Friday, May 27, 2011

Daring Kitchen May 2011 Challenge Revealed!

Last month, I decided to join an online community that participates in monthly baking challenges. The recipe is revealed to the participants on the 1st of the month; the participants have until the 27th of the month to complete the challenge; on the 27th of the month, the participants reveal the results on their personal blogs. Today is the day I get to reveal my experience making a Chocolate Marquise.

I had a GREAT TIME doing this challenge. After reading the recipe, I was a bit intimidated and had a "holy crap, what did I get myself into" moment. After a deep breath, I decided to approach the recipe step by step and knew I could conquer it. The long and the short of this recipe was as follows: make the chocolate base for the mousse, make and freeze a chocolate mousse, make a meringue, make a liquor-infused caramel, make spiced nuts (optional ... so I left them out because nuts just don't belong in dessert in my opinoin). To serve, cut out a portion of the mousse, coat it in Dutch process cocoa powder, creatively decorate a plate with the caramel, put a portion of the meringue on the plate and toast it with a kitchen torche (FUN!), and then put the cocoa-coated mousse (now somewhat thawed) on top of the merigue and serve.

Without a doubt, this was a challenge that definitely required a weekend. While no part was overly difficult, many were time consuming or required extensive cooling time. For example, the mousse had to be frozen for a recommended 6-8 hours. (I made the mousse Saturday afternoon and didn't serve it until Sunday evening.)

This recipe makes A LOT of dessert: two 9x9 pans, to be exact. The meringue didn't last until the next day when we had leftovers, so I tried toasting some homemade marshmallows and using them instead of the meringue. Not so much... the exture was off. Better to use no meringue than the marshmallows.

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

The chocolate marquise with meringue - 1st attempt at plating. No so impressed, but it tasted great!

The chocolate marquise with the toasted marshmallows - better plating this time around.... too bad the marshmallows didn't work very well.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lesson not so much learned

Two nights ago, I had the following conversation with Annika. She was in the bath and I was at the bathroom counter getting Conor into his pajamas.

Me: "Annika, almost time to wash your hair,"
Annika: "No it isnt'."
Me: "Annika, don't talk back."
Annika; "Why not?"
Me: "Because it isn't good manners."
Annika; "Yes it is."

At that point, I knew the lesson was lost on her. I was also very glad that I had my back to her because I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Neighborhood walk

Last weekend, I was done being inside our house. So, I packed up the kids and our dog to go on a walk. I figured I'd put Conor in the jogging stroller while Annika, Buca, and I got some exercise. Nope. Annika insisted that we take the double stroller so she could ride instead of walk.

So, our family walk became a family push. Buca and I got a little exercise; Annika and Conor (Oh, and "Dolly") had fun taking in the sights of the neighborhood.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I am the paparazzi

Our kids (especially Annika) think I'm their paparazzi. I snap pictures of them all of the time. I know how quickly they grow and change and I want to capture as many moments of their childhood as possible. (Plus, I'm not the world's greatest photographer, so I take 50 pictures with the hope that one or two will turn out nicely.)

Having fun playing with the doll house

Annika LOVES the book "Where the Wild Things Are". While playing recently, Eric and Annika turned Annika into a Wild Thing. She has her terrible claws, terrible teeth, and terrible eyes. Grrr!

Our sweet angels

Conor love music and thinks that their toy piano is one of the best things ever. It never fails to make him smile.

Conor dancing as he plays the piano

Conor did such a great job, that he gives himself a hand

Annika decided to go fishing this weekend. She had her blanket water. The yarn taped to a chop stick was her fishing pole and line. The chip clip was her reel and the aluminum foil ball was her lure.

Shockingly, no fish were biting...

Being silly with her pinwheel "umbrella"

Conor having fun with one of his cars. He makes the cutest "vroom" sound when he does this!

Bridal Shower

Eric and I met Amanda (Mandy) a few months after we married; she was our barista at Starbucks. (Eric and I have a funny way of picking up our friends. Mandy was our barista. Nicole was our ultrasound tech when I was pregnant with Annika....) Eric and I celebrated our 1st anniversary at Village Theater watching Mandy in the musical "Oklahoma". Over the years, we have build a lifelong friendship with Mandy that we cherish; we've seen her in numerous shows, seen guys come and go, and (sadly) we watched her move across the country to pursue her dream of acting in NYC. (Of course, that gave us a reason to go to NYC a few years ago to visit her!) Awhile ago, Mandy we started hearing about a wonderful man named Kevin. A mutual friend fixed them up; Mandy and Kevin fell in love and began building a life together. In January 2011, Kevin proposed to Mandy and they will get married in NYC on Sept. 19, 2011.

Yesterday, I attended Mandy's bridal shower. Her mom (Gill) was in charge of food and I offered to help out; she asked me to make some two-bite confections. I made caramels dipped in milk chocolates and then drizzled with white chocolate; I also made cookies to celebrate Mandy and Kevin. Some of the cookies were decorated to look like bridal gowns. The others were circles that I decorated with either Mandy and Kevin's initials, their wedding date, "true love", and "I do." Mandy is a pink fanatic, hence the pink and white royal icing. (Note: The finger-food buffet that Gill put together was beyond amazing!!! The table would have put Martha Stewart to shame!)

We are so excited for Mandy and Kevin and wish them nothing but bliss and blessings as they embark on the adventure that is marriage.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Special Spaghetti

Last night I picked up Pad Thai for Eric and me to have as a celebratory dinner. What are we celebrating? Well, my new job! As of Monday, I will be an official full-time employee (FTE) at MegaPath. My new title? Well, I'll be the Marketing Communications Manager. Woot!

ANYWHO, to celebrate, I picked up Thai food for dinner. Not thinking Annika would like it and knowing Conor couldn't have the peanuts, the kids had leftover pizza while Eric and I dined on our dinner. Annika quickly noticed that we were eating something different and asked to taste the noodles. I gave her a bite and she LOVED them. She loved them so much that she almost instantly polished off the amount I put in her bowl. Almost immediately after serving her, we heard her ask, "Can I have more special spaghetti, please?" Love it! I think we have a new name for chicken Pad Thai!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Weekend fun in the sun

This past weekend, we spent part of Saturday celebrating our friends' little boy's birthday. Our kids had a BLAST playing with our friends' kids' toys... especially the big toy. The swings were fun for the kids, but the slide was the hit of the day. I can't even count how many times Annika was up and down that thing. The adults were just thrilled that the rain held off until after the party wrapped up. Woo hoo!

The slide was the hit of the afternoon for Annika!

Annika enjoying the slide

Conor checking out the bubble mower

Monday, May 16, 2011

CTK Auction Cake

Annika's school had its annual auction this weekend. One portion of the auction was a dessert dash. To support the event (and the school), I made a cake for the dessert dash. When I embark on the cake creation process, I usually have a clear idea of what the cake will look like before I ever start on the decorating. This cake had me stumped. I couldn't see it in my mind's eye. This was one of the "let the cake lead you" moments in my life.

The auction's theme was "Island Paradise", so I knew that I wanted to include flowers that might be found in a lei. My first idea was to use my new Cricut and cut out luau-themed shapes. Due to time constraints and after two failed flower-cutting attempts, that plan went out of the window and I started formulating Plan B.

I covered the cake in marshmallow fondant, which I had never made or used before. I loved working with it and it tastes MUCH better than regular fondant. I'll have to play with it more to figure out the best way to get it to work with my Cricut, though. As it currently stands, the fondant is too soft for the Cricut blade to do clean cuts. I think I'll try freezing the fondant a bit first and kneading in a little gum paste powder to add a bit more structure. (One side bonus of working with fondant - I get a great ab workout from kneading it!)

I didn't intend for the cake to turn out Tiffany blue; I just put a few drops of blue coloring in my big blob of white fondant. Low and behold! Tiffany blue. I love how the blue turned out!

To hide gaps between the cakes and their boards, I chose to make fondant ropes (I love, love, love my silicone rope mold!) and placed them around the tiers. It gave the cake a more finished look ... it also made me want to splurge on the pearl shape mold, that's for sure!!

There was a painter on TV who used to say we don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. I think this cake fits into this category. I didn't know what to expect when I started out, but am thrilled with the final results.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sun in Seattle

Stop the presses! We had a sunny afternoon in Seattle yesterday. The kids played on the deck for awhile before getting to bed (hence, Conor is in his jammies). They had a marvelous time riding on the tricycle and chasing each other (and Eric) around and around the deck. Recently, Eric taught the kids how to "carpool" on the tricycle—Annika peddles and Conor holds on for dear life while sitting on the back.

This little bit of fun outside makes us long for more sunny days. Unfortunately, we're supposed to get a bunch of rain in two days. Oh well! We'll take what sun we can get.

Peddling around ....

and around...

and around the deck!

(Note how Annika points out that the pole keeps Conor from falling ... just before he falls. That's what we call irony)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Last summer, Annika attended a birthday party for one of her daycare chums. The party was at a local pool and the kids had a BLAST. One of the goodie bag items was a pair of goggles ... how fitting!

During a recent episode of toy box cleaning, we rediscovered the goggles. Annika and Conor LOVE them. Rarely are they used in or near water, however. They have become part of the dress-up collection and something random just to wear from time to time.

Conor hasn't quite figured out how to put them on himself yet, but that doesn't stop him from trying.

I absolutely adore the 2nd picture of Annika (see below); it screams out "innocent childhood fun" to me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rice Butt

Last night, we went the simple route for dinner; we had take-out teriyaki. Eric and I had chicken teriyaki and the kids had chicken fried rice. All-in-all, a yummy and fast dinner.

After a few helpings of fried rice, Conor started proclaiming that he wanted down from his high chair. Eric kindly fulfilled that request and started into fits of laughter after seeing how much rice was stuck to Conor's pants. As Conor walked through the kitchen, he left a trail of rice ... much like Hansel and Gretel leaving their breadcrumbs in the forest. Our dog, Buca, thought Conor was creating an edible ticker-tape parade for his dining pleasure.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Trip to the Zoo

On Saturday, Annika and I packed and headed to the zoo. We met up with our friends Caroline and Gage. The whole purpose of the outing - aside from spending time together - was to see the new dinosaur exhibit. The zoo has 10 (I think) animatronic dinosaurs on display until Labor Day. The dinosaurs are stationary, but do move their heads, eyes, arms (T-Rex), and make noises.

The kids had a wonderful time playing together. The row boat by the penguin exhibit is probably Annika's favorite thing at the zoo. She is like a moth to a flame with that thing. This time, though, she was also quite taken with the bracheosaurus; it made a burping sound that both kids found highly entertaining. We also made sure to see the baby ocelot; so cute!!

Annika and Gage playing in the boat by the penguins

Annika and Gage getting ready to see the dinosaurs

Annika LOOOOVES to hug on Gage

The burping bracheosaurus (Note: the model is 1/4 the actual dinosaur's size)

Gage and Annika

Annika getting her face painted

Admiring her new face art

Annika and Gage with their face paint

Sleeping jaguar

Baby ocelot

Annika and Gage playing the drum in the Africa village

We saw a peacock hiding out in the brush

(Correction: Caroline and I saw it... the kids were too busy climbing on rocks to take time to look at the peacock.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chocolate-covered Peeps

We have some very good family friends who own a candy store in Tacoma. Johnson's Candy was opened in the 1920s (I think) and is now run by the 3rd generation of Johnsons. Mrs. Johnson and my mom have been friends for as long as I can remember; just before Easter, Mrs. Johnson gave my mom some chocolate-covered Peeps for Annika and Conor. Saying the Peeps were a hit is an understatement... especially for Conor. Candy and chocolate is still a great novelty for our little guy. (Annika, on the other hand, sees chocolate is the fifth food group and as a requirement for sustaining life as we know it.)

Here is a pictoral record of Conor and his first-ever chocolate-covered Peep. (Fear not - I ripped it into tiny, tiny pieces so he couldn't choke.)

Checking out the goods.

Trying a bite

"OH WOW!!" That was so good, it deserves applause!

It also deserved some finger licking. Can't let any chocolatey Peepy goodness escape!

Let's do that again!!


You lookin' at me??

Signing "more" ... as in "Give me more Peeps and no one gets hurt"