Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Have your cake...

After caking the cake decorating classes earlier this year, I have become the official cake maker for all family functions. I love this job, I love trying to think of what everyone will like and seeing their faces after they see my creations, that are hopefully everything they hoped for.
September and October are insanely busy with birthdays and anniversaries in my family, so not everyone got cakes, which made me a little sad, but I wouldn't have left my kitchen between 9/20 and 10/29! There are 20 birthdays/anniversaries in that time!
What I was able to do is make cakes for all my cousins who fall in there, and then a separate one for our September/October birthday celebration that we have.
This was my Grandfather's cake, he turned 76 this year. He is a huge country music fan, and a good old southern boy. He adored the simplicity of it, and also the cowboy hat theme. His cake was one layer of vanilla and one of chocolate, filled with buttercream frosting.

This cake was for my cousin Danielle. I'm really close with both her and her twin sister, Devan. Since I started with the decorating, she had been telling me precisely what she wanted, the doll cake that they make. She wanted it to look like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I didn't have much creative license on this one, as she was very specific, but she was superbly happy with the results. Danielle is a chocolate freak! Her cake was chocolate chocolate chocolate. Topped with a thin layer of vanilla (yellow) buttercream.

Then there is Devan's cake. She had no idea what she wanted. I looked back through my cake pictures then the idea hit me. She loved these two cakes I made way back when I started. Her favorite cake that I've made is actually my first cake. It had star tipped circles on it. Then she liked the cake I made for my own graduation party cake. It was insanely bright colors. Her favorite color is yellow and she is the most energetic 15 year old you'll ever meet. I love that about her, so I tried to make the cake feel like her. I think I was pretty successful, and she really loved it. Her cake was vanilla with vanilla frosting, and covered in mmf.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

DB Pizza take 2!

My pizza was a resounding success the first time, but my immediate family got a little mad at me for sharing it with my cousins instead of them. So I remade it for my mom, sister and her boyfriend.
I have to say, I found the dough to be slightly fool proof, as I ran out of bread flour half way through and started using all purpose flour, and still had the same delicious results as I had in the first go around. I love the dough recipe, and will never buy dough again!
This time we had:
BBQ Chicken Pizza. This had Sweet Baby Ray's honey bbq sauce, sauteed chicken, thinly sliced red onions, and mozzarella cheese.

Pepperoni Pizza

Plain old cheese pizza

Peppers and Onions Pizza

Everyone enjoyed it the second time around too. The BBQ chicken was by far the winner this time. However, that is always the winner around here, no matter how the pizza is prepared!

I think that face means that Jenni liked it, what do you think?

Monday, November 10, 2008

When the lights go out...

A few weeks ago here in New York we had a Saturday full of miserable weather, it didn't start out so bad, in fact it started out as a relatively normal northeast autumn day. The sky was blue, with a brisk breeze blowing colorful leaves around. Unfortunately that brisk breeze was bringing in a storm that would eventually leave us without power for more than six hours.... While the rain wasn't a huge surprise to us, as the weathermen had predicted it quite explicitly, the wind was quite unexpected.
Based on the predictions of the weathermen, Precious and I had decided to make chicken and dumplings for dinner. A delicious, warm and cozy food. Growing up with a very picky eater for a father, I had never before tried to cook or eat it. Presh says that the only recipe that she likes for chicken and dumplings is the Cooks Illustrated version. She saved it to her computer a few years ago when she discovered it, and I have been unable to relocate it on their website, but we used the version that she had saved.
Everything started out fine, we started cooking sometime around 4 pm while her 5 year old was contently playing his Nintendo DS and her 4 month old was snoozing soundly in his Stokke. (I'll post more on that later - as I think it is by far the best baby "supply" she has!) We teamed up and chopped and chopped all of the vegetables. The recipe makes a ton of food, we had enough for 3 adults for dinner the first night, then 4 adults the next night. So we finely chopped carrots, celery and onion, a mirepoix if I may. While she cleaned up after our chopping extravaganza, I went ahead and started browning our chicken thighs. We bought half with bones and skin and half without, in a futile effort to make this meal slightly better for you, and by that I mean that is what the grocery store had available.

Once all the chicken was browned and removed from the pot, we drained off all of the excess chicken fat and tossed in all of the nicely chopped vegetables and sauteed until tender. This may not seem like a difficult process, but if you have ever tried to lift a LeCreuset pot, you'd understand that a 13 qt french oven pot is nearly impossible to lift above elbow level to attempt to drain off extra fat!

Once all of our vegetables were nice and soft we added in some flour to make a nice non-floury tasting roux.

The flour turns this gorgeous light brown color, and then you add in the chicken stock and whole milk. Bring it to a boil and plop all of the nicely (now cold) browned chicken back into the pot.

For us, this is when the drama started, the power went out! Luckily, the stove is gas powered, and it was already on, so we could finish cooking the dinner. I do know that you can light a gas stove with a match when there isn't power, but with an infant in the house, I wasn't going to try it for the first time! The good news is that once the chicken was nestled soundly in the cooking liquid, it simply had to simmer away for the next two hours.

After two hours of simmering, and numerous flashlight lit stirrings, we pulled out all of the chicken and shredded it. Then we made the dumplings and dumped the shredded chicken into the pot again and topped with the dumplings.

I covered it and we let it simmer for 15 more minutes and then our lantern lit dinner was served!

Brittney really enjoyed the meal, I don't believe she was actually eating at warp speed, I'm willing to bet is has more to do with my lack of abilities with the dslr camera I was playing around with.

I'm thinking the thought going through her mind at this exact moment is, "Julie, I swear if these pictures end up on your blog, I'm going to beat you!" But, alas here they are...She's gorgeous and enjoying my food, I see no wrong!

Zachary did not like the idea of the power outage, nor did he like the chicken and dumplings. Okay, I guess it isn't fair to say that he didn't like the chicken and dumplings, he didn't try them, he didn't like the idea of them either I suppose.