Saturday, November 29, 2008

Big Cake

My biggest project this week was baking and decorating a cake for a friend's golden birthday (29 on the 29th).  It was a surprise party thrown for her by her husband.  He asked me to make a cake for 100 people, and chose a cherry almond cake with almond buttercream - one of my favorites (to eat and to make!).  I did two round tiers - a bottom, 16-inch round, and a 12-inch round on top.  As it was her golden birthday, I decorated with a gold ribbon around the base of each tier, and then piped dots around the cakes which were painted with an edible gold glaze.  One of the new things that I tried with this cake was a different type of support structure.  In the past I have used wood dowels, which have to be measured and then painstakingly cut to the right size.  It is always a chore, and the last one I did, I ended up breaking a good knife.  So one time when I was watching Ace of Cakes recently, I noticed one of the guys putting supports in a cake, almost like straws, but really thick, and easily snipping them to the right height with a scissors.  Snip Snip Snip, and it was done!  (Yes, I know, most people just watch that show for the fun, but I have stuff to LEARN from watching it!)  So I went to their website, and found one of their links for cake advice.  And there was the answer - bubble tea straws!!  I immediately found a source online and purchased some - spent about $5 on 50 straws.  Oh, but let me tell you, how wonderfully easy it was to cut those supports for the cake.  Snip Snip Snip, and it was done!  Never, ever will I use those awful wood dowels again.  
But anyways, back to the cake.  It was a hit, and that is what counts the most!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble Gobble!

Family and Sugar Cookies make my stomach and my heart happy.  
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kudos to Sarah

There are many things I appreciate and admire about my mother-in-law, including (but not limited to) her ability to stay out of all photographs, her humility (she's going to hate this post!), and her amazing recipe for crescent rolls (those tubes of dough have no place in her kitchen!).   She generously and happily shared this recipe with me the first year Justin and I were married, and it is my go-to dinner roll recipe.  They freeze remarkably well, and I usually make a giant batch and freeze the majority of them, taking them out and reheating them in the oven with dinners for a month.  I haven't made them in quite awhile, but as Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I made a big triple batch this week - 3 dozen for a friend to take to her family's thanksgiving dinner, and a couple dozen for ours.  Here you go, from the Gasper family to yours.

(Refrigerator) Crescent Rolls

Beat together and let stand 10 minutes:
1 cup warm water
1 pk. (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 Tbsp Sugar
3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp salt

Add, and knead until smooth:
5 cups flour - or more as needed (I used a mixture of regular unbleached, white whole wheat, and whole wheat flours - use what you like)

Place in a large container, covered, and refrigerate overnight, or up to a week.  Divide dough in half.  Roll each half in a 12-inch circle and cut into 16 pie wedges each.  Roll up each wedge, starting at wide end.  Place on greased baking sheets and let rise 2 to 3 hours or until doubled in size.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.  Yield: 32 rolls

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am ashamed/proud to say that what you see here 
is not ALL the butter I used today, 
just most of it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Week of Baking

Make ahead dough for Crescent Rolls & put in fridge. -- Done.
Make ahead Sweet Potato Casseroles & put in fridge & freezer. -- Done.
Buy more Eggs and Butter (it's still on sale!). -- Done

Bake Ginger Chewies for Woodlands' Welcome Center.
Bake Cherry Almond Cake.

Roll out and Bake 3 dozen crescent rolls.
Roll out, Bake, and Decorate Sugar Cookie Turkeys.

Roll out and Bake 2 dozen crescent rolls.
Reheat Sweet Potato Casserole.

Frost & Decorate cake.
Make Mashed Potatoes.

Eat Cake.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two words...

Two words:

Bacon Salt

I don't think I have ever agreed with a product's slogan more: "Everything should taste like bacon".

What more could you expect from a company funded in part by winning $5000 on America's Funniest Home Videos?

Everything about this company is perfect. From the fact that they actually make a product called Baconnaise, to the fact that they somehow also obtained Kosher certification.

I don't think this reviewer is exaggerating at all:

""This is one of those inventions, like the wheel or the incandescent light bulb, that will forever change the landscape of our culture."
— John Campanelli, Cleveland Plain Dealer"


We went to Copps looking for Baconnaise, and could only find Bacon Salt. Still worked well on popcorn! Not like the faux bacon experience Jim had.

Something different.

I'm in a moody kind of mood today.  The kind of mood that I am apt to make rash decisions without a moment's thought or care.  However, rather than randomly painting a room or moving furniture around, I thought the blog could use a new look.  So what do you think?  Are the renovations appreciated?  Or should it be changed back?  I guess I am also in an approval-seeking mood!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Out & About

Justin and I spent a good part of the day in the car.  This morning we drove over to Appleton to pick up a few things - Penzey's for spices, World Market for chocolate, and Game Stop for a used XBox 360 controller (Trav picked up an XBox this past week, but it only comes with one controller).  

After lunch we drove up to Wausau so Justin could play Command & Conquer with his dad, and I went and picked up my mom and we drove over to Sam's Club to pick up some green beans.  Yep.  Green Beans.  They have absolutely the best fresh green beans of anywhere in town.  And we pushed our way through the sea of jumbo carts, snakes of people in line for free food, and tables of fleece shirts to find all the green beans gone.  We stood and stared, stunned, for several moments before turning in disgust.  Not that we left completely empty handed - their prices on pecans and walnuts were pretty good.  

And as I sat down to write today's post, I realized I forgot to take any pictures.  And there were some good pictures to be had - steamy Penzey's hot chocolate in mugs with warm and fragrant Chai Shortbread cookies and then the guys killing zombies and ignoring previously mentioned treats (though zombies do tend to be a rather pesky problem).  

So I just picked up the camera, turned in my chair, and Storm, the slouch, is gracing the blog tonight.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Lunch - Even Better Company!

The bread was a hit.  I should mention I changed the recipe just a little.  For the soaker I only used about an 1/8 of a cup of oats, but then I added about 1/4 cup of a seed blend I had on hand - sunflower, poppy, sesame and some other seeds.  I also don't really like fennel seeds, so I left that out of the bread completely.  The flavor from the seed blend more than made up for leaving those nasty fennel seeds out.  The recipe also made quite a bit.  I made two small to medium size baguette style loaves, and then I made a dozen small rolls as well to freeze (though I don't know if they will last that long!).  The bread was a perfect compliment to the soup for lunch.  

And not only did we have great bread and great soup for lunch, but great friends to share it with!  Travis' friend Josh from Florida is staying with us for a couple of days, and today Angie & Kate drove up from Kieler on their way to Medford to visit and hunt with family.  
Kate is as smiley as can be and is just starting to eat solid foods.  I must say, she seemed to enjoy the spoon more than the bananas!  It was a hoot watching her check out the new surroundings (CATS!) and making her smile, and visiting with dearest of dear friends Angie is like a recharge for my soul.  Thanks for stopping by, Friend!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day of Dough

I haven't made leavened bread in a LONG time.  I used to make a loaf almost every other day, sometimes every day, but I got out of habit and it always seems like such a time investment in theory.  Well, I was determined to change that today.  Not only did I make pizza dough and Parmesan bread sticks from scratch, but I decided to throw in a loaf of Roasted Butternut Squash bread as well.  I thought it would make a good accompaniment to our Roasted Vegetable Soup for tomorrow's lunch (the pizza dough was for Roasted Vegetable Pizza this evening).  The good ol' Kitchen Aid is kneading it as I'm typing this, and I'm going to let it rise in the refrigerator overnight.  I'll let you know tomorrow how it turns out!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Today's Project

I recently got a cookie decorating book called Cookie Craft.  Some of the pictures of the cookies are pretty incredible.  Today Justin asked if we could make and decorate cookies like in the book.  As nothing else was on the agenda during the day, I agreed to go along.  I made the sugar cookie dough from the book (which is wonderful) and Justin choose the cookie cutters - a train, a motorcycle, a rocket, a cat, a man, a plane, a turkey, a dinosaur, and a reindeer.  I rolled out the dough, and Justin cut out the shapes.  After a run to Michael's to get a few supplies we came back and I made the Royal Icing and mixed together a number of different colors.  Then Trav, Justin and I sat down at the table among cookies, tubes of icing, and sprinkles and sugars.  And proceeded to create some very silly-looking cookies.  Trav's standout was Mooning Man, Justin had a dinosaur wearing lipstick, and I made a pretty good tye-dyed turkey.  And of course, the last cookie got as much icing and decorations as humanly possible.  Which Travis ate immediately after this photo was taken.  All in all, it was a fun day and  fun project, though NONE of the cookies looked like the ones in the book!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Long day?

I had kind of a long day today, and Youtube saved the day. Don't ask me how I stumbled on this, but I haven't seen such a pure demonstration of absolute genius in a long time. Pure and simple, this video should be shown over and over on it's own TV station all day, all the time. It should be implanted in a chip in the brain of every person on the planet.

I now present to you "Hamster on a Piano, Eating Popcorn".

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yukon Golds & Heath Bars

It was a tasty day.  For lunch we had beef pot roast, fresh green beans, french bread, and my favoritist mashed potatoes.  The only way I make them is with Yukon Gold potatoes.  They have such a buttery flavor already that they only need a tablespoon or two of added butter, a little bit of skim milk, salt and pepper, and a couple ounces of reduced fat cream cheese mashed in, and they are the creamiest, buttery-ist, tastiest mashed potatoes of Wonderfulland.  

Later in the day I decided to try making Chocolate Toffee cookies.  We picked up some Heath bars last night just for that purpose.  They spend much of their time in the fridge chilling (which gave me time to fold the laundry, take a nap, etc), but the end result is a chocolatey, chewy, toffee-y cookie that is oh-so-tasty.  I figure you could mix in just about any type of chocolatey candy that you like - peanut butter, caramel, or mint chips, chopped butterfingers or snickers bars, and so on.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

And she's off...

I feel like I am on a baking spree.  Must keep baking... faster!  More more more!  What will be the next yummy thing coming out of the oven?  What will be the next "keeper" recipe?  Chocolate ganache?  Done!  Chocolate Cardamom Cupcakes?  Done!  Peanut Butter Fudge Crunch? Done!  Sandwich Cookies?  Done!  And so on and so forth as the sink fills up with dishes and I scald my hands in the too-hot water.  But oh, the goodies being made - I see my future, and it makes me smile.  

These Ginger Chewies made me smile.  The dough smelled wonderful.  They smelled wonderful baking.  They smelled wonderful cooling.  And they tasted homey and comforting and Christmas-y.  I made them to take to the Faxon's house last night as they opened their home and soup pots to anyone who might want to stop by.  I was kind of hoping for a few leftover cookies, as I figured the spicy quotient of them would only increase with a day's time, but that was pure foolishness.  That just means I will have to make another batch.  
Very very soon. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Music I am listening to

Since Julie posted what she was listening to while baking, it occurred to me that I listen to music pretty much all day. I have 8300 songs in my iTunes library, and something is always playing. When I work, I generally listen to more laid back, relaxing, music, contrary to what you might see in Hollywood movies showing how computer people work. We don't all listen to techno music in front of 8 large monitors with all sorts of fancy 3D graphics, drinking booze, with sunglasses on. Just the cool guys do that.

Here's what I have been listening to the last couple of days:

Ray LaMontagne
Gossip in the Grain

This is one of my favorite artists, and the new CD is really, really good. Very relaxing music, with a different sound than a lot of what is coming out right now.

The Reindeer Section
Son of Evil Reindeer

Kind of a hit and miss CD, but "You Are My Joy", and "Your Sweet Voice" stand out

Sigur Ros

Slow, and kind of depressing, but good for relaxation. Plus, the lyrics are in Icelandic, so they aren't very distracting.

Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago

Recorded in a cabin in Wisconsin in winter, so about as melancholy as you would expect. "Skinny Love" is the stand out track

Christmas on the Brain

Stringing lights and baking cookies - kinda sounds like a Christmas-y day, doesn't it?  Let me explain.  I like stringing Christmas lights on our fence, and have since we moved in.  Two years ago kids came through and broke a bunch of the light bulbs, rendering the christmas lights worthless and me really mad.  So last year we wound lights around our trees.  Pretty, but a HUGE pain in the rump to take down.  So this year, I am hoping the neighborhood kids have grown up a bit and won't be jerks, and am stringing the lights on our fence again.  Plus I got the lights on clearance in January or February of last year, so if they do get busted, it will only be $15 down the drain.  

And for the cookies, another new recipe to try that really has nothing to do with Christmas.  I'm baking a lot for other people this week (desserts for a wedding rehearsal dinner, DeRoche's Commissioning Service at church, and a wedding shower), and wanted something new for us to try.  
Here is the recipe I started with.  Minor adjustments - I added vanilla and a little salt (hello - we like FLAVOR), and the peanut butter mixture was pretty dry, so I added a tablespoon of softened butter.  Oh, and once again, I didn't read all of the directions very well and just rolled the whole cookie in the extra sugar before baking, rather than just smooshing it with a glass dipped in the sugar.  

Result: Yummy.  Very yummy.  A bit putzy, but good enough to make it worth it.  

Oh, and I didn't listen to Christmas music while making them, I stuck with the new Eric Hutchinson album that Justin put on my iPod.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Conversation.

Me:  Um... Mother Nature... Excuse me?

Mother Nature (who looks a bit like the Fairy Godmother from Disney's Cinderella):  Yes, Dearie?

Me:  Um... It's snowing outside.

MN:  Yes, Dearie!  Isn't it Beautiful?!

Me:  Um... It's actually sticking to the ground.

MN:  Yes, Dearie!  The pure white flakes are such a nice contrast to the brown leaves!

Me:  Um... It's November.

MN:  Yes, Dearie!   You're the crazy one who is living in WISCONSIN!

Monday, November 10, 2008

From Mocha to Mint

As a treat for small group tonight, we were going to bring this little bag of random Japanese candies we got in Honolulu.  But after trying a few of the pieces, I decided that I didn't really consider the Japanese candy a "treat."  So a couple hours before heading out I decided to throw together some Andes Mint Chip Cookies instead.  I had been sitting on a couple bags of the Andes Mint Chips for a couple months now, and all of a sudden I wanted those cookies NOW.  I think I can trace back my love of Andes Mint Candies directly to my Grandma.  I can picture in my mind exactly where they kept their stash of Andes Candies in their house at the top of the hill in Marathon - right on the hutch in the dining room.  Which makes me remember other things about that house - the bowl of whole nuts in the shell, that we would always want to crack open the shell, but never wanted to eat the nasty broken nut on the inside - the worn game of Mastermind - the GIANT cartoon deck of cards - the flowers by the back door that bloomed AT NIGHT (AMAZING - especially to an 8 year old).  

What was I talking about?  Oh right, the cookies.  

Andes Mint Chip Cookies

1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup packed Brown Sugar
3/4 Butter (I used Smart Balance Butter/Baking Blend)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp Almond Extract (or Vanilla - whichever you prefer)
2 Tblsp water
3 Cups All-purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
10 oz. (1 bag) Andes Mint Chips
1/2 Cup bittersweet chocolate chips/chunks, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter together.  Add eggs, extract and water.  Beat well.  Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl, and add gradually to the creamed mixture.  Stir in Mint Chips.  Place rounded Tablespoonfuls on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 minutes until golden around the edges.  Allow to cool thoroughly on wire racks.  When the cookies have cooled, drizzle melted chocolate over the top (I scoop the chocolate into a zip-top bag and then snip the corner for an even, controlled drizzle).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mini Mocha Cookies

I made this recipe this afternoon, and they are just as tasty as can be.  I felt like the name "Little Dippers" was kind of an ambiguous title, as they do little to describe what these cookies taste like.  Granted, it is a cute name if the cookies are cut as stars, but what if, like me, you didn't really want to make stars?  What if, rather, you wanted to make tiny little leaves and pumpkins to remind you of autumn and the fact that it is quickly speeding by?  Well, then you call them "Mini Mocha Cookies" to let people know what they are about to bite into.  Chocolate and coffee are a very agreeable pair, and they play very nicely in these little bites!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Many Meals

So for the last few days I have been working away in the kitchen preparing for a family meal-making session.  We decided on some great recipes that can be made ahead and frozen, and then pulled out to cook when it is needed.  There were 10 of us gathered at my mom's house today and we made over 30 meals to separate between 6 households.  It is quite a bit of work to put together, but it is fun work, and the day was a lot of fun.  I'm already looking forward to the next time - probably after the holidays.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Double Whammy.

Alright, since you all are probably dry heaving from Justin & Travis' recipe for "fruity" brats, I thought I would throw this one in from yesterday.  Now, if you have never tried this, I know it looks awful.  Heck, it even sounds awful.  But oh, the taste... the mouthfeel... luxury for your taste buds can be bought for $2.38.  Along with Justin's Hawaiian brats, we bought some beef marrow bones at the People's Meat Market in Custer.  This was actually our main reason for heading out there in the first place!  I had read, heard and seen about the wonderfulness of roasted beef marrow in chef's biographies and on tv, and awhile ago we tried it for the first time.  I cannot adequately describe it to you, but I'll try anyways.  The texture is a combination of butter, olive oil, and roasted garlic.  If it was possible to eat silk, I think it would feel like this.  The smell is that of roasted meat, but way more intense.  The taste... is uniquely beef marrow.  It is actually slightly on the bland side, but just a little sprinkling of coarse salt catapults it into an extraordinary league of its own.  All I can say is that you should try it sometime.  Spend two bucks, roast the bones drizzled with a bit of olive oil for 15-20 minutes at 450 degrees, scoop out the marrow (if it is still pink, just stick it on a little pan and shove it in the oven for another minute or two) and spread it on toasted french bread, and sprinkle with a little coarse salt, and fresh parsley, if you have it.  Open your mind and mouth, and expand your culinary world - you'll be glad you did!

Hawaiian Brat explosion (Justin's turn to post a recipe)!

We had "Hawaiian brats" for dinner tonight. They supposedly had pineapple in the sausage, but they tasted like regular brats. Trav decided to kick his up a notch with some Nerds. He pointed out that fruit goes with meat all the time (apple pork chops anyone?), but I made sure to correct him that Nerds are not fruit. He said it tasted like eating an 80's cartoon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Get Moving!

Go make these.  Yes, you have all the ingredients on hand.  Yes, you have 35 minutes (most of which these are in the oven and you can get other stuff done).  Stop making excuses - go make them now!  Are you still reading this??  You're wasting valuable time that could be used getting you closer to actually savoring these crazy delicious yummy happiness muffins.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Whistling Straits

Today my Dad and I made our yearly trek to Whistling Straits to play golf. After November 1st, the rates on the Irish Course go way down, so it's a chance to play a top class course relatively cheaply.

One of these days we will spring for a chance to play the Straits Course, which is the one where the PGA TOUR comes and plays every few years. The weather was perfect for November, but pretty windy. Now it's on to Red Robin for dinner :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

76 days and counting...

January 20th can't come soon enough!

Thanks for voting, America!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Go Vote!

Remember to vote Tuesday, November 4th!

(preferably for the guy we're voting for)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Something Healthy, Something NOT

I found both of these recipes last week and printed them out to make soon.  "Soon" turned out to be today.  As the last soup recipe I tried from Martha Stewart's website turned out wonderfully, I decided to give this broccoli soup recipe a shot.  It was pretty easy to put together, and turned out pretty darn good.  I did take the liberty of adding a bit of reduced-fat cream cheese and a handful of shredded parmesan cheese that was in the fridge to the pot which did help to thicken it slightly.  We all agreed that it could have been even a little bit thicker, but it was still tasty.

The second recipe is crazy delicious.  I have yet to make a recipe from Bake or Break that isn't crazy delicious, and these bars certainly continued the trend.  Chopped Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers, Honey Roasted Peanuts, Chocolate Chips, Nutter Butter cookies for a crust??  Yep - this one had to be made.  I actually kind of messed up the recipe a bit, and accidently put the "topping" directly on the crust and then put all the goodies on top of that, 
rather than putting the goodies directly onto the crust and then pouring the topping over that, but I think you could mash everything together in a bowl and microwave it and it would still turn out tasting good!