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Sunday, October 31, 2010

A long awaited wine night

Ever since I moved in to my apartment I have been so excited to host a gathering.  Last Friday night was wine night at my place.  I had almost as much fun preparing for it as I did actually hosting the party.  Friday afternoon I hopped on my bike and hit up Surdyk's in Northeast.  What a FANTASTIC experience!  I tasted a little wine and found a great red - not too heavy - AND it's Spanish, even better.  I have never been a big red fan, but this week I have suddenly started to love it! 

I also stopped by the cheese shop.  The guy helping me was so patient;  I was so indecisive and probably tried about eight cheeses.  I splurged a bit and bought some delicious Gouda and my favorite crackers - Carr's whole wheat crackers.  They taste like cookies!  To make it even better Surdyk's even has an espresso bar in their cheese shop (and plenty of chocolate)!

Cleaning ensued when I got home.  Last minute I decided to bake a batch of pumpkin bread - I even had a pumpkin shaped pan to bake it in!  When the gals arrived - in costume, I might add - I made a batch of popcorn on the stove.  Nothing too grandiose for my first party;  it was all about the wine that night!

No one can quite rock Marilyn Monroe like Megan Warner.

Of course I went as a baker.  It was more that I had NOTHING else to wear, though, and of course I had a wooden spoon to stick in my hair and some flour to throw on my face.

Fun fun.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A much-more-than-I-bargained-for night in the kitchen

I am a sucker for treats that mix the sweet and the salty - i.e. Take Five bars.  So when I came across a recipe for chocolate-covered popcorn topped with sea salt I thought, Mmmmmm. Now that's gotta be good.  Seeing as I needed to provide a snack for a meeting that I had the next day, I figured this recipe would be a quick and easy one.

Boy, was I WRONG.  My stepmom Debbie can attest to this, as I was at her house during the madness.  First I popped the popcorn, which was everywhere except where I wanted it to be - very unmanageable  because there was so much of it.  Then there were three failed attempts at melting the chocolate chips, which, by the way, has never happened to me.  The problem, I finally figured out, was the butter that I was melting with it.  This still doesn't make sense to me, but whatever. 

Anyhow, fourth time was the charm; I finally got it.  The irony though, is that I decided against making cookies to save time, and it took me longer to make the popcorn!  Go figure.

It tasted good, though!  See my "recipes" page on the right for the recipe!



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The best way to start your morning - or mine at least

Teri (a woman that I work with) and I were chatting one day at Color Me Mine about baking, etc. and a customer - having overheard my conversation - approached and filled me in on a little something.  She is part of a professional organization that gives women who work in the food and hospitality industry a chance to network with one another.  Of course I was so thrilled to hear that such an organization even exists!

I went to my first meeting yesterday for Women Who Really Cook at William-Sonoma in the Galleria, which, by the way, is a FANTASTIC store if I have ever seen one.

I walked in and was immediately offered espresso which I accepted without hesitation, of course.  There were pumpkin waffles cookin', donuts, and muffins.  And that wasn't even the best part.  Everyone was so incredibly welcoming and friendly, easily jumping in to conversation and eager to get to know me.  I made some excellent connections (knock on wood), but I don't really want to elaborate much more.  I don't consider myself superstitious, but I don't want to jynx it!

Needless to say,  all of the women were inspiring!



Monday, October 18, 2010

Oven Fire!

I have had pizza crust sitting around for a few weeks now, and I thought, today is the day to make pizza.  So I through together a little olive oil, garlic, and cracked rainbow peppercorns; spread it over the crust and topped it with asiago, parmesan, and fresh grape tomatoes.  Into the oven it went. 

I hit the shower.

10 minutes later, wrapped in a towel, I go to check my pizza, mouth watering.  As I peek in to the oven, WHOOSH, a fire explodes.  I frantically close the oven, turning it off.  I open up the window as black smoke billows everywhere.  All the while thinking, oh my God what do I do do I have insurance to cover this do I call the fire department why aren't the smoke alarms going off if I call the fire department what will it cost me? AHHHHHHHHH!!!

Still in my towel I run to my room, throwing on whatever the heck I can that find that is appropriate to run across the parking lot of my complex, screaming for my landlord.  Thank God he was home.

Needless to say, the fire had gone out by the time both of us got back to my apartment.  Everything was fine, but good grief - GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK!

After the incident I felt a bit like a failure, but I think something dripped down and ignited...all it needs is a good cleanin'.

And I did end up eating the pizza.  It tasted a bit wood-fired, and was actually quite delicious.



Friday, October 15, 2010

Save the Tatas

Last night at work was our Save the Tatas fundraiser.  I work part-time at Color Me Mine which is a paint-your-own ceramics shop.  Soooo, I rounded up the girls, bought a few bottles of wine, and we went to town painting, drinking, binging on my pumpkin whoopie pies - which were sinfully good - and chatting.  Proceeds for the night are going to the Save the Tatas Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.  Our little business raised $684!  Pretty good I'd say for the first year!

The girls and me - VERY bad hair day for me.

Also included in the night of entertainment was a silent auction.  My mom Sara threw together a few beautiful baskets, and I contributed my infamous caramels.  Typically a once-a-year holiday favorite, I obliged to Julie's - the owner of Color Me Mine - request.  Caramels, though they are delicious, certainly are not my favorite to make.  They are quite labor-intensive, involving lots of stirring.

The first year I made them I ate an unimaginable amount.  My caramels have just never tasted the same to me after that year.  The following few years I wasn't able to eat any, having OD-ed on them the first year.  They are everyone else's favorites, though, and make excellent  holiday gifts!

They were auctioned off at $30 - craziness!  I was worried I would get one lame bidder.



Whoooooopie Pies

The whole concept of whoopie pies is relatively new to me.  I first tried them last holiday season when one of Mark's clients sent him a very large box from the east coast.  COULD ANYTHING BE SO DELICIOUS?!  Another thing I have forgotten to mention is that I have a tremendously large sweet tooth.  It is disgusting, really.  The only person I know whose may be bigger is my friend and former roommate Lydia.

Being in college is about eating whatever you want, right?!  Last year Lydia and I made frosted sugar cookies, and somehow finished the entire batch in less than 48 hours.  Never again. 

Anyhow, back to whoopie pies.  I stumbled upon a recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies with cream cheese frosting.  After I finished baking them, I set all but one aside - the biggest one, of course - for a function I have tonight.  I most certainly was not planning to eat the whole thing and then couldn't stop!  They were FANTASTIC.  A perfect fall treat.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

1/2 C butter
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 C firmly packed brown sugar
2 T molasses
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 1/2 C pumpkin (15 oz. can)
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour

8-oz package cream cheese, softened
2 T butter, softened
2 C powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract

First make the cookies:  Preheat the oven to 375.  Grease 2 baking sheets.  Beat butter, oil, sugar, molasses, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fluffy.  Stir in the pumkin.  Stir in flour in two additions until mixed.  Place scoops of batter on to baking sheets 2 inches apart.

Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until cookies are slightly firm.  A slight indentation should remain when touching the top of the cookie.  Let cool slightly and remove from pan.

To make the filling, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy.  Add the powdered sugar in 2 additions, beating until fluffy after each addition.  Add the vanilla extract and mix.

I put the cream cheese frosting mixture in to the fridge to harden a bit before spreading it on to the cookies.  Place a dollop of frosting on to the bottom of a cookie.  Place another cookie on top of the frosting to make a sandwich.

What a hit!

Thursday, October 14, 2010