Thursday, September 30, 2010

He I Cleaned

The whole title of this blog post gives perfect lead into why I named my blog the way I named it.  I'm sure a lot of couples have this theory in the kitchen, then again, maybe not.  It has been our rule since moving in together.  I like the way it works because often we come home from the gym, one of us goes to shower while the other gets dinner started, once dinner is done the other gets to do the shower routine...and cleaning occurs AFTER the second showerer or that person gets mad...I'm just sayin' cold water is not fun!  Lately that gym time has been consummed by work or studying as we are both taking big exams within the next two months (wish us lots of luck!).
Dinner in action
 Before I left for New York three weeks ago, the Hubby had a recipe he wanted to try from his Men's Health Magazine.  We usually have good success with recipes we tear out of the Men's/Women's Health magazines so I was excited about the prospects.  This particular recipe sounded...interesting at first, tasted OK, and maybe, with more tweaking we'll try it again later.

Now more often than not our kitchen is I cook he when he cooks he doesn't like to deviate from the recipe in front of him, and that is A-OK, he also had the defense that he likes to try a recipe the way it was intended before adding his touch/tastes to it...I can't argue with that but I do like to be creative when I get into the kitchen so tweak away I go...but again as I said, he cooked so I tried not to tweak his cooking. :)

OK so I'll stop beating around the bush and just share the recipe.  We had Greek Yogurt Alfredo Sauce with Whole Wheat Pasta, I requested that we also add peas and a chicken breast with it...and he agreed.  The sauce was pretty similar to a true Alfredo sauce BUUUUT I do think that it was pretty obvious we were trying to eat a healthier version of it...aka I like the fatty goodness the real Parmesan and cream make.

We picked a pretty good whole wheat pasta to go with the sauce, I think that since whole wheat pastas have become the big thing over the last few years their taste factor has definitely increased from cardboard to edible.  What do you think?

Well, there's not much else I can say about the was three weeks ago that we had it, and I had a two-week trip to New York in between that, so without further ado, here is the recipe...

Rocco's (DiSpirito author of Now Eat This!) Fettuccine Alfredo
adapted from the April 2010 Men's Health Magazine, The Athlete's Palate

8 ounces whole wheat fettuccine
1 tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of ground nutmeg yep I have yet to stock nutmeg, whether ground or not in our spice cabinet
3/4 cup low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup 5% Greek yogurt
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring pot of salted water to a boil.  Add fettuccine; cook according to package directions.  While pasta cooks, melt butter in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook two minutes.  Combine cornstarch and nutmeg in a small bowl; whisk in chicken broth until smooth.  Pour into saute pan, raise the heat, and bring sauce to a simmer, whisking occasionally.  Whisk in 1/2 cup of the cheese until melted.  Remove pan from heat.  Whisk in yogurt until smooth.  Toss fettuccine with Alfredo sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top pasta with remaining cheese.  Serves four.

Calories per serving: 336 Carbs: 47 G Protein: 18 G Fat: 10 G

Yum! I'm hungry now!
Bon Appétit

Monday, September 27, 2010

September's Challenge

Wow I have been extremely bad at updating my blog here lately!  Opps!  I try, but it's hard with traveling so much!  I just got back from a two week trip to New York and I'll be on the road again mid-October.  This month's challenge for the Facebook group was a Lemon Yogurt Cake by Ina Garten from the Food Network.  Let me just tell you, this was a DE-licious cake!  Those who got to eat it were pretty happy with the results too!  I made this cake over Labor Day weekend at my mother-in-law's house.  I don't have too many pictures of process to share, but I do have the beautiful end results.

To be honest with you, with everything I have going on at the moment I didn't think I would have time to make this cake, but it sounded so good and we were seeing family at my mother-in-law's that I figured it would be the perfect time to make the cake.  It was an A+ decision!

The Result!  I took advantage of a gorgeous
day and beautiful fresh-cut roses at
my Mother-in-Law's house
Lemon Yogurt Cake adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Cake Ingredients
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt I used Vanilla Fit Active Yogurt, I'd be interested to try a berry yogurt in this cake, what do you think?
• 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
• 3 extra-large eggs
• 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Glaze Ingredients
• 1 cup confectioners' sugar
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

The How To
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.  I didn't line the pan and the cake popped out just fine.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.  50 minutes...55 minutes...65 about when the cake is done, my cake browned evenly, however, some of my fellow bakers said their cakes were getting too brown around the edges and had to put foil around the sides to make sure it didn't get too burnt.  Know your oven, know your cake, and work with both I guess.
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.  I got excited and made the juice right after I put the cake in, then I think I kept it just a little warm on the stovetop.  I didn't think I had enough to pour onto the cake so I took some bottled lemon juice and sugar and nuked it for a few minutes to add a little more flavor.  I also poked my cake with a fork thinking maybe it would absorb better.
For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.  I definitely did not wait until my cake was completely cool, which I think made it all the better, warm lemony pound cake with a pretty glaze...yuuuuuuuuuuuum!
All Ooey Gooey Goodness!! :)
Results were great on this cake, as I said, everyone enjoyed it!  Another challenge a great success :)  Now go to the kitchen and get baking!

Ready to Eat!
Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

August Challenge

So August came and went...a little too quickly.  I'm not sure where it went, if you see it, send it my way, I think I left some to do's with it.  One thing I did get to do, but did not post about, was the monthly baking challenge with my friends.  August's challenge was an Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake.  I've never even had a piece of German Chocolate cake, let alone made one.  I was ready for the challenge.

The key ingredients:
The Cake
The Filling

The Icing
This go-around I made sure I read up on the comments from other bakers on the recipe.  I think this was a step in the right direction.  I got some good tips, especially on the Dulce de Leche process.  The cake was a little intimidating after I read through what the process involved, but I got through it without any problems.

I tackled this project as some commenters suggested, which is not the way the recipe would like you to do it.  I started with heating water for the Dulce de Leche.  I put two cans of evaporated milk (I doubled the filling) into a dutch oven full of water.  I made sure the cans were completely covered with water as cans can explode when heated directly.  I was confident that if I kept an eye on the water level and made sure it was over the cans I'd be OK. I turned the water on so that it hit a decent boil, but then I turned it down to low and kept it going at a slower boil, not quite simmer though.  I checked the water level every 15 minutes.
I've never even opened my dutch oven before
I started the cake, I was super excited to use it.
It's so pretty and orange.
After the Dulce de leche was on the stove I put the coconut and pecans into the oven, I took my time with this and put them in one at a time, rather than putting them in together.  I am still trying to get the hang of toasting pecans, I'm not sure, but I feel like I burn the pecans every time I toast them.  The coconut was beautifully brown after I was done toasting it.
Toasted Coconut
Toasted Pecans

Dulce de Leche Ready
for the Coconut and Pecans
Once the coconut and pecans were toasted I started on the cake batter, I kept the recipe as is, but only put it into two 9-inch pans, I didn't have a third pan as the recipe called for, and I was not too excited to work with the extremely thin layers that other bakers had reported about.
After my cakes were done I put them onto the rack to cool, I put them into the fridge so that they were sufficiently cool and then popped them into the freezer for about 20 minutes right before I was ready to fill and ice the cake.  When I combined the Dulce de leche, coconut, and pecans I was nervous about having to spread it onto the cake.  Some posters reported that it was difficult to spread...correction, it didn't spread at all due to the consistency of the filling.  I ended up taking a page from my rice crispy treat knowledge and I sprayed a spatula with cooking spray and pressed the filling down onto the cake.  The only problem I encountered there was that I think I pushed the cake down and might have flattened it out a little if it wasn't flat enough to begin with.

The icing I made at the end of the whole process.  I was not confident in the glaze and I ended up putting it into the fridge too get a bit thicker and I used it as a ganache/icing for the entire cake.  This worked out really well.  I ended up taking a tooth pick and writing "We'll Miss You" to some friends who were getting ready to move, they liked the cake and then I sent it in with the Husband to class to feed his class.  He said they enjoyed it...although it might have had too much sugar in it, one of his buddies said he was ready to bounce off the walls, haha.

Another successful baking adventure!

Monday, August 16, 2010

That's just Peachy!

Did you know that August is National Peach Month??  I didn't until I was reading about it on The Pioneer Woman's blog.  That works well with the delectable recipes I am going to tell you about.

A few weeks ago the Hubbins and I went to see a friend in St. Louis.  We were going to a "Peachfest" we were excited to try some peachy recipes as the friend told us that people (unidentified to us at the time) go out, pick peaches, and then make recipes that include peaches.  So we were thinking this Peachfest was a small town tradition (since we are familiar with small towns this didn't sound so odd to us, our small town has a "Pioneer Days" weekend in October).

We get to the location of's a house, not a town center or even an we're pulling up I looked at Hubbins and said "Is this a family reunion?"  I believe he was coming to the same realization and said "I am starting to think that it is...".  I panicked, I didn't bring anything to share, no chips or salsa, no beer, not even a peach (I did almost buy peach rings at the gas station on the way, but I thought I'd get laughed at).  All I had in my hands was a cup of coffee, and I wasn't ready to share that with anyone (sorry!).  The day ended up being great and we enjoyed getting to catch up with Hubbins' friend and her family.

Not the best of pictures 
it was hard to capture
the handwritten note.
After all was said and done we ate some pretty yummy food, more than I ever thought you could make with a peach.  I guess I was expecting a lot of desserts, but we were greeted with an abundance of peach recipes, appetizers, meat dishes, and desserts.  About two weeks after Peachfest we get an e-mail containing the official "2010 Peachfest Recipe Book".  That night we decided that we would like to make a peachy dinner.  We settled on the Bourbon Salmon with Peach Avocado Salsa and a Wild Rice Salad (with peaches), so we went to the grocery store and got the supplies for the fish and rice salad.  The dishes turned out really well and I got this message on the white board where I write all of our weekly dinner choices.

I ended up preparing the Bourbon marinade for the Salmon in the evening the night before we were going to eat the dinner.  I let the fish marinade overnight and the next day I finished preparing the rest of the food.  The rice I made in the early afternoon and let it cool completely so that it would be ready for the "salad" preparations.  The Peach Avocado Salsa was sooo yummy, we tried it on chips as well as the salmon, it goes well alone or together with the Bourbon Salmon.  A few things I learned during the peachy process:
  • Fat free Feta cheese tastes like crap - sorry if anyone out there enjoys fat free Feta, but Hubbins and I both tried it and spat it out the second it hit our tongues.  The particular brand I had purchased was hard as a rock and not very good.  I later looked at the nutritional value of regular Feta and decided that it is not that bad for us, so we will stick to that.  Oh, since I had deemed the fat free crap not worthy to cook with I sent Hubbins to the store to get more.  "My hero!" hehe
  • My Hero earlier this year when he had to come and
    capture a snake for me from my parents' basement.
  • When wanting something to be more spicy than a recipe calls for, that is fine, but keep in mind where those spices fall on the salmon.  For example, I probably used twice as much red pepper flakes as the recipe called for and it just so happens that the piece I cut for myself was the piece that had the most on it when place it into the pan to cook, therefore causing me to yell after taking my first bite because it was too spicy...Yeah Hubbins didn't agree - I'm still a whimp when it comes to spices.  :)
  • Prepare the Wild Rice Salad and the Peach Avocado Salsa ahead of time and refrigerate.  This lets the flavors marry up together really well.  I tried both immediately after preparing them and I wasn't satisfied.  I popped them in the fridge for a few hours and by dinner time they tasted much better!
  • Check the fish before turning off the burner.  I figured that even if it wasn't completely done letting it sit on the burner covered for a few more minutes while we ate our salads the cooking process would be complete.  Almost but not quite.  And I'm sure you can eat Salmon slightly under done, but we are not fans of that, so I had to turn the burner back on thereby burning all remnants of the Bourbon marinade onto the pan.  At least it made it easy to get the fish into a container for leftovers, the skin burnt right onto the pan and the meat pulled up easily.
Now for the recipes...

Peach Avocado Salsa (with or without shrimp)

2 medium-sized fresh peaches, peeled and diced (I used on larger fresh peach)
1 large tomato, diced (I also seeded my tomato)
1 medium-sized avocado (not too ripe), diced (not too ripe is key, this is a salsa not a guacamole)
1 Tbsp minced red onion
1 Tbsp lime juice (I used the juice of one lime)
1 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 packages small precooked salad shrimp (I didn't use the shrimp, we just wanted to peach/avocado goodness)

Serve with tortilla chips or on top of Bourbon Salmon.

Peach Avocado Salsa
Wild Rice Salad

2 C wild rice*
Chicken or vegetable broth (substitute for the water called for in the wild rice mix)
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 C finely chopped fresh herbs (whatever you have on hand, I had parsley and basil)
2 C diced, seeded tomatoes (or cherry/grape cut in half) (I did not seed my cherry tomatoes)
2 C crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, or to taste
¾ C olive oil
1 ½ chopped peaches (I used one large peach, you can either peel or keep the skin on the peaches)

*Follow directions on the package for making 2 cups of wild rice using chicken or vegetable broth instead of water.  Remove from heat & allow rice to cool completely.  Combine cooled rice, scallions, herbs, tomato, and feta.  Toss to combine.  In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I didn't measure my olive oil or balsamic - we decided there was just a little too much oil so I ended up making an extra cup of long grain rice and mixing it in with the salad I had already prepared to soak up some of the extra oil).  Pour dressing over rice mixture and stir to coat thoroughly.  Mix in chopped peaches.  Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Wild Rice Salad with Peaches
Bourbon Salmon
¼ C reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ C Bourbon (we used some Maker's Mark whiskey, I let Hubbins pick it out)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp red pepper flakes (kick it up a notch and use more if you want more spice)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salmon fillets, boneless and skinless (I used one Salmon fillet and kept the skin on)

Combine all ingredients, but the salmon in a medium bowl.  Put salmon in a bag and pour marinade and turn to coat.  Refrigerate 2 – 8 hours (I kept mine in the fridge for about 24 hours).  Bake or grill until done (I used a grill pan, which worked out well, but I had to cover the pan with foil in order to prevent the juices from evaporating too quickly).  Top with Peach Avocado Salsa.

The whole shebang!
Wild Rice Salad and Bourbon Salmon
with Peach Avocado Salsa
I believe this dish will become a regular on our dinner choice list.  Hubbins really liked the fish, and I'm super excited that everything turned out so well.  I was thoroughly surprised that the salsa went great with the Bourbon marinade (I think we both missed the salsa at Peachfest and just had the Salmon).  I'm interested in trying this salmon on either the grill or broiled, I was too afraid that I'd end up with a flambe in the oven if I attempted to broil the fish, or maybe I'll just try to bake the fish.

Enjoy your peaches this month!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 6, 2010

“Family” Dinner Sunday

Country Thunder 2010!
I've been trying to write this post for about a week now. For some reason I have been anti-media/technology/Internet/computer for the last few weeks. After I'm done with work I hardly ever want to deal with looking at the computer anymore than I absolutely have to. So what's been going on in our household…since my last post I returned from Wisconsin very happy I had a girls weekend with one of my bestest from high school. I did some work in between Wisconsin and here Monday-Wednesday and then returned home. Thursday was pretty low key…I don't even remember if I did anything significant beyond work and spending time with Hubbins. Friday we went to dinner at some friends' house and Saturday I recovered from Friday before going to a Peachfest…yeah it's not a festival – it was one of Hubbins' friend's family reunions, she left that part out – but no worries we had a blast with the family. Sunday was a "family" dinner type of event and leads me to this post, well Friday has a part in this post as well, but the dinner was on Sunday….confused yet? Good.

My creation for Sunday's Dinner
As I said, we went to some friends' house for dinner (sausage stuffed pork loin with Szechuan green beans). The dinner was awesome and our hostess, host, and hostette were fabulous! As soon as I walked in the door hostette asks me my name, I in turn asked her, formalities done with, she asks me to play. I play with hostette for a little, while hostess finished up the final touches for dinner. After a little I sneak out of the play area so that I could talk to the big kids. Hostette looked a little heartbroken, but as most kids do, she rebounded, played with the adults, watched TV, and soon forgot all about me – well maybe not completely, but she didn't ask if I would play with her anymore since her Mommy told her it was time for me to play with the adults. I have a way of attracting little ones and they just know I can't say no when they ask me to play. J

After a few bottles of wine were consumed (yeah – 2 for me – opps) hostess and I were talking about our upcoming plans for dinner on Sunday. Hubbins and I were planning on having spaghetti and meatballs with marinara sauce – the latter two made from scratch. As we explained how I came across the recipe from the Rao's Cookbook Hubbins' Aunt and Uncle got for him a few years ago, one way or another the mention of Bobby Flay's Throw Down on Food Network came up, and the next thing we know we're agreeing to a meatball throw down…really? Meatballs? I'm surprised that meatballs was a throw down challenge…if you ask me I don't think I would say meatballs are my specialty, I was just excited to make the Rao's recipe…I think Hostess would agree that meatballs weren't her specialty as she had never even made them before. But alas we agreed and so our throw down was set for Sunday evening.

My basil growing - it's
doubled in size since
this picture!
Sunday rolled around and after going to church and to the grocery store for last minute items I came home and started on my marinara sauce. The "Marinara Sauce" recipe was pretty easy, although I don't think I squished up my tomatoes well enough, it was a little on the chunkier side, which doesn't bother me, but I think next time I'll get it a little smoother. I was very excited to be using some fresh basil from my window box garden…my garden which consists of basil and more basil – I was not so successful on growing any other herbs this year – maybe next year.

When it came time for the meatballs I was interested in "Anna and Frankie's Meatballs" recipe, it was slightly different than my usual meatball creations. My family is big on eating wild game, so I grew up on venison, I usually make venison or beef meatballs and while that's normal for me, the Rao's recipe called for ground beef, pork, and veal….uhhhh, yeah, when I went to the grocery store I was pretty sure I would only be able to find the ground beef, I surprisingly found some ground pork, but the veal was a no-go. So I substituted turkey for veal. The meatballs also use a LOT of bread crumbs, I am used to making my meatballs just dry enough with the bread crumbs so that they stick together…this called for two cups, PLUS the addition of water. I followed the recipe, except for the fact that I did not use homemade or quality bread crumbs. I'm sorry Rao's I don't know if I am allowed to call my meatballs true meatballs by your definition now. There really is a note attached to the recipe that states, "Unless you make your own bread crumbs, you won't be following Rao's kitchen tradition. Use the finest-quality Italian bread you can find…" PS working with wet meat is kind of weird….

Finally I get my meatballs prepared, just in time to transfer my sauce to the crock pot (our first time using it!!) I fry the meatballs, and they are looking pretty good, however, when one is very excited to make big meatballs they should judge the size of the vessel where meatballs will be placed into the sauce. My crock pot was only able to hold about 12 meatballs, which worked out well enough, I made smaller meatballs after the first 12, fried those and then popped them into the oven to make sure they were cooked through, those meatballs eventually made their way to our freezer for future use.

By 6 pm Hubbins had done a great job cleaning the rest of the house while I cooked and after we relaxed and read for a little bit before we popped in our "An Evening at Rao's" CD and waited for our company to arrive. I feel really bad because I think we had rushed my challenger from a previous engagement, I hope she forgives me! J We sat down for some dinner and I thought her meatballs and marinara were pretty good, although she claims the sauce was burnt, if she says so then I look forward to trying her sauce not burnt because it was pretty durn good. Since we didn't have any unbiased guests over for dinner no winner was truly declared in terms of meatballs, but my challenger kicked butt on the dessert, spaghetti and meatballs cupcakes!!! She'd kick my butt any day on cake decorating! Just look at these beauties! And they were really good too!

I'm very jealous of the cupcake decorating
abilities exhibited here.
Sunday night was full of cleaning up the kitchen and then bed-time, Hubbins had a "long, slow run" on Monday morning – I stayed in bed (as I usually do when he gets up at 4:30 am) I'm glad we had the "throw down" "Family Dinner". Next time I think we will pick food that is more of our specialty.
My meatballs in the frying pan,
A yummy take on the whole meal.

Bon Appetit Everyone!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Long Long Day

A long day yesterday - made for a long day today - and it's not even done yet. Yesterday I had to make the two hour journey East to St. Louis. Well I, being who I am, did not leave when I had intended to do so. I first thought about leaving at 3 or 3:30...after I got to see Hubby. Well seeing Hubby only lasted a quick five minutes in which I gave him some cantaloupe (if I didn't give it to him it would not have been consumed this week while I'm gone and it would have sat in the fridge and would have been icky when I got home). So anywho Hubby had an exam that was supposed to start at 4 pm and end at 7 pm...I told him I didn't want to leave at 7 so that is why we had made the plans for me to pay him a visit...yeah - I left at 8 pm. I have a hard time getting myself out the door when I know I have a long drive by myself ahead of me - especially away from Hubby. Oh well, c'est la vie, I travel, and travel a lot, if it's not for work it's for fun, so I'm either subliminally addicted to it or I <3 to torture myself with the traveling, IDK.

So the drive ended at 10 pm when I rolled into the hotel parking lot. (Note to self don't forget to make hotel reservations till the day of or you'll get stuck in a hotel that is not your brand of choice, not that it was a bad hotel, it wasn't great either - it was just a place to sleep, and I will make the reservations for my choice brand for next

Why a hotel you may ask? Well I am NOT a morning person - like I'm pretty sure Hubby has been growled at in the mornings and my mom always had to fight me to get out of bed for schoool when I was yonger. So when I have an exam at 8 am in St. Louis I have to stay the night before so that I don't have to get up at 4 am to get on the road (STL traffic is annoying and for an exam I never want to chance anything).

So naturally I didn't sleep very well last night - I was nervous/excited/weirded out all in one. Nervous because of my exam, excited because of my upcoming girls weekend with some of my bests and weirded out because of the non-choice brand hotel. I did finally get some sleep - not sure at what time, it was around the number 1,000 though (seriously I do count when I can't sleep). I woke up this morning not too excited about my exam. I did not adequately prepare for it. I know it's my fault, but I also have to blame it on the terrible Webcast that I purchased for review and thought it would help me in my studies - wrong.  All it did was distract me and make me not want to study anymore. I didn't realize that I was paying for unedited materials (seriously there is a clip with the two instructions discussing Peking duck and how to say the word Peking) ummm hello delete that crap before you send it out to the people paying for this material! Yes so amid the slew of bad jokes and chair creaks (background noises were not edited out) I was less than thrilled with studying this month. Plus the massive book I had been reading just ended up being words at times, it was so technical and didn't really explain some key points. Good study questions though, in hard copy, on the computer, not so much.  The computer version was lacking explanations for questions missed, although I might not have been in the correct format (study mode versus exam mode) I don't know I was frustrated every time I played wiht it.

So I took my exam today...yeah we'll see about that one, I really don't know, I have until November 30 to get through two more exams, I am going to get some good quality study materials if I have to re-take this one, and I WILL get it done! The one thing that made me happy about the exam was that the staff there really was pleasant - sometimes you don't get that. The one lady made me crack up on my way out. She asked the guy going into the check-in area after me if he wanted to sit and take a moment to collect himself or use the potty before he went in for his exam...yeah he was like 40+! hehehe it made me laugh.

The flat flat scenery through Illinois on my way to Chicago.

After all the fun that is included in the journey towards my CPA I got to leave and get in my car, grab some lunch and head to downtown to hop on a train. And that is where my long day is at and still not done. Next stop Chi-town and some girlie quality time :) Very excited about this weekend - it should be fun. Don't expect any sort of posts until next week though!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Inaugural Spin!

When I was younger and I baked Christmas cookies, or made desserts for my family anyother time during the year I always, always, always wanted to have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  I was drooling over my roommate's in college when she got one for college, and I always said that the very first item I would put on my wedding registry would be the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

Well when wedding registering started last year the mixer was most definitely one of the first items on the list (I'm not sure if it was THE first, but at least it was on there).  My mom tried to convince me that I didn't bake enough to get one and tried to talk me into getting a different brand...sorry I was so super stuck on the Kitchen Aid mixer that I didn't listen and my Mother-in-Law already had the mixer in the bag from the moment our registry was shown to her.

Well, as I said earlier, we got married last August, but we did not move in together until January, which means that neither of us were going to haul all of the loot down to either VA or GA after the wedding to use without the other for four months.  Well I would have but I wanted to be nice to hubby, plus I had rommies and I didn't want to take anything with me that would get lost/broken/misplaced when it came time for me to leave, so alas the Wedding Loot stayed at my parents house awaiting the moving truck to go to Missouri.

Flashforward to January - we were both over-cookied from the holidays and so I decided not to make any baked goods.  Well then we decided to start workout more and I started traveling.  My beloved Kitchen Aid mixer sat on a shelf not being used...Until NOW.

I joined a little monthly challenge baking group on Facebook with Jolts & Jollies blogger (also the one who inspired me to start a blog) along with some ladies I met here in Missouri who know some ladies from other areas who all love to bake.  July's challenge was to bake a Hummingbird Cake, finally my Kitchen Aid stand mixer would have a chance at life.  I was SUPER excited - I had never made a cake from scratch and I was extremely excited to try it out!  Plus one of my wedding gifts included two round Paula Deen pans with a Humingbird Cake recipe attached and it looked yummy!

I finally got to pull out my stand mixer, along with the round pans which had never been used.  I decided to stick to the recipe given out for the challenge, the Paula Deen recipe was slightly different.

The Hummingbird Cake was a success - I took it to a gathering of hubby's classmates so that they could enjoy it (and we wouldn't be stuck eating a two teired 9-inch round cake all week).  Everyone seemed to enjoy it so I was very happy with myself.  Plus it turned out quite nicely.

The only downfall of the cake making process was my trying to take pictures of the process.  Haha I have decided to leave that for more experienced baker/chef bloggers, for now I will stick to beginning and end product.  Sound good?

Lessons Learned from my first baking challenge:
  • Read the recipe before charging into the kitchen, I missed the fact that my flour was to have 1/2 cup separated to be added to the fruit mixture.
  • Don't take pictures if you don't know what you're doing.  I got sidetracked and burnt the first batch of pecans.
  • Be patient - I might have hurried the icing along a little too much, I'm not sure, but mine looked a little grainy, I probably did not let the sugar combine with the cream cheese well enough.
  • When your mom tells you that you need more things on your wedding registry ASK HER what those items are - she might tell you a cake stand would be a good idea, a seldom used piece, but handy when you need it.
  • Be generous with the icing between the layers - I think mine was lacking on the cream cheese inner goodness.
  • Don't start a cake at 10:00 PM when you don't fully know what you are doing, unless you like going to bed at 1:00 AM.
  • Read the recipe before making your shopping list. That little item called nutmeg will sneak away from you - I made the cake without it and it tasted fine.
  • Cream Cheese and Butter at room temperature mean leave it out to get the chill off - don't leave the butter out so long it gets mushy.
  • I know there were more but I didn't write them down and I made this cake last Thursday night and iced it Friday right before we went to the get together and then I enjoyed the weekend away from the computer with Hubby.
Here's the recipe - without step-by-step picture instructions because as I said - I did not do that very well with that.

Hummingbird Cake

Courtesy of Food Network Magazine
Cook Time:55 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

For the Cake:
Unsalted butter, for greasing
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting*
1 cup pecan pieces
3 ripe bananas, chopped**
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
*It does not say this here but you'll want your flour separated 2 1/4 cups and 1/2 cups if you are trying to get everything prepared to make the cake.
**My bananas look scary in the picture because they had been in the freezer.  If we ever have bananas that are almost too ripe to eat but would be great for Banana Nut Bread or a cake like this I toss them in the freezer, that way they are good and mushy when it's time to add them to the batter.

For the Frosting:
2 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each), at room temperature
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper.  (I didn't have any parchment paper but I used non-stick pans, I had no problem getting my cakes to pop out) Butter the parchment and dust with flour.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and toasted, about 8 minutes (I noticed mine seemed to toast a little more quickly than 8 minutes, make sure you keep an eye on them and check them to make sure they do not burn). Let cool slightly, then roughly chop. Toss with the bananas, pineapple and 1/2 cup flour in a small bowl.

Whisk the remaining 2 1/4 cups flour, the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Beat the eggs and granulated sugar in a separate bowl with a mixer on high speed until thick and light, 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the vegetable oil.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg mixture, then gently fold to make a thick batter. Fold in the pecan-fruit mixture, then transfer the batter to the prepared pans. Bake until the cakes are firm and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool in the pans on a rack, 25 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the rack to cool completely.  (I let mine cool all night)

Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl with a mixer until fluffy, then gradually beat in the butter until combined. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Add the lemon zest and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. (I don't know what I did - mine came out slightly grainy)

Place one cake layer on a serving plate (there's where the seldom used, but would be useful cake stand that could have been added to the Registry if someone had listened to her mother - sorry mom). Spread about half of the frosting on top, then cover with the other cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. (Because I know we are not likely to eat the rest of the pecans right away I added them as garnish on the top of the cake and around the base to cover up where I iced the plate instead of the cake.)

And voila!  You have a beautiful Hummingbird Cake for all to enjoy!

Until next time!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Testing out the waters

So I've decided to start a blog. Not positive if it'll be a flop or not, but hey, let's give it a try right?

First off let me introduce myself. I'm from a small town in Pennsylvania and currently live in a smaller town in Missouri with my husband. The hubby is doing some classes/training here in MO and I am working from home/traveling a lot for work.

I'm enjoying the experience of being a newlywed. We just got married last August (yay one year in less than a month!) We didn't live together right away because he was in one state (GA), I was in another (VA), and we got married in a completely different state (PA). We knew we would be moving to Missouri in January so we held off living together until then so that I could keep my job and not have to stress about moving essentially four times in 6 months last year (I moved to a different apartment in VA in May, move #1), we got married in August (would have been move #2), moved my stuff to PA for December (#3), and then moved to MO in January (#4). Yeah...I can't wait to get settled and not move anymore!! I've pretty much moved at least once a year every year since my freshman year of college. But I feel like anymore a lot of people do that. Waiting to find the person you want to live with for the rest of your life/finding your spot on this great globe.

I'm still working out of VA and as I said traveling for the same company. Consequently I do not always get to spend that valuable newlywed time with the hubby...hence we annoy the crap out of each other when I am home - and we love every minute of it!!

For now I dub this my very first post - uhhh yeah...this will be a work in progress and I will have to tinker with it as I go along in order to figure all of the stuff out!

Until next time!