Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gargantuan Chocolate Cream-Cheese Bread

Yes, another blog this week. I'm on a roll! Today's baking anomaly, a gargantuan chocolate cream-cheese loaf. I made the dough in the bread maker (how much easier does it get?!) with a little bit of cream cheese, then when that was done, I rolled it out, cut one inch strips on both sides, and braided in the cream-cheese and chocolate bits filling. I made this for my co-worker Cindy's birthday, but accidentally got my days mixed up. Instead of having her party on Thursday like I thought, it was on Tuesday, and I didn't have this special bread for her. But it all worked out because there was plenty of sweets and treats to celebrate with, and by bringing my bread today meant that it was the main focus of our snacky-breaktimes. And it's a good thing too because instead of baking the loaf at 10:30 last night, I thought I'd let it rise, covered, overnight and bring it in baked fresh in the morning. Well, I about fell over laughing when I saw what my creation had multiplied to by 6:30 a.m. The loaf about tripled in size, and oozed over the side of the cookie sheet and onto the stove! It looks like some kind of giant bug cocoon!

This is pre-baked, and pre-egg washed. I had to scrunch it to get it back on the pan before I could bake it- and a little side note here: I was surprised it didn't need longer to bake than the recipe called for, even though it was about half again as big as it was supposed to be! My house smelled heavenly! And when I pulled it out of the oven, it was a beautiful crisped golden brown, and you can see how it stretches almost all the way across my stove top.

I even got to put on display one of my huge Italian platters I rarely get to use (and even then it barely fit). And I was complaining on Saturday that I don't have any nice dishes. :) The finished product:

And one last photo to show some size perspective:

Even though it was one immense loaf of bread, there is only one small piece (about enough for 4-5 people) left...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Out of the Shadows

Check out this link to an article published the newest issue of National Geographic- it's got a really long article on snow leopards called, "Out of the Shadows" written by Douglas H. Chadwick. Many thanks and Kudos to National Geographic for taking the time to climb mountains in nearly uninhabitable weather, do research, photograph and educate about snow leopards, and also to my rockin' friend Dave with the sharp eye who sent me this magazine!

(Wow, two posts in one day! That doesn't happen very often.)

Silly Fun Hair, Part I

Yesterday I decided to push back dinner by a couple hours and go for a run on my treadmill instead. Not a terrific run- I got a stitch in my side that didn't subside until after the first mile, and then not even completely. I cut it short at 3 miles, then went for a walk outside- a little cool for a tank top and shorts, but the fresh air did me good. Anyway, I since I took a shower so late I knew I'd skip it in the morning (aaahhhh!). Then when I was done reading (The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud), I noticed my hair was all but completely dry! Which got me to thinking about how my mom used to put my hair up in foam curlers when I was a little girl. I used to beg her to do it for me, or put it in a hundred little braids so it would be curly or crimped in the morning. She was really good about it (especially for my birthdays), even though it usually took an hour. I looked under my bathroom sink, and found I still have those same curlers, so I got to thinking... And here is the result! First, straight out of their wraps.

Then, separated with a cute little butterfly barrette I found at the back of my hair-band drawer~

Okay, apparently I didn't select the one with the clip. Oops! I wonder how long it will last with all this humidity we've been blessed with lately? I'm sure these curls will settle down in another hour or so. What do you think? It's funny how short my hair looks like this. Just fun on my part, nothing special going on! :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Food Blog

With all the rainy overcast weather, I have spent most of my 3 day weekend inside. My list of chores included keeping the kitchen clean, cat box, some shopping and massive amounts of laundry. And some running (not a chore :). But after and in between all that came all sorts of cooking, baking and grilling! I've been collecting lots of new recipes I wanted to try out, but haven't had a chance to actually make. Well, the weather presented the perfect opportunity! Continuing with the Sean-pie story, I finally got a chance to make his Key Lime Pie. AND I even baked the graham cracker crust! It turned out pretty good- although I probably should have only baked it for 8 minutes instead of 10, 'cause it was a little hard to fork-split. Greg also suggested using powdered sugar instead of granulated. The pie part was SUPER easy too! Only 3 ingredients (plus the pie crust), and no baking- I could probably make this in my sleep now. The boys pretty much inhaled their piece, but when I asked them which they liked better, they both said, "Lemon." (They've been saying things in sync a lot lately. They seem to get a kick out of my reaction. Twins.) Sean said, "I liked the egg white part." The meringue. Which is funny, because that's the part Kevin doesn't like.

And the piece, with a shot of W.C.:

Backing up a bit now to the dinner part: I made homemade hummus, and some Roasted Garlic Grilled Flatbread, also from Baking Bites. It was pretty easy to make, and I happen to keep all these ingredients in my pantry. The only reason I probably won't make this on a more regular basis is because of the rising time it needs. In this picture you can see one piece rolled out, and my hummus in the top right corner.

I let Kevin do the grilling part, since he also volunteered to watch the Parmesan zucchini, but I should have watched them myself. I think he had more of a pita-chip texture than a flatbread in mind, and crispified them a little more than I would have. They were still really tasty, along with the hummus. (BTW, who knew tahini was so fattening? 18g of fat was a little more than I was expecting out of sesame paste! Anyone need some, 'cause I've got a whole jar that needs some sharing. :O) This picture is a little blurry- I should have used the "food" option on my camera for this shot:

Kevin also made some dirty rice (geez, it's starting to look like he did more cooking than I did here!), and I couldn't leave out that picture:

One last thing I made this weekend was Oat Bran Flaxseed Bread. I didn't get a picture of my bread, but it looked very similar to the one on this post, only mine was much larger, and flater. I let it rise for almost an extra hour because I had to wait on the oven (pork pot roast!), but rise it did because I put the bowl on top of the stove to take full advantage of the heat. All in all, a great weekend for baking and cooking, and food-processing. :)

Also on a side note, we took the boys to see Prince Caspian this afternoon- it was fantastic, if a little battle-heavy for 5-year-olds...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Banana Gingerbread

Apparently this is a week for baking. While I still don't have the limes for the key lime pie Sean and Ashton have been begging me to make all week, I did have some overripe bananas I needed to do something with. I found this recipe on my favorite baking blog, Baking called Banana Gingerbread. I've made this once before with Jessica, and she said it reminded her of Christmas because of all the spices in it. It's a pretty healthy recipe, calling for a cup of whole wheat flour and molasses and brown sugar for a sweetener (although I did half molasses and half agave nectar to lighten the flavor), and only 4 TBSP of oil. As far as banana bread goes, this is not a heavy dense loaf as they tend to be (especially when under baked!), but more like a cross between bread and cake. And super flavorful! I wanted to make a nice picture with the wild roses my boys picked for me this evening while it was baking, but found that I have no nice platters to put it on. Oh well. At least my counter is clean. :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie

Little story for you: Last Thursday, Sean, out of the blue, asked me, "Mama, would you make a lemon pie?" I was taken a little aback because I've never made lemon pie before, and to my knowledge he's never eaten it before (although my mom did inform me that he had some at the hospital when we went to visit my grandma like 3 years ago). I think I blinked a couple times, but thought, sure! "Of course I can make you a lemon pie Sean." To which he replied with a whoop and a "YES!" accompanied with the classic air-grabbing pulled back fist-to-tummy gesture. To which I replied, "I'm not going to make it for you tonight, babe. First I have to find a recipe. Then I have to go shopping for all the ingredients." And then I hoped it wouldn't be too hard to make. And who steps up to the challenge of finding a fantastic recipe for me? Mr. Baker Man Himself, of course! He sent me this book, "How to Make a Pie," by Cook's Illustrated Magazine. Not only was this recipe relatively easy to follow, but it gave all the background tips on how a "good" lemon meringue pie should turn out. So Saturday night Jessica and I did some slightly drunken baking at her house because she has a KitchenAid (Kevin and the boys were gone, so we had a girl's night). The most surprising part about this pie? It only takes 20 minutes to bake! For some reason I thought it would have to be baked a lot longer. Then the hard part: waiting for it to cool to room temperature. We were a disciplined group (Greg was in on the waiting) and followed the directions to a T. It said room temperature, so we waited until it was room temperature. NOT! We were barely able to wait 3 hours before the amount of mouth watering going on in the room was enough to drown us all. It was still pretty warm on the bottom, but firm enough to slice into, and can I say I now know what heaven tastes like? The meringue was like sweet air, and smelled of toasted marshmallows. The lemon filling was the perfect tanginess, and the crust was... well, a store bought graham cracker crust. Whatever. But that's not the point! It was a perfect blend, and I couldn't wait to give Sean some when I saw him on Sunday. Can you guess his reaction? The tears of joy came rushing and the sweet sticky kisses were lovingly slobbered all over my cheek... Just kidding. But, he did yell out loud, "This is WAY yummy!" Good enough for me. :)

So I asked Sean, "Why did you want a lemon pie all the sudden?" He said, "Because I saw it on my yogurt cup." I had to laugh at that. Except it was a key lime pie yogurt he was eating that day. When I reminded him of this, he said, "Well, I want a lime pie next." "You can make it on Thursday." This second one was from Ashton. My kids aren't demanding at all, are they?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day and some Hiking!

What a day! I had considered doing a 10k Mom's on the Run this morning sponsored by Pinocchio's, but Wednesday I decided that my knees still need to heal and so accepted an invitation to go to breakfast early with my parents early at the new Squeeze In in NW Reno instead. I had the "Happy Hoppin Heidi Ho," an omelet with fried bananas and honey and cinnamon. Yipee skippy! as the menu says. :) Very tasty! And they gave all the mothers a HUGE chocolate dipped strawberry, striped with white chocolate and in its very own little cylindrical box. An especially nice touch on their part.

I would have been just fine running a 10k this morning (knees are doing much better, thanks for your concern!)- so my boys and I went for a hike up at Galena Creek Park instead. We headed up towards the Jones Creek-White's Creek Trail Loop- it's just over 9 miles all the way around.

It was nicely hilly so the boys complained consistently for the first 5 minutes or so. But after that, we managed to turn the hike into a geography lesson for the boys, and they were happy not thinking about their tired legs, but the wilderness around them. We talked about the difference between evergreens and deciduous trees, and pulled some pine nuts out of pine cone so they would know where their seeds come from. We talked about Manzanita bushes with their tiny pink flowers that are just appearing, and how creek beds are made (while fording a few, both dry and flowing).

Plus with the aid of a walking stick and some nice fresh Nevada forest air, they were pretty happy! Here is another picture of all 4 boys just heading out...

We hiked about a mile up (we turned around about a quarter mile after this sign here- which means that you can camp anywhere you want past that, with a permit! Pretty cool, eh? Might just do that this summer- backpacking!), and a mile back down.

The boys were pretty tired on the way back down, but they were troopers, and now are having a nice LONG nap as I type this... Then we are having special marinated BBQ steaks and veggies for dinner at my request this evening. Like I said, a Great Day for me!

(Aren't camera timers great?)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reno's Rock-n-River Half Marathon, Pt. 2

1/2 Marathon Update: The results are in! My official time is 1:57:56! Whoo-hoo! Even better than I thought. I placed 218 out of 642 overall, and 21st in my age group (25-29). But Turi placed 34th overall, and 1st in the Clydesdale division! (But only because he's that tall. ;)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Reno's Rock-n-River Half Marathon

I did it! I did it without stopping, and I ran it under 2 hours! Whoo-hoo! This was the first annual Reno Rock-N-River Half Marathon. I wasn't able to train as regularly for this race as I'd like, and I've only run one other half marathon up at Tahoe last year to compare times with. But that course was drastically different with two pretty challenging hills in it, while this race had just a barely noticeable incline on the way out, and then that same decline back in. So I guestimated my time to be between 2:15 and 2:30. The day started out beautiful and sunny, and just a bit cool- perfect for a nice long run. I warmed-up the first few miles at about a 6.5 mph, and at mile 7 I decided to eat my gu since I'd been running with it in my hand this whole time (and I hate carrying things while I run!), even though I didn't feel like I needed it. However, about 10 steps later I got really tired and that entire mile I was hoping that it would kick in soon, and please please don't let the rest of the race be like this! It did, but took longer than I thought it would- mile 7 to 8 was pretty tough. After mile 8 I had to congratulate myself and got a little motivation by thinking how every step I now take is further than I have ever run before without stopping (I had to walk at mile 4 up the first hill at Tahoe, and then again at the second hill at mile 6). I picked up the pace and was running strong, and from miles 8 to 10 I started contemplating running a full marathon! But that was pure craziness- by the time I reached the 10 mile marker, I started to feel the miles catch up with me. I am very happy to say that I shattered my guestimate, although I have to give credit to my great friend Chris for pacing me the last 3ish miles. He paced Turi in from mile 8 to the finish (he ran at an impressive 1:33! Yeah Turi!) and then turned around and jogged back to find me and run with me back to the finish- and at a quicker clip than I would have done on my own. I might still have made it in under two hours, but maybe not. But the important thing is that I accomplished my goal to not stop. :) Overall, I had a great race, and then Yoga and sushi with the guys. It was a fantastic all around day- that is until both my knees swelled up, and I sat all evening with my feet elevated and frozen veggies rotated between them both...