Sunday, December 30, 2012

It won't be long before we'll all be there with.....


Snow!!! We got about 8 inches of snow overnight. Miss Bailey has been very excited to run and leap around. She definitely loves it!

My mother-in-law and I had a chance to attend a brunch class at the Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI. We learned about making a number of brunch dishes and cocktails. The cocktail today seems to be very appropriate. Enjoy!

The Snow Day Martini
from the Ocean House

1 oz Ketel One Vodka
1 oz White Creme de Cacao
1 oz Creme
1/4 oz Grenadine
1 mint leaf

Add all ingredients except grenadine to shaker with ice. Shake, strain into martini glass. Add grenadine at the end and garnish with mint leaf.



Sunday, December 23, 2012

In the Face of Joy

Why does the world only open its eyes when a tragedy occurs? Why does it take so much heartache, pain, anger, disappointment, and loss for something to change? I've been thinking a lot about the fact that all too often change occurs in the face of tragedy. When will change occur in the face of joy? I see my students walking in the halls, phased by very little other than the latest twitter or facebook post. They don't necessarily see that the world is right outside the school walls and what that means. People are always in need of kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness. We teach students to donate during the holidays, send condolences in times of loss or grief, to cheer before a big game, to compete for who can raise the most money for charity. Those are all well and good, but when do we teach them that kindness should be an everyday thing? Is it not our responsibility? Then who, parents? Yes, I suppose parents should teach this, although there are still some adults who do not practice this. I'm not saying that you need to give away money or gifts, or even donate time. I'm simply saying that if you see something that can be changed do it before you are forced by the face of tragedy.

It is difficult to not think about the little children and teachers/school professionals from Newtown who will not be celebrating Christmas with their loved ones. I can't help but hope that all the angels get their wings this Christmas.
The cookie today was made as part of a cookie exchange party with my family. We had many different types of cookies (see at right). These cookies are in the second row from bottom, enter.
Pistachio Cranberry Orange Icebox Cookies
adapted from Gourmet December 2006
Makes about 3 dozen

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
 finely grated fresh orange zest from a whole orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice 
1/2 cup shelled  and chopped pistachios (not dyed red)
1/3 cup dried and chopped cranberries  
1/4 cup turbinado sugar 

Stir together flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.
Beat together butter, granulated sugar, zest, and orange juice in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries. Gather and press dough together, then divide into 2 equal pieces.

Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Square off long sides of each log to form a bar, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 2 hours.

Slice and bake cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sprinkle turbinado sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper and press bars into sugar, coating well.
(*Shout out to my hand model Audrey*)

Cut each bar crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rotating bar after cutting each slice to help keep square shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm.) Arrange cookies about 1/2 inch apart on lined baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies from parchment to racks using a slotted spatula and cool completely.

Merry Christmas! PS: My father-in-law is home!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Home for Christmas

When someone you love finds themselves in a vulnerable situation you want to help. What do you do when you can't?

My father-in-law was admitted to the hospital last week. He complained of weakness in his legs and little to no feeling in his hands. It was awhile before we got any answers, or any indication of answers. He ended up having surgery on his spine to correct a bulging disk. Everyone we spoke with assured us it would be a quick recovery.

Unfortunately, it only got worse after the surgery. He became a completely different person on the drugs they put him on. It was a moment when we all felt so helpless. My mother-in-law was able to get him new doctors, who offered hope. They originally scheduled another surgery on his spine to correct bone spurs, but cancelled it until a later date. They had him doing physical therapy and we got photos of him walking sent to us at work.

After two weeks of holding our breath he was transferred to a rehabilitation facility yesterday. He was admitted and they immediately had him working on walking up and down the stairs! His goal is to be home for Christmas, a goal we all hope he meets.
Marbled Molasses Loaf Cake
adapted from Baking and Books
Oven 350
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Generously grease a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and stir with a fork to mix. In a large bowl, beat the butter with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat to combine the ingredients well.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue mixing until the mixture is light, fluffy and smooth. 1 to 2 minutes. Stop several times to scrape down the bowl.
Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately starting and ending with the flour, beating at low speed after each addition.

Scoop out about half of the batter into a medium bowl, and add the molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Stir with a wooden spoon mix everything into the batter well.

Add both batters to the pan, thin layers at a time, alternating between the plain and spiced batters. Run a knife through the batter to swirl the batters together.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour, until the cake is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

**I gave this away as a gift, so I couldn't cut it. However, it is a beautiful marbled loaf inside!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Anyone Out There?

It's become more and more difficult to get my posts completed for Sunday. Although, I'm not entirely sure anyone besides me has noticed....anyone out there? I have been frantically working on the first half of my thesis. It's due in a couple of weeks...I think I can, I think I can.

I can not wait to be done with taking classes and writing papers. It's almost June, right? I'm all for being a lifelong learner, but does it have to involve papers every week?

This week I made a special birthday dessert for my dad. He requested Devil's food and cream. We had a large Italian dinner with family and then enjoyed the dessert for this week. I have to say these were beautiful cupcakes and probably the best ones I've made so far!
(If you are reading this, hello!)

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
adapted from
Oven 355
Makes about 30 cupcakes
1 cup good quality dark chocolate, melted
2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 stick 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar

Cream Filling
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 vanilla pod or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar

Chocolate Buttercream
2 sticks 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
6 cups confectioners sugar

For cupcakes:
Mix together melted chocolate, buttermilk, vanilla, and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, making sure to thoroughly mix between each one. Set aside.

Sift together the flour and the baking soda. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the chocolate mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until the texture of barely whipped cream.

Fill cupcake liners 1/3 of the way with batter (I used a large cookie scoop for each).

Bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

For the cream filling: Beat the cream with the vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form.

Fill a piping bag with the cream, push the tip right to the bottom of the cupcake and slowly fill the cupcake while pulling upward.

For the chocolate buttercream:
Mix the melted chocolate  together with the cocoa powder and milk till it forms a smooth paste.

Beat the butter till light and fluffy, then add the chocolate paste and 2 cups of icing sugar and beat at high speed till it is well mixed in and fluffy again.

Add the icing sugar, 1 cup at a time, and make sure that you beat the icing at high speed for 5 minutes after each addition. Fill a piping bag with buttercream and frost cupcakes as desired.