Friday, December 30, 2011

Perfect Pecan Pie

As much baking as I've done over the past couple of weeks, I should have been blogging twice a day! I thought about doing a Christmas cookie series of posts, but I might wait till next year since it's almost January now.

For one of the Christmas dinners that we had, I made a pecan pie from this old cookbook that I found when I helped one of my SC friends clean out a trailer full of junk. It's Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook, published in 1961.

My favorite thing about the book is the introduction. Mrs. Vanderbilt talks about how cooking and housekeeping are the best feminine virtues. The only place for a man in the kitchen is in buying and carving meats. Men are best suited to changing fuses and chopping wood. The whole thing is hilarious.

Despite the rampant sexism and condescension, this was probably the best pecan pie I've ever had. Ever. You should probably make it for the next party you're invited to... or just to eat yourself. It's full of pecans... it's totally healthy....

Pecan Pie

Prepared 9" pie crust
3 eggs - lightly beaten
1/2 C. heavy cream
1/2 C. dark corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1 C. white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 1/2 C. pecan pieces

-Prepare the crust in a 9" pie plate. Trim and flute the edges.
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
-Combine eggs, heavy cream, dark corn syrup, salt, sugar, vanilla, butter, and pecan pieces in a mixing bowl and mix until everything is incorporated. Pour the filling into the pie crust.
-Bake pie for 35-40 minutes, until crust is browned and the filling is puffed up. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Let me give you a few notes from my experience. This is the first pecan pie I've ever made. I didn't know that the center never gets firm while baking. As it cools, it gets less puffy and firmer. So don't wait for it to stop jiggling to take it out! As long as the filling is puffy and brown and the crust is done, the pie is done.

Another thing is the pecans. The original recipe says to use whole pecans and put all of the filling ingredients into a blender to break them up. Well, it's not 1961 anymore, and you can buy pecan pieces. If you do use whole pecans, just run them through a chopper before adding them to the bowl with the other ingredients.

Other than those little notes, it's an amazing recipe! There's another recipe in there for a "Georgia Pecan Pie" with molasses and coffee in it. I'm anxious to try it!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chocolate-Eggnog Swirl Pie

So. much. baking. I finally got my wish to bake more... gotta love the holidays! I've been making something or other pretty much every night for over a week now. Parties at my mom's work, cookies for gifts, cookies for us, goodies for my mom's students.... Now Christmas dinners are coming up and I will be dessert man. I'm pretty much in heaven, to be honest. I also have lots of recipes for my blog, so I think this is officially a cooking blog... with some life drama and theatre thrown in.

I finished up my Christmas cookies last night! We now have Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs, Lemon Creme Sandwich Cookies, White Chocolate-Cherry Shortbread, Brown Sugar Cookies, Peanut Butter Bites, and a few Chocolate-Covered Oreos. I also did some Cinnamon-Sugar Glazed Almonds, and Irish Cream Truffles. (Well... the truffles still need rolled and coated, but the hard part is done!)

Let's talk about this Chocolate-Eggnog Swirl Pie.

I made it for my mom to take to a work party. The same party that she took the Glazed Doughnut Bread Pudding to. I totally spoil those teachers.

There was one slice left when she came home, so I got to try it. It was pretty delicious. I think the crust was the best part, really. It's nutty and chocolatey and crunchy. Mmm. The filling was amazing, too, but that crust was life-changing. (Ok, probably not really, but it was darn good.)

Chocolate-Eggnog Swirl Pie


1 C. flour
3/4 C. finely chopped walnuts
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1/3 C. butter, melted
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (like Knox)
1/4 C. cold water
1/2 C. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 C. dairy eggnog
1 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 Tbsp. clear rum
1 C. whipping cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For the crust, combine flour, nuts, brown sugar, and grated chocolate in a medium bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Press into a 9" pie plate. Bake for 12 minutes. (Do not overbake!) Cool completely.

For the filling, stir gelatin into the cold water and set aside. In a saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and cornstarch. (Make sure the cornstarch is incorporated into the sugar, or you will get lumps!) Stir in the eggnog. Cook and stir over medium to medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly, then continue to cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat.

Divide the filling into two equal portions. To one portion, add the melted chocolate and mix well. To the second portion, add the rum and mix well. Cover surfaces of both portions with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is flat against the surface. (This prevents a skin forming on the top as it cools.) Allow filling to cool for two hours.

After two hours, fold the whipped cream into the filling portion with rum. Spoon into the crust. Spoon the chocolate portion on top and swirl the two portions together with a knife. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight before serving.

Now, some notes on the one that I made. First of all, you can tell I was kind of bad at the swirling thing. The picture with the original recipe was much prettier. I think it just takes practice. The other thing is, make sure you mix your cornstarch in with the sugar before adding the eggnog. I had a million little lumps in my filling that I couldn't get out!

It was a super-delicious pie, though, and perfect for the holidays!!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Moving Up?

This will be a short post, and no, I'm not posting a recipe. I have a potential life-development that I want to mull over.

I have a phone interview tomorrow afternoon with a theatre in Wisconsin. It's the American Players Theatre. They're pretty legit, but it would only be for 5 months since it's a partially-outdoor theatre in Wisconsin... can't really act in 20 feet of snow. It's a great opportunity to get some experience, boost my resume, make some contacts, and have an adventure!

But. If I get the job, I'd be leaving at the end of April and would get done mid-October. My only reservations about it are all the things I would miss. My friends are having a baby that would come right in the middle of my being away. I would also miss out on my annual beach trip to the Outer Banks. (I'm more sad about missing OBX than missing the baby, honestly. Sorry, Josh. :-P) I wouldn't get to hang out with my mom, go on family trips, have pool parties with my friends....

I mean, if they offer me the job and I like the answers to all of my questions, I will more than likely take it. I'm pretty much just using this post as a diary entry. I want to see all of my feelings and apprehensions written down so I can deal with them. I think I've just gotten spoiled living at home, being a mama's boy, and only working a few hours a week. It's probably time to grow up, man up, and get some work done. In Wisconsin.

5 months of making new friends, immersing myself in technical theatre, and exploring a new state can't be all bad! Right?!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gorgeous Glazed Doughnut Bread Pudding

I just made what may possibly be one of the unhealthiest things I've ever baked. Paula Deen's Glazed Doughnut Bread Pudding. It's sooo pretty, though.

I made it for Mom to take to a work party tomorrow, but I managed to sneak an inconspicuous bite... and proceeded to die a little. It may have been the minor heart attack, but it was probably from the DELICIOUS.

Without further ado, here's the recipe so you can make a heart-attack-in-a-pan of your own!

Glazed Doughnut Bread Pudding

2 doz. Glazed Yeast Doughnuts
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 15oz. can Fruit Cocktail - undrained
2 Eggs - beaten
1 1/2 C. Raisins
Dash of Salt
2 tsp. Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Tear doughnuts into bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and fold together, blending well. Let sit 5-10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a greased 9x13" pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until the center is firm. Remove from oven.

As a kind of an afterthought, I made a vanilla sauce for on top.

Vanilla Sauce

1/2 stick of Butter or Margarine
1 1/3 C. Powdered Sugar
3-4 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract

Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Heat to boiling. Pour over bread pudding immediately. (You could use 4 Tbsp. of rum instead of vanilla to make it a rum sauce!)

I think it adds a little something.

(Yes, I know we still have a fall tablecloth and yes, that is candy corn in the background. I'm still in denial that it's less than 2 weeks till Christmas.)

Go forth, make fattening, artery-clogging goodness! Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Time Flies

I can. not. believe it's December already. There are only 16 days left until Christmas. 16 days. How did that happen?! It totally doesn't feel like the holidays. I think it's mostly the weather. Other than a few hours of slush falling from the sky the other night, it's been way too gorgeous out to be Christmastime. It's finally gotten colder, but even now it's gorgeous and sunny; not a flake of snow on the ground. Not that I'm complaining about no snow... I pretty much hate snow... but it still feels like fall. Just sayin'.

Not to psych 101 myself, but I think I'm just in denial that it's almost mid-December. That means I've been largely unemployed and living at home for over 4 months now. Oof. I kind of took a break from sending out applications and resumes for awhile, mostly out of frustration... a little out of laziness. I'm back at it now, and have high hopes that I might be able to start somewhere full-time and find my own place not too far into the new year. In the meantime, I will try to get more into the Christmas spirit.

I'm totally going to post a recipe since that's pretty much what I do with my blog nowadays, but before I do, I have to point out some changes to the page layout. Over on the side, I made a list of past recipes that I've posted. I decided to do that instead of the list of labels. The labels were just clunky and messy. Plus, this way it's kind of like my own little cookbook. Whenever you want to make something that I've made and posted about, you can just scroll down to the little recipe index and find it! I've also added the option to follow my blog by e-mail. Over there under my "about me" section... see it? Good. You can sign up for an e-mail notification whenever I post something new!

Now onto what I really wanted to talk about. Harry Potter. Well, kind of. I made "Butterbeer Cupcakes". I got the recipe from The Pastry Affair. She actually did a whole series of Harry Potter desserts. The cupcakes were delicious and extremely butterscotch-y. They take awhile to make since there are several components, but they're pretty easy and totally gratifying.

I won't re-post the recipe here since it would take forever to re-type, and I don't want to copy and paste because plagiarism is wrong. :-P

You can get the recipe on her site, here. Check out her other Harry Potter desserts and treats, too!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stupendous Shoo-fly Pie

I was dessert man for Thanksgiving. We always have two dinners - one with my mom's side of the family, and one with my dad's. For my mom's side, I just made a Pumpkin Roll and my uncle made pies. For my dad's, I made another Pumpkin Roll, a Caramel Apple Pie, and a Shoo-fly Pie (wet-bottom, of course). While my Caramel Apple Pie was freakin' delicious, I didn't have enough apples so it looked a little empty and sad. My Shoo-fly Pie, however, was perfect (if I do say so myself)!

I'm not really sure where this recipe came from. I'm thinking it's out of one of my great grandmother's cookbooks, but I'm not positive. Shoo-fly Pies are very PA Dutch. I love going to a new area of the world and having people ask me if there are actual flies in it. There are not, by the way. "Shoo-fly" comes from the pie being so sweet from the molasses and people having to shoo the flies away.

Anyway, here's my secret family recipe... possibly.... It might be from the internet somewhere... or a cookbook.... Dunno, but it's my recipe now!

Shoo-fly Pie

9" pie crust
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 C. warm water
1/2 C. molasses
1 C. flour
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine

- Chill crust for about an hour before use. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

-Stir together the 1/2 tsp. baking soda and the warm water. Add the molasses and stir until the mixture is slightly foamy. Pour molasses mixture into the pie crust.

-Mix together the flour, sugar, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda. With a pasty blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until very fine crumbs form. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the wet mixture in the crust. (The idea is that some of the liquid is soaked up, but the bottom will still be wetter than the top - "wet-bottom".)

-Immediately place in the oven and bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for about 40 minutes, or until the pie is set and crust is browned.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Of Mice and Men

I went to see the stage adaptation of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men tonight. I said in my very first post that this blog would be partly about theatre... well for the past year, almost the only theatre I saw was when I was working. It's just not the same when you have to watch for ques, or keep a spotlight steady, or wrangle a hundred dancing children. Since Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite books ever, and this stage version was amazing, I thought I'd share.

First of all, it was a free performance at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport, PA. So already it's awesome because it's free. To make it even better, the company was the National Players. ( Pretty legit.

The acting was great, for the most part. One of the guys (playing Whit) was the least convincing ranch hand ever... well, the least convincing straight ranch hand. The guy playing Slim would have been great if he would have spoken in his normal voice. He was obviously using his manly man acting voice. Other than that, the actors were entirely convincing. Lennie and George were especially great. George was pretty much exactly how I picture him in my head when I read the book. Lennie was adorable and played perfectly... which made it especially difficult to not sob at the end.

The sets were a little questionable. Everything was brown, and most of the costumes were brown. It was a little monotonous. The set did everything it needed to, though, and they used it well. It was mostly just burlap, crates, and 2x4s. The lighting was pretty incredible. Lots of up-lighting and side lights. There were 8 dark blue Parcans on on the second electric the whole time... which worked great for night scenes, but didn't make much sense for indoor and daytime scenes. That's probably the only lighting I would have changed... added some other colors, or just made them a more neutral color... I don't know, it just kind of bothered me.

I loved the script. It stuck to the book pretty accurately. I don't think they omitted anything, and actually added a little to some scenes... I think just to give Curley's dad and wife some more stage time. I was very pleasantly surprised that they didn't change anything. The only thing I didn't like about the staging is whenever a character left the scene, they didn't exit the stage... they just stood in the back and watched the action. It was a little distracting/weird/creepy. I'd like to hear the director's explanation.

Overall, I'd probably give it an 8 on a scale of 10. It was a wonderful production, with a wonderful cast. It would have been pretty impossible to get a full 10, because they would have had to let me design the set and lights... and have a hand in the directing... so an 8 from me is pretty amazing.

I would like to see more shows at the CAC. I'm pretty sure this is only the second time I've been there. If they ever hired anyone ever, I would work there in a heartbeat. It's a gorgeous space, and their tech seems pretty awesome. Maybe next time I see something there, I'll take a bunch of resumes and just give one to every employee I see. :-P

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Coconut Bar Pie"

Sorry my posting has been pretty erratic lately. I'm busy living my life of leisure. I'm working a few hours a week at the Campus, but mostly I watch Netflix and eat.

So how many of you tried the Coconut Bar Pie when Perkins still had it? It was probably the best pie I've ever had. Ever. Well, it was a limited time thing, so I decided to try to make my own version so I can have it whenever I want. I took bits and pieces from several other recipes, and combined them to make my own Coconut Bar Pie recipe.

I'm pretty stoked because this is really the first recipe I've come up with on my own. I'm great at following recipes, but not at making them up. It turned out pretty great, so I'm totally impressed with myself. Now... I'm not sure if "Coconut Bar Pie" is copyrighted or anything by Perkins, so if it is, I'll probably change the name to Coconut Creme-Truffle Pie, since the chocolate layer is actually just a recipe for truffle filling. It's pretty amazing, not gonna lie.

Coconut Bar Pie


1 C. chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Chocolate Layer:
1/4 + 1/8 C. whipping cream (3/8 C. total)
1 Tbsp. butter
7 oz. chocolate chips, or chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 C. flaked coconut

Coconut Creme Layer:
Lg. package (5oz.) instant vanilla pudding
1 3/4 C. cold milk
1 1/2 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 C. flaked coconut
1 container lite Cool Whip - thawed

Toasted Coconut


1. For the crust, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9" deep dish pie plate with cooking spray. Combine crumbs, sugar, and butter in a mixing bowl. Mix until the mixture is an even consistency (no lumps). Press crumb mixture into pie plate to form a crust. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Do not overbake - it will be too hard! Cool completely.

2. In a saucepan, heat whipping cream and butter over medium heat until just boiling. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate. Do not stir right away - just cover the pan and let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover and stir until chocolate is completely melted. Spread chocolate mixture into the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with 1/4 C. flaked coconut. Put in the fridge to let the chocolate set.

3. Whisk together the instant pudding, milk, and coconut extract until combined and thick. Stir in the 1/2 C. flaked coconut. Fold in half of the container of Cool Whip. Spread pudding mixture on top of the chocolate layer in the crust.

4. Top with the other half of the Cool Whip. To toast the coconut, spread a handful on a cookie sheet and put under the broiler in the oven until lightly browned. Keep an eye on it, it can burn quickly! Sprinkle toasted coconut on top, and refrigerate the pie until it's set.

Enjoy! It's delicious!

Hint: Take the pie out of the fridge half an hour or so before you plan to serve it. I learned the hard way that it's difficult to cut through the chocolate layer when it's still fridge-cold and solid!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chicago - Part 3

This will be the final installation in my Chicago posts. I've been putting it off because it's been taking forever to load photos. :-P

Aaaaanyway, our final full day in the city started a little later than the last. We probably have many margs to thank for that. After we got going, we quickly found out that it was very cold, very wet, and very windy out. Boo. We sucked it up and headed to Navy Pier.

I kind of thought Navy Pier was like a boardwalk and everything would be outside. So we were pleasantly surprised when it was all inside. We even got a free coupon book for checking in on Facebook.

It was pretty awesome. There were tons of little souvenir shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. The first thing we did was, of course, get more Starbucks. We then did the Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze. I don't have any pictures because I was too busy hiding behind Marcy. It wasn't actually scary, but it had a haunted house vibe, and I kept expecting someone to jump out at me. It was loads of fun, and I would recommend it to anyone who happens to be on Navy Pier.

After the maze, we walked through the Stained Glass Museum, which I was pretty much enthralled with. My favorite piece was this one:

...which any Questionable Content fan will appreciate, because of this.

After wandering around the Pier for a couple of hours, we set off to find the original Pizzeria Uno. It was after the lunch rush, so we didn't even have to wait!

Instead of getting enough to feed an entire third world country again, we got individual-sized pizzas. I went with BBQ chicken deep dish pizza.

It was still way too much because it came with soup or salad and then, of course, we got dessert. It was as amazing as Giordano's, though!

After day two of way too much amazing Chicagoan food, we went to Sear's Tower... which is actually now Willis Tower. Apparently the name changes to whatever company is renting the most space in it. It was Sear's when they built it, now it's Willis - some financial company, and the guy said it would soon be United Tower, for United Airlines.

We got there (after only asking directions once), got our tickets, watched the little informative video, and went to the top - 103 stories high. It was rainy and windy and foggy, so the views weren't great, but it was still amazing.

There's also the Ledge - these little glass boxes that jut out from the side of the building, so when you step out into them, it feels like you're floating 103 stories up in the air.

It was an amazing experience... until we were almost ready to leave. Apparently the wind was so strong, they had to evacuate the top floors of the building. You could feel the whole structure swaying. There was so much movement, that we couldn't even use the regular elevator. The cables were swinging around and we probably would have plummeted to our deaths. Instead, they had to take everyone down in groups of about 35 in the freight elevator in the middle of the building. Let's just say it took forever, and no one was happy.

After escaping an untimely death, we headed back to the hostel before our show that night. I had been planning on going to the Lincoln Park Zoo, but it was way too cold and wet. We went back to the room to recover and dry off a little before heading to Trick or Teets. It was a Halloween burlesque-parody. So there was no actual stripping, just lots of sex jokes and crude songs. It was hilarious! I would totally go back to see it again.

After the show, we hit a bar on the way back to the train. It was a sports bar, and they were doing airline trivia. Not really my cup of tea, but it was warm and they had alcohol. We also passed this place...

It was very confusing. It says it's a watch and clock repair place... but there were a bunch of neon beer signs in the windows. I still don't know if it was actually a bar, or what....

After getting back to the hostel area, we found a nice warm, homey Irish pub with $2 drinks. We had more than enough to warm us up, then went in search of a Chicago-style hot dog. I'm glad we drank first because I don't think I could have eaten one sober. A Chicago-style hot dog is a char-grilled hot dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with relish, mustard, onion, pickled peppers, celery salt, tomato slices, and a dill pickle spear.

I was so far gone, it was actually pretty good. I had to have one while I was in Chicago!

The next day, we headed home around 10AM. The car even started on the first try. Leaving the city, we drove along Lake Michigan for awhile and it looked like the ocean. The waves were huge from the storms the day before.

Overall, I'm kind of in love with Chicago. I think it's earned 3rd place on my favorite cities list... behind New York and London, of course. While I am not a fan of the 10 to 11-hour drive, I will definitely go back someday, hopefully fairly soon!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chicago - Part 2

So our first full day in the city started pretty early since we'd called it quits early the night before. We decided to head down to the Art Institute area. I wanted to explore the Institute and the Shedd Aquarium, as well as see the "Bean" and Buckingham Fountain. All of which were pretty much in the same area.

Since the Art Institute didn't open until 10:30AM, we found the Cloud Gate Sculpture, a.k.a the "Bean" first.

It's pretty awesome. I could probably amuse myself for hours trying to get pictures of reflections.

After the Bean, we saw a Starbucks across the street, so we went for some coffee. I should have kept a latte count during the trip, because I took in more caffeine in those four days than I usually do in a month! Fresh from our coffee fix, we headed back past the Institute since they still weren't open at this point, and found Buckingham Fountain.

I'm sure it's very pretty, but unfortunately it had been drained for the winter. We did get our first glimpse of Lake Michigan, though!

By this time, the Art Institute was open, so we made our way back.

It was actually super amazing. We saw works by Picasso, Dali, Monet, Van Gogh, Hopper, Wood, and a bunch of other amazing artists. Apparently there were some paintings by Degas somewhere, but we couldn't find them. I think my favorite, though, was A Sunday on la Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat.

We spent a few hours at the Art Institute and saw everything from paintings, to sculpture, to kimonos, to WWII Soviet propaganda posters. If I lived in Chicago, I would totally cough up the $80 for a membership, just to go and stare at masterpieces whenever I want.

After the Art Institute, we went for lunch. We ended up at Giordano's for our first taste of Chicago stuffed pizza. We ordered a medium for the two of us, which was a huuuuge mistake. One piece was enough to fill anyone up, and we each had to eat four because we were walking around the city and couldn't take leftovers with us. It was amazing, but waaaay too much.

Despite being stuffed to the point of not being able to breathe, we also each had a cannoli before heading to the Shedd Aquarium.

We didn't realize the aquarium closed at 5PM, and it was already about 3:30PM when we got inside, so we just did the $8 main floor admission. So we didn't get to see the dolphins or whales or the jellyfish exhibit, but just the main floor was awesome, and I love aquariums!

Also at the aquarium, there were some awesome views of Lake Michigan.

Since that was our last stop for the day, we made our way back to the hostel to get ready for our show that night. It was Woman School - based on a Moliere play. When we got there, however, we were the only audience members. Since it was just us, they decided to cancel the performance. They offered to move our tickets to another night, and/or give us lots more tickets for our friends, but since we were only in town for one more day and had tickets to another show, we had to ask for a refund. I felt bad since they were obviously a small, struggling theatre company, but I needed my $20 more than they did.

In lieu of our show, we went out drinking. We hit a tequila bar/Mexican restaurant first and split a pitcher of delicious margs, and then had a sangria a piece. We then ventured out and hit a few other bars before heading back to the hostel for the night.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chicago - Part 1

So last week, my friend Marcy and I took a trip to Chicago. There was no special occasion, we just had some money saved up and time to spare, so we decided to check out a new city.

I think it took about 11 hours to get there, but with the time change it was like it took 10! The only noteworthy event on the way was the first time we stopped for gas and my car didn't want to start again. It took about 10 minutes, but the engine eventually turned over. Oh, also Ohio is the widest state ever. PA took a few hours to get through, and Indiana took no time at all, but Ohio was never ending. The city actually wasn't terrible to drive in, but there was a detour and my GPS started to beep at me... like a car horn beep.... It may have freaked me out. I probably cried a little. :-P

We finally got to the hostel (yes hostel, not hotel), and I pulled up out front so we could check in. As soon as I put my car in park, it shut off. Like, I didn't turn it off... it just gave up. Trying not to think about it, we checked in, got a parking space and a map of the area, and went back to move the car. It didn't start. Like, for a long time it didn't start. It got so bad that I looked under the hood, shrugged at it, and tried again. After about half an hour, the engine turned over and we got it to the parking lot before it could die again. I decided not to think about it for the next few days, and just prayed it would start again when it came time to leave.

After all the car drama, we unloaded and found our room. The hostel was actually pretty amazing. Downstairs there were a bunch of couches and chairs to hang out in, some computers to use, a full kitchen, pool table, music room, grill, dining tables... I could totally live there. Even the elevator was awesome:

The pads on the floor had colored oil and water inside, so when you step on them, it swirls and smooshes around. They provided many minutes of in-elevator entertainment.

Our room was hostel-sized, but big enough for the two of us, and we splurged on one with a private half-bath. We just had to use the communal showers, which were still fairly private and pretty clean. Our room had this awesome mural on one wall:

After we got settled in, we found a bar. We went to Frank's. It was a sports bar, but they had decent, fairly cheap drinks. After... a few... we found this Mexican place that was open until 3AM, so I got some tacos and Marcy got a burrito. It was de. licious. We headed back fairly early since we were exhausted from 11 hours of driving after an early start.

I know this is a fairly short post, but I figured I'd do a post for each day, so Part 2 will be our first full day in the city!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Butter Festival

I meant to post this before I left for Chicago, but the internets weren't cooperating and I gave up. While I work on some posts about the Chicago trip, I'll post this one!

The Saturday before I left was New Columbia's Apple Butter Festival. I set up a stand to sell crocheted and baked goods. When I got up at 7AM, it was pouring, and I thought I wouldn't get to set up. It stopped a little before 8, though, so my mom and I ventured over.

There weren't a lot of people with stands. I don't know if that was all the people that signed up, or if some didn't show up because of the weather. It was kind of a shame, because it could be a nice little gathering. There were maybe 6 or 7 craft and baked good stands, including me; 4 food stands; a couple of games; a guy selling mums and fruit; and a junk stand/yard sale thing.

The wind was killer. At one point, it was so strong that it flipped one of my tables over, and the baked goods were only saved because my friend Sarah grabbed hold of the table! A couple of hours into it, it looked like rain again, so my mom went to my uncle's and got his EZ-Up tent, but we only had it up for a few hours since the wind kept trying to take it away.

I had quite a few crocheted items done - towels, dishcloths, hats, scarves, and snowflakes.

I also had half a dozen loaves of Peanut Butter Banana Bread and Chai-Spiced Bread, as well has two dozen Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies and S'more Rice Krispie Treats.

I didn't sell much crocheted stuff... just a few dishcloths and towels. My mom's friend bought a scarf the other day. If anyone would like to buy something, or see more pictures of stuff that I have left... or order something special for me to make, leave a comment or e-mail me!!

I sold almost all of the baked goods. I just had half of the Chai Bread loaves left, and half a dozen S'mores.

Overall, I feel like it was worth it. I had fun, despite the wind and the cold. I got to see some people I haven't seen in awhile, and I made a bit of a profit! If I'm around next year, I may go again, and maybe I'll look for more festivals to set up at!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chai Tea - Spiced Bread

Whew! It has been way too long since I last posted. I just haven't had the ambition. My life of leisure has turned into a life of slackery. Slackerness? Slackerosity? Laziness.

The hostel is booked for my trip to Chicago! Just one more week! I still have to decide on the show(s) I want to see and get those tickets. My friend Marcy is going with me, and since it's just the two of us, we splurged on a private room. We still have to use the communal shower, but we won't have to sleep with 7 strangers, and we have a private half-bath. I'm so excited! This week, I think I'll print out directions from the hostel, to all the places I want to go. That way if we can't find something, we'll at least know how to get there from where we're staying. The fat kid in me is most excited for deep dish pizza.

It's also just one more week until the Apple Butter Festival. I have about half the stuff made that I want to get done. I need to step it up this week. I'll do all the baking the day before. I want to do a minimum of 2 dozen S'mores and Whoopie Pies, and half a dozen each of the breads. If I happen to have more time and ingredients, I'll make more. Speaking of baking, I tried the Chai Tea-Spiced Bread. It's pretty much awesome. Oh, and there are no tea leaves in it... like my mom thought. There's prepared plain tea, and then the Chai tea taste comes from the cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon.

Chai Tea-Spiced Bread

3/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. butter - softened
1/2 C. prepared tea
1/3 C. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

-Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease bottom only of a loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray.
-In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed, until fluffy. On low speed, beat in tea, milk, vanilla, and eggs until combined. (The mixture will appear lumpy/curdled.) Stir in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Spread the dough in the prepared pan.
-Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (Do not underbake.) Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then loosen the sides and remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 C. powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, and 3 Tbsp. milk. Add more milk by the Tbsp., until the mixture is a spreadable glaze. (Do not add too much milk, it will be runny.) Spread glaze over the cooled bread, and sprinkle with extra cinnamon.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Working My Way to Chicago!

So I've made a couple of decisions the past few days.

Decision number one - I am setting up a stand at the New Columbia Apple Butter Festival. I'm not doing anything productive with my time, so why not crochet and bake to earn a little extra cash? I'm going to be selling...

Crocheted goods:
Scarves - $5
Hats - $4
Kitchen Towels - $3
Dishcloths - $1
Snowflakes - $3
Christmas Wall Decorations - $2

Baked goods:
Peanut Butter Banana Bread - $5
Chai Tea Bread - $5
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies - $1
S'mores Rice Krispie Treats - $1

I'm also toying with the idea of getting some waterfall, beach, and/or lake pics printed and matted to sell for $10. We'll see.... But the Festival is October 15th at the community center in New Columbia. You should all come buy things from me!

Decision number two is that I am going to Chicago. Since I started thinking about it, my unemployment kicked in, and now I'll hopefully make some cash from selling stuff, so I totally have the bank to go on an adventure. It's probably going to be for three nights, the third week of October. I'm going to stay in an awesome-looking but dirt-cheap hostel, see some shows, see the sights, and have a Chicago-style hot dog, and some Chicago deep dish pizza.

Another exciting thing in my life is that I may have a job! It's only a few hours a week, but it's in a theatre, 15 minutes from my house, and something to put on my resume. So going to Chicago is dependent on what my potential new boss says, but I don't think it will be a problem. It's actually in a movie theatre that does live shows sometimes, so I would be helping with lights/tech whenever they have a show. Sometimes I would work 10 hours a week, sometimes I'd work an hour a week. That's fine for me, though. It gives me flexibility for "real job" interviews and to do fun things, but it'll keep me from getting rusty and bored.

All-in-all, things are looking up, and I have a purpose in life again! You can look forward to a Chai Tea Bread recipe post, cuz I haven't made it yet, and I have to try it before trying to sell it to strangers!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Recipes

So I've actually had the opportunity to make quite a bit of food recently. It's very exciting! Now I'm thinking about having a stand at the New Columbia Apple Butter Festival. I would have some crocheted stuff, as well as baked goods. We'll see how much crocheting I get done in the next couple of weeks.

This last week, I made two things for which people seem to want the recipes. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Cinnamon Filling, and S'more Rice Krispie Treats. I decided that a blog post is the best way to circulate these recipes, while getting some extra views! (For those reading my blog just for these recipes, there are more if you look though my older posts - including my last post about Apple Slab Pie!)

With no further ado... Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, and S'mores Rice Krispie Treats!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Cinnamon Filling
makes about 14

2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. light brown sugar
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1 large egg - beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C. canned pumpkin puree

8oz. cream cheese - softened
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter - softened
2 Tbsp. real maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 C. powdered sugar - sifted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2-3 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt.
2. Place the brown sugar and oil in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for one minute. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then the pumpkin. Stir in the sifted flour mixture and beat until thoroughly incorporated.
3. Spoon 28 mounds of batter onto the prepared cookie sheets, spaced a little apart to allow room for spreading. Bake, one sheet at a time, in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until risen and set. Cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to cooling racks.

For the filling, place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat together until well blended. Beat in the maple syrup, cinnamon, and powdered sugar until smooth.

To assemble, pipe or spread the filling on the flat side of half the cakes. Top with the other half to make whoopie pies!

(Sorry for the unappetizing photo... I hadn't planned on blogging about these, so there was only one left to get a picture of!)


S'mores Rice Krispie Treats
(Recipe from Glorious Treats)
makes 12 large treats

3 Tbsp. butter
40 regular marshmallows
5 C. Rice Krispies cereal
1 C. Golden Grahams cereal
1/2 C. mini chocolate chips
10 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (or about 1 C. chocolate chips)
6 full-sized graham crackers, broken in half
24 regular marshmallows

1. Butter (or spray lightly with cooking spray) a 9"x13" pan.
2. In a large microwave safe bowl, place 3 tablespoons of butter (cut into pieces), and 40 marshmallows. Microwave about 3 minutes (stirring after 2 minutes). Watch the microwave, cooking times may vary. Cook in microwave until butter and marshmallows are melted. Stir smooth.
3. Add the Rice Krispies and Golden Grahams cereals to melted marshmallows and stir to combine. Add mini chocolate chips, stir quickly, and immediately pour mixture into prepared 9"x13" pan. Press down into pan with spatula.
4. Melt semi-sweet chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a double boiler over medium heat. Heat until just melted. Spread chocolate on top of Rice Kripies mixture in pan. While the chocolate is still warm, lay graham cracker squares on top, leaving a bit of space between each cracker.
5. Put entire pan in the fridge or freezer (or a cool location) until the chocolate has set (about 20 minutes). Cut into squares with a sharp knife, using the lines between the graham crackers as a guide. Place treats on a large baking sheet, separated slightly.
6. Cut the 24 marshmallows in half and place cut side down onto graham crackers, 4 halves per treat. When all the graham crackers are topped with marshmallows, use a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallow. OR, you can toast the marshmallows in the oven - preheat your oven to broil, place baking sheet of treats in the oven, leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Broil about 30 seconds - watch them, they can burn quickly! Pop them back in the fridge or cool location to re-harden after marshmallows are toasted. Enjoy!

(If you don't want huge treats, halve the graham crackers again before putting them on the chocolate, to make them half-sized.)

Since I don't have handy print-formatted recipes, just copy and paste into Word, or print the whole post. :-P Go forth and spread the deliciousness!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Amazing Apple Slab Pie

So every fall, I start to get the 100 Days of Holidays e-newsletter from Better Homes & Gardens. It starts at the beginning of fall and goes through Christmas. They have recipes, decorating ideas, crafts, etc. One recipe this year so far was Crumb-Topped Apple Slab Pie. It's basically an apple pie, but made in a jellyroll pan, so it can feed a crowd.

It was so much fun to make. I'm usually bad at crust, but this one was super easy.

I also hate prepping apples, but my mom and I got a new toy:

It's pretty much magic. Everyone in the world should have a peeler/corer/slicer.

I had to share this recipe. It was lots of fun to put together, and it looks amazing. I can't try it because it's for Mom to take to school, but it's basically a huge apple pie. It can't be anything but awesome.

Crumb-Topped Apple Slab Pie

(From Better Homes & Gardens)

2 1/4 C. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
2/3 C. butter-flavored shortening
8 Tbsp. cold water
2/3 C. sugar
1/3 C. flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 1/2 lbs. baking apples - cored, peeled, and sliced

Crumb Topping:
1 C. quick oats
1 C. packed brown sugar
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. chopped pecans (optional)


Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil up over the edges of the pan. Spray lightly with non-stick spray and set aside.

For dough: In a large bowl, stir together the 2-1/4 C. flour and the salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cold water over the flour mixture; gently toss with a fork. Repeat, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all of the flour mixture is moistened. Using your fingers, gently knead the dough just until a ball forms.

Preheat oven to 375F. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle large enough to fill the pan. Wrap it around the rolling pin, and unroll it into the prepared baking pan. Ease dough into the pan and up the sides, being careful not to stretch it. Trim dough to fit the pan, where needed.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, the 1/3 C. flour, and the cinnamon; add apples. Toss lightly until apples are coated. Spoon apple mixture into dough-lined pan; spread evenly.

To make the crumb topping, stir together the quick oats, packed brown sugar, and 1/2 C. all-purpose flour. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until topping mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in chopped pecans. Sprinkle topping over the apple mixture in the pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until apples are tender. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Cut into rectangles. Makes about 25 servings.

Enjoy! Feel free to leave comments about anything I should add to my fall baking agenda!