V-Day Countdown

11 02 2009


In case you’re living under a rock, Saturday is Valentine’s Day, which means that the preparations are underway at The Casa. I have already picked up dinner supplies – pizza and an early bedtime for the kids; fillets, twice-baked potatoes, steamed asparagus, and lava cake for us – but what I’m struggling with is a gift. I’m easy to shop for – shiny things and geeky gadgets make my little heart go pitter-pat – but I’m having a hard time figuring out what to get the Hubs. I did a little too well at picking out gifts for him at Christmas, so there’s nothing in particular that he wants or really needs. Hmmm… I may have to tkae this one to my Girls and see what they come up with.

Meanwhile, we’re bracing for another storm. We’re already under a tornado watch, so I’m really hoping that we don’t have to revisit this scenario anytime soon. And if I see the following, I’m not coming out of my basement anytime soon!


Ho-Ho-Hell Yeah!

26 12 2008

This may sound very un-mommylike of me, but I’m very glad that Christmas is over. No more frenzied baking, shopping, and moments of forced gaiety. And the minute I wake up on New Year’s Day, the Christmas crap is coming down! Monday, my dog managed to surprise me by moving the Christmas tree three times in the span of two hours. Not bad for a dog whose intellectual capacity generally rivals that of a bowling ball, eh? Despite my je-ne-sais-whatever (you do know that making up words is a slight obsession of mine, right?), The Baby had a great Christmas: lots of presents and great food, if I must say so myself. For those keeping track at home, dinner consisted of sweet pepper stew, sausage stuffed pork loin, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, crusty bread, and pecan pie.

Meanwhile, the job search resumes, now that the holiday machine is getting ready to grind to a screeching halt. Wednesday is my last day at work and it’s going to be a tough day. I never wanted to leave and maybe this would be easier to accept if I had done something wrong However, it is what it is (a layoff) and I don’t have time to sit and feel sorry for myself.

On a totally random note, what is the deal with WP? All of a sudden, I can’t insert photos into my posts. Why???

Escape Mechanism or Overcompensation? You Decide.

29 11 2008

Thanksgiving weekend is now halfway behind us and, after having survived being housebound with two kids, I can offer a few survival tips:

  • Bribery will get you everywhere. Last weekend, we initiated a non-annoyance clause and forced the girls to work together to get something they wanted.
  • Thank God for the library and its video collection.
  • Thank God for tryptophan. Who knew the Baby would love turkey and gravy so much?
  • Finding time for yourself is a good thing. Yesterday, I carved out some time for a run, which helped me get to my “happy place” and stop focusing so much on the noise and craziness at home.

My other favorite distraction is baking and, thankfully, this is the weekend for yet another Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Carmamel Cake with Carmelized Butter Frosting by Shauna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, courtesy of Dolores at Culinary Curiosity, with help from Alex of Blondie and the Brownie, Jenny of Foray Into Food, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go. Click here to find the original recipe.



10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Notes from Natalie for those of you baking gluten-free:

So the GF changes to the cake would be:

2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1/2 – 1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)
– makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels –

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer


Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

(recipe from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111)

Chef’s notes: this recipe didn’t excite me a whole lot, as I just don’t like too much “sweet” at one time, but this does make a nice treat for those who stop by during the busy holiday season! I thought the recipe was fairly easy to make, but it is pretty labor-intensive, so I would recommend only making this for those who would appreciate all of the work involved (ie: not kids or dessert-scarfing husbands). I doubled the recipe for the cake itself so I could make a double layer cake. BTW, it’s hard to stay out of the syrup because it tastes like liquid toasted marshmallows (ie: crack-tastic).


Gettin’ My Nerd On!

23 11 2008


It is officially Thanksgiving week and nothing warms the cockles of my nerdy little heart quite as much as planning The Dinner (a close second would be getting refill pages for my organizer book, but that’s a different entry!). Yep, Turkey Day is in par with the Super Bowl, in terms of planning and preparation, at least as far as I’m concerned. This year’s menu is lifted entirely from the pages of Real Simple (let me clarify by saying that my brother started bugging me before Halloween, in hopes of getting me to pin down a menu. For the record, I prefer to set the menu a little closer to the actual day because the menu usually depends on both my mood and my finances, so I don’t usually appreciate being pressured into making a decision a month ahead of time.). In case you’re still struggling with the menu, here’s mine. I have also linked to recipes:


Gravy (I’m cheating and making it from a pouch, as homemade gravy eludes me)


Stuffing (from a box)

Sour cream mashed potatoes

Maple glazed carrots

Roasted brussels sprouts

Cranberries (from a can. It’s just easier that way)

Pumpkin cheesecake

For the record, I am all about roasting a turkey in an oven bag. There’s less mess and the turkey comes out perfectly each time. Speaking of the turkey, I got mine yesterday and our local store is running a special where you can buy your turkey for 29 cents per pound with a $30 purchase, so I got a 20 pound bird for about $5. Happy, happy!

Speaking of nerdy delight, this week, I am also in the process of deep cleaning the Casa for company. Nothing makes me happier than a clean house (aside from new pages for my organizer, but, again, I’ll write about that another time).

Right now, I am playing Nurse Mommy to two sick kids. The Baby has a viral infection and antibiotics have no affect on this particular bug, so we’re going to have to ride this out, meanwhile, the Big Kid is just getting the same bug, so they’re both pretty miserable and I hope they’re both back up to full strength by Thursday, or else Thanksgiving Day could be kind of rough.

Speaking of the holiday, I’m working on my list of things to be thankful for. Of course, I’m grateful for Hubs and the kids, but I’m also grateful for my job. While I’m still bitter about having to look for work, I’m thankful that I still have a job through the holidays, but, more importantly, this position has taught me about what I want to do and what I’m capable of doing. I have learned new skills and made contacts I might now have been able to make otherwise. Now that I have had this experience, I know now that I can’t settle for anything less.

Friday is the infamous Black Friday and while I’m all about getting good deals, I hate going into stores on that particular day, which is why I’ll be doing a lot of my shopping online. What about you? Do you shop on Black Friday? Earlier? Later?

If you’re looking for toys, might I suggest heading over to Small World Toys for educational toys, games, etc. Use code “SALE 147” to receive 20% off of your entire order and free shipping if your order is $100 or more.

A Few of My Favorite Things

1 11 2008

Last night was trick or treat night and the Baby cleaned up. She went as a “Rainbow Barbie Fairy Princess,” which was absolutely adorable, despite the fact that her costume was already falling apart and this was only the second wearing (she wore it last weekend for the Halloween party at our church). We have tons of candy, which Hubs won’t let me take to work, and the Baby had a great night.

One of my Halloween traditions is that I make a pot of chili on trick or treat night. So, I tried a new recipe, Buffalo Chicken Chili, courtesy of Rachael Ray. The finishing touch is that you top it with tortilla chips and melted blue cheese:

Buffalo Chicken Chili

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 ounces)
  • 1 can stewed, fire-roasted or crushed tomatoes (15 ounces)
  • 1 sack whole grain tortilla chips, lightly crushed
  • 3/4 pound Maytag Blue cheese, crumbled
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Place a large pot over medium-high heat with the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan. Add the ground chicken and break it up, lightly browning it for 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, paprika and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes. Add the chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot.

Add the hot sauce, tomato sauce and the stewed, fire-roasted or crushed tomatoes to the chili and bring up to a bubble. Simmer for 8-10 minutes more to let the flavors come together.

While the chili is simmering, pre-heat the broiler.

Spread the chips out on a cookie sheet. Top with the crumbled blue cheese and transfer to the oven to melt the cheese, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

Top each serving of Buffalo Chicken Chili with a few blue cheese chips.


One of my favorite things to do is cook, especially this time of year when you get stuck inside because of miserable weather, so imagine my glee at having a Daring Bakers Challenge that combines both baking and cooking. This month, we were challenged to make pizza, which is a big favorite in my house. Although we were challenged to toss the crust, I gave it a try, but ended up rolling it anyway. Also, I stayed with the traditional tomato sauce and cheese topping, but I’m intrigued by using pumpkin puree. Would love to hear from any of my fellow DB’s who used it. What else did you use with it?

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled – FOR Gluten Free: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast – FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar – FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.


2.  FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.


8.  FOR GF:  On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator.  Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.


10.  FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.


11.  FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.


12.  FOR GF:  Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.


13.  FOR GF:  Follow the notes for this step.


After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Tossing links:


http://www.vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?f … D=35480534


http://www.classic-hand-tossed-pizza.bl … hands.html




NOTE ON SAUCE: Your sauce (any) should not be too thick as it will thicken in the hot oven. Less is more but make the less truly more by using quality ingredients.

SAUCE IDEAS: Pestos, white or brown sauce, tomato sauce, sour cream, thick cream, Bolognese sauce, etc…
Check here for sauce recipes: http://www.tenspeedpress.com/page.php3?ftr=300


TOPPING IDEAS: Seafood, fish, meat (dry, cured, smoked or ground), cheeses (Gruyère, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Provolone, Ricotta, Maroille, Munster, etc…), nuts, tofu, veggies (tomatoes, bell peppers, artichokes, hearts of palm, zucchinis, pumpkin, red onions, etc…), herbs (mixes, fresh or dried), spices (garlic, gourmet salt, pepper, curry, berbere, ras-el-hanout, za’atar, etc…), nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashew nuts, Brasil nuts, macadamia nuts, etc…)….



http://www.correllconcepts.com/Encyclop … ppings.htm.


GENERAL PIZZA LINKS: http://www.breadtopia.com/pizza-dough-recipe/

This came out okay for me (I was home by myself, which is why there are no photos of me tossing the dough, which is probably a good thing as it’s just not a skill I possess!). However, two days is a bit much for me, considering how many pizzas we go through in my house. Also, I don’t like the crust of dough that’s been handled too much, which is why this recipe, courtesy of Emeril Live, remains my recipe of choice:


  • 1 recipe basic pizza dough, recipe follows
  • Cornmeal, for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups your favorite tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1-pound mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick


Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. If you have one, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Divide the dough in half and roll into a 12-inch circle, about 1/2-inch thick.

Dust pizza peel or baking sheet with cornmeal. Place rolled out dough on peel. Brush pizza dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges. Sprinkle 1/4 cup basil leaves on top of sauce and then top with 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finally, top with 1/2-pound mozzarella slices. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and the edges are golden brown. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 2 pizzas.

Basic Pizza Dough:1 package active dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)

1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening

3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

Olive oil

In an electric mixing bowl, whisk the yeast, sugar, water and lard together to make a paste. Add the flour and salt and mix, using a dough hook, until the dough comes away from the sides and crawls up the dough hook. Remove the dough from the bowl. Grease the bowl with olive oil and place the dough back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide dough in half. Roll the dough into balls, cover, and let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes. The dough is ready to be shaped.

Yield: dough for 2 (12-inch) pizzas

Narrowing it Down

20 10 2008

So, ladies and gentlemen, we are getting closer to selecting a costume for Saturday’s party. It is down to Caribou Barbie…

or a muse from Xanadu…

So, here is what I’m thinking:

Caribou Barbie is NOT an homage to Sarah Palin. Literally, I would be Caribou Barbie, complete with pink cammo, jeans tucked into impractical high-heeled boots, pink sunglasses, and possibly, a cute pink bag.

Xanadu Muse is definitely a nod to my old college friend, Danny, who received a Tony nomination for his choreography for the Broadway musical “Xanadu.” (I was his first experiment with choreography back when we were juniors in college. He tried to put together a duet to a song called “Vienna,” which was lovely and sweet, but I didn’t have time for all of the rehearsals since I had just started working overnights at my first radio job, and had to disappoint my dear friend by dropping out of the number). Anyway, for the costume, I’m leaning toward jeans, a glittery halter top, feathered hair and, if the Gods smile upon me, roller skates.

Decisions, decisions!

And, Jim, I’m assuming the suggestion of a sexy nurse costume is for Hubs, right?

Monster Mash?

19 10 2008

We just got an invitation from our neighbor, Ray, to come to their Halloween party next weekend, so now I’m all atizzy. The invite says to come dressed outrageously. Hmmm… What, exactly constitutes outrageous? What will mix well with 300 pound gay men in tutus? Anyone have any costume suggestions?
Speaking of costumes, next Friday is the annual Halloween party at my church that I help plan every year. So, I’m also in search of an appropriate costume for that, as well.

If nothing else, all of this is a welcome reprieve from the cold that’s taken over my body this weekend. Ugh! I’ve spent so much time on the couch this weekend, it’s a wonder I don’t have bed sores! Hopefully, I’ll get in some quality time with my garden this week. The fall veggies are doing well, but I’m worried about them dying from frost before the broccoli has a chance to develop into heads. Did I wait too long to plant them or is the frost coming a lot faster than I remember it coming in years past?

And work this week promises to be crazy, which I’m looking forward to! We’re shooting a commercial that my boss has pretty much pinned our entire 4th quarter on. No pressure, or anything!