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Ta-DDDDAAAAAA!!!

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I’m ba-ack! And you thought you could get rid of me that easily. Not a chance, my people. Not a chance.

WELL, what have I been doing these past few weeks – er, months, but who’s counting? – that I haven’t written to you lovely readers? What haven’t I been doing is the real question (and don’t say “posting on your blog”. Not allowed.). In any case, here is a limited list:

1. My new job! I currently work as a part-time editorial assistant for the editor-in-chief of an academic journal. It’s a job, and it’s something I can do from home for a bit o’ extra money. It’s obviously not my ideal job, nor does it use too many of my hard-earned collegiate skills, but I do get to communicate with people from all over the world and learn some new stuff. It’ll do until…

2. …I finish my first app! As some of you may or may not know, I’ve dabbled in iOS (that’s iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) development in the past, and I’m turning much more attention to it now. Currently I’m catching up to speed on all the new development features that I’ve missed because of *SOMEONE* I’ve had to take care of for the past over 10 months. Psshh. I’ve got a couple of project ideas lined up already, and I’m hoping I can get them pushed out and ready to go in the next few months.

3. That *SOMEONE* that I may or may not have ever mentioned on this blog before. Yeah, him. He, uh, also occasionally takes up some of my time.

BABY PICTURES ATTACK!!!!!!!!

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There’s more where that came from, too, my friends. ‘Tis but a small selection. You’ll have to stay tuned for more!

4. Finally, baking. Yes, I may not have been keeping you updated about my baking, but I sure as cake was still continuing to bake (I honestly did not mean for that to rhyme). Because of the backlog, however, you’re just going to have to enjoy the pictures of my creations without too much background explanation. Me tired. I’ll start afresh with this weekend’s assignment.

Here it goes:

Orange-chocolate-pecan coffee cake:
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Somehow in all my adventures I’d never managed to produce a coffee cake before, but this one was definitely delish!

Tres leches cake! With real leches!

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Chocolate cappuccino cake, which was actually very cinnamon-y:

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This occasionally happens to me with baking; I, actually, was not the biggest fan of the above cake. I mean, it was ok, but it was not necessarily what I look for in a chocolate-coffee cake. For one, I thought it was kind of dry. HOWEVER, the things that I am usually meh about turn out to be some of the biggest hits with everyone else. This cake was exactly an example of that. People kept telling me how moist and delicious it was. Go figure. Whatever makes ‘em (and “‘em” being the people so gracious as to partake in my culinary exploits) happy, I guess!

So then I got on an insane scone kick. To the point where I wasn’t able to even take pictures of some of the ones I made because they disappeared so fast. But here were my favey-faves, maple oat scones:

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And James’s favorites, mini vanilla bean scones:

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Finally, there was the rediscovery of my amazing breadmaker, which produced this lovely lemon poppyseed cake:

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Alas, not pictured (because I somehow didn’t manage to snag these on camera!) are a classic pound cake, my father-in-law’s traditional birthday chiffon cake (which I even made twice, and still didn’t manage to catch on “film”!), lemon-blueberry scones, and orange-cranberry scones.

So you see, I have been a busy beaver. Those baked goods couldn’t just bake and eat themselves. And all the other stuff? Well, come on, let’s get our priorities straight. :)

Welcome back!

Oh, oh, it’s Maciek, you know!

I think it’s high time we had a Maciek update, don’t you? Especially since this is what I had I wanted to start off this post with:

And before I even had a chance to write it, he straight up started doing this:

So, here are the quick stats, in number form. See if you can guess what the number matches up to before you scroll down!

8

Months old, as of a week ago. Such a big boy now!

23

Pounds. At least. When we weighed him a week or so ago, he was 23.2, so who even knows what he weighs now.

18

Clothing size: 18 months. Yes, you read that right: 10 months “older” than his actual age. That’s more than twice his age, for the mathematically uninclined. Yes, I do realize that these sizes really match up to height/weight more than age, but it’s still crazy. I also wish there was size-AND-age-appropriate clothing for babies because a) Maciek is still a BABY and I want him to wear BABY clothes. But sorry, he’s the size of a toddler, so he must wear toddler clothes now, no choice about that. And b) his proportions are not that of a toddler! Luckily he has super long legs (part of the reason why he grows out of clothes so quickly, actually. Thanks, James), but his poor arms are almost always too short for his sleevies. :(

2

Months, the average amount of time Maciek wears a size before he grows out of it. That means lots of trips to Carter’s for us. :)

5

Teeth, officially! He’s got at least one more that’s just below the surface, but so far my bite marks say 5.

3

New skills learned within four weeks. Yep, in less time than it took him to turn a month older (he did all of this between turning seven and turning eight months), he learned to sit steadily on his own, sit up on his own, and crawl. Honest to goodness, crawl. Mobile Maciek is so different than stationary Maciek, and definitely more challenging to keep up with. But pretty entertaining as well! (I should mention here that he’s also learned to eat Cheerios and play the piano, as the video shows. No big deal.)

Many

Ok, so it’s not really a number, but that word refers to the amount of new foods he’s tried, which include millet, quinoa, blueberries, mint, green beans, cauliflower, bananas, avocados, mangos, and turkey!

I think that’s a pretty decent update for now. I’ll leave you with what my master engineer baby managed to do this afternoon.

Besides flipping over pianos. Hulk baby.

I sometimes entice him into playing with his blocks by building him a little pyramid, which he then promptly destroys by trying to take a piece out of it. Not so today:

Mayhaps he's just a master Jenga player.

Double the Desserts

Sorry again for the delay. My previously-mentioned project that I’m working on plus other responsibilities have me weighed down at the moment. I’m gloriously close to getting fairly back to normal… but not quite there yet. So, as a peace offering, enjoy the last two desserts made here in Mama Goertz’s kitchen.

From a week and a half ago: coffee brandy crème brûlée.

This recipe comes, of course, from my huge desserts cookbook, and I’ve been wanting to try it pretty much since I bought the book. It must be a recipe that likes to make me wait because I definitely had aimed at making it for Tuesday two weeks ago… And didn’t end up finishing it until the following Monday. Whoops.

It was a cool recipe since it’s just your basic crème brûlée with some instant coffee granules (the ONLY use I have for instant coffee, I’m snobbishly sad to say) and brandy mixed in. The biggest difference for me was the top crust – it’s made from brown sugar, not regular ol’ granulated! That definitely made a differently-flavored, more mellow-tasting crust. As with many crème brûlées, make sure to start this one a day early, as it needs to chill overnight to set up completely.

Dessert número dos: cranberry orange scones!

I’d never made scones before and was pleasantly surprised to see how easy they are to make. The recipe I used has you put the dough together by hand, although several reviewers recommend you just use a food processor, but I still found it quick and easy the old-fashioned way. I’m really on a mission to find a recipe I like as much as the one Starbucks uses for their scones, so I don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money on silly scones. While this one doesn’t taste like theirs, it sure is delicious anyway, so who cares?

This weekend should be interesting as I’m at a complete loss as to what to make. Chocolate-y? Fruity? Nutty? All three? None of the above? I just can’t decide. I guess time will tell. And we’ll both just have to wait and see what happens. :)

A belated celebratory post

I’d wanted to post this on Monday, but my engineering mind often forces me into chronological slavery, i.e. I had to write about my Christmas baking before I wrote about this. The occasion is worth celebrating nonetheless.

On Monday, my dear husband and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary. While that may not seem like a lot to more seasoned married couples, we’ve accomplished and experienced a lot in that short time!

In the past two years, we’ve:
– Celebrated two graduations (James’s from undergrad, mine with my Master’s)
– Had our honeymoon apartment together (~540 sq. ft. – talk about a cozy nest!)
– Traveled to Jamaica, Poland, Seattle, New Mexico, and Atlanta (not to mention various locations around the state)
– Bought a house (moving into which was an absolute SHOCK after our aforementioned teeny apartment)
– Witnessed six other lovely couples get married
– Volunteered together, prayed together, mourned together, cried together
– Created this one-of-a-kind charmer:

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And grown in admiration, respect, and love for each other.

If we’ve done all this – with God’s help – in the past two years, there’s no telling what the next 2, 5, 10, 25, 50 years will bring. Here’s to all of them.

Happy (belated) anniversary, Kubuś. Kocham cię!

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One of those awesomely staged wedding photos. Don't we look so passionately in love, staring awkwardly into the camera? Also, 'twas a skinnier time, for both of us. Alas.

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One of my favorites.

Christmas Baking: Now with New Year’s!

Christmas Baking: Now with New Year’s!

Many years ago now, I somehow got bamboozled into baking cookies for Christmas. Don’t even ask me the exact details of how it happened. I only know that even back then I was intrigued by baking and had procured a cookbook all about cookies on sale at a local Barnes and Noble. I guess when Christmas rolled around, I figured it’d be the perfect time to prove my baking chops so I came up with a selection of cookie recipes from my book. I do remember enough to advise any aspiring baker that selecting and baking several new recipes at a very busy time of year and when you’re not used to baking is prooooobably not the brightest of ideas. Any old who, everything must have turned out mostly ok because ever since then, I’ve been tasked with the now-traditional baking of Christmas cookies for my family (which in itself is pretty funny considering that cookies are in no way a traditional dessert in Poland, let alone for Christmas. We usually eat cakes and tortes and strudels and such things).

So, naturally, this year was not to be any different, cookie-wise. I was fully expected to deliver on the cookie front, never mind the bouncing, full-of-energy baby boy I now have ruling my house. Luckily for me, I still enjoy baking and super-luckily for me, I thrive when working under pressure.

Pressure, you may ask? What’s so pressurous (um, it’s a word now!) about baking some good ol’ cookies? Well, due to cleaning, present-purchasing and -creating, general baby-ing, and the fact that I couldn’t very well start these cookies two weeks early otherwise you’d probably need a hammer to even break off a piece small enough to eat, I was only able to start baking on Friday afternoon (yes, Friday, the day before Christmas Eve. Now keep in mind that in Polish culture, our biggest celebration is ON Christmas Eve, so everything had to be done and ready to go no later than 5 PM that day.). So what does that mean, friends? I’ll tell you exactly what that means. It means I needed to make six types (not batches, mind you, types) of cookies in 24 hours. Which I did. Because I deliver on my cookie promises. Boo-yeah.

Due to the craziness that occurs around Christmastime in both mine and James’s families, I unfortunately only have one little, teeny, measly picture to share with you. But it’s pretty! Check it out:

Eh, eh? No, I'm not an engineer, and no, I'd never do anything symmetrically. Psshh.

So today’s quick run-down plus accompanying photo of each cookie is brought to you by the magic of zoom.


#1: Raspberry sandwich cookies
– James’s and my mom’s favorite.
– Almond shortbread-y cookies with raspberry jam inside and slivered almonds on top.
– Kind of a pain to make since you have to roll out the dough, cookie-cutter it, bake the cookies, brush them with jam, and assemble. Worth it, though, I think.


#2: Pecan Puffs, a.k.a. Mexican Wedding Cookies
– Just about everyone else’s favorite.
– Delicious little nutty spheres.
– Made them with freshly-ground pecans this year (as opposed to pre-purchased pecanmeal, which is what I usually use), since I’m going for the whole intense-baking-for-the-win thing. Totally made a difference, though, so that change is a keeper.

(I just realized I don’t have a picture of these since they were in a separate pan. Shame on me! I guess I’ll just have to fire my photographer.)
#3: Lemon Bars
– Shortbread base with a tangy lemon topping.
– Because every Christmas needs a little citrus?
– Much easier to make, as most bar cookies tend to be. Just bake the shortbread base a bit, throw on the lemony topping, and bake some more. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cooled.


#4: Viennese Mocha Almond Cookies
– Coffee-chocolate-flavored, slightly crumbly cookies dipped in chocolate and topped with a whole almond.
– Used to make these back in the day, then stopped – now I remember why. They’re supposed to be piped so they’re all pretty, but it turns out this is humanly IMPOSSIBLE. It’s not just me. I had James in the kitchen helping me pipe and we both turned blue in the face trying to pipe these cookies out but that dough just would not budge. Turns out rolling them into balls and patting them flat (and marking them with a… n almond) is about 74.8 times easier and faster and results in no less a delicious cookie.
– No clue why they’re called Viennese.


#5: Hazelnut Palmiers
– Named after elephant’s ears, these little cookies are very simple roll-ups of ground-up hazelnuts, cinnamon, and sugar inside puff pastry.
– Nope, didn’t make the puff pastry myself. I’m not that intense. Yet.
– I remembered buying cookies like this when I was little and wanted to throw in an easy but festive cookie into the mix.


#6: Chocolate Orange Biscotti
– SO excited about this one. I have wanted to make biscotti since the very first year I had that cookie cookbook and just now finally got around to it.
– This was the only recipe that came out of my new monstrous desserts cookbook and, as usual, it delivered.
– Biscotti means “twice-baked” and that’s literally what you do – make a loaf, bake it, slice it, bake the slices. Boom. Done. Easy, yet impressive dessert.

And there you have it! My Christmas baking in a nutshell. It was an intense time (um, yeah. Mama? The reason we were late for Wigilia? Definitely waiting for the biscotti to get out of the oven.), but it was fun and everything got done so all’s well that ends well.

And, as a bonus, check out the flourless chocolate cake I made for New Year’s Eve:

Again, I wanted to make something that was easy yet impressive and decadent. Does six eggs, a bunch of butter, and a pound of chocolate qualify for decadent? I’m going to go with yes. But we served it with whipped cream and raspberries! That’s gotta count for some of your daily intake of calcium and fruit. So when you think about it, this cake was actually healthy for you. Yes. Yes it was.

So that’s it folks. I should be pretty much caught up now, except for a quick celebratory post I’ll put up tomorrow. Yep, I’m making you wait again. So y’all come back now, y’hear?

(Sorry about that last line. James and I are sitting here exchanging travel-dealfinder-site ditties, such as Expedia and Kayak, and that made me think of yokel-ish talk and other ditties such as the Yahoo! one from back in the day and then I got very yokel-y while ending my post. It’s always a party around here.)

When life gives you desserts, part dos

Ok, let’s just put it this way. Holidays tend to seriously, seriously mess with my schedule. I can honestly offer no justification for my long absence (one about which I have been reminded by several people now… Sorry!) except that around here, we tend to go absolutely nuts around the holidays. Between the cooking and the cleaning and the BAKING and oh yeah, that baby kid, I just found all my free time being quickly gobbled up. My new pastime of making Maciek’s food from scratch, as well as a project that was supposed to be done by Christmas Day but that’s still in the works (can’t say more here – the wrong eyes might see it!), and the far-away rumblings of a potential job (more on this later!) may, just may, have contributed to my recent absence as well. Unfortunately some of these things may keep me scarcer than usual for a couple more days yet, but hopefully not for long.

Anywho, as a peace offering, please accept my last post which was still in the pipeline (from many, many weeks ago), a promise that Christmas baking shall be thoroughly covered soon, and some cute pictures of Maciek. Because, hello, babies make everything better. Enjoy!

During his photo shoot for his Grandpas' Christmas gifts.

Enjoying his new toy from his Aunt Becky and Uncle Michael.

With his cousin Kacio. Gaaaaah, I'm dying of cuteness!!!

Last time, we talked about repurposing your leftover dessert into yet more dessert. It seems pretty straightforward to take the bits and pieces you’re left with and combine them into something interesting and new, no?

But what if you have two perfectly good, simple, standalone, classic dessert favorites? You could eat them separately I suppose.

Or you could SMASH THEM TOGETHER.

A-like so:

I give you, ladies and gentlemen, Brooksters. No, I’ve never heard of them before, yes, they make a complicated dessert out of two very simple ones, but you know what WHO CARES because they were totally worth it.

I was tipped to the idea of these by my lovely brother who found a specialized Brookster pan at a kitchen store and immediately thought of yours truly (thanks, Matt!). He had good timing, too, because I was sort of stumped as to what I should try out this weekend. Silly me, not thinking to just throw two desserts in a pan together. So I pulled out my trusty desserts cookbook to find some good, simple recipes.

The Brookster starts with some basic brownie batter and some basic chocolate chip cookie batter. Actually I suppose you could use whichever brownie and chocolate chip cookie batter you like, the instructions just say to have some of each. Speaking of which, I’ve made CC cookies from scratch plenty of times before, but I am ashamed to say that for the looooooongest time, I was convinced brownies were one of those things you just HAD to make out of a box. I mean, for me there was just no way you could recreate the ooey, gooey richness of a brownie without trusting the masterminds at Ghirardelli and Betty Crocker. Don’t ask me why. I don’t make any of my desserts out of boxes, but for some reason brownies-out-of-a-box just held their own special magic with me. Come to think of it, this is actually the first time I’ve made brownies from scratch. Huh. Well, bye-bye box! Honestly, these Brooksters ended up being most valuable to me in showing me how delicious a good, homemade brownie can be.

Once you’ve got your recipes lined up, Brooksters are fairly straightforward, just sort of time-consuming. You can pretty much only make one batch at a time, since you spoon brownie batter into the wells of the Brookster pan (which, if you’re interested in making this, looks like a shallower version of a jumbo muffin pan. And trust me, these things would be just as delicious even if they weren’t as huge, so use regular muffin pans, too) and let that chill for an hour, then make chocolate chip cookie dough disks, press them on top, bake the whole thing, and let the Brooksters cool in the pan. So you see, your pan ends up being tied up for quite a while, but it’s a fun dessert for when you only need to make a few of them/you have several Brookster/muffin pans.

So try these next time you want a classic, no-frills dessert that’s still a little different. You’ll be glad you did!

Adieu for now, friends, until next time when we talk about the annual Christmas baking that goes on around here. I’ll leave you with this teaser for now: 6 types of cookies in 24 hours. And I mean baking them, not eating them (although that happened too, shh). Aw yeah. Ciao!

When life gives you desserts

Ok, folks, I really dropped the ball on this one. Today I write about not this week’s dessert, but last week’s, with the hope that I might write about this weekend’s dessert much sooner and be all caught up. Hopefully. I’ll just blame the rush of the holiday season. Yeeeeah, that sounds good.

Anywho (or as I saw someone spell it on Facebook recently, “newho,” and sat there for about five minutes trying to figure out what that word was supposed to be and how to pronounce it), last weekend we celebrated my wonderful mother-in-law’s birthday, so it was time for more birthday cake! If it seems like I write about a lot of birthday cakes on here, by the way, I do. That’s what happens when you’ve got parents, parents-in-law, four siblings, four siblings-in-law, three siblings-in-law-in-law, four nieces and nephews, a beloved hubby, and a wee babe. Notice I don’t count any extended family here, either…

When thinking of a cake for Mom G, my first thought went to something with ginger (Mom G loves ginger), but to go with something a little more universal, I went with one of Mom G’s next favorites – dark chocolate. Gotta love those antioxidants!

During my perusal of my awesome cookbook, I stumbled upon this little gem:

Raspberry Whipped Cream Truffle Cake

Really hard to get that ganache perfectly smooth.

I wish all pieces of cake were this big!

The dark brown and pink contrast as well as the chocolate and raspberry flavors. How's that for artsiness?

This decadent, delicious cake really is like a truffle in cake form. I was especially proud of the way this dessert turned out – it’s probably the most even-looking, cake-shop-window-worthy (hopefully!) cake I’ve ever made! AND it didn’t even slide apart once it was finished! YAY! Anyway, the cake was comprised of moist layers of chocolate cake sandwiched between a rich ganache and raspberry whipped cream. Yum. Check it out here – it’s definitely worthy of a special occasion, but just give yourself enough time to work ahead. You’ll be aptly rewarded for your patience.

So, the next question is, what DO you do when life gives you desserts? Why, make more dessert of course! The truffle cake recipe only called for three out of the four layers that you end up with, so the fourth cake layer went to this:

Chocolate cake parfaits with raspberry whipped cream. Like a little cake in a glass. Although I think the whipped-cream-to-cake ratio may have been a little skewed. Delicious nonetheless. And in fact, not all of the leftover cake went into this. Half of it currently lives in my freezer, waiting to be turned into – you guessed it – more dessert.

So that’s how it’s done, folks. You apparently can never have too much dessert. Or maybe it’s just me who can never have too much dessert. In any case, stay tuned for this weekend’s creation. Here’s a hint: there will be more dessert(s).

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