Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall is here - well mostly - Pumpkin time

Today it was in the 90s again. ugh.

Fall is here
We went to the pumpkin farm a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time being at one for the 4 years old. I love the wagon filled with the pumpkins and gourds! It says fall, harvest, work done well. We purchased a few pumpkins, my favorite being the small "sugar" pumpkins. There's one right in the center front of the wagon. Smooth skinned and small.

They'll go directly in the oven after a good scrub to the outer hull. Then insert a knife at the top and begin to split the pumpkin in two, cut through the skin on both sides of the pumpkin. Once it's split, cut off the stem and core the pumpkin. If you wish, you can quarter the pumpkin to roast it. I usually just set them on a cookie sheet, with a bit of water in the pan - about a cup or so - and roast it in the oven at 375F for about and hour or until the skin is tender.

Cool and scrape out the flesh into a food processor bowl. Pulse to puree the pumpkin. They are lighter in color than canned pumpkins and have a bit more "juice" too. I allow my fresh pumpkin puree to drain a bit to firm it up a bit.

It can now be used as you would the canned stuff or if you wish you can combine it with canned puree for a more traditional color. The puree will be good for about 3 days in your refrigerator, or you can freeze it at this point to use later. It will be good for six months.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Weddings, gumpaste roses

Update: Pics of delivered cake at the end of the article!
When I managed the bakery, we had gumpaste roses readily available to use. As I looked at the wedding cake I needed to do for tomorrow, I realized I didn't have any gumpaste roses. What to do?
gumpaste roses

One choice would be to purchase some. I checked with a couple of shops 45 minutes away in either direction, and they were expensive, or too yellowish white. I checked online with the sources we used at the bakery and they had some really great prices. If, I wanted to buy 50 or more. That wouldn't be prudent.

So my other choice was to make them myself. I use fondant all the time, but I have never used gumpaste. So where does one go to learn quickly how to use the stuff, what it is made of, how to make it yourself and all other kinds of info? Where else? YouTube!

I found a great tutorial made by Edna. Edna is a cake designer from Florida. She shoes you how to quickly and easily make a rose in six, yes, six videos on you tube. She makes it look very simple so I thought I'd give it a try. This is my result.

Petals: There is waaay too much powdered sugar on the board, but it was the end of a long day and the last flower was done in a rush.

Bud centers. When I made the centers, I had watched an inferior you tube video that showed how to make them. The I found Edna. I wish I had found her first!
gumpaste rose bases

This is the result of my first effort in making gumpaste roses. I think they turned out well enough to use on the cake, and they will improve in quality as I practice more often.
First time making gumpaste roses

I can see all kinds of things that should be done better, yet I still see enough quality that they would be acceptable for the wedding cake tomorrow. Thank goodness for Edna!

Update: Delivered cake:
wedding cake

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Monday, October 20, 2008

I love a wedding!

Got a call Saturday evening. A mom in desperate need of a cake. S'mee passed my name along as a possible person who could do a cake on short notice. The mom had looked a some of my wedding cakes online and decided on one prior to calling.
Ivory Wedding

Being that she had done all of the leg work, how could I turn her down? It will be a chocolate cake, buttercream frosting and a cookies and cream filling. Mmmmm. Good choice. S'mee did the bouquet, and I am very glad she recommended me. So we will be delivering a cake to Apple Valley and then heading to Arizona! Yayayay!

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Friday, October 17, 2008


For years, I have been subjected to all the bird jokes. Yes, I've heard just about all of them. I chose to embrace Rocking Robin and her boppin all around as my favorite. Well, I have a new favorite! Perch is a lovely little blog I've been keeping to myself for some time now. Justine, the author, has the best taste around. I have drooled at her posts and snagged a few pictures to put in my "house" file for when we build our home. Justine is also a good friend of my daughter's I've come to find out recently.

Tomorrow Perch is going to spotlight Over the River and Through the Woods.... We are very excited to have Justine review us and have a giveaway. Yes, a giveaway! All you need to do is go to her site and make a comment on her post spotlighting our new venture! We're giving away a few goodies to give your parties the perfect pizazz!

Go, quick! You'll have a week to sign up, but you have to do it!

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Okay so I told you about the cake mixes...

And you all had such nice things to say, I decided to go with Etsy. Since I have a daughter and her husband and family here, I decided it was time to start working and make my company the real deal. I've looked at professional kitchens, and rented some space. I've begun slowly, still working on the packaging of the cake mixes, the little box is so cute, but very expensive! But let me formally introduce to you Over the River and Through the Woods...

I asked s'mee to help me with art work and copy editing and she obliged. And, by the way, she's a really talented artist/writer 0 if you need design work done - email her! Thank goodness for sisters! And daughters! Without them I would be a lot farther away from accomplishing these goals. Right now, because of the packaging issues, I am only offering fondant decorations on Etsy, but they're really cute and the mixes won't be too far away!

Thank you for all your support. Please allow me to ask that if you are thinking of a party you need decorations or cake things for, I'd love to earn your business! I can design something just for you or you can choose from the line I already have in place.

I'm still doing glass work, but glass doesn't help pay the mortgage. Food is my vocation and I need to devote more time to it.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

George Bush killed my Mother's

Mother's logoIt is a sad day in cookie land. The maker of Archway and Mother's cookies has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the wake of rising food and fuel costs and plans to end its U.S. operations.

I am in mourning. Remember back when gas prices were soaring out of control and some politician made reference to "Gas prices are how much???!!??". Yeah, I blame George Bush and his circle of oilmen for this one.

Mother's Cookies was my cookie company of choice if I wasn't baking. They were always good. Mr. Wheatley knew a good thing when he tasted that first vanilla cookie back in 1914. He grew the company into a fine cookie company through the years. Now, oil has killed them. It's a sad commentary. But truly, when a company has assets of $50 million and debts of $500 million, something, somewhere is going to give. Fuel costs contributed to the rise in flour and sugar costs, then fuel on its own did a great job too.

So what to do? Go buy all the packages you can and put them in the freezer!
Animal Cookies

You're going to miss these!
Animal Cookies

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Omnivore's 100 Challege

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has published a list called the Ominivore's 100. The list was compiled by Andrew Wheeler, a British food writer. He believes that if you call yourself an omnivore you should try all of the items at least once in your life. I've eaten quite a few of them already...

I've bolded my consumption. There are a few in purple that I will probably never try. There's just something about a bug that just doesn't appeal to me. So how about you? Where do you draw the line? And what have you sampled and loved?

The Very Good Taste Ominvore's 100

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush (I haven't eaten this but isn't second day leftovers of eggplant parmesan quite like it?)

11. Calamari bleh
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich about a thousand of them!
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes by mistake
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream a favorite!

21. Heirloom tomatoes and grew them myself.
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans a staple
25. Brawn, or head cheese only once.
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper yep, died once in Santa Monica due to them
27. Dulce de leche it is SoCal here.
28. Oysters on the half shell! Rockefellered, fried, you name it.
29. Baklava bleh.
30. Bagna cauda

31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl I like it better without the bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut a favorite of my real father's
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo my favorite soup

40. Oxtail I had a colored childhood
41. Curried goat, not that colored evidently
42. Whole insects unless you count a couple of flies as a kid - not by choice - riding a bike
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $60/$120 or more I was 17, being polite I had no idea what was in the glass
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut I like my home donut maker here in town

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone very little flavor, fresh from the ocean.
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV not after the incident in 4th grade, I'll write about it in my book someday
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads back to the childhood
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake yes, yes, no and yes
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini

81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant, I live in the boonies no way this will ever happen
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash see post below!
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate

91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta I love it
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I find it interesting that most of my "I'm not trying that ever" stuff is liquid. And alcohol. bleh. Having alcoholic family members are just too good an example of why not to get started imbibing.

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German Chocolate Birthday cake - The boneyard version

Today is my one true love's birthday. I say one true love because we fell in love my senior year of high school and have been together ever since. We're totally inseparable. He has been being really good and in the past three months he's dropped almost 50 pounds! Me, well, that's another story, but I have a good reason. (I'll tell you about it sometime.) So in my best supportive wife role I made him a cake. It's his fault though. Last night he asked for a slice of German Chocolate Cake. Well, today I made it for him. Here's a pic of the boneyard - after the carnage.
German Chocolate Cake

This morning I used my great sidebar link for FoodBlog Search to find a great recipe for Coconut Pecan Frosting. At the top was one of my favorite bloggers Nicole, of Baking Bites. I used her recipe adding a bit of extra coconut as my husband loves the stuff (sorry Thor!) and it turned out great! I frosted a three layer six inch round cake and the picture above is the boneyard. I didn't take a picture of the cake prior to cutting it so you're left to guess what it looked like. The granddaughter insisted on sprinkling just abit more coconut on it as we finished putting it together. She loved helping make poppa's cake.

This was the birthday boy's plate when he was done:
German Chocolate Cake

Now he's in a sugar coma, after not having any for about three months. I am so proud of him. He's doing great! Happy Birthday Babe! I'll be seeing less and less of you with your will power and stamina.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Grandma's Goulash

"Pepper will put a man on his horse, and a woman in her grave!" Those were the words of my maternal grandmother, Ethel. We would go to stay with her for two weeks each summer, my brother and me. Then my sisters would join her and she'd repeat the previous two weeks with them. She cooked every meal pretty much from scratch, never used any spices, unless cooking a turkey, then sage was the usual choice. The statement above is one we heard at breakfast when asking for pepper on our eggs like grandpa's.

Ethel was the quintessential fine lady. Her avocation was homekeeping. She did it with great honor and very few complaints. Cooking became her signature, along with entertaining friends. She was a modern woman in her time, the envy of friends for certain. I can only imagine groups of friends gathered at her home every plate impeccably prepared, women fawning over her food and men sharing a cigar and a highball with grandad, Sid.

For a month each year, their home became grandkid central and all things stopped for a time. She then entertained us with food, cleaning and strict behavior. When I look back at those weeks spent at grandma's house I have many great memories. The best being Goulash.

ready to eat Goulash

Goulash became a centerpiece of entertaining the grandkids. It is quick, simple and likable by all. How can you go wrong? I cooked up a batch the other night. While I was cooking my daughter at my side I shared my love for goulash, the changes made in our home and how she didn't remember eating it as a child. Then the phone rang, it was daughter number three. She asked if I was preparing dinner, affirmative I answered, "What are you cooking?" I answered Goulash. He reply came, "It is one of my favorite meals. I can't believe sis doesn't remember it."

Grandma's Goulash for all.

Begin with a pound of good ground beef, 7% lean or better.
2 - 10 oz cans of Del Monte Stewed tomatoes (original recipe)
4 to 5 peeled carrots, sliced 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch thick
4 to 5 stalks of celery, sliced the same as the carrots.

While you are browning your meat, sliced your vegetables. I add a bit of garlic granules to the meat as it cooks. Drain meat once it is cooked. Add the carrots, celery and tomatoes all at once, placing the lid on the skillet and allow it to cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Once your vegetables are tender you're ready to eat.

Goulash, cooked

I serve it with a salad, rolls and that's it. Family variation, if you don't have rolls, my husband asks that I add some whole wheat flat noodles to the mix to give it more of a hearty dinner. Enjoy.

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