Saturday, January 26, 2013

Putting my new MixedCon KitchenAid oven to work!

That gorgeous new KitchenAid gas range I won at Mixed has arrived!
Truthfully, it arrived two weeks ago; however, two things prevented
me from telling you all about it... First, there was the trip we took last
weekend to welcome Ranger back from his deployment. And, secondly...
There's the matter of the fact that our KitchenAid microwave doesn't
at all match my beautiful new KitchenAid gas range! I moved quickly
to remedy this situation by immediately ordering the microwave that
does match my new range; however, instead of coming home to find it
installed yesterday, I came home to a message saying it's on back order!
Showing you this mis-match aside, let me tell you about how much I love my
new KitchenAid gas range. I love it! I wasn't totally sold at first... I mean, the
fact that these new cast iron grates aren't porcelain-coated and smooth like the
grates on my KitchenAid Superba model really bothered me. Mainly because I
worry about scuffing up the bottoms of my LeCreuset Dutch ovens and braiser!
However, after speaking with KitchenAid about it, I learned that these new burners are
so powerful, they would cook the porcelain coating right off my old grates! Powerful
is good... And, the better news is that like any cast iron, these grates will season, so
over time they'll become as smooth as my old grates. Which makes me very happy!
The other thing that makes me happy is how well these burners function. I've
never boiled water as fast as I do now! And, the oven is just as incredible. It
preheats in no time at all and although I hadn't used it myself until today, I
was told it baked fish fillets and french fries perfectly last Thursday night. So
today was my turn and, the first thing I wanted to bake was cookies! But not
just any cookies. You see, there's a few special kids I know that got together to
send the Ranger and his buddies a care package, which means they must have
cookies! And, I can't think of any better than Sweet Dani B's magic bunny! sells Dani's most popular cookie shapes so you better
hurry and click here to add this charming copper cookie cutter to your
collection before Easter comes and they're all sold out! Speaking of great
cookie cutters, I have been dying to use that sweet little Martha by Mail
Eggs cookie cutter set I got for my birthday... And, today was my day!
I also created a few ice skate cookies!
One thing led to another and pretty soon I
was cutting out all sorts of cute cookies!
It was a spectacular day in my kitchen!
I cannot wait to decorate these bunnies for all those sweet kids!
And, my eggs and Scottie dogs too!
I know exactly who these puppies belong to!
Oh, look... There's another adorable Sweet Dani B bunny cookie
cutter. Okay, someone please stop me before I end up baking all night!
Before I turn off the oven I want to thank Paula and Susan
again for inviting me to attend Mixed. It was an incredible blog
conference and even before being named the winner of this amazing
KitchenAid gas range, I knew I'd be returning this year for Mixed II!

Monday, January 21, 2013

We're Home!

As are all visits with our Ranger, this 15th trip to Ft. Benning was both
sweet and far too short. The photos he shared with us are amazing...
He doesn't know it but these images are priceless to us. They help more
than he knows. They help put to rest a little of the worry and wondering about
what he sees over there. But now we're home and back into our routine...
And, there are fresh tulips on the living room table this evening,
which means that although there was snow on the ground
last Thursday, I'm ready to celebrate the end of yet another
worrisome deployment and, the beginning of a beautiful spring!
Oh, by the way... Remember that reoccurring fantasy dream I
have... The one where I stroll into an antique shop and find those
Martha Stewart copper cookie cutters I'm so crazy about? Well...
It happened today!
Of course, I already own this set and love using it
so I might just have to find someone to share it with!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fourth Season Found!

There's that fourth season we were missing! 
Of course, it made for a chilly walk to the hot tub last night... 
But no... I'm not complaining at all!
I love the stillness snow brings and the beautiful way it covers the landscape...
There is nothing I don't love about snow!
Except for ice... Which has unfortunately delayed our departure to
Ft. Benning this morning. Yes! The Ranger can see us, so we're off!
It's going to be a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

The phenomenal woman that hired me at the dream job
surprised me this morning with this gorgeous boutique
candle from my friend Debi's shop. And... guess what?
Not only did the Ranger return from Afghanistan just in time
for my special day, his wonderful girlfriend sent me flowers!
Yup... She's a keeper!

Mom and dad spoiled me rotten and so did my darling sons. The card and balloon I received from William couldn't have been sweeter. Friends and family from every corner of the globe blew up my Facebook wall with their good wishes and the girl I've been best friends with since we were both 10-years old called, as she does every year, to sing me the birthday song. And, on my way into the office I was serenaded a second time by my favorite security guard! At noon, my friend Michele and I met up with my newest blogger-friend, the fabulous Nikki for lunch and we laughed like I haven't laughed in a long time. In fact, we laughed our way right into being 30 minutes late back to work - Oops!

As if that wasn't enough... The only man on this planet that loves me enough to put up with the insanity and I finished the busy day together with a delicious dinner

All in all, I'd say this was a pretty great way to spend a birthday!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

More Birthday Presents!

In my hunt for Martha by Mail items, I stumbled across this on etsy!
In its original box too!
But even better than finding a Martha by Mail recipe box in absolute
perfect condition and, still in original packaging was meeting etsy
seller, Margaret Mackie.  No, this item was not originally sent
wrapped in perfectly folded pink tissue paper with a thank you
sticker... And, it certainly didn't include this personalized card
Margaret includes just for her buyers. That's all Margaret!
Have you ever received such kindness from an Internet seller?
I moment I saw it listed at Margaret's etsy shop I knew I had to have it!
I think it's perfect to hold the blogger business
cards I ordered to carry with me to Mixed!
If you're looking for vintage treasures sent with sincere thanks for
your purchase, you can't do any better than I did with Margaret!
Another birthday gift came in the mail for me yesterday but
it's from my mom and dad. I want to share this because what
my mom wrote on the envelope of their card not only brought
tears to my eyes, it also reminded me of a conversation I had
with our youngest son when he was just seven years old...
On our way home from school one day he
asked, Mom when do I stop being a kid?
To which I replied, Never... Because you'll always be
my kid, even when you're forty-seven years old!
Forty-seven? that's too old to be your kid, he said. And, I
said, Nope! You're never too old to be your mom's kid!

Thanks mom... I'll never be tired of being your kid!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Best Gingersnap Cookies, Ever!

A few days before Christmas I had the very good fortune of
exchanging cookies with my friend David. I sent him this...
And, David sent me this!
Not only did David spoil me with a sampling of waxed twine
from his collection of Martha by Mail items, he also sent me...
His cookies! Despite how I've always disliked gingersnap cookies, the
aroma that wafted over me as I lifted the lid of David's beautiful tin
had me ripping packages faster than you could say, It's a Good Thing!
Army dad and I devoured David's gingersnaps in one day... All of them! We
enjoyed the first package with tea in the morning and took another package
with us that afternoon while running errands. By evening, we were craving
more so we ended up taking the third, and sadly last package to the movies
with us. Forget the popcorn... Pass the gingersnaps, please! Ever since the
disappearance of David's gingersnaps we've been longing for more. So today,
after I pressed all of my table linens and put back everything we removed to
decorate for Christmas. I ordered everything I needed to make David's cookies!
It's always winter in January when I bring
You know how they say you never regret the things you buy, only the things
you don't buy? Well, this is one of those pieces that would have haunted me
forever had I passed it up. It stays out until it's time to put up my Easter tree!
So let's bake! Yes... That's a new mixer you see! But more on
that in a minute. First, I want to let you in on a little secret...
It's my favorite item at Sur la Table right now! Of course, it's perfect for
working with pastry; however, if you're a food blogger that's always wanted
a chunk of carrara marble to use as a surface prop, this is the one for you!
Even at regular price it's under $40 but
right now, it's an even better buy on sale!
It's a change-up from my usual butcher block and because it's not
my real marble island, I'm not as worried about damaging it. If I do
ruin it, I know it can be easily replaced. It's a win! And, you need one!
So what about those gingersnap cookies? Right!
Here we go... Starting with the best sugar of course!
And, everything else you need to successfully recreate David's recipe!
By the way... Don't buy the crystallized ginger in the spice aisle. On
my order to the market I stated only, Crystallized Ginger, which
resulted in a call from the market asking if I really wanted three
bottles of the Spice Islands variety they carry at $35.07 per
bottle. Say no to that and, grab this from the produce aisle instead!
At only $4.00 for a 3oz package, it's a much less costly option,
plus if you don't use all of it for baking you can snack on it too!
For David's gingersnap cookies, you just chop up your ginger like this...
Also, do ensure you pick up the correct molasses. You want unsulphured
Back to that new mixer! I've been dying for a large-capacity mixer
because I bake a lot of sugar cookies. And, since I roll my cookies
fairly thick, one batch usually yields less than 10 cookies. Therefore, to
save time I must mix 3-4 batches of cookie dough at once... However,
just doubling the recipe strains the motors on my KitchenAid mixers...
And, as a result of my attempts to power through the lack of power I
had, but that my baking requires, I've lost quite a few attachments too!
So when Cuisinart offered to let me test their 7-quart stand mixer 
I was t-h-r-i-l-l-e-d! Not only does it have the capacity I need, it has the
power I need to mix multiple batches of dough. And, it has a timer too!
I was able to sell the beast and, because of Cuisinart's new 7-quart
stand mixer for home chefs and bakers, I am happy to say that for
my larger cookie projects, I am no longer mixing in the garage!
The splash shield is fantastic... No more flour-poof! And, no matter what
speed the mixer is set to, when you press start, the mixer knows to begin
slow. There's also a fold setting, which eliminates breaking meringues!
For home bakers that need lots of mixing power and who need a mixer
is the perfect compromise between home mixers that can't keep up and cost
prohibitive commercial stand mixers that separate us from our kitchens!
Time to bake gingersnaps with my friend, David!
As an Army brat darling, I always associate gingersnaps with those
horrible box cookies they passed out at base nurseries my parents
used to drop us at while they attended military social functions...
Those cookies were horrible! Promised as a treat, they were miserable
consolation for being left behind by your parents for the evening! They
were tough to chew and had a bitter taste that lingered well after mom
and dad picked me up. In fairness to Nabisco, they might have improved
gingersnaps since 1974 but I wouldn't know because those early traumas
swore me off gingersnap cookies forever. Forever until David, that is!
 David's gingersnaps are soft, a little chewy and the spice... Oh, my goodness! The
spice flavor is mild, warm and wraps around your taste buds like a big hug from
a friend you've missed for a long time... Pure ginger-heaven! In fact, I might
have to suggest David change the name. Ginger-heaven has a sweet ring to it!
David gives two options for finishing his gingersnap cookies... You
can roll them in sugar then flatten them on the cookie sheet, or
to achieve the sugary dusting look of the cookies David sent me...
Flatten them on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with lots of sugar
before you pop them into the oven. I panicked a little about baking
my Silpat mats covered in sugar so I flattened and sugared before
placing my cookies onto my Silpats. But after trying it both ways
and seeing no damage to my Silpats whatsoever, I say save yourself
time and trust David. Flatten and sugar right on the baking sheet!
As long as you use Silpats or parchment you
will turn out perfectly baked cookies every time!
Now it's time to settle down with the perfect cup of tea to match
David's perfect gingersnap cookies and, watch Downton Abbey!
Thank you, David... You've given me gingersnap cookies worthy of
giving gingersnaps another try. And, you've taught me how to make
my own. Which lets you off the hook for having to send me more!