Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tasty Tuesday

These are so tasty. I had one last night and you probably didn't,
so even out the score and get one tonight.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanks to be given

This year, Mike and I spent Thanksgiving in Cincinnati with the Amfahr clan. We had a great time, except for Mike getting some kind of food poisoning the day before. Despite the illness, we were able to celebrate by eating, game playing, going to the UI-Cincinnati football game, picking out a Christmas tree, and taking family photos. We are most certainly thankful for many things, but most of all our families.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bread, Birthday, and Martha

Sorry I've been gone for a few weeks. Here are a few things I have made and enjoyed throughout that last two weeks.

1. My parents came to Champaign to celebrate my birthday. I made olive-rosemary bread from Cooking Light. I would make it again if in the mood for a savory bread.
2. I turned 24! Mike took me to Luna for dinner and we dined like adults in nice clothes and had a great dinner. If you got the bucks, Luna is your place.
3. Ryan and Katie Sawrie came to visit the day after they finished the Indy marathon! Congrats to them and to celebrate I made a Pumpkin-White Chocolate Cheesecake. Oh, and then I made it again a few days later for a small dinner party we had (pictured).
4. I made two Martha cookies.

Martha Cookie 9 of 175: Lemon Squares

Listened to: Glee Volume 1
For: Mom

I love my mom, she loves lemons, thus I made her some lemon squares.

These were tasty and enjoyable. I enjoyed the crust because it was crisp and crunchy. To make it, you actually have to grate frozen butter. That was weird and a first, but well worth it. I would like to add more lemon flavor to the custard, maybe some lemon zest? Anyone have any other ides for making these more lemon-y?
Martha Cookie 10 of 175: Vanilla Malt Cookie

Listened to: Adult Alternative music channel
For: Originally, Jim Dorsey, but due to the failure they were split between Bob and us.

For my birthday, Mike got me a cookie press. It was a great and thoughtful gift that he thought of himself. I was excited to find a Martha cookie that I would be able to use my new gadget with. These cookies had so much potential. They included malt powder, a vanilla bean, and the use of a cookie press. Everything came together until I pulled the new toy out. There was cookie batter all over the place and may or may not have been a few tears. In the end, I made them into drop cookies and dipped them in a quick glaze with sanding sugar. They tasted fine, but were ugly and not of high enough standard to give to Bob's dad. So, to Bob and us they went.

I am determined to conquer the cookie press and will report back when that feat has been met.

So to close, good eats to you and your family.


My kids are freakin' adorable.

P.S. Wanna know how I got that spot on my pants?
I put a half-eaten banana in my pocket and then sat down.
Mrs. S had to clean out the mush from my sweatpants pocket;
she loves me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Court!

Happiest Birthday wishes to you C! Courtney is a dear friend who I have had the pleasure of living with, traveling with, and just hanging out with. She has a wonderful sense of humor, great taste in music, and an urge to know and learn more. I have loved my years of knowing her and look forward to so many more years to come. Hope today is great, C-Biz!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Club

I am currently reading Retarded Isn't Stupid, Mom! by Sandra Kaufman for my grad class. I highly recommend it. I think it is an honest presentation of raising a child with a disability in the 60s and 70s and the fight that it takes each day to make the world more inclusive, accepting, and compassionate. I have been inspired and hope that you will be as well.

Martha & Me Cookie 8 of 175

Cookie: Chocolate Waffle Cookies
To: Mom and Dad
Special Location: Amfahr kitchen

My mom gave me her waffle iron when I was in college. My dad has since whined and complained that he needed his waffle iron back. I have stood firm and my mom stood firm for a while. She has since bought him a "new" waffle iron. These cookies were an ode to my dad and his love of this old and rickety waffle iron.

I was far from a fan of these cookies, if you could even call them that. They were very waffle-y and less cookie like. My dad says he liked them, my mom told me to make the brownies I had made for my sister instead, and I was in a state of disappointment. They were a good joke, but I wouldn't make them again.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Suz!

Happiest Birthday wishes to my dear Suz! While she is far away, she is so close to my heart. Susan is a friend that understands me and I her. She is a gift and I am grateful for all the wonderful memories we have shared together; from New Orleans to getting married, they are all precious.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Martha & Me Cookies 7 of 175

Cookie: Truffle Brownies
Listened to: My mom talking to me :)
For: Julie's 19th birthday family celebration

My sister Julie turned 19 on Thursday. She is my sister and my friend. I love her because she can make me laugh like no one else. I was so excited to have her come to visit me and Mike to celebrate!

Julie, my parents, and her boyfriend, Jamey came to visit last weekend for a family birthday celebration. Her request for a birthday treat was "a fancy Martha cookie". I searched and found these truffle brownies. They were winners!! Mike even said "these could have come from a restaurant". That made me feel really good! I love that cooking can make people feel good and satisfied. These brownies are a traditional chocolate brownie with a delicious chocolate ganache on top. I topped these with non-pareils in the shape of a heart. Julie loved them, my family loved them, and I was filled with love for my family. It was a good weekend and proud baking moment. Thanks Martha for bringing us together.
She seemed pleased!

P.S. You MUST use Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Martha says so, and so do I.

Martha & Me Cookies 6 of 175

Cookie: Mocha Shortbread
For: Katie & Ryan Sawrie

Katie is my best friend. Enough said. She is a wonderful woman of faith, love, and generosity. She has been a rock in my life for so many years and I am grateful for her. She and I meet for dinner about once every other month in Crawfordsville, IN at the Creekside Lodge. I brought her these cookies for a treat to munch on while driving home and if he was lucky, her husband at home.

I really wanted to make Katie and Ryan some cookies, but it had been a long week and we had no eggs or milk, so I had to be creative in finding my cookie recipe for them. Martha would never let me down and had some egg and milk free cookie recipes. Thanks Martha!

These were easy, tasty, and well-portioned. I have been looking for instant espresso in town, but have not been able to find it. So, I used instant coffee in these cookies and they tasted pretty good. I read the reviews of this cookie and people were not fans. I would only make these for coffee-lover friends. Mine were not too crumbly, or dry. They were a good shortbread texture and a "crowd" pleaser. Katie texted me on the way home and told me she really enjoyed the shortbread. The only worry I have is, did Ryan get any?

Porkchops and Applesauce.


We have a new member to our family. Her name is Porkchops and she is really funny looking. Porkchops is from the Humane Society and is also a Himalayan. The one difference between her and Applesauce is she was shaved while staying at the CCHS. She looks like an alien-cat and we love her.

And of course, Applesauce.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jules Verne.

HB little girl. It was such a wonderful thing to see you this weekend and see what a fabulous woman you are becoming. I am so very proud of you little sister.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Some photos to highlight the last few months.

Langston Wedding at the Niagara Falls Country Club
'Take my picture, take my picture!"
Me and my new baby.
Schroeder wedding at the Morton Arboretum. I so miss Matt and Suz.
My husband, the blacksmith.
Broiler + marshmallow + top rack = BIG fire in new oven
Hanging a baby on a sculpture in Grant Park. So weird/unsafe.
You know it, but we bought a house and love it.

Martha & Me Cookies 5 of 175

Cookie: Snickerdoodle
Listened to: Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus on repeat (thanks to Mike)
For: Sandy Slagor, Deb DiFranco, and Kim Gallivan (the 3 other women in Mike's life :))

Some people (Kim) were asking why I didn't bring any cookies to my first weekend trip to Buffalo. I simply stated that there were only so many hours in the day. But I knew that there was going to be hell to pay if I didn't bring something the next weekend. (Oh yeah, you read that right. We drove to Buffalo two weekends in a row.) Kim, Sandy, and Aunt Deb mean so much to Mike and I can tell exactly why. They are great women of strength and love and I am blessed to have them in my life.

Ok so I swore to Mike that if these didn't turn out they work out/were perfect, I wasn't bringing them. I brought them and they were soooo good (if I do say so myself)! OMG! These cookies are delish. They are soft, sweet, and huge. So the weird thing about this recipe is the one on Martha's website is not the same as the one in her book. I loved these so much that I don't think I'm straying from this recipe.

2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar plus 2 tablespoons
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Put butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in four mixture.

2. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into twenty 1 3/4 inch balls; roll in cinnamon-sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

3. Bake cookies, rotating sheet halfway through, until edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment paper in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Soooo, when I read back through this I definitely strayed a bit due to a lack of supplies/reading skills. 1. I used 1 stick of unsalted and 1 stick salted butter and reduced the additional salt, 2. I used equal parts sugar and cinnamon (3 teaspoons of each), 3. I made about 24 cookies.

Make these, you won't regret it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Martha & Me Cookies 3 and 4 of 175

So school takes over my life. Here are the updates on cookies 3 and 4

Cookie 3: Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies
Listened to: Gossip in the Grain by Ray Lamontagne
To: The Krein family

Daniel Krein was a student in Mike's class at Central. His mom, Sheila, donated several generous materials for my classroom. One of those items is a water-filled glass tube that has plastic fish in it. When you turn it on, the fish float and light up. My students LOVE it! These were a thank you to the Kreins.

These were tasty, but nothing special to be honest. I am a bit frustrated because my cookies keep going flat after baking. I think maybe I need to better store my baking soda. Overall, these cookies are a great staple and who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies? These were fun to give because they were a surprise and actually a "saving grace". Sheila sent Mike and email telling the story of their Thursday. Long story short, the Kreins needed a snack to bring to a Boy Scout event and had nothing in the house. They took the cookies and many were able to enjoy them. So, all in all I am so happy that my cookies put a smile on someones face.

Cookie 4: Rocky Ledge Bars
To: C-U YoungLife leaders and Stratton SPED staff

YoungLife is something that is so important to me and my growth as a person. I spent some of my best times in high school with YoungLife and met my best friends from college leading YoungLife. It has been something that has been a part of my life for so long and has truly changed me. Mike and I were so excited to have the space to welcome the YoungLife leaders into our home for their leadership meeting and dinner. We had a yummy taco bar and to top it off I made these Rocky Ledge Bars and an angel food cake.

These bar cookies are to die for! I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and Milk Maid caramels for all the extra sweets in it. Don't forget to use dark brown sugar, not light, you'll be glad you did! The Rocky Ledge Bars are sticky, chewy, and leave little pieces of caramel in your teeth. The paraprofessionals in my classroom kept saying that they were to die for and everyone had to try one. Also, they were a good workout. You have to hand mix these, so my arms were feelin' it. Make these, enjoy them, and make them again :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bye Bye Baby

My baby sister, Julie, is going to college tomorrow. She will be attending Kenyon College in Gambier, OH. And while she in not an Illini we are all so proud of our Lady of Gambier. Go Lords and Ladies!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Day Jitters

It's the first day of school. I don't think I will ever feel totally ready on the first day. But in the end, it's just about making kids feel welcome, loving them well, and setting the tone of teamwork.

Go Jaguars!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Liz!

I always forget Liz's birthday because it is right in the thick of crazy school set-up. We have always had so much fun together, laughed so hard, cried on each other's shoulders, and have made so many great memories. Liz, I love you and am so blessed to have you as a friend!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Martha & Me: Cookie 2 of 175

Cookie: Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti
Listened to: Mike talking to me while making dinner :)
For: Ben Keller and Kyra Tichacek

I met Ben at Randy and Tammy Greiner's wedding the weekend before Mike and my wedding. Ben was studying for the bar exam and skipped the ceremony to study, came to the reception, did not drink, and left early. He told me that he would be much more lively (and drunk) at the Slamfahr wedding. He did not disappoint and that is where I met Kyra. While brief, it was lovely. Kyra and Ben live in New York City and are hardworking lawyers. Just 2 weeks ago, they got engaged. These are congratulatory cookies for two great people.

I chose the biscotti because one they were being sent, two Ben and Kyra work crazy hours and need a cookie that will travel and last for longer than a day, and three biscotti seemed like a good challenge. The baking process is unique as you make the dough, bake it in a log (poop-y looking), cool it, cut it (biscotti-y looking), bake it again, and cool to eat.

I have definitely gone to a new level of dork because I have been reading all the comments people leave under the recipes on marthastewart.com. There were 21 comments for this little guy. But, I learned a lot and took some good "test kitchen" advice. I made two batches of these; one for a Mad Men party with some of Mike's poker friends and the other for Ben and Kyra. The first batch, I followed some comment advice and cut them in half due to the sheer size; much to my surprise when removing them from the oven I forgot to cut two of them. The full sized ones were much more beautiful and presentable even if they are quite large. Because my relationship with Ben and Kyra is so limited I went with presentable over sensible. I want them to like me...errr... my cookies. So, make these, keep them whole, and experiment as these are an easy base cookie. Congratulations to Ben and Kyra, we are so happy for you both!

P.S. First time sending something to NYC, so that was fun too!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Martha & Me: Cookie 1 of 175

Cookie: Carrot Cake Cookies
Listened to: Plans by Death Cab for Cutie
To:Bob Dorsey and Matt Lammers

Bob Dorsey, dear friend of ours that Mike met through poker in 2005. He was a groomsman at our wedding and a wonderful man. He saw Julie & Julia with us.

Matt Lammers, another great friend of ours that I met in YoungLife in 2003. Matt and I were partners in crime all through college and have so many wonderful memories.

I let Mike have the honors of choosing the first cookie to be made for the Martha & Me project. He chose Carrot Cake Cookies. Martha describes them as "tiny inside-out carrot cakes, with the signature cream cheese frosting in the inside and spiced 'cake' on the outside". I think they lived up to her description. I followed the teachings in the back of my book about letting butter and eggs come to room temperature which did seem to help the creaming process. The only place I truly struggled was keeping the cookies in a more uniform and dense circle. My cookies came out flatter than what I had hoped and expected. The cream cheese frosting is to die for, so that was a definite plus. I would make these again and maybe try cutting the cookies out with a cookie cutter and see the results. Pictures to come with the revelation of my camera cord.

What I learned from this cookie:
1. Parchment paper is amazing
2. Let your cookies fully chill before baking
3. Let your cookies fully cool before removing from the baking sheet

On a sidenote, I moved around the appliances on my counters so I could keep my KitchenAide on the counter at all times with my Martha Stewart's Cookies sitting right beside it. Already this is becoming a slight obsession. My husband has Lost and I have cookies.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Martha & Me

A few summers ago, I listened to the book Julie & Julia on the way to Maine for a family vacation. I loved the book and the idea of being committed to your hobby. I was so excited to see that a movie was being made of the book and I just had to see it.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago when I was in Borders with my student, Becca. We were simply browsing the cookbook section when I ran into Martha Stewart's Cookies. Then and there I was inspired to begin my own culinary adventure. Martha is my Julia; she cooks, organizes, decorates, and photographs in a style that resonates with me.

175 cookie recipes.

I will make at least one a week and send them off to family and friends. Be on the lookout because the one condition Mike had for this project was "get them out of our house!". Every Monday I will report on the great Martha successes or failures.

I give you Martha & Me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Jeanine wins

One of my favorite shows is So You Think You Can Dance and my dear husband has watched and voted with me all summer long. Last night's finale was filled with some of my favorite dances from the season, not to mention the crowning of America's favorite dancer (for this season at least). Jeanine was the lovely winner and while I wanted Melissa or Ade to ultimately win, Jeanine was a worthy winner in my book. Here are a few of my favorite dances in case you missed them.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vitamins for your health

I went to the doctor today and Dr. B told me a little something that married woman should know. She told me that women who are at risk of becoming pregnant should be taking a daily vitamin or a folic acid pill for the chance that you may become pregnant. Dr. B said that you may not be aware that you are pregnant for longer than you would want your baby to be without the vital brain forming vitamins. So, I went to Walgreens and bought some adult chewable vitamins. So ladies- head out to Walgreens and get yourself some vitamins; your maybe-baby will appreciate it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Missing camera cord and books to read.

Well, I have had so many things I have wanted to share with you, namely food items I have created, but my camera cord is missing. I will bring you pictures, recipes, and stories when the cord is found. But alas, I will share with you some more books to add to your list to read.

Steve Almond and quickly becoming one of my favorite authors for his humor, voice, and sheer ability to be so conversational in written word. He is fantastic! I bought his book Candyfreak! while in college and fell in love. It so really interesting, not to mention hilarious. Almond regales his readers with stories from childhood through adulthood all surrounding his love of candy. He never leaves the reader bored.

I am now reading his collection of essays, (Not that You Asked). He writes about everything from "how this book became an official 'Oprah's Book Club' pick (not that you asked)" to "how I became a baby daddy (not that you asked)". I am half-way through and he has kept me captivated. Beware, Steve Almond leaves nothing out. He's cynical, uses crude analogies, make sexual references, and swears a lot. But with all that, he tells stories of his love of literature, what makes him love his wife, and how he became a writer. I would say he is a modern-romantic, whimsical in thought with a splash of obscenity. He makes me laugh, feel connected, and the swearing part makes me think of my friend Liz.

I highly suggest both Candyfreak! and (Not that You Asked) to you because I like you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

North Woods and Cakes

I went on a lovely 5-day ladies trip to Wisconsin with 3 co-workers. It was such a nice, relaxing time. While there I read The Jane Austen Book Club. I have seen the movie and was looking for a light and easy read for my trip. It was enjoyable and just a fun little read. If you need a quick pick- me-up, look for it at your library. Side note: Isn't it so interesting how books can be transformed by a movie? There are scenes and characters in the book that are blown-up, vamped, and made to be the proverbial mountain out of molehill. The book is sweet, the movie is sweet, but in different ways. While I was gone a beautiful little thing happened. I had a NEW oven and dryer delivered from Sears. My new oven is not only clean and new, but has a ceramic top, 5 working and smell-free burners, a steady temperature in the oven, and there's a light! I love it! The dryer is great too. It runs in a normal amount of time and makes a nice loud 'ding' sound when done. So happy!

Which brings me to my next point. I made a delicious honey vanilla pound cake with cherries as the inaugural bake in the new oven. It was so yummy.

Here's the recipe from Ina Garten, THE Barefoot Contessa.

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake (Ina Garten)

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1¼ cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ a jar of maraschino cherries or another fruit of choice, cut in half (my own addition)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of an 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, put the eggs, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest in a glass measuring cup but do not combine. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the egg mixture, one egg at a time, scraping down the bowl and allowing each egg to become incorporated before adding the next egg.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, add it slowly to the batter until just combined. Finish mixing the batter with a rubber spatula and add the fruit by folding gently. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, turn out onto a baking rack, and cool completely.

Good eats to you and to my "roomies".

Here's the results if you cook like Ina and photograph like Quentin Bacon
(I kid you not, a food photographer named Bacon).