Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Remembering those far away

I have posted before that I recruited some friends (and friends of friends) to help with Operation Baking Gals. We are supporting Brian "Bubba" Parks. Brian is the 2nd youngest of 6 children. He has been married to Nicki for 2 years, and they have a 15-month-old son named Connor. He is a graduate of West Point, and he actually decided not to re-enlist in June of 2007 to make sure he would be home for his wife and new baby. In February 2008, he was relieved of his inactive status and left for Afghanistan in June 2008. They were living in Kentucky (he was previously stationed at Ft. Knox), and his wife and son have since moved back to Rockville, Maryland to be near their families. Bubba's mother died 6 years ago of breast cancer, and his dad still lives in the greater DC area.

I wanted to share some of the results of our sugary work. I have been meaning to post these for a while, but I thought today would be a good day because as we all get together to share in the season, I think we need to take a moment to think about those who can't be with the people they love.

Baker Joy shared this note with her pictures:
Thank you for sending me all the information for the Baking Bombshells Team- I'm so glad I could take part in Round 5 of Operation Baking GALS. I actually baked my goodies this past Saturday morning... it was a wonderful way to start my 21st birthday! :) I wanted to pack and ship all in one day so that my cookies would be as fresh as possible- that put me on a bit of a deadline as I had to get to the post office before 1:00, when they closed. I made it just in time, and sent two batches of cookies: Chewy Molasses Spice and Oatmeal Triple Chocolate Chip. I chose to make the chewy molasses spice cookies because they're kind of homey and reminiscent of all the holiday flavors. I also went with the Oatmeal chocolate chip because they're my mom's favorite, and from a reliable stand-by recipe. I included a handwritten postcard of the Boston skyline (my hometown) with holiday wishes for Bubba and his fellow troops.

Bakern Kim shared this note:
We mailed out our gigantic package... my husband went a little nuts at the store because he too is a West Point alum and he really got into this! Thanks for including us... this was fun... I have a pic of Scott with the big bags of food... holding our letters...I will send you soon.

Baker Karen shared this note:
The mini nut rolls & no bake cookies my 3 yr old daughter Kayla & I made were shipped out. We included a brief note as well. Happy baking!

Baker Suzanne wrote:
We TORE UP the kitchen yesterday making all kinds of cookies. There very well may be flour in some crevices we have yet to find, but had a great time baking up all kinds of goodies from gingerbread men to sugar cookies, snickerdoodles and chocolate crinkles. Here's a few of the pics we managed to catch in between the chaos. And no, I don't do aprons :)

And you can see the results of my work here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cake for 80 - part 2

I should say this is part 2, 3, 4, 5 and beyond because this project turned out to be a much bigger undertaking than I ever could have imagined.

I made the two french vanilla cakes on Tuesday night. Then Wednesday the fun began. I was up until 1:30 a.m. getting everything done, but I was quite pleased with the results. I delivered them to the party Thursday night, and from what I hear - they were a hit. Apparently there were only about 45 people there, and there was no cake left. I made four 9x13 cakes, so I'm taking that as a very good sign. Unfortunately I don't have any of my cake slice pics because I was gone before they cut them.

French Vanilla Cake with Buttercream and Raspberry Filling

Triple Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Icing and Slivered Almonds

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cake for 80 - part 1

After weeks of sending my cake class creations to work with Brian, a lovely co-worker of his asked me to make cake for a party she was hosting. It's a retirement party for one of the cancer center's doctors, and I was very honored. She's expecting about 80 people, which is quite an undertaking for a one-woman kitchen.

So tonight is the first of several days' worth of posts. The party is Thursday, and I've determined the best way to do this is in stages. Tonight's stage - chocolate buttercream. And a lot of it. And a big mess to go with it

This is a 13-cup container. There's almost 2 pounds of powdered sugar and 3/4 of a pound of butter in there. And it's ridiculously good.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

9 hours of baking

I started my cookie marathon at 9:30 this morning. It's 7:15 and I'm finally sitting down for an extended period of time. I'm exhausted, but I'm glad that it's almost all done (I still have some gingerbread dough in the fridge).

The reason for the marathon o' cookies? Operation Baking Gals. Last month I sent chocolate chip cookies, but this month I wanted to send a variety. I think I probably went overboard, but I like the idea of having several types of cookies in there for my soldier.

I am way tired to post the recipes, but here's what I made:

Peanut Butter Bites - they have half of a mini peanut butter cup inside

Toffee Butter Crunch

Gingerbread Cut Outs (which utilized the beautiful new snowflake cookie cutter my Aunt Alice and Uncle Chip sent - and that arrived as I was preparing to roll out the dough)

I loved how the gingerbread came out, so here are a few more pics

Sugar Cookies (that were rolled in colored sugar before baking)

Wedding Cookies

And the package all ready to go:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Honey-Lime Marinated London Broil

The Most Decadent Diet Ever! cookbook is 2 for 2. Last night I put the london broil in to marinate and then just threw it on the george foreman. It was quite tasty. It had just a hint of lime and was a nice complement to the black beans, brown rice and corn.

I'm not going to make a downloadable recipe because it's pretty basic:

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T plus 1 t honey
2 T minced garlic
1 t salt
1 1/4 pounds trimmed London broil

Whisk the lime juice, olive oil and honey in a small bowl. Stir in the garlic and salt. Place the steak in a large ziploc bag, and seal the bag so that it is covered with the marinade. Marinate at least six hours, or overnight if possible. You'll want to turn it at least once so that both sides are thoroughly marinated.

Cook 4 to 6 minutes per side. Let stand for 10 minutes.

3 oz. serving
107 calories
4 g fat
<1 g fiber

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chicken Enchilasagna

I found this one in my new cookbook - The Most Decadent Diet Ever. It was a little time consuming, but it was very good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Slow-Cooker Potato and Canadian Bacon Soup - another WW gem

One of my strategies for staying on weight watchers this holiday weekend is making sure I have plenty of healthy options on hand at the house. I decided to make up a double batch of this soup after seeing the recipe at my weight watchers meeting earlier today. This smelled so good as it cooked, and it's perfect for keeping me on track and warming up during this chilly holiday weekend.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake


Mom and Laura are coming into town tomorrow, and I wanted to make something sweet to take with us to Lee and Marilyn's. So I make chocolate chip cheesecake, and it is very hard to have this in the house and not cut into it. I still have to take pictures of it once the chocolate topping sets, which I'll do tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cake class - my final masterpiece

I am so excited about this cake that I'm actually giddy. I've been working on these flowers for the last three weeks, and I'm so excited to see it all come together. Everything on here is edible, although I wouldn't suggest biting into a snowflake or snowman. The color flow icing doesn't taste that great. Also, yay for a cake that has no orange or stars!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I've been blogged!

I wrote previously about Operation Baking Gals, which is an online baking group that sends sweet treats to men and women overseas who are serving our country. Regardless of your political stance on the war, I think it's important to remember the people who are away from home and their loved ones to protect us. I was so happy to take part in this and look forward to doing it again. Here's the link to the group I joined.

Operation Baking Gals - Cat's Pajamas

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Weight Watchers Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

This recipe gets a one-word review - YUMMMM! It was so easy, and the flavor was amazing. I added a small piece of grilled chicken that I cut up into small slices and a teensy bit of shredded parmesan (less than 1 Tablespoon). Brian said this is one of his new favorites, and I agree.

Lee's Birthday Cake

I was really excited when Marilyn asked me to make a birthday cake for Lee. It was my first cake outside of class, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. I am definitely learning with each one I make. I made a French Vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream filling and white buttercream icing.

Cake Class Update

I have been bad about posting my cake class pics, but it's for a reason - each week we're making pieces of a final cake that I'll be putting together next week. We have been learning how to make flowers out of royal icing, which turns hard and the flowers will keep for months. I'm guessing that's how my wedding cake lady made the starfish on our cake.

So stay tuned next week to see what my final masterpiece looks like.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rosemary Merlot Flank Steak - Thanks Cooking Light

Recipe (link to come)
I found this recipe on another cooking blog - Erin's Eats - and I was eager to try it. I loved it. Brian said it wasn't one of his favorites. The flavor was so rich, and it made the kitchen smell so good! I added some mushrooms as a topping, and I thought it made a very yummy meal, and it was pretty good points-wise too (for all you Weight Watchers people).