Sheared Bliss

The Tale of Peter Pumpkin: A Halloween Story
October 31, 2009, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Baking, Food, Randomness | Tags: , , ,

Peter was a very happy pumpkin. He lived on a cutting board next to a baking dish down the counter from a toaster oven.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a very safe neighborhood for pumpkins. One day, Peter got stabbed in the head.

Peter died.

Then a zombie spoon came along and scooped out his brains.

Peter was baked until his flesh was soft. Then his skin was removed and his flesh (about 2 cups of it) was mixed with 2 eggs, 2/3 cup of brown sugar, 1 1/4 cups of milk, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of maple syrup, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a half teaspoon of cloves, and half a nutmeg grated. This concoction was blended with a stick blender then poured into a traditional round pumpkin coffin. The coffin was placed in a 425° oven for 10 minutes then the oven was turned down to 350° and Peter baked until a knife inserted into the center of the coffin came out clean.



Happy Halloween!


Snow Day, Part Deux
October 29, 2009, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Colorado, Home, Randomness | Tags: , , ,

Snow Day
October 28, 2009, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Colorado, Home, Randomness | Tags: , ,

Three Things on a Sunday

1. Our sewer works!

It may not look like much, but when it feels like a luxury to flush the toilet, this is a beautiful sight.

2. Mules like eating cornstarch, but they do not like wearing it.  How do I know?

Look closely.  That’s not an Appaloosa pony, it’s Kate, one of the jenny mules* at the museum.  What you can’t see is Beck, the other jenny mule, just off camera licking her chops. Why is Kate wearing cornstarch?  Well, you see, it’s her makeup for her big break in show business.  Yesterday was the Halloween event at the museum.  I was a tour guide for the “Walking with the Dead” tour, CodeMonkey played Ichabod Crane and did a first-person retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Kate portrayed the ghost mule in the local legend of Mad Jack.  She did very well for being as nonplussed as she was about the whole thing, but let’s just say that Hollywood won’t be calling any time soon.

*Bonus points to anyone who knows what a jenny mule is and why it’s different from a horse or a donkey.

3. It’s cold and snowy outside and I’m inside eating chocolate chip banana bread hot out of the oven and drinking home made hot cocoa.  Mmmm . . . heaven.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

That’s a link to the original recipe.  My changes are below.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed (I freeze bananas that are past their prime and thaw them when I’m ready to make banana bread.)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease one 9×5 inch loaf pan.  In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, bananas, and mayonnaise, beating well with each addition.   Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Blend the flour mixture into the banana mixture; stir just enough to evenly combine.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50 to 75 minutes. Cool loaf in the pan for 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

The hot cocoa was made following Alton Brown’s recipe almost exactly.  The only change I made was using cinnamon instead of cayenne pepper.

Lemons In My Bra
October 23, 2009, 12:05 am
Filed under: Food, Home, Randomness | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I saw a greeting card once – I believe it was a Maxine cartoon – that said on the front “When life gives you lemons . . .” and inside “. . . stick ’em in your bra.  Can’t hurt, might help.”  I believe that’s an excellent philosophy.

That being said . . . my front yard is currently occupied by a backhoe, a very large dead bush, a huge pile of dirt, aaaaand . . .

. . . a ginormous hole.

Oh yeah, and no sewer line.

Soooooo . . . When life gives you major construction equipment, dead landscaping, a pile of dirt,  and an 8 foot deep pit in your front yard, and malfunctioning plumbing, make pie.  Can’t hurt, might help.

Mmm . . . pie.  This pie is my very favorite thing to bring to functions like family gatherings and work potlucks to spring on unsuspecting non-vegetarians.  Especially if they’ve said things to me like “I could never be a vegetarian, I hate tofu.”  I’ve been told by coworkers that this is the only item that I’m allowed to bring to work potlucks because they would be sad if I didn’t bring it.  The recipe is from Alton Brown’s show Good Eats on the Food Network.  I make only a few minor changes.

Moo-Less Chocolate Pie

  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup coffee liqueur (I’ve used regular coffee and that works well too.  I want to try it sometime with different flavored liqueurs.)
  • 1 block silken tofu (I find that firm silken tofu works best if you have a choice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 prepared chocolate wafer crust (I usually use a plain graham cracker crust.  If you want to skip the crust and make it more portable, you can just spoon the filling into custard cups.  I also think it would be fun to make little bite sized tartlets using those mini, prebaked philo cups.)

Place a small metal bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Melt the chocolate and coffee liqueur in the bowl. (Melting the chocolate in the microwave also works well.  Just put the chips in a large glass measuring cup with your liquid of choice.  Microwave in short bursts – no more than a minute at a time and shorter as they start to melt – and be sure to stir frequently to check meltiness.)  Stir in vanilla.

Combine the tofu, chocolate mixture, and honey in the blender jar. Liquefy until smooth. (If you use firm tofu, you’ll need to poke at it some to get it all to blend together.)

Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the filling is set. (If you use firm tofu this step will require more scraping than pouring, but it’s worth it because the finished pie sets up so much nicer after it’s chilled.)

Serve to your favorite tofu-hater if you want to blow their minds.  Don’t tell them what’s in it until after they taste it.  Alternately, tell them what’s in it, watch them turn up their noses in disgust without tasting it, then enjoy the whole pie yourself.  Mmm . . . pie.

Get Lost

Sometimes you just need to get lost.  Because your plumbing is exploding (no, it has nothing to do with the shower head and no, it can’t be fixed with teflon tape).  Because it’s going to be very expensive.  Because you haven’t taken a shower in your own house in over a week.  Because you still have six more window screens to re-screen.  Because you still have several sets of window blinds to put up.  Because you have countless curtains to make and hang.  Because there are still boxes everywhere.  Because there’s only so much that deep breathing and calming thoughts can do.  Sometimes you just need to get lost.

Clearly it’s been quite the week so on Saturday I got the heck out of Dodge.  NurseK, MommaK, and I went down to Colorado Springs where we met up with MommaCodeMonkey.  We had a lovely girls’ day out with stops at a yarn store, two antique stores and this:

Yes, the name of the store is Vacuums and Dragons.  Yes, they do sell vacuums and dragons along with replica weapons, posters, other sci-fi/fantasy paraphernalia, and house plants.  You’ve got to take a closer look at the window art:

Yes, that is a dragon watering a house plant being threatened by a knight wielding a vacuum cleaner.  Best.  Store.  EVER!

On Sunday, CodeMonkey and I indulged in one of our fall traditions and literally got lost in a corn maze.  If I’m being honest, this is one of the very few things that was better in Ohio than it is in Colorado.  The corn maze we went to in Ohio was on a family farm and there were hay rides, pick-your-own apples and pumpkins, a petting zoo of sorts, and apple cider doughnuts.  The corn maze here doesn’t have all of the extras that the one in Ohio did and it’s usually pretty crowded since it’s one of the few around.  It was a gorgeous fall day though and we had a good time.

There hasn’t been much large scale cooking happening due to the aforementioned plumbing explosion making it challenging to wash dishes.  However, I did whip up a quick batch of yumminess earlier today, so here’s the vegetarian recipe for the past week.

Roasted Vegetable Cream Cheese

  • 1 package cream cheese or neufchatel
  • 1 onion (sweet is best)
  • 1 bell pepper (I like red for the color)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 carrots
  • Several cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°.  Wash and peel the vegetables as needed.  Cut all of the vegetables into similarly sized chunks.  Toss with olive oil to combine.  Lightly salt.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and starting to brown around the edges.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and cool completely.  Put the roasted vegetables in a food processor with the block of cream cheese.  Blend until mostly smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Eat on things – crackers, bread, raw veggies, pasta, a spoon . . .

Fall Has Fallen
October 10, 2009, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Baking, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Fall is here* and that means it’s time for pumpkin!

The lovely flowers are courtesy of VolunteerL whos very sweet for getting me housewarming flowers.

The carnations are courtesy of VolunteerL who's very sweet for getting me housewarming flowers.

Earlier this week I butchered a pumpkin to make these:

After I hacked up the pumpkin and scooped out its guts (don’t forget to save the seeds to roast), I put it in a baking pan with a little water and baked it until the flesh was soft. Then I scooped the flesh out and cooked it a saucepan with a little water for a while. Finally, I gave it a quick whir with my stick blender to make it smooth. If you don’t want to mess with this, you could use canned pumpkin instead, but then you won’t have pumpkin seeds to roast which would be a tragedy.

The cupcakes were delicious and got eaten up quickly so it’s a good thing that there was just enough pumpkin puree and maple cream cheese frosting left over to make this improvised cake. It’s moist, pumpkin-y, heavily spiced, and tastes like fall – enjoy!

Pumpkin Swirl Cake

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 a nutmeg, grated
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Cream Cheese Swirl

  • 8 ounce block cream cheese
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease a 9″x9″ baking pan. Sift flours, baking soda, salt, and spices into a mixing bowl. Combine pumpkin, oil, eggs, and sugar in a second bowl and mix. Add dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Combine all cream cheese swirl ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined. Pour half of the cake batter into the baking pan. Pour on enough of the cream cheese mixture to cover the layer of batter. Pour the rest of the batter on top of the cream cheese mixture. Use a butter knife to swirl the batter and the cream cheese mixture. Bake for one hour or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Note: If you have extra cream cheese mixture, you can pour it into custard cups and bake it along with the cake until it is brown on top and set. You’ll end up with a lovely little sweet cheese souffle sort of thing. Eat warm while it’s gooey and delicious.

*Which, in Colorado, means that the weather is generally behaving like a crazed squirrel with ADHD on crack.