Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lovely, I'm sure...

So, I have all but abandoned my blog. Reasons are numerous but it all comes down to three facts: I have been busy, I have lost interest, and I am the only one who reads this thing. However, I just finished reading a blog post that an old friend from high school wrote and it made me nostalgic for my blog posting days.

First, an update on my life. The job that I raved about a year ago has become a nightmare. I hate it. A lot. So, I'm planning on going back to school to become a middle school math teacher. I'm actually quite excited about that. I've always loved math and having volunteered in a sixth grade math class twice a week for a couple months now I'm falling more and more in love with the idea of teaching.

I've also decided to up my efforts to live a simplified life. It's been a constant goal of mine to pare down my life to the bare essentials. However, I've been really bad with the follow through. I've decided that several areas of my life need a makeover, or more accurately a makeunder, and I am determined to set the actions in motion. Wish me luck! I'll chronicle my process (unless my interest fades again).

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nanaimo Bars: Those Canadians have done it again!

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

I'm a naughty girl. I actually did my challenge very early this month but have been too lazy to upload pictures. I loved this challenge. I had never heard of Nanaimo bars before but oh my goodness they are so good! I wish I could say I was as disciplined as some of the daring bakers who froze them, gave them away, or ate them a little bit at a time. Nope, I ate the entire batch in less than two days. My husband had ONE.

This was my first time making graham crackers from scratch. I've never been a graham cracker fan but they taste so much better homemade. I must admit, they weren't gluten free. I used AP flour. I couldn't find any of the specialty flours at my local grocery store and I couldn't justify hunting them down and spending a lot of money on them when I probably will never use them again. The only problems I encountered while making the graham crackers were 1. I kept eating the batter and 2. I BURNED them!! Next time I'll keep a close eye on them. Some of them were still salvageable and went in to the Nanaimo bars. Unfortunately, none of them were pretty enough to take a picture of (which is a shame because I made them in the shapes of Dinosaurs and Hippopotamuses using the cookie cutters my parents gave my hubby for Christmas.

For the bars, I added all the goodies listed in the recipe including some chocolate chips. I used pudding instead of custard mix because, again, I couldn't find any at my grocery store. The frosting center never set up hard enough for me to make a clean cut (perhaps because of my use of pudding instead of custard)...but it was SO GOOD!! My only big complaint about the recipe is that there wasn't enough ganache to cover the top completely. So, I decided to marble it to make it look prettier. It's funny how my desserts never turn out as pretty as anyone else on Daring Baker's. They almost always taste amazing but my presentation sucks. I really need to work on that.

Homemade Graham Crackers

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a large baking sheet. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl; set aside.

2. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and brown sugar together until light. Stir in the flour mixture. Slowly pour in the water; stir until dough is formed. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.

3. On a well floured board, roll dough to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Use a knife or cookie cutter to cut dough into squares or rectangles. Transfer crackers to prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake in preheated oven until light brown, 11 to 13 minutes. Remove crackers from oven. Use a fork to pierce multiple holes on tops of crackers.

Nanaimo Bars

For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shame on me...

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

I feel guilty. I have practically abandoned my blog. I haven't, however, abandoned my baking. I've lost over 10 pounds since my wedding (YAY!) so I HAVE abandoned eating my baked goods. :-)

I must admit I wasn't thrilled with the way the cannoli turned out. I love cannoli but I thought that the ones I made were merely okay. On top of that, the pictures turned out HORRIBLE! One of these days I'm going to learn how to make fabulous looking desserts and how to take fabulous pictures of my fabulous looking desserts. That day, however, is not today. Therefore, I have no pictures of the filled cannoli (imagine these cannoli wrappers filled with something resembling oozing pus...mmmm....pus).

To quickly recap my cannoli making experience I'll just say that the dough didn't have enough liquid (I ended up having to modify the recipe a little). I made three fillings...plain, dulce de leche, and peanut butter (with chocolate covered cannoli wrappers). The process took several HOURS longer than I was expecting and the results were only eh. For me, making cannoli is a little like childbirth...I will only try it again after enough time has passed that I forget how horrible the experience was.

It wasn't all bad, though, I made them while my mom and I watched a really stupid movie about Jane Austen's life. It was a bonding experience. :-)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Job

It's amazing how a job that gives you satisfaction can improve your entire well-being. I just got a new job selling shoes at a locally owned shoe store and while I have only been doing it for four days now I absolutely love it. It's a complete deviation from my career path (ultimately, I'd like to become an escrow officer) but I work with dynamic people, the pay is great, and I can see myself doing it for a long time. I loved my previous job as a property manager but I only worked a few hours a week and it didn't pay nearly enough to sustain my cost of living (let alone increase my bank account). Now, I'm excited to go to work and instead of coming home exhausted I come home energized. I just hope this honeymoon phase lasts...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Turn obstacles in to popsicles...

Whenever I am feeling down, cranky, or upset I always try to remember to "turn obstacles in to Popsicles." I read that phrase in a magazine many years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. It may not make any sense but it is whimsical enough to get me out of any funk that I'm in. The hard part is remembering to remind myself to say it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's been a while...

I must admit I haven't had much to talk about. Nick and I had an amazing honeymoon at Disneyland and ever since then we've been playing catch up with our lives. I officially changed my last name but haven't yet informed the DMV, my bank, or any of my insurance companies. I really need to get on that.

I have my Halloween costume picked out. Nick and I are going to be Gomez and Morticia Addams. I'm also going to be having a Halloween party on Sunday. Unfortunately, my house is not nearly as decorated as I would like for it to be. I need to get on that, too.

I've also been trying to get the house back in to its clutter/mess free state. I had both my house and my car spotless before the wedding. However, Nick's friend attacked my car with chapstick and that stuff just doesn't seem to want to come off!! The house got bombarded with wedding presents. Boxes, wrapping paper, bows, instruction manuals, cards...all sorts of things were randomly thrown about. It's funny because, in my head, when I pictured us opening our wedding presents it was considerably more organized. I finally got the mess taken care of but I must admit quite a few of the presents are currently living in the garage because I haven't yet found room for them in the house. Yup, I need to get on that.

What can I say. I've been lazy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Daring Baker Challenge: Vouls-au-vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
This challenge was super fun. I was terrified it wouldn't puff because the butter kept oozing when I rolled it and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't roll the dough into a perfect square or rectangle. Still, it came out great. When completed, the pastry dough tastes very similar to that of a turnover. Yum.

I used heart shaped cookie cutters to make the sides and bottom.

I've always been a fan of lavendar pudding (and lavendar cheesecake!) so I decided to try to make lavendar pudding to fill these adorable pastry puffs. In order to make the lavendar pudding, I adapted a vanilla pudding recipe that I have. Here is the recipe:

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup 2% milk
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon dried lavendar (I actually used 2 Tbsp but it was very strong!)

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Add the dried lavendar. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.

Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolk; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in butter and vanilla.

Cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the pudding through a cheesecloth to remove the dried lavendar. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour


I was surprised to discover that the dried lavendar didn't add any color to the pudding so I added a little bit of purple food coloring. However, that didn't seem to make much of a difference so I added A LOT of purple food coloring. OOPS! Now the pudding looks like the purple people eater. Oh well. As for taste, the pudding was way too strong to just eat with a spoon but it was great with the puff pastry. The puff pastry seemed to settle the flavor. It was very good. I later tried to cut the taste of the pudding with whipped cream which made it much tastier to just eat but not as good with the pastry. :-) Since I had so much dough, I tried other types of fillings, also. I made a pumpkin pie filling and a pineapple with whipped cream filling. My favorite was by far the pineapple with whipped cream. The acidity from the pineapple really seemed to compliment the pastry. It was fun experimenting with the different types of fillings.