Monday, April 30, 2012

Plumber Time!

I'm waiting for the plumber.

He's not late... yet.

I'm on day three of my days off (woohoo, right?), and I'm starting to get cabin fever.  I've been baking and cooking my face off, and now all I want is some simplicity.  I want the leak in the ceiling to quit, and the geyser in the basement that is our washing machine to return to its babbling brook self.  I want the skies to finally open up and rain like they've been threatening to.  I want avocados on baguettes for lunch.

Over the course of my three days of fun I've:

Viewed two potential homes for rent.

Applied trial run prom makeup.

Planted strawberries.

Bathed a hedgehog.

Seen a great blues-rock concert.

Baked and frosted a double chocolate raspberry cake.  Don't worry... I'll tell you how I did it.

Gone power grocery shopping for things that make my thighs love me again.  Like avocado.

I'm tickled I've been able to accomplish it all, and now I'm looking for something simple.  Like smashed avocados with salt and pepper on lightly toasted baguettes.  It's so simple I'm going to forgo the recipe and trust that you know your way around the kitchen enough to make this happen.  If you're feeling slightly more fancy, you might add sliced tomatoes.  I'm thinkin' you would have the right idea with that.  Let's make things simple and easy, and stop worrying about the next place we need to be, or the next thing we need to do.

Except right now... I'm waiting.  Waiting for the plumber who is not late... yet.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Good Morning, Sunshine

You guys.

It is STRAWBERRY season.  Have you had any yet??  They are like garnet gold!  (wait... that's a jewel AND a metal... whoa!).  Strawberries in regular grocery stores PALE in comparison all year long until... they are in season.  It's time to get out there and get yourself into the joy of spring!

I'm really wishing I could be walking down the rows of a strawberry patch, picking berries until the sun goes down.  Heaven.  Like a giant berry buffet!

So I'm putting them in scones.  Soft, pillowy scones.  And we're doing something else, too.  We're grating butter on a box grater.  I'm a HUGE fan of this.  Not only does it remind me of cheese curls (one of my top 5 favorite things on the face of this world), but it makes it ridiculously simple to rub into the flour.  I'm gonna recommend you try it next time you have to blend butter into flour.  Let me know if you like it!

Do you know what else is awesome?  Toddlers and Tiaras.  I am seriously addicted.  This has nothing to do with strawberries.

... or does it?  I've no idea.  I'm just obsessed with this freggin' show.

These girls are nuts.  Their moms are even MORE crazy.  And Cori and I (and Miss Weeble) can't stop watching.

Right now I'm watching a mom who looks like a cross between Snooki and Sporty Spice.  I'm not even kidding, you guys.  Straight up CRAY CRAY.  I think I may need to add "glitz" to my lexicon when talking about these scones.  It just feels... right.

Let's try it:  The brown sugar on top of these scones takes them from natural to FULL GLITZ.  Guys... we're starting something special.

*sigh*  When Cori and I have a daughter, if she wants to do pageants... I'll let her.  I'm not gonna lie. That may happen.  But do I want her to do it?  Um...  no?

Whatever.  No judging.

Side Note:  Cori just told me I'll "totally be a pageant mom" and when I go and take her to get her hair and nails done, Cori will be "dragged along to get a pedicure".  Pssh.  No...?

So while you're sitting there scoffing, I'll be scarfing down on my fourth a scone.  And I may watch another T&T.  No big deal.

Strawberry & Cream Scones
Slightly adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

8 medium strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons butter, chilled
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten with a dash of heavy cream
dark or light brown sugar, for topping (you could also use turbinado sugar)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper, and evenly distribute the strawberry pieces on it.  Bake for 45 minutes (this will slightly dry out the strawberries, resulting in a less mushy scone).  Let cool off to the side and turn the oven up to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Using a box grater, grate the cold butter directly into the dry mixture.  Working quickly, rub the butter curls into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal/oat flakes.  Fold in the strawberries as gently as you can.  Pour in the cold heavy cream and mix with your hands until the dough starts to take shape.

Transfer the dough and all the bits from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface.  Knead until the dough comes together completely.  Pat into a disk that is 1 inch thick.  At this point you can either cut the scones into wedges or cut them out with a circular biscuit cutter - your call.  If you are going to cut them with a knife, flour your knife before each cut - it won't stick and you'll get nice, clean lines.

Transfer the scones to a cookie sheet lined with fresh parchment paper.  Brush each scone with the egg and cream wash, then sprinkle with brown sugar.  Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until the scones are a light golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then serve.  Store in an air-tight container for up to three days.

What?  Don't look at me like that...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Pie In The Hand...

fig1. dinner al fresco. fig2. neighbor girl with chickens. fig3. the spice house. fig4. nutella on every table at jam 'n honey.

It is happening.  It is almost May.

It is hands down gorgeous, but it is almost MAY.  MAAAAAAAY.  Which is a hop, skip, and a jump away from SUMMERRRRRRR.  The only thing I have planned so far is buying a bike and seeing Alien outside with a bunch of fellow movie geeks (I love you guys).  I'm not really asking where spring went, because we're in it.  We're winning the spring thing all over the place. But I missed winter.  Winter flaked out on us (hah!).

Wait.  I just remembered.  I'm seeing Fiona Apple, too.  Let us not forget to cater to our inner 90's child.  Let's also start bike gangs.

Do you know what I want to do?  Go spring camping.  I want to open up the camp season as the first camper after a long "winter" of no tents, fires, or hiking boots.  Still chilly enough to bring jackets and coats and enjoy the warmth around the fire pit, I want to CAMP.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bringing Cake For Breakfast Is What I Do

I love a birthday.

Is this true for you too?  I hope so... celebrating is awesome stuff.  It's all cake, balloons, and happy times with faces you love.

I remember my Wizard of Oz birthday cake a'la my mother.  It was a large "yellow brick road" made of icing, with the complete cast of characters from the movie (minus the flying monkeys).

Other years it was a Barbie cake (I've had both the one with the doll stuck in the top and the one just in the shape of her as a sheet cake).  But the best one?  The best one was a GIANT 3D Care Bear.  That thing was epic, friends.  Mom's killer piping skills made it look all fuzzy and justlikearealcarebearomg.  So good.  Mad skills, mom.

I'm not sure how it is for you, but when I say "Happy Birthday" to someone, I cringe a little when they say they'd rather forget about it.  Come on!  LET ME BAKE YOU SOMETHING.  Then you'll see... Then you'll change your mind.

Eh... but some people are just not into that kind of thing, I suppose.  I certainly am not the type to run out to the bars on my birthday, nor am I the type to plan a huge soiree at some fancy downtown location.  It's just not... me.  So maybe they like to celebrate a bit more simply.  Maybe it's not the "bigness" they want, but a "nod", if you will, before they move on to the next life event.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Baby Got Bundt (Among Other Things)

Things that make me... *special* (but totally not unique, because I KNOW there have got to be others like me out there):

1. I don't like to touch cold tile floors with my bare feet after I get out of the shower.  I will do all kinds of acrobatics to NOT touch the floor if I have forgotten my slippers.

2. If there are any crumbs or bits of food on the counters at all, I will disinfect ALL the counters and clean them.

3. There is an elevator at work that I sing in just as soon as the doors close.  The minute they begin to open again, I stop.  I only do this when I'm alone, so don't expect a show if you find yourself in that elevator with me.

4. I hate baths.  It's like... marinating.  Just. Gross.

5. I wear my jeans at least 6-7 times before washing them (UNLESS I get something on them). 

6. The sound of peeing weirds me out.  I hate not having a fan in the bathroom.

7.  I am a rule-follower. It's to the point where it annoys others.   I was a total nerd in high school because of this.  I'm glad I went the straight and narrow, but sometimes I wish I had "let my hair down" a bit more.  Maybe I'd be less awkward as an adult...  Maybe.

8. I love a kitten.  I will never love a dog the way I love a feline.  Case in point:  the kitten on my morning lap:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Let's Talk Bananas and (Not) Running

Let's pretend we run.  Let's pretend we do yoga/pilates/ballet/whathaveyou.  We have a great imagination, so I'm thinking we can come up with something athletic to do (in our brains, of course).

Go it?

Okay.  Now let's pretend we just came home from our sweat-infested, heart-pumping exercise routine and we are going to reward ourselves with french toast.  Hey!  You earned it!

But what kind will we make?  You can't just make regular french toast.  Lame-town, USA.  Who does that?  Not us.  Not ever.

As we look left, we notice the black ripe bananas sitting on the microwave.  Man, we're geniuses.

Let's make a sweet banana sauce, fry up some sliced bananas, and put THEM on our french toast.  YOU HAVE ALL THE BEST IDEAS.  

Thirty minutes later we are sitting down to a plate of what can only be described as sweet perfection.  Brown sugar and butter compliment our fried bananas in a sauce you want to share with everyone you meet.  Perfect thick slices of bread from the farmers market down the street scream "YOU'RE GONNA LOVE ME" as they soak up said bananas sauce.  And the cat is freaking out because she thinks she's getting some of this goodness.  Paws OFF, cat.

Bananas Foster French Toast

for the french toast:
4 eggs
1 1/2 whole milk (or whatever you have on hand)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
ground cinnamon (for sprinkling)
1/2 tablespoon of butter (per pan-full of french toast)
farmers bread (brioche or challah will also be amazing)

for the banana sauce:
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas, sliced on a bias at 1/2" intervals

*preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have a rimmed cookie sheet at the ready; also preheat a large skillet on medium heat and begin to brown butter with each batch of french toast*

In a wide, shallow  bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar, and salt.  Dip thick slices of bread (1-2 per person) into the mixture, letting it soak for a few seconds.  Lightly sprinkle cinnamon on top of each slice.  Pan fry for 2-3 minutes per side (flip when golden but not overcooked). 

 Once everything has been pan fried, place all the slices of partially cooked french toast on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.  

Meanwhile, make the sauce...

In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together, stirring occasionally.  When they just begin to bubble, add the sliced bananas and stir to coat.  Cook for 5 minutes.  

To assemble, place slices of french toast on plates, then top with the bananas and their sauce.  You can add syrup or powdered sugar if you want, but neither are necessary at ALL.  Keep away from cats with agendas.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

You Just Need To Try New Things

Cori and I have been trying to be better vegetarians.  More veggies, less pastries.  Clearly it's not working all that well.  Remember that vanilla I bought?  Well, I've been putting it to good use.  CRAZY good use.

The other day I was immersed in the the glory of the internet and I found soy sauce in cookies.  SOY SAUCE.  That goes on my sushi.  Why are we putting it in cookies??  Someone explain their madness to me!

I can't even begin to tell you how weird it sounded, but then I like odd pairings together in pastries... so I gave it a try. 

*moment of silence*

Oh. Em. Gee.

If you like sweet, salty, and good crisp cookies with just the littlest hint of chewiness... these are going to speak your language.  And if you don't... well, I may just not tell you I made them with soy sauce until after you tell me how great they are.  I totally did this to Cori (and she made a weird face after I revealed my secret ingredient), but I eventually won her over.