Posts Tagged ‘2011’

Drum roll please!

Here are the posts of 2011 that stood out above the crowd, click the images to go back and read if you missed them…

What’s In a Name?

2011 started out with a bang!  This post was Freshly Pressed in January last year and I was shocked that a little controversy around the kitchen table is what WP picked to spotlight my blog.  Bizzare.

 Sunday, Muddy Sunday

Ha ha!  I remember that day.  Little Sister made quite a mess with the rice.  Fun times.

Mint Chocolate (Zucchini) Cake

Fresh mint from my garden, mmm.  Oh and chocolate of course!

Your (Diet) Soda Is Killing You

A recent post that caught a lot of buzz.  I’m working at irradiating soda from the house, but the darn stuff has legs of its own.  Fizzy water with lemon or raspberries sounds much more appealing, doesn’t it?

Olive & Orange Bruchetta

This was a Food52 contest entry, sadly I didn’t win (as usual).  Maybe that should be added to the goal list for 2012…

Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Cookies

A farewell gift for my Dad when he visited us last year.

Doctors to prescribe string beans to kids?

A rant after hearing a piece on NPR while driving home.

Breads: Finnish Nissua

I started dabbling in my maternal heritage and picked up some Finnish cook books to help me rediscover part of my ancestors.  This was also the lightbulb, or ah ha bread that took me down the path to open a home bakery as a side job.  I wanted to do something I was passionate about.


Breakfast Tacos

Speedy No-Knead Bread

A recipe I came across at Food52 from one of the gals who run the joint.  If you want to make your own bread, this is a good starting place.

 Foodies for Farmers

I have a soft spot for farms, animals, and gardens.  It’s what I grew up with (and hated sometimes) but come to appreciate my roots.  I shop at the local farmer’s markets as much as I can afford to and look for local brands at the store (although Canadian products will trump anything, if I can find them).  This post was in support of another blogger and to promote the cook book I submitted recipes to.

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Peace Love and Healthiness in 2012! 

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The Edmonton Tourist offered up a spot on her blog for me to fill in over the holidays.  I love her blog and was delighted to be her guest.  Here is what I wrote for her in case you missed it, and be sure to visit The Edmonton Tourist!

I must explain that this is not a tale involving Mickey Mouse.  You see, “Disneyland” is the nickname we’ve given to “Grandma’s House”.  This is a large ranch home with pearly white wrought iron fence and gate.  There is a cast of characters who all wear fur: chivas (the goats), Bobcat (the orange tabby), Mitcha (the granny cat), and then a threesome of canines.  The kids always have a blast at the grandparent’s house, even though it’s not even close to being baby-proof.  Grandma and Grandpa spoil the kids with attention, ice cream, and fun playing outside.  There’s a swing set, merry-go-round, stairs (which are very steep and they are not to be played on, Big Brother figured out how to “surf” down the stairs), cookie jars, soda pop, fruit bowls and cartoons.  The 5 hour drive home is predominantly quiet due to the very overdue nap the kids need to recover from over stimulation.

So the stage is set for a string of improvisations.

We arrived two days before Christmas, I was ready to help prepare dinner for our family.  At Thanksgiving, I had toted along a box of my essentials (herbs, spices, notes).  It was not really necessary and I decided to leave my stuff at home as not to insult our hosts.  Ahead of time, I had phoned to find out what the main dish was going to be, turkey, ham, or a roast beef?  Grandma said she would find something and not to worry.  So I didn’t.  That is until I found a pork butt thawing in the sink.  This was not the “worry-free” meal idea I had in mind for a holiday dinner.  Pork butts (or shoulders) are best slowly roasted or smoked after a good brine bath.  There was no time for a brine, there was hardly enough time to thaw the butt out!  I’ll just improvise:  a dry marinade that I loved from Julia Child’s cook book (coincidently the very same one Grandma had given to me for Christmas some years ago).

I start pulling out the ingredients for the rub.  Garlic cloves, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, allspice, garlic press…  Garlic press?  I had half a head of garlic to plow through and could not find a garlic press in the four jam packed drawers of kitchen tools.  I’ll just improvise and finely mince with one of the multitude of dull knives (I couldn’t find the knife sharpener either).

Dessert was next.  An upside-down cranberry-orange cake, this required the zest of the orange.  In all my searching for the garlic press I never noticed a microplane to get a fine zest off the oranges, instead I improvised with a vegetable peeler and chopped the skin strips.  Half way through, Grandma found me and pulled a microplane in two sizes from the exact place I was rummaging minutes earlier.  Why couldn’t she stay in the kitchen with me? Oh, right, the kids were pulling her in all opposite directions from where I needed her. 

The kids needed her watchful eye more than I needed a garlic press, so I let it go in my mind and continued working alone.

In the rush to leave our house, I forgot to grab my camera and the cheese dip mix I had prepared to take with me.  They were perched on top of the fridge next to my recipe notebook I’ve had since 7th grade.

So… I improvised!  One of the dip mixes was an onion dip from Epicure (my step mom sells Epicure in Sherwood Park).  I bought some onion soup mix and used that instead.

By the time dinner was ready, I felt depleted of tricks to get through making dinner in a pinch, Disneyland requires many pinches.  To top the evening off, Big Brother was running around without socks or shoes (not recommended in Disneyland), he was told “Don’t run around with bare feet!”  He paused and retorted “I’m not a bear.  I don’t have bear feet!”  We all laughed aloud, it was the perfect end to an imperfect time in the kitchen.

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Happy Halloween!

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Hope you had a fun and safe Halloween!

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This was a big weekend for us.  Little Sister turned two and we celebrated her life with a trip to the San Antonio Zoo!

Since we were out all day, I didn’t have time to bake a cake.  We stopped on the way home and picked up a chocolate and vanilla layered cake.  To. Die. For.  I have to find someone who works at the HEB bakery to find out how they made this cake.  From the bottom it had chocolate cake, chocolate cream, vanilla cream, vanilla cake, another layer of the creams, then a duplicate of the first four layers topped with a strawberry.  I’m not a fancy cake baker, at least at this point, so I leave it to the experts for now.  I can appreciate the time it takes to create all those layers!

Paula Deen was in Austin with her NY Times #1 best seller Southern Cooking Bible.  Hugh Acheson, soon to appear on Top Chef as a judge, moderated the conversation with Paula within the beautiful Paramount Theater.  This was my first visit to the Paramount and I’m looking for a reason to return.  It’s not much bigger than the average movie theater in town.  Sitting in the lower level gives an intimate feeling with the person on stage.  Today, that person was one of my Food Network idles!  Paula is very funny, she said she made Matt Lauer nervous when she appeared on the Today Show recently.  Her favorite food is potatoes, and she told the audience about how much she loves her garden and chicken coop at home.  Southern Cooking is not all about fried food, it’s comfort food, it’s food made with love and purpose.  “If you die, your family will get a pie.  If you have a baby, you get a pie.  And if you just moved into the neighborhood…. you get pie!” This was part of Paula’s way of explaining what Southern cooking means to her.  And Micheal’s favorite food?  Oxtail.  I actually have two of her cook books and she signed both of them 🙂  I missed Alton Brown (because we were at the zoo) but I’m sure he will be back to Austin again, all the authors love Texas hospitality!

While leaving, I stopped to see what the fuss was about at the Paramount.  Another author?  No.  Val Lauren was there with director James Franco to open his new film Sal.

Have a look….

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And “Hi” to Sonia, Claudia, and Cassie (I hope I caught your name right!), it was very nice to meet you at the book fair!

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credit: mkcphoto.net 2011

Pecan Raisin Tarts (photo: Martha Compton)

Austin Bakes for Bastrop was the first large-scale fundraising bake sale I’ve ever been in.  It involved long hours in the kitchen and on my feet, which are still recovering.  Living in Round Rock and working in Austin for the last eight years has had quite an impact on my life.  I met my husband here, we’re raising a family now, and this feel like home now.  What would happen if everything we own went up in smoke and unbridled flames?  That’s exactly what hundreds of families are facing at this moment, right down the road from where I sit.  I was compelled to find some avenue to help those in this incredibly difficult situation.  I don’t have much, but I can certainly bake for a cause!

photo by Martha Compton 2011

My Sign! (photo: Martha Compton)

Talking with customers (photo: Martha Compton)

Talking with customers @Round Rock bake sale

Happy Customers!

I still wish I could have baked more Finnish Pulla bread, it was the first item I made at the Round Rock bake sale that sold out.  On Twitter there was a woman thanking me for the Pfefernüsse cookies I made, and another who wished she could have found some.

Pfefernusse Cookies (photo: Martha Compton)

Pfefernusse Cookies (photo: Martha Compton)

Finnish Pulla Bread (photo: Martha Compton)

Finnish Pulla Bread (photo: Martha Compton)

Local bakery businesses and home cooks pitched in an unbelievable amount of goodies for the seven different bake sale spots.  The Round Rock location had so much stuff and less traffic that we shuttled stuff three times to other sales so they had enough to last until 2PM (and beyond in some cases I heard!).  That’s how some of the things I made found their way to Austin.

Tamale Place (photo: Martha Compton)

Tamale Place (photo: Martha Compton)

Big thank you to all the volunteers who dropped off baked goods at Old Settler’s Park!  Thank you to my family for putting up with me 🙂

Another thank you to…

So many wonderful treats and caring bakers behind them!

The photos seen above were taken by Martha Compton from mkc photography, a local lifestyle photographer who shoots on-location in natural light.  Check out more of Martha’s gorgeous photos at mkcphoto.net!

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Between all seven bake sales and on-line donations, Austin Bakes for Bastrop raised $12,500 for the Central Texas Wildfire Relief Fund!


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Making a mess in the kitchen is much more fun than cleaning up afterwards. I left the house this morning, car loaded for the Austin Bakes for Bastrop bake sale and the kitchen was a disaster. I wasn’t expecting it to look any better when I returned. Hubby and Big Brother spent the better part of an hour cleaning up my mess and still didn’t manage to finish. Grateful for their efforts, I relieved them of their duties. Am I finished cleaning as I write this post? Nope! Closer but I couldn’t wait to try this lemon poppy seed mini cake with [very] lemony glaze.

austin bakes - lets bake - lemon poppy cake

Let's Bake! Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This is so lemony and moist, it really held up to being outside until 2PM when we shut down the bake sale in Round Rock.

I might need to take a nap now.

Check out Austinbakes.wordpress.com for the update on Monday about the final amount raised for the wildfire relief fund in Central Texas!

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It was a late night last night to kick start my baking frenzy, and an early start after dropping Big Brother off at school this morning.  I watched the sun behind morning clouds climb ever so gracefully over the hill on the way back home from the school.

Here’s what you will see at the bake sale in Round Rock (Old Settler’s Park entrance):

Spiced Ginger Cookies


Pecan Raisin Tarts

Finnish Pulla Bread - Resting

Nanaimo Bars


The Tamale Placejust dropped off their donation for the sale!  Thank you Tamale Place for your Caramel Empanadas (Mexican pastries) and Galletas de Nuez (Pecan cookies), I think these will go fast!

Mexican Pastries

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It’s almost time for the bake sale.  I’ve been gathering tables, baskets, stickers, and baggies for my site at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock.  Last night I started painting a big sign with the Austin Bakes for Bastrop logo.  I like the silhouette of the city on the top 🙂

Tonight my kitchen gets kicked into high gear, the assembly line will start as soon as the kids a fed and bathed.  They might even get to help if they promise not to eat half of the cookies before they make it into the bags.

I’m also making an apron to mark the event, it will have something like my nifty logo you see on the sidebar –>

Even though I’m allergic to tree nuts, I will be baking with them.  At least my allergy is limited to my tongue and throat, some people can’t be in the same room with nuts or peanuts.  That would suck!  It’s a lifelong question for me at parties, restaurants, and nice-lady-down-the-street who gives us goodies from time to time… does this have nuts in it?  Thankfully I know to ask and what to do if I ever accidentally eat nuts (or can’t withstand whatever dessert is staring at me, begging to be devoured).  The main thing is to remain calm, not to agitate my immune system further, then drink any kind of fluid to wash the nut particles down.  I will never know the sweet luxury of a Texas pecan pie…

Hey, and if you don’t live close enough to come by and try some of my goodies, you can donate online, and if you do, we have a matching gift for $1000 from Key Ingredient here in Austin, TX!  Last time I checked we are 1/3 of the way to the matching gift!!!  All donations are going to the Central Texas Wildfire Relief Fund.

So if you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen for then next 36 or so hours.

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Austin Bakes for Bastrop Facebook Page

Things are coming together for the upcoming bake sale on October 1st!

A First Giving donation website is up for online contributions to the cause: Central Texas Wildfire Relief Fund to aid residents who lost everything in Bastrop due to the massive fires.

I found the Texas Parks & Wildlife video showing footage of the wildfires as it consumed most (over 90%) of the state park.  With the fires moving that fast it’s a miracle everyone got out of the path in time, but there was no time to gather belongings.

A big thank you to Round Rock Parks & Recreation for donating space for a bake sale location!  The full list of bake sale locations will be available soon, I’ll keep y’all posted.

Round Rock, TX

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