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Feb
13
Congratulations! Your Archaeology degree comes complete with complimentary whip and felt hat. (Pint-sized Asian orphan side-kick not included.)

Congratulations! Your new Archaeology degree comes complete with complimentary whip and felt hat. (Pint-sized Asian orphan side-kick not included.)

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Feb
13

So here we are; it’s 1:15 am, and today I’ve done all my laundry, vacuumed the floors, done several loads of dishes, made an elaborate dinner, scrubbed the living beJeezus out of various kitchen items that were crying out for it, constructed some high-tech new apparatuses for my bangle storage, watched part one of a three part mini series dvd, reorganised all of my school materials and finished off the very last of my unpacking and somehow I am STILL doing my darnedest to not start reading this essay for class later today.  I’ve really run out of other things to do!  Honestly, though,  if a title like Economic and Social Stress and Material Culture Patterning isn’t enough to warrant the caliber of procrastination that I have valiantly pursued all day today; I have no idea what would be…

Don’t get me wrong– I thoroughly enjoy my ANT 320 class… it’s extremely interesting, and even very entertaining… the professor is great… he may very well already be my favourite at the university… but these confounded essays– the two, three sometimes four of them that we read a week, each at least 10-15 pages of extra small font, often written in overly-elabourate, horribly wordy, head-scratchingly confusing and altogether unnecessarily long-winded asinine 19th Century rhetoric that just makes a girl want to hurl the text book clear out the window.  Obviously Morgan, Tylor, Marx and all the rest of their stuffy old buddies in the Anthro department back in the day failed to receive the critical memo regarding concision…  It’s times like these that make me seriously resent the requirement of an Anthropology major in order to become an Archaeologist…

In order to make a smooth segue from my rant above (and conveniently my homework as well… for the hundredth time today) I’ll clarify the difference between Anthropology and Archaeology here… because it’s something I’m asked rather frequently nowadays.  All Archaeologists are Anthropologists.  Not all Anthropologists are Archaeologists.  Anthropology is the large, general field of study under which Archaeology falls… think of Anthro as the big umbrella under which all of the sub-fields of study fall into neat little categories.  (Sub-fields like Forensic Anthro, Cultural Anthro, Linguistic Anthro, and of course Archaeology, etc.)  Anthropology is the study of culture.  Archaeology is the study of culture through the phsyical remnants they’ve left behind.

We’re the ones that rope off big ol’ dig sites, dividing them into neat, highly organised string-line grids and get down and dirty, unearthing pots and relics and bones and ruins, mapping everything in excruciating detail as we go.  We’re the ones that literally uncover history.  Anthropology entails analysing, theorising, categorising and a lot of other brain-bending, yawn-inducing intangible processes that require various other words that also end in the suffix –orising.  Archaeology is the super cool hands-on, fly to the ends of the earth to exotic locations and dig up all the cool things ancient societies have left behind approach.  This usually does not include chalices, treasures and riches, however… this ain’t no Indiana Jones adventure, man.  Honestly ancient garbage dumps are what really tickle us Archaeologists pink…. seriously.  Nobody goes into Archaeology for fame and fortune nowadays.  Most of the major treasure troves– like the tombs of the Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs whose rooms after rooms after rooms were more obscenely chock-full of gold than a New Jersy Mafioso home– have long-since been plundered or excavated.  Every single ounce of that gold and precious material from finds like those will have all been taken by a whole range of characters from grave robbers to scientists either to be melted down, pawned, sold as collection pieces or displayed in museums around the world.  So when one goes into Archaeology, one accepts the impending life of a pauper that invariably lies ahead.  It’s okay, though;  who needs money when you’re living your passion, right?  (Besides;  large amounts of money are what generous donors and research grants are for : D)

Anyhow, that’s my humble little spiel on Archaeology vs. Anthropology.  It is in no way the proper, scientific definition of either, and should be relied upon or referenced in intelligent conversation [or to answer Jeopardy! questions] only at your own peril discretion.  But I think the general idea has been conveyed… And when people ask me what I want to do in the way of a career, I proudly reply that “I want to be a dig monkey when I grow up.”  And that’s the God honest truth.  : )  [And yes; dig monkey is a proper, scientific term.]

Okay.  It’s now past 2:30 am and this post is no longer too short for my own personal publishing standards, and I am officially– at long last– completely out of excuses for putting this effing homework off… so Social Stress and Material Culture Patterning here I come.

*Yawn*

Nov
25

Good news!  I finally got around to making Chicken Pot Pie today.  Well… a sort of bastardised, custom-made version of it anyway…  I’ll admit, it was a serious, SERious wing-job.  I definitely had no idea if it’d turn out at all, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, and I’ll say I was very pleasantly surprised.

It all started with the dang Gravy for this coming Thursday (Thanksgiving).   I told my mother I’d help her with some of the cooking so she wouldn’t have to do it all herself.  One of the things I agreed to make was the Gravy… we’re having a Chicken for T-Day as well as a Turkey, as the general consensus among Thursday’s attendees was that Chicken is way tastier than Turkey… So I decided to make a Chicken Gravy.  Sadly mum refused to let me make the Gravy fresh, on the day-of, from the Chicken we were actually going to be eating, and instead insisted that I make it several days before-hand so as to minimise any stress, unecessary kitchen-crowding and any other general havoc.  Meh.

So I only know three ways to make Chicken Gravy: 1. With Giblets.  (Ew.),  2. From a packet, tin, jar, etc., or 3. With the drippings of an actual Roast Chicken.  Well, as previously stated, I think we can all agree that Giblets are yucky (I’m so refined, aren’t I?), and I certainly wasn’t going to make a powdered Gravy, so the only other option was… to roast a whole dang Chicken.  And that’s exactly what I did today.  It came out lovely and flavourful and made the house smell spectacular and produced a beautiful rich broth which I used to make the gravy.  Yay.  Mission accomplished.  But then there was the issue of a whole roast Chicken just chillin’ on the counter, all dressed up and noplace to go.  How sad.  So I told mom not to make dinner tonight, that I’d do so instead…. enter…[dramatic fanfare]… Chicken Pot Pie!

I’ve always wanted to make Chicken Pot Pie… I mean for forever now…. like since I’ve ever even known it existed… I’ve just never gotten around to it… partially because I’ve heard my family admit to not being so keen on it in general….  But neverthheless, I’ve been intent on giving it a go for years and years now, and today was that fateful day, my friends.  I decided to put my own spin on the classic which I had a hunch might make it bit more to my family’s tastes than the traditional version….  For starters, I hate making shortcrust pastry dough (an odd thing to say for someone who loves to bake as much as I do, I know), it’s just such a darn pain, and not particularly healthy, to boot.  So I decided to borrow Martha Stewart’s method of substituting the traditional crust with a layer of Phyllo Dough on top…  to lighten things up.  Well that would have required a trip to my supermarket’s freezer aisle… which I didn’t have a problem with… until it became clear that I wasn’t going to have a car in time to make said trip, so I had to improvise.  I decided I’d attempt a sort of  savoury cobbler/crumble/streusel-like top layer with Bisquick and Butter.  (Admittedly not much more healthy than the Shortcrust Pastry, I know, but DARN tasty!!)  It worked out nicely…. I shredded the breast meat of the Roast Chicken which turned out to be the perfect amount for the dish, and I chopped up Potatoes, Carrots and Onions, tossed them in Olive Oil with some minced Garlic, Salt, Pepper and Paprika and roasted the vegetables until they were nice and brown and very flavourful.  I sauteed some chopped Onions in Butter and then threw in some Flour, Chicken Stock and a little Heavy Whipping Creme and seasoned it all with fresh Pepper, Salt and a dash of fresh grated Nutmeg to make a lovely thick Gravy.  I mixed the Chicken, roasted Veg, a few scoops of frozen peas and some fresh Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (yeah now I have that song stuck in my head, great), put them in a ceramic pie dish, poured the Gravy over it, and then sprinkled the Bisquick Streusel over the top and jammed it in the oven.  It turned out fantastically!  Even my Pot Pie Pooh Pooh-ing family loved it.  : )

I decided to roast the Veg because I love the flavour of roasted Root Vegetables, and thought it would offer a much richer flavour to the dish than just tossing them in with the Gravy and simmering till tender like I saw in other recipes.  I’ll definitely make it again, it’s great for using up perfectly good left-over Chicken, and it’s one of those nice dishes that’s adaptable to whatever happens to be available in the cupboards, so you don’t have to run out to the store and buy a bunch of stuff to make it…  I’m still keen on trying the Phyllo Dough at some point though.  Mmmm. I wish I had another bowl of it right now….  ; d

Nov
12

Anderson CooperHappy November, kids.  The holidays are nearly upon us, and I have to say I’m pretty excited this year.  I think after having spent last Christmas in Africa where the temperatures were sweltering and their Yuletide celebrations were less than underwhelming, I seem to have a shiny new appreciation for the holidays this year… something I hadn’t anticipated.  I was actually hit by a wave of excited giddiness the other day when I heard an obnoxious re-worded rendition of Carol of the Bells for… oh, I dunno, Wal Mart or something…. Usually those types of advertisements (long before Thanksgiving, no less) just make me want to throw the remote through the TV Jason Isaacs screen, but apparently not this year.  Hooray for actually being in the holiday spirit this time ’round!  Don’t get me wrong… I had an incredible experience in Cameroon last year (especially when my parents were on the phone telling me it was well below 0° in Chicago and the power had gone out while I was preparing to hit the beach and work on the ol’ tan… I know, I’m an insensitive a-hole.)  However, while a very large chunk of the population in Cameroon is Christian in some form or another, they just have no idea how to celebrate Christmas properly.  I tell you this now; you will never fully appreciate the excruciating irritation brought on by musical Christmas lights, [which seems to be the only variety they sell in the entire region] until you’ve heard “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” at least 1000 times in that scratchedy, high-pitched, whiny digital droning.  Everywhere you go.  Egh, I still cringe at the memory.

Anyhow, I realise I’ve already rambled on for an entire paragraph now and haven’t yet made any acknowledgment of the pictures of deliciousness that I have strategically planted throughout this post of mine.  I’m getting to that.  I was just hoping that perhaps Santa’d catch a glimpse of this humble little blog of mine and maybe I could wake up to one (or more) of these boys under my Christmas tree on the morning of the 25th….  Not too unreasonable a request I should think?  And before anybody wants to callously dash my dreamsJon Hamm; yes, I am fully aware that Jason Isaacs is married with children, that Jon Hamm has a long-time girlfriend and that Anderson Cooper is rumoured to be homosexual.  Details, details.  I can work around all that.  Seriously.  I’ve been REALly good this year.  Please?

Okay, anyway, I know it’s actually been a while since I’ve posted anything on this bad boy.  It’s been a very busy past few months, and I’ve actually made a few life-altering decisions in that time (yay life-altering decisions!)  Mainly… to go back to school and finish up my degree in Anthropology.  Yeah.  That’s all I’m going to say about that for the time being.  We’ll leave my Yay-for-Realising-my-lifelong-Dream-of-Becoming-an-Archaeologist spiel for another post. Though I will include the disclaimer that… well  from here on out this is now a blog from the perspective of…. a student.  So, you know, you may be subjected to posts about bones and relics and ancient civilisations and such.  All 100% fascinating, I assure you.  Though if you ever read this for my cooking and baking antics… need I remind you that the holidays are nigh and everybody knows the holidays mean pies and cookies and cakes and all sorts of thigh-thickening fun.  Not to mention my gingerbread log cabin project which, admittedly, may or may not actually be realised this season.  We’ll see.  But either way, there are still guaranteed to be plenty of culinary shenanigans and experiments in my kitchen to report about in the next couple of months.  So until next time, my loyal readers (all 2 of you…)….

I wish you a good night, and sweet dreams of Sugarplum Fairies and super sexy 1960’s ad men! ; )

Sep
11

Ahhh Sunday Roast.  A time for friends and family to gather over a hearty, savoury, home-cooked, and lovingly prepared meal on the last day of the weekend to relax and catch up and recollect before a new week begins.  My family is like most others in the city in this day and age… we’re busy, overstressed and wouldn’t slow down and spend time together unless we made excuses to do so.  My brother and sister in law live only a 30 minute drive away and yet it’s like they’re in a whole world apart, living their lives off in the distance with intermittent contact with mom, dad and little sister (me).  So I instated the institution of Sunday Roast within the family, as it combines my love of cooking and baking for my friends and family, and my love of spending time with them on the official day o’ rest.  It’s such a quaint, lovely old fashioned tradition, who wouldn’t want to have Sunday Roast every week!

(Note: Many people I use the phrase “Sunday Roast” in front of seem to be slightly confused about the concept;  the term “Roast” is used loosely here, in a general, generic form to simply mean a hearty, slow cooked, savory meal that doesn’t necessarily include roasted meat….  Maybe it’s a British thing?)

So my brother and sister in law just returned from their very first trip to Europe, and needless to say the p and m and I are quite excited to hear all about it and see their pictures.  This Sunday’s Roast is our opportunity to do so!

As my sister in law, Sara, doesn’t eat red meat, I decided to go with a Chicken dish… and what better than my very favourite; Ina Garten’s recipe for Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic!  I swear you would barely know there’s even any Garlic in it at all, let alone 40 cloves… honest!!  I adore this recipe because the Chicken comes out tender and moist and is served in an absolutely devine creamy, herby sauce.  I highly recommend it!!

With the Chicken (I’m already drooling in anticipation…) I plan on making Potatoes Boulangere… which is essentially the same as Potatoes au Gratin in that it’s a baked dish with layers of thinly sliced Potatoes and Onions… however without the Cream and Cheese….  For every potato in the world there is surely one more recipe for Potatoes Boulanagere, and it can be quite difficult to choose just one recipe out of the sea of them on Google… but the one I’ve made is extremely simple: Potatoes, Onions, Chicken Stock/Broth, Butter, Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg.  Other recipes I’ve seen include herbs, creme, milk, etc.  My recipe of choice’s simplicity is deceptive;  make no mistake that it packs a wallop of flavour despite it’s short list of ingredients!  Be wise, though, when selecting a broth…. the flavour of the dish is all about the broth.

As my brother, Matt, is a total baby about consuming anything with Onions, I’m tempted to opt for Mashed Potatoes instead, but we’ll see.  (Imagine; nearly 30 and still squeamish as ever about eating something like Onions!  I was so hoping he would grow out of it…. I think I’m out of luck on that one…)

For the vegetables I made roasted Brussels Sprouts last time, as the Chicken and Potatoes were quite moist and saucy.  It was good to have the contrast of the dry-ish (not dried-out, mind you) Sprouts, which rounded the meal out very nicely.  Unfortunately, however…. my family isn’t entirely keen on Sprouts… Boo.  I thought maybe roasted Root Vegetables… but alas, my dad hates Parsnips.  (How anybody could hate Parsnips is beyond me… they’re one of my all-time favourite vegetables…)  I’m thinking of maybe roasting some Carrots and steaming some Peas and then tossing them in a dish toegether at the last minute?  I dunno, we’ll see.

And last, but certainly not least; for dessert– Cherry Clafouti!!  Okay, now if you’ve never had a Cherry Clafouti… drop everything immediately and go out and get the ingredients to make yourself one.  Seriously.  Right now.  Before it turns cold and you can’t get decent Cherries any more, find a farmer’s market and pick some up for Heaven’s sake!  This is one of the best desserts ever.  (Note: The link above gives a little bit of background on the dessert as well as the recipe that I like to use, and photos.  I do not, in fact, use a cast iron skillet to prepare my Clafouti, as all of mine have been used to prepare meats and fish… and if you’re unaware… cast iron has flavour memory, and needless to say; I do not want my desserts tasting like last week’s blackened Halibut.  So until I buy a new, separate cast iron skillet set aside solely for the purpose of non-savoury dishes…. it’s the spring form pan for me!)

Clafouti (kla-foo-TEE) is a traditional dessert from the Limousin region of France during the peak cherry season and is often served as a breakfast dish. In France, the dish is often made without pitting the cherries because the pits are thought to enhance the flavor of the batter with a perfume faintly reminiscent of almonds. Whole cherries are also less likely to bleed into the batter.

Essentially Cherry Clafouti is like a big, creamy, custardy, rich pancake filled with beautiful fresh ripe Cherries and topped with Confectioners’ Sugar.  It’s not too sweet, it’s lovely and flavourful and my family ate the entire thing in about ten minutes.  (They don’t usually do that sort of thing, so… that’s saying something.)  You can also make the dish with fruits other than Cherries, like Apples and Plums and Figs and Pears and Blueberries, etc.  I don’t even usually like Cherry desserts, or Custards… but this is just phenomenal.  I like to whip up a fresh batch of home made Whipped Cream to dallop on top of this bad boy after it’s been cut up and dished out.  Yum.  : )

Cherry Clafouti

Cherry Clafouti

Sep
10

This past Monday was my Grandfather (heretofore referred to as Opa)’s birthday.  His very favourite dessert is… chocolate cake.  As I was unable to attend his birthday dinner (my grandparents are German… they eat dinner in the middle of the afternoon…) because I was working, I wanted to send him some birthday cakes with my mother.

So Devils Food Cakes it was!  I wanted to experiment with fillings (as usual) so I went with the trusty 4″ springforms and I was quite pleased with the results.  I actually found a recipe for Devils Food Cake on Foodnetwork.com and was rather pleased to see that the icing recipe that accompanied it was exactly what I had in mind… sparing me the search for a decent ganache recipe!

I made three different fillings; two of each type (so six cakes total), the first of which I filled with a lovely Raspberry and Blackberry Compote, based loosely on a recipe…. that I will post as soon as I remember where I got it!  I ended up adding a teaspoon or two of Corn Starch to make sure it was very very thick and substantial, as I didn’t want it soaking into the cake too much or running all over the place… It turned out very well.  I then covered it with the ganache and it was very nice.

For cake number two I rolled out some fresh Almond Paste about 1/4-1/2″ thick and cut out a circle of it with a cookie cutter just a little bit smaller than the cakes themselves.  I put the Almond rounds between the cake layers while they were just out of the oven and still quite hot in the hopes that it would melt the paste just a little or at least soften it so they would adhere… Not sure if that actually worked or not, but I then covered it with the ganache and it was a lovely, light Almond flavour accompanied by a nice, slightly solid texture to counter the soft, gooey textures of the cake and icing.

Cake number three was definitely my favourite.  I made Mascarpone Whipped Creme, which is simply a cup of Heavy Whipping Creme, 3/4 cup room temperature Mascarpone Creme and 1/2 cup Confectioners’ Sugar.  It’s actually Giada DiLaurentiis’ recipe… I adore Mascarpone Creme and do what I can to use it as often as possible.  It’s so rich and incredibly yummy.  It’s one of the best improvements you can possibly make on fresh, home made Whipped Cream, believe you me.  So the filling as well as the external frosting was the Mascarpone Cream for this cake.  It was light and fluffy which was a lovely contrast with the rich, dense chocolatey cake.  I was extremely pleased with the combination of the two flavours and textures.  Not to mention the colour combination looked pretty cool as well.

: d

Sep
09

So this past weekend was…as this post’s title suggests… chock-full of Eggplanty goodness.  I had a dinner date with Jellybean on Friday, and as she is a Vegetarian, I was delighted to try my idea of a noodle-less Lasagna on her.  (Don’t bother pointing out that the idea has been thought of before…what’s important here is that I arrived at it independantly.  *Ahem*)  So instead of standard Lasagne noodles, I sliced and grilled Eggplants and let me tell you; the flavour was absolutely devine.  I love grilled Eggplant, and personally I think the dish was way more satisfying and flavourful with the Aubergines than with plain, boring old carbohydrate and calorie-ridden noodles!

If you want to try the dish (and if you like vegetables in any way, shape or form, I highly recommend doing so) I shall give you the rough recipe.  (This is what I used because it’s what I had on hand; feel free to add to, omit from, or otherwise mess with the following list based on your preferences, available ingredients and preferred quantities/proportions.)  It turned out to be a lovely hearty dish that was extremely satisfying, full of great flavour and didn’t taste at all like health food, though it was quite low in calories.

Ingredients:

1 Large Eggplant

1 each red, orange, yellow and green Bell Peppers

1 yellow Onion

2 Roma Tomatoes

2 jars of Tomato Sauce

2-3 cloves of Garlic

Olive Oil

Fresh Basil

Ricotta Cheese

Mozzarella Cheese

So I sliced the Eggplant lengthwise in 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick strips (they thin considerably when you grille them, so don’t be shy with the thickness), and if you’ve never worked with Eggplant before you need to know that you have to treat them before cooking them to rid them of their natural bitter flavour.  Just unroll a couple of cookie-sheet sized pieces of Aluminium Foil and lay the slices of Eggplant out in a single layer and sprinkle generously on both sides with Salt.  Let them sit for a several minutes until moisture starts to bead on the flesh of the Eggplant.  Then rinse them under the tap, pat dry with a paper towel, brush lightly with Olive Oil and stick ’em on the grille!  I used a griddle/grille dealie for my cook top because I didn’t feel like starting up the grille outside.

Grille the Eggplant for several minutes until done (see the photo gallery below for what they look like when they’re done if you aren’t sure what “done” looks like.)  It’s pretty easy to get awesome-looking grille marks on Eggplants…and while such aesthetic features aren’t quite necessary in a dish like this since it’s all covered with sauce and cheese in the end, the caramellisation adds infinite amounts of lovely flavour.  So be patient; it’s worth it!

While grilling the Eggplant I smashed a few cloves of Garlic and threw them on the griddle as well until they were lovely and brown and aromatic (and cooked all the way through).  After they were done grilling, I chopped the cloves roughly and set them aside.

Once all the Eggplant was grilled I began the layering process, beginning with a thin coating of Olive Oil on the sides and bottom of my small rectangular baking dish.  Then a thin layer of the Tomato Sauce (mine was jarred from Whole Foods and turned out to actually be very tasty, which made up for me not having the time to make a home made sauce) and then a layer of the Eggplant.

On top of that I put the Bell Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes– all sliced and all uncooked.  I was worried I should have grilled these ingredients as well, but couldn’t do so because of a time crunch, and just kinda hoped for the best with the raw-ness… It actually turned out very well texturally.  So I’d say leave ’em raw!

On top of that I layered slices of Mozzarella (I actually used Vegan Mozzarella which… despite my wariness when it comes to Vegan products in general… was actually extremely scrumptious!) and Ricotta (low Fat) and then sprinkled half of the Garlic and chiffonaded Basil on top.  (whew!)

On top of all that came a generous layer of Tomato Sauce, followed by another layer of Eggplant, then Ricotta and Mozzarella, the rest of the Garlic and Basil and Roma Tomatoes and then another layer of Sauce, on top of which I grated more Mozzarella.

I popped that baby in the oven on 350° for about 45 minutes or until the sauce started bubbling (ok that was definitely an estimate on time… I wasn’t actually paying attention to the time at all that night… just look for the bubbling sauce!), then broiled it for several minutes just until the tips of the Mozzarella bits began to brown, and then took it out to let it sit to set up a bit for about 10 minutes.

Vegan Mozzarella (don’t write it off before trying it! It’s really yummy and much lower in fat than regular cheese!) doesn’t quite melt like regular Mozzarella.  It “melts”… just…. not quite like what you’re used to.  So don’t gauge the Lasagna’s done-ness by the cheese.

I’ll admit I kind of winged it with this dish, but Jellybean and I were SO pleased.  It’s good, rib-sticking, hearty, satisfying food that you can pretty much eat all you want of because it’s almost entirely vegetables.  It’s vegetarian (though could easily be made otherwise, obviously), and I swear I wasn’t making it up when I said it doesn’t taste like I health food!

So as usual, I got too much of all of my ingredients… and when I needed to make dinner that Sunday, I thought I’d take advantage of the surplus of Eggplants lying around the kitchen!  I went with Eggplant Rollatini, which starts out essentially the same as the Lasagna;  grilled slices of Eggplant.  Same procedure.  Then in a bowl I mixed the leftover Ricotta and Mozzarella with a bit of Gruyere and Asiago, one Egg, choped Basil, a little salt, fresh ground Pepper and a dash of Nutmeg.  Slather the ol’ rectangular baking dish up with a bit more Olive Oil and begin making your Rollatini by taking a slice of the Eggplant and putting about a tablespoon or so of the Cheese mixture in one end of the Eggplant and rolling it up width-wise and line the Rollatini up in the pan.  Cover with Tomato Sauce and grated Mozzarella and bake until the Sauce bubbles and voila.  Dinner in a flash!  Yum!!

So there you have it;  my Eggplant-filled weekend.  It was also a Devil’s Food Cake-filled weekend, but I’ll save that for the next post.

Bon Apetit!

Sep
07

Baking– It’s like the perfect man; Hot, Rich and Sweet…

…If only I could marry it.

Aug
31

I’ve finally found a recipe for simple almond cake. You have no idea how difficult it is to find a decent recipe for just plain almond cake online. Sheesh! I stumbled across this little gem last night, and while it’s actually a recipe for funfetti cupcakes, I just omitted the sprinkles and used little cake tins instead of cupcake tins. I was so happy with the results, the cakes turn out moist and flavourful and just absolutely awesome. They were exactly what I was hoping for!

So I have these adorable mini cake and pie tins that I’ve been meaning to use for ages, and I’ve been wanting to test out a few ideas for almond cake that I’ve been toying around with in my head for a while now, and last night I finally had the opportunity. I made three little cakes, each 4″ or so in diameter. I wasn’t so much concerned with appearance last night as with tastes, so please forgive the sloppy assembly and presentations!

Cake number one turned out really well. It was my mum’s favourite of the three. After letting it cool, I sliced it in half and spread a generous layer of Boysenberry Jam as the filling. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed when I realised we were out of Raspberry Jam as I had originally had in mind, but the Boysenberry ended up working really nicely with the lime glaze I put on top. The combination of the almond, the citrusy flavour of the Lime and the lovely sweetness of the Boysenberry was really nice… The glaze was just a simple frosting made of Confectioner’s Sugar and Milk, to which I added a bit of fresh squeezed Lime Juice and a drop of neon green food colouring to tint it. I realised, though that the Juice made the glaze a little too thin for my liking when I poured it on top of the cake. It pretty much soaked right in and ended up looking something like a buttered crumpet or English muffin, which isn’t all together bad, but it wasn’t at all what I was going for. I realised using the browned sides of the cakes helped prevent absorption (duh), as well as thickening the glaze. I think next time I might just omit the milk and stick with the juice….or just add more sugar. We’ll see. I put a few scrapings of the Lime Zest on top for identification purposes, as well as to make it look pretty.

Cake number two (not shown) was my favourite. I made a batch of Vanilla Pudding for the filling and for the glaze I used Coconut Milk instead of regular Milk and the result was great. The coconut flavour was very delicate but definitely present, and it had a really wonderful, rich, authentic taste to it; not artificial and saccharine sweet like you so often get with coconut-flavoured sweets. It was an extremely moist, creamy cake that wasn’t overly sweet or heavy, which was really nice. Plus I absolutely love coconut. The cake itself was kind of ugly because I did a rubbish job of cutting the domed tops off to make the layers even and level (I was being a little impatient), but the glaze gave it that Krispy Kreme donut look. So next time when I actually take my time with it, it’ll look absolutely gorgeous, especially with a little pile of toasted coconut shavings on top. Obviously I’ll be concentrating a little more on aesthetics when I make this for an audience next time.

Cake number three was my cousin/guinea pig, CJ’s favourite. Almond Glaze with Boysenberry filling. Pretty, elegant, simple and a lovely delecate flavour. Yum. Oh, and those are chocolate shavings on top because I didn’t have any boysenberries…

I loved the rich, moist, fluffy, aromatic Almond Cake which was fantastic on it’s own, actually, but the glaze was a really perfect compliment to the cake as it was nice and thin and by no means overwhelming. It looked really nice and added just the right amount of moisture and sticky sweetness. (Not to mention it’s one of the easiest frostings to make and work with.)

So there. Now I know what to whip up next time I’ve got a party to attend and don’t want to have to break my back for a dessert that will disappear within seconds. Yum.

Aug
29

Well not really… It’s actually kind of annoying.

I’ve been dyslexic all of my life (obviously), but didn’t know it until several years ago. It was never severe enough for it to be blatently obvious. Plus when you’re a kid who doesn’t know any better, you don’t realise that what you’re going through isn’t normal, and you don’t know to tug on your mother’s skirt and say “HEY LADY, TAKE ME TO A SHRINK FOR SOME TESTING, I THINK I’VE GOT A FEW LEARNING DISABILITIES HERE!” I think kids just assume they stink at school.

So for the first 19 or so years of my life my brain just learned to compensate for the dyslexia on its own for the most part without me even realising it. Usually if I write/type a mistake due to dyslexia I automatically fix it immediately, or sometimes even catch myself quickly enough to correct it in my head just before I write it.  By now it’s my brain’s unconscious, involuntary reaction.

I’m guilty of a lot of Spoonerisms, though most of my issues are with numbers rather than letters. It’s strange looking at a number, for instance 1:15, and seeing 1:15 but saying in my head 1:51. I’ll see it correctly. But register it wrong. But since I know I so often register it wrong, I know to go by what I’ve seen and not what I think. Does that make any sense at all?? Probably not… but it’s really hard to put into words for people what it is exactly that really happens… I also often have to consciously think when trying to distinguish between directions (as in Left and Right, not geographical directions like North and South, etc.) which I chalk up to the dyslexia… And I’m pretty rubbish at talking. Especially when I get excited or upset. I’m just really clumsy at getting the words out properly. You have no idea how frustrating that can be. That’s one of the reasons I love to write so much. So much easier than talking; I’m actually able to take my time and express what it is I’m trying to explain or describe instead of just getting frustrated and giving up or not even trying to begin with. I have have a whole slew of various other manifestations of the disability, like issues with physical orientation and clumsiness and memory, etc. but I think you get the idea.

I have a few other issues with my noggin as well, like A.D.D. and various other learning disabilities, most of which have to do with math. I didn’t know about any of those until I was 19 either. I finally figured out why my entire school career was such a miserable, frustrating, hair-pulling, tear-inducing experience for me and my parents. I didn’t go undiagnosed and untreated for so many years because my parents are horrible, unattentive, or inept at raising children. My parents are pretty incredible, actually. But they were baffled by me as a child. This was back in the 80’s and early 90’s when learning disabilities and A.D.D. weren’t household concepts, so they were pretty clueless about the whole thing. I tested extremely well but daily school was abysmal… they had no idea what to do with me.

I realise this is kind of a downer subject, and not a particularly exciting story, but I wanted to write about it in the hopes that maybe some frazzled parent who’s just learned their child has a learning disability, or is just having trouble in school, might stumble across my little post, and perhaps gain a little insight from it. I’m always more than willing to talk to people about it [and my life as an adoptee, for the record–in case anyone ever wants to know anything about adoption] and give them any information that may help. So please; feel free to contact me if you would like to know more, as I’ve kind of given you the tip o’ the iceberg version here…

It is my firm belief that because I am, in fact, adopted and neither of my adoptive parents have any of these issues…. they were pretty much blindsided by this. I know my birth mother has A.D.D., and who knows what else, and I believe these types of things are very much genetic. When I have kids, I’m extremely grateful for the fact that I pretty much know to anticipate this. I’m going to watch them like a hawk for any and every sign of learning disabilities and take the necessary actions with them in school as soon as possible.

You can’t begin to imagine how frustrated my parents were with me on a nightly basis when it was homework time (or, if you’re one of those frazzled parents, you probably CAN). I don’t think I know of any other household that has shed as many tears as mine over learning the times tables, and if your third grader sits down to start their homework immediately after they get home from school and still isn’t done by the time bedtime rolls around… well I don’t think I need to tell you you’ve got a little problem on your hands… School was just a nightmare, and if my parents and I had known then what we know now about my issues, things would have been very very different. Even just knowing what you’re dealing with helps you in your approach to the situation…

(Nothing wrong with a little comic relief to lighten up the mood after such a serious post, eh? Ralph agrees…)