Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Vacation: Day 1

On Vacation - this is really nice. The weather is warm - 82 - which always makes me feel like I am on vacation. Living in Minnesota - I even feel like I'm on vacation in the summer when it gets warm and sunny. I'm not thinking too much about baking, but we did find a great fish market in Clearwater. We bought a nice grouper filet to blacken for dinner. With the huge selection of fresh fish, H. picked out a huge cookbook by James Peterson - an encyclopedia really - called Fish & Shellfish. We plan on returning to the fish market often. Dinner last night also included grits - something we rarely see in the northland.

So - a nice happy hour last night - a great dinner - and a really nice night of no worries. Off on a run now. It looks like some rain - so hope it holds off for awhile. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spryte's Place: Earth Hour ~ Saturday March 28 ~ 8:30pm - 9:30pm

Spryte's Place: Earth Hour ~ Saturday March 28 ~ 8:30pm - 9:30pm

Check this out. I'll be turning off the lights on Saturday! I've been hearing about this everywhere - so join the cause. Our planet is worth it!

News from the bullseye (

Lights Out for Earth Hour
(3/25/09) The light display atop Target Plaza South will go dark for one hour Saturday night in participation of Earth Hour, a global climate change awareness effort led by the World Wildlife Fund.

Target will join organizations and individuals around the world as lights go dark at 8:30 p.m. in an effort to control energy consumption. Many downtown Minneapolis businesses are participating.

Electricity use in the state accounts for 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global climate change, according to Minnesota state officials. By participating with others around the world, we’re expressing our concern about climate change and demonstrating our commitment to finding solutions.

The lights atop Target Plaza in downtown Minneapolis will be turned off in support of Earth Hour on Saturday, March 28.

We’re taking steps to reduce energy consumption every day. The light display atop Target Plaza is turned off every night at 2 a.m., and all headquarters buildings operate on emergency-only lighting after hours. Lights turn on every morning at a staggered schedule by floor based on demand. All lights are turned off at 7:30 p.m., when cleaning crews can turn on light switches based on where they’re working.

If you’d like to learn more or participate, visit, then turn off your lights from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. To learn more about Target’s sustainability initiatives, check out our most recent annual Corporate Responsibility Report.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Breakfast Reigns

Breakfast for a crowd takes planning, proper timing and a flexible sleep schedule.  Wednesday morning was a large group monthly meeting hosted by my 7 person team. Having the baking bug, I volunteered to bake everything needed for this breakfast and everyone else could just pitch in for the ingredients. I get to bake and everyone else just has to show up - it's a win-win!
The Plan: make everything "mini"
This will encourage people to actually eat MORE than they would if everything was normal size. I don't want to bring food home or 
have leftovers to throw away. Make things mini - and people will eat 2 or 3 or 5 instead of just 1. 
Menu: Cinnamon RollsBlueberry MuffinsBanana Chocolate Chip MuffinsBiscotti (see last post), and fruit salad (made by another 'doer' 
co-worker.) Click on the links above for the recipe.
The Timing:
Weekend: read recipes, write shopping list and go shopping
Monday evening: bake biscotti
Tuesday: run after work, shower, start baking.
7pm: make double batch cinnamon roll dough (recipe posted is a 
double), let raise for 1.5 hours
7:45: make blueberry muffins (makes alot - 
3 pans!)
9:00: make banana chocolate chip muffins 
(2 batches)
9:30: punch down roll dough, cut into 1/4 portions, make filling, roll - cut - 
space out 
in jelly roll pan
10:30: finish filling, rolling, and cutting buns - put filled pans into fridge
10:45: make cream cheese 
filling - put into fridge, 
pack up plates 
- silverware - oohh, placecards - I can use those for labeling the goods!
11:00: go to bed - try to sleep. I hope I don't miss my early alarm.
3:30am: pull buns out of fridge onto the counter to come up to room temp. Go back to sleep. I love baking. 
6:30am: put still-cool buns into cold oven, turn on to 350. Buns RISE during the prehe
ating - it worked! I LOVE BAKING.
7:10: Condo smells GREAT. Timer has not gone off, but it smells too good... SH**
7:11: pull out rolls, throw away the edges that got burned on the bottom. Quick - remove from
 pans to help stop the cooking. Smear with frosting to help keep buns soft. Place in gift boxes lined with parchment (easier to throw away at work than a rubbermaid).
7:35: throw hair up, make-up on - late for work!
8:35: People are eating. Did you actually make this? This is the best breakfast we have ever had. THANK YOU.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Biscotti: Chocolate, Cherry, Almond, Oh My!

I feel like I make biscotti all the time. So - I would have thought that I had it figured out by now! Not quite the case. I always like to doctor up the recipe with the ingredients I have onhand - and it usually works out quite nicely. Todays lesson: adding jarred cherries is NOT the same as throwing in a handful of dried cherries! Seems so simple - but, well - I have a knack for finding out these things the hard way. Let's start with the basic biscotti recipe (from America's Best Recipe)


10 oz flour * 1 tsp baking pwd * 1/2 tsp salt
Whisk together in a small bowl

7 oz sugar * 1/2 stick of butter (softened but cool) Cream together in the stand mixer until smooth

2 eggs
add one at a time to the sugar/butter mixture

1 tsp vanilla * 1/4 tsp almond extract

stir into liquid mixture

* Fold in dry ingredients

* Fold in any "extras" {I used: 3/4 cup whole toasted almonds, 1 jar of trader joe's morello cherries (drained), and 1/2 small bag of nestle chocolate chunks}

Create 2 narrow 'logs' on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake: 350 for 30-35 minutes (until starting to crack on top)

Remove from oven, let cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 325. Slice logs into your cookies and put back on cookie sheet.

Bake cookies until brown and more crisp - about 10 -13 minutes. Flip cookies (or rotate if you put cookies upright) halfway through 2nd baking.

Cool completely before storing in airtight container.

*** My mistake: I folded the wet cherries into the flour before adding to the liquid. These little suckers took up all of my flour. I added more flour - and a little baking pwd - but these still were softer than I was hoping. I think I'll stick with the dry additions - or toss the cherries in their own flour and add at the end.
They still turned out pretty well. These will be mighty tasty at the work breakfast tomorrow!

Girls and Boys

Dear H. knows how to do things extremely well.  So when this weekend was deemed girl's night for me - so naturally, H. had a boys night with some friends and he would make it spectacular. He is usually the cook - and I dabble in baking, so this was also a weekend of role reversals.  

Boys' Menu: Hand-ground chuck hamburgers, homemade white bread buns and homemade brioch buns (needed to compare) brought to a friend's hou
se for other sides and plenty of drinks i'm sure.

For the bread: H. wanted to see the difference between a hamburger bun made with white bread and brioch bread. The brioch was made with 88% butter - meaning it had a ratio of butter to flour of .88/1. The disc of
 dough spent some time in the fridge and
 became hard like a pie
 dough. He rolled it into
 perfect little baseball sized buns and let them sit before baking. Both doughs were used to make 6 buns and 1 loaf. The leftover brioch loaf was used on Sunday to make the best french toast i have ever tasted.

Girls' Menu: Bucatini All'Amartrice, mixed green salad, muscato d'asti - before going to a movie (Slumdog Millionair) 

When bringing my visiting mother to a favorite italian spot -Al Vento - she ordered a bucatini dish. 
This "hollow" speghetti will make any carb-lover dance with joy. It's tasty and thick. I wanted to make an authentic dish that would help myself and girlfriends forget that we ever thought carbs were bad. So - I did some internet searching only to find a tip: "use the Silver Spoon recipe - it's the most authentic." Funny to be led back to one of my many cookbooks - and a most simple recipe. 

I hate to admit that my share of the wine made me forget about taking a photo of the final product. However - this sauce was tasty with the pork fat. The leftovers have grown in spice as the pepper releases more heat. It's the best carb-loading dinner I've had in awhile.

I found dried bucatini at a local italian market for $8-$10/package and at Trader Joe's for 99cents... you take your pick.

Bucatini All'Amartrice adapted from the Silver Spoon
1 pkg bucatini (or speghetti)
olive oil for brushing
generous 1/2 cup pancetta
1 onion diced
28 oz whole peeled tomatoes (coarsely chopped in can)
1 chile seeded and diced
alt and pepper

Brush a flameproof caserole with olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook over low heat until the fat runs (took me about 12 minutes). Add the onion and cook (stirring occasionally) for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes (with juice) and chile - season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 40 minutes, adding a little warm water if neccessary. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Boil until al dente, drain and toss with sauce.

Sunday Morning: Brunch with H's parents. Turned the brioch into french toast!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Cupcakes

Cheat Day Cafe posted a 'sweet' recipe for low/no fat cupcakes that will fit into any spring diet plan. To celebrate the first day of spring today - i had to bring in some treats for my office. I decided to go with the "lite" version of cupcakes - because the office is very good about trying my little experiments and there are a lot of people who are watching their food intake right now.

So - Key Lime Cupcakes!
Find the posting here:

The ingredients are so simple!
1 box of cake mix
2 egg whites
10 oz. liquid from either diet soda or unset jello

For my Key Lime Cupcakes I used lime sugar-free jello and the juice of 2 key limes. They looked so pretty! For the frosting, I whipped together powdered sugar, milk, and green food coloring. JI made it thin enough to let me just dip the tops in the frosting.

Super easy - and pretty tasty!

I guess I took some pictures in the dark - sorry!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fav Things: 2 Cookbooks and many Pies

It's already Wednesday. As I look back through my blog 'history' I realize that I have not spent any time on baking since - well, it feels like forever. I've been running and knitting in my free time trying to 1) get birthday presents out the door and 2) get my body beach-ready!

So - I was still dreaming of what I would like to bake when I take the time to create something in the kitchen. So - I looked back on one of my favorite baking days: the famous Pie Party. I made 4 pies: cherry, apple, chocolate cream, and lemon meringue. You can find my lemon meringue recipe here.

I have two resources that I rely on heavily for helping me on my path to learn proper pie technique: Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible, and the American Test Kitchen's Best American Classics.

March 20th (Friday) marks the first day of spring and the opening of my pie season. From Thanksgiving to Spring - I like to think of Pie as being out of season - but just like some really cute white pants that I pulled out of the closet last weekend - some things are OK to display out of season, they are just that good.

So - what can I tell you about Pie that makes this post worth reading? Well - besides buying these cookbooks, there are several resources that I found that will help you in your quest to bake the perfect american dessert.

4Rose Levy Beranbaum just blogged about Pies with more than 35 minutes of You Tube Pie Instructions. This is better than paying for a class! The recipe is even displayed at the end of the short video. I particularly liked how she crimped the edges of the apple pie (last video).

4Don't want to bake your own pie? Betty's Pies is a little bakery cafe on the north shore of Lake Superior (northern Minnesota) that is famous for pie. The best is the wild blueberry pie. It's only in season for a short time. These pies are pretty simple - the best ones always are! So, stop by the Two Harbor's shop or order something from the website.
They also sell Pasties (past-ees) which are little hand-held meat pies that became common with the miners on the Iron Range - watch for a future posting when I decide to make a batch with my mom.

4Penny's Pie Classes have won the prestigious Telly Awards - so they must be good. Really, watching and learning from someone else is the way to go - so if you don't have someone nearby to help you learn the art of pie baking, these classes may be worth the investment.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Breakfast for a crowd

The monthly all-team meeting is coming up for my area and it is my team's turn to "host" (meaning we bring the breakfast!) So, with a work-enforced reason to bake and using my new Publisher skills - I came up with a menu to get my team excited and involved.

First, I would bake everything myself if i was going to be selfish. I think that there are others on my team who might want the opportunity. There are some that would prefer to bring something, but not take the time to bake. Still others that would be happy to hand over some cash and be done with it. I'm hoping to have a few in all three categories but have planned it in a way that any combination will work for me. My only requirement is that I get to bake the caramel rolls! Doesn't this look like fun?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Knitting!! (and why i haven't been baking)

You might be wondering why a BAKING blog has pictures of sweaters and yarn and an owl? Well, I recently learned how to knit more than a scarf. Last November, I joined a new team at work and there is this really great group of knitters. From master level to beginner they all meet over lunch in a conference room to knit 3 days a week. It has been a really nice way to spend a lunch hour when it is so cold outside.

I made my first sweater for Connor. Connor has his 1st Birthday tomorrow! This explains why I have not been baking much lately. Most 1 year olds that I know would not be that jazzed over a sweater - so I made an owl to go with it. The owl pattern was free and can be found on Lion's Brand website (it may require a free registration):

Can you guess which one is mine?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fav Things: Soy Milk

OK - i'm not much for evangalizing anything, but soy milk could change your life - I swear!

I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be cool at the coffee shop. I always want to be a little different.

I tried drinking a soy latte - a bit too much change at one time. Plus, messing with my 'latte' concoction is tricky. I have my order down to a science { medium skim latte with half a shot of caramel not so hot}. Gave up lattes for lent - so these are on hold for a bit.

What worked: Soy Milk on cereal and in home brewed coffee!

This is such a winning combination. I like Plain soymilk - it still tastes like a malted milkshake for breakfast - which is fantastic! I usually eat some kind of Kashi cereal in the morning. I also pour a little soy milk in my travel mug to take to work (since i gave up the lattes). I always have needed cream in my coffee - and don't like using plain milk. Milk just tastes too watery for me. So - the soy milk works.

Here's where it changes your life: my doctor said that I have the best cholesterol she has ever seen. OK - that might be a little exaggeration, but not by much. My "good" cholesterol tops the chart (she did say that she has never seen the numbers quite that high) and my "bad" cholesterol is really low. My husband does not have ideal cholesterol - and since the only difference is the Soy Milk - it must be the key!

Did I convince you? Just try it! Or check out the internets for yourself:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Make it happen.

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. This is the day your life really begins.”

Bob Moawad

Date Night: Steak

Saturday was date night for H. and me. I had a busy day with volunteer commitments and I really wanted something fun for dinner. H. had a free day so had the time to make this Manny-esque dinner. (Manny's Steakhouse is known for oversized everything.)

Found in the fridge/cabinet:
- leftover FANTASTIC blue cheese
- bottle of cabernet sauvignon with my name on it

At the grocery store:
- bone-in dry-aged ribeye steak
- perfectly ripe avocados and tomatoes

Figuring out what to make for dinner is often a search through the tidbits in the fridge that need to be consumed soon - and what might be on sale at the grocery store downstairs. Saturday, the meat counter had a very special thing on hand: bone-in dry-aged rib-eye that was hand cut and at least 3 inches thick. It was a must for dinner.

Steak prep: H. used crushed peppercorns (whole peppercorns smashed with a pan on the counter) and sea salt to push into all sides of the meat.

Baked Sweet Potatoes: rubbed with a little olive oil and baked for about an hour. Topped with whipped butter and brown sugar.

Tomato and Onion Salad: thick slices of tomato and onion drizzled with a balsamic vinegrette whipped up with a little mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper. Topped with crumbled blue cheese, avacado slices, and sea salt.

I loved the colors of this dinner! This felt SO indulgent - especially since it was made for me!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wish List

Hopefully, this wish list turns into a to-do list. I'm looking at my calendar - and realizing that this weekend is almost over and it hasn't really started yet. I have a lot going on - so that means I dream about the things I can't do - ever do that?

Food Wish List:

1. Caramel Rolls for a crowd: I want to try baking them before work without getting up at 2am. I think I can make them to the point of the last rise and pop them in the fridge. Then, put them in the oven while it is preheating to warm them up? I need to practice before bringing them in for a work function.

2. Bread. I need to get back some dignity with yeast. I know I can do it without needing to find a back-up plan! I would love to master baquettes and white sandwich bread.

3. Cake. I have not baked a cake in AGES. This is how I fell in love with baking - and I miss it.

4. Soup Stock. I don't have any meat scraps - but lots of vegetable scraps to move through. I love having homemade stock on hand - and I think my freezer is getting low.

5. Muffins or cupcakes with parchment paper squares instead of the cupcake papers. They just look cool.

6. Cannolis. I already have the rings to make them in the right shape...

7. Rice Pudding. Back to my scandonavian roots I suppose - but it's SO good!

8. Madeleines. I have the pretty forms - just need the tea party.
9. Macaroons - the french style. Reminds me of my honeymoon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fav Things: SCOOPS

Stainless Steel Spring-Loaded Scoop

The scoop comes in many sizes. I have 2 in my tool drawer - one small and one bigger. I used the bigger one to make some Banana Chocolate Chip muffins recently. You can squeeze the handles and it releases your dough very easily. It is a great way to ensure equal portions so your baking is complete at the same time!

Good uses: muffin batter, ice cream balls, chocolate truffles, cookie dough, sandwich filling (think pretty appetizers!)

What do you use your scoop for?
muffins for the office

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
adapted from

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts: chopped, toasted and cooled
* note: I freeze my bananas and put on defrost in the microwave for about 1 minute. great for this recipe!

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line twelve 1/3-cup muffin cups with foil muffin liners. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk in medium bowl. FOLD banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached but no crumbs, about 32 minutes. Transfer muffins to rack; cool.