Sunday, January 31, 2010


...degrees. It's 11.1 degrees outside and dropping. That's not the coldest it's been this winter but it's still pretty darn cold. It hasn't gotten over 28 degrees for the past few days.

Secret Agent Man has shingles and although everyone says he's not contagious, I'm sure pre-chicken pox kids, pregnant women, and senior citizens would be happy he's not walking the streets. Seeing as the temperatures have been pretty icy, we're not all that motivated to leave our freezing house for even colder adventures in town. Although the heater in the car is our only sense of relief since this house is barely able to stay above 50 degrees with the heater burning full blast. Good times, people.

So we're tucked into bed and then we get a hankering for nachos. It was only midnight and we do live just outside a college town and thought it would be fun to sneak out for a midnight date. It's our favorite kind--but just so you know we aren't complete fatties, we didn't eat dinner so I felt it was justified. However there was only one big problem with our brilliant plan:

Who the heck in our town serves Nachos?? Lemme tell you-no one.

Then we thought it would be a good time to go to the grocery store and I could make our own nachos...

..but by the time we worked up to courage to get out of our warm and cozy bed, we looked at the dropping temperature and decided that it's just waaaaay too stupid for us to venture out. So I settled for a fried egg and avocado sandwich that I made on fresh olive bread from our local baker, very reminiscent of this sandwich but instead of cheese I sprinkled bacon bits in it. Secret Agent Man made himself some miso soup and rice. There's no wonder why I call him Jack Sprat.

Stay warm but sneak out for something fun every once in a while!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bread and Water

This is my lunch a few times a week: Bread and Water. Well, Cheese too. I found a local baker who makes such wonderful fresh baked bread that I'm really learning to enjoy the simplest things in life. Look at the lovely crust and airy, chewy crumb. The flavor is like a really ripe sourdough. One day I will make a bread like this.

The cheese is from our local dairy. It's called Longhorn--I assume it's named after the cow variety (species?) but that's just my ignorance talking. It kinda tastes like a cross between Jack and Chedder. I really want to try some of the local cheese artisans but Secret Agent Man is a little weary believing that they make cheese in bathtubs (they don't!). Me? I'm looking forward to more bread, more cheese, and I'm going to try raw milk (like straight from grass-fed cows) this year. It's so cool to be surrounded by all this stuff.

til latte!

Friday, January 15, 2010

It comes and goes

People would ask me, incredulously, if it were true that girls in Hawaii walk around topless and wear grass skirts and if we live in huts. Seriously.

As naive as that sounds, I now know what it is like to be on the other side, thinking the stupid question.

So winter entails cold, snow, blankets of white...but what I didn't realize is that the snow comes and goes. For example, this is the day before Christmas when temperatures hit single digits.

Note that I'm INSIDE and Secret Agent Man is OUTSIDE. Don't feel too bad for him though. He got to play with the snowblower. He's a good sport.

This was Christmas day. Look how beautiful! Don't let the blue skies fool you. The day time high was still only in the teens.

Then this was the day after Christmas.

Just like that, woke up and it was all gone.

For the past month it will snow, melt, rain, rain, sleet, melt, flurry, and so on. I thought it would snow and remain that way until Spring! Who's the dummy now?

Funny enough, once it does snow, it feels like it insulates the area and it feels warmer and brighter than the usual days of gray.

Stay warm!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shave Ice!

Or as Big Islanders say: "Ice Shave!"

Sweets for my sweets.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

American Buttercreme Frosting

Frosting gives you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to baked goods. Frosting can turn an ordinary boxed cake into an extraordinary celebration cake. Unless you are serving true foodies, most people will be so impressed with the frosting that they won't pay any attention to the cake--hence, don't waste time on making a fussy cake when you can make this easy frosting!

There are several types of buttercreme frosting but today we will make the simplest: American Buttercreme. It's a little sweet, a little rich, and very easy.

You only need three ingredients: Butter, Cream, and powdered sugar.
You can get creative and mix and match flavors, liquids, and even butter or shortening. We will begin by testing the differences between a butter vs. shortening frosting.

SO, let's begin with:
1 Cup (2 sticks) Butter, softened vs. 1 cup butter flavored Crisco
1 1/2 cup powdered or confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp milk or cream

By-the-way, that big bag of white powder IS sugar. In case you've ever wondered who would ever buy that 20 lb. bag of powdered sugar at Costco, you can stop wondering. I gave some away to friends when I moved and I was so paranoid that I would get arrested for possession with the intent to distribute that it gave me the idea for the name of this blog!

Anyhoo, back to frosting. Start by getting your butter out on the counter to soften. If you live in a cold environment, you may need to use the microwave for only 10 seconds. Any more than that and you'll get a greasy mess. Crisco is already soft and at room temperature so you don't need to do anything with it.

Next, sift your powdered sugar. I sift more than a cup at a time since I usually end up using more. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP--this is the only way to get lumps out, once it is mixed in you get very irritating hard bits. I use a fine sieve over a glass bowl.

If you don't have one-get one, it's totally worth it (about $3.50 at Walmart/ Target) and you can use it for pasta too!

Use a spoon to stir the sugar around and rub it through the sieve to make things go faster.

In the mean time, start beating your butter or shortening. You can use a handheld mixer--no need for the fancy stuff (but how I love thee). Here's a picture of whipped butter:

And here's a picture of the butter flavored Crisco:

The color of the crisco is kinda off-putting.

Once it is well beaten, add powdered sugar by the quarter cup. This helps keep it from flying up in your face and making a mess.

Do not worry if it looks crumbly. This is where you add your cream one tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want. I've had a lot of luck with using vanilla coffee creamer as my liquid--this gets the most wows. BUT if you are worried about consuming artificial food, you can definitely use regular milk or half-n-half, or whipping cream. You can also use any flavor extract you want to make it extra special. Make sure you mix well!

At this point you can adjust the texture by adding more powdered sugar (see aren't you glad you sifted extra?) to make it a bit thicker or add more milk/cream to make it a but thinner. I like to keep it so that it's a bit on the thicker side but still spreadable. No exact science here.

Here are two different frostings on volunteer cupcakes.

I actually tested a 50% butter + 50% shortening frosting as well. Here are the results:

Taste- Butter tastes richer and has a nicer mouth feel as long as it's at room temperature. It gets oily if it's hot out. The butter Crisco was suprisingly good but it's less frosting taste and more like the middle of hostess cupcakes or oreos.

Texture- Butter was definitely smoother in the mouth but also felt dense so you need a pretty sturdy cake (no angel food cake for this frosting!). Crisco was gritty. The sugar didn't quite dissolve in the shortening which left a greasy feel and gritty bite. BUT, left to mellow overnight, the texture was identical to butter!

Appearance- Believe it or not, the yucky looking fake yellow Crisco whipped up white just like the butter frosting! Crisco was slightly darker but still appeared white, fluffy and creamy looking.

Convenience- Crisco is much better at convenience because you don't have to wait to soften the butter and it can be used in a wide range of temperatures, thus it's a little more fool-proof. You can also whip up the Crisco frosting a few days ahead and store in the refrigerator, take it out and begin frosting right away! You could whip the butter frosting as well but you would have to soften the butter and re-whip before frosting.

So the winner is: BUTTER AND SHORTENING! Just kidding, I hate when there's no clear answer. If you are making a big batch for a party, wedding, or it needs to travel in a hot car, definitely go with at least a 50% butter and 50% shortening mix--it'll be much more stable and easier to deal with. It just seems so wrong that a fake shortening would out perform real butter but it does for commercial reasons but the flavor of butter is definitely much deeper and more satisfying (so you eat less and don't feel sick after) than the shortening.

If you have extra frosting, just freeze and take it out for your next cake!
Enjoy your sugar coma.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year! Resolutions...

Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2010! A new year's posting would not be such without a note on resolutions. Here are my resolutions for 2010:

1. The requisite-Exercise more.

2. Buy and Eat Local. This will be a great challenge but with my CSA and a local grass-fed farm, I think I have fresh food covered. It'll just be difficult to make any ethnic food. I don't think they grow rice in Pennsylvania.

3. Bake more bread. This summer, I'm going to try and raise some wild yeast and see if I can bake bread from scratch. I wonder if I can find any local granaries.

4. Professionally- I will write and publish a minimum of 6 first or second author articles.

5. I will write and send birthday cards ON TIME.

6. Craft More.

7. We will explore the East Coast and plan a few small trips throughout the year--this being more a wish than a resolution. Maybe the resolution should be to make time for fun.

It's no surprise that my top three resolutions are food related, and yes, I only exercerise because it will allow me to eat more-never mind all the other health benefits of exercising. But the point here is to have more fun, spend less money but more time together. Take care of each other and Happy New Year!

p.s. feel free to share your resolutions in the comments.