Monday, August 16, 2010

A Whole Lotta Bakin' Going On.....

This weekend I decided to try my hand at baking with yeast again.  I think the last yeast-based bread I made was around Christmas time, and we had all the ingredients in the house, so I figured....why not?!

I made a loaf of challah bread from the Joy of Breakfast.  I have to say, it turned out even more beautiful than I thought!!!  It did, however, take several different rises and an all day process to turn out the way it did. :) William toasted some of it and used some raspberry preserves, and then brought it over to his dad's for sandwich the time we left, there wasn't much remaining, so I think it's a pretty good indication it was a hit.

I also baked a maple pecan pie out of the new pie cookbook with some pecans I received, and some Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies for Tristan as payment for house-sitting (paying kids in baked goods is AWESOME!).  Plus, Friday I baked Martha's Ne Plus Ultra cookies.  I finally broke down and bought some beans to use as pie weights for the partially pre-baked crust the pie called for....

I couldn't believe it myself.....I rolled out a perfect :)  This pie crust is a little different than my Grandma's...this one uses half butter and half shortening for its source of fat. to the gym I go!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's New?

I'm officially a charter member of a new book club here in Austin! :)  It's called "Mystery Books and Interesting People, Too"...our first meeting is August 31st, and I'm thrilled to share my love of literature and mysteries with other people in the area!  I was part of one in the past, but found that rather than discuss the books, it turned into a social event and airing grievances....I loved books too much to continue and ended up leaving!

Currently, I'm reading Remedies ( ) and Girl in Translation ( ) .  I just finished reading Mixed Blood ( ) and I positively LOVED it.  It was really fast paced, and I found myself not wanting to do anything but plow through to the end.  I had to look up a few words, due to the fact that the author is from South Africa and used slang words with which I wasn't familiar.  In any case, it was a great read....a bit graphic, but not without reason.

Cookbooks I'm coveting:

-The Craft of Baking

-The Perfect Finish (written by the executive pastry chef for the White House!!!)


We're going to need another room at the house just for cookbooks!  My collection has already taken over the pantry....

I can't forget this one:

-Sky High

For now, I'll have to settle for checking them out at the library....that's usually how I figure out whether or not I want to own them.  Pictures....the more the better!

Last weekend's culinary experiments:

-Pistachio Lemon Drops       


                                                                                       -Langues des Chats
Both from Martha's Cookie Cookbook....the langues des chats have a great, vanilla scent to them.  They're more of a wafer that's meant to accompany ice cream or something like that.  The pistachio lemon drops looked to have a more chewy texture, as the majority of the cookie is made up of brown sugar and ground pistachios.

I think this next weekend.....these are the recipes I'm considering:
-Pecan Bars
-Oatmeal Bars with Dates and Walnuts (I've never cooked with dates before, so that should be interesting....)
-Raisin Bars
-Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Side note:  Martha's looking a little worse for wear....pages 170-178 have made a break for it.  Maybe it's a sign I should be baking Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies?  White Chocolate Chunk?  Double Chocolate Coconut?  Or the Macadamia Maple Sticky Bars?  (mmmm....those sound yummy! Anything with a description like: "Layers of texture---crumbly shortbread and a chewy toffee-like topping---balance these indulgent nut bars"  sounds like it's alright to me.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Seems like....

A two cookie recipe kind of weekend!  I have just enough of the ingredients to make a batch of Martha's Ne Plus Ultra Cookies this afternoon while I wait for William to head to the gym, and then I'm thinking I may try something a little different, like the Cornmeal Thyme Cookies, or finally...the Pistachio Lemon Drops.  Sounds kind of yummy!

Oh, and I believe I said it before, but I'll say it again.....parchment paper revolutionized my cookie baking.  Seriously. :)

I'm also reading like crazy, trying to read the books I want before I start school....I'm currently reading Father of the Rain, which is decent, but I disagree with the 4.5 star rating on Amazon.  I just finished Still Missing (really really great!) and Sworn to Silence.  I've been on kind of a mystery kick these days....and Alexander McCall Smith has a new series starting.  I never could get into the No.1 Ladies series, but I've enjoyed some of his other books.

Hopefully, we'll get some time out in the sun this weekend!  With sunscreen and hats, of course...and...I'm not a blonde anymore!  I finally took the plunge and went dark and LOVE it!  I keep cutting my hair off shorter and shorter, and I'm thinking eventually it's going to be old school Posh Spice at some point....which makes wearing a chef's hat that much easier!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Beginnings

August is a month of new beginnings for me, most importantly....the beginning of my life as a full-time student, once again!

As most of you know, I'm enrolled in the culinary arts program at Austin Community College-Eastview Campus.  I start classes on Monday, August 23rd...starting with Intro to Foods, a class that includes both a lecture and a lab.  I received my uniforms and knives via UPS yesterday morning, and have to admit I got a little teary-eyed knowing that this is a reality!  In addition to my Intro to Foods class, I'll also be taking a Sanitation and Safety course, Intro to Hospitality, and one other chef course.  Three of my classes will be on campus, so Monday through Wednesday I'll commute to the college, and my hospitality course is distance learning, so I'll be completing all my work at home. 

I'm anxious to get started, as I LOVE studying....and the fact that what I'll be studying----COOKING---is something I'm looking forward to even more!

I've also decided to train for either a half marathon or a full...I haven't decided yet, but I'm thinking at least one of the races I'll do will be in November in San Antonio---the Rock N'Roll Half!  William is going to be competing in a natural bodybuilding event in October, and it will be nice to support him, while being able to enjoy my own training and not have a deadline in mind.  I'm looking forward to getting back to building some more shoulders off season, and enjoying some good food here in Austin!

A few things I've learned over the last few months...

-never underestimate the power of good A/C in a car
-I dislike Las Vegas just as much as I thought I would
-buffets are alright for variety, but the quality is not good!
-it's important to have hobbies, but not to let them control your life
-a good dog-sitter is hard to find....but we found one and a half :) and the half can be paid in chocolate chip cookies
-despite missing family, I've become used to the weather here in Austin (i.e. spoiled by warm summer nights) and would find it difficult to get adjusted to cold nights!
-the DMV is just as horrible in TX (or worse) than anywhere else in the US
-road-tripping is a great experience, but would be even better without a deadline!

Martha Stewart's Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies....mmmmm....more butter, less sugar makes for a cakey texture and fluffier cookie.  You know they're good when your trainer sends you a message that says "I want more cookies!!!"