31 January 2009

Cupcake Calamities

This cupcake tastes like crap. Well, maybe that's an overstatement. This cupcake tastes like eggs. It's the same taste that I recall from my childhood when I demanded homemade cupcakes and then asked later why they tasted so much like chicken. I suppose that is one of the perils of making homemade cupcakes. Since the cupcake tasted so bad, I decided to use that entire batch to practice frosting cupcakes and it's mostly not pretty. This is why I decided to cover it in ugly pink nonpareil zits... erm, I mean sprinkles.

I took the recipe from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and was disappointed. The cookbook is really hit-or-miss and this time it was MISS with a capital everything. It seemed simple enough:

Yellow cupcake recipe
1.5c cake flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
6 tbs butter, melted
2/3c buttermilk

whisk together cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to combine. in the bowl of your pink KitschnAid StandMixer, beat eggs and vanilla and add in melted butter and sugar. Sift in the dry ingredients in 1/3 increments. Bake for 20+/-2 minutes in a 325deg oven. Makes 12 lackluster, eggy cupcakes.

Not wanting to have failed this cupcake challenge, I moved on to a different cookbook. A month or so after we moved to Austin, my great aunt mailed me her old cookbook that she used to share with her mother (my great-grandmother). I can't even tell how old it is, but it has colorful photos of crazy looking food, including pinwheel party sandwiches made from unsliced white sandwich bread and deviled ham spread. It makes my tummy hurt just thinking about it. Nevertheless, it seemed that this might hold the key to my cupcake conundrum and I found this recipe for silver white cake:
1 1/8 c cake flour
3/4 c sugar
1.75 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c shortening
1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites

combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, shortening, and 1/3c of the milk on low speed for 30s. scrape-y scrape-y the side of the bowl. Beat on high for 2 minutes. Add in the rest of the milk and the egg whites and beat on high for another two minutes. Bake for 20 minutes in a 350 oven. Makes another 12 cupcakes, but this time less eggy, more crazy white.

These cupcakes were *pale*. I suppose all the yellow is taken out with the lack of butter and egg yolk. Most of the egginess was taken out as well, but it had a very delicate flavor that didn't really match well with the milk chocolate frosting that I made (which would have gone perfectly with the yellow cupcakes if they hadn't, um, sucked so badly).

Milk Chocolate frosting
10 oz milk chocolate chips
1 tbs corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/2 c heavy cream, boiling
1/2 c confectioners sugar
8 tbs butter, chilled

Boil heavy cream in a small saucepan. While it heats up, add chocolate chips, corn syrup, and salt into a food processor and process for a bit to break up the chips. Once the cream is boiling, remove from heat and pour into the food processor as it's processing. Once thoroughly combined, add in the confectioners sugar and then add in the butter in pieces. Once the mixture is thoroughly... mixed, remove from the food processor and chill for at least an hour before frosting so it can set up and cool down because you did just dump a boiling liquid into a food processor...

I think the frosting came out best of all, which is disappointing because I don't like chocolate. Although, now I at least know that I have a go-to chocolate buttercream frosting if I ever need one in a pinch.

So why all this baking? The best day of the year is coming up in exactly two weeks from today: MY BIRTHDAY!!! :) I'm having a birthday/valentine's day party on the 13th. It's one of those let's-celebrate-my-bday/vday-by-you-bringing-me-gifts-of-alcohol-which-you-will-then-consume sort of event. I want to make lots of heart shaped sweet things. Let me know if you want to come. :) Anywho.

In anticipation of all of this, I've been trying my hand at candy making in a rather unsuccessful way. It turns out that i can't actually read my candy thermometer because I'm dumb. Oops. I made fleur de sel caramel *hard* candies by accident (and I do mean hard) because one side of the candy thermometer is in increments of 10 and the other is in increments of 20 and the temperature that I want it at, of course, has no numbers but "terms". I was rather peeved, but the candy is still good (although it's filling-breakingly chewy.) However, I will give it another go and in anticipation of that highly anticipated post, I'll leave you with a picture that shows my candy making process. ;)

26 January 2009

Mornay After Sauce

I think I made Colby sick with breakfast. That was definitely not the intention. :(

A couple nights ago we went to a wine and cheese party thrown on our behalf by our good friends Chris+Elizabeth in celebration of the fact that we got married. My officemates and most of my incoming class came and it was a really good time. This morning was a little rough and I didn't get up until 1 (oops!), but I checked the interwebs (because that's what you do when you have an internet addiction) and found that The Delicious Life is sort of posting again. The current featured post was of eggs florentine and I realized that I had all the materials on hand for a surprise breakfast for Colby.

Eggs Florentine ala the delicious by way of my kitschn
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a small onion, diced because you're not that into onions
3 cloves of garlic, minced because you're actually really into garlic
3 eggs because you've lost patience with poaching
whatever amount of fresh spinach you have on hand
Mornay sauce
same thing with whatever what cheese you have
2 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1 c milk

Fill a shallow, but deep enough saucepan with water + 2 tbs vinegar and bring to a simmer. Poach 3 eggs (which took about 5 min each). Saute onions and garlic in olive oil with a pinch of salt until translucent. Add in fresh spinach until sufficiently wilted. In a separate saucepan make the mornay sauce: melt 2 tbs butter and then add flour, stirring well to combine along with 1 tsp salt. Add in 1 c milk and stir for awhile over medium-ish heat until thickened. Once thickened, add in some amount of white cheese (I used mozzarella and swiss). Plate with spinach+onion+garlic on bottom, with poached egg (or two) atop covered in the sauce.

It turned out really well and I was tickled pink that I could make this a) as a "pantry" dish and b) as something to clean out my fridge. I was less tickled when Colby ran off to the bathroom in pain. I think that this might have stemmed from the continued use of the raw milk. I figured that since I was cooking the milk, that the bacteria would be less... invasive, but I guess I was wrong. I've learned my raw milk lesson and never again will I buy it.

20 January 2009

Three things

Three things about me that are a little bit, not at all, and possibly obvious:

1. I am an emotional eater.

For instance, I just downed a clementine, several crackers, and some goat cheese because the thought of staying in grad school for the next five years is, quite frankly, horrible. I feel like I've painted myself into a corner because yes, I'm better than the general populace at what I do, but I'm not terribly good at it either because it's really hard... but I suppose that's a different story for another post.

I've found that when I'm super upset about things, usually boy related, I tend to not eat. This explains why I weighed the same in high school as I did in 6th grade; This is also why I'm getting rather fat. You see, I'm terribly happy with my personal life because I've married someone who will love me no matter what, so the inclination to starve myself out of spite, sadness, or even self-preservation has basically left me. You could call that a "good" thing, and I suppose that it's actually good, and not just "good", but grad school leaves me almost no time or motivation to exercise. This is why I made a call to Curves the other day and scheduled an appointment for Thursday.

Yes, I will be joining legions of middle-aged women of north Austin on a quest to regain our figures... or something. Wish me luck so that I leave not smelling of old people perfume.

2. I was recently hit by a car. As in me, the person.

It happened at the intersection of Jollyville and Balcones Woods. There was a red light at Balcones Woods and I was about to cross the street. The "walk" sign came on and so I began walking. After walking nearly 1/3 of the way across, I see this white Altima start to move. If you've never seen an Altima, this is sort of what it looked like

Given that I was nearly in the middle of the road, running back to the curb wasn't really an option, so I stared right at the driver, who then looked in my direction and KEPT GOING. I fell over, as Julie vs. Car means that Julie loses every time and then got up. The guy rolled down his window, asked if I was okay and then sped off as quickly as he could. I was flabbergasted and then upon talking to the police department discovered that the only thing I could do was to file a complete police report, but a) I didn't really want to waste the city's time and money and b) was mostly fine except for a bruise on my elbow that you could barely see. I guess this is why some places ban "right turn on red" when it is sometimes translated into "kill pedestrians to beat the light."

3. I am moderately lactose intolerant.

One of the most comforting, happy-childhood invoking tastes is American cheese with pita. This is due, in part, to the fact that I grew up in a middle class white suburban family that was um... a little trashy. I have no idea why the pita fits in, but it does. My enjoyment of dairy extends far beyond simply liking American cheese (and actually, I'm not quite sure that I even *like* American cheese, or if it just tastes like home); I'm absolutely in love with things made of cow milk including... cow milk. The other day we went to Central Market because we were bored and got a bunch of random groceries, including raw whole milk.

I had tried this milk (from Remember When Dairy) before in a sample offering several months ago and it was absolutely delicious. Reading up on raw milk led me to believe that it was possible that raw milk is better for those who are lactose intolerant because, given the lack of pasteurization, the healthy bacteria that are found in yogurt remained and feasted on some of the lactose, doing exactly that of which I am incapable. When I finally got the milk, I brought it home and poured it out. It was absolutely disgusting. The cream had solidified and would not go back to solid. Yes, I could have heated it, but that would have basically defeated the purpose of raw milk and also its deliciousness. After pouring some out to shake it better, the cream basically stayed solid, but at least this time the chunks were littler. I tried some, but it was just too hard to drink because, seriously, who wants to drink milk with chunks of cream bobbing up and down? I went to the website and emailed them and got this response:

The perocn to answer that is my husband, Mark. His number is xxx-xxx-xxxx
Ometimes the milk gets puched back in the cooler and may get frozen..if thats the case.The milk is fine..but please call Mark and ask him..if it turns out that the milk was a bad batch for some reason...we will definatle make it right
please call Mark and let know about the problem
Thanks DeOnna

It was, perhaps, not the most grammatically appealing email I had ever received, but it seemed like a good step in the right direction. I called Mark the following day and asked him about the safety and status of my milk and he explained that it was perfectly safe to drink, but that cows sometimes have different cream content in their milk based on the season and what they've been eating recently. Apparently there's so much cream in the milk that it basically solidifies... so it works like carbon-enhanced stars, come to think of it. :) I took this advice from farmer Mark and tried drinking a glass earlier tonight and am now currently paying for it in spades. It turns out that the metabolic pathway of lactose digestion in the body is extraordinarily complicated and even if I shut my eyes and pretend I have the genetic mutation that allows me to drink the nourishment that would ordinarily go to baby animals from their lactating mothers beyond infancy, I still can't drink milk. :(

My lactose intolerance is extraordinarily unfortunate, especially in light of the fact that our friend Chris and Elizabeth (one of our two sets of married couple friends that we hang out with) are throwing us a wine and cheese party on Friday in our behalf celebrating our marriage. So to end this rather rambling post, I present you with a picture from dinner in Long Beach. That was the best cioppino I have ever had in my life. This statement means little since I've only had it like... twice, but it was still a really amazing dish.

See? I'm posting pictures. :) It just takes me a little longer...

15 January 2009


Because I haven't actually blogged about the wedding... it was a very traditional wedding, which is probably surprising to most of my friends, but that meant that it was pretty.

The kiss!

I was wearing 4.75 in heels (apparently. this is according to David's Bridal, but the box said 4.5in)... so I decided to take a seat during pictures or I was going to stop smiling.

14 January 2009

My Two Part Approach to my New Year's Resolutions

Being that I'm still recovering from adolescence, my New Years resolutions usually include "being healthy", which is really just code for "losing weight". This year is no different and I'm taking steps in the right direction (I hope!). I'm going to see about a gym membership on Saturday at Curves. I'm a little skeptical, but it didn't seem *too* expensive and it's way closer to my apartment than the UT gym. I've also resolved to start eating better, which includes my snacks. Tonight it was chicken noodle soup, which was basically chicken stock, noodles, chicken, and veggies (this time being carrots, onion, and celery). The other night we made stir-fry with broccoli, chickpeas, and green pepper all foraged from the local Whole Foods. And I can see now that this post is mostly to showcase my horrible camera skillZ AND to keep with my new year's resolution.

Perhaps, one day, I'll figure out how to incorporate pictures into this... but anywho... The other thing that we've been doing a lot is drinking smoothies for whatever reason. I think part of it is that we got a ginormous bag of frozen strawberries from Costco (which, if you're into bulk goods, is a much better choice than Sam's Club).

Mid-snack, it occurred to me that this is exactly the best food to give to sick kids. Who doesn't love soup when they've got a cold? And these smoothies have so much vitamin C that it's a better way to boost the immune system (and to make Linus Pauling happy) than simply taking vitamin C pills. The only thing that's missing is the Vernor's (which is by far the superior ginger ale if you're into that sort of thing). It's revelations like that that make me want to have babies like yesterday.

11 January 2009

Home! :)

I'm back! As in, I'm back in Austin for the foreseeable future and I have no travel plans until June, in which a couple of weddings occur in Michigan. Despite vague feelings of homesickness, I'm happy to be back in my own space where I get to be in charge and no one yells at me for not doing the dishes immediately after use. In other words, I'm just glad that there are no more grown ups around to yell at my any more.

We left Austin on the 11th of December, traveled between Stockbridge, Lansing, and Harper Woods, Michigan until January 2 and then headed out early that morning and arrived in Austin at 4:00 PM on January 3rd. I promptly got on a plane the following morning at 10:55 AM and headed to Long Beach, CA and returned on the 8th. Needless to say, I'm glad to be back home. All the traveling made for a lot of eating out, which was okay at first because I missed all of my Michigan eateries including (but certainly not limited to), National Coney Island (which is more "Michigan" than "National", but still the best one around), Menna's Joint (which reeks of college... in the good way), and Old Chicago (which reminds me of falling in love with my husband ::waits for the "awws"::). Substantial changes in my family meant that there were no home cooked meals awaiting me at my house, so meal time at home consisted of me catching up with my friends, though we did have a few nice meals with Colby's family. Other than that, the conference was all eating out, and though I did get ridiculously good seafood and confused at Pinkberry*, I was seriously craving something homemade.

Enter the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. The biggest change in my family, aside from the wedding, is that my dad is now engaged to a really nice woman named Denice. My dad, being tapped out from the wedding, gave us a nice card for Christmas, but Denice got us the sausage/pasta maker+vegetable roto-slicer attachment for the standmixer. What's sounds better than a nice big bowl of freshly made spaghetti and meatsauce? I'm pretty sure the answer to that question is nothing. :)

I found a recipe for fresh pasta from AllRecipes which worked out really well. I had just gotten semolina flour from Whole Foods and it made all the difference! I sifted all the dry ingredients (2 c semolina flour, 2 c whole flour, 1 tsp salt) into the mixing bowl and then added 6 eggs and 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil (because that's the oil that was closest to me). I guess next time I'll use just plain olive oil so that it doesn't overpower. I mixed it by hand (since Colby hid the flat paddle attachment) and then once it was mostly combined put it on 2 with the dough hook for 10ish minutes. I then covered it in plastic wrap and walked away for about 30 minutes.

I made Colby put the attachment on, but after that, we dumped walnut-sized pieces into the attachment thing. The most important part is that the pieces are narrow enough to get to the rotating blade. I suppose this description is horribly out of context, but if you have the attachment or if you have the manual, it makes more sense. At any rate, we put this into a large stockpot full of heavily salted water and let it boil for a minute or two after the pasta floated to the top. It turned out really well and was exceptional with the homemade pasta sauce. Though I've posted it before, I feel that I've finally come to a spice/meat decision that makes it work even better.

1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 sm yellow onion, diced
6-7 garlic cloves, minced fine
1.5 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tbs basil
1 tbs parsely
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
s+p to taste

in a pan brown Italian sausage and be sure to break it up. I did this with the Mix'n'chop that I got as a shower gift. It actually worked really well (Thanks, Franny!). In a stock pot heat the EVOO and then add in the onions + salt on low heat. Stir occasionally until the onions are translucent. Add in garlic and stir for ~1min until fragrant. Add in the tomatoes and then the herbs and then the Italian sausage and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the flavors have begun to really meld together. This is actually a modified recipe for a lasagna sauce, so it's meant to be cooked and it's nearly impossible to overcook, so this can be simmered for as long as need be.

01 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Greetings and salutations! May 2009 be filled with a lot more happy than sad to all of you! New years eve was spent, in part, working on a poster that I'm presenting at a conference and cursing my lack of adequate internet access. I spent the other bits of it with good friends and good, um, drink. :)

Today, we came back to Stockbridge to pack up the rest of our stuff in order to start the 1400 mile drive from Michigan to Texas. It should be... interesting. We're taking it slower this time, but I need to be back in town on Sunday, complete with poster in hand to go to Long Beach, CA for the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society. It should be really informative and a lot more relaxing than the other meetings because, for once, I'm not trying to talk to every professor in the convention hall attempting to convince them to let me attend their graduate school.

Much to my surprise, Colby wanted to try the cookie press that we got for the shower. Most unfortunately, it was full of fail. We used a spritz cookie recipe provided with the cookie press and it's mostly butter and flour, meaning that the cookies don't really taste like much, but here's the recipe because I haven't posted one in so long that this almost doesn't count as a cooking blog any more!

Spritz Cookies (from the Pampered Chef)

3 sticks butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3.5 c flour

cream butter. add in sugar, egg, vanilla until thoroughly mixed. add in flour. jam in cookie press and go!

We tried all different kinds of shapes and none of them turned out well, though these three are probably the best of the bunch... which is sad. Next time, I'll use a different recipe and we'll see how it goes. Yay pictures and keeping to my New Years resolution. :)