And the award goes to…

28 02 2011

Did you watch the Oscars? I watched some of them at Eating Club, before heading home to watch them from my own bed. Chloe and I will be posting a full recap of all the deliciousness tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Other than Eating Club and the Oscars, I spent some of my weekend doing one of my favorite hobbies, which of course, involves food. That said hobby is cake decorating. Let me give you a little bit of history…

I have my mom to thank for my interest and talent in cake decorating. My mom is one of the most creative people I know. Growing up, she was always doing something crafty, or helping me be crafty. She made just about all of my Halloween costumes (this is the only picture I had, and I don’t remember if she made this one).

She would organize and hold themed dinners for her friends. (Sound familiar?)

She would give me super unique ideas for school projects: like the one time she helped me make a little 3-d airplane that moved on fish wire on the cover of my “Countries”  report. Or the time she helped me build a castle out of cake, Little Debbie jelly rolls, and graham crackers. I could go on, but no need to rehash my entire elementary school career here! Most recently, she has been making incredible sequined Christmas stockings. (I’m sure you’ll hear more about them come Christmas time!)

My mom also has been decorating cakes for as long as I can remember. I don’t think my mom has ever purchased a cake from a bakery or supermarket for a party or celebration. Thinking back on all my birthday cakes, I’m 99.9% sure they were all made by my mom, and each and every one was unique, and special to me. My mom’s creativity shines through when she decorates cakes. One cake in particular that I remember she made for me was a swimming pool cake. This cake had a pool made of blue Jell-O on top, lane lines made with Twizzlers Pull and Peel threaded with mini-marshmallows, and hand-made diving blocks and flags. Super creative, right?

She would decorate cakes for birthdays, going away parties, anniversaries. I enjoyed watching her go to work, but of course I also enjoyed eating the cakes! A few years ago, I decided to give it a go myself.

My first cake was an old-school Nintendo controller with a fondant Mario:

This was a lot of fun, but black icing was a) really hard to make and b) left our tongues, lips, and teeth black!

I’ve made a few other cakes since, one for a colleague who was headed off to UW Madison for grad school:

One for a Rock Band Party:

Last summer I had my first real cake decorating “job”. I was commissioned to make a ladybug birthday cake for a friend of a friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday party! The assignment was for two cakes: one for the child to destroy (aka dig in and get cake everywhere!) and the other for the adults. We discussed cake ideas over a meal at The Cheesecake Factory and she gave me one of the napkins she had bought for the party, so I could see what the ladybug looked like. From there, I was on my own.

The result:

Adult cake:

Kid cake:

I had a ton of fun making this one. I find it therapeutic to decorate, and though its very time consuming, I love the finished product!

This past weekend, I had my second real decorating job. This was for a friend of a friend’s 40th birthday, and was my most challenging cake to date. My task was to create a cake with shoe boxes, topped with a high-heel shoe. This would be my first tiered cake, and also my first time using fondant. Eek!

I jumped at the chance to expand my talents and try new things with cakes so here’s what I did:

I made 3 cakes: a 14 inch round cake (vanilla), and two 13 x 9 cakes (one chocolate, one butter).

I cut the two rectangular cakes in half, slathered on some icing, and placed the other half on top to make the boxes. Then, I covered them in fondant, and, using icing and my star-tip icing tool, I made the lids:

Using this awesome mold I found at the cake store, I made a high heel out of Rice Krispies Treats:

Do you have that in a size 8?

I covered the shoe in red candy- the kind you melt and it hardens- and I also added some pearl sprinkles to the foot opening for some bling.

I made labels for the shoe boxes, and then they were ready to be assembled. This part made me super nervous. I had never made a cake with 3 tiers before! I had built in some extra support into the cakes: cardboard bottoms on the boxes, and fat plastic straws inside each layer, so I probably didn’t have to much to worry about…but c’mon this was serious stuff!

At the party location, I stacked the cakes and…drum roll please…

I did it!

Success!

It was a little crooked, but I was pretty proud of my creation. 🙂

Though there’s no award for “Best Decorated Cake” (which I definitely wouldn’t win anyhow…Um, hello Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes), I’m going to come up with my own award: “The Most Creative Mom” Award. Thanks mom, for the many crafts we did together when I was younger, for all your help with my school projects, and of course for sharing your talents and creativity with me. You’re the Best!

Question of the day: Do you have a talent or skill that a family member has passed on to you? What is it?





Today is An Important Day!

25 02 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!

Confession: I am a Daddy’s girl.  I have said this before and I will say it again…I have a cool Dad.  He is funny, smart, curious, understanding, motivated, kind, strong in all sense of the word and most important, a great role model. In a tribute to him, here are some of the most valuable things that I have learned from the guy:

  • Always keep your head up, even when things aren’t going according to plan.
  • If you aren’t up before the sun rises, you are missing the best part of the day.
  • Good-Better-Best, Never Let it Rest, Till the Good is Better, and the Better’s Best.
  • There is ALWAYS a silver lining.
  • If its on sale at the grocery store, buy 10.
  • Really really ridiculously good dance moves.
  • Edy’s Slow Churned Ice Cream is the only way to end the day.
  • Be Curious, not judgmental.
  • How to make really really ridiculously good black bean salsa (its a Spring/Summer dip so recipe to come soon!!!)
  • You can never be too generous.

Happy Birthday Dad! Hope that you are having a great day 🙂

 





New kicks!

23 02 2011

I love Groupons. Especially when it gets you $50 to spend at your favorite running store! I scored this awesome deal a few months ago, and finally got around to using it. The Groupon was to pay $25 for a $50 coupon to Potomac River Running; on top of that, I had a $15 credit from Groupon, so I paid only $10!!! SCORE!! The coupon expired on Tuesday, and it just so happened that I was in need of a new pair of sneaks. So, I bought myself a pair of Mizuno Wave Inspires to replace my old ones:

Of course I was excited to try them out but blech! Running on the treadmill is sometimes such a drag! Anyone else feel that way? I mean, c’mon is the end of February; I’ve been doing treadmill workouts for months. I just want it to be warm and sunny and in the 60s so I can run outside and not be bundled up!

But, I wanted to start breaking them in, so I trekked to the gym and did an interval workout. I’ve found that interval workouts are more exciting than running for 45-60 minutes straight, because I manually change the speed throughout my workout. Not only does it make the time go by a lil faster, but it’s an awesome workout, and is one of the ways to improve your running speed! Here’s what I did:

Warmup:

0:00-5:00 Walking @ 3.5

5:00-10:00 Jog @ 6.0

10:00-15:00 Run @ 6.5

Intervals:

5x

0:00-1:00 @ 6.5

1:00-2:00 @ 8.0

2:00-4:00 @ 6.5

4:00-5:00 @ 8.0

On the 5th round, I pushed myself and alternated between 7.0 and 8.5.

Warm down:

5 minutes, slowly decreasing speed until my last minute is a walk @ 3.5

Wave Inspires = awesome.

As I dreamed of warm running weather while running, I was also dreaming of a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook my roommate Carly bought me for my birthday. Though I’ve never been to Moosewood, I’ve heard great things about it. And, after skimming reading this cookbook cover to cover, I definitely want to take a trip up to Ithaca.

I’ve had my eye on this Caribbean Sweet Potato Gratin recipe; I haven’t had potato gratin in AGES! And better yet, this recipe is made with sweet potatoes, which I have a serious weakness for…

The recipe looked pretty simple, and I had all the ingredients on hand. So, I got to cookin’.

First, I combined garlic, lime peel, lime juice, cilantro, thyme, salt, pepper, and coconut milk in a small bowl.

Then, I layered some of the coconut milk mixture, sliced sweet potatoes, quinoa, black beans, and spinach in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

There's some sweet potatoes under there!

Repeat the layers again, and then top it with a cornmeal mixture: cornmeal, vegetable oil, thyme, cumin, and salt.

Pop it in the oven at 350° for an hour, rotating the pan after the first 3o minutes.

When it comes out of the oven, let it sit for 2-3 minutes, so the juices are all soaked up.

Dig in!

I love the combination of sweet potatoes with lime, cilantro and cumin. Cumin is seriously one of my favorite spices. Though I typically think of potato gratin as a side, this was definitely hearty enough to be a meal in itself.

I may or may not have helped myself to several servings…

Adding this to my list of recipes to make again!

Recipe:

(Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)

1 garlic clove, minced

1.5 teaspoons grated lime peel

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1.5 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2.5 cups coconut milk

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced (I made my slices about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick)

1 cup quinoa, cooked  Original recipe called for rice)

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

1.5 cups fresh baby spinach (I used half of a bag)

topping:

3/4 cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Steps:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Combine the first 8 ingredients (through the coconut milk).

Pour one third of the liquid into the baking pan.

Layer half of the sweet potatoes, quinoa, black beans, and spinach into the pan.

Pour another one third of the liquid on top, and then repeat the layers of sweet potatoes, quinoa, black beans, and spinach.

Pour the remaining liquid on top of it all.

In a separate bowl, combine all the ingredients for the topping. Sprinkle on top of the gratin.

Bake for 60 minutes, rotating the pan after 30 minutes.

It’s done when the potatoes are tender, and the topping is brown and crisp.

Let sit for a few minutes before digging in!

Question of the day: How do you stay motivated to run on the treadmill?