No, I’m not giving away cake pops at my door, they went to friends and family’s coworkers. Costumed kiddos get our typical Starburst and Skittles. Note: They come in a giant bag with Snickers and M&M’s, but somehow, those don’t quite make it to the trick-or-treaters!
Monthly Archives: October 2009
Quite a bit of our time this past week has been spent at the building, continuing to hang drywall. Justin also bought a special soundproofing material, called Green Glue, that we spread between drywall layers in our bedroom. We aren’t too worried about the noise from Main Street and The Square, but we figured that this certainly wouldn’t hurt.
This afternoon we spent some time cleaning the upstairs a bit, clearing out unneeded tools, extra pieces of drywall and wood, and generally getting the space ready to become even dustier after mudding and sanding. Justin started filling in some of the larger gaps with quick-set mud, so that it will all come out even when finished. Hanging the drywall turned out to be a much longer and more involved process than we anticipated, so it is nice to be moving forward to the next step!
Another not-uncommon chocolate fix triggered yet another little wave of nostalgia, and this quick, simple, tastier-than-tasty treat was brought to mind. I can remember the first time I had this “faux toffee,” or “graham cracker toffee,” or whatever it might be called in your family.
The edges of the details are a little blurred, like who all was there or what year it was exactly, but the important facts are crystal clear. First, we were in Illinois visiting and laughing with family, Second, my Aunt Ruth made this toffee for everyone, and Third, I wished I could have more. These easy, sweet, chocolate-y treats are forever intertwined in my memory with feeling happy and my Aunt Ruth.
And really, being around my Aunt Ruth and feeling happy are always intertwined. Ruth has a pretty kickin’ way about her that makes me feel confident and loved, and want to laugh til my sides hurt. Justin and I always look forward to spending time with Ruth, Greg, and their now-adult kids, Allison, Laura, and Thomas, because we know, whether it is a big holiday or a common meal, we will have Big Fun. This faux toffee may not have quite the same power, but it still makes me smile.
And I bet I made Ruth cry. Love you, dear friend and aunt, see you on Tuesday!
I’ve been somehow sucked into a vortex that has taken me back to 1989. This probably has a lot to do with me stumbling onto old Doogie Howser, MD episodes on Hulu. But these caramel apples I made last night have triggered childhood memories as well. One of my favorite treats during the Art in the Park festivities downtown was to enjoy fresh, crisp apples chopped up with warm caramel drizzled over the top. So easy. So simple. So delicious. Especially when wearing a neon pink and yellow shirt, paired with purple leggings.
It is a near perfect treat (considering it doesn’t have any chocolate or peanut butter in it)! Back to present day, the honeycrisp apples are being harvested by the bushel barrels, which makes them easy to find and ridiculously cheap this time of year. I love that these are grown just a few miles from our home! These are among my favorite apples, a lightly sweet flavor with a great crunch. I went the easy route with the caramel, opening a bag and unwrapping a bunch of the fool-proof cubes. I added a couple tablespoons of heavy cream, and slowly heated them until stirred smooth. Then (generously) ladled it over the chopped apples. I like chopping the apples, rather than dipping them whole, because the caramel-to-apple ratio is so much higher!
I’m off to see which patient Doogie saves, and what positive moral message he learns, in the next episode!
Ginger Chewies have now been coming out of my oven on a pretty regular basis around here. Besides being a favorite, the cooler weather seems to increase our demand of cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Along those same lines, when I cracked open my copy of Martha Stewart Cupcakes yesterday, and it fell open to “Gingerbread Cupcakes,” I didn’t feel the need to delve any further. I had all of the ingredients on hand and felt it was quite necessary to make the house smell of spicy happiness.
The batter came together easily and quickly, but I was surprised that no baking powder or baking soda is listed among the ingredients. The result is a rather dense cake, much more muffin-like than cake-like. The flavor is definitely that of gingerbread, and the vanilla buttercream frosting paired nicely with it. But I’m not sure I would make them again. I think that I will try this recipe, which is really quite different, considering it comes from the same person!
Yesterday we started hanging drywall. Some family came down from Wausau to help with the grunt work of lifting and holding, and our friend Jim helped direct us where to lift and hold specifically.
Ken, Greg, Ruth and Jim all helped make this day a lot more fun than lugging hundred pound sheets of drywall up a flight of stairs should be. There were plenty of laughs, an abundance of “that’s what she said” jokes, and musings on the need to insulate bathroom walls. Plus we were able to get both of the ceilings in the bedrooms and walls in the kitchen and office area done. We were all tired by the end of the day, and we still have more to do, but it was a great day with some of our favorite people, and that makes some sore muscles worthwhile.
Scones are something I always seem to forget about. Except that I love ‘em. I love ‘em plain… or with butter… or with cream… or jam. I’m not sure why I forget about them. They’re really pretty easy to throw together, and it only gets a couple of bowls dirty. And the recipe is so easy to adapt to what you have on hand. Some dried cranberries and orange zest – lovely! A handful of cinnamon chips – delicious! Heck, I didn’t even have enough cream when I made them today, and the recipe still came out heavenly having substituted some skim milk and a little bit of extra butter. Scones are best served the day they are made, though you could easily freeze some of the wedges before they are baked, and just pull them out to bake as you like!
Cinnamon Chip Cream Scones
from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
10 ounces (about 2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup heavy cream
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.
2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.
3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in cinnamon chips. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Transfer dough to large bowl. Add cinnamon chips.
4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.
5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to counter top and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by pressing the dough into a floured 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper.
6. Place wedges on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The last week and a half has been near-miserable weather. Temperature hovering around the freezing point, clouds hanging thick and dark across the sky, sucking all hope and happiness from the world, traditional beautiful October weather a thing to only dream about. I wasn’t taking my camera outside to get rained and sleeted on. Heck, I didn’t even want to leave the warm covers of my bed, much less step foot outside!
But then today rolled itself around. The sun decided to stand its ground and not let those bully clouds dampen its rays. A great day to rake the front lawn of maple leaves, set just-purchased pumpkins on the stoop, and get some much awaited autumnal photographs.
Thanks, Fall, for deciding to make an appearance!
While I do have a cornbread muffin recipe that I really like, I decided to see what else is out there that has the potential to be better. I decided to search out a highly rated recipe on Allrecipes.com. Well, there ended up being two recipes that both received rave reviews, and, as they were quite different, I decided to try them both out, to see which we preferred. One is a more traditionally Southern recipe, made with buttermilk, while the other has a more Midwest slant, made with additional butter, sugar, and regular milk.
First up is “Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread.“ This recipe contains buttermilk and baking soda, and equal parts flour and cornmeal.
The second recipe is Buttery Cornbread. It contains regular milk (I used whole milk, as I had it on hand), baking powder, and more than twice as much flour as cornmeal.
The difference in recipes was immediately evident, even in the batter for each. Grandmother’s batter (on the left) was much thicker, similar in consistency to cooked grits. On the other hand, the Buttery batter was much thinner, closer in consistency to a yellow cake batter.
After being baked (375 degrees for 30 minutes), the differences became less pronounced, but were still visible. Grandmother’s thicker batter stayed solid and retained a dense shape while baking. On the other hand, the baking powder and cake batter-like texture of Buttery’s recipe contributed to a cake-like finish, with higher rounded edges.
In regards to taste, the differences became even more evident. Both are excellent recipes and worthy of the great reviews. Grandmothers Buttermilk Cornbread had a rich, dense texture, and the extra cornmeal in the recipe really contributes to an appropriately “corny” taste. The buttermilk lends itself to keeping this bread incredibly moist, as well as giving it a slightly tangy aftertaste. Buttery Cornbread was indeed buttery, both in mouth-feel and taste. This bread was a bit less dense, with a strong corn taste, but less so than Grandmother’s (as expected).
For us, Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread won, hands down. We liked the richer, denser texture and more pronounced taste of the buttermilk and additional cornmeal. I will definitely add this recipe to my binder, the perfect accompaniment to a warm bowl of chili on a cold evening!
This weekend we drove down to Galena, Illinois with my Mom, Aunt Ruth, Aunt Phyllis, Uncle Mark, and cousin Allison. The trip is an annual pilgrimage to Galena during their Country Fair weekend. The weekend is a flurry of laughing, eating, walking around Galena, and scoping out sweet Craft-wear. Applique pumpkin shirts? Check. Quilt-Jackets? Check. Bedazzled hats, shirts, and sandals? Check. Bedazzled underwear? Not so much, thankfully.
One tradition that we have carried on is to hike up the Stairs in the middle of town. The picture doesn’t quite do these stairs justice. There are 194 stairs, starting at Main Street, and rising up along the hillside of homes. At least we were smart this year, and didn’t wait until right after a filling lunch or dinner!
We all made it up fairly quickly (Justin graciously offered to stay at the bottom, you know, to photograph the event) but coming down was certainly the easier of the directions!
Another great reason to head down Galena-way is to connect with our dear friend Angie, who lives with her husband Kurt and daughter Katie in Kieler, Wisconsin, only about 20 minutes from Galena. Angie and Katie drove over to take in the Country Fair with us. Katie is always a hoot, and we enjoy a bit of time to catch up.
The one downfall this year was the weather. As it is the second weekend in October, the weather can be pretty unpredictable, but in years past we’ve enjoyed wonderfully warm and sunny days. This year that was not the case. The temperature hovered between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and a flurry of snow started to fall on Saturday. While colder than we would have liked, we all agreed that we would take snow over rain, and were glad we weren’t soaking wet in addition to cold.
Definitely a fun weekend in a great little town.