wan-na find something?

Friday, April 30, 2021

so. many. cookies.

the bean got to participate in the junior high science fair this year, which was at once really cool and slightly stressful.  the students are allowed to choose their own topic, and the bean wanted to do something food-related to make it more interesting.  after scouring the google for ideas, she finally came up with an idea she liked - "how does the type of flour used in chocolate chip cookies affect their size, shape, texture and taste?"  after a little more research, she decided to use five different types of flour: all purpose, cake, almond, whole wheat and bread.  she'd actually wanted to add a sixth type - coconut - but we learned that you can't substitute it 1 for 1 in recipes.  something about the composition of it, i think.

she originally had in mind to have us do the taste testing and judging, but then the hub came up with a better idea.  it turned her science project into a community service of sorts - by asking a local firehouse to help her with determining the results of the experiment and also donating all of the cookies to the firefighters.  sweeeeet.

and so one evening she gathered up all of her ingredients to start baking.  she had to do the experiment twice, which meant two batches from each type of flour.  that's a LOT of cookies.  i suggested that she cut the recipe in half for each batch, in an effort to minimize the output as much as possible.

it was a fun learning experience for her, as she used the classic nestlĂ© toll house cookie recipe but had to convert the measurements into grams to make it easier to cut in half.  i literally had to sit on my hands to keep from jumping up to help her so that it would go faster.  

eventually she had all of the different kinds of dough mixed up and portioned out into perfect little scoops on sheets of parchment.  she was really careful to make sure that the measurements for everything was exactly the same, and enlisted my help in marking the parchment sheets to keep track of which flour was used.

i helped her bag up the cookies so that they would stay as fresh as possible till the next afternoon, when we'd head to the firehouse for judgment day.

it was a loooooong night, people.  i think it was past 1:00 by the time we finally went to bed.  and then when she got up she got to work on creating the bags that each judge would receive.  inside the brown bag she put a sample of each kind of cookie, and then we headed to the nearby baking supply shop to find some sort of packaging for the rest of the cookies that we were donating to the firefighters.

i did take a good number of photos of the shenanigans at the firehouse, where we met six very friendly and funny firefighters who cracked jokes and happily gobbled down the cookies we brought for them to sample.  this is the only one i'm able to share though, because for privacy purposes they asked us not to post their photos anywhere.

because of that pesky virus, instead of laying out all of the details of her experiment on a posterboard to be displayed at a science fair on campus the students were required to create a website that was reviewed by the science teacher and other faculty members.  the hub had helped her make up a scoring sheet that the firefighters used to rate the different types of cookies, and just to add to her data the four of us also did a taste test and scoresheet.

her final results?  well, the overall winner ended up being the cookies made with cake flour.  the least favorites were the ones using almond flour.  they had a very different appearance, although they did have a fun chewy texture that the old lady ended up really liking.  

so the next time you decide to make a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, you might want to try subbing in cake flour for the all purpose if you have some in the house.  and if you do, let me know what you think.  just for funsies, of course.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

busting out the ol' cheer uniform

the bean's cheer team began a mini-season a few months ago, taking all of the proper precautions and limiting the team sizes to the "small" category.  practices are held at their old gym, where they are temperature-checked prior to entry and masks required the entire time.  it's been a nice return to some sort of normalcy while getting some good physical activity for her on a regular basis plus getting to see friends again.

cheer competitions have adapted for this pandemic as well, with their first five or six competitions held virtually.  each team would record their routine and submit them, and then awards ceremonies were done several days later online.  and for their first competition recording, families were invited to watch and cheer their athletes on - while also being temperature-checked, masked and social distanced.

along with the silver sequinned chucks i wear to every competition, i had my friend becca make me some new good-luck charms:

they're using the same uniforms as last year, but changed up their hair and makeup styles to keep things interesting.  i was asked to help with sewing up sparkly scrunchies for everyone, using fabric that they pre-cut and applied lots of rhinestones for the bling factor.  after a couple of trial runs, we finally got the sizing down.

i had like 75 of these things to sew up so i got to spend lots of quality time with the ol' sewing machine, plus all the turning tools and fabric glue.

teddy seemed really interested in what i was working on.  i had to keep a close eye on him to make sure he didn't try to grab some and turn them into chew toys.

a couple of weeks later, they hit me up again to make more scrunchies in a different color.  

i gotta say...if i don't sew up another scrunchie for a long time i won't be too broken up about it.  heh.  but they do look pretty awesome in the bean's hair, yes?

Monday, April 19, 2021

mama always said, life is like...

did you know that you can order chocolate straight from the hershey factory?  i didn't either, until an ad popped up on my facebook timeline offering up reese's cups fresh from the factory in pennsylvania.  i didn't really think much of it because it never occurred to me that it would really be much different, but that ad was persistent.  after about the tenth time, i finally decided to click on it and read the comments on the post.  people absolutely RAVED about the stuff, talking about how much more delicious these cups were than the ones you buy in your local store.

of course, i was intrigued.

and as i usually do with things like this, i showed it to the old lady to ask her what she thought about the idea.  and of course, because peanut butter is pretty much her most favorite thing in the whole wide world, she was all about it.  when i went to the website, it turns out that "direct from the factory" products are only offered a handful of times throughout the year and i'd just happened to catch it a few days before they stopped taking orders for this round.  i placed an order and then promptly forgot about it until this showed up on the doorstep:

we tore it open right away.

the old lady went first.  she opened that bag and ripped open that first package, and we all ooh'ed and ahh'ed over that fresh, shiny chocolate.  it was so fresh, there was still peanut oil on the wrapper when she took it out.

and when we each ate our first cup, we understood what all the hype was about.  the chocolate was smooth, the peanut butter was soft and it just tasted so much better than any other reese's cups we'd ever had before.  life. changing.  SO GOOD.

we've been savoring those cups, only letting ourselves have one serving a day (which, i know, is how you're supposed to do it anyway).  they're so delicious that it would be really easy to plow through that whole case in like a day or two.  but we're working on restraint.  so far, it's working.

and if you get the chance to try a factory fresh reese's cup, i HIGHLY recommend taking it.  you're welcome.

Friday, April 16, 2021

magical cake

so while we still haven't tried the "cereal killer" cheesecake recipe i mentioned before, i did finally get a chance to make something else i've had saved for awhile.  i'd seen the "magic chocoflan cake" on twitter or instagram or some other social media outlet before, and figured it was meant for me.  i mean, it's some crazy hybrid of delicious chocolate cake and creamy flan - ain't nothing wrong with that.  and i wanted to see if it really would work - the process involves pouring the two batters into the same pan, with the chocolate cake magically floating to the top of the pan so that when flipped upside down, the flan would be on top of the whole thing.

the recipe i was using was created for the instant pot, which was perfect since it only accommodates a small sized bundt pan.  i knew that this treat would only be enjoyed by me and the bean since the hub still isn't doing sugar and the old lady can't stand flan, so we didn't need a full-sized cake in the house.  the first step was to pour some caramel sauce into the bottom of the pan:

then i mixed up the ingredients for the chocolate cake.  pretty basic - butter, flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, egg, you get the gist.

then i made the flan mixture and poured it carefully on top of the chocolate batter.

i covered the pan with foil and lowered it carefully into the instant pot, placing it on top of a trivet that kept it above the water poured into the bottom of the pot.  it only needed 22 minutes of pressure cooking and then ten minutes of natural release before opening the pot to take the cake out and let it cool for about an hour before flipping it over onto a serving plate.

i was so excited to see that it actually worked - chocolate cake topped with a layer of flan and caramel sauce.  so cool!

and i'm happy to report that it was just as good as it looked.  it was a really good combination of textures and flavors, and so much easier to make than it seems.  maybe if we ever get to host a party at the house again, i'll make it to serve.  heh.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

happy birthday, little cocoa

i totally screwed up and forgot to post this yesterday, but our sweet, feisty little cocoa just turned two years old!  she was all of nine weeks old when we brought her home:

she kind of tolerates our shenanigans, but to be perfectly honest she abhors wearing clothing of any kind.  poor little thing, she literally wilts before our very eyes whenever we try to dress her up.

she's truly the old lady of the house, though - grumpy and crochety and moody as all hell.  but she's also the sweetest little cuddler while being a fierce little guard dog who's the first to let us know when someone's at the door.  she loves attention and being petted and hugged and loved, and the house is so lively with her in it.

happy two years, miss cocoa!  we love you so much!

Friday, April 9, 2021

mmm...krispy rice

 the kids and i headed out to the grove last week for some fresh air and some retail therapy.  none of us could even remember the last time we'd been there (although i guess i could probably search for my last blog post about it, huh) and we were kind of excited to see what was new and different.

we grabbed a snack at wetzel's pretzels, something none of us had had in a really long time.  and it was so good...because carbs are our friend.  i didn't even get a picture because we totally hoovered those things up in no time.

the nike store was our first real stop, where the girls picked out some new kicks.  because who doesn't love new shoes?  and then we browsed through a few other stores before we decided that the pretzel had only served as an appetizer, leaving us even hungrier.  when we'd pulled into the parking structure we passed umami burger with a sign outside that said that they were also serving up other deliciousness, like nashville hot chicken sandwiches and something else that had caught our attention - krispy rice sushi.  we all know the bean lives for sushi, and even the old lady was interested in some of the things on their menu and so that's where we headed.

with the new health guidelines, we were actually able to sit inside.  normally we would have still chosen outdoor seating, but it was a little chilly that evening and the dining room was practically empty.  and so we sat at a booth, marveling at how weird it was to be sitting inside an actual restaurant after a year of take-out, delivery and outdoor dining.

look how cute their soy sauce packets are:

and the little characters continued on other items, too.

our sushi was brought to us in to-go boxes.  kind of wasteful, but i guess that's just how things are going these days, dine-in or not.

everything was delicious, by the way.  even my weak ass chowed down on the spicy tuna krispy rice sushi - partly because i really wanted to try it since it's obviously their specialty and also because it really wasn't very spicy.  i also really enjoyed the salmon/yuzu krispy rice sushi, and everyone had seconds of the baked crab hand rolls because they were that good.

after we'd stuffed ourselves silly with sushi, we headed back into the grove where we stumbled across the new store owned by drake - october's very own.  i really don't know much about it, but the old lady and her special friend had wanted to check it out so they were happy to check it off the list.  with sweatpants hovering around $250 and fairly plain tees priced at $50ish, we walked out emptyhanded.

on our way out, i got them to stop for a quick selfie with minimal moaning and groaning.

we stopped here to grab some ice cream that the old lady promised would be worth the drive (spoiler alert:  it was).

and back at home, the bean was stoked to open a gigantic box sent from her grandma that contained a full set of brand-new BTS plushies.

i'd say it was a pretty good saturday indeed.

squeezing in all the sightseeing

this was our NYC home for a whole week: it was one of only a few hotels that i could find that offered two beds in a room rather than, say, ...