Monday, March 23, 2015

A Movie in Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Over the weekend, I was able to meet up with one of my best friends. We went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. I had never heard of this movie! I hardly ever make it to the movies, because let's be honest $11+ dollars for A single movie is a bit ridiculous. I grew up paying $2.50 and that was expensive. Ha ha.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox


Anyway, I recommend this movie for the following reasons:

1. It has Colin Firth! I love Coin Firth. I find him quite attractive for a 54 year old man.

2. It has Mark Strong! I like Mark Strong. I also find him attractive. I guess I like older men.

3. There were funny bits.

4. There was action!

5. Colin Firth did action!

6. The men were dressed as gentlemen throughout the film. So nice to see a man in a good suit.

7. There were some surprises.

8. Taron Egerton is a nice new and fresh face to see.

9. I really liked this quote: "There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self." -Ernest Hemingway

I could have done without a few parts, like one extreme killing scene and the last scene with the princess, but overall a good flick!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bon Appetit Desserts: Cherry-Vanilla Tea Cake with Vanilla Sugar

This is a delightfully easy cake to make. Please, make sure you can find the correct cherries! Unless this cook book asks for items that I already know where to locate whilst in the store, I have a very hard time finding the item... and I am not a very good 'ask for help' type of person. I suffer because of this. Sometimes needlessly.

I purchased cherry pie filling, because I could not locate the correct cherries, and then rinsed the filling bit off and kept the cherries. BTW, a 20 oz. can of cherry pie filling, only contains 1/2 a cup of actual cherries! Rip off. I say make your own pie filling. It will taste better anyway and will be packed with cherries!

** Note to self: Put Vanilla sugar on everything!** So good!

On to the recipe!



Cherry-Vanilla Tea Cake with Vanilla Sugar
10 Servings

1-1/2          cups unbleached all purpose flour

1                teaspoon baking powder

1/2             teaspoon baking soda

1/4             teaspoon salt

1/8             teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2             cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1                cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar

2                large eggs, room temperature

2                teaspoons vanilla extract

2/3             cup sour cream

1                teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

1                cup canned pitted sweet cherries, halved, drained

1/2             vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2                Tablespoons powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter and flour 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2-3/4-inch-high sides. Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and nutmeg into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla extract. Transfer 2 tablespoons dry ingredients to small bowl. At low speed, beat half of remaining dry ingredients into butter mixture, then mix in sour cream and lemon peel. Beat in remaining half of dry ingredients. Mix cherries into reserved 2 tablespoons dry ingredients; fold cherrie into batter.

Spoon batter into prepared pan smooth top. Bake  until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. (Mine took 40, so just keep an eye out.) Transfer cake to rack and cool 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, using small sharp knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into small bowl. Mix in remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, rubbing with fingertips to distribute seeds. Add powdered sugar and rub again.

Sift vanilla sugar over hot cake and cool. Cut around pan sides to loosen cake; remove pan sides.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Czech Pernicky

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that I lived in the Czech Republic for a short time and have since gone back twice. I love that country. It is beautiful, filled with History and amazing people.

My school with be hosting 'Cultural Days', for two days this week. While the sophomores are doing state testing, all other grades will be getting to experience different cultures. The students will visit a total of six countries, in two days. I will be sharing my love for the Czech Republic with them. I am going to give a 'background' presentation, so they can see what the country is all about. We will have a egg decorating craft. However, they will not be decorating real eggs. These ones are paper. There will be a language lesson, a game, and hopefully a dance... if I can remember the steps in time.

I created passports for all of the students. Inside, students will find an explanation of 'Cultural Days', a world map, 6 pages to document their experience, a top 10 places to travel list for them to create, and a spot for them to get their passports stamped. I am pretty excited about it. I hope that the students will be as well.

To top my lesson off, I will be offering each student Pernicky (per-nit-ski). It is kind of like gingerbread, minus the ginger (you can totally throw ginger in too! I did, when I ran out of star anise). You will find star anise, aniseed, fennel seed, nutmeg, and allspice in mine.

The next time I make this recipe, I want to try it with rye flour. I have some on hand, but I'll need to experiment with quantity, as it is different than all purpose flour. I believe that true and authentic Pernicky uses rye flour. I hope that you will give these a try. They are not exactly like the ones that I ate in Prague at Christmas time, but they are a close second!

Get creative with your designs! I could not think of anything fun... I have to work on my decorating game!






I converted and changed up the recipe. The original can be found here: 


Pernicky

2-3/4          cups all purpose flour

1                cup confectioners sugar

3                Tablespoons honey ( plus more if dough is a bit dry)

2                Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1                teaspoon baking soda

2                eggs

1/2             teaspoon ground star anise

1/2             teaspoon nutmeg

1/2             teaspoon allspice

1/2             teaspoon ground fennel seed

1/2             teaspoon ground cloves

1/2             teaspoon ground anise seed


Icing

2                egg whites

2                cups confectioners sugar


1. In your electric mixer bowl, combine four, baking soda, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ground fennel seed. In another bowl, cream together butter eggs, sugar, honey, and ground anise seed.

2. While mixing, slowly add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients until a firm dough forms. (This is where I added a bit more honey, if my dough was still a bit crumbly and not sticking to itself.) Form it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (I let mine chill for a few hours.)

3. Once chilled, divide the dough into two and roll each half out on a floured surface (into about a sugar dough thickness (1/4-inch), the cookies will puff up while baking), and cut your shapes out. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

4. Place your cut out shapes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake about 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely before icing.

5. To make your icing, whisk 2 egg whites until stiff white peaks form, then slowly begin to add sugar. Spoon that mixture into your piping bags and decorate your cookies. This icing is great as it dries hard, just make sure you give it enough time to dry.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bon Appetit Desserts: Raisin Streusel Cake

I was kind of put off on this recipe from the beginning, for the following two reasons.

1. It calls for margarine, instead of butter and I come from a butter family. We never use margarine for baking. Ever. Why use margarine, when you can use butter?

2. It calls for non dairy creamer. Why use that, when you can use real cream?

Any way, don't let my hang ups keep you from making this recipe. It is fairly easy to pull together and if you made the vanilla chiffon cake I posted, then you already have potato starch and matzo meal on hand. Woo!

The redeeming quality of this cake, is that it tastes really, extremely good!



Raisin Streusel Cake
12 servings

Streusel
1/4       cup (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine, room temperature

2/3       cup sugar

4-1/4    teaspoons ground cardamom

2-1/4    teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2       cup matzo cake meal


Cake
1/2       cup matzo cake meal

1/2       cup potato starch

1/2       teaspoon salt

1/2       teaspoon ground ginger

5          large egg whites, room temperature

1-1/3    cups sugar, divided

5          large egg yolks

1/3       cup liquid nondairy creamer

1/4       cup (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine, melted, cooled

2          Tablespoons finely grated lemon peel

1-1/2    Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2/3        cup raisins


STREUSEL: Position rack in center of over and preheat to 350ºF. Coat 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan generously with margarine. Mix margarine, sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Gradually add matzo cake meal and mix until crumbly. Spread half of streusel on baking sheet and bake until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool and break into bits.


CAKE: Combine matzo cake meal, potato starch, salt, and ginger in small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry.

Using same beaters, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in another large bowl until mixture is thick and slowly dissolving ribbons form when beaters are lifted. Beat in nondairy creamer, then margarine, lemon peel, and lemon juice at low speed. Add dry ingredients and stir until well blended. Fold in egg white mixture in 2 additions.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle baked streusel over. Sprinkle with half of raisins. Spread remaining batter over. Sprinkle with unbaked streusel and remaining raisins. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out dry, about 40 minutes.

Cool cake in pan on rack. Cover with foil and let stand fro 1 hour to soften topping.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep covered and store at room temperature.

Cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Laundry Pod and the Best Drying Rack!

How many of you have to do laundry at the laundry mat? I do and I really do not like it. At all. My entire life, I have been able to laundry at home (except when at university). I find it tiresome to lug all of my clothes to the mat, wait for machines to open up and having to sit there waiting for everything to wash and dry. I also find it quite annoying, that I spend $2.25 or more on one load of laundry.

The laundry mat is expensive, time consuming, water eating, and electricity abusing! Ha ha. Not that I have any true feelings about this type of establishment. About two weeks ago, I was on Pinterest and I was reading a pin for people who live in small spaces. It was a list of items that would be beneficial in a small setting. An item called the 'Laundry Pod' was among them and I checked it out. I looked up reviews on amazon and decided that I needed to get it. By owning this device, I could do small loads of  undergarments, and a little of this and that when needed, instead of waiting to gather more items for a full load at the laundry mat. Also, if I needed it right away, I wouldn't waste $2.25 for an extremely small load of laundry.

I ordered the pod last week and I picked it up from the post office, today. I also ordered a drying rack, from Best Drying Rack. I found them a while back, when researching things that were made in the USA. This took just under a week to be shipped to me. I am over the moon happy with shipping time for both items.

I used the pod and the drying rack today. So easy! I was able to wash two loads in less than 30 minutes!  Amazing! I purchased the green pod, because it was cheaper at the time. At the moment, as I write this, the white laundry pod is cheaper.

The Laundry Pod

Laundry Pod- Amazon

Best Drying Rack

The Laundry Pod is small in size, so, like the best drying rack, is easy to store! Which is perfect for my itty bitty teeny tiny apartment.


Small and compact. It fits on my kitchen sink! (Which is really small, btw.)

This small basket can hold 9-10 items depending on size. (I fit a ton more.)


This handle pops up for spinning and the hose is stored underneath the pod and is easily removed for draining.


I got all of this washed in just two loads!

The drying rack folds up to about 8"x27" and opens to 52"x38" tall. It's amazing and I love it. I hope that if you live in a small space and dislike going to the laundry mat, every singe time you need to wash something, that you will check these items out. I hope that they are a huge help to you, as they are for me!

If you don't like what I have to say about the laundry pod, here is what the box has to say:

A portable environmentally friendly washer

Go where laundry has never gone before

Saves you money
Convenient for small loads
Less water and zero energy
Hand washables and delicates
College living
Outdoor living
Urban living
Nautical living

I just wish that it was made in the USA. This is it's only downfall, for me.

That is all. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bon Appetit Desserts: Poppy Seed Coffee Cake with Cardamom Streusel

I don't think that I have veer made so many types of coffee cake and there are still more recipes to come! I never realized how simple a coffee cake was. They are made with basic ingredients and you are able to whip them up in no time at all. I believe, that if your friend said that she/he was stopping by in 2 hours, you could be taking this out of the oven as they pull up.

This recipe calls for 1/3 cup poppy seeds. Purchasing a 2.12 oz jar from the baking isle will be perfect for you. In fact, you will have a little left over to put on those homemade bagels you just made, am I right?! Ha ha, I've been telling myself to make some bagels for a while now and have not got around to it.

Get the cake in the oven, tell your friend that she/he is more than welcome to stop by, and put a pot of coffee on (or tea!).






Poppy Seed Coffee Cake with Cardamom Streusel
10 to 12 servings


Streusel
6             Tablespoons sugar

6             Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4          cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3/4          teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2          teaspoon ground cinnamon


Cake
2-1/3       cups cake flour
1-1/2       teaspoons baking powder
1             teaspoon baking soda
3/4          teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4          teaspoon salt
11           Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1             cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
2             large eggs
1             cup sour cream
1/4          cup fresh orange juice
2             teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1/3          cup poppy seeds



STREUSEL: Mix sugar, flour, melted butter, cardamom, and cinnamon in small bowl until moist clumps form.

CAKE: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour 10-inch-diameter  angel food cake pan with removable bottom. Sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and salt twice into medium bowl. sing electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in sour cream, orange juice, orange peel, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients to blend. Mix in poppy seeds. Transfer batter to prepared pan (batter will fill less than half of pan).

Bake cake 25 minutes. Sprinkle streusel over top of cake. Continue to bake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 25 minutes longer. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.

Using sharp knife, cut around sides of pan and center tube to loosen cake. Holding center tube, lift cake from pan sides. Cut cake free from pan bottom. Placing hand gently atop cake for support, tilt cake just far enough over to release from center tube. Place cake streusel side up on platter.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Book in Review: A Tale of Two Cities



Wow! I have had 'A Tale of Two Cities' on my bookshelf for years and I finally decided to read it. My goodness, the first 23 pages (roughly) were very hard for me. At one point, I thought about giving up. I have read several Charles Dickens novels before and the beginning of this seemed so different. I had a very hard time getting into it. However, I had read a few reviews from people, who thought the same thing and they encouraged all readers to press on. I am extremely glad that I continued to read this novel, because it was great!

A few things  I have to say, before I let you get to it...

I think we read books when they want us to read them... or in other words, when it is the right time for us to read them.

Madame Defarge, dang!

Mad Props to Ms. Pross!

Sydney! Carton!

Sydney is rough on the edges, but he has a heart of gold! Pure gold! 24 carat gold!

The last page... ugh. It got me!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bon Appetit Desserts: Sour Cream-Orange Coffee Cake with Chocolate-Pecan Streusel

I had the chance to make this recipe last week, because I did not have work on Friday. It was nice to bake again, because I am currently working a second job... beyond teaching, on the weekends. I have found it hard to make time for my Bon Appetit Desserts Adventure. I was happy to be back where I find joy!

I was pleased with this '1 whisk' coffee cake. It won't take long before it's in your belly! Family, friends, and neighbors all received their fair share.



Sour Cream-Orange Coffee Cake with Chocolate-Pecan Streusel
12 servings

Streusel
1-1/2          cups (packed) golden brown sugar

1                Tablespoon ground cinnamon

6                Tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled salted butter, diced

1-1/2          cups coarsely chopped pecans

1                cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (Fair Trade, if you can!)

Cake
3                cups unbleached all purpose flour

1-1/2          teaspoons baking soda

1-1/2          teaspoons baking powder

1-1/3          cups sugar

3/4             cup (1-1/2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature

3                large eggs

1-1/2          teaspoons finely grated orange peel

1-1/2          teaspoons vanilla extract

1-1/2          cups sour cream

1/4             cup fresh orange juice

Powdered Sugar


STREUSEL: Whisk sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture hold together in small moist clumps. Mix in pecans and chocolate chips.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

CAKE: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until blended and smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then orange peel and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with sour cream in 3 additions. Mix in orange juice. Spread half of batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of streusel. Drop remaining batter over by heaping tablespoonfuls; carefully spread batter to make even layer. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.

Bake 30 minutes. Place sheet of foil loosely over pan to keep topping from browning too quickly. Continue baking until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes longer. Remove foil. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Sift powdered sugar over cake; serve warm or at room temperature.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool completely. Store airtight at room temperature.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Book in Review: Big Little Lies



Over the summer, I met a few gals at a going away party and I suggested that we start a book club. I have created a book club before and it was quite successful. When that club came to an end, I was pretty bummed, so this new opportunity was awesome! This was our second selection. It is pretty long at 460 pages, but they pass quickly!

I love a good mystery! I enjoyed this book, because you didn't know who had been killed, or who did the killing until about 30- 40 pages from the end. I will say that I did guess who the deceased was going to be about half way through the book. I enjoyed the commentary from the parents at the school. Some of that stuff was pretty funny! I wanted to shake Celeste and tell her to wake up! Madeline has a very strong personality, but she will stick by you through thick and thin, once she declares you as her friend. I'm glad Jane sets her path in a good direction by the end. I enjoyed this!


I highly recommend this book!


We are supposed to be reading 'All The Light We Cannot See' by Anthony Doerr, right now, but I am trying to finish up 'A Tale of Two Cities' by Charles Dickens. Hopefully, I will be able to read our February selection before our meeting.


Here's to reading! What are you reading right now? Any suggestions for me? I'd love to hear about books that you love and think I just have to read!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Breakfast Jars

I have been wanting to make my own oatmeal packets for a long time. For one, I know what is in them and two, I can choose to put in what I like and mix it up, whenever I like! I recently came upon two posts about this very thing. I decided to take a little from each post and apply it to my breakfast jars.

Instant Oatmeal Jars
Instant Oatmeal Packets

I am trying my stash out this week. We'll see how it goes. I imagine that there is not much room for error, as it is just oatmeal. I have hope!

Here are my jars:


These jars include: Old fashioned oats, oat bran, salt, powdered milk, brown sugar, cranberries, and almonds. I would like to try the chia seeds, like one of the bloggers did, but I could not find them. 

I am not a morning person. I am a giant human slug monster in the morning and I find it hard to get breakfast and pack a lunch before I need to leave, so I am hoping that this will be very beneficial for me. I like that I just have to add the water and heat it up!