tried it, I might eat it all before I can sell it.

So, the original recipe called for peanuts, but I left them out. This baby has plenty of salty and sweet textures, and the peanuts might have over done it. Not sure really, perhaps I'll offer two varieties: one with peanuts and one without. I've decided to package them in cute little cellophane bags with bows. It will be great.

On a side note, I am not advocating the eating of raw dough, but I had a teensy taste of the sugar cookie dough and almost died in a flavor coma. It was like sugared butter. I don't know if these cookies are going to get far from my kitchen. I was going to decorate them in royal icing and sugar pearls, then wrap them in the cellophane bags and give them away as Christmas gifts to coworkers. I am going to have to rethink my plans here. The original recipe said that it make 60 cookies. I probably should have made the whole recipe instead of cutting down to two dozen. There's no way I could have eaten all 60...right?

Are you preparing any special recipes to give away as gifts for Christmas?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Redeaux

I don't know why I spelled "redeaux" like that. I'm not Cajun or anything, I just think it's a funner way to spell it. Anyway, if you took a guess in the mystery dough challenge, thanks a million. The answer was cinnamon rolls. 

Now you're probably thinking, "Wait! You already taught us how to make those here." Well, that is true, but I don't think I did too good of a job showing you the hands on components on that batch. So, I'm going to try to set things right by showing you one more time. This batch came out monumentally better by the way.

Dough from Scratch
1 cup milk (heated approximately 1 minute in microwave)
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
eggs, room temperature and beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated 
5 cups flour

2 Tablespoons of yeast

Good Cinnamon filler stuff:
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon 

2 oz of softened cream cheese
1/4 cup of softened butter
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of powdered sugar

Now, in my previous attempt, I had dumped all this Dough Stuff Ingredients in at once and turned my machine into this:

Yes, that is a spoon stuck in there. Don't ask.
Well, now that I was lucky enough to have a KitchenAid Mixer purchased for me during a bridal shower last year, this has never happened again. But I digress...

First things first, take out the eggs and butter so they can get to room temperature. Believe it or not, there is a difference between melted and softened butter. Just don't ask me to explain what that difference is. It would bring me back to that whole flawed logic of recipes that demand unsalted butter, but then you half to add salt to them.

Get your dry ingredients together and gently give them a stir to incorporate them. Next , in a separate bowl, take your eggs and give them a light beating. If your butter is still as hard as a rock, briefly nuke it til it is soft in the microwave. Microwave your milk until it is warm,, not scalding. If you pour super hot milk or water into eggs, you will get gross scrambled eggs in your rolls/cake. Not cool. Add remaining wet ingredients to the egg bowl and give them a little stir. Finally, mix everything together in your stand mixer. I recommend pouring wet into dry so flour doesn't fly all over the place. I don't know this from previous experience or anything...*no comments from the peanut gallery!*

Your dough will be slightly sticky, but mostly, it will want to stick to itself. Spread a couple tablespoons of oil on your counter top, and dump your dough blob onto it. Give it a good knead for 3-5 minutes, just squishing it into self. I don't know why this step is necessary, but it's fun to do just the same. In the end you will get this nice little ball that you may have noticed I posted like 15 days ago.

This post was intended to be finished by 11/14!!!
The next step is sprinkling a healthy portion of flour on your counter top so you can roll this bad boy into an approximately 2 foot by 1 foot, flat canvas. I have used a cup in the past, but I can't tell you awesome a rolling pin is for this task. It was like, they created those things just to roll out dough or something! Who'd a thunk it!

Rolling pins: Not just for whacking husbands anymore!
The dough is kind of elastic, so don't be afraid to keep coaxing it outward. If it tears, you can just ball it up and roll again. Just get it down to about a quarter of an inch in thickness.

Next, make up the Good Cinnamon Filler Stuff using the ingredients above. Brown sugar is the only baking item that I know of where you actually want to press it into the measuring cup until it is packed like a brick. So get to it and mix that stuff up in a bowl. If you have more butter lying around, you can brush the flattened dough with some to help the sugar stick. If not, it's no big deal. Once the filler is thoroughly mixed, you can spread it on your dough canvas. Don't be stingy.

Smelled so good at this point, you'll want to eat it now.
But don't or you'll get the runs! (raw eggs)
 Next is the most technical part of the whole operation. Pay attention Myrtle! You've got to roll this puppy up after just having smashed into flat submission. It will initially try to stay flat, once you get the roll started, it tends to behave. I like a lot of swirl in my roll, so I rolled the short side towards myself.

Don't worry about a little side spillage. You can always
scoop it up later and sprinkle it on top.
Now, some people say you shouldn't roll the dough too tight, or else your rolls may rise to mountain peaks when they bake. Those people can piss off! They are too Polly Perfect for me. I like the tight roll because you get a really distinctive swirl pattern. Some may get taller, but others don't. It's not the end of the freaking world.

Now that you have a swirled log of cinnamony goodness, you may notice some fat areas and thin areas. Run your hands along the log to try to get a more uniform shape. Tap the ends to squish them back to flat rounds.

Jon just saw this photo out of the corner of his eye and shouted,
"What are you posting!!!"
Now, you need a very sharp, serrated knife. Pay attention, Myrtle, this is important. A dull knife will tear the dough. A non-serrated knife will pinch it down and you will lose the swirl. Do the best you can with a sawing motion, cutting the log into 1" rounds.

Look at that awesome swirl!
 Once the rolls are cut, you will need to place them, not touching, on a greased jelly roll pan. Put them maybe 1" apart. They will need to rise an hour at this point. As they rise, they will move to touch each other, which is what you want.

Bake those bad boys at 350*F for 20 to 25 minutes. Your house will smell fantastic and you will get beautiful, beautiful rolls that look something in the neighborhood of this:
So beautiful, I almost cried.
You can go ahead and make the cream cheese icing to pour over these beauties. Or, you can continue to stare in wonder. Eat and enjoy.

And, that, my friends, is the answer to the mystery of the dough blob.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Solving First World Problems & Other Things I Have Been Working On

The cluttered state of my fridge and tiny cupboard were driving me crazy I decided to do a redo on each of them. This kind of brings me back to my Food Budget Series. I had so much stuff cluttered up in both places, that I was having to throw away stuff that went bad (because it was hidden in the back and went bad) or compile doubles and sometimes triples of some products. What a waste of money! A fridge reset doesn't have to take forever and waste a lot of electricity. It can be knocked out in 20 minutes with the right attitude and plan.

Getting Started on a Fridge Reset
  • Before you even start pulling things out, think about how you utilize your fridge, and determine if anything is not working for you.
    • For example, my cakes usually take up a lot of space on a shelf, but I'm always having to juggle the cake while moving the milk, and scooting over last night's leftovers. Not to mention that sometimes it was too close for comfort to the shelf above it and I risked nicking the top layer of taller cakes. That meant when I started my fridge redo, I kept in mind that I need to change my shelf spacing so that my jug of milk and pitchers of juice could easily fit a shelf, but so could my tall cakes, while my left overs were now to be delegated to the "short" middles shelf that shares the dairy drawer.
  • Mise en place
    • What? I thought that was only for cooking? Think again. Having everything ready to go and by your side when you start your clean will make the reset faster, wasting less energy. Here is what you will most likely need:
      • Trash can with a thick bag, or several smaller bags to throw out bad food.
      • Clorox wipes or some other cleaner that you like with plenty of rags or paper towels.
      • Cooler for temporarily housing your goods while you clean.
      • A variety of plastic storage containers and spoons for transfer of foods. (More on this later.)
      • A towel for quick clean up of spills, and to kneel on while you are doing bottom layers of the fridge.
      • Permanent marker.
      • Empty your sink, because you will be filling it with dirty containers, most likely.
  • Ready, set, go!
    • Start with the freezer, dump your ice tray and gel ice packs into the cooler. Shut the lid on the cooler, and go quickly wash and dry ice tray. Set aside.
    • Go back the freezer, open the lid on the cooler. Open your freezer and throw anything salvageable in the cooler. Anything freezer burned, bad, or fits into the category of "we will never eat this", toss in the trash. Don't stew over decisions. Be decisive. If it takes you more than 30 seconds to decide whether or not your family will ever eat a product, toss it. Once the freezer is completely empty, wipe down the racks and door with your wipes. If the rack/ drawer needs lots of attention (i.e. a popscile melted, pooled and refroze in the bottom, pull the whole thing out and shut the freezer and cooler doors until you get it cleaned out. Once the freezer is cleaned, shut the door until further notice.
    • Next open your fridge door and start again with the sorting of foods into the cooler or into the trash. Once the fridge is empty, close the lid on the cooler.
    • Pull out all the fridge shelves and wipe the back of the fridge with a disinfecting cleaning cloth. Same with the door shelves, drawers, shelves.
    • Next, think back to your plan? Were the racks at the right level for your needs? Put the shelves back in to accommodate your needs. Shut the fridge door as it should now be squeaky clean! Good work, half way done.
  • Repack foods into more appropriately sized containers.
    • A major problem in our house is that we grab the first Tupperware we can find and package or food in it, regardless of size. We lost a lot of shelf space and viewing capabilities because of this. Check it out.
    • Three containers removed! Once 2 giant container for peanut butter cup filling reduced to a flat plastic bag.
      What once was a giant container of blue icing that got used little by little, now it fits in the tiny take out container.
  • Use your maker to mark items as "USE FIRST!"
    • Have two open containers of mayo, BBQ sauce, milk, etc? Compile them into one jar if possible. If you can't compile them into one jar, say because they are two different flavors of BBQ sauce, take your marker and mark one in big letters that say USE ME FIRST! This should be the one that is closer to being empty, or will expire first. Make use your family understands and follows your directive. Plan meals that will utilize those last squeezes of that ketchup, or will help you use up that cup of BBQ sauce for this week. If the marker won't write on the container, you can use a patch of duct tape.
  • Replace the remaining food from your fridge with purpose, mentally noting what needs to be used right away, and putting items in more appropriately places to fit your needs.
    • Lunch meat getting a bit old? Subs for lunch. Milk about to go bad? Cereal for breakfast. Lettuce starting to wilt? Salad as a side with dinner. Ten packages of ground beef? Put two or three in the fridge to thaw for a large pot of chili that can made and frozen for later meals.
    • Kids always standing in front of the fridge for 5 minutes trying to find a snack or juice box? Put all the snacks in a drawer or a plastic bin so they can pull it out, grab it, and go.
  • Empty cooler and wipe down the other part of the fridge with a disinfecting cloth.
  • Your done!

Solving First World Problems Part II: Pantry Redo

So yesterday we tackled the fridge, today let's tackle the pantry. This time I was smart enough to do a before and after. So let's take a closer look.

It may be hard to tell the improvements, but I gained an entire shelf, plus you can
see the floor on the bottom. I'll give you a break down.
Getting Started on a Pantry Redo
  • Things you will need:
    • Trash can for tossing expired or bad food.
    • A box for food that you are going to take to a food pantry or shelter
    • Pen and paper
    • A basket or infrequently used container.
    • Cleaning cloths to wipe up any spills.
    • Marker
  • Pull out everything from the shelves, sorting into trash, donate, and keep. Be decisive, longer than thirty seconds to decide on an item means it needs to be tossed or donated.
  • Once all the food is out, do a quick wipe down of the shelves with your cleaning cloth.
  • Inventory
    • With your pen and paper, make a quick inventory of what you are going to put back in the pantry, this will come in handy when you are planning meals. Plan on using anything that is close to expiration right away, same move if you way too much of something. (I found 4 cans of corn and 4 jars of pasta sauce. Spaghetti for dinner tonight!) Tape the inventory to the inside of the pantry door and mark things off as you use them. That way you won't overbuy again.
  • Put snack foods into a basket or infrequently used container.
    • I found a Corningware container that I never used and I emptied all those boxes of granola bars, popcorn, beef jerky, etc., into that container. No more digging, all the snack food is in an easy to identify location. Bulky boxes are in the trash and not cluttering up my shelf. I also took a 3/4 eaten jar of peanuts that was hidden in back and emptied it into a zipper bag.  They will be eaten quickly like this! This is also a great idea for chips. We buy the large bag that had 4 or 5 varieties. I emptied it into a basket of its own.
All snacks live here.
  • Compile anything that you can.
    • Have two open peanut butters, boxes of pasta, or oil? Try to compile them. If you can't because they are different varieties (crunchy and smooth PB?) mark the one that is closest to being finished or expiration with the marker: EAT THIS FIRST! Make sure the family understands and follows your directives.
  • Compiled, now what?
    • Look around about what you have left. Put infrequently used or seasonal items in the upper shelves that are harder to reach. It's getting close to Thanksgiving, so you might want to leave down the pumpkin pie filling left over from last year, as well as that hot cocoa. Put anything summery away at the top if you are going to keep it. (Maybe blueberry or strawberry fillings, or sun teas).
    • Bulk items fit nicely here, too. Jon got a steal on a carton of paper towels. I got a bargain on a large container of vegetable oil. I took my smaller (easier to handle container of oil, poured the bulk oil in it to the top, the banished the giant container to the back, top of the pantry.  (top left shelf of after picture)
    • Put gravy packets, chili/ taco seasoning packets, drink mixes, etc in a basket for easy identifying. I also put spices that I had double or triple of here with a note on the front of the container to check here before buying more spices. (top left in after picture)
  • Replace the food at levels according to your needs.
    • Snacks and grab-and-go foods should be at a kid's eye level if you have children.
    • Frequently used goods should be at eye level with labels turned out for quick identification.
    • Infrequently used items go close to ceiling or floor.
    • Finally, if you have a bunch of shopping bags, put them all into 1 bag. If that bag gets too full, toss out what's left over because that is just too many bags. Check out the bottom of my before after to see what a difference that made.
  • Good work! Take out the trash & drive the food to the food bank and you're done!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Juicing Day One Follow up

Well, I feel a little foggy. As you can probably tell from the video, I'm a little out of it. I seriously had no food cravings up until about 4:30 p.m. That was something that really surprised me. I thought for sure I would not feel full, and I guess full isn't what I should have been expecting to feel. Satisfied; satiated are more the words that describe my hunger level after my breakfast and lunch juice. I even tested my resolve by meeting a friend for lunch. He was able to eat his lunch without me eyeing like a starving dog. I was feeling pretty confident.

I made two batches of juice today. The morning's batch had more fruit (sweeter) and the evening's less fruit (more bland). The sweeter juice of this morning was easier to drink quickly, and I also made popsicles out of it for a different texture. This evening's juice was another story. I was cloudy-headed around dinner, so Jon actually made my juice for tonight. I had to sip it, because if I tried to chug it, I gagged. That really surprised me, because I have had juice all week of varying degrees of sweetness without once gagging. It could have been the combination of the tiredness and dizziness with the flavor. I hesitate to use bitter as a flavor descriptor, because that is not the right. I will have to work on trying to describe it better.

What else? The texture of the juice is thicker than water, but a little thinner than whole milk. It has very fine particulate in it, which means I had to rinse the glass right away after using it or else the particles cake on. Oh! Tomatoes and cucumbers have a very over-powering flavor in relation to other fruits and vegetables. Think V8 flavor overpowering your apple juice. Since I'm not big on either of these two veggies, I am either halving them, or adding more fruit to cover their flavor.

Sweetness is another aspect that I am working with. You are not supposed to be using a lot of fruit in your juices. Mostly green veggies. I am trying to stair step down from the sweet. It is very hard for me because I was never a big veg or fruit eater to begin with. So going from Coca Cola every day to vegetable juice is a real shocker on the palate. I think we are so used to sugary drinks in this country, that anything natural tastes bland by comparison...and it doesn't satisfy that sweet craving. The funny thing, though, is that with my more savory evening juice, I had a small apple. That apple tasted like one of the sweetest apples I have ever had. Now, I know if I had just eaten an apple any ole time, it probably wouldn't have been so sweet. It's funny how my palate is already changing to tone down the sugar.

Well, that's all for tonight. Let me know if you have any questions, I'll be more than happy to answer them.

Juicing Day One

Today, I am starting my 10 day juice fast. Over the past few days I have been reducing my meals and substituting in juice instead. Today, I think I am ready to go for it. I am drinking my morning juice now, and will report more later. I'm going to need lots of support from you guys so let me hear ya!

Blood pressure: High normal range
Weight: 171
Complexion: As bad as ever.
Mood: Anxious

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Breif Introduction to Juicing

Hey Gang. I know I have been M.I.A., but truth be told, I have been out of work with a hurt back. It hurts to sit at a computer, so communicating with you guys is a real struggle for me.

I had started recording juice videos before I got hurt, and I have been working to get a short one complied for you to watch. I have been working on it awhile, it's not perfect, but it will have to do until I get better with these video editing tools. Please be gentle, I know it's not Oscar worthy material.

I think the video does a pretty good job of introducing you to the juicer. Of course, please leave me questions in the comments, and I will address them in my next video or post. I love questions, it gives me fodder to write about so please don't be shy!

Friday, September 30, 2011


I am so angry right now. I was on target to start juicing today, when all hell broke loose. I have been experiencing increasingly painful back issues, and Wednesday I came came to the end of my rope. I went to the doctor, had an MRI, and have a herniated disc and some degineration of the spine. It hurts like crazy and I have been put on lots of pills and mandatory bed rest. A nuero-surgeon is to be calling to set up a consultation. Sitting is painful beyond belief, and I have a cane to help me up and down. I am truly falling apart.

Jon has put all my wishes of juicing on hold for now. We both worry that the antioxidants in the juices and vegetables my flush out the pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication, thus inflaming my back even more. *sigh*

I have been laying flat 4-5 hours for 3 days now, moving to the couch in the afternoons in a semi-reclined position. Jon was kind enough to lend me his laptop, as I was strictly forbidden from sitting at a computer. I believe this is what got me in so much pain in the first place. I sit at a computer all day, every work day.

Today, Jon finally unpacked and set up the juicer. I feel the excitement of juicing coming back to me. We made a deal to try the machine out later this weekend. I may have to put the program on hold, but I thought I could at least handle a glass or two of juice over the weekend.

I have been reading over one of my juicing books and I am putting together a list of veg for Jon to purchase, since I cannot ride in a car or do the shopping myself. I hope to have my first juice tomorrow, I will make every attempt to log on and tell you about it. Until then, enjoy your weekend while I slip into a drug enduced haze.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The New Series & Other Things You Have Been Wondering About

Welcome back! It's an unusually tense Monday for me. Things at work have been very tense. Plus, the bakery has kind of had a busy month as well. This past weekend, I had two weddings and a funeral to attend plus the big order from the previous few posts to take to one of the weddings. All in all, I have been running non-stop since leaving for Italy. Of course, the blog is in a sad, sad state of affairs with puny excuses for posts. However, I am attempting to make good on that now with the new series I hinted at earlier last week.

Last month, I watched a documentary called, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead". The film tells the story of an overweight man, Joe Cross, who travels across the country for 60 days while drinking only juice derived from freshly ground fruits and vegetables. He starts the trip at over 200 lbs, and requires something like 10 medications a day to manage his multiple health conditions. Over the trip, you see his weight melt off, and by the end, he is medication free. It was truly an amazing transformation.

Now before you think I got all caught up in the glamours of the show, I DID do some research on juicing. Many people have talked about how juicing has not only helped them lose weight, but has helped them with everything from rheumatoid arthritis, to skin conditions, to auto-immune diseases. This is very much in line with the documentary. So, there might be something to this.

After much debate, Jon and I decided to buy a juicer.

Which is now sitting ominously in my living room. 
Jon is very nervous about this endeavor, and now that the juicer has actually arrived, I am too. The expense of a high quality juicer is just (forgive me) Goddamn ridiculous. Part of me wants to send it back just so I can see that cash back in the bank. Him and I both worry that we won't catch the "juicing bug" and we will have a $200 paper weight taking up kitchen counter space. I am worrying about that even more now that the thing has actually arrived, where before I was absolutely without reservations.

So why did I do this...? Here are my reasons.

1.) I am fat. Not like cankle fat, but fat enough to be causing me problems. I am insulin resistant at this point, which means I'm just one or two jelly packed kolaches from Diabetes. Not a great thing to have when you bake cakes as a side job. I hope to lose at least 5-10 lbs.

I love everything about Wilford Brimley, except the diabeetus.
2.) In 2009, I had a knee surgery due increased arthritis pain in my knee. I had a complication that included a blood clot in the leg and 3 in the lungs. I had to relearn how to walk correctly and climb stairs at the age of 27. Since then, I have to be very mindful of my knees, and while my new job has helped me keep 10 lbs off because of all the walking I have to do to get from Point A to Point B, I'm still running heavy for my frame. Taking some weight off my knees would seriously help with this.

3.) Skin disease; another big reason I am interested in juicing. I have has horrible acne since I was born. There are baby pictures of we with zits. It is disgusting, painful, and disfiguring. I'm very self conscious about it, and always have been. When I first started the blog, I considered never showing my face on it at all. Of course that didn't work out. Now, I am hoping that the nutrients from the juicing will help reduce my breakouts and heal my skin. Acne medications are very bad for unborn babies. Which brings me to...

4.) We may be trying to get pregnant soon. I have Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome, which causes fertility problems and weight related problems. In addition to that, I have already been dubbed a high-risk pregnancy candidate because of my history of blood clots. This means that I already know I will be getting two shots of blood thinners to the stomach for 9 months to prevent a stroke from another clot. The thought of getting gestational diabetes on top of that (which requires insulin shots) is enough to make we not want to get pregnant at all. Jon has had to give me the blood thinner shots when we take long flights, and he will be the ones doing it while I'm pregnant. It breaks his heart seeing me all bruised up on the stomach and crying when I get them. The shots cause stress on us both. The less shots we have to do, the better.

So these are my reasons for going for this. I decided to do a 10 day juice fast starting (hopefully) this Friday night. ( I want to give my body and digestive system the weekend to get itself on track if you catch my drift). I am going to try to do a video diary of my experiences for you if I can figure out how to make it work on the blogger platform. I will try disclose as much as possible about the experience, and will field any questions that are posted in the comments. I will also try to give the recipes I am using and the a critique of the flavors of my juices.

If I am doing well at the end of the 10 days, I may try to extend it to 30 days. And yes, I know how crazy that sounds. However, many of the people that I read about, who started on 10 day fasts, felt so good at the end that they extended it to 30 or even 60 days. Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Precious Cargo & Other Things I'm Freaking Out About

Transport and presentation are the scariest part of any order.

Hypno-rosettes and Other Things Making Me Mad

Whoops, forgot to attach that last time!

Been slaving away all morning on these. I hope my bride likes them. I'm really nervous about how they look. What do you think?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Playing with Royal Icing.

Last weekend, I got my largest order to date. The order involves approximately 100 cake balls and 100 rosettes. After a rough start, we finally got the cake ball bases finished last night.

I had started to do this post last night, but my computer froze and I lost the whole thing! Ugh. So now, let me start over and do a quick blurb before I'm cake bound for the rest of the weekend. I have two weddings and a funeral to go to! Sigh.

So I am going to make 100 rosettes for the wedding reception on Saturday. Lots of times they are just dusted with powdered sugar. Other times, they are dipped in royal icing and look colorful and beautiful.

Royal icing is that hard, shining icing that you see on those over-priced boutique cookies. It's basically a simple mixture of egg whites, sugar, water and food coloring. I wanted to experiment making it before trying it on a customer's order, so I mixed up a batch of yellow last night and made some very ugly cookies, doused in the sugary stuff.

Welcome to Sugar Mountain, where is snows powdered sugar year round!

The icing actually turned out pretty well, and hardened up and turned shiny like a dream. The flavor of the stuff right out of the pot, in my opinion, is not too great. However, once paired with the plain sugar cookie, it really enhanced the flavor of the cookie itself.

Some very ugly cookies, some already eaten.
Anyway, I am about to start another series. I recently watched a documentary about nutrition and I am going to give some of the techniques they talked about in the show a whirl. More later, I have to start those 100 cake balls. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 19, 2011

This Weekend's Cakes

I got to try out a new cake idea this weekend and it went off swimmingly. Unfortunately, my photographer was out of town, so you are going to have to deal with my terrible shots.

The first was a birthday cake perfect for anyone that loves candy. The fellow that got this one was so excited, he wanted to eat all the M&M's off the top!

"For ME?!?!?!"

The other cake was for my mom. She loves icing, and Bavarian cream, so I made a rose cake for her. This time in pink. Her mouth fell open when she saw it. I could have cried it felt so nice. She ran and got the neighbor. LOL.

I need a new camera. Geeze.
Lots of things developed this weekend as well. I have a huge order of cake ball/truffle things and Rosettes this week for a wedding reception. I also have a "cake in the waiting" for a bridal shower in October, no real details yet. I have a birthday cake to make for my father in law in 2 weeks. So much to do, so little time!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thanks to My Readers for My 10,000th Page View

Back From Italy with Writer's Block

Okay, maybe not writer's block, but I have been staring at Cake Wrecks and other blogs I follow for about 30 minutes with my blank posting box, staring me in the face, over in the next tab.



Ahem, well...



Right. So Italy. Everyone wants to hear about it, so let's have a dialog. Or a monologue. Whatever. I am going to surprise quite a few people by saying that the food was pretty disappointing. I don't know if that is because of where we ate or what my expectations about what Italian food was, but I was still disappointed nonetheless.

Let's start with what my expectations were. In my mind, I was expecting dishes with rich, herby tomato sauces, akin to the kind that you imagine old ladies simmering for three days in a giant pot. Truth is, marinara-like sauces are used pretty sparingly. More like just enough to keep noodles from drying out in the cooking process. Most dishes were fairly simple and straight-forward. One dish we had was spaghetti limone. (Spaghetti with Lemon Sauce). Which was basically spaghetti noodles with lemon juice mixed together with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.


That is not a sauce. That's noodles tossed in lemon juice, and I got charged 6-7 euros for that. Let's call that about $9 American. Pity.

Most of the dishes were very heavy handed with olive oil and cheese. At times, Jon and I would put an extra, folded up napkin or slice of crusty bread under one side of our plates to help drain off some of oil. As far as the cheese goes, don't get me wrong. As you know, I love cheese. But even I got burned out on the amount of cheese, and that is saying a lot. I put on about 5-6 lbs on this trip, and I am blaming it all on cheese. We walked a good 5-10 miles every day, so that should tell you how many calories of cheese was consumed.

Now let's talk about some positive food experiences. I got to try a few new varieties of pasta that I have only seen on Iron Chef or not at all. The first was called gnocchi (pronounced "No-Key"), which is made from mashed potatoes, egg yolks, and flour. It is very dense and filling. It was the first pasta meal I ordered when I arrived, and it looks like this:

Gnocchi tossed in oil and Parmesan cheese. Not bad, will certainly make you feel stuffed.
The other type of pasta that I got to try was known as Strozzapreti, which is very frightfully translated as "priest choker" pasta.


I'm not making this up.

According to the all knowing Wikipedia, there are several legends about how this pasta got its name:

"One is that gluttonous priests were so enthralled by the savory pasta that they ate too quickly and choked themselves, sometimes to death. Another explanation involves the "azdora" ("housewife" in the Romagna's dialect), who "chokes" the dough strips to make the strozzapreti: "... in that particular moment you would presume that the azdora would express such a rage (perhaps triggered by the misery and difficulties of her life) to be able to strangle a priest!" Another legend goes that wives would customarily make the pasta for churchmen as partial payment for land rents (In Romagna, the Catholic Church had extensive land properties rented to farmers), and their husbands would be angered enough by the venal priests eating their wives' food to wish the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouth with it. The name surely reflects the diffuse anticlericalism of the people of Romagna and Tuscany."

Anyway, our priest choker pasta was made into a carbonara with small chunks of panchetta. If you have never had carbonara, it may seem like a sort of Alfredo sauce, but it actually made with cream and a ton of eggs. Panchetta is basically unsmoked bacon. It was very good and homemade. I needed a nap after eating it. I certainly hope food experts are still on the "eggs are good for you" swing, because I have seen this recipe with as many as 8 eggs in it.

Pasta with which one chokes priests.
Another thing that I learned it Italy is the true meaning of "al dente". I mean, I know it literally means "on the tooth", but what does THAT mean? I've been reading pasta boxes for years with directions to cook noodles "al dente", and I have come to the conclusion that some things you just can't understand until you have eaten them in their natural environment. If that makes any sense. Basically, what I have discovered is that I have been over-boiling my noodles until they are too soft. Noodles are not supposed to be crunchy, but they are supposed to be so soft the great-granny can gum them without her dentures in. They should have a little spring; a bit of chew to them.

I think my favorite food experience, other than cheap wine (which was sadly, under consumed), was gelato.

He had a nut flavor and I had lemon.

Gelato is eaten almost daily as a late-afternoon snack. Italians don't really eat breakfast-only coffee and small yogurt, lunch is eaten between about 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., followed by coffee or gelato around 4 p.m., with dinner not starting into well after 8 p.m. I think the only way they can make it that late without eating is because the coffee is so strong that it suppresses the appetite until much later in the night. The coffee was so strong, I think I grew chest hair. Scotch seemed smoother by comparison. Consequently, I consumed a lot of gelato. Mostly lemon which was F-ing fantastic by the way. But also a creme and bitter cherry, mixed berry, chocolate, and an egg custard variety called zambioni. Jon was way more adventurous and had a different flavor everyday. Of course, he couldn't get away with not eating something Nutella, which he absolutely loves. Me not so much.

I'm just getting back on American time, and I promise I will try to post some more food pictures this weekend. Sorry to let you down in that respect. I have a cake to make tonight, so look for them a little later this weekend. Thanks a million, and also, hello to my two new followers. Ciao!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Forgein Food Fotos on Facebook

Klassic Kolache: Technique Tuesday

Klassic Kolache is a something I am doing to tide y'all over until I can post from Italy. These are some of my favorite and most popular posts. It's great for newer readers to learn more of my history and for old readers to take a stroll down memory lane. Enjoy.

Grinding your own spices saves you money and gives your dishes the freshest flavor. Here is a quick video teaching you how you, too, can grind your own spices at home. No fancy gadgets required!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Klassic Kolache: A Cake Wreck Celebration

Klassic Kolache is a something I am doing to tide y'all over until I can post from Italy. These are some of my favorite and most popular posts. It's great for newer readers to learn more of my history and for old readers to take a stroll down memory lane. Enjoy.

I made a cake to celebrate my 6000th page view. Now that I am racing towards my 10,000th page view, it seems fitting to remind everyone of my very humble beginnings. Thanks for your love and support.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Klassic Kolache: Krusty Awesome Artisan Bread

Klassic Kolache is a something I am doing to tide y'all over until I can post from Italy. These are some of my favorite and most popular posts. It's great for newer readers to learn more of my history and for old readers to take a stroll down memory lane. Enjoy.

I love artisan bread, and it is very difficult to find here in the US, unless you know a baker or want to spend $10 a loaf at a rich-people grocery store. However, I found a fairly straight-forward recipe that produces excellent results. This bread is great with stews and soups, you should try it this weekend.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Klassic Kolache: Wall Cake

Klassic Kolache is a something I am doing to tide y'all over until I can post from Italy. These are some of my favorite and most popular posts. It's great for newer readers to learn more of my history and for old readers to take a stroll down memory lane. Enjoy.

Turns out that making sure that your cake is level before stacking and icing it is a very crucial step. However, if worse comes to worst, you can still save your cake.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Klassic Kolache: Recipes Never Work Well Twice

Klassic Kolache is a something I am doing to tide y'all over until I can post from Italy. These are some of my favorite and most popular posts. It's great for newer readers to learn more of my history and for old readers to take a stroll down memory lane. Enjoy.

Don't get cocky once you feel like you have mastered a recipe because it will always come back to bite you! I got tricked into making a million candies for a party and because I was too proud, they didn't work out as smoothly as they had in the past. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Klassic Kolache: Jelly Roll Goes Flat

Klassic Kolache is a something I am doing to tide y'all over until I can post from Italy. These are some of my favorite and most popular posts. It's great for newer readers to learn more of my history and for old readers to take a stroll down memory lane. Enjoy.

Even though Jon's mother can't make one of these successfully and I have never even seen one before, she had full faith in my ability to pull this recipe off. Oh well, at least it got eaten in the end.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Klassic Kolache: Theft From Iron Chef Bobby Flay

Klassic Kolache is a something I am doing to tide y'all over until I can post from Italy. These are some of my favorite and most popular posts. It's great for newer readers to learn more of my history and for old readers to take a stroll down memory lane. Enjoy.

Bobby Flay is one of my all time favorite Iron Cheves Chefs. I was watching two to three Iron Chef battles a night not too long ago, and it started to go to my head. One day, I am determined to meet Bobby Flay! But until then, I must be satisfied with stealing from the man.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Klassic Kolache: How To Know if You Live in the Ghetto

Klassic Kolache is a something I am doing to tide y'all over until I get something posted from Italy. These are some of my favorite and most popular posts. It's great for newer readers to learn more of my history and for old readers to take a stroll down memory lane. Enjoy.

We are about to renew our lease on the Ghetto Hovel for another year. The yard is still dug up because the city is laying a new road. Single mom is still there, screaming at her toddler. We have a new guy that has taken over trashing the yard every day of the week with his fast food bags and beer bottles. Ahhh...if only baking paid more...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

Here is an quick article about the history of labor day and food labeling in the USA. 
Have a Safe and Yummy Holiday.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love...Well, Mostly Eat and Drink

Tomorrow Jon and I are off! We are going to Italy to hang out for 10 days in the countryside, getting drunk daily on copious amounts of cheap wine. Well, that's my plan anyway. I know in the states it's 5 o'clock happy hour, but for Italy, I'm not so sure.  Therefore, I have developed this agenda to keep our travels on track:

*Get on plane, throw cell phone in trash*

  • 7:30 a.m.: Wake up eat lots of bread. Go back to sleep.
  • 8:30 a.m.: Really wake up and have some espresso and biscotti.
  • 9:00 a.m.: Wine tasting tour.
  • 10:00 a.m: Purchase wine in wine tasting shop.
  • 10:30 a.m.: Mid morning snack of bread, cheese, and wine.
  • 11:00 a.m.: Stumble around Milan looking at awesome old stuff. Maybe buy some horribly overpriced garment. Milan is fashion capitol of Italy after all.
  • 12:00 p.m.: Time for some very carb loaded lunch and a bottle of wine. Better make that two bottles. Don't want to get dehydrated from all that walking around and sightseeing we are going to be doing.
  • 1:30 p.m.: Nap in the park under a shady tree.
  • 2:30 p.m.: Awaken and stumble around an art museum. Giggle inappropriately at nude sculptures.
  • 4:00 p.m.: Snack time. Purchase me some gelato and a glass of wine. Stroll about the streets admiring architecture. 
  • 6:00 p.m.: Dinner time. Four course pasta meal with wine courses to compliment? Sounds good to me! 
  • 9:00 p.m.: Stumble into a club and dance very, very badly to 90's techno.
  • 11:00 p.m.: Be carried home and pass out in bed.

I plan to repeat this pattern until all 10 days in Italy are used up and my blood is 95% Pinot Noir. I suppose a shower will be in order somewhere in there. Oh and we will be seeing Florence, Pisa, and Rome. So I imagine a car ride will be in order as well. Thankfully, I will not be the one driving. Good thing because there are so many local vineyards with their own blend of wine, it will be difficult for me to get to our destinations without pulling over to sample every single one.

Luckily, I married a guy who's family brought over exchange students. Luca has been a family friend ever since he came to the states as teen, and went to high school under the watchful eye of Jon's parents. Now that he is back in Italy, he insists we come to visit and I can't wait. Having a native show you the best places in Italy is like living there yourself. The best food, the neatest shops, and of course, the finest wines are waiting for us!

Me, Luca, and Jon goofing off at the wedding.

I will attempt to post some pictures of me drunk on wine food and street grocers once we arrive. Wish us happy and safe travels!

Ciao Baby!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Impromptu Portrait Sessions & Other Things Photographers Will Sneak In

As most of you know, Carlos from 3rd Avenue Photography came out last week to photograph some of my cakes. He was also very sneaky and requested...nay...demanded to take portraits of me in my kitchen while he was there. I was not at all prepared, the kitchen was still a wreck from all the cakes I had made. Dishes were stacked high in the sink, icing globs abounded. He managed to tuck me into a tight corner and get some shots though that make me look half decent. 

I know what you are going to say, too" "For not being prepared to have a portrait session taken, you sure to look dressed up." Well, when Carlos came over, I had just gotten out of the shower. My hair was wet, I was in old blue jeans that had icing on them, no make up. As the session crept on, I had to start getting ready for Rachel's bridal shower, so I would flit back and forth between kitchen and bathroom to get get make up, blow dryer, etc. About 20 minutes before I was about to run out the door, is when he grabbed me and made me do the Betty Crocker thing. I know you have been just dying to see these. Hopefully I can arrange some real portraits of me for the blog when I have my blond hair back and my vintage dress. Until then, here you go:

"You want to take pictures of me?"

Everything is shoved into the sink by the mixer!!

"Carlos hurry!! This cake weighs 20 lbs!"

Above those cabinets are rows and rows of liquor.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Olivia's First Birthday Cake!

Carlos from 3rdAvenuePhotography, sent me this family shot of himself, his wife Annie, and their precious baby girl today. She was the little lucky lady who received the three tiered cake wreck. I know, I know I have to quit being so hard on myself, I just wanted it to be perfect for her. Of course she won't remember, but pictures are floating around the interwebs a lot longer lately. Hopefully, Annie will send me some pictures of her eating on that little top layer. However, Annie tells me that Olivia has quite princess-like table manners. So, we may not have the messy face we anticipated. I will keep you posted!

A gracious gal, that sweety!

The candle makes it look less slanted. LOL.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Photographer's Visit & Other Things You've Been Dying to Read About

Hey Kids!

Sorry I have been such a bad bloggess lately. I made three cakes last week and I am completely exhausted. I completed the Rainbow Cake Thursday night. Friday I worked relentlessly on the baby cake and Rachel's shower cake. At midnight, Jon said I had to go to sleep because crying and banging my head on the table was not going to make the cake any smoother. I woke up at 7 a.m. the next morning to try to continue working on it. After the shoot I had to race across town for Rachel's bridal shower because I was helping to host. I didn't leave the shower until 4:30 p.m. I came home and practically passed out on the couch.

Truth be told, I was not happy with the Rachel's or Olivia's cake. Especially Olivia's cake. The buttercream icing recipe that I have been using is just too thin, it seems, to create a super smooth texture. It was so frustrating. I know what you are thinking: "Enough jibber jabber, let's see the goods." Alright alright, don't get your piping bags in a wad. Here's a sort of photo montage with commentary. With some simple tricks, your cakes can, too, look this...ummm..."fabulous".

"The Painted Pig"

Got an ugly cake? Simply place a giant flower in the middle to cover unsightly bits.

Still ugly? Throw some marbles or candy on the the table to distract people from the actual cake.
Then have the photographer photoshop it up a bit and no one will ever notice!

"The Masterpiece"

The prettiest cake I have ever made. Too pretty to eat.

If you build your cake on a cardboard round, be sure to remove it before the shoot.

If you have a cake too pretty to eat, you can carry it around on a pretty tray
and tease the neighbors and guests.

OMG! A Double Rainbow!!! It's so intense! What does this mean?!!!!
*crying, banging fist on desk*

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!!!"

Extra candy will make it pop!

Lean your head to the side and it will look straight....more....more....LEAN Damn you!
Keep the rolling pin handy to knock heads with.


I guess all that really matters is that everyone was happy with their cakes. I suppose that is what is important. I definitely have a long way to go with my decorating skills. I will be posting more pictures as the week goes on.

Carlos insisted on taking some pictures of me in the kitchen as well. I was not at all prepared for this, I was running around trying to blow dry my hair and put on lipstick in between shots. If you are in a rush, and you just can't wait to see the pictures of me, you can always check out Carlos' site: 3rd Avenue Photography. He also sent me some shots of Olivia enjoying her cake. Hopefully I can get those up later this week, too.