Monday, November 28, 2011

iPhones and Ugly Mantels

I got an iPhone this weekend. It's fabulous.

One of the first things I did with my new phone was test out the camera.

I took a random snapshot of Brian's living room to test the quality of the photo. The photo came out a little blurry when I uploaded it. I'm gonna try and work on this issue.

  
But I noticed another issue that needs work.

The mantel.


I counted over 14 random items sitting on the mantel.

I brought this issue to Brian's attention and he didn't care. He also said that it would be stupid to spend any money on decorating a mantel.

...I'm guessing that's why the mantel looks the way it does.

So I have taken matters into my own hands.

When I get through re-decorating the mantel, I'll take another snapshot and it will look like something from a Pottery Barn catelog.

Thank God Brian has me around for the important things in life.

I'm off to cyber shop for some mantel decor.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Given that Thanksgiving is tomorrow, it's appropriate that I've dedicated this week's blog posts to food.

I scoured my pantry once again, and to my astonishment, I did not even have to go to the grocery store to make this recipe!

I had a leftover can of pumpkin from my October cooking, slivered almonds, applesauce, and oats in my pantry, so Pumpkin Spice Granola immediately came to mind.

Does anyone else associate granola with earthy people? The Ninth Street crowd? The women that wear long skirts and wrap their babies to their bodies? My mom calls these people "Granolas," so I will forever associate them with this food.

There's several great pumpkin spice granola recipes on the Web, so be sure to check 'em out.

Here's the basic recipe I wrote down and intended to follow, but as always, I didn't stick to it. I sorta did my own thing. You'll notice I used less oil, and added applesauce. I also did not want to go to the store, so I left out the pecans that I had wanted to add. Maybe next time.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of pumpkin, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup applesauce,  approx 4 tbsp oil, 2 tsp vanilla, and all of the spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, salt) to a simmer on medium heat. Those measurements do not have to be exact. Go heavy on the spices, if you please. Once the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot, add it to the rolled oats and slivered almonds. Make sure all of the oats are coated. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and coat with non-stick spray. Spread out the granola on the baking sheet.


Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Mix with spatula occasionally while cooking. Once taken from the oven, let sit for about 30 mins, as the granola will actually get crunchier after baking.


A perfect addition for your yogurt.


Or a hostess gift.


I could have eaten the entire batch. It's truly delicious.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tips for the Novice Baker

Baking the Perfect Cake (From scratch or from a box mix)
  • I always use my No-Fail Cake Recipe. You would really have to try hard to mess this up. My cakes have always come out delicious.
  • If the recipe allows some flexibility, such as the No-Fail recipe or a box mix, always add instant pudding mix to the cake batter.
  • Two Words: Duncan Hines. My mom told me to never buy any other brand. It's the best.
  • Use room temperature ingredients. Let the butter and eggs get to room temperature before adding them to the cake mix. For the eggs, you can sit them in lukewarm water too speed this up.
  • Make homemade cake release. This works way better than any non-stick spray or store-bought cake release. It's easy and I have never had an issue with a cake sticking to the pan. See recipe below.
  • Make cakes in advance and freeze them for up to three months. This is great if you know you have a busy week ahead.
Homemade Cake Release
Add equal parts Crisco, vegetable oil, and flour. Stir mixture and coat evenly onto baking pan. (For two cakes, I use 1 tbsp of each ingredients and always have enough. If you want to make a lot, you can store extra cake release in the pantry.)

Icing the Perfect Cake
  • Be Patient! This is the most important advice I will give you, but I often fail to do myself. Rushing this process will never result in anything good. For elaborate cakes, have a plan and a "cake blueprint." Here's an upcoming cake I have to make next week:
  • Even if you only want to make cupcakes or simple iced cakes, invest in a pastry bag and tips. It makes a huge difference!
You can take this...

 To this....
  • When icing a cake, never touch the knife or spatula to the cake!!! This is the reason you have crumbs in your frosting. Always use way too much frosting and remove the frosting as you go.
  • For a cake, ice it using THIN consistency icing. Add a tiny bit of water continuously until you have thin icing. This makes it easy for spreading. Also, never try to spread it when it's cold!
These are just a few tips that I find helpful. Do you have any suggestions of your own? Add them to the comment section to share!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Butterfinger Candies

I'm attempting to follow a stricter budget these days, which means I raid my pantry, see what I have, and then I plan my cooking around my available ingredients.

I had an entire 1lb bag of candy corn leftover from Halloween.

Let's get one thing straight: Too much candy corn is never a bad thing.

That would be like saying there are too many puppies in the world. Or too many vacation days.

But since I spent the entire month of October celebrating Halloween, I figured it was time to move past that great holiday and onto the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday that is upon us.

If you have leftover candy corn, or feel like buying a $0.10 bag in the sale bin at Walmart, please make these delicious butterfinger candies. They are so easy!

1. Melt an entire bag of candy corn in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the bowl of candy corn on HIGH power for one minute, stir, and then continue heating in 30 second intervals. The entire process takes about 5 minutes.

2. Mix 2 cups of creamy peanut butter into the melted candy corn. Spread mixture onto wax paper on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Slice butterfinger candy into your desired shape.

4. I used two different methods. I first lined a mini muffin pan with little cupcake liners. I filled the bottom of the cup with melted white chocolate and refrigerated it until hard. I then placed a chunk of the butterfinger candy on top and then covered it with more white chocolate in a Reese cup fashion.

5. You can even make these little butterfinger cups festive for the holidays! I added a few sprinkles to each candy.



6. For a different approach, slice the butterfinger candy into miniature bars. I covered these with melted semi-sweet chocolate that I had on hand and then drizzled the candy bars with melted peanut butter.

A clever way to use candy corn! Enjoy :-)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Sweet Tooth Bakery

When it comes to dental school, I'm still in limbo. I've had my interview (singular...as in one interview) at my first choice school, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Go Tar Heels Duke!

So now I'm just waiting until December or January to hear back from UNC.

Just keep waiting...Just keep waiting....

To be completely honest, I would be over-the-top ecstatic if I'm accepted, but I would be content with a rejection letter, as well.

I currently have a wonderful job. I'm doing great financially. I'm writing. I'm baking.

Speaking of baking, if I don't launch into a dental school career in the next few months, I'm planning to launch into the baking business.

Have you seen my cakes?!! I'm very proud. I spend a lot of time focusing on every detail of these custom cakes.

A friend of mine recently created a Facebook page for her cupcake business "Hello, Sugar Rush!", which has inspired me to perhaps take my favorite hobby to the next level.

Of course, I will need a website designer, a graphics designer, a business manager, an advertising agent.

Okay, pretty much all I have at the moment are my two faithful taste-testers.


And in case you haven't visited my Sweet Tooth Bakery site (up there at the top of my blog), here are some of my recent works of art:

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Cake Boss

After three days of titling each post after a television show, I ran out of ideas. To remedy this, I visited the Hulu website to check out the titles of current TV shows.

Although I realllly wish I had some clever ideas for "Dirty Sexy Money" or "Pumpkin Scissors," looks like I'll be doing a boring "Cake Boss" post.

And excuse my going off topic, but Pumpkin Scissors? What does that even mean? If anyone has watched Pumpkin Scissors, please clue me in.

Back to my cake topic:
I had my first run with fondant last week. I chose to make the marshmallow fondant because most people would agree that it's the tastiest option.

Straight onto the counter it went....

I poured in the melted marshmallows and began my kneading. Please be warned: This is MESSY! I will definitely not be using this technique ever again.


But it did the job! My fondant turned out well and I covered my cake.
I would encourage anyone to make fondant. It is a really simple and effective way to decorate a cake. Plus, it really only requires marshmallows, confectioner's sugar, and some Crisco!

Cheap and easy.

You can also make fondant in huge batches, then save them for whenever you need them. This is a definite plus, as I have two cakes to make on a very busy week in December. I think I'll definitely be keeping a lot of fondant on reserve for the future.

Happy Veteran's Day. I'm here blogging working hard. Couting down the hours until the weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Modern Family

Let's get real. My family is the exact opposite of a modern family.

Our set-up is more like that of tribal Indians: three generations living in the same compound.

Unfortunatly for my dad's sake, ours is a female lineage that consists of my grandma, my mom, my sister, me, and a billion bottles of estrogen (if estrogen were a thing to be bottled).

Usually when I get home, my dad can be found on the recliner watching ESPN's Pardon the Interruption.

If I sit for a spell and watch PTI, it takes about two seconds for me to think aloud "What could possibly be more annoying than this show?"

.....Oh yeah, the four females that are occupying the other rooms of the house.

Here's an issue that my un-modern family really stuggles with: Eating Out.

After 25+ years of trying, we still have not found a simple way to choose a restuarant. Deciding where to go eat takes 1000x longer than ever thought humanly possible.

Do other families have this issue?!

One hour prior to dinner...

My Dad: "I'm gonna be flexible, as always. I have absolutely no preference where we eat."

My Mom: "I was thinking maybe Cuban Revolution."

My Sister: "What about Satisfaction?"

Me: "Do you think Grandma wants to go eat with us?"

My Dad: "No, Grandma already ate dinner at 4"

My Dad Again: "Ok, looks like I'm gonna have to make the final call. We're going to Bennet Pointe Grill."

Me: "Dad, that was never even an option."

.......and then continue that banter for about 60 more minutes, and there you have it. Our typical night out.

One Sunday a few weeks ago, my family argued for 10 straight minutes in the car about where to go eat brunch, and then my mom finally made "the executive decision." It was a new place downtown and apparently my mom only knew one specific way to get there, via Main Street.

"I only know ONE SPECIFIC WAY TO GET THERE, via Main Street."
-Mom

Well, my dad decided to take a different route (i.e. not Main Street), and my mom proclaimed she was now lost and unable to get us to the intended restuarant. So we continued driving aimlessly around downtown Durham (actually passing the restuarant twice).

As you can imagine, my parents began to loudly bicker and my mom started using "the tone." My sister and I in the backseat became suddenly quiet.

We eventually spotted the restuarant and parked a half-mile away. After the long walk to the restuarant (I was in three inch heels), we got to the door and saw the "Closed on Sundays" sign.

The walk back to the car was silent.

The next five minutes in the car were silent.

And then my mom looked at my dad and said, "You know, you wouldn't be mad at me if I only had one month to live."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

COPS

Cops...in a word...suck.

On Sunday, I decided it would be a good idea for Brian and I to visit the Asheboro Zoo. Brian had never been to the NC zoo, and I hadn't been in about six years.

So bright and early, we hit the road. I even woke up cheery, with extra spring in my step, singing "We're off to see the monkeys, the wonderful monkeys of zoo...because because because because hjahdjwndjabdnbrbgfr dah dah...."

But then my happiness ended abruptly. I was caught speeding along an open highway.

It was a quiet morning on the road. As my speeding ticket confirms,
Traffic Conditions: light
Visibiliy: completely clear
Speed: No reason not to

I was going 72 mph in a 55 mph zone, down a hill, in the country.

There was only one other car in sight...a dirty cop.

After he pulled me over, he cautiously approached my vehicle, as if he were walking through a field of land mines. When he got to my car, he stood approximately two feet behind my driver's side door.

Never before did I realize that white girls in Civics were so threatening. Come a little closer so we can chat, eh?

The cop was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

So began an interrogation....

"Ma'am, why are you speeding today?"

"Anxious to see polar bears, Sir."

Actually, I never said that. I said, "No reason other than hoping you would come along, pull me over, and ruin my day."

So that's what he did. Ruined my damn day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Dog Whisperer

I rarely watch television. Watching television makes me feel like I've wasted valuable time.

Brian and I once turned on an episode of TLC's Hoarders. Three hours and six episodes later, I was surprised that I had wasted that much of my life watching idiots cry over their trash. Honestly, the surge in reality television has proved that people will watch anything. Literally, anything.

My blog traffic has been increasing lately, a fact which I've paralleled to the popularity of television.

"I can't believe I just wasted five minutes of my life reading about Kelly's life."
-You (yesterday)

"I can't believe I'm wasting five minutes of my life reading about Kelly's life."
-You (right now)

Everyday there is a 100% chance that I have nothing interesting to say, and everyday there is a 100% chance that someone out there is reading it.

I've come up with my own original mantra to describe this phenomenon:

"If you write it, they will come."

So this week I'm basing each blog off of a television show.

Get ready for it....get ready for it....get ready for it.....(I came to win.)

THE DOG WHISPERER
Lately, I've been doing some some additional dog training to make Colby even more awesome. Well, it has worked. Prepare yourself to be amazed because I have documented the evidence in the form of photographs.

Colby, I'm going to pour an entire 2lb bag of powdered sugar onto the counter. Now I want you to lie beneath the sugar mountain and act like you're nonchalantly waiting for the mountain to come crashing down onto the floor. Go.



Ok, Colby. This one is harder. I want you to turn your back to the camera, face the flank steak, and pretend you want some. Go.


Perfection.

Alright, Colby. This is the Mac Daddy of all dog tricks. Pretend you don't like carrots.



I'm confident that you can be a dog whisperer, as well, even if your dog isn't yet at Colby's level of obedience.

“There is no such thing as a problem dog. However, there is no shortage of problem owners....”

-Cesar Millan

Monday, November 7, 2011

Inhale, Exhale, Repeat

You may remember this post from way back in March. In the post, I shared a caption that I felt best described the way I was feeling, and then I took a little break from blogging.

"I want my blog to be a source of happiness, honesty, and inspiration... not me complaining about every single little things that goes wrong. And when I feel that critical spirit encroaching into my speech and thoughts, I try to limit my interaction with the world."


Lately, although I have been increasing my interaction with the blogging world, I have been strictly limiting my interaction with the real world. Strangely, I've had a strong urge to isolate myself, knowing full well that socially isolating myself will only make me more miserable.

I know there are a few key things that are triggering my blues, but change is hard (even more hard when you have little money and no direction of where your life is headed).

I'm really hoping that my attitude doesn't seep through and become reflected in my blog. (Aside from this post obviously. My attitude is strongly seeping through in this melancholy post.)

The depressing circumstances in my life at the moment have potential blog humor value. My life is often hilarious (in the "you should feel sorry for me" sorta way), only it's hard to find the humor in anything when you're annoyed, bitchy, and mad at the world.
This blog is my outlet. Forgive my sorrowful rambling.
I'm contemplating a blog mini-series this week. If I decide to go ahead with this thought, you'll know tomorrow.

So until next time...
Love, Happy Thoughts, and a picture of Colby

Saturday, November 5, 2011

When Life Gives You Jello Shots

It's early November, so a gingerbread latte, a cup of hot tea, or any beverage that ends with "nog" is right up my alley.

But remember the Candy Corn Jello Shots from Halloween? (recipe courtesy That's So Michelle)


It required ten orange rinds to make these jello shots, so I had to scoop out the inside of each orange.

My original plan was to scoop out the oranges directly into the trashcan, but my mom put a stop to that idea.

She didn't want all of those good oranges to be wasted.

I only wanted myself and my friends to be wasted.

So in went the vodka into the orange rinds, and out went the oranges into a Tupperware container.

A week later, I thought it a good idea to make Orangeade, only it's cold outside, so it doesn't quite hold the same appeal.

I'm craving eggnog, not orangeade.

Waste not, want not!

(I'm not even sure what that means, but it sounds like it might work right there.)

So here's the recipe I used from Taylor Takes a Taste.

Make the jello shots first. The orangeade is delicious, but the jello shots will rock your world.





Classic Homemade Orangeade
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (6 oranges or so)
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, dissolve one cup of sugar into one cup of water. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved, creating a simple syrup. Turn heat to low.
  2. Add 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 6 oranges) and lemon juice to the simple syrup. Stir.
  3. Add 3 cups water. Remove from heat and stir.
  4. Pour Orangeade into a serving container and keep refrigerated. Serve cold over ice.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Eighteen with Puppy

Super Cute:

 Super Embarrassing:

When I was in college, I put zero thought into most of my decisions. (Stop looking so surprised.)

One December day, I decided I wanted a puppy.
The next day, I went out and bought a puppy.
The next day, I took the puppy to my parents' house and gave it to them because I couldn't keep the puppy.

"Here you go, Mom and Dad. She's not yet potty-trained. She sleeps all day. She stays awake all night. Talk to you later....like in five months."
-Me

(That story sounds way too similar to MTV's "Sixteen and Pregnant")


That puppy, Colby, is now a dog and she is my entire world.

She is also my parents' entire world.

Here in lies the problem.

After college, I moved back home with my parents and Colby. Now I'm at that stage in my life where I'm supposed to part with my parents, only now it means parting with Colby as well.



So it looks like I'll be living with my parents another 12-15 years to avoid any custody battles.

Shoot me in the face.

Here's what I'm hoping you will take from this story:
1. Seriously never have kids. You will be responsible for all of their pets.
2. Repeat: Do not have kids. They will unhappily live with you until age 30, and happily take your money until they die.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Recipe and A Relationship Reality

It was the summer of 2009. Brian and I had been dating for a couple of weeks when he proudly told me that he could make two meals: pork chops and fettucinne alfredo. Though I correctly assumed that his fettucine alfredo was boiling water, a box of pasta, and a can of store-bought sauce, I was no doubt smitten that my boyfriend would cook dinner for me.

And he did cook dinner for me.

That one time.

It was also during that first week of dating that he pampered me with a romantic back massage, complete with scented oil and Ray LaMontagne playing softly in the background.

Oh, how the romance quickly dies.

At one point last week, I swore I could have done full splits naked in front of him and he wouldn't have even looked away from his video games.

Anyways, fettucinne alfredo continues to be one of our favorite meals, though mostly it's just me making it.

I have some suggestions that are sure to make this a wonderful meal. I wouldn't describe this meal as healthy, but if you're making fettuccinne alfredo, you've probably already decided to forgo the health factor.

1. Blackened Chicken is a must for this dish.
  • Use a cast iron skillet, a lot of oil or butter, and high heat!
  • Use a LOT of salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning

2. Use an entire can of Classico Four Cheese Sauce.
  • This sauce is yummy and only 80 calories per serving. Since Brian and I eat all seven servings ourselves, thats only 560 calories between the two of us. Not too bad for alfredo sauce! I do not know the fat content, nor do I care.

3. Mix the pasta, chicken, and sauce then let it sit on low heat for a while before serving.
  • I usually think a meal, especially a pasta dish like this, needs time to linger. It tastes creamier after it sits on the stove for a few minutes.
  • This meal reminds me a lot of the Cajun Chicken Pasta at Chili's.

4. Parmesan Cheese (As if I needed to tell you.)

(Image from Or Until Golden Brown)

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

For the Love of Tootsie. At This Rate, I'll Still Be Blogging About Halloween Come December.

This, my friends, is a holy ghost.

 Of course, I'm most excited about the Tootsie Roll Pop underneath, which just happens to be a brown one.

I will hoard all brown tootsies.

This cute Halloween idea came from one of my mom's coworkers.

"You won't believe how easy....You can do this with any flavor lollipop!"
-My Mom's Co-worker

OMG my mom's co-workers are brilliant.

I too must be brilliant, because check this out.....


I made those creative food labels with the help of Microsoft Word and some clip art. The labels were very easy to make, and it was fun coming up with creepy Halloween names for my menu items.

Forbidden Fruit: Sliced Apples with Caramel Dipping Sauce
Poisonous Peppers: The Pioneer Woman's BBQ Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos
Devilish DelightsBrown Eyed Baker's No-Bake PB Delight Cookies
Mummy Dogs: Little Smokies wrapped in a mummy costume of Croissant dough ("Pigs in a Blanket")
Mystery Meat: One of My Favorite CrockPot Shredded Beef Dishes


I really didn't get a chance to say as much as I would have liked to about the party food. Brian would tell you I have a tendency to harp on things and often become redundant, but I really didn't get a chance to say as much as I would have liked about the party food.

Let me just say: The candy corn jello shots were amazing! So  incredibly yummy and probably the biggest hit of the night.

I also didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked, especially after our guests arrived. All of my thanks goes to Brian, who took some food shots for me at the last minute. He is honestly a much better photographer than myself, so I was grateful that he did this.



Ok. I''m officially over Halloween. That holiday was so last Monday.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Plate

I decided against making my usual monthly goals for now, becuase it's getting to be that time of year: the next two months are filled with holiday celebrations and one million things to do.

Instead, I decided to put my next month's projects on a plate.




I was asked by a dear friend to make a cake later this month, and of course I said "Yes" because the word "No" is not part of my vocabulary.
So then she sent me a picture of the cake she wanted, which was a picture of the cake that won 1st Place in the NC State Fair Competition.
My first reaction was a slight WTF.
My second reaction was a brief moment of flattery because she thought me so skilled.
My final reaction was a strong WTF and there goes 1/3 of my November plate, because now I need to learn how to tier, fondant, and gumpaste a cake in the next couple of weeks.
I do love a challenge, so I'm excited for this cake project.

Another portion of the plate is being filled by "running at a slow pace" because I'm attempting to do the half marathon next year.

I'm performing in the Grey Stone Baptist Church Living Christmas Tree, so I'm working on my acting skills and line memorization.

I think this will be an exciting month! Stay tuned on the blog.