The Mildly Interesting Adventures of a Distracted Baker

Dear Erin,

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day was filled with family, fun, and (really good) food. Little Mister kept asking if we were going to have our Givings today. And we did have “givings” with good friends, which made my holiday unexpectedly easy (relatively speaking). See, I had expected that we would have our own little meal with our own little family, but what with one thing and another, I only made dessert (my favorite course of food to make) instead of turkey, potatoes and all the trimmings.

This was a good thing because just making two desserts took me most of the day. The first choice was apple pie bars – an easy version of apple pie, and a pretty sure thing because I’ve made it several times and use labor-saving devices like pre-made crust and the food processor.

For the second choice, I wanted to try something new. Another pie, because I had heard the words “There can never be too much pie” from someone we would be dining with. And chocolate seemed like the logical choice, as it would balance the fruit and bring a different set of flavors to the table. However, none of the chocolate pie recipes I found struck me. What I normally would have done is made Grandma’s Southern peanut butter pie, but it’s been so long since I made it that I didn’t even think about that.

Let’s play a game. Can you guess what kind of pie I made? Here are some clues.

20161124_220847

Got it yet?

20161124_080413

How about if I told you I heard about this pie from you? On this blog? This year?

And it’s not chocolate or fruity or peanut butter or nutty.

Give up?

It was Crack Pie (although from a different bakery than the one you mentioned in the post that made me decide to try it). I thought, if Erin likes it, it’s probably pretty good.

It was pretty good. (I tasted it before we left, just to make sure.)

20161124_154239

Not to worry: the recipe made two pies. This one was crooked in the oven so not pretty so not going with us. So used for quality control. (Yummy yummy.)

I used the recipe I linked to above, and it was easy enough to do. But there was just one little problem – baking the things. I followed the directions. Set the oven to 350, bake the pies for 15 minutes, open the door and drop the oven to 325, and when it hits that temperature, cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Except my version of that directions continues. “Then cook for another 5 minutes.

And another 5 minutes.

And another 5 minutes.

And another 5 minutes. Pies may be starting to brown on top.

And another 5 minutes. Remove the one that is disturbingly dark but still not set.

Cook the last one for another 5 minutes and hope for the best.”

Anyway, I guess they came out more or less right. No one eating them copped to having heard of crack pie before, so hopefully no one knew any better. They still tasted good to me, but they were too sweet for Charles, so I probably won’t keep the recipe.

How about something completely different? We went to the museum on Monday, where Little Mister got to try on his Halloween costume from an alternate reality

20161121_101008

and Captain Wiggles got to spend some quality time with his favorite person in the world

20161121_120142

Talk to you in December!

Advertisements

A Fancy Holiday. Or Not.

Dear Erin,

You know how last time I said I didn’t have much Christmas spirit? Well, that’s changing, albeit slowly and not by much.

I told you I made cookies last week. Well, this weekend I made Danish.
20151212_094617
Family tradition, and my favorite “Christmas” food growing up. Just the smell of cardamom and almond together makes me happy. I don’t make them often, because Charles doesn’t like them, and it makes a lot. My recipe says 75 “pieces,” but I made a half batch, and still ended up making I think six batches, with some dough left over. For the future, I just have to get Little Mister to think they’re a tradition; then I’ll have more of an excuse to make (and eat) them.

Look at the cardamom I found to use this time.
20151214_095010
They’re pods, and you open them to get the seeds. I felt very fancy while I was making them.

And we have a tree.
20151214_083611
Yes, this has basically been floating around Pinterest, so that’s where I stole the idea from. It’s certainly not fancy, but it’s also not going to fall down and break and spill water and leaves everywhere and make a huge mess and lead to Little Mister getting in masses of trouble. He has fun moving the ornaments around and trying to stick them on the wall.

We’re doing it up right around here, feelings or no.

PS. Oh, and we didn’t get snow, but there was hail yesterday. That counts, right?

Frailty, Thy Name is Rice Krispie…

Dear Kristen,

Its confession time.  You confessed to making lists and not following them.  I feel its right to confess on this side of the country, too.

I have a weakness.  I actually have a gazillion weaknesses – and in the food realm, I have touched on these again and again.  Coffee?  Yes – its okay that its 9 PM.  Popcorn?  Yes.  For lunch and then snack?  Yes.  Donuts? Are they Sugar Shack?  Then, yes.

But you know its an acknowledged weakness that you are slightly ashamed of when you purposefully DON’T buy the ingredients at the store because you know you will make said item and eat. it. all.

Enter, the Rice Krispies.  Munchkin saw them at the store and asked if she could have them for breakfast.  Innocent enough. And its a big box that’s on sale for less than the little box.  Hmmm…. But inside I am having a conversation that goes something like this:

  • Me: If you buy that, you know it will take months for her to finish it.
  • Me: They are on sale.
  • Me: But if you buy that, you know you will make Rice Krispie Treats.
  • Me: They are delicious.  It’s not a bad idea.
  • Me: But if you make them, you know you will eat them.  Eat them all.
  • Me: But its a big box.  I bet I could make two batches and Munchkin would still have some for breakfast.  And we could share with friends.  I don’t have to eat them all.
  • Me: That’s not a bad plan.
  • Me: I know.

This inner monologue takes all of a 5 second pause, and the conclusion?  “Yes, sweetheart.  Go ahead and put it in the basket.”  And to follow through with the logical plan, I bought two packages of marshmallows.

We made a batch of “stickies” as Munchkin calls them, and took 90% 75% of them over to a neighbor family.  And then I promptly ate all of the rest, but the one Munchkin ate, before the end of the day.

And then…

I felt guilty that Matt didn’t get any.  And I wanted some more.

So I made another batch the next day, only to have Matt point out that it wasn’t a GF box of Rice Krispies and he couldn’t eat them.  Guilt.  And how do you deal with that?

Eat them all.IMG_2334

I Made Something Edible!

Dear Kristen,

Little Mister’s birthday looked perfect for a one year old!  Way to go!  Simple is best, I think.  Munchkin’s first birthday was pretty much a yellow and red party – I just called it a Winnie the Pooh party so that I could make a beehive cake.

DSC_0128

She doesn’t remember it, so it could have been a cupcake and green beans and she would have LOVED it!  (Cake makes everything great, Little Mister.  I’m glad you’ve realized this already.) But the other guests probably would have balked at the rest of the menu I served.

Recently I’ve been serving up messes in the GF bread department.  But, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I got a cookbook that looked promising – and so far…well, let me tell you.

What I tried:

BISCUITS!

Her’s looks like this:

IMG_2254

Mine looked like this:

IMG_2253

So not perfectly up-to-snuff (at least to match the picture) but she has the advantage of developing the recipe without a toddler attempting to sabotage her time.

See the blob shaped one?  That's Munchkin's "triangle."  It doesn't really hold a rigid shape with that much butter in it.

See the blob shaped one? That’s Munchkin’s “triangle.” It doesn’t really hold a rigid shape with that much butter in it.

Taste? Good! Not the best biscuit you’ve ever had (that would have gluten in it, silly) but really pretty good.  A decent biscuit.

DINNER ROLLS! (I forgot to take a picture of these…I can insert a picture next time I make them.)

I made these because you can apparently freeze them if you under bake them and finish them up later.  The prospect of that was too awesome to pass up.  Messy to make, but not too hard, especially when Matt and the kids are watching March Madness napping on the couch and letting me work.

Taste? Good!  In fact, Matt actually didn’t qualify the “good.”  Just straight up good.  (We’ve learned that GF life is about good. Not great. Unless its a steak – that can be great.)

WHITE SANDWICH BREAD!

So I have a story here.  You know those moments when you are multi-tasking and basking in your own pride when you realize you messed up a task 2 steps ago without even realizing it?  And then, when you do realize it, you think, aw, yes Lord.  Thank you for humbling me.

That was Sunday.

After church, I had less than an hour and half to get everyone fed, bread made, birthday card created, dress-up clothes located and Munchkin packed in the car before we needed to leave for a birthday party.   Could I do it?  Of course! I’m a queen at multi-tasking!

Problem: Little Man didn’t nap so was tired and fussy which was quickly turning into “hangry” which in turn was ramping up my anxiety level.  I had Munchkin’s lunch done, bypassed mine thinking I’d get to it after I fed the hangry infant.  But I needed to get the bread in the machine before that.  After so many past failures, I was DETERMINED.  (That’s a kinda nice way of saying, stupidly stubborn.)

So I get all the wet ingredients put together – melted butter, egg whites, warmed milk.  And I put all the dry ingredients (minus the yeast) together.  And I am proving I am the queen of multi-tasking.

Or not.

Add baking powder. Check.  Add baking soda.  Add sugar.  Check.  Add salt.  Check.  Add sweet potatoes.  Wait; what?

Oh.

The page turned in the cookbook.  I didn’t notice.  The bread doesn’t have baking powder or baking soda – the sweet potato biscuits do.  Whoops.

Matt, being completely logical, suggests starting again.  Can’t do it!  I just used the last of the all-purpose gf flour that I made – so there is none left to try again. And I don’t have time to make more.  Certainly not in the 40 minutes left before I need to complete the next 4 steps of the day and leave.

So just throw it out?  NO.  I figured, it didn’t hurt to throw it all in the machine and give it a try anyways.  I can’t reuse the warmed milk, egg whites or butter…so might as well continue down the path of mistakes.  Make the bread and if its horrible, then throw it out.  (I should mention that the salt and sugar levels were exactly the same in both recipes, so it was really only the baking powder and soda added in.)

So I baked it.  Or the machine did.

And it tasted good!  Not just slightly edible.  Down right good – better tasting than all the other attempts!  Specially slathered in butter – which honestly makes almost anything good.  This makes me hopeful that if I actually follow the recipe to a T, it could be even better.

I didn’t take pictures of this either.  Let’s face it.  My pride was crushed and I wasn’t very optimistic.

Living the GF Life

Dear Little Mister,

STOP GROWING UP SO FAST!

Dear Kristen,

Enjoy the sunshine.  It’s trying to come out here – but I told Matt, three warm days does not mean spring is ACTUALLY here.  So I am not putting up spring decorations or packing up the heavy winter coats and blankets just yet.

I am, however, trying to find some good gluten free recipes and have attempted making gluten free bread…with limited success.  We went gluten free in August – focusing just on Matt originally.  But it seems Little Man may have inherited his daddy’s allergy (plus an intolerance to dairy and nuts) so gluten free is on the menu for everyone.

Though we aren’t trendy people, its good that the trend exists as it gives us more options.  Barilla and Fritos – thank you. But still, its a little rough.  While my nose is wooed by the smell of fresh bread, my taste buds are accosted by the taste of…something else.  I am dying for a donut – and the end is in sight for me.  My heart hurts for Matt.  No donuts.  At least no “no consequences donuts.”

Unless the recipes from this site actually work.

I’ve tried four different recipes for GF bread in our bread machine, all subpar in taste and/or texture.  But there’s a number of people who have suggested Gluten Free on a Shoestring for help with baked goods.  She doesn’t have a bread machine recipe on-line, but I don’t mind.  I’m going to try it ANYWAYS.  And donuts and biscuits and pie and who knows what else.  And I’ve ordered one of her cookbooks, so hopefully I won’t feel stuck in the rut of tacos and shepherd’s pie.

If gluten free is the permanent reality for 50% of our family, its worth the trial and error.  Because what if the claim of her Gluten-Free Classic Snacks cookbook is true???

I’m not into the whole copy the Little Debbie treats, but Pepperidge Farm Milanos?  Or Girl Scout Thin Mints?  What would Little Man’s childhood be like with NO GIRL SCOUT COOKIES.  Bleak. Bland. Altogether pretty shabby, I’d say.

To go this route, the most cost effective method of getting ingredients that I’ve found is through an on-line vendor.  And to avoid the extra cost of shipping, I place a big order that lasts about 2.5 months.  Like this one:

IMG_2213

Except this round I mistakingly ordered these – Nine-Zero-Zero strikes again.  Let’s add ordering things on-line to the list of things I can’t accomplish successfully after 9:00.

IMG_2214

I have NO idea what to do with them.  Apparently you can pop the sorghum as if its popcorn.  I’m skeptical, but can’t think of (haven’t found) anything else appetizing to do with it, so I’m gonna give it shot.