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!