Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A 10 Minute Pie to Solve a Thanksgiving Day Crisis

I hate the holidays. Maybe this comes from being a kid of a divorced family, being drug hither and thither all over the place every holiday instead of being able to stay at home and play. I thought that when I got married it would be better because things would happen at my house, but no. Jon has a huge family of frail, elderly types that insist we go to their home on X day because that is how they have been doing that holiday since 1956. It is exhausting. This year even more so with a newborn and still fighting the postpartum depression.

That being said, there can never be an occasion in which some catastrophe doesn't try to ruin the holiday. It's just Murphy's Law. My personal favorite from my mother's side: one time the turkey slid off the platter while my grandma was carrying it, and it fell into the open, running washing machine. She didn't tell a soul, just rinsed it off and served it. Yum! Downy fresh!

That being said, hopefully your holiday catastrophe will be limited to your brother bringing a drunk girlfriend, Aunt Martha inviting a few more people than you anticipated, or you forgetting to bring a dessert to the party. I have a quick solution for that last one.

I've talked about my peanut butter chocolate pie before I'm sure, but let me refresh because I don't want you to be searching all over the blog or interwebs to find the recipe. That will only bring about a second catastrophe:

      Wouldn't want your mobile device battery to die while you were searching. How would you
        entertain yourself for the rest of the day?

So basically, most pantries have the 4 ingredients you need for this pie and it can be ready in 10 minutes. You will need:

1 graham cracker pie crust
Peanut butter (any variety)
3 cups of milk
1 large package of instant chocolate pudding


Use an ice cream scoop and put 3 heaping scoops of peanut butter in a bowl. Nuke in the microwave for 30 seconds or so to melt a little. Don't over heat like I did or your house will smell like burned peanuts.

Make pudding according to directions, I.e. whisk 3 cups of milk into pudding. Set aside, try to keep the kids out of it.

Pour slightly melted PB into the bottom of the pie crust. Use a spatula or back of the spoon to evenly coat the bottom.

Pour the pudding on top and chill. Or serve, whatever. There will be a little bit of pudding leftover in the bowl. Feel free to gorge yourself on it, no one will be looking. Remember, they are watching your brother's obnoxious, drunk girlfriend flirt with Uncle Joe.

Then you can walk out with this and yell, "Ta Da"!!!!

Well, except it will be a whole pie.

Let's just hope the next holiday catastrophe isn't that someone is allergic to peanuts and goes into anaphylactic shock.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bread Goof

Today I decided to bust out the ole bread machine to whip up a french bread loaf to eat with our leftover stew. Unfortunately, prego brain got the best of me. I used 1/2 of the recipe for an Italian herb loaf before I realized that I was looking at the wrong recipe. There is a little more water and sugar to the Italian loaf recipe, in addition to oil (which is not at ALL in the french recipe.) I decided to say, "the hell with it" and see what comes out at the end.

The unfortunate thing is that if this bread turns out to be mind blowing, it's probably not reproducible. Oh well.

On a side note, tomorrow is 39 weeks pregnant. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and if she tells me (again) that I have not made any progress I am going to be quite upset. I have been reading about foods that people swear by to induce labor. Are there any that have been successful for you or someone you know?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Meal Prep for Baby and Other Considerations

Nesting is in full gear now that I am 38 weeks pregnant. At my last appointment, I was 70% effaced, which means I think little man will be pleasantly punctual, if not a little early bird. With that in mind, the 2 lasagnas and the 20 breakfast burritos I made a few weeks back in prep just don't seem like enough to get us through those first few weeks of caring for a newborn, so I decided to shop a little ($100 later at the grocer) and prep a few more meals.

Since Praha (Czech) Stew is such a staple around here, I decided to go ahead and make a huge batch of that. Also, I saw some individual sized tins for pot pies. So, I decided to make both of those today.

Yes, I know those pots are WAAAY too full.
Normally, I would scold myself for this, but today I'm pulling the pregnancy card.

Now if you don't recall, stew has a very critical right and wrong way to be prepped in this household, lest we have a repeat of the "winter of our discontent." So, I could have sworn I had the recipe posted up here for you guys, but I cannot find it! Just understand that it is a beef stew, with potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and Tony's.

Also, here is the Chicken Pot Pie Recipe. I just made a bigger batch and doled it out into the little tins. Thankfully, there was enough left over to make a small batch for tonight's dinner. That makes this a double win. Here's the low down. Cook the recipe double or triple until you have as much as you need for your prep. I made 6 indiviudal sizes and one family size. Today, I used about 4 chicken breasts, 2 small bags of frozen mixed veggies, one large can of cream of chicken soup, 3/4 of that can of water, spices, and about 1/2 lb of cheddar.

Once all that was cooked together, I used a ladle to fill the tins and allowed them to cool a bit as to not bake the thawed puff pastry that was going on top. Using a small prep bowl that was about the size of the tin, I cut a rough circle of thawed puff pastry for each tin. No Polly Perfects here.

Two puff pastry sheets got me 6 tins and enough to cover tonight's small
Corningware sized container. There was about four small tops per sheet.

Pre and post puff pastry topper. Not perfect but good enough.
Make sure to cut a vent in the top to prevent overflow.
To prevent freezer burn, I covered these little pies with foil THEN their plastic lid. You can write the cooking directions or meal descriptions on the foil. Basically, the pie needs to defrost for about 40 minutes. This is all because of the puff pastry. If you try to cook it frozen, the insides will be fine, but the pastry will be flat and not as delicious.

Digression: Puff Pastry is made up of about 9 million layers of butter and dough. To truly fluff up, those butter layers have to be at room temperature before baking. Also, this is not a dough that likes a lot of manipulation. Do your best to treat it gently and then don't fuss with it. A lot of compression and crimping will compact the butter layers, preventing the puff. Consider yourself warned.

"Thaw 40 minutes and bake 400* for approximately 20 minutes."
An important thing to remember: Remove that foil before baking. It is simply there for freezer burn protection. I don't know if we will be eating these this weekend or in 2 weeks, so I wanted the extra level of freezer burn protection. God knows what will turn out if you bake it with the foil on. Again, you have been warned.

As far as the "other considerations" mentioned in the title... One should really consider how much freezer space is available before prepping and purchasing too many things. Our new house came with a french style freezer that is narrow as hell. Luckily, I was able to cram all these in there after a good rearranging. However, there have been incidences of frozen pizzas that have to be cooked immediately due their diameter being wider than the shelves. I just had a panic attack wondering how I'm going to containers of stew that is still cooking in there. Oh well, live and learn.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Zebra Cake and Other Foolish Promises

Hey cake-in-ators. Trying to reach you at least one more time before my little guy comes busting out of my belly. I am 37 weeks and 2 days. Doing okay, other than the odd contraction here and there.

So my cousin is going to study abroad and is having a little shindig tomorrow. A bon voyage party, if you will. I asked if I needed to bring anything, and mistakenly suggested that I would bring a zebra cake, which by the way, she is super psyched about. If you have never seen a zebra cake, here is a preview of what it is supposed to look like:

Super cool, but not the most practical item to make between contractions.
Now, I didn't want to let her down so I am going to walk you through this wreck-in-action and hope you enjoy the ride. I didn't invent this cake, but it is all over Pintrest and the blog has its own explanation how to do it. However, I assume you guys love me more than her, so you will stick by to see how mine panned out.

Now, I used a Duncan Hines classic white and devil's food cake. Some of the instructions I read for this cake called for thickening of the batter by adding less water. Unfortunately, Duncan Hines has changed the formula for its cakes since the original pin was posted. So, I had to wing it. I went ahead and made the batters per the box instructions. However, I think I should have added about 1/4 cup of water to each batter separately, as the mix was very thick, and you need a medium-thin consistency.

Anyways, I mixed the batters up in two separate bowls. Next, I greased my 2, 8" round cake pans and proceeded to shovel approximately 1/4 cup of alternating batters into the center.  Use a different spoon for each bowl, you don't want to blend the batters. Just keep piling them on top of each other. Bang the pan on the counter gently to help spread the batter if needed.

Meh, a good faith effort. I think if my batter had been a teensy bit thinner,
I would have had the Polly Perfect concentric circles. Maybe. Oh well, Zebras aren't
perfectly banded, right?

Fill the pans about 2/3rds of the way full and cook according to the box instructions. You will have some batter left over which you can use to make cupcakes with. I am gorging on my spares unmercifully right now. The cake will bake up in the stripe pattern you laid out. So in lieu of fighting with my crappy photo editor (still have not found an adequate replacement for my beloved I will let your imagination go to to town about the results. Also, here's an important tip to remember...

Do not drop smart phones, IPads, or any other electronics into your batter.
Just a piece of friendly advice.
 Feel free to ice the cake as you wish, just make sure to level the cake first, lest there be a repeat of the
 wall cake incident. The party is tomorrow, so I'll post a slice shot from then. Happy baking.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nesting, Butcher Blocks, and Babies

So it's been awhile. *Holds head in shame* I hope there are still a few of you out there wanting to experience the wreckiness that is my domestic life. Let me just take a moment to complain about a few things.

First of all, tablets are not made for blogging. Because I only have the use of my Ipad right now, it has made it very difficult to dash of anything other than a quick picture for you guys. My PC is hooked up, but in his infinite wisdom, Jon told me to return our wireless router to AT&T when we cancelled our plan. Now we are back with them, sans the wireless router, because the PC was not hooked up when the installation guy was here. That being said, I have stolen Jon's ancient work laptop for the afternoon, and I am going to blast a post out.

Just in case you were wondering, here is a few photos of my expansion:

Four months pregnant.

Six Months Pregnant

Thirty-three weeks pregnant
I have zero energy and my memory has gone to shit. I also would like to comment about how Google has gobbled up, my favorite photo editing tool, and has replaced it with some where Google+ app I can't figure out in my present state.  So now I'm having a hard time making cute and hilarious pictures to add here.

Enough with the rant. I am nesting hard core. The house is a mess and it is driving me bat-shit crazy. We are 98% moved in, but Jon is the ultimate procrastinator. If it were up to me, the nursery would be done, and we would be worrying about how many birth announcements to order, but that is not the case.

The nursery is covered with clothes because we were hoping to get a dresser off our registry. No dice. After a catastrophic prego meltdown yesterday, we went to Target to see what options were available to us. The dresser to match our set was $300 and made of what I can only assume is paper mache. In fact, all the furniture we looked at everywhere was cheap crap. After much back and forth you are not going to be believe what we settled on for a dresser/changing table:

Yes, that is a butcher block...
...And NO the baby's room is not bakery or cupcake themed. Here is our rationale:
  1. That butcher block is wide enough for our changing pad (the other dresser choices were not.)
  2. This piece is rated to carry a 200 lb load. Most of the dressers, like I mentioned earlier, looked like the couldn't carry the weight of canary.
  3. There are pull out shelves that can hold baskets of stuff like a dresser.
  4. The wheels are optional, we will be installing legs instead.
  5. It is MUCH taller than the dressers we looked at, which will save our backs.
  6. Finally, when baby years are over, I can hopefully use it as a craft or baking area. (After a thorough bleaching of course.)

Right now, this thing is in 500 pieces on the living room floor. I have separated the pieces into their various steps, so Jon can put it together tonight. After it is together, I can finally get the remaining nursery things put away, and focus on the rest of the house. Like my messy kitchen.

All of the baby books, blogs, and websites say that at this stage of the game, you really should start freezing meals for after delivery. *Sigh* Since Jon hasn't really had a home cooked meal in the last quarter, this one is something I really need to get into gear about. I went to the grocer today and got $100 worth of goods. Hopefully, over the next coming days, you can see my efforts as I put that stuff together.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pregnant, Brain Dead, Old, and Unemployed

So today marks the one month anniversary of my lay off from the hospital. Ho hum. In the days leading to my lay off, I was excited about all the new time I would have to be working on the blog. Readership has naturally plummeted since I haven't been present in say...half a decade. (slight exaggeration.) However, I have been in a bit of a slump.

I turned 30 last month without much fanfare. It's hard to have a lot of excitement when your half way through a pregnancy that has only let you stopped vomiting in the last 10 days. I didn't even make a cake, or get a cake...or even want one for that matter. I am so burned out on cake it's not even funny. I blame the Wilton class for it. Once I learned that the bulk of "buttercream" icings were mostly vegetable shortening ("the more trans-fat the better your decorations will hold!") I have been on icing hiatus. I used to leave the cake to eat just that crap. Barf!

Since being home, I have cooked all of one meal. I am really ashamed of myself. I've been trying to get used to the idea that I might be a stay at home mom for awhile. No judgement, just not how I thought things were going to work out. I've been reading "Stay at Home Mommy Survival Guides" to get an idea of what to expect, because all I have managed to do in the week that I have been off is get addicted to Game of Thrones.

A lot of changes have been happening besides the layoff and the pregnancy. We bought a house, and the documents are in the works. Jon and I moved out of ghettosville at the end of May. I've been trying to clean and unpack as best as my body will let me. I just find that I don't have the stamina I used to. I'm 27 weeks pregnant and only now starting to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. The baby is fine and healthy, I've just turned into a pile of goo.


I got off my bum and decided my dear breadwinner of a hubby needed some sweets to get him through the day. Since there will be no cake, I decided to try my hands at Snickerdoodles. A Christmas favorite, due to their warm holiday spices of nutmeg and cinnamon, this little cookie is usually usurped by it's fancier friends, chocolate chip, macadamia nut, or oatmeal raisin.

Snickerdoodles are relatively new in my orb of awareness, though they have been around for generations (so I've read.) I guess I thought they were a "Wal-Mart Cookie Creation" because I had only seen snickerdoodles in the pre-made dough squares offered at mass grocery chains. Every time I see something advertised as a snickerdoodle at a bake sale, they still have that squarish shape from those packaged beginnings. "Why?" I ask. After some Googling, I found they are pretty simple to make, don't require a lot of fancy ingredients, and are very quick to prepare. To me, cookies that are soft and chewy will always beat out a a crunchy cookie. I tested out this recipe and found a winner:

Chewy Snickerdoodles
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup butter (NOT margarine)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 eggs (room temperature if you have time)
2 2/3 cups flour
2 t of cream of tartar
1 t of baking soda
1/4 t salt

1 T of sugar
1-2 t of cinnamon

Start by getting all your ingrediants together like we've discussed a million times before. Put your butter and eggs out 30 minutes or so before you're ready to start so they will be room temperature, but not melted. If you forget to put the butter out to soften, nuke it until soft but not melted. Sometimes it helps to cut it into pieces so it doesn't stay a brick on the outside and melt in the middle.

  • Preheat your oven to 400*
  • Mix your shortening, butter, eggs, and sugar.
  • In a seperate bowl sift your dry ingrediants together if you have a sifter. If not, it's not the end of the world.
  • Mix in the wet ingrediants to the dry.
  • In a small bowl, mix the topping sugar and cinnamon together.
  • Once everything is well incorporated, roll the dough into ping pong ball sized balls. 
  • Roll the balls in the topping covering. Be generous.
  • Place the dough balls on a ungreased cookie sheet. about 2" apart. If you grease it they will be overdone on the bottom. 
  • Push the balls down a little with your fingers. These babies don't spread out like other cookies.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
 Enjoy the chewy awesomeness.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Strawberry Angel Food Cake

The unseasonably warm Spring means strawberries are in season early. So, now is the time to create some of your favorite summer treats.

Tips for strawberries:
1) Buy them the day you want to use them. I went berry picking on Thursday afternoon, and most of my berries are already on the over ripe side.
2) Wash them only when you're about to use them, the water will make them soggy faster.
3) Store the berries in a single layer to to prevent bruising and sogginess. Preferably on a paper towel.
4) I store my berries on the counter instead of the fridge. I think the cold damages the fruit's skin.
5) Ugly berries can puréed or made into jelly. Do your best.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hipster Cakes Are All the Rage

The past couple of days, a friend of mine and I were plotting a surprise birthday cake to make for her husband. We thought about Lost, and Willy Wonka, and Books, and all manner of things that I am unskilled enough to try to achieve. Later, we settled on a little hipster bow-tie cake, suitable for the pocket protector wearing nerd you know and love.

The final product

Now I no Ace of Cakes or whatever, but I think this little guy turned out alright. Jon and I both worked on it, as we are wont to do nowadays when I have an order. One thing we did notice is that when a cake order comes in, tension runs high. We always believe our cake looks awful. Whenever it is delivered though, it aways brings joy. After this last bout of slinging icing and obscenities, it was decided that I need to go ahead and start my cake decorating classes. The theory is I will become more comfortable with the basics and won't fret so much.

I drove down to Hobby Lobby to sign up for the Wilton Decorating Course #1 a week ago, which was a feat in and of itself. The cashier was a total bonehead, but I walked out with my registration ticket in hand. Only $20 for a class! What a steal! That's when I started to read the back of my form. I forgot to pick up the supplies I needed for the class!

Later that week, I trudged back to HL and started grabbing the items from the supply list. My register total: $200! I almost fell over dead. How could a 2 hour class need so much crap? Thankfully, the other wilton courses use the same stuff so I will not have to repurchase anything. Jon is demanding that I take all the courses, even the ones I think are not up my alley (i.e. "Making Icing Flowers!") These cakes look like the old lady cakes you can get from Wal-mart. I would hope I produce a more ahem...slight artistic and higher quality product than that. Jon feels that may be true, but at some point, someone will want a granny cake for Mother's Day or something. So I will acquiesce and take it next.

Tonight is my first class, and I am about to head out with ym 3 bags of supplies. I'm nervous that it is going to be a complete disaster, and that I can't possibly learn enough in a 2 hour class to make a decent, plain looking cake. However, YouTube is quickly becoming a poor substitution for actual classroom instruction. So, away I go, dignity the only thing left to lose. Pictures of my work will hopefully be posted in the morning. Wish me luck!