December 31, 2010

Hope for Focus in 2011

I'm rubbish at deciding on resolutions for the new year. Here goes...

I think that most of all, I want to focus.

Focus on family and friends, I live close and technology affords us great contact. This year past year was made so much better by spending time with family.

Focus on keeping my mind and body in check, I am not done learning and pushing myself.

Focus on what I can do to help others. I know that sometimes taking 2 seconds out of my day helps someone with a weight upon their shoulder.

Vague goals that will be made clearer as 2011 plays out.

Thanks to Photo a Day from Planet Earth for the newest feature, the first photo of 2011 is an honor. Rich, your daily selection is eye opening and always enjoyable.


After almost 3 full days of not leaving the house (due to the worst cold of 2010), I finally needed to get out. This was my first time snowshoeing and I cannot wait to go again. I still have a bit of a cough but the crisp, cold air just felt so refreshing! It was a treat to have Ali join us. Sushi next Ali!

December 30, 2010

Outings with Shirley - Temple Square

The other night was cold and with the tots, pictures were quite funny. Now most of us are at home recovering from colds. Blah. Sorry about your fever Clara Jewel.

What a way to ring in the new year!

December 25, 2010

Every time a bell rings...

Do you ever bake so much at work that you just can't mentally/physically bake at home? Yep, I almost hit the wall. I still managed to eeck out a triple batch of almond brittle, a double batch of oatmeal scotchies, and a mint chocolate torte especially for the Morris clan (and Natalie).

The loot for the year included a sea salt grinder from Microplane, a couple of silicone chocolate molds, a knit market bag, a beautiful owl made from some of the fabric from the wedding, and a coupon for some scrap booking with Alan. All in all a very good day. The tots got some cool stuff too. And now I can say I have experienced the frustration with plastic transformers and a sad 4-year old.

Shirley and I are going on our next outing soon... I miss my camera!

Happy holidays. Eat well, drink safe, and cherish what you have.

December 1, 2010

Squishy sandals...

So I have had these wonderful sandals, Beautifeel brown strappy sandals, for a while. I got them before I went to Europe the first time and have worn them on every trip to Europe and all over...

They need to be retired. I sound squishy when I walk in them. It is tragic and they will be missed.

I've been on the lookout for a new sandal and thanks to Amazon and their 'save for later' feature, I found a deal! I can't wear them out in the snow but I am excited for spring/summer!

November 26, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge November 2010 - Crostata!

Whoohoo! November brings the third bakers' challenge and me with a hankerin' for pumpkin... and caramel... The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

So the crust... I made it following the recipe (adding a bit of fresh ground nutmeg). I made it as if I were making pâte sucrée. As Chef Wild said, love your dough! It was pretty soft but chilled it was easy enough to work with. I would use it again. :)

The filling... toasted some spices and set them aside. Made some caramel and added the pumpkin. Then after it smoothed out, I added the spices. I decided to go with a fun edge on the crust, it took me a while. Then I cut out a pumpkin, did some twists, and cut out some leaves. Poured in the filling and baked it off.

The pasta frolla was good, the filling was ok. Thanks daring bakers for another fun afternoon of baking! Here is the recipe for pasta frolla...

Pasta Frolla
1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2)
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Note 1: Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.

Note 2: There are different ways of making vanilla sugar. I keep vanilla beans in a jar half-filled with sugar until I need to use them, for example, to make vanilla ice cream. After I remove the split bean from the custard that will go into the ice cream maker, I rinse it, dry it and put it back in the jar with sugar.

Making pasta frolla by hand:

Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.

Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.

Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

Making pasta frolla with a food processor:

Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
Empty food processor's bowl onto your work surface
See step 3 above and continue as explained in the following steps (minus the lemon zest, which you have already added).

Variation for Version 1 of pasta frolla:

If you want, you can make the pasta frolla using a combination of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat pastry flour.

If you choose to try this variation, use 1 cup [240 ml, 135 g, 4 3/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup [180 ml, 100 g, 3.5 oz.] whole-wheat pastry flour

November 9, 2010

Outings with Shirley - Garden Park Ward

Shirley and I have set out to educate ourselves about a style/type/area of photography once a month. She brought me to the Garden Park Ward so we could snap some lovely fall photos... It was fun and I can't wait until St. George. :)

November 5, 2010

A trip to the pumpkin patch

A couple weekends ago, we went to Wheeler Farm with Brian, Shirley, and the tots. It was a pretty good deal, a hayride, a kiddie corn maze, and 7 pumpkins for $30! I even got out my wellies.

Here is a mini-slideshow:

October 31, 2010


Blah. Tired now.

Menu Halloween 2010

Butternut squash and caramelized onion pizza (Beehive Parm out of Uintah, UT is tasty!)
Medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in basil, and wrapped in proscuitto
Mango Chutney Dip with fritos (thanks Kathy!)
Pumpkin butter with 'bone' breadsticks
Mummy dogs
Cheese leaves and crackers
Sweet and salty pumpkin seeds and garlic pumpkin seeds
Caramel apples
Popcorn Balls
Blood orange soda
Ghost mallows

Alan and I dresses up as Mario and Luigi. Grandma Roma, Cindy, and Ali joined us and the tots. We had Mary Poppins and Burt, a unicorn, a super Owen, a pumpkin witch, a green witch, and an Air Force Sgt.

What did you all serve/do?

October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge October 2010 - Nuts About Donuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I decided to make the yeast donuts as I wanted something light.  I followed Alton Brown's recipe, using egg nog for the milk. Winder Dairy Egg Nog!!! Mmmmm... tasty! The dough ended up too wet for me so I had to add a touch more flour.

The glazes are plain sugar on the rounds, maple squares, and cinnamon and sugar dust on the rest. I even used some sprinkles on some for the kids.

Thanks Lori for a fun challenge!

October 26, 2010


I'm having a string of good luck. Found a job, won a 6 month membership to Gold's Gym, and today I won a bit a of cash from a grocery store.

Here are some pics from our recent trip that I think are my favorites:

DockedSoon to be dinner

It is what is inside that countsOne stands out

October 19, 2010


Day 2 of adjustment is going ok. We ended up getting up at 5:30 this morning. Not normal for me but I took advantage of the early hours and made apple cheddar scones fresh for breakfast. The recipe was posted on a blog I follow, Smitten Kitchen. I think the recipe ended up a bit wet for me so I might reduce the cream a tad and chill them once cut to see if I can't get more rise out of them. I also think I might reduce the apples but I can't decide. They taste pretty good but I want more cheese flavor to balance out the apples tartness.

We picked up our first box from our first CSA last night. I am so excited! We signed up for the Fall/Early Winter Share that will go to the end of November. We signed up with Bell Organic out of Draper. David and Jill are super nice and were very helpful when I was researching CSAs early on.

The first box had a bag of mixed salad greens, a bag of arugula, a head of cabbage, kale, turnips with greens, 6 large tomatoes, and a bunch of purple dragon carrots. It all smelled so fresh and I can't wait to use it.

We used some of the greens already on BLTs last night. I plan on making meatball and kale soup with the kale. The cabbage will be peanut curry bacon slaw and stir fry. The turnips are going to be made into a turnip gratin and be served with some opah fish. I am not sure about the arugula. It isn't my favorite but I intend to eat it! The tomatoes are always used in salads or just for eating. I am not sure what to do with the turnip greens though. I'm looking into recipes.
The carrots had to be my favorite part of the whole box. They have a dark purple skin but are orange flesh. They are crisp and have so much better of a flavor than store bought. I might just eat them all fresh!

And the other good news is that our pork is ready this Saturday too. Mmmmm.... bacon! Hopefully our beef is soon too.

October 18, 2010

What time is it?

So we have returned from our honeymoon. The trip was so wonderful. It was really great to spend so much time with Alan. Now that we are back he has already rushed off to work. It will take me a couple of days to get back into the swing of things.

I can't believe it is fall already. I am in desperate need of a Halloween costume, some pumpkins, and lots of candy. Maybe I should make caramel apples...

I am going to be working on the next Daring Bakers Challenge this week so that I can post it on the 27th. It should be a good one!

For now I will leave you with a photo I took at Red Butte Gardens when I went with the Munchkins, Brian, and Shirley.

October 5, 2010

Yes is no and no is yes

The words for yes and no have reversed. Greece is stunning.

I'm blogging here for a while...


September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge September 2010 - Cookies!

This is my first month of the Daring Bakers challenge. Intimidating, yes. Fun, yes. Repeatable? Most definitely!

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. It was mandatory to make the Basic Sugar Cookie recipe provided (unless specific diet restrictions apply) and to decorate the cookies with the theme of September (I'm curious, what does September mean to you?).

September to me is a lot of things... the start of school, leaves turning color, crisp air, boots, scarves, harvesting apples and pears... and most of all acorns. All over the ground are little acorns.

I doubled this recipe and baked all the cookies off. I then had a decorating afternoon with Shirley and the kids. We used frosting and sprinkles to decorate. The kids then set up a cookie and lemonade stand. Each small cookie was 50 cents. Oggie decided that the large cookies would be $155. Yep, $155. Needless to say, we ended up selling the cookies at a major discount! ;)

Basic Sugar Cookies:

Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean


Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
  • Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.
Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
  • Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.

  • Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done. Also, rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
Leave to cool on cooling racks.
Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.

  • Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.
I decorated with colored royal icing but you can use any frosting you would like. And of course, who doesn't love sprinkles?

August 30, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge

Well, in my free time I like to bake... I have a lot of free time!

I follow Tartelette and she has mentioned before this Daring Bakers Challenge. I signed up. The first challenge I will get to participate in is in September. The August Challenge looked really fun so I am excited.

I am not supposed to post until the 27th of each month so you will have to wait to see what the challenge and result is!

August 21, 2010

Life from a pretty seat

We have arrived and are settling into life in another city, another state. It is fun to be near family and explore a whole new city but I miss some folks and things back in Eugene.

This carousel is a cute ride at the local zoo. It also happens to be a favorite seat of some of my tot friends, Oggie and Miss C Jewel.

I have a new patch of mint, rosemary, and basil growing. I have made so much stuff in the past few days... Mint ice cream, strawberry ice cream, maple ginger ice cream, a spice cake with peanut buttercream, creme anglaise with fresh berries,  watermelon limeade, cheesecake, root beer, pizza... I am sure there is more but I can't remember.

We also toured a local candy factory. Pretty cool to see it mass produced but I still prefer homemade!

July 28, 2010

Fast food funny

We are on the road, this time not a vacation. Packed and shipped! ETA is Wednesday, early evening.

We stopped for fast food, which is very rare these days. Ro was hanging out on Alan's lap and the girl at the window asked, "is that thing real?"

Poor Ro cat.

July 22, 2010

Welcome to the land of boxes!

I am moving away... cardboard and packing tape are my friend... I love h-haul packing paper. I have too much stuff.

I have lived in Oregon for 12 years. It is only the second place I have ever lived. Oregon is green and beautiful. Waterfalls, the ocean, and friends. Now I have a whole new state to explore. New food, new hiking, new friends, and now family! We will be living with Alan's family until we find a place of our own. And I will be closer to my family, drivable distance.

Good-bye green Oregon.

July 4, 2010


This is my 4th of July fun. What better way to celebrate than a cake?! The cake is caramel and the frosting is too.

I sprayed a high percentage alcohol on a piece of crumpled parchment and then I cooked a mixture of sugar, water, and corn syrup to 300 degrees and poured it on the parchment. The alcohol evaporated and created this bubbled look.

July 3, 2010

Happy 4th!

Hope you are all enjoying time with family, grillin' the meats, and enjoying ambrosia salad. :)

Oh and, don't blow off your hand lighting fireworks.

June 16, 2010

and it is over

So the big bash is over, family and friends came and went safely, and now Alan and I can get in to our routine. I finally finished my shawl, just in time but I think I will take out the bind off and do it again. It seems to have a weird curl to the edge.

The pattern is called Ishbel, from the Whimsical Little Knits collection of patterns. I really enjoyed the pattern, although I did have to restart it several times. My stitch markers wouldn't stay put and I wasn't paying attention to the center YOs.

The yarn is Wollmeise 100% supermerino in Frosch. I love this color and this yarn. It is so unbelievable to knit with and to wear. I have several skeins of it and I can't wait to knit it up. It is near impossible to get your hands on any and it is a pretty penny.

I am working on another Ysolda Teague pattern, it is a gift so I won't say which pattern. I like how the patterns are written. Easy enough for me to follow and really lovely end product. I am using another skein of the Wollmeise 100%. I might never be able to knit with any other yarn after Wollmeise. :)

Baking has been slow. Alan and I did make bagels the other day... sea salt and sesame seeds... mmm tasty. Add to it some chive and onion cream cheese and you have an even bigger tasty. I am working up my courage to try out some cupcakes. Hopefully soon, I am craving a good cuppy cake.

May 22, 2010

and it starts

The family is on its way. Stuff is boxed and ready. What a party we will have!

Ro is excited. Can't you tell?

May 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Adam!

He probably doesn't read my blog but o well. I made him a cake. First cake since I left school...

Chocolate chiffon cake, berry mascarpone filling, chocolate buttercream, and chocolate sprinkles on the side.

Hope it tastes good! I'll post reviews once I hear back.

April 20, 2010

Where do we go from here?

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Harriet van Horne

This is a quote on the wall of the restaurant of my school. If everyone who cooked or baked could feel this every time they went to produce something, I almost feel like there would never be any bad food. Eh, lofty thinking.

The last day of class was last Wednesday. We spent most of it cleaning. Not particularly the best part of being in the kitchen but a necessary part. The also decided to spring one last 'lesson' on us. A timed exercise in hand whipping and chocolate piping. Ha, my worst skills due to incredibly weak arms and an unnatural and totally noticeable inability to stop shaking. The minute they kicked us out of the kitchen, the air ran high with nervousness and it was like the people I had come to know that term changed. A class that is competitive and a little ruthless? Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me but I sensed it. I disliked some of the strange behaviors but mostly my own performance. No big shock there. I am sure you are all familiar with the frustrating moment of 'why can't I just do this?' Yep, the one that you have right before you just keep going because that is what you do. Keep trying. I will get it eventually. Kaizen, continuous improvement. Not insanity because I at least change my method every now and then...

The next day was our good-bye lunch. I almost didn't go. The last few days of class were like a continual good-bye. Everyone else isn't stopping. They get to go to their fancy externships or continued classes. I am going home to paint wooden signs and get married. Then what? They handed out awards at the lunch. We were all expecting the Spirit of OCI Award. This was the award the whole class voted on. We didn't know who would get it, odds were that it was going to be a three-way tie. It wasn't. The award went to the ever incredible piping master, Delicia, soon to be pastry phenom at Ten 01. Next up was the Chef Parks Award (you can read about Chef Parks here). At this point my attention was gone, lost somewhere in thoughts of how to improve the Italian buttercream recipe (maybe I should have figured out the crème anglaise addition) when I hear my name. I had no idea why and it took me a minute to figure it out. Apparently I called Chef Wilke's bluff or the staff/chefs got to talking and they think I am a good student. I am not sure exactly. Either way, I do not want to disappoint myself or those that recognized my hard work. I am honored to have my name even mentioned in the same sentence as Chef Parks, who patiently waited for a turtle that Saturday where my ability to temper chocolate was overshadowed by my inability to be patient and trust in myself that I could do just that. Oh how fast word can travel at that school...

My goal for school was to learn. I had no plans to do anything in particular with my schooling, I just wanted to understand the process of baking. From day one I felt completely lost. It seemed that everyone in my class had an idea of what they wanted to do and the place they wanted to go. Some of my classmates even had previous schooling and experience doing some of the things we did in class.

How do you work in that environment? Some folks cannot, we lost two of our classmates. One in the first section and one in the second.

I am a swirl of thoughts right now. I still do not have a plan. I do know that I have to get back to a kitchen. A real kitchen. I miss school so much. I had no idea the impact it would have. All the teachers were so great to put up with and answer my incessant questions. My classmates, never a more diverse and interesting crowd will I meet. I am amazed at their skills. I do hope that we all stay in touch.

April 19, 2010

Belly up to the buffet

The last section of class. A dessert buffet project with a showpiece. Actually, 3 showpieces. One made of pastillage, one made of chocolate, and one made of blown/cast/pulled sugar. One item must be 6"X10" and the other 2 items must be 3"X5". The buffet must have 9 different items, 3 of each item, for a total of at least 27 pieces. The categories for the items are pastry (a 3-6 bite item), petit four (a 2-3 bite item), and candy (a 1-2 bite item).

Ok, so I went with a theme. I was going to do a lighthouse/coast theme but couldn't get it all worked out in my head. Instead I went with a movie theme. Alice in Wonderland. We had seen the recent one in 3-D with some of my classmates and I really enjoyed the look of it.

My pieces, well the Mad Hatter hat for one, Cheshire for another, and a drink me bottle for the third. My buffet items included eccles cake, lemon tassies (Scottish for small cup), and lime friands for the pastry items. The eat me cake (petit fours glacé, a huge production like before), meringue cookies shaped like hearts, and candied violet French macaroons for the petit four items. For the candy items I made nougat, orange-ginger jellies, and salt caramel filled chocolates. I was going for the afternoon tea idea and I think it worked out ok.

So, making a hat out of pastillage is hard. Originally I was trying to make the hat my large item, just the hat. Well, it didn't work out. I had to scale it down 4 times just so I could get it to a workable size. The pastillage just kept getting too hard to work with too fast. The one time I got a large piece shaped, it fell to the floor and broke into pieces. So, I taped some of the hard plastic sheets I had into the shape I wanted and let the pastillage dry on that. It did work and I only needed a small piece to fill the seam in the back. The top and bottom of the hat were much easier than the body. I don't know if you can see it in the pictures but I did use a texture sheet to get the paisley pattern just like the hat in the movie.

Now that the hat pieces were done, I needed to come up with a way to get the height back from the massive scale down. I made a red heart and a pile of cards. I scratched the suites and an 'A' into the cards. I glued the cards together, put them on top of the heart, and the hat on top of all of that and got the height I needed. I had to hide the entire piece in a closet at school for over a week. I was terrified that I would get broken before I could show it and get it checked off. Phew, it made it.

Next up was the chocolate piece. I went the route of a inlay piece. I found a cool picture of Cheshire Cat and colored some coating chocolate. I then painted it onto acetate using a blown up picture. I even wrote the words 'I really do like that hat...' I let it dry, put candy bars up around it, and then covered it with grey chocolate to get a solid slab out of it. I even made angled pieces so I could melt them on and it would stand up. This piece did not turn out like I wanted it to, not at all. The painted on pieces stuck to the acetate and I had to paint a lot of it back in the indents left by the painted chocolate. While trying to get the chocolate to come off the acetate, I smeared the words. It was so frustrating. I finally got it all done, cut off the words, glued on the angled pieces and had Chef Hall check it off. Then I chucked it. I disliked it so much I tossed it. I took a picture to remind myself of the work, the process, and what not to do in the future.

Next up was the sugar piece. I had to rework my plan for my sugar pieces a couple of times because I confused myself with the instructions about what it had to be for checkoff. I needed 1 flower, 3 leaves, 1 pulled/blown piece, and 1 cast piece all together. I decided to make a chessboard as my cast piece, a blue flower like in the movie, 1 red rose, and 1 white rose, all with leaves, and a bottle as my blown piece. This is not easy. This work requires patience and time. Expect that you will get blisters and burns. Expect that you will break pieces and have to do them over. I finally got everything made and pieced together but it took several days and 5 blisters. The chessboard turned out to be so fun that I decided to use it and a couple of my cake stands as the platters in my buffet.

In the end, I stayed in Portland and worked on the buffet items for that last couple of weekends. I worked 3 weeks straight in the kitchen on the menu items and the buffet items. And just like that, class was over. I ended up not doing as well as I would have liked over all with my buffet but it was a good experience. Less salt in the caramels, more lemon in the tassies, puff dough for the eccles, well, it did not go as planned and I did not have a plan b.

Being my own worst critic, I could go on and on with what I perceive as things that went wrong. All in all, I cannot really remember what happened. You are so focused on just getting it all done that you cannot comprehend what to do when you are done. I had fun, I challenged myself, and it all worked out.