Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
I had this damn rhyme in my head the WHOLE time I was making these!

One perfect Hot Cross Bun.

Just a bit of spice and a tiny drizzle of powdered sugar icing. MMM These are one of my dad's faves and I had a bit of free time over the turkey day weekend so I thought I'd whip up a batch.

I got the recipe from Recipe Zaar but of course I had to make a few modifications- for me and for dad.



First of all- no nutmeg in the kitchen where I was baking so I used pumpkin pie spice. Which my mom was cool with since she hates nutmeg. How can you hate nutmeg? No idea, feel free to ask her.
Second change was to blow off the currents and go 100% raisins, GOLDEN raisins. My dad is a golden raisin junkie. He was a good boy and left the box alone until I measured out what I needed =)
Since I am a functional idiot I had the bread all oiled and resting before I realize I forgot to add the f&#ing eggs. So out of its nice warm oiled bowl to mix in those eggs- by hand of course. That was fun. I only added 3 of the 4 eggs cause I was over it! They came out just fine anyway.
No other major changes but they did take a LONG time to rise for some reason. Maybe it was in protest to my disturbing its original rest period with the eggs? Who knows. They did rise nicely and then their pretty little round and cut buns got a nice slathering of egg wash. I love the color a nice egg wash gives a bread, don't you?

I forgot the one last change- to make the icing I used half n half instead of milk and extra vanilla and a squeeze of lemon juice.
How could you not ADORE a baked good designed with custom icing grooves??

Food is love, guys. Don't let anyone tell ya different. Watching people enjoy what I make is seriously the BEST part.

Enjoy Dad!! xoxo

Monday, November 3, 2008

The dead horse, I’m beating it.

You know how I feel. You know what I'm going to say.
Despite the fact that I still distinctly remember being sad when Regan was voted into office the first time, this is the most important election in my life time. I hope I have a lot of years left, but I know this year will always be a BIGGIE no matter how long I live.
They are expecting record numbers which is GOOD. People should be excited to speak their minds EVERY election. But times are hard and this year we have more on our minds than ever. We want our voices to be heard loud and clear. We want to stand up and take our futures by the hand, to guide them in a better direction, for those who came before and those who will come after.
I know no matter where you live, there are important decisions to be made that will effect how we live, will effect the reality our children will grow up in. Your voice matters, for us and for them.

I will use my voice tomorrow to make my future better.
Will you join me?

California polls open at 7am and close at 8. If you are in line by 8 you will still be allowed to vote.

We vote tomorrow!!

Here is a 12 minute video that goes into detail dispelling any "truths" that the Yes on 8 people are trying to spread via their website. Its good stuff guys!

Stand with me tomorrow in defense of human rights.
Thank you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I saw my friend Laura today

She was sad and exhausted. One of her co-workers at the school passed away last week. Laura was making a nice poster with pictures and a few nice paragraphs about her co-workers life and work. She put it all together cause she wanted to do something. She is thoughtful like that and she is a person of action which explains her exhaustion.

A little back story: This summer Laura married her partner of 10 years. The state made it legal for them to get married earlier this year and she and her partner Karla jumped at the opportunity. The ceremony was outside at a park and their families came together from all over the US to help them celebrate.

The speeches were sweet and loving, like you'd expect at any wedding reception but these had something different that I had never heard. They were filled with gratitude. Laura and Karla have been together over 10 years and were never able to get married before this year. They were GRATEFUL to finally be allowed to marry legally in California. Ironically the state had ordained Laura to PERFORM her own brothers wedding ceremony a handful of years ago, but she could not actually get married herself.

Fast forward to today when I asked her what she had been up to lately. She said during the week I'm here (work) and all my nights and weekends I'm at rallies fighting for my marriage.

Fighting for her marriage.

What she is referring to is Prop 8 that is going to be on the ballot here in Cali next month. This bill is practically sponsored by the Mormon church and basically it states (from the wiki site) "If it passes, it will add a new constitutional amendment to the California Constitution that will say "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" and it will be known in law as the California Marriage Protection Act". Apparently if the state allows the "gays to have their gay" it will some how cause every single Mormon marriage to dissolve and all of their children will spontaneously combust.

Ya know, I thought conservative Republicans wanted less government involvement in our day to day lives? It seems to me that these fuckers not only want to be in my pink parts (abortion laws) but they want to be in peoples private homes and bedrooms as well. Lemme tell ya, you are most certainly not welcome in any of them. There is no place for you in there!

When I think about this I get so angry I can't drop enough F-bombs. I want to know HOW IN THE HELL does my two friends being married, having a houseful of rescued pets, sharing their holidays together and exchanging rings hurt these people? HOW? The TV ads claim that they will teach gay marriage in public schools if this legislation doesn't pass. I'm sorry, WHAT? First of all this wrongly implies that this is currently happening in schools and second, find me a public school teacher that would touch that subject with a 10 foot pole!

The worst thing about ignorance is that it is so blindly hurtful and, well, ignorant. Can you imagine the state walking into your home and telling and your spouse that your marriage is no longer valid? I'm sorry, but all those commitments you made and promises you spoke? Sorry, but I'm afraid the government doesn't think you deserve that. But by all means, those one out of every two couples who take it for grated and throw it down the toilet every year, they are safe, thank God. Cause those marriages? They are sacred.

Needless to say I'm voting no on Prop 8 in two weeks. Join me?

8. Is. Hate.





Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Freedom of Religion, anyone?

My lovely friend Lore shared these links with me today. I was outraged at what human beings are capable of doing to other human beings and what gets carried out for the perceived good of our nation.

Apparently a few weeks back, in time for the anniversary of 9/11 a DVD was distributed free in 70 newspapers based in 14 swing states, Ohio and PA to name two. The DVD is titled Obsession; Radical Islam's War Against the West and it is basically anti Muslim propaganda. It appears to be available on YouTube if you can sit through it. Its filled with lots of bad TV show reenactments with white people over enunciating Arabic and taking the few educated talking heads out of context.
While I understand there are extremists out there who really feel this way, they are not the majority and they are certainly not living the peaceful spiritual ideal most Muslim's strive for.
The maker of this video, originally released in 2006, is a registered non-profit who happened to have items on their webpage indicating they are backing John McCain for president which they have since taken down.
I am positive his camp has no knowledge of the groups actions but the fear mongering to gain votes truly disgusts me. Is your candidate qualified? Does he stand for what you believe? Excellent! Slap a sticker on your car, stick a sign in your front lawn and call it a day. Gaining votes through fear does not help our country and goes against what we stand for.

Case in point:
Dayton Ohio, just 4 days after these DVDs were distributed there, a group of children whose parents were participating in evening prayers at a Mosque were pepper sprayed through a street level open window. The story is written about on Chris Rodda's weblog. The story was picked up also by one Philadelphia area paper as well but that's it. Why was this not reported anywhere else?

The last link I have in my trifecta of disgust is the one directly to the Dayton Daily News. The ONLY time the paper mentioned this horrific attack was when the police (in their UNBELIEVABLE OVERSIGHT) deemed this attack on these children NOT a hate crime.
Great detective work there, Lou.
What really makes me want to slap these rednecks in the face is the fact that these people are in America so they can freely and safely practice their religion as they so choose. Do the words "Freedom of Religion" ring ANY bells at all?? Do you not see the flaw in your reasoning there? Last time I checked, America is for everyone, not just the poor, white and ignorant.

I mean really, think about that. Not feeling safe at church, fearing for your life or the life of your children at church.
Imagine this, you are attending Sunday services, sitting in the pew with your spouse, reading along in the bible. Your children are down the hall making disciple puppets out of chunks of felt and Styrofoam balls when out of no where some guy hoses your childrens faces and the children of your fellow church goers with pepper spray through an open window. All you hear is the far away sounds of children screaming and you have no idea what happened.
You run down the hall, your eyes and throat starting to burn, you can't get to them fast enough with all the chaos. You finally reach them and they are still screaming and in terrible pain. After dealing with paramedics and police you go home and your child sleeps with you because they are too scared to sleep alone and you are too scared to let them. They lay next to you in the dark, sobbing all night.
Sick isn't it? Would you feel comfortable going back there? What a desperate feeling to not feel at ease in your own house of worship...
Just because you are a majority, doesn't make you any righter than the next guy.

Some final thoughts...
Honestly why was this story confined to only 2 news outlets? This outrages me almost as much as the suffering those families had to endure. I urge you to contact your local news outlets and ask why they never covered the incident at the mosque.
If the paper that you receive your local news from is on that list at the bottom of the article I also urge you to email your paper and ask why they chose to put that DVD in with the circulars.
This will only take a few minutes Please, please don't let this hate crime get brushed under the rug. We all deserve to feel safe wherever we choose to pray.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fontina and Black Pepper-Stuffed Crusty Loaves

Friday while I was ahem...working I happened upon a foodie blog that hilariously described a very yummy sounding and looking loaf of cheesy bread. Who can resist cheesy bread I ask you?? Not me, especially not 25 minutes before my lunch break. The blog linked back to the original recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. Look at that picture! And they use the words "cheese" and "volcano" for Christ's sake! I am only HUMAN!
Saturday I picked up the goodies and got the starter going. I let it sit overnight and it looked like this when I woke up Sunday.

I added the rest of the ingredients to the starter.
It was kinda dry and looked like this.

I kneaded it for 10 minutes til it was pretty smooth.

That's kneaded by hand, people, Tee Tee doesn't own a mixer)

Then I set it in an oiled bowl and let it proof.

The first proofing took just under an hour even though the recipe said it might take up tot 2. But I do have a hot kitchen, or else it just knows I am impatient as most of the recipes I make at home never take as long to rise as the recipe says it will.

After 50 minutes it looked like this.

I like to use a bowl with measurements on it so I can see exactly how much volume I've achieved.

The original recipe called for gruyere but the only cheese that looked good at my store was the Fontina so I used that instead. So I grated up 3 cups -yes, an extra half cup, don't judge me!

I pressed the dough out to the size of the sheet pan and sprinkled on the cheese (more like heaped) and decided that it needed some fresh ground black pepper too.

Then I rolled it up covered it and left it to rise again, easy peasy!

When it was nice and puffy I sliced it up in to 5 boule-type loaves and set it on the baking sheets cheese side up.

These beauties baked for about 35 minutes and came out looking like magic.
For whatever reason Blogspot doesn't want to right my image. But you get the idea. They were tasty as hell but next time more black pepper and I MUST invest in some parchment paper cause I'm not sure my sheet trays will ever recover :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cake Competition

This weekend I competed in a cake competition. I was asked to help one of my school mates who I have nicknamed 'the rockstar'. He is not quite 19 and he makes amazing cakes. He was pretty intimidated by the whole thing with good reason. These events are a hell of a lot of pressure. We were given parameters and time limits and a theme of "America's Best" and we also had 48 hours notice. Holy. Crap.

I will take this time to tell you the the other teams knew about this 6 months in advance and each team had made their cake at least 3 times. One team had made their cake 6 (!) times. We found out about this Tuesday night and decided to do it Wednesday. The first day of the contest was Friday.
On Wednesday Ramon started making cakes, Thursday afternoon we loaded our equipment and cakes and fillings into the hotel and Thursday night we made our taster cake and a few of the pieces that we knew we were going to need. I made what seemed like a million pieces of corn and the most perfect pat of melty butter ever! =)

Friday AM we finalized our design (mostly) and at noon we were off! Only we weren't. The people who ran the show were so fuckin disorganized that we didn't get going until 12:30.
They let us start an hour early on Saturday to make up for it, thank goodness. I think no matter how much planning and pre work you do, it always comes down to the wire. By the end of Friday all of our cakes were carved and crumb coated, our remote control and coke bottle were formed out of rice crispies. I felt really confident. But coming down to the last two hours I was panicking. I was painting everything as fast as I could while Ramon was putting together and putting the final royal icing touches on the coke bottle and the dinner box.

When we went to put the frame on the TV it turned out to be too small so I ran off to roll out another one. I was rolling a bit frantically when one of my chefs told me we had 15 minutes left. I looked over at Ramon who was writing on the coke bottle and our TV still wasn't painted.
I was immediately nauseous and had to fight off the urge to cry. To come all this way and not be
able to finish! UGH!! In my head I said "fuck it" I am gonna keep rolling until they tell me to stop. Turns out we had 50 (!) minutes left. Thank God, we needed almost every second.
I rolled out the frame, cut it to shape, then I painted the TV, all with a bit of panic in my heart but determined to finish.

We slapped the frame on the tv and it wasn't staying very well so we glued it with glucose and hoped for the best. We stuck it on the tray with a few minutes to spare. Sadly the frame started to sag so -illegally, after time was up-we jabbed a few tooth pics in it to get it to stay. It kind of worked but I heard from one of the guys that we got judged down for it, no surprise really. Here is our entry:

So we let out our breath, high-fived each other and got lots of hugs and back pats from our chefs. It felt amazing to have completed this (and done a kick ass job BTW) with ZERO notice and minimal planning. Then the really hard part began...

We sat waiting for the judges to come and we waited... As we waited 3 of the cakes fell and two others started to fall. Handles fell off of the cake that would up being 3rd place, our frame slipped just a bit more, and we still waited. Our families had been ushered out into another area of the hotel and then were told to go home then they were told to stay and then told to go home again, by the same person! Can you say disorganized?
All the contestants and chefs chatted nervously and consoled the teams whose cakes fell. And finally they came. Chef Duff, Christophe Bader (head pastry chef for the Hilton) and another Austrian chef.
We watched them like hawks and chewed our nails as they studied our cakes. I've never been so stressed in my life. I mean I've been stressed; I've had 20 bucks a month for groceries and food, I've waited for test results when they thought my mom had cancer in her bladder, I've sat in the 'family room' at the hospital waiting for my dad to come out of heart surgery but this was stress that had to do with my personal performance- completely different kind of emotional pressure. Here is Duff and crew looking at our cake.

In the foreground you can see the amazing burger and fries cake that was done by the other team from my school.

After what seemed like an eternity the cheesy announcer guy came on and said they were ready to announce the winners. At this point someone opened the doors and our families who were close to murdering the organizers poured back into the hall.
The announcements were kind of a blur after they announced the luggage cake had taken third. That was one of the best ones in the room so we couldn't wait to hear who was 2nd and 1st! When they announced 2nd place there were a few seconds of confusion. Not sure if this was because they announced winners by our team numbers or if they were in as much disbelief as the rest of us were over their cake placing 2nd. Then they announced the winner. The school from Vegas took it with their cake about...Vegas. It was cute and intricate and very showy-kinda like Vegas :)
My issue with these cakes winning was the criteria we were given when we entered.
Both cakes were too big according to the paperwork we were given and we were told that difficulty would be judged by carving. The 1st place cake had very minimal carving. It was also frustrating that we weren't told how our cakes were judged, what lost us points etc, we only heard rumors from some people who talked to one or two of the judges.
This stuff made for kind of a weird night after all was said and done. We all went home in kind of a daze of physical and emotional exhaustion. The next day when we came back to clean up, we couldn't help but wonder exactly what the judges saw and what could we have done differently.
What took a while to break through the wall of sour grapes was how proud I was of our two teams. The strongest emotions are rarely pure, they are always mingled with several different emotions. In my case it was pride mixed with excitement and disappointment and a disbelief at the fact that only 3 days before this wasn't even a thought in my head. We worked our asses off, we had no time to plan, no time to think and hardly any time to breathe. We just jumped in and I think we were able to hold our own.
I have to mention here that none of this would have happened if it wasn't for Ramon. This guy is an amazing talent and I was very honored that he chose me to compete with him. He came up with the design and did the carving, he also did all the finish painting and he stabilized our cake, which is BIG as the cakes that had been made 3-6 times before still fell over! And at some point in the middle of the night, the crazy lady running the show decided that our cakes needed to be moved from where the competition took place, to the middle of the food show. Turns out at 2am, hotel employees aren't really careful about moving stuff. Each of the cakes that were still intact after the judging, collapsed or fell over during the move EXCEPT for our cake. It was still 95% intact the next day. Our tv screen sagged a bit and one of the apples fell off of our dessert but That. Was. It. Structurally it was still right as rain. This was another HUGE accomplishment in my eyes and one more reason why Ramon ROCKS. Here we are with our chef. She was very proud of us too :)

This was a lot to read and if you're still here, I know that you really care :) This was a huge deal for me and I had to post a lot about it.
Thanks to everyone who came out and supported us and gave us words of encouragement. It means more than I can say.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Recipe for Chocolate Bread Pudding with Kaluha sauce

3 TBSP Butter
1.25 LBS bread (French or Italian)
3/4 cup choc chips (I used milk)
3 large eggs
4 cups whole milk
2 cups sugar
2 TBSP vanilla
1 heaping TBSP cocoa powder

Spread the butter in your 9x13 baking pan. I only used about 1/2 of the butter here and didn't have any major sticking issues.
Cube the bread and set in the buttered pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips in with the cubed bread.
Whisk eggs until frothy then whisk in milk, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla.
Pour the liquid over the bread and chips. Let this sit until absorbed about half an hour. Every few minutes use a spatula to press the bread into the liquid. Preheat your oven to 375. When the bread has absorbed all the liquid and is nice a squishy, bake at 375 for about an hour. Check on it after 45 minutes but it should be golden all over and the high points will look toasted. Let sit for a few minutes before cutting. This is best served warm.

Kahlua Sauce
Bread pudding is traditionally served with whiskey sauce but I wanted to make something that would taste really nice with the chocolate so I made my sauce with Kahlua instead. mmm

1 stick of butter + 1 TBSP for the end
1 cup sugar
1/4 + cup Kahlua
1 TBSP water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg

Melt the stick butter in sauce pan- reserving the last TBSP for the end.
Add sugar and rest of ingredients but the egg and butter and cook til all the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg. Return it to medium heat and stirring gently bring it to a simmer until it thickens about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in last TBSP of butter to make your sauce nice and shiny.
Serve immediately over the bread pudding or ice cream or waffles or just your tongue. Can sit at room temp for 8 hours and will last in the fridge about 3 days.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chocolate Bread Pudding

I've had extra bread for a few weeks now. Trust me, I didn't make the stuff, there are enough preservatives to keep it tasting just as good today as the day it was bought, however good that is.

Have no fear, this will be awesome!
I've also had a bag of chocolate chips taunting me for a few days now, begging to be made into something yummy.
Traditionally people put fruit, dried or otherwise in their bread puddings but I'm pretty sure I'm not breaking any ground here when I decided to work with what I had and make a chocolate bread pudding.

I made a few modifications to the traditional New Orleans style BP in my Joy of Cooking book. Namely omitting the raisins and cinnamon. I also didn't "gently tuck the raisins in between the arranged slices of bread in my prepared pan". WHATever.
I cut the bread in cubes sprinkled the chips and called it good.

Its going to be SOAKED with creamy, eggy goodness soon anyway and will be unrecognizable. And Martha Stuart I aint. Mostly cause I just used the word 'aint'.

I just happened to use organic brown eggs in this. Again I'm no Martha, they had a special at Costco. Plus that bitch has her own hens.

The other significant modification was the addition of one heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder which I added to the frothy milk and eggs with the sugar. It whisked in beautifully and it looked and smelled like very rich chocolate milk.
My house smelled like I was making a chocolate cake. nom nom nom

While it was baking I made my version of the whiskey sauce. I made mine with Kahlua. mmm Kahlua...

Kahlua and some extra milk? Don't mind if I do...

The sauce mixed up nicely, it smelled super boozy so I added a bit more butter and cooked it down for an extra minute.

The finished sauce, nice and thick and TASTY!

It came out of the oven hot and gooey and puffy.

SOOOO Good! Its like an over moist chocolate cake with a few chips and the sauce turned out amazing. Let me know and I will post the recipe here as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ordered Checks Lately?

Yeah, I am a wasteful cow. I don't use the free checks from the bank. I get the cute ones off the internets or out of those ads you get with your junk mail. Yes, I feel its very important to express my personal style to those who enter my payment information at the Gas Company. YES! Express me checks, express me. Tell those data entry slaves JUST who I am.

Last time I got "pin-ups", many moons ago I had "moo cow" checks before that it was "happy faces". I am a very complicated person, just ask the Gas Co chick, she knows me thanks to those oh so expressive checks.

Today I got an email reminding me it was time to reorder. HOW DID THEY KNOW? I pop on the website and two clicks later I am at my shopping cart already filled with exactly what I ordered last time. SO thoughtful! But now pin-up girls no longer express who I truly am so I decided to browse the new designs. Have any of you done this recently? Good gravy!
First of all I am not sure what kind of devil pact the check place has with Nashville but you can pretty much have any country stars face smiling up at you every time you write out that pesky check for your heart pills. If you are unable to pick just ONE country star, don't you worry your pretty little head! The check place came up with the "country music" check just for YOU! Now everyone will know that your love of country music is very broad, indeed.

In that same vein, if you are unable to select your fave vehicle from their list of TWENTY (I bet me being a devoted Chevy girl would just blow Ms. Gas Company's MIND! Whoo baby!), you can just go ahead and select the "hot rods" checks. Don't you worry, the Gas Lady will TOTALLY get you.

You can find every hobby from bowling to hunting, Xtreme sports to scrapbooking all right there. Don't forget those adorable country kittens and that oh so wacky Lucy! Who doesn't LOVE her?
You can choose from a narrow variety of generic professions: hair stylist, teacher and nurse. There are checks that also vaguely imply a career. I am referring to the "Real Estate" checks as well as the "Medical" and "Law Enforcement" checks (for rent-a-cops? Mall police?). In this category see also "Good Hair Day".

Then there are those random checks that are tailor made for those who just cannot commit to much of anything. "All polished" has 15 bottles of mauve nail polish, all the same color. Nothing more closely represents my life than 15 bottles of the exact same nail polish. But in all fairness I guess this could also fall into the implied career category. "Denim" is my hands down favorite this the non committal category. Appearing on these is the image of approximately 1/4th of a pocket from the ass of a pair of mom jeans. Where have these checks been all my life?

Hey! Have you met "Jillian'? I sure haven't but I know I want her on my checks!!! She's a vision in lavender, that one!

Maybe I should purchase the Reese's or Hershey's kisses checks? Would the Gas Co lady pause and think, Oh that wacky lady, she likes chocolate just like me! Or would she read between the lines and see it as a tiny cry for help with my food addictions? Help me gas lady, you are the only one I can turn to. Thank God for these checks, I am finally able to express all the hurt inside.

Sometimes I really wish the Gas lady knew my more spiritual side... Oh My God, there is a check for that! Mystic Maidens!!! Makes me feel more peaceful just saying that. Featured on these babies is a 97 foot tall Native American woman blowing marigolds the size of Hummers from her softly cupped palms into the clouds. Ahhhh

Despite my love of fancy checks, I am a fairly practical person. The Christmas checks (any of the FOUR varieties they offer) simply do not jive with my brain. I get that you like the holidays. You like buying shit with holiday theme checks during the holiday season. Awesome. As long as I don't have to stand in the check out line behind you, we are golden. But why on Earth would you buy 400 Christmas checks?? When you order online there is a minimum order of 400! Thats FOUR HUNDRED Christmas checks. So useful the rest of the year! In July the Gas Lady will stop caring that you LOVE Christmas enough to order checks expressing this, she will just think you are an idiot for ordering an entire box of them. UNLESS you are on of those crazy fuckers who can move from book of checks to book of checks OUT OF NUMERICAL ORDER and be ok with that. In which case you are a sinner and all the Christmas checks in the world aren't going to save you from burning in hell as you very rightly deserve.

I am going to go write the check place right now. I am going to tell them they MUST stop selling Christmas checks to prevent this out of order travesty and they need to make a check that better represents me. I want one with a girl hanging out of her car giving the finger, the next image needs to have a drunk girl passed out next to an empty booze bottle and a laptop. I also want a check representing a spray painted wall proclaiming "I hate people" and finally a check with bright red lettering on it that says "I HATE PAYING YOU PEOPLE MY HARD EARNED MONEY". Mostly for the IRS and the late fees at the video store.
Who's with me?

Friday, March 28, 2008

End of an era

Or at least a really nice year.
Our coffee shop is closing. We go there so often we call it the Winchester.
If you don’t get the reference go rent Shaun of the Dead. You’ll thank me.

Its actually called Coffee Plantation but the name isn’t all that important, is it? Its the place that matters, who and what is inside, not a sign over the door.

The Winchester.

I went today. I go on Fridays.
English Breakfast tea, 3 Splendas with room for cream and a bran muffin. They know. Shawn and Dana. They hand me them without asking. Get my tea going when I walk in the door.

Best cup of tea in town.
Today I went to say good bye.

End of really nice year.

Countless quiet Sunday breakfasts.
English Breakfast tea, 3 Splendas with room for cream and a bran muffin.

We didn’t see any family on Easter Sunday. At all.
We hung out at the Winchester with our coffee shop peeps. It’s a Sunday ritual, kinda like church, or as close as I will probably ever get again.
Refreshing, hear some new music. Get a different perspective on life.

Sign of the times...

Our video store closed last week. Small businesses are hurting.
At least our Hi-Fi Video outlasted the Hollywood Video up the street.

"And tomorrow it will be something really depressing...like a Baby Gap..."

We have walked in and our video store guy was playing his guitar. He played in a band, just like our coffee shop guy.
Well our coffee chop guy IS a band.

You will probably never see an employee of Hollywood Video playing guitar while at work.
Small businesses.

How many will survive these next 2 years?
How many will try to open?

Living the American Dream...even if it doesn’t work you can be free to attempt it. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a good cup of tea.
The American Dream... which seems only meaningful to immigrants anymore.
Video store guy came here from Vietnam, the owners of the coffee shop are from Korea.

Are we taking it for granted? Of course we are.
Its what we do as Americans, its part of our culture.

I am eating my muffin very slowly and savoring my tea.

I gave my coffee shop guy a hug this morning. Told him we were going to miss him.

Sign of the times.
End of a pretty good year.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cupcakes and a blog in one day?

Turns out, its not possible. Not with a raging migraine anyway...

So instead of cupcakes and a blog I had cupcakes and a bitch of a throbbing headache yesterday. But getting back to those cupcakes....

I made Peanut Butter Cup cupcakes.

I got a chocolate cupcake recipe from allrecipes.com and made a few tweaks so that they would bake evenly with the pb cup stuck inside. I also wanted the pb cup to maintain its integrity during the baking process so I refrigerated them until just before covering them with batter.

For whatever reason the butter (which was way room temp) refused to cream no matter how much I beat it with my mixer (or my bare hands) it just pilled up. grrr So I had bits of it in the batter and it came out and leaked all over. When I pulled out the cupcakes they were literally dripping with butter and there was a pool of butter in each of the muffin cups.

The cupcakes had good texture and flavor and despite the butter making a run for the border, they were plenty moist. They didn't rise a whole lot and they were pretty dense but I think the damp winter season was too much for my can of baking powder so I will be picking up a new one of those before I make anything else.

They look good enough to eat, huh? And don't forget the surprise inside =D

You just can't have a naked cupcake! What would the neighbors say??
Back to allrecipes.com for a peanut butter frosting that would compliment the pb cup. Having been burned by no-cook powdered sugar frostings before I was cautious but I also had two boxes of C&H icing sugar I wanted to use up so I went for it. Instead of 2 full cups of powdered sugar I used 1 and 1/4 cups so the peanut butter taste would be the first and last thing you could taste, not the powdered sugar.

A few people bitched that this version of PB frosting was too stiff to spread but I had zero issues with it and it was, indeed, fluffy stuff.
I was excited to load up my pastry bag with a plain tip and pipe it on! Sadly the end result wasn't quite what I had hoped.

Wow, chocolate cupcakes with turd frosting? Tee, you shouldn't have.

Blah, lets try something else...

Thank goodness for offset spatulas! No more poo-cakes!

I finished them off with some chopped peanut butter cups. I like to garnish to give people a hint of whats inside.

For plating I piped some of the extra frosting onto a few PB cups with a star tip, cause I'm fancy like that.

They tasted pretty good but I am too hard on my baking to be anykind of a judge.
The almond extract in the cake recipe was a bit overwhelming and it clashed with a peanut butter. If I make these again I will omit the almond extract and just add more vanilla.
This recipe would be perfect for making a chocolate cake with a cherry filling and chocolate ganache topping as that would compliment the fruit perfectly.

But I would make these again, with more tweaking, of course. I just can't help myself!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ralph's, what are you trying to say?

According to stickers plastered all over food products at my local grocery, Great Meals Start At Ralph's.

Over capitalization aside, I can see their point.

While bright orange circles with crap grammar are not my particular cup of marketing tea, I appreciate the inexpensive and eye catching style that Ralph's has chosen to use to appeal to the everyman that shops there. Great Meals Start At Ralph's. It makes sense, purchase ingredients there, use them to make a great meal. Be it the beginning to a simple picnic or a fairly complex holiday meal, it can all be purchased from Ralph's, cause Great Meals Start There.

I get marketing, I really do. I love marketing. I am a complete packaging whore and will buy pretty much anything in a purple bottle, box or can. I love when companies re-brand themselves. I love to look at the styles of print and colors and try to figure out who they are, or are attempting to, sell to and what image they are trying to put forth.

Sadly sometimes marketing confuses me. I am not stupid but sometimes the marketing simply doesn't fit the product. But haven't we all seen commercials that don't make sens,? ones that may be mildly entertaining but have nothing at all to do with what they are trying to sell? I read in a business journal once that this was a recent rend in marketing; attempting to market products with a weird ad just to confuse the consumer. The thinking behind this was that if a person was confused about an ad they saw, at least they would be thinking about it, or even better, discussing it with someone.

While its possible that some test audiences were polled and a very expensive marketing account was involved with those Orange Stickers, I don't think they were exactly clear to their store lackeys as to where to put the stickers exactly.

Recently my roomie went to Ralph's to pick up on some staples. He inadvertently brought home The Magic Marketing Sticker:

On the toilet paper.

Pardon me, but I don't like to think about what goes into my Great Meals when I am using my Quilted Northern. And really I don't think the marketing team behind the Ralph's grocery stores really wanted those things associated in my head either.
Great Meals Start At Ralph's and apparently somebody at Ralph's wants us to know that Ralph's is there for us when our Great Meals come to their Very End too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Irvine Farmers Market

Last Saturday I took a trip to Irvine to the Farmers market at UCI.
Not too many of the varieties of fruits and veggies, really surprised me. What did strike me is how truly lucky we are to live in southern California. Here it is, the middle of January and I was outside in shirt sleeves on a gorgeous day.

Here in So Cal we have access to fairly good quality produce year round. Although those artichokes and tomatoes looked a bit shady ;) I think I'll wait a few more months.

Irvine has a significant Asian population and there were lots of varieties of Asian produce. The one I had never seen before was a variety of broccoli that was in loose leaf bunches and had these tiny bright yellow flowers on the ends. Of course my picture of those didn't come out. At a different table full of Asian produce there were these:

They were not labeled. Right next to the mystery produce were these. These were marked Bok Choy.

Further down the same table they had these cool. purple yams. I had heard of these but never seen them in raw form like this. They had sliced one open so you could see the inside.

Right next to the purple yams were these beautiful sharkfin squash. They looked like winter melons to me but I am going to take the word of the vendor.
Sitting behind the bin of fresh ginger there in the background they had a HUGE melon/squash. You can't really tell from the pic but this melon was more than three feet long!

It was massive!!

What did strike me was that there were lots of people selling lots of non-food items. One lady was selling jewelry and another was selling hand made bedroom slippers!

There were people selling local honey and tamales from Carlsbad. Also two tables selling home made breads and a few varieties of baked goods. This surprised me and I had to go look. Many of the breads were in plastic bags filled with condensation. I'm sure the general public would be excited to see this, but the baker in me just thought "Ick!"

Half a dozen vendors were all grouped at one end selling fresh flowers and plants and small trees. Beautiful!

So what I took most from this is that I am spoiled to live here and I have been exposed to most of these types of produce all of my life and we are very lucky to be able to get most of it year round. I can't wait to go back in a few weeks ansee what new items they have to offer.

Blog for Choice

Blog for Choice Day

Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe V Wade.
From wiki: According to the Roe decision, most laws against abortion in the United States violated a constitutional right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
They were right 35 years ago and they are still right today. It should be my choice to have a baby or not. People who do not know me or my circumstances should have no say in what I should do if I become pregnant.
My friend Angela made a great point this morning in her blog. She wrote that being pro choice does not mean you are pro abortion. I personally do not believe in using abortion as a form of birth control, although I have known someone who did. In my head I see those right to lifers screaming about saving all of the unborn, but honestly, would you rather she be able to keep getting pregnant over and over and that the governement should force her to have all of those children? Do you think someone whose heart has been so hardened by the life they have lived that forcing a child into their lives would improve the quality of it? What about the child's quality of life?
I remember reading a letter-to-the-editor in one of my teen magazines probably 20 years ago now. It was from a 19 year old girl. In it she wrote that she wished her mother had aborted her. Think about that. She truly wished she had never been born. She wasn't just having a bad day or a bad week. She had never known happiness, or love.
Her mother gave birth to her in a bathroom and had stuck her in a trash bag and threw her away. She wrote 'unfortunately' someone found her. She was rejected by her mother, bounced from grandparents who openly told her she was unwanted into foster care system which felt no need to make her feel loved, just give her the basics of food, clothes and shelter. She was now out of the system attempting to piece together a life from nothing. She had never been loved or wanted or cared for in any meaningful way. She thought of suicide daily.
I think about her often, especially when Roe v Wade is being threatened. She is surely not the only person to be raised as unwanted, to be living a half a life in our good Christian society.
So to those who came before me who had the emotional fortitude to forge a new trail all those years ago, to those who fought for my right to choose, I will be forever grateful.