Sunday, May 29, 2011

Birthday BBQ

We celebrated my mother's 50th birthday this weekend.The theme was a backyard BBQ on their new deck ( my father redid the deck himself, it looks great). I was in charge of potato salad and the cake. For the potato salad I made Rachel Ray's Honey Dijon Potato Salad minus the capers and watercress.

I decided to make a small main cake and have cupcakes for everyone else. I ended up making 72 cupcakes. 24 strawberry/vanilla with chocolate frosting, 24 chocolate/strawberry with vanilla frosting, and 24 chocolate/vanilla with strawberry frosting.

Then for the cake I decided to do a version of "ants at a picnic." It was a three layer (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla) cake with raspberry filling and light green frosting. I used green sprinkles for grass, black jelly beans for the ants, and candy fruit slices. I also used a Wilton Sugar Sheet for the letters, I was very happy with the quality of these and I would highly recommend them.

Everyone had a great time and the weather was great!

My nephew enjoyed watching guests play cornhole and wiffle ball. He was also very happy that his uncle was there to do the grilling!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cheering for my Runner

 No news on the house right now. We're basically in a waiting period until the closing, at the end of June.
We've been talking a lot about improvements we'll make and what are favorite parts of the house are. Our vacation this year will not be to a European country or to Disney world, instead we will be having a "stay-cation" at our new home. At least we'll have a pool!

 My husband ran in his first 5K yesterday in under 26 minutes. I am so proud of him! There weren't many bystanders/cheerleaders out that early in the morning, on a Saturday, but I got to see him at the 1/2 mile mark and at the 3 mile mark. He kept a great pace and I know he appreciated the cheers. I even had a few runners ask to trade places during the race (sorry folks, I'm not a runner), two people that were driving by asked for directions, and a bicyclist asked why I was sitting on the side of the road with a folding chair and book (because I love my husband).

Blueberry Sour Cream Pie
adapted from Bon Appetit June 1995
Oven 400

1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten to blend
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup chopped almonds
2 tablespoons sugar

Mix first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Mix in blueberries. Spoon into pie crust. Bake until filling is just set, about 25 minutes.

Using fingertips, mix flour and butter in medium bowl until small clumps form. Mix in pecans and sugar. Spoon topping over pie. Bake until topping browns lightly, about 12 minutes. Cool pie to room temperature.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Our new house went through inspection. I have to say that I already had some attachment to the house. I know this because I immediately became defensive when the first little negative was mentioned. I had no way of defending her, but I couldn't help feeling like the inspector was some big bully (he was actually very good and I would highly recommend him). I knew what an inspection was, but it was quite overwhelming hearing all the bad. And you only hear the bad (OK, I only heard the bad). My husband had to go back through the house and tell me all the positives the inspector said. We are getting a good house, it needs a little updating in terms of decor but, it's a great house.
Meanwhile, my students, seeing the first signs of warm days, have begun to question why we are still learning new concepts. I have to admit that the thought of summer sounds good...but we still have a month to go. So I will continue to teach and they will continue to learn (yeah, wouldn't it be simple if that's the way it always went?).

New York-Style Crumb Cake
from Baked Explorations
Oven 350

For Crumb Topping
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and warm
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Cake
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass 9-by-13-inch pan.
Make the crumb topping:
In a medium bowl, stir together both sugars, the salt, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and whisk until combined. Fold in the flour until it is absorbed and set the mixture aside.

Make the Cake:
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until it is completely smooth and ribbon like. Scrape down the bowl and add the sugar. Beat the mixture until it starts to look fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.

Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, scraping down the bowl before each addition, beating only until it is just incorporated.

Assemble the Cake: Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Use your hands to scoop up a handful of the topping and make a fist. The topping should hold together. Break off in chunks and drop them over the cake. Repeat to use all the topping.

Remember, the topping layer will look outrageously thick. Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Rotate the pan two times during the baking process. Cool the entire pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before serving.

The cake will last for 3 days, tightly covered, at room temperature.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moms and Memories

Happy Mother's Day! I hope everyone was lucky enough to celebrate their mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law this weekend. My mother and grandmother asked for a lobster feast on Saturday and my mother-in-law requested a family cookout today. It's been a good end to a very busy week.

Last post I told you that we have a new house. This week has been about meeting with the mortgage lender, work meeting after meeting, classes (for a quick late spring course I've had more work in this one than any other), pant shopping with grandma, drive-bys of our new house (yes, we're stalking it), and considering new paint colors. 

I also saw that a house that I had fallen in love with in our old town is for sale! I loved the location, colors, design, everything about that house. Alas, it's being sold for almost 1 million dollars, just a little out of our price range :). I did enjoy looking at the pictures of the inside of it online. It even gave us some color ideas for our new house.

The recipe for this week reminds me of my great grandmother. She would make peanut butter cookies and always remembered to put the crisscross on top. I can't help but think of her this weekend. A lot of my memories of her are about food and country television. I'd sleepover her apartment, we'd watch CMT or a detective show, and have all sorts of foods from fried potatoes to cold green beans. Everything always tasted so good from that frying pan. I'd drink my sugar filled drink from a cow cup (I can't even describe this cup with it's cow head cover, but it was my favorite and I still have it), and watch her make up something I'd knew I'd like. Missing you great grandma!

Peanut Butter Cookies
from flour by Joanne Chang (Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups chunky peanut butter
2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stop the mixture a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter and sugar.

Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

On medium-low speed, beat in the peanut butter for another 2 minutes, or until thoroughly combined.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. On low speed add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until dry ingredients are totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.
For the best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3 to 4 hours) before baking.

When you are ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Drop the dough in 1/4 - cup balls onto a baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand. Use a fork to create the traditional crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and still pale and slightly soft in the center. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day Birthday

I do not have a recipe or pictures this week. It's my birthday and no one should have to make their own birthday cake. My husband is taking me to one of my favorite bakeries, Pastiche Fine Desserts, for my favorite cake, their classic vanilla cake. It's simple, but so good.

One of the best birthday presents I could have received came just a few hours ago. Our realtor called and said we have a house! I can't believe we're homeowners! We 've been thinking about this house since we saw it. My husband has even been talking about it in his sleep. We negotiated back and forth (which in my opinion can be quite a waste of paper) and finally agreed. We have a while before closing and still have to do the home inspection (I keep thinking about the HGTV show Holmes on Homes). Our new house is exactly what we wanted: two fireplaces, two car garage, four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a partially finished basement, a great kitchen, a deck connecting to a pool, and a screened-in porch. What we don't want: the flower wallpaper and pink bedrooms(they had three girls). So we'll have time to work on removing wallpaper and repainting. What an exciting day!