Thursday, July 30, 2009

Crazy, tutu- dancin lady and a beautiful evening

Yesterday was quite the baking/cooking day! I started out finishing up my Daring Bakers' challenge (which took quite a while, lots of steps). Then, I made some delicious banana bread with lime coconut glaze from this Cooking Light recipe! (I forgot to take a pic of the finished loaf, maybe tomorrow). The bread was muy delicioso! However, if you're thinking it's a "light" recipe, don't be fooled. It is reasonable in the calorie department if you follow the serving guideline, which is 1/16 of this loaf. I like to eat banana bread for breakfast, so I usually have more along the lines of 1/8 of the loaf. Oh well, better than 1/8 of a loaf that is not "lightened up"!

I made some more of my go-to picnic tuna salad, recipe can be found in this post.
I also made some toasted pita salad (like a panzanella salad, but with toasted pita instead of bread). Again a Cooking Light recipe, and a very good one as usual! I made my own pita chips from some good whole wheat pita pockets with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

We took the two types of salad and some cantaloupe to the Missouri Botanical Gardens' Whitaker Music Festival. They have free jazz inside the gardens to which you can bring your own picnic, wine, beer, etc. It was the most perfect evening for the event! We have been so incredibly lucky with weather this year. It feels like we're living in San Diego instead of the typical St. Louis Summer inferno!

In addition to good food, great weather, friends, and lovely music, we got entertained by this crazy chica (or chicO?)!! Sorry the video is choppy, but my memory card kept filling up and I would have to stop and delete photos.

Daring Bakers -- Marshmallow Cookies

Ok, so I'm a few days late for my Daring Bakers challenge this month. I have just been really busy on the nights and weekends lately and haven't had much of a chance to bake. Plus, I was on vacation when the challenge was revealed and didn't even remember to check the Daring Bakers website until a week after I got back. Anyway, enough excuses. This month's challenge was to make Chocolate covered marshmallow cookies and/or milan cookies. I opted for just one, since it was hard enough for me to get that done semi-on time.

The recipe was for a cinnamon cookie base with a vanilla marshmallow and chocolate glaze. I wanted to switch it up a bit, so I made a mint chocolate cookie base with a peppermint marshmallow filling and mint chocolate (dark) glaze.

These were quite tasty! However, the recipe said that it makes 2 dozen?! Look at my picture below of the hundred or so chocolate cookie circles that came from one batch! I think they meant closer to 20 dozen! However, the marshmallow and chocolate did not make enough to cover all of the cookies. Unfortunately the cookies, if eaten by themselves, tasted like dog biscuits to me. I guess there's just not enough sugar in them to stand alone. So, since I ran out of marshmallow I just covered the remaining chocolate cookies with chocolate.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She choseChocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

LOTS of cookie dough circles
Arranged on a cookie sheet (they did not need that much spacing, they spread VERY little).

Boiling the water, sugar, and corn syrup for the marshmallow
Blooming the gelatine
Baked cookie circles with piped peppermint marshmallow

Coated with chocolate!

Cross sections of a finished cookie

PS -- Homemade marshmallows are AWESOME and worth the effort! Plus, you can flavor them any way you like, coat them in coconut or chocolate, etc. Make some for yourself!

Recipe (my alterations are in pink):

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour *2/3 cups all purpose flour and 1/3 cup cocoa powder

• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*omitted, added 1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*substituted peppermint extract, and probably added an extra 1/2 teaspoon or so (I like it really minty)

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil
*added some peppermint extract, just a splash

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A lovely weekend

What a nice weekend we had, with the exception of a couple incidences on the float trip! I didn't take any photos from the camping/float trip. We didn't get to the camp ground until like 10:00 pm, because there was a MAJOR accident on the highway that delayed us at least an hour and a half. So, we were all scurrying to set up our tents as quickly as possible so that beer drinking and food eating could commence. After we were well fed and well hydrated we headed down to the river to have a dip that is not fat under the moonlight. We gazed upon millions of bright stars, the Milky Way, and shooting stars!! The water felt cool, but not too cold, and the moonlight was illuminating the water in a majestic manner. It was awesome! I love swimming in Missouri rivers in the middle of the night when no one else is around!

The next day we woke up very unrested due to a thunderstorm overnight and the fact that we stayed in the "loud campground" area. I'm talking loud as in 20 frat parties worth of noise along with megaphones and car alarms. Anyway, it was time to float, so we did. Floating was nice, until about 3/4 of the way through when Chris decided it was a good idea to jump in backwards into the river without holding onto his eye glasses. They did not stay on and they did not float. Those were his only pair of glasses/contacts. So, I had to be his eyes for the past 24 hours until he could get a new prescription for contacts today. We were all exhausted after floating and immediately drove the hour and a half home to rest.

When we got back we discovered that our plants are thoroughly enjoying this Summer's amazing weather as much as we are:

Don Juan climbing rose in our front yard
'Yellow Boy' mater

After we got Chris some new contacts today, we hit up St. Louis City-Wide Open Studios. This is such a fun event that we missed last year, because we were in Europe (at least it was a good reason to miss). Open studios is a free event that takes place in artists' studios all over the St. Louis City area in the artists' actual studios. Sometimes the studios are in big, joint artist space and sometimes they are in people's homes. The first place we hit up was the studio of one of our favorite local artists (from whom we bought an awesome print a couple years ago), Tom Huck. He's getting ready for a big opening at the St. Louis Art Museum.

I snapped one crappy photo of the entryway to Tom Huck's studio (Evil Prints), because I wasn't sure what the rules were for taking photos in other people's studios (also the reason I don't have any other photos from the event). It was an awesome experience. We were the first visitors to his place today, and the only ones there at the time, so we got a chance to chat a bit with Tom Huck about his pieces, the meaning behind them, the process, etc. Now we just need to save up the money to buy one of his large prints, which are like 6 or 7 feet tall wood block prints.

After touring several other studios throughout Lafayette Square and the downtown area, we went over to the new sculpture garden downtown. It was awesome! We're going to have to go back at night when it's all lit up, and when they open the cute cafe that overlooks the park. Do you see the Gateway Arch in the background?

This was one of my favorite sculptures

Now Chris and I are making art -- he's drawing/painting and I'm making artsy fartsy pillows and blogging! I know my blog hasn't been very food-oriented lately. I think that will be remedied tomorrow when I reveal this month's Daring Baker's Challenge (which I haven't done yet!!).

Friday, July 24, 2009

We're Jammin', and I hope you like Jammin too!

The night before last, Katie, Chris and I went to Jammin' at the Zoo. This is a biannual fundraiser for the St. Louis zoo at which you are able to sample wines from all over as well as a sake booth and, of course, an Anhueser booth.

Here are Katie and me with our cups of beer, as the event ran out of wine way too quickly, and the only thing left was crappy Bud Light. Hey, beggars can't be choosers! So we slurped down the pee water.
See those TINY pink dots in the background -- those are the pink flamingos. They were doing a really funny "dance" that I wasn't able to video tape, but was really cute.

Chris posed Glamour Shots style in front of the flamingos

Jammin' at the zoo was fun -- we smuggled in some really good sushi that I forgot to take a picture of. We really didn't get to sample that many wines due to the huge lines of people and the wineries running out of samples so quickly. My favorite wine sample that night was a Marco Negri Moscato Di'Asti . . . YUM! After the wine tastings and beer guzzling, we went back to our house and ate and drank some more on our back porch. Katie and I stayed up til 3am chit chatting and watching funny youtube videos. It was a good night!
The next night (last night) was Catty Kitchen night at Octavia's. It was a chill night with Octavia, Faith, and me as well as Atticus and Delphi (Octavia's kids), and Bella -- the new canine addition to the clan. Bella got a doggy spa night. She is such a sweet, patient dog -- definitely redeemed my opinions of shih tzus!
Other highlights of the evening: watching Atticus punch some dudes out on the Wii, making fingernails out of BabyBell wax, Octavia's cool new crafty project.

And for tonight's event . . . we're going camping!! Katie, Clay, Chris, and I are headed down to Leasburg, MO to camp for the night and then float tomorrow! First (and probably last) float trip of the year!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two winey peas in a pod

What do you do when it's inexplicably beautiful and in the 70s in July in St. Louis?! Everything and anything outside! That's why we had to hit up the Missouri wineries along the Katy trail this past Saturday. For those of you who don't live in St. Louis, it is very rare that you get temperatures in the 70s in July with low humidity! St. Louis in July is more typically comparable to a balmy hell on Earth.

The four of us gals: Katie England, Anna England, Shawnee, and I packed separate picnics to share. Probably should have had more communication prior, because we had the most ginormous picnic for four people you could imagine! But, we are all very gourmet picnic packers. Everything was delicious and relatively healthy. Here's Katie with a tediously opened fresh sugar snap pea. If you were to look into those big, beautiful sunglasses of hers, you might see a reflection of the picnic perfection! Our first winery stop was Balducci's, which is one of the only wineries in that area that allows you to bring in your own food.

Shawnee and me with our bottle of Balducci's Sonata. Yummy if you like semi-sweet white wines, which I do!
Then, we went to Montelle winery where we took more pictures of ourselves than of the beautiful scenery. That just means I'll have to go back and better capture the wonderful ambiance.
The place was packed and this was the only table we could find when we first got there. Shawnee was the only one that got the goofy face memo.
And, then we found a better seat at which point Katie and I took a high school senior portrait together.

It was a beautiful trip to the wineries, I can't wait to go back and explore some of the many other wineries they have along that highway! I would love to do bike ride the Katy trail and stop at the wineries along the way! That just might be next on the agenda!

More wine tomorrow! It's that time of year again . . . Jammin' at the Zoo!!

Monday, July 13, 2009


Our first stop on our vacation, and the last to post, was Washington DC. I had never been to DC before, and was excited to be going at a time when there was a president in office that I actually respect! We had a great time . . . the theme of the trip applied here as with everywhere else: too much to see, too little time!

Our first night there, Chris and I ventured out to the outskirts to a little bar called Comet PingPong. A band Chris likes, Enon, was playing. We got some pizza, which was up there with the best pizzas I've had (and I'm a pizza fanatic). It was called something like, "the smokey" and had smoked bacon, smoked gouda, caramelized onions, and smoked mushrooms. Amazingly delicious!

We were trying to get the correct lighting in the very dark bar -- I don't think we ever succeeded.
Chris drank some Dale's Pale Ale (my dad's name is Dale). I tried a little sip (I wasn't drinking at this point of the trip, still hoping there was a bun in the oven). This beer was really good! Especially for a beer in a tin can.

Chris waiting for the metro to take us back to our stop
The next day we went to the National Zoo to see the pandas. Sorry for the super blurry pic, my camera doesn't have a very good zoom. Chris took some good panda pics, but I didn't feel like digging through his camera to get them. So here's my lame shot of a super cute critter.

After the zoo we headed over to the Adams Morgan area, which was a really cute, hip area of town with lots of shops and restaurants. We went there specifically for the Amsterdam Falafel shop. OMG, this place was GREAT! They pretty much just have falafels and fries, but the super fun part is that there is a huge toppings bar that you get to put whatever you want into your falafel pita. Plus, they have several different dipping sauces for your fries! My dad talked to the owners for a while, who were really cool people. They mentioned that they might be starting a franchise -- I would love to open one in St. Louis! I think it would go over really well, especially in a late night area like the Loop.

The next day Chris and I visited all of the famous monuments -- Vietnam Memorial.

World War II Memorial
WWII Memorial had neat plaques depicting the events from Pearl Harbor up to the US involvement in the war.
More WWII Memorial
Women's war Memorial
Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial
We kept trying to get to the gate by the White House, but every time we tried, the president (or someone) came outside, so security had to make everyone get away from the gate. So, this picture is about as close as we got.

Lincoln Memorial
Honest Chris and honest Abe
Thank goodness Chris was holding up the Washington Monument, who knows what would have happened if he hadn't!
They have black squirrels in DC! I don't know what color squirrels you have in your neck of the woods, but we just have grey squirrels in St. Louis.

We toured as many Smithsonians as we could, but failed miserably at making a dent. This is a skeleton of a prehistoric creature -- mammoth -- in the Natural History Museum.

Rockets at the Air and Space Museum
Spirit of St. Louis at the Air and Space Museum!
Dorothy's ruby slippers at the American History Museum
Chris imitates Colbert at the American History Museum.

DC was great, but we'll have to go back to get a better glimpse of the many many many free museums they have. It was an exhausting part of the trip because it was so overwhelming in sights to see.

Oh yeah, and there was this place we ate at for lunch -- twice-- called Chop't. It was such a great concept. Yet another franchise that I would like to open in St. Louis. I would eat there all the time. It was like a salad bar, but they chop all the ingredients up for you. They have like 27 dressings to choose from, tons of lettuce varieties, and toppings. Plus, they have all kinds of predesigned salads to choose from. And I thought their prices were reasonable for how HUGE the salads were, and filling! Unfortunately, they're only in DC and New York City, so if you live there, I recommend you go!