Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reading and Recommending

Has anyone else noticed that the week goes by so much faster when you're off from work? I always have so much to do and the week is always so jam packed. Plus, this week I had to work on a presentation for grad school due Monday. Overall, I had a good week off and got to see a lot of friends and family.

I was also able to finish the new book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua. I loved it! It was so interesting to hear her side of American education and parenting. Highly recommended!

My friend, Jenny, asked me to recommend some breakfast places on the blog. My husband and I like to try out breakfast places on the weekends and we think it's a good way to explore new areas. This weekend we drove to Charlestown, RI and visited Dave's Coffee. Great coffee, great atmosphere, and we loved the muffins.

Lemon Bars

1 cup butter
1 3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (plus more for dusting)

1 1/2 cup plain sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup lemon juice

Grease and flour a 9 X 13 pan

To make crust:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and confectioner’s sugar. Cut in butter until combined and crumbly.

Press mixture into bottom of pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

To make topping:
While crust is baking, prepare topping. In a larger bowl, add sugar, flour, and baking powder. Then add slightly beaten eggs and lemon juice. Mix well and pour on top of warm baked crust.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. When cool, dust with confectioner’s sugar and refrigerate. Cut into bars and enjoy them cold.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Black and White

   I spent today reconnecting with friends, my old home, and my husband. We drove back to our old apartment and saw our landlords. Everything was the same, yet everything had changed. Walking up the old driveway and knocking on the door it seemed like more than 7 months ago that we left there. We visited a favorite coffee shop, walked around town to the little shops, and spent some quality time together. It was really nice seeing them and being back in a place I had called home for about 5 years...boy, do I miss that kitchen!
    Today also made me remember how lucky I am to have my husband. What a blessing it has been, that we found each other at such a young age. We truly are each other's best friends and we love spending time together. I hope he knows how much I appreciate and love him.

Mini Black and White Cookies
from Gourmet Magazine December 2005

Oven 350

For cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

For icings
2 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 to 6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Make cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing just until smooth.

Drop rounded teaspoons of batter 1 inch apart onto baking sheets. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed, edges are pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Make icings while cookies cool:
Stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. If icing is not easily spreadable, add more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Transfer half of icing to another bowl and stir in cocoa, adding more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to thin to same consistency as vanilla icing. Cover surface with a dampened paper towel, then cover bowl with plastic wrap.

Ice cookies:
With offset spatula, spread white icing over half of flat side of each cookie. Starting with cookies you iced first, spread chocolate icing over other half.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tiny Valentine

I am officially an Aunt! My sister went into labor during the fourth quarter of the Superbowl and my nephew Colby was born on Monday morning! It is interesting thinking about how things are in his eyes (when he opens them!). He doesn't seem to be a big fan of getting his picture taken, doesn't like his feet touched, and is very content in his swing. We've got a lot in common!

Dairy-Free Red Devil's Food Cake
adapted from Gourmet magazine January 2001
Oven 350

1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1/2 cup soy or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs

Spray 3 (8- by 2-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray. Whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder in a bowl until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.

Beat together margarine and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in flour and cocoa mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture (batter may look curdled).

Add red food coloring 2 drops at a time, mixing as you go, until desired redness.

Divide batter among pans, smoothing tops. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean and layers begin to pull away from sides of pans, 20 to 25 minutes total. Cool layers in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks, and cool completely.

Frost with vanilla butter cream or cream cheese frosting. I used a dairy-free frosting recipe (margarine, soy milk, powdered sugar and vanilla extract)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Big Game

I am not a football fan. I could care less about who wins the Superbowl tonight. I am, however, a fan of ridiculously expensive commercials! The amount of money spent on the commercials during the Superbowl amazes me, not just to make the commercial, but to also air the commercial. Maybe this idea of charging for interruptions of main events could work in the classroom...."Your side conversation just cost you $25.00. Sure, you can get up to sharpen your pencil, and take the longest possible route to the sharpener, and then pretend that it's not working, that'll be $100.00." Not only would this increase teacher salary (I'm assuming this "interruption money" goes to the teacher) it would also, eventually, increase parental support (because they would ultimately be funding their child's interruptions)!

Enjoy the commercials tonight! And, if you like football, enjoy that, too!

Butterscotch Flip Brownies
from Fat Witch Bakery, New York

Oven 350
Bottom Brownie
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unbleached flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Top Layer
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unbleached flour
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup butterscotch chips

Grease a 9x9 inch baking pan with butter. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. To make the bottom brownie, melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate chips together in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Cream the eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla together until smooth.

Add the cooled chocolate mixture and continue mixing until well blended. Measure the flour and salt and sift together directly into the batter. Mix gently until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains. Stir in the semisweet chocolate chips by hand. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan and set aside.

To make the top layer, melt the butter in a small pan or in the microwave. Beat the egg, brown sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add the melted butter and continue beating until well combined.

Measure the flour, salt, and baking powder and then sift together directly into the batter. Mix gently until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains.

Stir in the butterscotch chips by hand. With a spatula, spread the batter over the bottom layer in the prepared baking pan and smooth to the edges. Bake for 32 minutes*(this took quite a bit longer than 32 minutes for me, I would recommend you cut into the crispy butterscotch top to make sure it's done) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only crumbs. The top should be a golden butterscotch color.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 1 hour. Cut just before serving.