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Archive for January, 2011

Seven minute frosting overload

After feeling fine for most of the week (and up until yesterday, thank you very much- I was just tired but I figured I worked most of the day) I woke up this morning feeling sick again. This time I had my fatigue with a side of post-nasal drip and sore throat. Awesome. I did drag myself out for lunch with Alexis for her birthday, and we went to Fiddlestix where I had my favorite- ‘Green Eggs and Parm’, which is basically eggs benedict with spinach, tomatoes and garlic instead of Canadian bacon. Oh, and instead of hollandaise, there’s a parmesan cream sauce. It’s perfection. I’ve always thought it was sort of gilding the lily to put an egg based sauce over an egg, anyway.

Today the eggs were perfectly poached (I’ve had them a little over-done before) and I really enjoyed it, but didn’t feel great after and ended up taking a two hour nap. I made myself some chicken noodle soup for dinner but I don’t think it had any magical healing properties. Oh well. I decided on lemon meringue cupcakes for the school Bake Off, since the teacher category was the somewhat ambiguous ‘fruit’. Martha has a recipe but of course it involves a ton of butter, buttermilk (which I would have had to go out and buy) and homemade lemon curd, which I was a little leery of making because I tried making it once before and it came out way too eggy.

I decided to follow the same basic process, but I just made a standard yellow cake mix (I know, I know… but it was more about the toppings than the cake this time) with a little lemon zest in it. Once the cupcakes were cooled, I spread some pre-made lemon curd on top and got to work on the seven minute frosting, which actually takes way more than seven minutes, when you add in the time it takes to boil the sugar syrup to the proper temperature and separate the eggs. It did come out nicely though- the only other experience I have had with meringue was when I tried to make those ill-fated high hat cupcakes. That time, the process was a little different for the meringue and involved a double boiler rather than cooking the sugar first into a syrup- this resulted in a gritty meringue (gross). Combine that with the fact that the high hats resembled piles of dog poop (I used cinnamon chips and didn’t chill the cupcakes enough before I dunked them… resulting in indistinct swirls in an unfortunate shade of brown.)

Anyway, the frosting came out very nicely this time. Billowy, smooth as can be and not overly sweet (and fat free! Did I mention it’s fat free?) Hopefully it will last until tomorrow okay… the book said not to refrigerate it. The only negative thing was that this recipe made a ridiculous amount of frosting. Like, 8 cups of the stuff. So even with very generous peaks of it on each cupcake, I had a ton leftover. I just put it in a ziploc bag and stuck it in the fridge, where it will probably stay for a couple of days before I throw it out. Because really, what do you do with leftover 7 minute frosting?? I suppose I could make some lemon bars and put it on top of those. I don’t even know if it will be usable after it’s been in the refrigerator. We’ll see.

I’m too tired to post pics of the cupcakes tonight. Maybe tomorrow. I think it’s time I went to bed. Hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow without a sore throat.

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Goody Day Treats

Yesterday it was the special area teachers’ turn to bring treats for goody day, a Friday morning tradition that the teachers in my school take very seriously. For years, I taught in two buildings and was never in this particular school on Fridays- so I never got to experience goody day. Then, last year I went full time in that building and was thrown back into the goody day pool. The first time we brought food for goody day, I was overly concerned that there wouldn’t be enough food, because we have a small group. To make up for this, I made three or four different kinds of cupcakes and looked like a total crazy person dragging in every Tupperware cake and cookie carrier in my possession. Another time I felt the need to make three different kinds of cake balls- easier to transport but equally (if not more) time consuming. This time for goody day I didn’t have the time to go that over the top, so I made peanut butter and jelly bar cookies, and a batch of the infamous Irish car bomb cupcakes. I used the Ina Garten recipe for the bars, which is almost identical to the Martha Stewart version, except there is a half cup less peanut butter involved. I didn’t measure the jam, figuring I would just spread it until it looked right… and, well, it needed more jam. That’s what I get for not measuring. I was also worried that they were severely under-done, because when I cut them they were still a little warm and seemed super gooey. No one minded at school, though- the bars were gone before lunch. The cupcake recipe, found here, is tried and true- I know how to make that one work. So there were no worries there, and everyone appropriately fawned over my baked goods.

I came home to the new Kindle waiting for me- I checked the serial number and it is a higher one that the Kindle I had, so at least it’s newer. It’s also on an updated operating system. And, most importantly, there is no crack. Initially I was confused about how to go about returning my first one- since the guy on the phone told me he would send me a shipping return label (which wasn’t included with the new Kindle) but what he should have said was that he e-mailed me a shipping return label. Anyway, I just have to pack it up and bring it to UPS, which I will do later today. I definitely don’t want to get charged for a second Kindle! Luckily I checked my ‘junk’ e-mail account for something else and found that e-mail.

This morning I had a production meeting at school for Drama Club, and luckily I had a lot of parents step up to do the jobs I am not equipped to do (i.e. building and sewing stuff) so that was good. Later today I have to play a wedding. Joy. I am also trying to think of something to make for the bake-off at school Monday- the kids do it, but last year they added a teacher category and only one teacher entered (not me) so I feel I need to add to the competition a little bit. Our category is ‘fruit’, which is a little bit puzzling since other categories are ‘cakes’ or ‘pies’… so what am I supposed to do with ‘fruit’? I’m just going to make a cake that has some sort of fruity element. Maybe lemon curd. That would be nice since I don’t have to deal with fresh fruit. I could even get some little lemon slice candy to put on the top. Hmm… the wheels are turning.

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Today I came home after only a chiropractor appointment- it was actually still sort of daylight when I got home. Amazing! Since I actually had time to make dinner, I decided to do soup, since there were some vegetables in my refrigerator that needed to be used or get trashed in a few days (as it is I threw out an unopened bag of fresh green beans yesterday.)

I chopped up some celery, carrots, onion and garlic and got that sauteeing with some olive oil. Then I put in black pepper, red pepper flakes, and a little bit of hot paprika. I guess I was feeling spicy. Once the aromatics were getting a little soft, I put in a good amount of tomato paste, mixed that around and then dumped in some chicken stock and water. Next came mushrooms, zucchini and vacuum packed lentils. I simmered it for a while and… ta da!

I also ate a low carb wrap with turkey, guacamole and lettuce while the soup was cooking because I was hungry- so of course now that I have eaten a bowl of soup too, I feel like a blimp. Technically, though, it all fit into my daily ‘points plus’ value. Yes, I said points. I decided to start counting points again, though in the time I had abandoned Weight Watchers (only a few months), they switched over to a whole new system of points. “Points Plus” takes the carbohydrates into consideration, not just fat/calories/fiber. I suppose that’s good… though the point values for certain foods are now completely different. One good thing is that fruit is considered a zero point food now. It seems like they are trying to steer people toward more high protein, lower processed carbohydrate foods. Not unlike what I was trying (well, not really trying) to do with South Beach. I just think I can’t be trusted not to count my points. It becomes too easy to start eating things like candy and cookies, which I have developed quite a habit for.

So, I decided to make use of the Weight Watchers membership I never stopped paying for, and maybe I can get back on track. ‘Cause I’m basically where I started last year when I joined Weight Watchers in the first place. The one good thing is that the website still has my original starting weight listed and technically I’m a pound less than that, so it still says I’ve lost a pound. Ha. Talk about seeing the glass half full. Never mind the fact that I’ve gained 12 back. Dieting sucks! I wish I was one of those annoying naturally thin people- though the naturally thin people usually just naturally don’t over-eat. Plus, I’ve always said that it’s less annoying to hang out with a skinny person who eats whatever they want than a skinny person who eats like a bird. Because the skinny person who eats what they want is obviously just genetically superior and I can’t compete with that. The skinny person who eats like a bird just makes me feel like I should be doing something more proactive about my own weight.

I still don’t know what to make for goody day on Friday. I’m thinking maybe cakes instead of cupcakes or cake balls since it’s a little less labor intensive. Or maybe cookie bars? I just don’t have the time to spend hours doing whatever it is. And I totally copped out on the last goody day and bought treats because it was smack in the middle of tech week for Godspell. This week I don’t really have an excuse… just laziness.

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My day started off well with an unexpected 5 am call for a delayed opening, which I get almost as excited about as an actual snow day. In some ways, it’s better- I still get to sleep in a little, take my time in the morning and accomplish a few things, but it counts as a work day. This morning there actually was quite a bit of snow, which wasn’t totally cleared by the time I left- but once I got into my school district, the roads were clearer and it had stopped snowing.

Before I went to work I had time to bake some cookies (totally unnecessary, especially to my waistline) and wash my coat (totally necessary, so I don’t look like a hobo walking around in a filthy jacket.) Despite my valiant efforts which included two rounds in the washing machine and pre-treating each time, the coat emerged cleaner… but still a little dingy. Begrimed, even. Oh well. I tried.

I’ll skip the work-related part of my day, as it wasn’t particularly interesting, and skip to once I got home. I already mentioned that the tagine man is sending me a new tagine- and in an oddly similar vein, I just contacted amazon.com regarding a small crack in the casing of my Kindle. What is it with me and cracked stuff? The weird thing about the Kindle was that I’ve never dropped it, and it has always been in its protective case. I did a little research online and the Kindle 2s were cracking because of their cases- though this was in a different spot- where the kindle connects to the case on the side. My crack (ha ha) is located at the bottom left corner of the casing:

I’m sure I didn’t do anything to cause this crack, so I figured it must be some sort of defect not unlike the Kindle 2 (which, apparently people were refunded for.) I called customer service and was connected with a representative who offered to replace it when I explained the problem- though the ‘new’ Kindle will most likely be refurbished (we’ve all been down that road with cell phones before…) because apparently they only give you a brand new one if something goes wrong within the first 30 days.

He said that my call was the first he had fielded with this particular problem, but I looked at the Kindle forums on amazon.com and it appears that quite a few of us have had the same issue. Anyway, they’re shipping the replacement out tomorrow and I should have it on Thursday. I just hope that I’m not jinxing myself because the Kindle itself worked absolutely fine- it was just this weird, unexplained cosmetic defect and I have a feeling the technology gods are going to smite me for pointing it out.

I would feel better if I was getting a brand new one, but I’ll try to think positively. According to the guy I spoke to, the refurbished ones are better than the new ones (not sure how that works, but whatever. He’s probably got it in a script to read to concerned customers.)

I’ll let you know on Thursday how it goes with the new-ish Kindle. I figure, it can’t be any older than mine, since I got mine when this model first came out. Again, positive thinking.

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So, I didn’t post yesterday because I was struck with a sudden and thankfully short bout of flu-like symptoms. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that all I ate for most of the day was Flav-R-ice and tea, and I spent the majority of the day in a cheetah print snuggie with another blanket on top (which negated the useful arm holes of the snuggie.) I did catch up on quite a few episodes of 30 Rock when I wasn’t asleep or convulsing in fever chills. Later in the evening, when I finally ventured into the kitchen to make myself some broth, I stepped in some marmalade I had unknowingly dropped on the floor, and tracked it all over the kitchen. I was such a pathetic sight… snuggie on, socks sticking to the floor, stirring a sad little pot of chicken stock.

Miraculously, I felt well enough this morning to go to work- which is a good thing because I had a ton of crap to do and I didn’t want my students to miss orchestra two weeks in a row (last week was Martin Luther King Jr. Day)

The low point of my day was when one of my bass players got his endpin stuck while trying to make it taller. I tried to push the thing back in and it wouldn’t budge. So I thought I would try to pull it out and see if there was anything wrong with it. Well, for whatever reason, it was just totally stuck and wouldn’t submit to my tugging on it. It was hurting my hands, and there were these three fifth grade boys standing there and I heard myself saying, “I don’t have the energy for this,” and I wasn’t exaggerating. I literally almost laid down on the floor and gave up. I made the kid hold onto the bass while I sat on the floor and alternatively pushed and pulled on this stubborn endpin.

By this time, the thing had inched its way out of the bass significantly, but still wouldn’t come all the way out… now I really had to do something because the endpin was out almost 2 feet (I think this bass had the longest endpin of all time) and there was no way the kid could play it with the bass that tall. As a last resort, I stood the bass up and started bouncing it up and down on the endpin, which finally yielded and went down to the right height. At this point I was sweaty, my hands were sore and red and I just wanted to take a nap… but I had to commence working on the totally boring bass part of the “William Tell Overture”.

By lunch, things were looking up- I had brought an instant Cream of Wheat packet to eat (playing it safe) but when I got to the lunch room saw that it was goody day (since we didn’t have school on Friday) so I caved and had a bagel. A pumpernickel one. The whole thing. I figured, I could make up for some of the calories I didn’t eat yesterday (which, coincidentally didn’t even affect my weigh-in this morning. Usually the only thing to get me through a stomach virus is the good weigh-in I get to bask in the following day. Didn’t happen. Oh well.)

After school I went to get my hair colored- and while it was processing, my hairdresser offered me a piece of homemade chocolate cake and a cup of tea, which I gladly accepted (my hairdresser has a salon room in her house, which is so nice because she only has one client at a time and it is totally relaxing. Also, you can benefit from things like freshly baked cake.) I was supposed to get it colored last week when she cut it, but she realized as she was mixing my color that she had run out of developer and I would have to come back. So, she felt she owed me at least a piece of cake.

Now I am home, and will probably watch a few more episodes of 30 Rock before bed. I also have to contemplate exactly what I will be baking for goody day on Friday. Hmm… cupcakes? cookies? cakeballs?

 

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Sleepy Saturday

How is it that getting up at the same time I do every day during the week feels so much harder on Saturday? This morning I had All-County auditions with my kids and the whole time I was thinking about a nap. When I finally left, I went through the drive through at McDonalds (where I got a snack wrap and a dollar menu fry- much like Ikea, I don’t go to McDonalds to buy expensive stuff. I believe my meal should always cost under five dollars.) Then I went to the supermarket to pick up a few things before going home and settling in on the couch for a little while with one of the three cooking magazines I purchased and a few episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix. Of course, I ended up falling asleep and no matter how much I want a nap I should never do it because I always feel more tired after I wake up. Now I’m off to go make some post-all county dinner with Nicki (last year we celebrated by galavanting around the Palisades center making impulsive purchases and watching Avatar in 3D. This year, her husband is away for the weekend, so it’s me, her, their son Sean and the Wii for the evening.) And guess what we’re making? That darn zucchini pie that has been popping up in posts for the past two weeks. Maybe now that I’m actually cooking it, I can move on to something else.

Speaking of topics I can’t stop writing about, the tagine man got back to me and said that they are all out of the cobalt blue tagines, but he could send me a whole brand new one in a different color. So, I’m going to go with ‘pistachio’. Yay for good customer service!

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“Snow” day #4

Last night I fell asleep watching the E! fashion police special of the Golden Globes. Oh, that Joan Rivers. I was fully prepared for, at the very best, a delayed opening today. The forecast looked pretty cut and dry. I was sort of taken aback when I got my automated phone call at 5 am and it said that school was canceled. I was even more perplexed when I got out of bed at 7:30 and saw that not only was it not snowing, but the sky was blue and the sun was out! Normally I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak, but it’s our fourth snow day in three weeks and we’re not even done with January yet. I don’t want to be going to school in July.

I haven’t baked/cooked anything today- my stomach has been feeling a little weird (maybe it’s all that leftover tagine I ate yesterday… or maybe it was the greasy tuna melt I had for lunch.) Either way, I don’t really feel much like baking. I’m doing some laundry and watching re-runs of 30 Rock before I go out with girlfriends to see Black Swan, finally. I did attempt to do some grades online, but- big surprise- I couldn’t get the damn thing to work. So I guess that will have to wait.

I’m off to enjoy the rest of my sunny snow day!

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