So, I’ve been slacking a bit on this whole blog thing, but I have a really good reason: last October I started pastry school! I am currently enrolled in a six month program at Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, and it is amazing. I’m having so much fun and learning all sorts of new tricks. There are days when I get frustrated with my abilities, or lack there of, but most days it’s a blast. I can’t wait to go to class each day and see what I’m going to learn. I don’t really have a lot of free time to write posts most days, so I’ve been saving up pictures of all of my finished products to share with you now. Enjoy!
Zombie Apocalypse! …and a fruit salad September 13, 2011
Okay, so I know that the Zombocalypse has nothing to do with baking, or cooking at all for that matter considering zombies prefer their human flesh raw, but I figured my loyal blog readers (Hi, Mom!) wouldn’t mind if I deviated from my usual blogging theme to give you some great news. My boyfriend has been working very diligently for the past few months to write a book, and it officially became alive today! We’re super excited and can’t wait for everyone to read it.
G has always been a writer; he majored in English (not the teaching aspects of it, just English) in college and even has a master in the same. His family and I have been privileged to read bits and pieces of his work over the years, and may of us (especially his brother) have been trying to convince him that he should publish his work. It took me sending him this article about Amanda Hocking and her adventure in self publishing in the form of eBooks, to convince him that, not only could he publish his work, but that people would read it. Especially since his book would be much better than her unedited, cliche young adult novels. I’m not being judgmental here, I downloaded and read two of the books from her Trylle trilogy and they are full of grammatical mistakes and contradictions, but I have to admit that her characterizations are good and the story is of a popular theme. She knows her audience and how to reach them despite her lack of proper editing skills and original ideas. G figured that if this untrained girl could earn millions from her self-published eBooks, he might as well give it a try, and he did in the form of Zombies Ate My Film Fest, a novel set right here in Austin, Texas at one of our favorite film festivals, Fantastic Fest.
I was one of the lucky few to get to read an advanced copy of the novel to help him edit it, and I have to say that it is damn good. The story is clever, funny, and has the right amount of action mixed with just a small hint of a love story. His zombies are like none other I have seen before (and I have read a lot of zombie books), and the nerdy-ness of the protagonist makes him completely loveable, despite his cowardly faults. I think fans of Fantastic Fest will love all of the references to the festival, it’s creators, and those who attend, but non-Fantastic Fest-ers will still find the story an entertaining and enjoyable read.
So, please visit G’s website and download the book; it will only cost you 99 cents! If you don’t have an eBook device, don’t worry: you can install the Adobe Digital Editions onto your computer from Lulu before you download the novel.
***Further Update: The Austin Post online wrote a front page article about the book! Read it here.***
Now for all of you who stuck around long enough to read my advertising ploy, here’s a recipe for a Fruit Salad that I made this last 4th of July, but never managed to post:
My grandfather used to grow watermelon on his farm and, since we spent every 4th of July at his house (it was also his birthday), there were always plenty to go around. My brothers, cousins, and I would sit on picnic tables and eat large wedges of the super ripe fruit still warm from the sun and have contests to see who could spit the seeds farther. I never won, but would always participate because Grandpa told me that if I swallowed any seeds, I would grow a watermelon in my belly. (Imagine my surprise the first time I saw a pregnant lady!) Because of these memories, my 4th of July always includes watermelon. This year it came in the form of a fruit salad.
Here’s what you need:
1 large package of grapes
juice and zest of two limes
Here’s what you do:
This really isn’t much of a recipe: you simply cut up all of your fruit (I left my grapes whole), mix it together with the zest and juice of two limes, and refrigerate until everything is nice and cold.
The hardest part about this salad is cutting up the pineapple, but I have a method that works every time.
1. Cut off the top and bottom of the pinapple
2. Stand the pineapple on the now flat bottom and slice down the sides with a serrated knife to remove the skin
3. Cut the pineapple in half and then fourths
4. Lay the fourths, cut side down, on the cutting board and cut in towards the center at an angle to remove the core
5. Cube the pineapple flesh into bite sized pieces
Strawberry-Lemon Tart and a Birthday Celebration July 17, 2011
Today is a very special and exciting day: my boyfriend’s little sister is turning 24, and she loves to celebrate! Now, I know that everyone loves their birthday, but JW really loves her birthday, and that makes the anticipation of the day so much more exciting. Thanks to her boyfriend’s careful planning, the celebrations started last night with a Master Pancake show and will come to an end on Sunday in the form of seeing the last Harry Potter. Between the bookends of two great viewing experiences there are a multitude of activities and surprises. One of which is this Strawberry-Lemon Tart and I have no doubt that she will love it, after all, her favorite flavor of dessert is lemon.
This tart was created by combining a few of my favorite recipes: the crust is from one of my favorite blogs Dessert First and the lemon curd is an Ina Garden recipe. I covered the top in a fruit glaze to keep the strawberries fresh and give everything a nice sheen. I have to say that I am really happy with how it turned out.
Happy 24th birthday, JW!
Thanks for being the little sister I never had, but always wanted. You are truly an amazing person and I am grateful to have you in my life.
Jam, Jam, and more Jam March 25, 2011
Jam is something I always have in my pantry. It’s so very versatile. I particularly love to use it to dress up cookies. I’ve made jam before, but have never canned it, so this was a learning experience for me. I spent tons of time searching the internet for the proper procedure and realized, after searching many sites, that it was really not that complicated. You just have to make sure that everything is sterilized, place hot jam in hot jars, and be sure to boil them for the recommended amount of time. You can make your own jams in any flavors you want, but I chose: Strawberry Balsamic, Lemon Curd, Mango Cinnamon, and Blueberry Lime. Now, I know that Lemon Curd isn’t a jam, but I just love it so much that I had to make it. I used Ina Garden’s recipe for the Lemon Curd and doubled the amounts. This Set of Four Jams is up for bid on March 30th over at The Tomato Tart, so be sure to stop by and bid; there will be four sets available, so your chances of getting one will be pretty good. Because they have been canned, they will last up to a year, but I expect they will be long gone before then. Except for the Lemon Curd, they are egg and dairy free.
Here’s what you need:
6 cups fruit (fresh or frozen)
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar depending on the sweetness of your fruit
4 Tbls cornstarch
2 Tbls spices or seasonings (cinnamon, lime zest and juice, or balsamic vinegar)
Here’s what you do:
First wash the jelly jars. The websites recommended using a dishwasher to sterilize the jars and to keep them warm on the dry setting. Next, prepare the lids by placing them in simmering water and fill your canning pot with enough water to cover your jars by 1 to 2 inches and bring it to a simmer, so it will be hot when you are ready to boil the jars. Also prepare your canning equipment: a canning funnel, lid lifter, and jar lifter. (I bought a kit)
Place the jam ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until they begin to boil, about 12-14 minutes. Boil the jam for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the jam is thick.
Once the jam is thickened, you need to blend it using an immersion blender (if using a regular blender, be careful because the jam is very hot) and return it to the stove to stay warm.
Time to fill your jars! Remove hot jars from the dishwasher (I worked with two at a time) and place near stove. Using canning funnel, fill jars with hot jam. Be sure to leave head space at the top of the jars and make sure that there aren’t any air bubbles. Using the lid lifter, retrieve lids from simmering water and place onto jars. Seal with a metal ring.
Once you have enough jars to fill your canning pot, start placing the jars in the pot using the jar lifter. Increase the stove to high heat to bring the water to a boil. Once the water boils, cover and boil the jam jars for about 10 minutes.
Remove the boiled jam jars from the canning pot using jar lifter and place on wire rack to cool in a non-drafty place. Leave jars to sit for 24 hours without tilting or moving them.
Any jars that do not seal properly need to be refrigerated and used first. The sealed jars will last up to a year.
Bake Sale for Japan: Vegan Banana Bread March 21, 2011
As I stated in my last post, I’m participating in an online bake sale to benefit earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. Sabrina, from The Tomato Tart, is the organizer of this amazing and generous idea and she has brought together a very talented group of bakers that are donating their time, supplies, finished products, and shipping costs to this cause. The silent auction will be taking place on her site on March 30th, so be sure to stop by and bid! If you’re interested in participating, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to know more about the bake sale, visit her website for details or check out this article from SF Weekly.
I have started preparing my example goodies, and I’m super excited about sharing them with you! First on the list is Whole Wheat Vegan Banana Bread. I know what you are thinking: “whole wheat? vegan? Sounds too healthy to taste like anything other than cardboard.” Well, you’re wrong. It’s amazing! This particular banana bread is based on Ezra Pound Cake’s Banana Foster Bread, which is by all means delicious and surprisingly low in fat for a dessert, but I wanted to make it even healthier due to a movement in our house to eat better, so whole wheat and vegan it is. The first time I made this bread I fell in love with it. I now feel the need to make it about once a week. Sometimes I even make two and store one in the freezer in case I’m having a banana bread emergency and just need to eat some…right now. It is amazing hot, cold, even frozen (yes, I admit I have eaten banana bread right out of the freezer. I have no self control.) If I’m feeling really naughty, I spread it with some Irish butter or even some cream cheese, however that negates the Vegan and healthy aspects of this bread, but it’s oh so good.
I will be donating two loaves of this amazing Vegan Banana Bread to the online bake sale. Drop by on the 30th and bid, so you too can fall in love with its banana-y goodness!
Here’s what you need:
(makes two 9 x 5 loaves)
3 cups mashed bananas (about 6)
2 cups brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup dark rum
2/3 cup vegan yogurt such as Whole Soy
4 Tbls ground flax seed plus 6 Tbls water (this is the egg substitute)
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbls brown sugar for sprinkling
Here’s what you do:
In a large skillet, combine bananas, rum, and 1 cup brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
While this is cooling, combine the 4 Tbls flax seed with 6 Tbls water in a small bowl and whisk until the mixture thickens. It should be the same consistency as beaten eggs.
In a large mixing bowl, combine banana mixture, 1 cup brown sugar, vegan yogurt, and egg substitute. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until combined.
Combine the dry ingredients (minus the 2 Tbls brown sugar) in a medium bowl and add to the banana mixture. Mix until just combined.
Pour batter into two sprayed 9 x 5 inch loaf pans and sprinkle with the 2 Tbls brown sugar. This gives the top a nice sheen and a little crunch. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing from pan.