Gingerbread Extravaganza!

I hope everyone had Happy Holidays and a wonderful start to the new year!

This Christmas, my most noteworthy baking creation is a gingerbread house modeled after Bob’s family’s home in McKinney, TX. Thanks to Marian from sweetopia.net, I found a fantastic glue-like icing (http://sweetopia.net/2011/12/gingerbread-house-royal-icing-video-kitchenaid-7-quart-mixer-giveaway/) that held our house together perfectly and some other gingerbread making techniques. I encourage you to check out her site for very helpful tutorials for decorating.

The adventure began when I begged Bob to make a gingerbread house with me. Little did I know, or rather, I should have realized, he would not settle for a quaint, whimsical cottage. As I found the structural gingerbread recipes online and stocked the kitchen with our necessities, Bob designed away at his desktop using the Solidworks program he learned in freshman engineering. Eight hours passed and I waited patiently to start my share.

It was 1 am before the rest of the crew was put to work. Katherine helped cut out templates, Erin taped some large cuts together and the pups enjoyed the fired.

Structural Gingerbread House Dough Recipe

from about.com: http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/crossculturaldesserts/r/gingerbread.htm

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups light corn syrup (or dark corn syrup for a darker house)
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar (or dark brown sugar for a darker house)
  • 1 1/4 cups margarine
  • 9 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

We worked away until 5 am, but it was time to hit the hay. The last templates were cut in the morning.This piece was a challenge because it was larger than all of our baking sheets. Thankfully, it baked well on the parchment paper/foil combination paper.

Next comes the fun part! After Bob cut edges here and there to make all the measurements exact to his plans, it was time to start assembling the house.

It definitely took more than two steps, but Voilà…

This view helps give you an idea of its massive size.

My favorite job was decorating my trees. I learned this technique from Marian on sweetopia.net. It’s quite simple. A sugar ice cream cone and a #18 star decorating tip. It gets easier over time. I must say that my trees in the back yard were better quality! I’ll need to figure out how to make my food coloring create a darker green. I’ll probably have to buy a different selection of colors. I simply used tootsie rolls and icing to represent the landscaping in their front yard.

We made it this far before I had to catch a 7 am flight on December 22nd to Las Vegas to meet the family in Utah for Christmas! The rest of the structure was left in Bob’s hands. Luckily, his sisters were there to help. Bob baked the rest of the gingerbread templates for the roof and assembled them all on his own! Now that is dedication! Plus, he has a hard time stopping a project once he’s started…especially one this cool!

And starting the cinnamon square cereal shingles…

THAT’S MY MAN!

Erin finished all the shingles, and it was time for a gingerbread break. A few days later, on the 27th, I was back and Bob and I created a special Christmas day for his family and me…A Very Kerry Christmas! We ate oatmeal pancakes for breakfast and homemade chicken pot pies for dinner! Then, I was ready to help finish decorations. We paid close attention to details. We dyed white fondant to a pale yellow to make the windows appear to be showing lights from inside. I used a pasta roller to roll the fondant into thin strips to cut the windows.

The Back View…


AND IT’S DONE! After hours of strenuous work, the reward was worth it!

Check out Bob’s beautiful icicles!

A Very Merry Christmas Creation with a happy ending!

Officially Kitchen aided

It’s official. My dad got me a KitchenAid for Christmas, and a friend got me an ice cream maker attachment! Besides studying for finals, I have been busy testing the waters with my fantastic new appliance. I never would have imagined receiving this gift, but it sure is nice to know my family knows what I like to do and how much I have wanted one of these bad boys. I was overnight babysitting the day it arrived, so I had to wait an entire night before I could open my gift!

The first experiment: Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake

I also made my first peppermint ice cream, but a disastrous event put a damper on the outcome of my ice cream. In the first attempt at making my custard for the dish, I must have had the burner on too hot. The yolk, milk, sugar mixture began to coagulate, but I left it on the heat for too long and cooked my eggs!!! The custard was a scrambled mess. My roommate, Subhada, and I attempted to strain the custard, but it was a lost cause. My second round for custard took forever because I was hesitant to raise the heat. I think we will just call this a learning experience. More delicious ice cream attempts to come!

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season! I cannot believe that Christmas is 14 days away! I have been busy with finals and a new job at the campus bookstore, but I promise there will be blogs this upcoming break!

Christmas Season Day

DECEMBER, already?!

Many of you may know the day after thanksgiving as Black Friday. Personally, this day is known to me and my best friends as Christmas Season Day. This holiday season, I have made a list of activities that Bob and I will complete before the winter break is over…from Christmas movies to gingerbread houses. The festivities began on Christmas Season Day.

Treat ourselves to Starbucks

On our way up to Dallas, Bob surprised me with a Christmas cold cup from Starbucks filled with a Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino. I was gone for one minute in the bathroom…and VOILA! It was magical and exactly what I wanted. This activity is a tricky one though because we have already treated ourselves to Starbucks several times in the past week. After having my awesome cold cup, all I want to do is drink Frappuccinos. Also, in order to diversify my coffee consumption, I bought a ceramic to-go mug from Starbucks so we can enjoy warm Peppermint Mochas!

Milkshakes at Midnight

Bob and I went to get “milkshakes at midnight” back in the day when we were were nothing more than two kids with huge crushes. Bob was trying so hard to tell me he liked me that night…so cute. Anyway, for our one year anniversary, Bob, his sister, Katherine, and I got Steak and Shake shakes at midnight before driving home to College Station over spring break. This season, we couldn’t pass up the peppermint chocolate chip shakes that had been calling our names.

Another batch of Chicago style pizza

Homemade Sugar Cookies

Bob’s younger sister, Erin, made the icing. I learned something this past weekend that made icing the millions of cookies much quicker. We decided to flood the cookies with royal icing. Since I didn’t make the icing, I will have to perfect this skill next time around. We bought the white icing in a dispenser to allow for easier outlining. The icing should harden to a smooth, matte finish. Visit, Joy of Baking (http://www.joyofbaking.com/RoyalIcing.html), to find a detailed explanation of this process.

The blue icing had to be a little bit runny to flood into the corners of the outlined white. We helped the icing fills the spaces with spoons. The cookies tasted amazing, and one of my snowflakes even looked professional too.

IT’S BEAUTIFUL! It wasn’t until yesterday that Eden and I decided it was time to eat this masterpiece.

Christmas movies to watch…

Home Alone

Elf

It’s a Wonderful Life

Santa Claus 1, 2, 3

Doctor Who Christmas Invasion

Doctor Who A Christmas Carol

Yesterday, I received a KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment. I do NOT have a KitchenAid. I didn’t have time to process this before taking my last anatomy lab practical, so I called my dad to say thank you for my gift. He told me the second half would arrive today and that I should do the math.

I am sitting here waiting for my package. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but it is looking like my Christmas gift from my dad is…..A KITCHENAID STAND MIXER!!!! Now, this is the only logical assumption, but I’m still waiting to find out.

MORAL OF THE STORY: This Christmas season will be full of delicious treats and sweets. My culinary adventures are about to get ten times MORE AWESOME.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Pumpkin Pecan Waffles with cream cheese frosting

A Taste of Texas recipe…..

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 eggs, seperated

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons melted butter

 1 cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned

2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix all dry ingredients in bowl. Add beaten egg yolks, melted butter, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and buttermilk. If batter thickens as wheat absorbs the liquids, add more buttermilk as needed. Add pecans. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry and fold into batter. Cook in a hot, oiled waffle iron.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 to 4 Tbs. milk

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, reduce the speed to low and beat until combined, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add 3 Tbs. of the milk and beat until combined, about 1 minute. The frosting should be thick but still pourable; add more milk if needed to thin it. Transfer the frosting to a small bowl; set aside.

Happy thanksgiving to all of you! I decided that although we are tailgating today for last Texas A&M vs t.u. rivalry game, I needed to make my friends a delicious pumpkin breakfast. Some of us even topped our waffles with Butter Pecan ice cream… very DELICIOUS!

Today, I am thankful for all my family and friends…and a special thanks goes out to all of my followers for supporting me with my blog.

Hope you have a great thanksgiving!!! And eat up!

San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO

The Texas A&M Sailing team headed to San Francisco last weekend to BTHO San Francisco Bay and ICSA Match Race Nationals…

Chelsea, Conner, and Colin were the sailors, while I was the alternate and Bob tagged along for some captaining. Dressed up in our cowboy attire, we brought Texas to California, and especially represented Texas when enterprise gave us a free upgrade to a suburban….Let me tell you, that car did not fit well in the city scene or in a 6’4” clearance parking garage.

In order to sail in this national regatta, there was a 513 lb weight limit for the J22 sailboats. The conference championship weight limit was 600 lbs. When our team found out about this weight limit, they had 6 weeks to lose a combined 50 lbs. After intense working out, dieting, and a final day of diuretics and fasting, the three of them weighed in at 504 lbs. I was relieved that they made it and so proud of all the work they had done to be able to sail in San Francisco Bay. The hardest thing for me was feeling as if I couldn’t eat on Thursday evening as they all fasted! Bob and I snuck away at the airport to satisfy our rumbling tummies, while they suffered in anxious anticipation of weighing in and eating breakfast ASAP. I’ve never seen someone consume two foot long meatball marinara subs from Subway faster than Colin did that morning.

St. Francis Yacht Club was a great venue.  Fancy yacht clubs are not the place for your average college sailor. Walking around in our jeans and sweaters, definitely draws attention from members wearing their blazers and formal attire. During a postponement Saturday morning, the team invaded the Domino room to play some 42. You have to love the idea of a domino room, equipped with doorbell buttons at each table that summon the bartender.

It rained all day Friday and Sunday. And Saturday, races were postponed until 2 pm because the lack of wind and strong current made racing impossible. Bob and I decided we should tour this incredible city rather than hanging around the yacht club hoping the wind fills in…plus we wanted to make the plane ticket investment worthwhile and actually do some tourism! We walked at least 5 miles that afternoon. As sailors, San Francisco felt like heaven! We walked through the Maritime museum and toured the Balclutha, a steel-hulled full rigged ship built in 1886. The boardwalk had knot tying stations to teach people the tricks of our trade. They even explained the use of each knot of both sailors and landlubbers.The rest of the touring included Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Boudin Bakery, and Chinatown. There’s nothing like a bowl of Clam Chowder with a fresh loaf of Sourdough bread on a cold, fall evening. With my sweet tooth, I will admit the hot fudge brownie sundae from Ghirardelli cafe really warmed my heart. My brother, Matt, who recently moved to San Francisco for an accounting position at KPMG, toured the city with Bob and I. Someone called him out on the street Saturday morning and said, “you’re one of those occupiers, aren’t you?” This made me laugh pretty hard because he had just finished taking his final CPA exam and is definitely on the other end of that spectrum.

Some people say we look kind of alike…

It was a great trip. Bob and I were able to watch some good match racing, enjoy the sights of this incredible city, and hang out with my brother.  Let’s just say, we didn’t exactly BTHO the bay or Match Race Nationals, but the team:

Sailed with the golden gate bridge in the background

Learned a little bit about current

And looked dang good after their diets and exercising!

Dealing with boat speed: Chelsea says, “Sails are just bigger in Texas.” Conner says, “Ain’t got no current in Texas. State law.

And we saw a 1976 America’s Cup boat!

Trials for the best Chicago style pizza

BRINGING CHICAGO TO TEXAS

Trial 1: Initiated by an intense craving for Chicago Style pizza and being about 1000 miles from the Windy City, Bob and I took on the challenge of learning the tricks of the trade ourselves. This inverted pizza style is very unique. After the dough is spread out in the pan, the mozzarella cheese (pre-sliced squares) are evenly placed on top. Next, all the toppings are thrown on. Our toppings of choice are always Italian sausage and black olives. Finally, throw on the sauce. Having a vegetarian in the family, our smallest spring-form pan is always for a cheese and black olive pizza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This trial was pretty good. Kind of greasy from the sausage. I suggest cooking the sausage prior to topping and draining some of the grease. First dough was pretty crispy.

 

 

A key to success is perfecting the dough. It takes time to master this process, and every trial will turn out slightly different. It is helpful to have a kitchen-aid, but I also enjoyed my most recent trial hand kneading the dough. Below is a dough failure when I used WAY too much.

Trial 2: St. Louis Zoo showing of Taming of the Shrew with a Pizza picnic.

Notice the sides of the crust. This was made with Whole Foods Wheat dough…..

I am not sure whether I should call this pizza or really thick saucy bread.

STILL TASTED GOOD.

Trial 3: Fourth of July Party….Pizza and Samuel Adams

These were by far the BEST yet. The key to making this dough perfect was sprinkling cornmeal on the olive oiled pans and brushing olive oil on the crust before and at the halfway cooking point. We made three pizzas to feed our guests.

Trial 4: WHAT NOT TO DO….

The first trial at my apartment in College Station did not go as planned. The dough was hand kneaded and turned out well. The issue here was my soupy sauce. I made the mistake of adding water and forgetting to drain the canned tomatoes. Also, the spring-form pan decided to break, so the pizza was stuck inside the pan until we finagled it open.

Drain some of the excess sauce, and it can still look BEAUTIFUL!

OUR PIZZA SAUCE:

Ingredients:

1 twenty-eight ounce can tomatoes (drained)
1 sixteen ounce can tomato sauce
1 six ounce can tomato paste
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons mixed Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon white sugar

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients, crushing tomatoes with a potato masher, fork, or the back of a wooden spoon.

Allow to sit half an hour or more to develop flavor.

Spread on pizza and bake according to your favorite recipe.

At least enough sauce for a 14-inch pizza or two medium sized pizzas.

YMMV (your mileage may vary)

Trial 5: The REAL deal… Giordano’s Restaurant and Pizzeria. 1 hour wait, but they start cooking your pizza and it’s ready for consumption right when you are seated. I liked that hour of hungry anticipation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The real deal was yummy, but after spending so many hours learning to cook these delicious pizzas myself, you can call me crazy but MY PIZZAS ARE BETTER! May have something to do with the amount of love Bob and I put into our homemade Chicago Style pizza.

I will say, there’s nothing like enjoying a slice of pie after a day of shopping on Michigan Avenue. After living in Illinois for eight years, I have tried several different deep dish pizzas and look forward to my next visit where I can compare some more!

You should check out Gino’s East pizzeria if you ever get the chance to visit the windy city. There’s Graffiti all over the walls….. REALLY cool. 

 

 

 

 

 

26 miles?

Marathon anyone?

I am training for the Austin Livestrong Marathon coming up this February, and every time I head out for my long runs I wonder what I got myself into. Don’t get me wrong, I love running. I was pretty decent in high school after my coaches and I realized I could not run short distances. Those 16 second 100 meter dashes were pretty horrible.

Today, I had to do my 14 mile run solo because all my sailing team members running the marathon with me were in New Orleans for  Tulane’s Back to the Bayou Regatta where they BTHO SEISA, our sailing conference (Southeastern Intercollegiate Sailing Association). For now and future reference, at Texas A&M, we like to say BTHO (Beat the Hell Outta) insert your word of choice here. For instance, BTHO my anatomy exam, BTHO Texas, anything you can think of. Honestly, I know I can run 26 miles, but I just am not sure if my legs are on my same page. I’ll just say my run BTHO me, but good news is tomorrow is a rest day! Running alone was quite peaceful, but there’s something motivating about having teammates. Fortunately, there is time for improvement, and I know I will be motivated to cross that finish line alive!

Bob just got home from Boston today after touring MIT. We didn’t talk much while he was gone because he was busy touring MIT’s aerospace engineering graduate program, falling in love with the city, and visiting his old Aggie roommate who is currently in a graduate program at Harvard.  We both agreed it makes the memories that much sweeter when we can catch up in person. Believe me though, I’m all about talking and pretty sure my love language may be words of affirmation, even though I enjoy all the other stuff as well. Nothing is better than hearing I LOVE YOU and knowing the person means it. Now, I think I will search for nursing schools in the Boston area so I can keep my options open. I’m all for living the expensive-east coast life while I can!

Today, I cooked up some bacon and Jiffy corn muffin pancakes for Bob’s arrival.

Word of Advice: You don’t have to make the most expensive meals or even spend much time on them. Sometimes there’s more love than you can imagine in a $0.42 box of jiffy corn muffin mix. Believe me, it is a staple in my diet, and by diet, I mean menu because I can assure you it’s not the healthiest item in the grocery store!

Hello world!

Hello, World!

The first time I typed “Hello, World!” was this summer when I was teaching myself how to program. I think I will enjoy the blogging world a smidgen more. I just needed to see what programming was about because my boyfriend is a programming beast.

My name is Kerry and I am a junior health education major at Texas A&M University. Sometimes I wish I went by my first and middle name, Kerry Lee, but it think it’s too late to change things up on everyone. My priorities may be a little out of whack, but after God, family and friends, my order of importance seems to be sailing, baking, and then studying. My dad keeps telling me I can’t major in sailing, so I’ve been spending more time in the library this semester. If I ever come back to visit campus, I think I should head to my spot on the 2nd floor of Evans library first. Thanks to my friend, Brandon (bhboykin.wordpress.com), I was inspired to start blogging today. We had a fun cupcake bakery adventure and a photo shoot at a local park.

I have a wonderful boyfriend, Bob Long, who happens to be one of the nerdiest, sweetest persons I know. Thanks to him, I have found my inner nerd and learned how to be comfortable being a little strange. He was my first sailing skipper, my first midnight yell date, and much more. You’ll certainly be hearing about more of our escapades.

I am a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Sailing Team. Sailing is a sport and a lifestyle. I’m not your Sperry wearing, yacht going stereotypical sailor girl. Don’t get me wrong any sailboat is fun and I do wear Sperry’s on occasion, but we get wet, we sail fast, and most importantly, every time two boats are on the water… IT’S A RACE! Sailing is a work out, we get bruises, muscles, and abs. The best thing about college sailing is the traveling, the bonding, and the friendships with other teams in our conference.

Lesson #1 of sailing: A flatter boat is a faster boat!

Mandy and I were not heavy enough in that wind to enjoy the benefits of a flat, fast boat…but heeling and hiking out is fun!

My baking skills have come a long way since high school. I was that girl who burnt the chocolate or messed up the measurements. With the help of multiple food blogs and more time and motivation, I have managed to become quite graceful in the kitchen. You can call me the next Betty Crocker. My baking inspirations were Karly from Bunsinmyoven, Jessica from How Sweet It Is, and Joy the Baker, plus many other friends. I give lots of credit to those great photographers out there that make me want to cook their recipes. Hopefully, I will have a quality camera someday, but please bear with me until then. I am a baking scientist, hoping to master the art of cooking.

This is my life in a nutshell. You’ll learn my quirks and specific qualities as time goes by.

 

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