Monday, August 31, 2009

even more baconification

i was excited to have a girls' night out on friday with a handful of SFAMs at the monkey's country club.

whoa. there's a whole lotta goodness in that sentence right thurr, yes?

anyway, you all know it's not a party without a favor of some kind from me. and since i hadn't been able to share my bacon caramels with tater, my fellow bacon oddball, i decided i'd give 'em a second go-round.

look at all this goodness on my stove. bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.



the cooking process seemed to go faster this time, and before i knew it, i was pouring hot molten lava into my buttered pan.



three hours of sitting around on the dining room table, and it was ready for cutting. i'd picked up some pretty pink foil squares last time i hit up the candy supply store, and they looked quite lovely in my little bags, all tied up with hot pink ribbon. too bad i ran out as i wrapped the caramels, and had to settle for cutting squares of wax paper out for the last couple of bags (sorry, friends who ended up with ghetto caramel bags).



as i left the house, i got a wet kiss from the bean, who was swimming in the pool with her daddy.



part two of my baconified weekend came yesterday, as i finally fulfilled another dream: bacon cinnamon rolls. of course, i was far too lazy to go the distance and make them from scratch, but i figured this would be a good first try.

not wanting to use completely raw bacon, i laid out my strips and put them under the broiler to give 'em a little head start.



actually, this is my second attempt at these - but the first time, i bought regular pillsbury cinnamon roll dough. those don't work. you can't unroll them as easily as these. and then i was going to buy the grands! version, but these were on sale and looked pretty much idential to the name brand. and i love me a good bargain.



i popped the package open and took them out. look, even the rolls are smiling at the prospect of what's about to happen to them.



i took the bacon out of the broiler, blotted the extra grease off, and set the strips in two of the rolls.



fifteen minutes and a drizzle of frosting later, they were ready.

Link

this was one awesome way to start my sunday morning. i even held back and saved the second one (the others were just "plain," enjoyed by the bean and the hub), so that moan-day will also get off to a good start.

ah, how i love making all things baconlicious. and i've started putting the bacon grease in a container, because again thanks to my dear tater, i'm dying to try these cookies - in a baconified s'more (see #6 here).

you know you can't wait. don't even front.

Friday, August 28, 2009

planning the bean's birthday bash, 2.0

so, we've picked a date for the bean's second birthday party. holy cow, i can't even believe it's already been a whole year since this extravaganza.


now, with operation downsize 2009 still in full effect, the bash won't be nearly on the same level as that one. and that's okay - the first birthday deserved something spectacular, and subsequent parties, while still nice, definitely don't need to top each other, year after year. right?

i've been exploring all sorts of options, checking out local venues and coming up short. obviously, the thimble we live in now won't accommodate more than the occupants of it, so it's not gonna be here. and i reeeeeeeally don't dig parties at parks - having to scurry out there to secure a spot at the asscrack of dawn and then lugging shit to and fro really isn't my idea of fun, especially not knowing what kind of weather we'll be facing in the next month-ish.

the most logical choice, at this point, is the grandparents' house. i was trying to avoid going that route, mostly because they're dealing with a whole lot of personal stuff and i didn't want to add to that, but the hub seems to think it'll be just hunky-dory (i actually hate that expression with a passion, but whatever). and without a whole lot of kids on the guest list (most of my friends are child-free), places like chuck e. cheese, a.k.a. hell on earth, don't even get a second thought.

and so i move on to the next issue - the theme! i, of course, was eyeing some really cute designs for the invitations - like cupcakes, or ice cream (or créme, as the bean herself would say). the hub, on the other hand, thinks we should go with something the bean loves, like mickey/minnie mouse or her beloved "blue's clues."

um, the latter was popular eons ago, like when the teen was a bean. yeah. and how on earth will i get away with designing invitations/etc. with a mickey/minnie theme, since everything is freaking licensed by big, bad disney? dang. maybe i'll have to create a disney-esque design...inspired by the mouse. that's how a lot of those knockoff designer bags get away with it, right? "inspired."

this should be fun.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

trial and error. and error.

alright, i admit it: bread is this summer's chocolate chip cookie.

you know what i mean, right? like, i seem to be going through phases of culinary experimentation. it's super fun, though. and i sure do love being able to munch away on the fruits of my labor. no, naysayers, not like that "fruit." ha.

i decided that i wanted to give pretzel bread a second shot. besides, once i try something once, it's a lot easier the second time around. not to mention, i dreamed about it last night. so there you have it.

i spared you the boring "yay, look at the foamy yeast!" and "here's the ingredients i used" pictures. aren't you glad?

i mixed up the dough, let it rise, and then after kneading it for a few minutes, let it rise again. an hour later, i boiled some water in the microwave and measured out some baking soda for the "bath."



i poured the baking soda in slowly, and said "whee!" out loud as i watched it foam up like some kind of chemistry experiment.



i dunked my ball of dough in there, flipped it over, and then piled it onto my baking mat. this is where i always wonder how the author of the recipe managed to get it so smooth and pretty - mine looks like brains on a sheet pan.



oh, well. i put it in the oven and set the timer, and got started on the cleanup. but then i remembered something: i'd forgotten to buy a loaf of bread to make the teen's PB&J sandwiches for lunch. crap. and i was feeling far too lazy to go to the store. so what did i do?

i found a recipe and made my own.

this dough was wonderfully easy to mix up and fun to knead. it had a great texture and i really enjoyed making it.



after letting it rise, i fashioned it into a loaf-like shape, put it in my pan, and let it rise again, then popped it into the oven.



meanwhile, the pretzel bread was done. see - again, it doesn't look like pretzel bread, but it sure tastes and smells like it. i guess that's all that counts, huh? and, oops - i managed to polish off half of the loaf all by my lonesome.



as i played with the bean, i noticed a funny smell in the air. and then it got stronger as i scurried into the kitchen.

damn. breadmaking FAIL - my little convection oven was just a hair TOO little, and the dough had risen as it baked, touching the roof and the electric coils mounted on it. shit, man. i yanked it out and started slicing away at the burnt parts. so. freaking. sad. it'd been so pretty, too.



here's my finished product, all done.



but look - if i turn it the other way, you wouldn't even notice that it was a burn victim!



i tasted a slice, and it is delicious. mmmm. a bit on the sweet side, rather dense and chewy, but so good. i popped a piece into the teen's mouth, and she nodded her approval. score!

i can't even believe that i forgot this - last week, with the hub away for the evening at a dodger game, i decided to splurge on dinner for little ol' me. my buddy tater had raved and raved about the homemade lobster rolls she'd made, and i was super inspired to try it myself. and, of course, i had to make the light brioche buns i loved so much. but this time, i made the whole recipe, baked half of it, and froze the other half. now, when i feel the urge for wonderfully chewy, delicious bread, all i have to do is pull out my little frozen buns, let 'em rise, and bake.

i steamed the lobster and popped the buns in the oven.



i'm not a huge celery fan, but i did have some cucumber in the fridge. so i decided to improvise and chopped some up to mix into my lobster roll filling for the crunch factor. spices and a little mayo, a quick stir, and i was done.



i think my impatience shows in the shape of my brioche buns - they're not poofy and fluffy. rather, they're a bit flat and wide. kind of like my ass. ha!



but i didn't care. it was really, really good. mmmmm. poor hub, he really missed out. instead, he had a dodger dog for his dinner.

psh. no comparison.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

it don't matter if you're black or white

along with about a hundred others, i've had smitten kitchen's recipe for black and white cookies bookmarked for quite a while. i'd tried these for the first time last year during our trip to NYC and loved them. a lot. and when i realized that we didn't have any cookies in the house, i decided it was time to give it a try.

noting that the recipe yielded 60 freaking cookies, i cut it in half. butter and sugar, creamed together:



i'd not even known that such a thing as lemon extract existed. i always figured you could use lemon juice or zest. and this shit ain't cheap - $6 for this tiny little bottle. ack.



since i'd splurged on the extract, i bypassed the cake flour and searched online for substitutes using all-purpose instead. and i found that if you take some out and replace it with cornstarch, it works just fine:



as i continued mixing up the batter, i was a little alarmed at how goopy it was.



but once i added the dry ingredients, it firmed up nicely.



i dropped big ol' dollops onto my baking sheets and stuck the pan into the oven. again, i fired up the little convection oven vs. the big one that would heat up the entire house. it took longer, because i had to do smaller batches, but it wasn't awful. and i'd rather keep the house cooler and work a little longer than, well, the opposite.



look how pretty the cookies turned out! slightly puffy, with a cake-y texture and a perfect little hint of lemon flavor.



the frosting goes on the flat side of the cookies, so i flipped them all over.



the base icing contains two ingredients: powdered sugar and water. i mixed it up quickly and frosted the first half:



then, per the instructions, i added a little corn syrup and a bar and a half of unsweetened chocolate. as it melted, i was a little worried about the grainy consistency.



but all i had to do was add a little more hot water, give it a stir, and that gave it a lovely, smooth, glossy finish.



look at this pretty cookie!



and i gotta say, they taste as wonderful as they look. i'm sort of glad i cut the recipe in half, and sort of not - they're so yummy, but i can't stop eating them. heh. and they were a hit with the teen and the hub, too.

i think i need another one. right now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

hello, sunshine

well, today was the day. the teen is officially a freshman!
she got up super early this morning to get ready and pore through her wardrobe (again) for something to wear. and after trying on several different combinations, she gave up and just went with something comfy. i personally think she looks adorable, but then again, i always do.
as i torture her with every year, i made her stop so i could take a "first day of school" picture. she's pretty used to it, but that doesn't mean there was any less grumbling about it.
she's rocking her new juicy couture tote that she bought a couple of weeks ago. it's really cute, and i was glad she went with this canvas one vs. the velour style she was eyeing. at least she can beat this one up and it'll take the abuse.

we picked up a couple of her friends on the way. i was grateful that they had mended fences after their big blowup at the end of the school year a couple of months ago, and as they chattered nervously in the car, i knew that they were happy to have made up as well. when we pulled up in front of the school, the girls eyed the big groups of students congregating on campus and there were lots of "OMG, i'm sooo nervous!" but i'm sure they'll be just fine, especially since they have each other.
i had a nice (albeit short and sweet) visit with my mom on saturday morning, and she had something super fun to give me: an old autobiography that had been a class assignment when i was in sixth grade. i'd obviously rushed through it at the last minute, because the handwriting was super messy and the text itself was crap. but the treasure was in the last few pages, where i'd attached photos of myself as a wee wan.
i've never really thought that the bean looked much like me. then again, i suck at that game anyway. but when i saw this picture, i literally gasped - is this the bean, or what?

awww, look at me and my mommy.

when my mom and i moved out of the house back when she left bio-dad, we'd pretty much done the same thing i did years later when i moved out of the house of evil (the home i'd shared with the ex) - just taken the bare necessities and left the majority of stuff to avoid having to fight over shit. this meant leaving behind a lot of sentimental items, like photo albums and videos. okay, they weren't actually videos - more like reel-to-reel film canisters. i grew up in the 70s, shut up. and so any time i find old pictures of myself as a tot, i do a little happy dance, because they're so few and far between.

on sunday after church, we decided it would be a great idea to drive up to oxnard, where the teen had spent her final week of summer vacation with BFF and her family. earlier that morning, we'd spent some time straightening up in the teen's room. MIL and i had gone out last week and bought some new clothes for her as a nice surprise for her to come home to, and i laid everything out on her bed so it'd be the first thing she saw when she walked in the door.

don't you just love this tee? well, i don't, considering i'm 100% "team jacob," but i knew the teen would dig it.

we piled in the car and got on the road. hitting almost no traffic, we made our way up to ventura county within about an hour and a half.

as we made our way to the timeshare they were staying at, the teen called and said "hey mom, we're out biking on the beach. we'll be done in like 45 minutes, is that okay?" well, sure. that just meant we had time to go kick it on the beach, where the temperatures were a comfy 75ish, instead of the 95+ temps we'd left behind at home.

the bean had fallen asleep in the car, after fighting off the overwhelming need for a nap all morning long. and she'd been out for at least two hours, so we didn't feel bad waking her up to go and play. she looked a little grumpy anyway, though, huh?


but as soon as she spied the swings, she lit up and got right in.

this was quite a...blue...house. but they had a lovely view of the ocean.



when we were finally reunited with the teen and chatted a bit with BFF's folks, we got back into the cars to head out for dinner. i'd checked my trusty yelp app on the iPhone for restaurant ideas (as well as a couple of suggestions via facebook from my friend claire), and we went here:


to eat here:

while it looked kinda janky from the outside, inside it was rather nice.


i didn't take too many pictures, but it was simple fare: antipasto salad and pizza for us, spaghetti and marinara for the bean.

we bid goodbye to the group, leaving the teen behind to spend one last night with BFF, and hit the road. i changed the bean into pajamas, and she was snoozing before long.
it's crazy to realize that the new school year has already begun! before we know it, we'll be looking at halloween, and then thanksgiving, christmas...
i'm so not ready for this crap yet.
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