>Blueberry Almond Cream Sweet Rolls

>Remember when you were young and your mother would tell you “dessert” is not a breakfast then turn around and feed you sugared speed from a box that would send you into a souped-up hyper state just before sending you off to an educational institution where you were expected to sit still and learn?

Yeah, I never saw the logic in that one either.

I say “Let them eat cake..or at least the closest equivalent.”

Today called for something warm, sweet and high on the “carb-o-scale”.

The idea for this recipe came to me a couple of weeks ago while I was trying to get to sleep – talk about “sweet dreams”.

Initially I wanted to make this with raspberries and several other ingredients all together but when I made the dough yesterday I realized I didn’t have some of the necessary food-stuffs. So perhaps we could say this was a new idea.

I love making bread, even moreso than desserts and although this can be a dessert it’s also a breakfast or a “middle of the day, sweet tooth attack” snack.

The beauty of dishes like this is they give you a perfect excuse to eat sweets first thing in the morning.
It takes some time to prepare but the end result is wonderful. Medicine Man was in heaven and I had a new recipe to add to my repertoire.
The dough and sweet cream are adapted from recipes by Ciril Hitz.

Isn’t it great to be all grown up?

Blueberry Almond Cream Sweet Rolls

Steps In Order Of Preparation:

1. Dough – prepared the day before
2. Sweet Cream
3. Blueberry Sauce
4. Roll Preparation
5. Sweet Glaze

Dough

The day before

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C. whole milk (room temperature)
1 large egg (room temperature)
1/2 Vanilla bean split (or 1/4 tsp vanilla powder) – this is optional if you do not have either
5 1/4 C. bread flour
3 tsp instant yeast
1/3 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbs unsalted butter (refrigerated)

Preparation:

1. Split the vanilla bean in half and add the seeds to the milk.

2. Pour milk and egg into large mixer bowl and add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Mix on low speed until dough begins to come together – do not over mix.

3. Using a rolling pin hammer the butter on a sold surface between two sheets of parchment paper until butter resembles plastic. Cut butter into 7-9 separate sections.

4. Increase speed of mixer to medium and slowly add the butter pieces in stages. Make sure the butter is completely incorporated in to the dough before adding the next piece.

5. Mix until sold soft dough forms. If dough is ragged or tears easily it is underdeveloped. Continue mixing until stretchy.

6. Wrap dough securely in plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight. Dough will expand so be sure it’s wrapped tight and can’t break free of plastic.

COOKING DAY

Sweet Cream

Ingredients:

1 C. whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
2 Tbsp sugar
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs unsalted butter

Preparation:

1. In saucepan bring milk, 1/2 vanilla and second portion of the sugar to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Once milk boils set aside and cool slightly.

2. Add egg yolk, cornstarch and first portion of the sugar in a bowl and whisk until light yellow and smooth.

3. Here’s the tricky part so be careful – using a whisk temper the egg mixture with the warm milk by SLOWLY add a little milk at a time, constantly stirring until fully mixed in.

4. Add mixture back to pan and reheat on low temperature, mixing with which constantly until cream begins to thicken. Careful not to let the sauce burn or coagulate to the bottom of the pan.

5. Remove from heat once it begins to bubble and stir in butter and other 1/2 vanilla.

6. Transfer to a cool bowl and cover with plastic wrap being sure wrap completely touches the top of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Place in fridge until needed.

Blueberry Sauce:

Ingredients:

 1 C. fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 C. sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg or apple pie spice

Preparation:

1. Add all ingredients to small sauce pan and cook until just slightly thickened but blueberries still retaining most of their shape.

2. Set aside to cool until needed.

Rolls

Ingredients:

Dough
Pasty Cream
Blueberries
1/2 almond slivers coursely chopped

Preparation:

1. Roll out dough on a slightly floured surface into a large rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick or less. Try to roll out as symmetrically as possible to ensure even rolling.

2. Spread pastry cream over the entire surface of the dough from edge to edge. More for thicker dough, less for thinner. Don’t be too sparing with it, you want these good and creamy.

3. Sprinkle almonds over layer of cream.

4. Using a small spoon add blueberries in small dollops over complete surface. Do not spread in order to prevent mixing with the cream.

5. Roll the dough lengthwise into a long roll pulling the ends gently to keep edges even.

6. With a sharp knife cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch sections placing each on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.

7. Cover sheets and allow to proof for about an hour or until nearly doubled in size.

8. Heat over to 350 degrees (180 C.) and bake for 15 minutes. Cook in additional 2 minute increments until golden brown.

9. Drizzle with sweet glaze and serve warm. Keep in refrigerator and reheat for 20-25 seconds.

Sweet Glaze

Ingredients:

4 Tbs milk
2 Tbs light corn syrup
1 3/4 C. powdered sugar
4 Tbs butter – softened

Preparation:

1. While dough is rising combine milk and corn syrup in small sauce pan and heat until approximately 140 degrees. Remove from heat.

2. Add powdered sugar to milk mixture and stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until rolls go into the oven.

3. While rolls are cooking, with a small mixer whip the butter until fluffy. Add the cooled sugar glaze and whip.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

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>My Kitchen Addictions

>It’s well known I need to invest in company stock or get help for my serious dependence on all things Apple.

What you may not know however is I have several other “infatuations” hiding in the drawers in my kitchen. I don’t think it’s fair to say they’re obsessions or addictions since any good cook knows you have to have the tools of the trade.
Medicine Man likes to refer to it as “my martial art”. He says cooking is my own form of Zen practice because Of how it soothes me.

Some women go ga-ga over a new pair of shoes, or jewelry or the idea of spending hours trolling the jungles of dressing rooms and clothing racks to emerge laden with packages, boxes and bags of new clothes.

EWWWWWW!!!!!

I dread shopping for clothes and would happily employ a fashion guru to measure me, buy my clothes and pick out my outfits each day. DRAG!

My kitchen is my sanctuary. The place I pay homage to names like Betty Crocker, Julia Childs and Le Cordon Bleu.

Today I found these, I needed them, I did….no I did seriously. I needed more. I had to throw the others ones out because they had been chewed, melted, chopped and mangled. It was time to replace them.

They’re by Nordic Ware and I just loved the colors! I picked up this four pack of large spatulas and in addition a three pack of adorable little matching ones.
Ok…I also picked up a set of two others that were specific to cake and frosting and had these super pretty clear handles.

Out with the old..in with the new.

These colorful little beauties will be added to the drawer entirely dedicated to wooden spoons and spatulas.

Please don’t ask me how many I have of those and in how many different shapes and sizes.

It’s really quite embarrassing.

Outside of cooking utensils I have to come clean with my other two……dependencies. Yes that is an appropriate name for them, well at least one of them.

Measuring cups. You have to have them. Cooking DEPENDS on them. You NEED them. And personally I am of the mind you can’t have enough. So here you are, here are SOME of my measuring instruments and I don’t feel the least bit guilty for any of them.

That’s nothing compared to some kithens I’ve seen. But if you’re not happily enslaved to your kitchen like many are, here’s a quick lesson for you (and justification for buying as many measuring cups, bowls and pinch pots as your hearts desire).

The most important thing you should do before cooking anything is to prepare your ingredients. The French refer to this as ” mis en place “. It means “established” or literally “put in place”.
The reason being is everything should be out and ready to add as soon as the recipe calls for it. This prevents overcooking, burning, coagulation or any other myriad of problems that are just waiting to spoil a wonderful dish.
The other reason is to ensure you don’t get half way through your recipe and find you are missing a key ingredient because everything will be “in place.”

I love them all dearly but the shot glasses are my favorite because they make measuring out small amount of liquid easy with no mess.

And yes you don’t have to say it….my camera and I were NOT getting along today. It’s really a love-hate relationship at this point.

This brings us to my WORSE addiction. I can’t help myself and other than using “mis en place” and the fact I love single serving sized dishes as an excuse…I have none for this….

(sigh)

I can’t help myself.

I LOVE ramekins. If butter were a dish…it would be a ramekin in my world. The only reason I don’t have more is I have no more space in my kitchen for them. I would have a whole pantry full of them if I could.

I would have them in every color of the rainbow, every shape and size imaginable and die happy.

The best thing you could do is keep me away from Amazon.com or Home Goods. ESPECIALLY Home Goods where they seem to have the more incredible rotating stock of ramekins.

See those with the scalloped edges up there? Just bought them a couple of weeks back and you don’t want to know how hard it was to walk out of the store with just the white. They came in purple, teal, red, yellow and green as well.

PAINFUL!

So there you have it. Those are my worst addictions in my kitchen…..but not my only ones.

Do you have cooking or kitchen obsessions?

Go on….admit them here.

I’m certainly not going to judge.
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>Apple and Drunk Shrimp Pasta

>The was a little excitement in the house yesterday. We had a special delivery of our long awaited little one. Just a precious dear thing, wrapped up in a little bundle ready for plenty of attention.

WHAT?? A BABY!!??? Are you crazy? I have three boys and am already 40.

No you silly it’s our iPad 2, white with 64g and Verizon 3G connect.

Do NOT freak me out like that again.

As you know (or at least you do now) I work at home for a medical software company. I’m sure if I look in my contract somewhere in tiny tiny small print it says multi-tasking is a must and all financial compensation relies on said function.

We are growing and growing fast and any given time of day I’m working on several things at once. I can’t complain, I work at home (yes I said that) and have six weeks of paid time off each year since I started. Plus it’s a pretty cool company to work for.

Happy herbs

I needed something to help me keep track of everything for work, the clients, meetings, you name it.

Through trial and error and some major crash and burns I’ve found a few programs and functions that have helped me along the way. One of them is a fantastic program called “NoteBook” by a company called Circus Ponies – you have to love that!

I wont get into how amazing this thing is and how its like having a document folder, paper notebook, voice memo recorder, to do list secretary all in one place. What I can tell you is it has revolutionized the way I work and helped me find more time to take on more tasks. Hmmmm did I just say that was a good thing?

Furthermore CircusPonies should be paying me royalties for as many people Ive turned on to this.

Hello Adam Developer are you listening?

Anyway a few months back I saw the Notebook developers were coming out with a full fledged iPad app of the program that would allow me to synch my notes between my MAC and iPad without losing any of the functions I love about the MAC version. That was stipulated of course on the fact I HAD both.

At that time I did not … Yet.

Did I mention it’s only for Apple products? I don’t think I did. Sorry PC’s.

I knew then and there I was going to get an iPad if only for this program but I wanted too wait until the new iPad was released and of course the Notebook app as well.

So I waited and waited and finally all the planets aligned (which translated means the Notebook app was published, the iPad was released and I had the money to pay for it). Put my order in wait two weeks and viola it arrived on my doorstep yesterday courtesy of the Boys in Blue. (FedEx) Or do they really wear a shade of dark purple? May an indigo or violet.

Not only did Notebook synch like a charm and work amazing but I found some super cool other apps that were not available on my iPhone. (yes I am a total Apple convert. More a MACaholic I think and no I don’t want therapy thank you)

For example the app I’m writing this entire blog post from with drop and drag photo integration – Blogsy. Just fun and easy to use although it’s pretty new and I’m finding has some quirks to work out. 

Then there is a web browser that looks, acts and feels just like Firefox – Terra

The most uber awesomest app so far (next to Notebook of course) – Air Display.

This unassuming little program turns my iPad into a separate monitor for my MAC where I can drop and drag programs running on my laptop back and forth between the two screens. Talk about genius! Sure the whole dual monitor thing has been around forever but to have it avail on the iPad where it’s not taking up so much desk space and has it’s own spectacular use to it – genius! Practical and genius!!

The whole house was giddy (as silly as it seems considering it’s only a piece of technology) with it’s ultimate total coolness in a cute sleek little thing.

So it called for a party. (of sorts – or perhaps just an excuse to eat something super creamy & buttery. But then I never need an excuse to do that).

Something about vodka pasta called to me….but I didn’t have vodka, and I wanted shrimp too. Digging through my pantry I found rum and vermouth and it gave me an idea. Consulted the shrimp – they were all in.

Party time!

Boy were they smashed!

I understand their excitement but I think they took it a little too far.

It was no use trying to sober the little party animals up, they were good and cooked!

And let me tell you… Sooo delicious 🙂

Drunk Shrimp Pasta



Ingredients:

6 oz linguine or pasta of choice
3/4 lb. peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp
4 medium tomatoes mini diced and juices reserved
OR
1 14oz can petite diced tomatoes (if you do not have the fresh herbs buy a can of Italian seasoned tomatoes)
1/8 cup fresh basil chopped
2 Tbs fresh sage chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
2 Tbs fresh oregano chopped
3-4 large garlic cloves chopped but not minced
4 Tbs real butter
3 Tbs vermouth
3 Tbs rum
3 Tbs heavy cream
1 medium onion coarsely chopped
3 basil leaves coarsely chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparations:

1. Pour tomato, 1/3 of the garlic, parsley, sage, basil, oregano into a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let sit for a minimum of 20 minutes to infuse flavors.

2. Cook pasta to package directions. Drain and mix with 1-2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil to prevent sticking.

3. In a large skillet or Dutch oven melt 2 Tbs butter. Add shrimp and saute until just beginning to pink up.
4. Add onion and sauté for two minutes on medium heat or just until soft but not brown. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes.

5. Add tomato mixture and cook 7 minutes until reduced slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Pour in rum and vermouth and cook another 5-7 minutes until aroma of alcohol subsides and incorporates into sauce.

7. Add remaining butter and cream. Cook until thickened about 3-5 minutes.

8. Combine sauce and pasta, mix well. Serve.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE
 

Drunk Shrimp In Pasta

Hello World, this is my new wordpress blog and one of these days I’m going to figure out how to get my beautiful Blogger blog moved over to here.

Someday.

>Tough Choices

>Some people prefer chocolate.
Some people prefer vanilla.

Me, well most days I’m a chocolate girl.
Rocky road ice cream or pralines and cream? – Rocky road.
Chocolate chip or sugar cookies? Tough call but I’d go for those warm melting dark chocolate bits of heaven any day.
White shoes or brown – brown.

Like I said, I’m a chocolate girl…..most days. But not today. Today I was pure, unadulterated, take me to Tahiti and call it day vanilla girl through and through. Today I made a different choice.

Why? Easy, this is why…..

But more about that later and yes the recipe is at the bottom …. because the reason for THAT is THIS!!

Last week I noticed I had nothing made from vanilla in my pantry but four tiny precious ounces of organic extract. That was it!  It was the saddest thing ever… well next to the death of Elvis (I’ll let it go, you need to give me time..yes I know it’s been over 30 years…I’m just not ready). I should also include the first time I found I didn’t fit into my size 8 jeans anymore and I also had a muffin top over the waist band. That wasn’t really sad..it was tragic.

So being vanilla bare I grabbed my coat, keys and sat down in my office chair and drove my internet over to The Vanilla Company where I ordered up a little (almost) everything.

“Yes I’d like some of the Madagascar Bourbon Extract please. What size? Oh hmm…let’s do a 32 oz….and you know let’s throw in a 32oz Tahitian Extract as well.”

“Perfect!”
“Ok I definitely need some beans. How about 1/2lb of the Bourbon beans. Oh the delights awaiting you my sweet little things.”

“I guess that’ll do…..Oh wait that will be excellent to have around..I’ll take some of the pure ground vanilla…that will be great in frosting, butter, for light dusting garnishes! Excellent.”

“Any I guess while I’m here I might as well pick up some of the whole vanilla bean paste to round it all out.”

“I know I can use the paste and extra interchangeably but I can’t get those pretty little brown speckles from extract and besides my pantry just won’t seem complete without both so let’s throw one in.

“Wonderful, I am so excited, I’ll wait patiently watching for my dear mailman to drop off my box…5-7 days you say…oh I hope I can wait. Yes ma’am thank you Ms. Internet checkout cart.”

Tap…tap…tap…tick.tock…tick tock….

Finally after F.O.R.E.V.E.R (well it sure seemed like it.) my package arrived. Now the conundrum…what to make and which one of my lovelies will get used first?

Oh wicked decisions!!! You are so cruel!!
Wait…who says I have to decide? It’s my kitchen…my vanilla…yes..that’s what I’ll do!!

I”LL USE THEM ALL!! (insert inspirational whoop of joy here)

The first was easy. As you know I have a little (lot) obsession with butter so deciding on a sweet butter was a no brainer.

Honey Sweet Vanilla Butter

1 stick pure butter
1 1/2 Tbs honey
1/4 tsp ground vanilla powder (you can scoop out the inside of a split bean if you don’t have powder)

Blend all ingredients until butter is creamy and whipped. Store in fridge. Indulge!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In addition to the butter I needed dessert. Today is Easter (Happy Easter by the way).. and I made prime rib for dinner. That called for a special yummy dessert and believe it or not I was not in the mood for chocolate. Besides, today I was decidedly a vanilla girl.

I bought this adorable little mini-bunt pan and just had to find something to make in it. Went digging through my cupcake recipes and decided to use a coconut cupcake for my base. The rest was just added as I went. The best part was I was able to use my fresh vanilla beans and my extract and my paste.
If you don’t have all three you can use extra for all recipe wherever vanilla is called for.

I’m not sure what to call this recipe so I’ll leave it to my readers (however few you may be right now). If you have a good suggestion leave a comment. I’ll update the post at a later date.

So here’s that picture again and now the choice is yours….what should we call this?

What is it? Unofficially it’s an orange coconut bunt cake with chilled orange coconut compote and vanilla anglaise sauce. That’s all just too long to put into one title.

I just love it when inspiration strikes and even better when i don’t have to make a choice.

The best thing about choices…you can always make a new one.

What will you choose?

Coco-Norange Cake
As named by Andrea Knott

CAKE:

Ingredients:

1 3/4 C. cake flour ( unbleached all-purpose will work too)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C. shredded coconut
3/4 C. unsalted real butter (not substitutes), room temperature
4 extra large eggs
1 1/2 tsp orange extra
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C. heavy cream
zest of one orange peel.

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C). Line cupcake tin w/ liners or butter and lightly flour alternate pans

2. Whisk together flour, salt & baking powder. With sharp knife or food processor chop coconut until finely ground & add to flour mixture with whisk along with orange zest.

3. In large mixer bowl, cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Gradually add each egg, both extracts until incorporated. Slowly add flour mixture alternating with cream until combined and light and fluffy.

4. Fill tins or cake pans 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and cook on wire rack.

COMPOTE SAUCE:

Ingredients:

3 fresh oranges, peeled, seeded, and all membranes removed. Cut slices into 3-4 small pieces (about the size of a cranberry)
1/4 C. shredded coconut
1/2 C. sugar
8 Tbs spiced rum (or grand marinier, regular rum or orange liqueur)
1 vanilla bean split.

Preparations:

1. Add all ingredients to sauce pan and simmer for 10-12 minutes stirring carefully until sugar is dissolved and orange is tender.

2. Leave compote to stand off heat for 10 minutes. Should thicken slightly. Chill in fridge until ready to use.

ANGLAISE SAUCE: (Le Cordon Blue Recipe)
even you can cook like the French.

Ingredients:

1 vanilla bean split
2 1/2 C. whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/4 C. super fine sugar (regular sugar can be run through a food processor if needed or used on it’s own).
6 Tbs. heavy cream

Preparations:

1. Add vanilla bean and milk to saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

2. In separate bowl beat yolks and sugar until pale yellow and thick.

3. Slowly…yes slowly…a little at a time….pour milk into egg mixture…just a little at first to temper the yolks. Too much too soon and the yolks will scramble and then you’ll have to start all over. So slowly..incorporate milk thoroughly into egg.

4. Return cream back to pan and reheat stirring constantly until the cream coats the back of a spoon. Don NOT boil. Think sweet scrambled eggs. Bad…very bad.

5. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream.

TO PLATE:

Use your imagination here, there is no wrong way to plate any dessert. Try new things. How to plate it as pictured: Spoon a small amount of Anglaise sauce into the center of a plate and spread into even circle with back of spoon.

Add cake to center of sauce and top just the edge of the top of the cake with another circle of sauce. Just enough to drizzle down the sides.

Top center of cake with dollop of orange compote sauce. Garnish with orange and fresh cut mint.

Enjoy!

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

>Be Brave, Make Bread

>You’ll never learn anything new unless you just set your mind to it. The first part of any task is deciding to “get’er done” and not looking back or for excuses.

When I was 19 one of my first “off the diving board” decisions was made completely on a whim…and yes I only considered it because “my girlfriend was doing it.” I can’t say it was peer pressure really, it was more just something I just found myself doing one day wondering how the heck I had gotten there. Katie was having problems at home and her parents had given her an ultimatum, get a job or go back to Texas.

So she did what any young adult would do when faced with limited decisions; she joined the NAVY. Yep the United States Military Naval Services – THAT NAVY.

Hey they didn’t specify what “kind” of job.

When I found out, the first thing out of my mouth was “Are you crazy!?”
The second thing out of my mouth was “Well good luck, you better write to me. I sure hope you know what you’re doing girl ’cause there’s no way I would go and do something as insane as that.”

Eleven days later I was at the MEPS station in Denver swearing on my honor to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America. I had just signed over the next four years of my life and went from being a daycare aide to a sailor.

Just like that….and I hadn’t even told my folks until the ink was dry on the paper.

Interesting conversation that was. I think it went something like this.

Mom: “Hi there how was your day?”
Me: “Good, busy. We having dinner?”
Mom: “Yeah soon. What did you do today that kept you so busy?”
Me: “Not much really. Got gas in the car, did a little running around…joined the NAVY.”

Needless-to-say dinner was eventful.

I can’t say I’ve done anything as major or as crazy as that since then but I’ll never regret that. It was a great experience and I accumulated vast amounts of knowledge that serve me no use in my quiet little suburban life; except I can still tie a mean boatswains knot when I need to.

To be honest I think some of the best learning experiences happen when we just dive in, feet first and hope for the best.

My first car for example. I had no idea how to drive a stick shift (back in the early 90’s you could still buy one as the standard for cars – automatic was something “special”).

I figured “well if I buy one then I’ll have to learn right?” So that’s what I did. I didn’t even test drive that cute little Plymouth Sundance. I took my friend along with me and HE test drove it because I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. That was WHY I was buying the car in the first place.

I’ll spare you the gory details of how I was completely screwed over by the car salesman; let’s just say big, hulking, scary, musclebound Medicine Man buys all the cars now, because as intimidating as he is….I am just NOT a nice person to car sales people.
The point is I learned and fast.

Going to school when I was 29 again was another dive into the pool. I was pregnant with Wiz Kid and working as a cashier at Home Depot. I knew I did not want to get stuck working crazy, unpredictable shifts with a new baby but other than my retained NAVAL skills, which at this point were of no use (except for that occassional knot) I had no options.

So I went to technical college to become a medical transcriptionist right after Wizzy was born. Somehow I ended up a medical coder and now 11 years later I’m working from home, pulling in a very respectable income as a medical coding analyst for one of the fastest growing medical technology companies in America.

In the more recent past, and along the lines of that first car experience (minus the evil car salesman) I wanted to learn how to shoot with a DSLR camera. My moto “Buy first…learn as you go.”

I have a pretty new Nikon D7000 and am completely and totally clueless how to use it. I realize now I probably did NOT get the best lenses for close up photography. Being they are a 55-200mm and an 85mm I have to stand across my kitchen and zoom in to shoot anything I’m cooking, or I have to stand on a chair.

It’s not a pretty sight in a restaurant trust me. “Excuse me, pardon me. Would you mind if I sat here on your dinner so I could get a picture of mine?”

Not pretty. Things like aperature, shutter speed, ISO, White balance, metering and the most terrifying of them all.. “Manual”… are slowly starting to make sense to me. Right now my photos fall somewhere between mediocre to completely stink like pig gas (was that too much) with an occasional “just got lucky” shot. The multicolored autumn hued walls in this house don’t help. They absorb nearly all natural light.

By nature of necessity I’m learning how to fix them via Gimp, a free photography software. I don’t have Lightroom or Photoshop yet because I’m still trying to pay off the camera.

Then there are the smaller things; things that don’t require an extra $1000 down, hundreds of dollars in users guides and accessories or find you hanging over the side of a ship with a 40 foot drop between you and the steel bottom of the boat.

Sometimes those “be brave” decisions find us in the kitchen staring down an empty mixer and a new recipe; that sort of dish that you always wanted to make but didn’t have the courage to try.

My obstacle: focaccia bread.

I’ve never made it but it’s been on my wish list. See most people I know love to make sweets treats but I love to make bread. Don’t get me wrong I love dessert and love making dessert but if given the choice I would make bread; yeast breads to be exact. Its the measuring and mixing; the kneading and stretching; it’s therapeutic.

So today, well yesterday really since the yeast poole has to sit overnight, I pulled out Cyril H’s recipe, made my normal modifications and voila my first ever focaccia is a wonderfully light and airy success.

Maybe I got lucky but it is so gratifying to set my mind to something and reap the rewards.

If there is something you have been wanting to do, learn, experience or undertake but have always had something hold you back then I challenge you to do it. You might just surprise yourself.

All you have to do is jump.

Recipe to follow.

>Goodnight Marvin

>After a day like today, my brain is fried. perhaps scrambled and very possibly even poached.

I’d like to see an egg accomplish THAT.

It’s just like the Bangles said “it’s just another manic monday…wooaahhh..oooohhh. I wish it were Sunday….wooaahh…oooohhh.”

Mondays seem to get crazier and crazier and today was no exception.

Let’s see, there’s a little over six weeks left to school and Wiz Kid is under the gun, or worse, the threat of a deathly stare, stern talking to and serious grounding from Medicine Man if he doesnt’ get his two C’s and one B – up. With his 6’2″ stature and 220lbs of car-lifting-well honed-muscle, Medicine Man is downright scary to a 12 year old when he’s not happy.

That song is stuck in your head now isn’t it. “…I wish it were Sunday.. Wooaahh ooohh.. That’s my fun day…”

On top of all this most assignments for Wiz Kid now are major portfolios that carry a high grade weight to them. Any hope of seeing more A’s and B’s in his future depends on these the way I depend on chocolate and butter. Both of which I indulged in copious amounts of today.

But more on that later.


Then of course there is this huganticly ginormous audit going on at work that has all hands on deck working through crazy hours. Yes, this too shall pass. I keep telling myself that in the sincere hopes it sinks in.

Having to go back and forth between working and checking Wiz Kid’s work, my mind started feeling like a car in the hands of a teen-ager jumping and grinding the gears each time it moved from third to fourth.

But we’re not done yet. It was also Tax day. The one task I put off and off until the very last waning breath of the day. Mostly because I knew I was going to owe money to some metaphorical old man dressed in a suit of stars and stripes and goes by the name of “Uncle Sam”.

Honestly don’t you think a big harry man covered in tattoos, sporting a dangle earring made of a bullet and wearing a jacket that says “Thug!” in bold letters would be more appropriate?

This year I owe Mr Uncle Thug $1962 and he was happy to deduct it within ten minutes of my submitting.
I think we should add “Crook!” to the sleeve.

By ten am I was in dire need of not-so-nutritional therapy. I had no choice today. I went straight for the carbs. I pigged and snacked on left over double chocolate souffles and the rosemary and cracked pepper baguettes I made for dinner yesterday.

Thankfully Medicine Man kept me well stocked on tea to flush it all down and by “flush” I literally mean, big bite, gulp it down. It was about survival today.

My Tea Slave was a life saver today. He is my tea slave you know, Medicine Man? But it’s ok, he enjoys it. He makes a far better cup of tea or coffee than I do. That’s what I tell him.

By this evening my brain had gone from eggs to rubber on a plate.

If you are able to show a little age here let me take you back to the 70’s and Hershey Quick commercials. Remember Messy Marvin; the little boy who broke, smashed, messed up or trashed, everything he touched but no matter what he couldn’t make a mess of Hershey’s chocolate milk?

Well I’m not sure if that kid is still alive, and if he is then forgive me, Wiz Kid is the incarnate of Messy Marvin.

Some days I just want to wrap him in bubble wrap and tie him to his chair just to ensure a single day of “mess-freeness”.

Tonight he was late for bed.
Just about to tuck him in when Medicine Man called him back to the office to clean up his desk and school books.
Take two: On his way to the kitchen with a precious bottle of sparkling water Wiz Kid lifts it over his head screw top down. Of course the top is not on securely and “whoosh” sparkling water went all over the floor. This of course sent Wiz Kid into a fit of giggles.

I go get the mop, he goes to get a towel.

“Hurry up you crazy man, you’re standing between me and my carbs.” I tell him.

Mess cleaned up, silent prayer sent up for spilled water and Wiz is finally off to bed.

This required round two of the soufflé and I stopped counting the trips to the kitchen for bread and butter around three pm.

I have no guilt for my diet today I needed it.

As you can see I ate the whole thing.

And I would do it again.