baking

Stir Crazy!

Our weather has been making me stir crazy.  Either that, or perhaps I am suffering from cabin fever! Seriously. It has been chilly, wet, dark, dreary, and just not the kind of weather one wants to venture forth in!

When I get like this, I need adventure! I love looking at seed catalogs and such, but I need something more hands on! I belong to Instagram, where folks post photos they take and others can comment on them. I love this, as I have people commenting from all over the world.  Most of my Instagram friends have Scotties, so it is cool seeing photos of these little dogs in their various environments.  Whenever I have some spare time, I take a look at photos from all over and one thing kept coming up over and over again.

French Macarons. No, not Macaroons. Macarons!

Naturally, I needed to do some further research….I found lots of information and recipes online for these cookies, but everywhere I read, I found discouraging reports. Things like, even professional chefs fail at making these “delicate” cookies.  You must go out and buy a silicone baking mat for these cookies; otherwise, they stick to parchment paper and fall apart. The first attempt at making these cookies is usually a failure. You must use only gel food colors in these delicate cookies, or they won’t turn out.

Determination became my companion. I will make French Macaroons. And, I *will* succeed!

Having made this proclamation, I went to Canandaigua in search for what I needed! I looked in WalMart, Michael’s, And JoAnn’s for a silicone baking mat. Since each of these stores sells Wilton products, I was confident I would find the said mat. Fail. I left the stores feeling deflated. How could I possible make these cookies with a silmat? I was about to leave Canandaigua when Mark wanted me to run into the Dollar Tree for him. I wandered the aisles and I found a small roll of parchment paper in there. Some of the recipes for French Macarons called for parchment.

Yesterday morning, I woke up determined to succeed at cookies! I watched a video on making them and read every tip I could find. Then I went to work. My eggs were left out for a couple of hours since they were to be room temperature.  To make sure they were, I placed them in some warm water for five minutes. I decided that since I had no superfine sugar, I would place my granulated sugar in the food processor and make it more fine.  After that,  I took the Bob’s Almond Meal/Flour I had purchased and ran that through the food processor as well. I mixed my powdered sugar and almond flour together and sifted them, making sure there were no “lumps”. I was now ready to begin. And, more importantly, succeed!

French Macarons are actually a “meringue” cookie, described as very light. Since I had never actually tried one, I wanted to! I made up my batter, making sure it remained light and airy. One thing I did that was not advised was to add a couple of drops of blue food color.After the batter was made, one is instructed to use a pastry bag with a tip on it to form little circular cookies. I have no pastry bag, so I grabbed a ziplock bag, placed the batter inside and snipped a tiny hole in the corner.  I was delighted as I piped out my delicate little cookies.  After they are piped onto the parchment paper, one is instructed to slam the cookie sheet down to release any bubbles! I did this, then placed the cookies on the table where they remained for forty-five minutes.  After they form a dry surface, they are ready to bake!

I placed my Macarons in the oven….I saw on a video not to bake more than one tray at a time. I set the timer and held my breath.  A while through the process, I stopped washing dishes and decided to look inside the oven door through the glass front. YES!  My little cookies were rising up just as they should!  They are supposed to form a ridge, called “feet”. Yes!!! My cookies were doing just what they were supposed to!  However, there was a comment to add extra food coloring as the cookies fade…my two drops of blue coloring turned my sweet treats a pastel green.

I made up a batch of Swiss Buttercream to fill my cookies. In the end, the family advised me these cookies are delicious!  Wow! They kind of melt in your mouth.

Sweet, sweet success!!! Now I wonder if I will be able to repeat it?!

We’ve become so spoiled!

Our weather this past week (and more) has been incredibly nice, particularly for this time of the year!  It seems that usually by now, we have had severe “mood swings” in the weather.  This year, it has been very calm and quite nice.

Yesterday, rain moved in for the first time in a long time! And it has rained quite a lot. Our autumns are known for unpredictable rain that sometimes lasts for what seems like forever.  In looking at the weather forecast, we are due for rain today and tomorrow, with several days of sunny weather to follow. But enough of the weather!

I *love* asters! They are so beautiful!  Their awesome purple petals are so cheerful and appreciated with all the changing of colors in the fall.  I bought this plant last year and never figured out where to plant it! I kept it in the garage over the winter, watering it a bit now and then.  My mother-in-law told me she often keeps mums alive this way, so I thought I would take a chance with this plant.  I am so glad it survived! I finally planted it on a slope where Mark had the driveway expanded.  I am hoping to have a bit of a wildflower garden there and thought this would look great there…..in fact, I have two more Asters to plant there that I recently purchased!

I really cropped the photo above and even though I am not inclined to fiddle around much with photos, I did put a filter on this one called kaleidoscope. I love this!

Last Mother’s Day, Carly brought me a Gerbera Daisy.  The plant seemed to thrive in the bedroom window, but when I placed it outside, it just had lots of greenery! I moved it to a brighter spot on the porch and it seemed to pick up some.  I am wondering, too, if this plant likes cooler weather like I do!

Isn’t that beautiful?  The color is so autumnal and the flowers last for a very long time!  No wonder this is a favorite with people!

How about this? I photographed the pumpkin and Aster as the late afternoon sun created shadows from the porch balusters.  I just cannot get enough of the colors of autumn! And speaking of color….while I was walking around with the camera, photographing this and that, I decided to take a picture of a Queen Anne’s Lace.  As I was about to snap the shutter button, a teeny tiny, itsy bitsy spider crept up on the flower!

And how could I not photograph the Bumblebee working so diligently in the Fleabane?

All of the photos above were taken just before yesterday’s rainy day appeared.  Because we have had no rain for so long, our well has been a tad temperamental! We got a load of water on Friday and yesterday, one more. We live on the hillside and must travel in the valley to get water.  The scenery was awesome!

The clouds were so low!!! Bristol Mountain’s ski runs seemed to disappear!!!

After getting a load of water, I got down to business! I had planned a somewhat work-intensive meal that really began Friday morning.  I had bought a beef brisket. Using a recipe from my crockpot cookbook, I created a rub for it and wrapped it in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Early yesterday morning,  I removed it and began cooking it on the stovetop instead of my (tiny) crockpot.  As the day progressed, the house was filled with quite an awesome aroma! I threw some potatoes in the oven late afternoon and began working on dessert.

While visiting our friends Carolyn and Bill for Shabbat one Friday eve, Bill served a blackberry steamed pudding.  I was in love!  I searched around online for something similar, but couldn’t find anything quite like it.  But I did find a recipe that sounded awesome. It was a Martha Stewart recipe for Caramel Apple Steamed Pudding.  Yes!

The first (of a few) steps was to caramelize sugar.  At first, I couldn’t figure this out.  Then I thought to turn up the heat just a tad, and voila!! This was so incredible and I was awestruck. Perhaps that was how I managed to accidentally get some of the boiling hot liquid on my forefinger and thumb. Without thinking, I tried to peel the burning syrup off with my teeth.  In the process, I burned the inside of my lower lip and the tip of my tongue. Thankfully, these were very minor. But my finger!

I kept putting ice cubes on the finger and after about eight, the pain finally subsided.  I did keep working on the dessert and was so excited when I unmolded it!

The rainy weather today lasted through the morning. Later in the day, the sun came out here and there and all I can say is, we really are so spoiled by the beautiful weather we have been enjoying!  Oh, and the forecast for the next few days?

Did I mention we are spoiled?  Rotten!!!

There have been Octobers in the past when we virtually worked in freezing cold rain, winterizing the camper, closing the pool, getting firewood and just doing all the pre-winter tasks.  Our woodshed is filled to the brim and the pool is all set to button up. We put that off as we worked on firewood and cleaning up a new trail in the woods that messed some of our other trails.  The camper will be next and we will still be enjoying warm weather!

Ah, September….

The year is (already) quickly fading away; it is hard to believe we are in the second half of September.  Although many folks are sad to say good bye to the summer, I am happy for the changing season. The leaves are beginning to show color here and there and the air has a nip in the evening.  In fact, tonight, we have a frost advisory.  I suppose the leaves will be showing even more color after a frost!

This time of the year lends itself so well for taking photos. It seems the air has a magical element when the humidity is gone. Although we have seen quite a bit of cloudiness, even the clouds are fascinating!

I enjoy driving a bit and looking for some cool places to snatch a photo. I really like this one with the corn field and barn.

But, of course, one needs not travel away from home to find beauty!

I just am so totally liking these mums!  The colors are perfect autumn colors!

And the colors are amazing even after a shower!

Talk about pretty!  These are petals from my incredible little miniature rose bush.  They seem to blush from a lovely shade of yellow near the bottom, to a rosy orangey-red at their tips.

Our little boy Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have left.  Only the little ladies remain and I am thinking they too will soon be gone to retreat to warmer climes during the winter.

The cold weather makes one long for some hot food!  I am finally happy with my homemade pizza crust!  When I make one of these, it disappears pretty quickly!  Good thing they are fast and easy to make!

I have so many photos to share from the summer while I was absent here.  Perhaps I will just throw some up from time to time.  I really needed a break from the internet and computer.  It seems things were getting so heavy and I needed a chance to catch my breath!

Back to Blogville

I have taken some time off from blogging.  One reason is the loss of a friend I met online and also because we have been so busy and I found myself quite stressed.

I thought to atone for my absence, I would give you a delicious and very easy recipe. That’s a pretty good deal, isn’t it? The recipe is for Chocolate Carrot Cake.

 

1 package Devil’s Food Cake mix

1 package chocolate pudding

4 oz. Cream cheese

1 cup milk

3 eggs

1 tsp. Cinnamon

3 cups grated carrot

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. (F) Place walnuts on small cookie sheet and bake in oven for 5 minutes. Remove to cool. ! Meanwhile, place  cake mix, pudding,  cream cheese, milk, eggs, and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until blended, then turn to high speed for 2 minutes. Add carrot and mix until well-blended. Divide batter into two well-greased cake pans and bake about 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pans for 20 minutes, then remove.

For icing, the recipe calls for:

12 oz. Cream cheese

3/4 cup  butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 cups powdered sugar

*NOTE: I made the icing as given and it was  far too much. If you cut the recipe in half, it would probably be enough.

After placing cake on plate, spread some frosting on, then place the chopped walnuts on the frosting. Place the other layer on top and frost cake. Refrigerate until served.

This recipe is so easy because of the cake mix and pudding. The carrots add texture and moisture that is unbeatable!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I Am! And with a Bread Recipe!

Life has been so busy lately although nothing has been earth shattering! Ben celebrated his 18t birthday on Saturday and we had a nice day just “hanging out”. I will post that later, but for now, I think I will show you what I made this morning.

Michelle found a recipe online for a bread called Peasant’s Bread. The recipe came with some explicit instructions, but since I can make fairly good bread, I figured I would kind of improvise as I went. The really cool thing about this bread is that there is no kneading at all.  That in and of itself is a wonderment to me! Here is the site for the original recipe:

http://www.alexandracooks.com/2012/11/07/my-mothers-peasant-bread-the-best-easiest-bread-you-will-ever-make/

So, I will post some photos here of what I did….

Yeah, I just bet you are dying to ask where I got that classy flour keeper….hahaha….I used some of Michelle’s nice red nail polish to gussie up the jar so I could distinguish between my all-purpose and bread flours!

This recipe is sooo easy!  Basically, I just placed 2 cups of warm water, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of yeast into a measuring cup and let it sit while I mixed 4 cups of flour and a teaspoon of Kosher salt into a large bowl. In the meantime, the yeasty mix got pretty frothy!

I mixed the yeasty mix into the flour and salt, mixing until all was blended.  The website said you can actually leave the dough ball in the bowl it was mixed in, so I did leave it!

The dough ends up being pretty wet and sticky, but that’s okay.  Remember, no kneading required!

I dampened a tea towel and covered the mixing bowl with it, setting it on the warm hearth.  In the recipe, it is stated that the longer the dough is left to rise, the quicker it will rise the second time.  Although 1 1/2 to 2 hours was recommended, I found a little over an hour was long enough.  I also have a proofing mode on my oven, so I could use that, but why bother when the hearth was warm and could do it without using any fuel?

After the dough rose, the instructions above advise using forks to “deflate” the dough so it can rise once again.  I used the same red rubber spatula in the photo above to achieve this.  I merely pulled the dough from the sides of the bowl toward the center, over and over, until all the dough was loosened from the sides and the dough was back to its original size.  In centering the ball in the bottom of the bowl, it was easy to just slice through it, making two halves for two loaves (rounds) of bread.

I did have a Pyrex 1 Litre bowl as recommended by the website, and I used a 4 cup Anchor Hocking bowl for the other. I noted that the website advised generously greasing the bowls with butter, which I did.  I also used my trusty red rubber spatula once again, along with my hand to plop the wet dough into the bowls.

I greased not only the insides, but also the rims of both bowls.  Let rise another hour….

Aren’t they cute?

I popped them into a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Lowered the over to 375 degrees for another 15 minutes and voila!

Two sweet, compact loaves that will actually slide nicely into a gallon size ZipLoc bag for storage! I cut off a slice and toasted it this morning, and the bread is light, fluffy, and with a pat of butter, rivals chewy Italian bread, toasted!

We’re Still Hanging in there.

And when times get tough, I bake cookies!  Yup.  Instead of making dinner late this afternoon, I somehow “short-circuited” and made cookies instead.  Now, you know things have been looking a bit dismal.  Yeah.  Well, I got out the cookbook and hand mixed a batch of Spritz cookies. 

I love Spritz.  I love them with frosting lavished on them with little sprinkles.  Mmmm…..actually, I am just a cookie monster, liking most varieties!  So….I got out my handy-dandy cookie press….placed some dough inside the cylinder…..put the press together…..pulled the trigger…..POW!!!  The cookie press broke. Imploded. I had to pick tiny bits of black plastic out of the dough. 

Thinking fast on my feet, I decided to convert my pressed creations (by the way, the press broke on the very FIRST cookie!) into Thumbprint cookies.  I rolled dough into delicate tiny balls, then placed my thumb into the center.  After all the cookies were on sheets for baking, I placed a bit of blueberry jam in each center.  Oh my!  The cookies were very good.

Don’t believe me?

Ask Murphy!

He climbed up on my chair when I left the room to place the first sheet in the oven.  He decided perhaps he needed to get a little more “personal” with my goodies!

Mark was sitting there next to Murphy, giving him tiny little pieces of cookie! 

As far as the Explorer goes, Mark is waiting on calls for several options.  In the end, it is likely we won’t get much for the vehicle.  I’m okay with that….We had hoped for a nice return to help pay for the new Subaru, but…..

Ah well!

Oh my gut….

I was feeling pretty chipper this morning.  Nearly restless!  So, I made a Blueberry Pie. 

Thinking that the guys would be working outside later, I decided to make up a batch of  Tomato Soup. Carly had told me the recipe in the book I have mentioned here (Slow Cooker Revolution) previously was delicious.  As a little aside….that book disappeared from its “home” for several days.  I searched everywhere…through drawers, dirty laundry,  under mattresses, all over the floors, and even the basement and garage.  The book was nowhere to be found.  Totally disappeared.

I was bemoaning the fact that I no longer have a BJ’s Wholesale Club membership as I had let it run out.  I had seriously begun to think that I would have to rejoin so I could buy another book.  Yes, THAT book is THAT important!

Well, as I sat in my favorite chair (rocking) the day before yesterday, there on the floor, next to the chair…..was my book! I immediately asked the kids if they had found it and placed it there.  Both of them got perturbed by my nagging and said they absolutely, positively did NOT put it there.  Nor did they find it.  So, I am now left with the explanation that the Lord knows just how important that book is…important enough to send an angel to place it where I would find it!

Phew…anyway, I made the tomato soup up in the Crockpot and let it cook.  Of course, what goes better with soup than a tasty loaf of bread?  I pulled out my bread machine book.  I never, ever use the machine anymore as I have found there is something therapeutic in kneading bread by hand!   I searched around and found a recipe for Carmelized Onion Bread. 

I love onions!  Mmmm…..Or maybe not! The recipe called for two onions.  The instructions were to cook the onions in butter until they were golden.  Then the liquid from the mix was to be placed in the mixing bowl.  I got quite a bit of thick, almost syrupy-looking liquid.  I mixed up the bread and then after it was almost finished being kneaded,  I added the (mostly dry) onions.  In working them into the dough,  I thought there were far too many onions.  I had used a huge onion instead of two smaller ones and it seemed there was just too much!

Well……let’s just say those onions cooked in butter sure were yummy! Here is how the bread turned out.

The tomato soup was a BIG thumbs up.  The bread was astronomical!  Yes!!! A winner, indeed.  Usually when I make bread, it gets too heavy.  This time, it was light, airy, and delish! I ate a tiny bowl of soup and a slice of bread.  Afterwards, I had a piece of pie.

By about four this afternoon,  my stomach looked like someone had pumped it up!  It was so bloated and let’s just say my “gastrointestinals” were revolting!  Apparently the probably quarter cup of onions I had demolished were now playing with my digestive system.  I am still experiencing some discomfort.  My stomach is making so much noise, it is ridiculous.

Wow….I cannot believe I just wrote about this whole situation….for awhile, I felt genuinely ill!  From now on,  I think I will not use giant onions….they might be just a tad upsetting to the stomach when “overdone”! 

So, tonight, I am so thankful we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  It is so incredible that we were designed to recuperate from our over-indulgings!

Is there a cure for “Eaglitis”?

I have no idea why I am so enamored with the eagle down in Woodville.  I think about it all the time and every time I see an eagle (there is probably more than one that roosts in that tree, I would think) it is as though I have never seen one before.

Yesterday, Michelle and I went kayaking in the morning.  The sky was a tad dark…almost “colorless”,  and I hoped we could paddle awhile any rain might come. Michelle hadn’t tried out the new kayak yet, and we wanted her opinion.  My own opinion is that the new kayak is much easier to paddle. It goes through the water much smoother and faster. When Ben tried the kayak the night before,  he also was sold!

Michelle convinced me to inflate the little yellow kayak Iwould be using (believe me, it was hard going back to the inflatable!!!) before we left home.  One yellow kayak and the new one easily fit into the back of the pickup truck with only about three feet hanging over the tailgate.  We arrived at the launch and there was an eagle…sitting in the tree once again!

I was so happy to paddle over to the eagle…unfortunately,  the lighting was miserable, but I took  lots of photos anyway!

Michelle and I decided to cross the lake over to the other side where there is a lagoon.  We paddled over the mouth of the west river and to the lagoon where the water was so calm!

I asked Michelle what she thought about the new kayak and she said it was “okay”.  When I turned around to talk to her,  Michelle was off in some greenery, trying out the  new kayak’s maneuverability.  Yeah, Michelle….the new kayak is okay, indeed!  Truth be told,  although we loved the inflatables,  their bottom is much flatter than the new kayak.  When we paddled over seaweed and plants,  the yellow kayaks would balk and complain about continuing on.  The new kayak glides right along with each stroke!  One funny thing that happened was that once we were petty far out in the lake,  Michelle said the new kayak was leaking! I looked at her and asked if there was water visibly coming into the boat.  After she said “no”,  I told her that as that new kayak breaks through the water, it makes a noise like running water!  She then confirmed that was the case!

Even though she never said so, I think Michelle was impressed!

Michelle called me over to take a photo of what she called ” a natural bouquet”.  Tiny Forget-Me-Nots seemed to appear from nowhere at the base of some pretty wild irises, mixed in with greenery.  Michelle was right…it was very pretty!

We lingered on a bit, just enjoying the tranqility and nice surroundings. We finallybegan heading back, but before we left, we went over to admire the majestic eagle just one more time. 

When we got home, it was time for Mark, Ben, and I to be off and running on a myriad of errands.  We were out for much of the  day and by the time we got back home, we were all tired!

This morning, the phone rang early and Carly asked if we might want to get together. She and the girls came down and the kids played in the pool until we called them out for a late lunch. I’m not sure if we were starving, or if the food was truly that good, but everything was delicious! Carly cooked chicken on the grill to perfection!  I had made a bean salad and Carly brought down some fresh loaves of bread.  She grilled some asparagus and it was awesome, too! Everyone ate well…the kids must have been very hungry!

I was happy when lunch was done and I could bring out dessert….

I had made a pumpkin roll andit was also a hit! I was happy with how this turned out because Wegman’s sells half  logs for (I think) over $6.00.  This was so easy to make and everyone  liked  it.  Yay for quick and easy desserts!

There’s No Place Like Home

Especially with the new swing hung up!

Mom, we love that afghan….Michelle brought it out for a little added warmth because of the chill, and it looks so pretty on the swing! (But it won’t stay there….it is back on the couch in the living room)  Angus liked it, too.  He saton that swing for well over half an hour!  He has such a nice vantage point from the swing.

Miniature hyacinths in the front garden.  My Daffodils are quickly fading away, so these prolific growers are adding some color out front!

And, finally…

Last night’s dessert.  Oh, this was so good!