Friday, March 29, 2013

Next Gen House

As if you couldn't tell by the lack of posting, this blog ran its course a long time ago. I've got a new project I'm working on, which you can check out here:

Next Gen House
Imagining a sustainable future for the next generation, one canning jar and backyard chicken at a time

Twitter: nextgenhouse
Instagram: nextgenhouse

Sunday, March 25, 2012

you rock, cupcakes

The group fitness gym that I attend, You Rock Fitness, held a Zumba fundraiser last week for the Team Alex Fund that helps kids with spinal cord injuries and illnesses afford the treatment and therapy they need. I made mini cupcakes for the fundraiser, with the pink color and stars for the gym's logo. I made yellow buttermilk cupcakes, which I've done on the blog before, so this time I only have after photos!

Friday, March 23, 2012

sweet samoas

In previous years, early spring was always Girl Scout cookie time. Tagalongs are my personal favorite (oh the peanut butter), but Mark is a fan of the Samoas. However, this year due to our pledge to remove as many processed foods as possible from our diets, as well as our challenge to not eat any chocolate that isn't fair trade, the cookies were not in the cards for us this year.

I decided to be ambitious and try to make my own homemade version of the Samoas with fair trade chocolate for Mark as a gift for the anniversary of the day we met, which we celebrate each February. The verdict was quite positive, delicious actually. Just don't attempt these when you only have 2 hours on your hands because let's just say it took ages.

You start with a shortbread cookie base.


At this point, we have to stop. This dough is really thick, and it broke my mixer blade. Granted, I think from such repeated use over the last 4 years the beater blade had its fair share of beatings, but this one decided to make the plastic blade snap. Right in the box. Shards of plastic pieces in my dough.

That means I no longer have any regular blades for my mixer because the one that came with it had a paint chipping problem that wasn't appetizing. So enter Mark's mixer. And a second batch of shortbread. Photos pick up where the other left off!

During the dough making, you should be toasting coconut. 

After the dough is refrigerated in hunks, you take it out to soften, roll, and cut. I chose to use a combination of circle and heart cutters, since these were an "I love you" gift and all.

While the cookies are baking, you can start the caramel. This wasn't my night. I ended up making two batches of caramel because I burnt the first one while distracted with the shortbread. These photos are a mix from the two batches. Using organic sugar (with a higher molasses content and thus a brownish tint) made for a harder time seeing when the caramel had started to form. This was the most tricky part of the process for me.


You separate it into a small dish for spreading and leave the larger amount to make the coconut mixture.

Enter coconut, gloriously toasted.

Mix with the caramel and get ready to assemble.

It helps to keep the coconut mixture on the cookie if you spread a little caramel on it first.


After the coconut and caramel have set, you can dip the bottom of the cookie in chocolate and then flip it over to set. We use Theo chocolate quite a lot now in baking. Theo is the only American chocolatier that produces fair trade  chocolate products. Everything we've had from them has been out of this world. If you ever see Theo (we get ours at Whole Foods but you can buy it online and also at REI), grab it up. You won't regret it.

I popped a tray of them at a time in our chest freezer to speed set, because at this point I was ready for bed.

Just flick the excess chocolate over the top of the cookies to finish. Five hours later, you have amazing homemade samoa cookies. 


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

adam's apple dumplings

Are you confused as to whether or not these are apple dumplings that belong to Adam or dumplings made of Adam's apples? I didn't think so, but as an editor, I enjoy the word play.

Moving on, these were for Adam's birthday way back in the before time, in the long long ago. (Think, February.) I'd actually never made apple dumplings before, so this was a dessert first!

First off, we have the sauce that gets poured everywhere and bubbles up nicely when baked. Sugar, water, butter, and cinnamon.

It's always hard to catch a picture when making sauces. I'm too afraid my camera will plunge into the sticky pot!

Dumpling dough is next. Good thing I know how to use a pastry cutter from all my strawberry shortcake experience.

Those are not my tattooed arms.  I can't roll dough at our island without being on a ladder, so Mark graciously steps up to the dough, so to speak.

We got these great apples at the Pittsburgh Public Market. Love it there. LOVE.

After I was done drooling over the apples, it was time to peel and core. Or core and peel, as the case may be.

The apples hung out while the dough was cut into squares for wrapping.

Each apple was placed on the dough, filled with honey, and then topped with a cinnamon/sugar/butter mix.

I didn't get any shots of them in the pan, wrapped up, but I managed to grab one before I dug in!