Friday, February 20, 2009

A Delicious Train

My son requested a train cake for his birthday, and since we couldn't find any train cake toppers, my husband and I ended up sculpting our own. We made it a lot more difficult for ourselves due to the frosting we chose. Chocolate peanut butter frosting is very good, but we always have more trouble spreading it than any other frosting. Between the frosting and all the little pieces, the train was harder to put together than the ship from two years ago. We happened to have a box of animal crackers, so I thought a circus car would be fun.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Train Cakes

My son's birthday is coming up and he has requested a train cake. My husband is the resident cake baker, but I thought I would help him out by Googling "train cakes." I was thinking he would make a sheet cake and cut out a silhouette of an engine, but I didn't see any pictures of something like that.

I found a very cute but time consuming train cake, lots of sheet cakes that required meticulous decorating skills (funny I can't find them now that I am looking for a link), and these little train toppers that I remember my mom using when I was growing up.

I had forgotten about those train toppers until I saw them online. I decided that as far as convenience goes, those probably will be our best bet AND we can use them again in the future. After doing a quick online search I found a couple cake decorating stores in the area, so Monday morning I will see if either of them have the toppers in stock. If not, then we will be reviewing our options of the various train cakes out there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

I recently discovered this delicious recipe and have made it several times. My family loves it more than the pumpkin muffins I usually make, however it is more caloric (not always a bad thing, but for me it is) and with the chocolate far messier on children.

I tweaked the muffins a little by reducing the sugar and oil and using whole wheat flour. So I am sure that if you followed the recipe exactly the muffins would be even tastier (but far more caloric if you care about that). When I have made these I ended up with twenty muffins rather than eighteen, but that is okay because they never last more than 24 hours anyway.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Ice Cream Conspiracy

It used to be that when we went to the store and bought a carton of ice cream, we came home with half a gallon of ice cream. Then a few years ago some of the big names such as Dreyer's/Edy's and Breyer's reduced the cartons to 1.75 quarts. Once everyone made the adjustment to a smaller quantity for the same price, they raised the price. At some stores now, one of those brands can cost $5.99. Ouch.

Last month as I was trying to decide which flavor to buy for my daughter's birthday, I noticed that some of the cartons were only 1.5 quarts, while some of them were the "old" size of 1.75. Today I read that the big names are almost done phasing out the "larger" cartons in favor of the new size.

This turn of events made me even more pleased that we can make our own ice cream. My husband calculated that one batch of ice cream costs about $2.50 and makes 1.5 quarts. This is a much better price than the store bought stuff.

There are two regional ice cream companies in the area which still advertise that their cartons are "Still A Full Half Gallon!". They are both good ice creams, but the price of them is much more than making our own, so we will just stick with that.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Single Purpose Items?

Within the last week I have come across three blogs where the writers advocated eschewing single function kitchen items. The examples which were given were an ice cream scoop, garlic press, and popcorn popper.

Although I agree in theory that it is a waste of space and money to have something that doesn't multi-task, when I start thinking about the practical application of this I realized that it's not such a good idea after all.

The two biggest reasons to have those sort of items would be that they are helpful because one uses it a lot based on ones lifestyle, or because by not having it one would have to buy the product already made. Examples of the first would be a coffee maker for most Americans or a rice cooker for most Asians, while examples of the second would be a waffle iron or an ice cream maker.

I love waffles and my husband loves ice cream and so we have a waffle iron and an ice cream maker. Since we try to be careful how often we eat out, going out to breakfast rarely happens. Having a waffle iron gives us the opportunity to have a favorite meal without it being costly. Even if we only use it once a month (we actually use it more), the space it takes up is worth the cost savings it affords us. An ice cream maker is handy because my husband goes through a lot of ice cream. It is much more affordable than buying ice cream and it also gives us the opportunity to make sure that there aren't artificial ingredients in it.

There are also other random reasons why single use items are handy:

My mother hammered into us never to use table spoons to scoop ice cream. Our freezer was very cold and she hated seeing all of her spoons bent. So we used an ice cream scoop because the alternative was having all our spoons look like they were doing the limbo.

Someone else might use a garlic press because she hates the smell of garlic on her hands. (They do make stainless steel "soap" bars to rid oneself of that smell, but those too are single purpose items.)

Another person might use a rice cooker to make sushi because he can't get sushi rice the proper consistency on the stove.

After reflecting on all of this, I realized that I have no problem with the kitchen items I have. The people promoting this are probably trying to avoid the rampant materialism so common in our country. If materialism is the reason they argue this, then it seems to be paradoxical: either one has material items to make or do things at home, or one buys things at the store because one hasn't the means to make them at home.

At least I don't have a coffee pot, microwave* or toaster. Those are items I have no problem doing without.

*It could be argued that this is not a single use item because it can cook, reheat, or thaw. I say, suit yourself. That is what I use the stove and refrigerator for.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Applesauce Muffins

These are our family's new favorite muffin. I found the recipe somewhere and tweaked it a little by adding raisins and reducing the sugar and salt. The following is the "tweaked" version. The texture of the batter is a little funny, but they taste wonderful.

½ C. Oil

½ C. Applesauce (preferably unsweetened)

½ C. Sugar

1 ½ C. Whole wheat flour

½ t. Allspice

Scant ½ t. Salt

½ t. Baking soda

½ t. Baking powder

½ t. Cinnamon

½ t. Nutmeg

½C. Raisins

Combine all the dry ingredients thoroughly. Combine all the wet ingredients. Mix gently together and then add the raisins. Fill muffin tin. Cook at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Garlic Bread with a Kick

My family loves garlic bread. I usually mix a couple cloves with some softened butter, split a small loaf of sourdough bread lengthwise, spread the butter and then sprinkle a little bit of paprika. Then I wrap it in foil, and bake it for 15 minutes at 425 or 450.

This time I was in a hurry, but thought I had done everything properly. However, when it came time to eat it, my son refused because he said it was too spicy. After I tasted it, I realized that I added cayenne instead of paprika! I liked it and would do it again, except that I don't want to be the only person to eat it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This is not the Platonic Form of Shortbread

When making shortbread one should never use this recipe:

1 Cup butter
2 C + 3T flour
1/2 C. sugar
1 egg

Yes, I know that shortbread does not have egg in it. Nevertheless, due to inattention, it found its way in. I don't think the cookies would have tasted any better without the egg though. They had a general lack of flavor which probably would have been remedied with a little salt and more sugar. Oh, well. Happy Boy loved them and gobbled about five of them down when I was distracted on the phone.