Friday, June 24, 2011

cue the sun

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to help chaperone a trip to the King Center with a group of students  from school.  I was really excited because, even though I've lived near Atlanta my whole life, I had never made it to the King Center (and I also particularly love this specific group of students). Many of the students had never been to Atlanta before and they even got to ride MARTA-what kid doesn't love that!? They had a great time and we even managed to get all of them home safe and sound (no small feat I assure you).  I thoroughly enjoyed myself as well, although I was beat by the end of the day.  Once I got home, I used all the energy I could muster to throw together what most wouldn't even consider a dinner and passed out on the couch before the 6 o'clock news.    

I was asked to make thank-you gifts for the volunteers that came along (and was given free reign to make whatever my sugar-filled heart desired).  I needed to make something that could travel well and had recently noticed a trend of 'desserts in a jar'- what a perfect occasion!  Okay, and I'm a sucker for anything served in a Mason jar.

I layered chocolate cake with a cookies and cream filling topped off with buttercream and chocolate sprinkles (duh).  I used this recipe for "the best chocolate cake" and buttercream, and have come to the conclusion that anything titled "the best chocolate cake" is in fact not.  I found it a tad dry for my liking.  The buttercream on the other hand, DELICIOUS!  I used salted butter so the frosting was on the salty side, which I loved paired with the chocolate.  For the filling I used a recipe out of the Whimsical Bakehouse cookbook.

I wonder what other desserts I can squeeze into a jar...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

from a distance


Hello.  How 'bout that ride in?

...only kidding.  But seriously...

I'm going to pretend that I'm not offended that no one has bothered to check on my health or where-abouts since I have been MIA since January.

Now, I know you're dying to know whats been going on for the past four months.  Please, there's no need for begging.

First off, I've been spending time with my really important friends.

Pharmacist of the Year and Teacher of the Year

Nothing says 'professional of the year' quite like a stuffed sidekick, oversized glitter button, and burger king crowns.  Yeah, they're kind of a big deal.


Then there's work.

 What?  Doesn't everyone demonstrate the phases of the moon with oreos at work?  

Huh.  That's too bad.  You should definitely try it.  You'll love going to work.


Next, there was Master T's (T simply doesn't sound official enough for a teacher of the year) dad's birthday.  He was surprised with a puppy, so for his cake I tried to envision their future.

Sorry for the poor picture quality.  It was the best that could be done before the children in attendance climbed me like a ladder in attempt to get as close to the cake as possible.  Once they realized I was responsible for bringing cake we instantly became besties.


It was about that same time that Master T and I headed west.

Western Caribbean that is.  We biked through the jungle, ate too much food, got too much sun, made two new friends, and got felt up by a sting ray.  An all around awesome vacay.


While in Mexico, I picked up a few souvenirs.  This one was for me.

Remember when you were little and you got new shoes -they always made you run faster and jump higher right?  Yeah, that totally happened with this vanilla.  
Everything I've baked since that trip tastes 97 times better.

The other souvenirs I bought also came in bottles, but apparently were better matched with salt and a lime than flour and sugar. 


For Master T's birthday, a group of our friends volunteered at our local Day Of Hope.

We helped bag groceries for families in need in the community.  It was a beautiful day spent with wonderful friends!


Since our birthdays are only a couple weeks apart, Master T and I invited our family and friends to a local park on the river to celebrate.  Our families provided us with great food and I brought dessert.

One of T's favorite desserts is red velvet cheesecake.  For these cupcakes I used silicon liners to make chocolate shells and filled them with layers of red velvet cake and cheesecake topped with cream cheese icing.  They were decadent and delicious.


I also made a cake for a baby shower even though the mom-to-be was having to "watch her sweets."  Please never let that happen to me.  ever.  please!

It was a white chocolate cake with raspberry whipped cream filling and whipped buttercream frosting.


Finally, I got my mom some flowers for mothers day.

They were filled with cheesecake.  I challenge anyone to find flowers that are better than ones filled with cheesecake.  It cannot be done.  Unless of course they were filled with brownies.  Or ice cream.  Or banana pudding.

For the cheesecake I used the New York Style cheesecake recipe from The Joy of Cooking.  It cooked beautifully (no cracking!) and got rave reviews.  I have made it three times in two months. Mark that one DG and call it a keeper!


I think that about covers it.

Now to that laundry I've been avoiding...      

Saturday, January 15, 2011

sunday morning

As a teacher, winter always holds a touch of excitement.  When just the right combination of temperature and precipitation join together a magical thing happens: snow flurries-every southern child's dream!  The threat of a "wintery mix" is all that is needed for the powers-that-be to cancel school.  Children of all ages can be seen high-fiving and 'chest bumping' as they watch their school system's name scroll across the closings banner at the bottom of their television.

This winter we had received more than our usual 'allotment' of snow-twice in one season, and a white Christmas to top it off!  Over time, I have learned to appreciate Georgia's short, cold winters, but after two snow sightings, I was ready for spring to be just around the corner.

That's when it happened.

Snowmageddon 2011.

The news had reported that we should expect and prepare for some 'extreme winter weather.'
 **sidenote: In GA that translates to 'rush to the nearest grocery store and buy all of the milk, bread, and bottled water you can find in the event that you are trapped in your home for 24 hours.'**
 So, like the level headed, responsible adults we are (who may at times march to the beat of a different, more awkward,  drummer), we stocked up in the essentials [read: lucky charms and grape juice that may or may not have been aged in an oak barrel].

And then the snow fell...and fell...and fell.  And it piled higher...and higher...and higher.  When it finally stopped, there were no roads, no yards, no side walks.  Just snow; six inches deep.  School was canceled Monday.  We did our best to enjoy it by lounging around in our pajamas, watching the last college football game of the season, and enjoying our 'essentials.'  But the 'fun' didn't end there.  School was canceled again on Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday.  Unbelievable!  Everyday we woke up and it felt like Sunday again-like we should be going to work the following day.  But 'Monday' never came.  At this point I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking "Wow, how wonderful!  A whole week off of work-like a vacation!"  NO.  NOT like a vacation.  The snow was holding us captive.  Around hour 60 of being confined to the same 2400 sq. ft., the cabin fever really began to set in.

I thought that I would combat the fever by trying a new recipe.  I found a recipe for cinnamon roll cake and, with much enthusiasm from T, decided it would be a wonderful 'snowed-in-day-4 breakfast.'  Now, before you start with the judgment...adults eat cake for breakfast all the time.  For example:  coffee cake, tea cakes, pancakes, etc. etc.  Besides, we get to make the rules at our house and rule number one is 'let them eat cake!'  The combination of simple ingredients, simple instructions, and plenty of butter made this recipe a winner in my book.  The cake is lighter than a typical cinnamon roll and tastes best fresh from the oven.  (I omitted the pecans only because I didn't have any on hand, and wanted to avoid the skating rink formerly known as my driveway.)

Our friends who lived in the area had also caught 'the fever,' and by Thursday night, the roads had cleared up just enough for them to make the treacherous journey to our house. (I think they may have also caught wind that there might be some cinnamon roll cake left over, but that is purely speculation)

I'm not a fan of cold weather, and I hate snow; but that night, as I sat in at a table surrounded by wonderful people, I was grateful.  I was grateful for six inches of snow and ice, and being captive in my own home, and cabin fever.  But, most of all I was grateful that I have friends that make my stomach hurt with laughter, make my eyes tear with joy, and fill my life with moments unforgettable.  I'm lucky.  But, every now and then, I just need a little 'inclement weather' in my life to remind me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

christmas like a child

Every year my students decorate gingerbread and sugar cookies for their holiday party. They take this as an opportunity [read: challenge] to load their cookie with as much sugar as possible while maintaining an ounce of artistic creativity.

This year they threw artistic creativity out the window.

Yes.  There is a cookie under those sprinkles.

I've also been busy crafting this holiday season.  These were some brownie bites I made for a co-worker.

And some ornaments I made for friends.

And the stockings I made for T, Bella, and me.

I was clearly feeling a little less than traditional this year. 

Who says Christmas can't be psychedelic?

Monday, December 27, 2010

what's been going on

I've been busy.

Thankfully, I have 32 precious, silly, eccentric students to make me laugh.

Every year, a local business asks our students to submit holiday drawings.  One of the drawings will be chosen as their company's holiday card.  This year, students were asked to incorporate "fitness and wellness" in their holiday pictures.  I always love getting to see the final product each student turns in, but this year was especially amusing.

This was one of the first pictures turned in.  Adorable.  Sweet.  (look at the carrots left for Santa instead of cookies- too cute!)

I laughed out loud when I saw this one.  There are no words...

Before checking out this last picture, I should probably mention that this student is an excellent artist and just moved to the United States a few months ago.

He speaks very little English.

Looking back, I probably should have clarified a few things...


You're welcome.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

hey soul sister

I know, I know.

It's been a while since I've updated you on my ever-so-interesting life.

I'm sorry.

There, I apologized.  Moving on...

A few months ago, a discussion with friends took a rather serious turn when the topic of child trafficking was brought up.  Before that conversation, I was unaware of what a huge problem this is just 30 minutes from where I live!  Atlanta is one of the largest hubs for child trafficking in the U.S., and it is a 32 billion dollar a year industry worldwide.

As most of you know, I have a hard time 'letting things go.'  This was one of those things.

I went home and began doing some research.

I came across an organization based out of New York called Stop Child Trafficking Now.  They are set up to raise awareness and  help stop child trafficking in the U.S.

This year, on October 2, SCTNow held a 'walk day' in communities across the country.  Although we weren't able to walk because of prior engagements, we were still able to create a team and raise money.

T and I came up with  Cupcakes in the Crosswalk.  Each week one of us would bring baked goods in to work in exchange for donations to SCTNow.  This was a perfect opportunity to try out some new recipes. 

I have read about whoopie pies in blogs for quite a while now but had never even eaten one before.  Apparently, they are more common in the north, but I thought I'd give them a try anyways ;)

I found a recipe in Betty Crocker's Fall Baking (the Bakerella issue!) for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.  After several test batches and a few minor adjustments, my co-workers (and my fellow tailgaters) were able to welcome fall with this delicious pumpkin creation.

Now, I must give credit where credit is due...

Thank you Pennsylvania Amish women.  Your contribution to the baking world is greatly appreciated.

Thank you to my generous co-workers and anonymous donors.  Because of your donations, we were able to raise $205!  Enough money to support 8 Special Operative Teams!  Y'all are awesome!  I cannot thank you enough!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (my substitutions in red)
1 pouch/box sugar cookie mix
1 tbsp flour (1 tbsp Pumpkin Spice pudding mix)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (2 tsp pumpkin pie spice)
1 egg

1/4 cup butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar (1 3/4 cups powdered sugar)

1.  Heat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, stir together cookie mix and flour.  Add remaining cookie ingredients; stir until stiff dough forms.
2.  Onto ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart.  Lightly press tops with floured fingertips to flatten slightly.
3.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.  Cool completely (about 15 minutes).
4.  In a medium bowl, beat 1/4 cup butter, cream cheese, and vanilla with electric mixture until blended.  Gradually add in powdered sugar on low speed until smooth. 
5.  Spoon 1 generous tablespoon of filling on bottom of one cookie.  Top with second cookie, bottom side down.  Gently press together.  Store covered in refrigerator.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

times they are a changin'

I'm pretty sure that I was born in the wrong decade.

Because of some sort of cosmic glitch, there was a 40 year delay and I was born in the 80's instead the 40's as was meant to be.

Can't you just imagine it?  ....{entering la-la land}...

...growing up in the mist of WWII with gas rationing and Rosie the Riveter
...wearing bobby socks and saddle oxfords while watching Disney's Fantasia
...fawning over men like Frank Sinatra and listening to Bing Crosby sing to-be Christmas classics
...watching sports legends like Jackie Robinson and Sugar Ray Robinson
...going to the drive-in to see Humphrey Bogart star in Casablanca *sigh*
...marveling at inventions such as velcro, the microwave, and tupperware

A few other facts about 1940:
  • average annual income- $1,900 
  • average cost of a home- $6,550
  • average cost of a car- $800
  • a gallon of gas- $0.18
  • minimum wage-$0.30
So, I wasn't lucky enough to experience the 40's first hand (thank goodness for Casablanca on DVD!) but, my mawmaw was.
There are a few things you should know about my mawmaw.
  1. is from a tiny town just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana.
  2. has 2 daughters, 1 son, and 2 step-sons.
  3. was my weekend sleepover partner when I was little.  We would stay up late watching moves, sing along to Dolly Parton's greatest hits, and eat breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.
  4. makes the best pecan pie. ever.
  5. is a retired Delta flight attendant.
  6. currently resides in small town Florida.
  7. has restored a historic home.
  8. enjoys gardening.
  9. loves sweets.
  10. volunteers her time protecting sea turtles and tracking wolves (no, that is not a typo. She actually tracks wolves).
  11. loves scary, creepy, grotesque movies.
  12. has a sense of humor that would probably make you blush.
  13. is not your average mawmaw.
  14. turned 70 this month.
 Minus the gory movies and rather odd sense of humor, my mother is practically the same person.  And apparently Mawmaw has pretty strong genes.  It's only a matter of time until I too am tracking red wolves through the forests of a wildlife refuge.

3 generations
(like I said....strong genes)

For her birthday, we gathered at my aunt's home to celebrate.  Per her request for chocolate ganache, I made a chocolate fudge cake with white chocolate whipped cream filling and poured chocolate ganache over the top.  It got rave reviews from the family (and my taste-testers who got to try the 'make-sure-it's-not-a-total-flop' trial run).  The cake was deliciously moist and the whipped cream filling was a perfect match for the rich layer of ganache.

Happy Birthday Mawmaw!

*Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe adapted from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes