Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

A dusting of snow, cookies, Christmas movies, and's officially Christmas! My brain is having a hard time grasping that Christmas is here (and nearly over). I think that's the downside of the last few years of a chaotic schedule; I have little concept of time as it relates to my personal life. My idea of days, weeks, months, etc revolve around due dates and my work schedule.

I watched Elf and Christmas Vacation today. That helped. And I received possibly my best present from my parents to date: a sewing machine! I'm quite excited about all the possibilities that the sewing machine brings. Cooking, sewing, and full of there nothing I can't do??!! (I kid, I kid.) And now I will present evidence of what I cannot do well: decorate sugar cookies.

The Pioneer Woman recently had a weekend where winners visited her Lodge (I entered, I lost, I wept). Bridget from Bake at 350 taught a class on cookie decorating. She's amazing. I want to be her. I tried to be her today. I failed. Okay, I did not fail, but boy howdy do I have room to grow.

Nielsen-Massey is the way to go. Trust me. Vanilla bean paste is a thicker consistency than vanilla extract, but it's still runny.

The bean paste leaves beautiful specks of the vanilla in the dough.

Disposable bags are easy when you use a coupler (the white part) with a tip (this is #2). I had no clue what a coupler was until a couple days ago. Bridget is changing my life. I used the bag and tip to pipe the outline of my tree... which you can't see, but let's pretend like I didn't mess it up. I ended up spooning the icing on instead of using the squeeze bottle for the flood icing since mine was too thick.

Here are her recipes:

Sugar Cookies
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 sticks salted butter, cold
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (this is one of her alternate versions)

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and paste, mix well. Gradually add the flour and beat until just combined, scraping down the sides.

The dough will be crumbly so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.

Roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets (she recommends freezing the cut out shape on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes) and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooking rack.

Royal Icing
4 TBSP meringue powder (Williams-Sonoma, Ateco or AmeriColor, for best results)
scant 1/2 c. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp light corn syrup
few drops clear extract (optional)

Combine the meringue powder and water. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat until combined and foamy.

Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!) Add in the corn syrup and extract if desired. ( I think the corn syrup helps keep the icing shiny.)

Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not overbeat.

Cover with plastic wrap touching the icing or divide and color using gel paste food colorings.

This "stiff" icing is perfect for outlining and even for building gingerbread houses and monogramming. To fill in your cookies, add water to your icing a teaspoon at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula, until it is the consistency of syrup. This technique of filling a cookie with thinned icing is called "flooding."

To fill the cookie, you'll need flood icing. To do that, you’d follow the steps above, adding small amounts of water (1 tsp at a time) until a ribbon of the icing disappears back into the bowl within a count of one thousand one, one thousand two.

Morals of the story:
1. Being tired and trying a new cooking challenge don't really go together.
2. I need way more practice.
3. This may not be my strong suit.
4. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Instead of Raspberry Cordial...

Gillian and I had our second Anne of Green Gables viewing this week. Though this time, we barely watched the movie. Instead we talked about life, food, boys, how awesome we are (kidding...maybe), and about our dramatic teenage selves. If you've seen Anne of Green Gables, you'll know that in the first one, Anne and Diana have a "fancy" meal with Raspberry Cordial. Well, the cordial ends up boozing up Diana since it wasn't cordial after all. Oh, Anne. You and your shenanigans.

People are so hard on us redheads. Woe is me....

Sorry. I was feeling residual drama from my Anne viewing.

Anyway, instead of serving raspberry cordial or boozing it up with Gillian, we had our necessary chai tea lattes from Starbucks. And I presented a delicious array of treats. My trip to KC resulted in a ridiculous banana cookie from Upper Crust Bakery (center), lemon poppyseed and orange cranberry scones from Whole Foods (Whole Foods? I miss you. A LOT. Springfield? Get with it or I'm outta here!), little cinnamon rolls from Whole Foods (mine are better...sorry, but they are), Petite Palmiers from World Market (deep breaths...I love Springfield, I love Springfield, I love Springfield), and Tim Tam cookies from Pepperidge Farm.

Ginger is the new blonde! I'm dying right now. I have actual, factual tears in my eyes. My search for an Anne clip immediately provided me with this gem.

On an unrelated note, I think I might be losing my mind.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where to start....

Hello, kittens.... I don't know why I said that. Please don't judge me. Speaking of kittens, I have the best little treasures to share with you all. You'll die, but in a good way. However, I'm not going to share it yet. I want them to have their own special moment. They're just too good to get lost in a long post.

Sara Bareilles says hello. She's serenading me this evening. I cannot get enough of her music. The top 5 loves of my heart right now: Sara's music (specifically her new album Kaleidoscope Heart), root beer (Sesha gave me a root beer in, to make my own root beer!), Pequod (that's a clue to the treasure and not just the name of a whaleship in Moby Dick), life, and a new cookbook (Barefoot Contessa's How Easy Is That?). Okay, and the book Stalena is gifting me that is my blog as a book (!!!!!!). I'm also pretty pumped about the completion of the semester and being one step closer to my BSN (6 1/2 months!) and the fact that I pulverized my Research/Theory course (if time and sleep deprivation determined my grade then boy howdy did I earn that A). Tulips. I have roses and tulips in my living room courtesy of Whole Foods and that also makes my heart happy. I suppose there are way more than 5 loves crammed into my heart.

I should move on before I get carried away because up until now I've been the image of self-control...


Okay, let's have a little chat about last weekend. It was delightful. Actually, it was beyond delightful. It was fun, refreshing, delicious, exciting, and busy. I expect to be receiving a thank you card from Kansas City's economy any day now.

My little Saturn zipped all over the city and even over into Kansas. But of course, my camera stayed in the hotel pretty much the entire trip. I did snap a couple photos of the room and view. And I was mindful enough to take it to the Plaza. So, here's the rundown...

My hotel room at the Hyatt Regency at Crown Center. Repeat after me: priceline is my friend. For real. See the following photos as evidence.

I unplugged an ATM. You didn't realize I was such a troublemaker, did you?

Okay. So maybe the ATM locked up after entering my PIN and while I joked about unplugging it, I only did so after the tech guy told me to do it.

I now present to you the Plaza, including the ridiculously creative Anthropologie, the lights, and Fingerstaches at Paper Source.

Starbucks + Kansas City = Winner


Oh, wait. He's wearing a Santa hat, so he must be friendly.

Merry Christmas from T-Rex and myself!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Two Shall Become One


Good evening.

How are you feeling? Tired? Rundown? Listless? Do you poop out at parties? Then you need Vitameatavegamin.... I had to watch the clip after writing that. And if you don't know that Vitameatavegamin is from I Love Lucy, well then, you're a mess. And I don't know if we can be friends. Unless you love Starbucks or Gilmore Girls or The Golden Girls or root beer or cooking/baking or wind up toys or laughing or really great music or sleeping in super comfy beds or Macs or quirky ornaments or games or the Pioneer Woman or roommates or Sephora or chapstick or awkward family photos or etsy or pet portraits or breathing. If you love any of those things, I'll forgive the Vitameatavegamin slip.

Well, friends and countrymen, I have made a decision. It's life-altering really. I mean, you'll probably feel the earth shift or see the moon turn red from the momentum of this decision.

I've decided to combine my blogs.

Are you all right?
Has your world stopped turning?

What? You didn't notice a thing? Hmmm. Well, whatever. I've decided that you all being the generous, kind, nonchalant people that you are, that you wouldn't mind if I mixed the cooking with the other randomness of my life. It'll make it a bit easier for me to navigate (it's not actually hard to begin with, but just roll with it, okay?). I'll try to remember to tag the life stuff "life outside the kitchen" if you just want to do a quick reading of that material. And if you just want to cook with me, then you can see look at the food labels...when I remember to use them. But let me tell you, you'll be missing out. I live with a bunch of weirdos.

(I've pulled over my Life Outside the Kitchen posts as I start the process. However, I want to hear from you. Love this idea? Hate it? Think it will result in catastrophic remorse? Don't leave a girl hanging.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Last week when I drove to Columbia, I made a stop. It was during that stop that I saw Brach's Neopolitan candy. In an instant I was transported back to my grandparents' apartment in Arkansas. That is why I will always love that candy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good News & Bad News

I'm not sure if you've heard or not, but sick people and surgical patients don't magically get better just because it's the holidays. It's true. Just like my homework isn't magically getting done, no matter how many times I say abbra cadabbra. I think I need fairy dust.

Anyway, since I had to work today, I had my Thanksgiving on Saturday. I made four delicious dishes and then I told everyone about them. And neglected to post them in time for you all to make them for today. But in my defense, it's been a chaotic week between work and trying to cram in my final papers, projects, and assignments. The end of the semester is coming (hooray!) and I'm waaaaaay behind (gulp). So the blogging, much to my dismay, had to be postponed. And to be honest, I really should be working on homework right this second. So let's get the show on the road since the homework doesn't seem to want to finish itself. Jerk.

So the bad news is that I didn't get the recipes out before Thanksgiving, but the good news is that they're so good that who cares?! Make them anyway! Especially the rolls and sweet potato dish.

Dinner Rolls (Pioneer Woman)

* 4 cups Milk
* 1 cup Sugar
* 1 cup Vegetable Oil
* 9 cups Flour
* 2 packages (4 1/2 Tsp.) Active Dry Yeast
* 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
* 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
* 2 Tablespoons Salt

Pour 4 cups of milk into a stock pot or Dutch oven. Add one cup of sugar and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Stir to combine. Now, turn the burner on medium to medium-low and “scald” the mixture/lukewarm (between 90 and 110 degrees).

Before the mixture boils, turn off the heat. NOW. Very important stuff here: walk away. Walk away and allow this mixture to cool to warm/lukewarm. The mixture will need to be warm enough to be a hospitable environment for the yeast, but not so hot that it kills the yeast and makes it inactive. I don’t usually use a thermometer, but if you’d like to, a good temperature is between 90 and 110 degrees. I usually feel the side of the pan with the palm of my hand. If it’s hot at all, I wait another 20 minutes or so. The pan should feel comfortably warm.

When the mixture is the right temperature add in 4 cups of flour and 2 packages of (4-1/2 teaspoons) of active dry yeast. After the yeast and flour are nicely incorporated, add another 4 cups of flour. Stir together and allow to sit, covered with a tea towel or lid, for an hour. After about an hour it should have almost doubled in size. If it hasn’t changed much, put it in a warm (but turned off ) oven for 45 minutes or so. When it had risen sufficiently add 1 more cup of flour, 1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder, 1 scant teaspoon of baking soda and about 2 tablespoons of salt. Stir (or knead just a bit) until combined.

Butter 1 or 2 muffin pans. Form the rolls by pinching off a walnut sized piece of dough and rolling it into a little ball. Repeat and tuck three balls of dough into each buttered muffin cup. Continue until pan is full. Cover and allow to rise for about 1 to 2 hours.

Bake in a 400-degree oven until golden brown, about 17 to 20 minutes.

*** I actually baked mine for 10 minutes.

Soul Sweet 'Taters (Pioneer Woman)

* 4 whole Medium Sweet Potatoes
* 1 cup Sugar
* 1 cup Milk
* 2 whole Eggs
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
* 1 teaspoon Salt
* 1 cup Brown Sugar
* 1 cup Pecans
* 1/2 cups Flour
* 3/4 sticks Butter

Wash 4 medium sweet potatoes and bake them in a 375-degree oven until fork tender, about 30-35 minutes. When they are finished cooking slice them open and scrape out the flesh into a large bowl.

Add 1 cup of (regular grandulated) sugar, 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of salt. With a potato masher, mash them up just enough—you don’t want to be perfectly smooth.

Now, in a separate bowl, add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup pecans, chopped (that means measure a cup of pecans, then chop them), ½ cup flour, and ¾ stick of butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash together until thoroughly combined.

Spread the sweet potato mixture into a regular baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Make these!!!!!!!! This was my FAVORITE.

Pumpkin Cream Pie (Pioneer Woman)

* 1 1/2 package Graham Crackers (about 15 Cookie Sheets)
* 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
* 1 stick Butter, Melted

* 1 box (3 Oz. Box) Vanilla Pudding (Cook And Serve Variety)
* 1 cup Half-and-half
* 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
* Pinch Of Cinnamon
* Pinch Of Nutmeg
* Pinch Of Ground Cloves
* 2 Tablespoons Whiskey (optional)
* 1/2 cups (plus 3 Tablespoons) Pumpkin Puree
* 1/2 cups (additional) Heavy Cream
* 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
* Extra Graham Cracker Crumbs, For Garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Grind graham crackers in a food processor (or, if you don’t have a food processor, place them in a large ziploc and pound ‘em with a rolling pin.) Add powdered sugar and melted butter and process until totally combined. Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan until nice and firm. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until warm and “set.” Remove from oven and allow crust to cool completely.

In a medium saucepan, mix dry pudding mix with half-and-half and cream. Add spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and thick. Remove from heat and stir in whiskey, if using. Add pumpkin and stir to combine. Place lid on pot and set aside to cool. When cool enough, place pot in the fridge to cool completely.

When mixture is cool, remove from the fridge. In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and brown sugar. Beat until very light and fluffy. Fold in pumpkin cream mixture until combined. Pour into cooled crust.

Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. Serve with graham crackers crumbled on top.

*** I threw in a pinch of nutmeg too because I looooooove nutmeg.

Pumpkin Roll (Tasty Kitchen...a Pioneer Woman site)

* 3/4 cups Flour
* 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
* 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
* 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoons Cloves
* 1/4 teaspoons Salt
* 3 whole Eggs
* 1 cup White Sugar
* 2/3 cups Pure Pumpkin
* Powdered Sugar (for Powdering Your Kitchen Towel)

* 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese, softened
* 6 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
* 1 cup Sifted Powdered Sugar
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For Cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 17 x 11 jelly-roll pan. Line with wax paper; grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

In a bowl combine: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

In a separate bowl mix the eggs and white sugar until thick. Beat in the canned pumpkin. Stir into the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately turn cake onto prepared towel. Slowly peel off the wax paper. Roll the cake up in the towel, starting with narrow end. Cool on a wire rack.

For the filling: Beat cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth. Unroll cake and remove towel. Spread cream cheese filling over cake. Reroll cake. Store in a container with a lid. Keep refrigerated.

If you can refrain from eating the deliciousness of this roll right away it’s better when it’s been refrigerated for at least an hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if you like.

My aunt Gail told me I needed to try a pumpkin roll since I've never made one. I'd like to point out a couple things.
1. See that finger print? Yup. The cake did not spring back. Whoopsie. (I left it in the oven and it all worked out fine.)
2. The rolling pictures were taken by Stalena. My hands were a little occupied in case you didn't notice.

Final note, all recipes are copied from the sites as they're written. If you have specific questions about what I did, let me know. I followed most of them pretty closely.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Taco Soup

When I visited my aunt and uncle in North Carolina, my Aunt Gail made taco soup in her crockpot and it was deeeelicious. It's a perfect recipe for gatherings (it makes a lot) and for the colder weather.

2 lbs hamburger (I use 93/7 lean meat.)
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
2 cans diced tomatoes (I chose the ones with peppers and onions.)
1 can shoepeg corn
1 package Taco Seasoning
1 package Ranch Seasoning
2 cups water

Optional toppings:
Fritos or tortilla chips
sour cream

Brown the hamburger in a skillet and drain the grease. Rinse the beans and corn; place in the crockpot. Add the tomatoes with their juice. Place the cooked hamburger in the crockpot followed by the seasonings and water. Stir and let it hang out on high for 4 hours. Serve topped with cheese and sour cream, if desired. I keep my Fritos or tortilla chips to the side so they don't become soggy. Do whatever makes you happy. And if you really want to replicate my aunt's dining experience, drink a Diet Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash.

Isn't it pretty? It's only pretty because I chose to not include the picture that had the meat with the beans. Let's be honest: sometimes meat isn't very photogenic.

I had never heard of the Sierra Mist with cranberry until my visit. My aunt's stash was from last year's holiday season. I had to give her a kidney in exchange for one can. She also turned me onto Canada Dry with cranberry. Apparently, Missouri is not good enough for the Canada Dry/cranberry craze. I have yet to find it. If you see it somewhere, let me know! I'll give you my other kidney...okay, I won't. I down to one because of Aunt Gail. I'll give you my appendix. Or a portion of my liver. Maybe a lock of hair.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chili-Lime Pork

I love my crock pot. The crock pot is a magical tool. You put in all the ingredients and out comes a meal! Ta da!

I love spices and rubs. Seasonings make all the difference in a meal. They take a meal from eh to stellar.

Crock pot + seasonings = yummy (See below example.)

Remember, pork should be cooked low and slow. I rubbed on the chili-lime seasoning, placed the pork loin in the crock pot, added a cup of water, and let the crock pot work its magic for eight hours. That's it. Enjoy!