Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thinking Out Loud

* Yesterday it suddenly dawned on me that my oldest son will be 26 in less than two months which means he will be closer to 30 than 20.  When I texted him that, he told me that means I’m getting closer to 50.  Mmmmkay!

* I’m having a bit of a problem relinquishing responsibility of Heaven to Phil so that I can get out of the house more.  It’s not like he doesn’t take care of her all the time or that he’s incapable of taking care of her when I’m away.  Heck, he’s done it tons before.  I think it’s mommy guilt (or grandma guilt).  She spent the summer with her mother coming home only on the weekends, so I think I may have a little guilt from not being with her.  At any rate, I’ve been missing my church’s small group meetings because I can’t bring myself to leave home before she’s gone to bed.  What in the world is the matter with me?!

* Speaking of Heaven…she has not climbed into our bed at all this week.  I can’t for the life of me determine what has changed, but we’re both getting more sleep because of it.

* I’m participating in NaBloPoMo next month.  I blogged every day in November 2011 and November 2013; I’m sure I can do it again this year.

* It’s going to be 55° this Saturday, down from 80° at the beginning of the week.  That’s definitely “stay in bed with a book and nice warm fuzzy socks” weather.

 * I watched the first five episodes of Forever last weekend, and I am hooked!

* Adrian’s saxophone teacher is teaching him to knit.  At his request.  I'm a little baffled.  Apparently she learned to knit from her mother who was taught by a woman in Norway who had only one arm.  I haven’t watched Adrian knit, but he doesn’t use two hands like most of us, yet he’s making great progress on the scarf he’s making.

* Phil and I are going to dinner with another couple this weekend.  It’ s going to be nice to catch up with them since we haven’t seen them since the summer.

* I’m looking for a red wine that a white wine drinker will enjoy.  Any tips? Nothing too dry.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekly Wishes #24

Happy Monday, folks!  I hope you had a fantastic weekend.  We did normal weekend things, and we had dinner with my mom on Sunday.  She's moving back to Oklahoma soon, so she wanted us all to get together before she leaves.  She cooked enough food to feed a small army, as usual, but it was nice of her to do so.


I haven't done this in a couple weeks; let's see how I did.

Old wishes:

* Paint my new door mat.  It just needs one word. I punched out the stencils and started positioning them.  It's not complete, but I did make some progress.

* Work on my craft room. I did work on it.

* Work out six days. I missed one day.

* Run two days with Adrian. I thought about it really hard.  Does that count?

* Finish gathering books for the read-a-thon. I didn't use them, but I had my stack ready.

This week's wishes:

* Paint my door mat. Seriously.

* Try a new workout routine.

* Write in my journal 3 days.

The Nectar Collective

October Daring Bakers' Challenge: Sachertorte

The October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Korena of Korena in the Kitchen. She took us to Austria and introduced us to the wonders of the Sachertorte.

The Sachertorte is an elegant chocolate cake filled with tangy apricot jam, covered with a smooth, fudge-like chocolate glaze, and decorated with chocolate piping and the word “Sacher” written across the top. Each slice is served with a generous portion of schlag (unsweetened whipped cream), meant for dipping each bite of cake in to balance the sweetness and texture.

This cake was easy to make and quite delicious.  I don't know what I did wrong, but my chocolate glaze seized.  No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to fix it, so I poured it on the cake.  I didn't make the writing chocolate since the surface was uneven. I also skipped the whipped cream, but I will make it next time.  The cake is extremely rich, so it does need the cream for balance.


Servings: 12-16

Cake Ingredients
¾ cup (180 gm) (4½ oz) (125 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
9 tablespoons (135 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) confectioners’ sugar (aka icing sugar or powdered sugar)
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (see note above about egg whites)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
½ cup (120 ml) (7 oz) (100 gm) granulated sugar
1 cup (120 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (for volume measurement, spoon gently into measuring cup and level top)
pinch fine grain salt

Apricot Glaze (see recipe below)
Chocolate Glaze (see recipe below)
Writing Chocolate (see recipe below)
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream, cold

1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/350°F fan/190°C/gas mark 5 with a rack in the centre of the oven. Butter and flower the sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and heat over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure that the bowl is not touching the simmering water) or in the microwave until just melted. Set aside to cool completely, stirring often.
3. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed until very light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar on low speed, then increase to medium speed and beat again until light and creamy.
4. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until well-mixed and very light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
6. In a scrupulously clean bowl using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with about one tablespoon of the granulated sugar on high speed until foamy. Gradually add in the rest of the granulated sugar and continue beating the whites until they form soft, shiny peaks - they should hold their shape but flop over on themselves.
7. Vigorously stir about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a spatula until just a few wisps of egg white remain. Do this carefully so as not to deflate the egg whites.
8. Stir together the flour and salt and sift half of it over the chocolate mixture. Fold in with a spatula until almost incorporated. Sift over the remaining flour and fold to combine completely.
9. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared springform pan.
10. Bake in the preheated moderately hot 375°F/350°F fan/190°C/gas mark 5 oven for 35-45 minutes (mine took exactly 40 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake will crack and dome in the middle as it bakes but will flatten out as it cools.
11. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan and remove the sides. Carefully invert the cake onto a rack and remove the bottom of the pan and parchment paper, then turn the cake right-side up onto a rack and allow to cool completely.
12. Assembly: Turn the cake upside-down so that the perfectly flat bottom of the cake is now the top. Cut the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.
13. Place 1 cake layer on the 8½-inch (22 cm) cardboard cake round and spread it generously with about half of the apricot glaze. Allow it to soak in.
14. Place the second cake layer on top and spread the top and sides with the remaining apricot glaze. Work quickly before the glaze has a chance to set and use a metal offset spatula to smooth the top. Place the cake on a rack set over a plate or baking sheet lined with waxed paper and allow the apricot glaze to set.
15. Make the chocolate glaze (it must be used immediately, while still hot) and pour it over the top of the cake, first around the edge and then in the middle. Spread the excess glaze over any bare spots using a metal offset spatula. Before the glaze has a chance to set, move the cake to a serving platter.
16. With the writing chocolate, pipe the word “Sacher” in the middle of the cake and add any decorative flourishes you wish. Chill the cake until the glaze is completely set, at least 1 hour.
17. To serve: Let the cake come to room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Whip the cream to soft peaks (this is best done in a cold bowl with cold beaters). If desired, sweeten it with icing sugar to taste.
18. Cut the Sachertorte into wedges with a large sharp knife dipped in hot water and wipe off the blade between cuts. Serve each wedge of cake with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Apricot Glaze
Servings: 1 quantity (about 1 cup)
1¼ cup (300 ml) (14 oz) (400 gm) apricot jam or preserves
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rum (or other liquor) or water

1. Boil the jam and rum/water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and drips slowly from the spoon, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Strain through a wire mesh sieve, pressing firmly on the solids. You should have about 1 cup of glaze. Use warm.

Chocolate Glaze
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 g) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) water
(4 oz) (115 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1. Place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. Attach a candy thermometer and cook, stirring, until the mixture reaches 234?F/112°C, about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use the method explained in this video.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. It might thicken up quite a bit. If it does, return it to low heat and add a few drops of water if necessary to thin it out to a runny, pourable consistency. The glaze should be smooth and shiny.
4. Off the heat, stir the glaze for 30-60 seconds to cool it slightly, then immediately use it to glaze the cake.
5. Any excess glaze can be stored in a container in the fridge and added to a mug of hot milk to make hot chocolate.

Writing Chocolate

¼ cup (60 ml) (1.8 oz) (50 gm) chopped good quality chocolate
½ - 1 teaspoons vegetable oil

1. Heat the chocolate until just melted, then stir in enough vegetable oil to get a pipeable consistency. If necessary, let the chocolate mixture cool slightly to thicken so that it is not too runny.
2. Place the chocolate in a disposable piping bag or small Ziplock bag and snip off the tip to make a small hole. I recommend a practice run on waxed paper before writing on the cake.

I will be making this cake again because it was good, and I'm determined to get the glaze right.  You can click over to The Daring Kitchen to see other Sachertortes.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thinking Out Loud

You know what today's time for randomness and Thinking out Loud with Amanda.

* It is totally impossible for me to grate cheese without eating some of it.

 * I know Halloween is a week away, and we're still a month away from Thanksgiving, but I am ready to play Christmas music.  All day long in the car, at work, and at home Christmas music.

* One of my girlfriends came down from Virginia for the weekend.  We went out for dessert when she arrived on Friday evening, she taught me how to make marshmallow fondant on Saturday, and then we went to the state fair.  It goes without saying that we had a blast!

We were supposed to be making funny faces, but I couldn't help but laugh at the others.

* Because I chose to spend time with my girlfriends, I didn’t participate in the read-a-thon.  I'll join the gang in April.

* Adrian and I went to see The Judge, and it was awesome!

* I don’t like the new iPhone.  There, I said it.

* Heaven hasn’t been sleeping through the night lately.  By lately I mean the last two months.  My six year old granddaughter wakes up two hours after she's gone to bed and climbs into our bed EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.  I don't know what's up with that, and I don't know what to do.  By the time she climbs into our bed, I'm far too exhausted to walk her back to her bedroom, and Phil sleeps too hard to notice.  If I wake him, he would do it, but I just move over and offer her my pillow.

That's all folks.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Weekly Wishes #23

Veteran's Memorial Wall

Good day!  I hope you all are doing well.  Phil and I had a fantastic time during our long weekend in Jacksonville, FL.  We skipped the zip lining but did take a side trip to St. Augustine to see some things we missed the last time we were there.  We also went out with some friends to see Annabelle.  Now I love a good horror movie, and I have enough sense to know what's taking place is not real.  BUT Annabelle?  I wanted to go back to our friends' house (where we were staying) to watch cartoons.  That there movie scared me right out of my pants! know, I don't even think we need to review my goals from last week.  In fact, I'm going to do a quick copy and paste, and we'll pick this back up in a week. How does that sound?

This week's wishes:

* Paint my new door mat.  It just needs one word.

* Work on my craft room.

* Work out six days.

* Run two days with Adrian

* Finish gathering books for the read-a-thon

The Nectar Collective

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Road Trip to Savannah, GA (photo heavy)

Phil and I took a short trip to Savannah, GA several weeks ago.  It's less than 3 hours from Columbia, so it was an easy drive.  The trip can be summed up like this: we ate, we walked, we saw.

We stayed at Embassy Suites which is one of my favorite hotel chains.  As much as I recommend them, they should pay me a referral fee.  No matter what city we stay in, we are never disappointed.  The rooms are spacious and clean, the staff is always friendly, and the breakfast is superb.

On our first night, we ate at Vic's on the River.  Phil ordered Crab Cakes, and I ordered the Chickpea, Spinach and Arugula Dumplings which were served on a bed of Toasted Farro.  Everything was delicious!

On Saturday, we started the day with the First Squares Food Tour with Savannah Taste Experience.  If you ever get a chance to take the tour, ask for Sam.  She was a sweet, fun and extremely knowledgeable guide.

She Crab Bisque with Chive Oil - Rocks on the River
Shrimp and Grits - Tondee's Tavern
I unfairly compare all Shrimp and Grits to Bubba Gump's.  While this was good, it wasn't Bubba Gump's.

Scottish Meat Pie - Molly MacPherson's Pub

Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimiento Cheese - B&D Burgers
Famous Mabel Cupcake (Vanilla) - Mabel's Cupcake Emporium
The last two stops on our tour weren't restaurants.  At The Salt Table, we tried different spices, salts and teas.  Some were the all around good grinder blend, smoked bacon sea salt, maple salt, and the ghost pepper salt.  We walked out of this little shop not with spices or salts but with raspberry jalapeno jam and a Himalayan Pink Salt Block.

Next up was  the Savannah Bee Company where we tried wildflower, acacia, tupelo, orange blossom, and winter white honeys along with honey still on the honeycomb and bananas cooked with mead and winter white honey.  I bought jars of the wildflower, tupelo and winter white for my mother.

After walking about 1.5 miles in nearly 3 hours, we did a lot more walking to see 6 more of the 22 squares in Savannah's Historic District and Forsyth Park.

Girl Scout tribute at Telfair Square
Site where Forrest Gump tried to share his box of chocolates

City Hall

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Franklin Square

Forsyth Park

We had dinner reservations at Garibaldi's Cafe.  We ordered the Shrimp Risotto Cake for our appetizer.  Phil had the New York Strip, and I had the Seared Salmon with Crab and Cream Sauce on top of Mashed Potatoes and Spinach.  Oh my yum!  Best. Salmon. Ever! 

Whitfield Turkey Burger

Before heading home on Sunday we returned to B&D Burgers for Fried Green Tomatoes and burgers.  Those tomatoes are to die for.  My sister asked me to make some for her.

There was so much to see and do and many more restaurants to try, so we will be making a return trip, or two or three, to Savannah.  I can't wait!

Hungry yet?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thinking Out Loud

You know what today's time for Thinking out Loud with Amanda.

* I had a guest in my home a few nights ago who must have glanced at my bookshelves a hundred times during the course of her nearly two hour visit.  Before she left she asked if I would mind if she took a closer look.  Of course I said yes, but I was secretly hoping she wouldn’t touch any of them.  I know there’s at least one other person in this universe who can relate.

* I’ve been thinking about getting a second tattoo, but I don’t know what I want or where I want it.  I've also been thinking a lot about how painful it's going to be.  My tolerance for pain is not what it used to be.

* I’m so glad I’ve been recording How to Get Away with Murder.  When I first heard about it, I didn’t think I wanted to add another show to my schedule, but it’s entertaining enough to continue watching it.

* The bulb on our big screen TV blew out last weekend.  Instead of replacing it (again), Phil is considering buying a new TV.  Don’t tell him I said so, but I really wouldn’t mind having a TV free living room.

* We have a three day weekend coming up, and Phil and I are heading to Jacksonville, FL.  We always have a good time visiting friends, but I’m searching for new things to do in the city.  So far, zip lining has made it onto our agenda, and we may even head down to St. Augustine for a bit.

* I have quite a few pet peeves, but one of them is when someone asks me to support their business then takes forever to respond to email or voice mail when I want to reorder.  That, people, is not how you treat your customers.

What are some of your pet peeves?  Any big plans for the weekend?