Friday, July 31, 2009


i am having a quite silly, yet very real, dilemma over how to re-organize my cookbook shelf. i finally broke down and switched bookcases from the small (but still 4 shelf) metal one i had in the kitchen to a wide and tall white 5-shelf bookshelf that i moved from my "craft room"( aka: the room that hubs has taken over for his SECOND office. this room was supposed to eventually be a child's room. it is full as is the rest of our house...but don't get me started on that one...). on my little shelf i had one shelf devoted to magazines, the rest just stuffed full of whatever would fit. i have mentioned (here and here) my cookbook collection before, but i am overwhelmed right now!

since i was young i have always tried to categorize my things: when i had a huge CD collection i would organize them by label, then alphabetically by group and then album & year. currently our dvd collection is ordered alphabetically, but i would really prefer to do them by genre, then alphabetically within the genre (i.e., disney movies, musicals, comedy, comic book, etc...) books are a little harder b/c you get authors who may write in different genres. at this point i have separate shelves for fiction, religion (divided in to christian living, biblical history, and world relgions, and then alphabetical by author), & magazines (different shelves for different types: "current events" (aka: tabloids that i love--please don't judge me), general women's interest (woman's day, family circle, redbook, etc...) home & garden, and then the cooking-exclusive magazines in with the cookbooks.

then comes the cookbook shelf. my natural tendency is to want to group them by author or company (i.e., paula deen, pillsbury, taste of home, southern living, etc...) but then what about the genres?!?! i really want a shelf devoted to baking, but do i split up the taste of home or paula deen sections just because i have a few devoted only to baking? then what about the holiday issues?? i could probably have two shelves devoted purely to holiday food preparation! and then there's the holiday cooking and the holiday baking, and some devoted to just holiday cookies! oh goodness. i know i'm over-thinking this but it's an area where i am a bit obsessive compulsive. i have so many cookie cookbooks, and am developing a collection of cupcake cookbooks, and of course martha stewart has both--plus the baking handbook. what to do what to do?

bah. that was a long rant and ramble about something fairly pointless. how would you organize it?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First ever Daring Bakers Challenge!

I have been waiting to join the Daring Bakers group for a few months and am so excited to have finally gotten to participate in a challenge! For those of you who don't know, the Daring Kitchen is an online community for cooks and bakers all over the world who come together and make the same recipe each month. then on the same day, each blogging member posts their challenge results along with the recipe. It is a super fun community designed to challenge us in the kitchen to make things that we would not normally do. Everyone has such wonderful tips and ideas and alterations to the recipes, it can be a little intimidating, but is super fun!

I really wanted to make both recipes this month and was all prepared to make the mallows today (sunday), but time and a dirty house decided otherwise, so i have only completed the Milanos. I've included both recipes though, and you can check out the blogroll to see the other Daring Bakers' results.

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

The Milanos were not super hard to make. The most difficult part was getting consistent shapes for the piped cookies. I attempted to make one sheet pan in a circular shape rather than the traditional oval, and they spread like crazy! I ended up having to cut them and try to match the sizes up to fill them. I also did not get mine crisp enough--it is very important to let them brown on the edges! i think an additional 5 minutes added to the bake time would have been perfect.

A lot of the bakers experimented with flavors, both in the cookie and chocolates. Some added other fruits like rasperry extrac or coconut rather than lemon, or just vanilla. I would like to make these again with more variations, b/c the citrus is a bit too strong for me.

I regret not taking more pictures of the process--i intended to do that with the mallows, but since they didn't get done...oh well. My coworkers seemed to enjoy the ones i took to work, and my sister ate up the remaining cookies at my house, so i think they were a success!

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

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

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

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

for cake class this week we did the wilton clown cake. i was a bit lazy w/the colors again, but i think it worked w/the yellow and black. very cheery!

for the cake i made dorie greenspan's "perfect party cake" that i saw on all the "tuesdays w/dorie" blogs that i am so desperately wanting to book just hasn't come in yet! the recipe says that the cake is best the day of, and sadly i had to bake it a few days before icing, (baked tuesday b/c wednesday night i wanted to spend some time w/my grandpa who came in to visit and class wasn't until thursday) so it dried out just a bit. the flavor was really good though. i just hate the wilton buttercream! :( i'm going to cheat and try another recipe for my last cake. does anyone have any suggestions for a good buttercream that can be used for decorating? i think i want to ice the cake w/chocolate icing. patrick really wants a white cake (the dorie cake had too much lemon flavoring for his taste).

i also had a wonderful date w/my dear friend and former bible study girl, lacy. we got to have a sushi date and then went treasure hunting at the clothes lion--and we found lots of treasures!! one of the favorites were a set of 12 jenaer glass coffee mugs (i looked them up online) which we split. so delicate and beautiful! sadly they did not come with the saucers. i got a blue & white platter and a really cool casserole dish (i think?) so much fun!

this week i have TONS of baking to do: two pies for an order on wednesday, another cake for class, and a tirimasu! also need to throw together a casserole for an office potluck on friday. i'll post pictures though, as well as a post tomorrow for my first ever daring bakers challenge!!! yay!!

if you want to read some more about life you can check out my sparkpeople blog here which i just updated as well.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

rose carnage # 2: attack of the pups

due to the wonderful weather and amount of rain that we have received this summer, my rose bushes have grown a lot, and since this horrible event, butch has stayed away from them to my knowledge.

well, today it all went horribly miserably wrong! we have been dogsitting for a friend and this morning (which i think was the time of the incident) we put the pups out alone for several hours. i didn't go out and look around until about 7:30, when i looked over and saw rose petals all over the flower bed. i walked over and was dismayed to find that one of my bushes had been ripped to shreds only leaving little stumps!

in the background you can see how high the other bush has gotten

i am not sure which of these pups was repsonsible, or if it was a joint effort, but i sadly must imagine that butch had a least a hand in it...i don't think elmo has that much destructive power in his little body!

they both look guilty to me...

now they are sleeping soundly as if nothing ever happened. little stinkers!

Friday, July 17, 2009

recent happenings

it has been a bit of a crazy week--after the funeral i had some major health yucks. a stupid flare up w/my cfs/fibro kept me in bed all day saturday. i got up for bit on sunday and did laundry and cleaned up a little, but then started feeling awful again and had to stay home on monday. when i got back tuesday my super-sweet coworkers got me some beautiful flowers b/c of my granny's passing--and they were in a teacup!!! they know me too well!

my family is taking granny's death pretty hard. the fact that she lived with them for the past six months really makes it more difficult, b/c before that we just saw her on holidays. now it was an every day thing, even ever hour thing for them, and every week for me. in addition to all the grief over that, we have had some bad news about my grandfather's (mom's dad, and now my only remaining grandparent)health. a few weeks ago before granny died, mom and dad went to visit grandpa in paducah, and he had a heart attack while they were out to dinner. after several tests and some questions about having surgery, they discovered that he has an aortic aneurysm. the doctor said that if were to have surgery, he could pretty much guarantee that he would not make it through the procedure. so basically, grandpa could drop dead at any moment--he is in great health otherwise, but if his heart pumps blood wrong or too hard or if he gets too stressed, it could kill him. my parents didn't tell me about this until last night, but they found out the day that granny died. he came to the funeral and they told me later that they honestly thought he was going to die during the funeral.. at this point everyone is just trying to carry on as usual. my parents went and saw him and went ahead and discussed all the "final things" just to be prepared, but he could go on for a long time still. it's just a matter of time honestly.

okay...let's be positive now. i went to a new dr. in franklin, tn today to look into biologically familiar hormone replacement therapy. the dr. who founded this practice had pretty much exactly what i have--got sick w/mono and just never got better and it progressed into cfs. this type of therapy is not offered very often as it is a natural and more of a holistic-type procedure (as opposed to synthetic hormones most often used and studied by most physicians) and is considered an elective procedure so they don't file insurance (yikes!--the do give you the information to file a claim yourself, and we all know i have experience in that area!). they sent me for a bunch of labs a few weeks ago and then we analyzed the results when i got there. the main thing that they look for when treating cfs/fibro patients is testosterone levels. i never would have thought it before, but mine were super low. apparently they are supposed to be in the 120-140 range for women, and mine were at 21!! so now i have a hormone pellet implanted in my hip and we will see if it helps--i go for a second set of labs in 3 weeks, and then have a follow-up visit if i am not feeling better where they will supplement the implant. i am cautiously optimistic about this. i would love to feel better but i still have some questions that i forgot to ask--most importantly, if this works, will i have to get itconsistently for my health to be better, or will my body start producing testosterone again on it's own? here's hoping that it works!

i have still been baking bunches and will post soon with some of my recipes and some of my recent orders. i also started a cake decorating class! we did our first cake this week and, though i was lazy with mixing the icing colors and only did red & blue, i am proud of how it came out for my first try! the cake recipe that i made was super yum though--i was just bummed out to have to use the class buttercream icing recipe instead of something yummier. my printing needs a lot of work, but it is better than my normal handwriting at least!

also, i have continued to amass a ridiculous amount of cookbooks. most ofthese are from the past 2 months!

i have a shopping problem, we all know, so i have firmly decided that i am not allowed to buy anymore!!!! done. done. done. i am at least using them now, as i have made a rule for myself that i have to bake & cook from cookbooks/cooking magazines that i have rather than looking online. some of the purchases (actually several) were right after granny died as some retail therapy, and i did return a few that i decided weren't worth it. i don't pay full price though--always at discount stores or book clubs--please don't judge me!! *hangs head in shame*

i think that's it for now. i will update later with more baking stuff--so far i have sold 5 pies/tarts and have a few more orders for this month. i have also decided that the price for my sourdough bread will be 3.50/loaf, so let me know if you want some! and stay tuned for more cake decorating adventures!

Friday, July 10, 2009


it has been a very emotionally and physically draining week. on the morning of wednesday, july 8 @ 2:45 am my granny finally stopped fighting her battle with cancer. the past 3 weeks or so every time that i had talked to my parents they said they didn't expect her to last more than a few days. i saw her last thursday, one of the last days that she was still responsive, and was able to say goodbye. we truly expected that she would pass over the weekend. they had already made loose plans for the funeral to be on monday after the fourth of july weekend, but she kept holding on. she slipped into a semi-coma but did not want to give up. she desperately wanted to keep living. until the very end she was spunky and making little faces or rolling her eyes at things my dad would say. she told him that when she got to heaven she would ask God why he didn't let her live longer!

they asked me to sing "Because He lives" at the funeral and i planned to until one of my stupid cfs/fibro flare ups made my throat to swollen, sore, and scratchy. i wish i had been able to do it, but honestly i don't know that i could have held up emotionally. i am not a performer by nature and it's hard for me to separate myself enough to do that. my brother and sis sang though and it was beautiful.

i have been fairly stoic about the whole situation until today. when i walked into the funeral home i just lost it. i haven't cried this hard in a long time. i thought i would handle it better b/c we had so much time to get used to the idea of her passing, and we all knew that it was time. it just hurts. like i've said before, it hurts that she will never meet my children.

it was a lovely celebration of her life though. my dad delivered a beautiful message about her and her relationship with the Lord. hannah and james were able to sing and did so very well. we saw a lot of wonderful family members and friends who came out to support us.

i love you granny and will never forget you!

the weakley kids w/granny several years ago at easter

pictures of the tables and flowers from granny's memorial service.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

happy 4th!

happy fourth everybody! i made a few goodies for our cookout w/hubs' family tonight...

homemade key lime pie

and red white and blue meringues! I got the swiss meringue recipe f/m martha stewart's cookie cookbook and used used her technique for the peppermint swirl brush stripes of red (and blue in my case) gel food coloring on opposite sides of your piping bag to make the stripes. my bag and tip were a bit too small so i just made swirls for most of them. well, when i took them over to my sister-in-law's house this kids saw them and asked "is that toothpaste?" it cracked me up! they kept telling each other that they had eaten toothpaste and it was really good! they even used it in a little skit that they put on for us. needless to say, the meringues were gone by the time we had to go!

the plan was to swim and get butch in the pool again, this time for a video. she was all ready...

the kids swam for a little bit while we were there but it was pretty cold and we decided not to get in. i don't really think she was disappointed. after we ate dinner it started pouring rain. we tried to wait it out for a while before deciding that it was not going to let up enough for us to go light our fireworks, so we should just go ahead and try it in the rain. we sat under the carport while hubs and his sister and brother-in-law took turns running out in the rain with umbrellas and lighting them off. we did about ten before it really started pouring and the lighter stopped working. butch freaked out at first and slipped her leash and we had to chase her around the yard but she finally calmed down and cuddled up w/her "cousins" a few of whom took turns putting pebbles on her back saying that "she needed rocks because she loves them." it was quite adorable.

now she's exhausted and resting her little head.

hope everyone else had a great holiday!