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.