Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lemon Mint Curd and June's LOL Food Blogger Posts

I am so sure every food blogger who has made or attempted to make macarons has a follow up post at some point showcasing either curd or ice cream. The egg yolks tend to pile up, especially if you need to (ahem) turn out more than one batch (read: have a few failures).

So here is the result of one of my predictable solutions. I've wanted to try making curd for awhile now. I made Alton Brown's Lemon Curd recipe and threw in a handful of fresh mint.

 Wow. It came out sensational.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pink Sparkly Twinkies for Gay Pride

Most of my gay friends are way past Twinkdom, and most of them are homebodies with kids now, but who doesn't still enjoy looking at a nice fresh twinkie?

I am very excited to once again be in NYC for Gay Pride weekend this year.  Last year Wendy and I dressed up with Beauty Pageant style banners that said, The Real Fag Hags of New York.

We had a blast, at the parade, brunch, a party and then boarded the Sea Tea  for a big gay disco cruise around Manhattan with the amazing Robbie Leslie spinning ( sighing now... remembering those Studio 54 days.)  I lost my wedding ring on that cruise last year.  Covered in sweat and partner dancing with a hot mess of a queen, it went flying off my hand, never to be found again.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thriller Cookies and My Weekly Date with Zombies

When I was young and overly ambitious, I was serious about achieving the items on my life's wish list:

1) Work on Broadway - Check. Over 40 shows.

2) Work in Television - Check. Two Emmy nominations.

3) Travel to distant and exotic lands - Check, over 53 countries.  Oh, the incredible places I've been above and below water!

Not once, ever, did I envision myself living in a small German village and recruited by a sister in law to choreograph a Thriller dance for 4th grade parents for an end of school year parent performance.

Not once.

But here I am. I did.

And it was fun.

When I informed Dr. B via Skype about my latest adventure, he howled with laughter. Seriously. Rolled on the floor. He gets endless amusement from my fish out of water situations and predicaments.

He was not laughing at my ability to do this but rather the incongruity of it all. I do have some experience. With the exception of the last several years, I have been dancing all my life. Up until I moved to Germany I took up to six ballet classes a week in LA with my all time favorite teacher - Hi Elspeth!

Ballet is where I used to find my solace. Everything bad in my life would just melt away by the second grand plie. Safe and sound, happy, Centered and completely in control.

I was lucky enough to take master classes and study Jazz, Modern and Tap with some incredible teachers in NYC in my 12 years of living there. I also danced my way through school, ballet camp every summer and all the way through college.

Sadly, I haven't been able to get it together to get to class here in Germany. When I first moved here for work, I was living in Munich, working 4 days a week in Cologne and traveling to other cities on location every week as well. Just too busy working and traveling. When I did try, I never seemed to connect with the teacher or the class.

Now that I have the time, it's almost impossible to find a good class out here in the sticks.

So Grade School Parent Recital Thriller it was. Liza Minelli in Stepping Out, here I come.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Salted Peanut Cookies for Doppelkopf Card Night

It's my husband's turn to host the guys to play doppelkopf (Doublehead), a card game popular in this part of Germany. This is a very long night as they often play until the wee hours of the morning.

What's special about this group is they have been playing together since they were 16.


That's 34 years people.

Playing Doppelkopf

They've had a few years of breaks in between but are back at it now four times a year.

One member of the group, Father Klaus is more like the elder statesman of the group. He was their young rock-n-roll style priest/youth leader when they were all teens. Father Klaus seriously used to freak out their conservative Catholic parents with his long hair, his energy and modern ideas. In the summer months, he used to take them away on retreats to the Alps where they would do outdoor activities and build things, like outdoor alters.

Father Klaus now spends half his time in Burundi helping the poor. So as far as I am concerned he's still rock and roll and way cooler that that even. The truth is, they all play for money but everything at the end of the evening is turned over to the good Father for his humanitarian efforts in Africa.

Father Klaus then:

Father Klaus now:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pioneer Woman's Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares and Crying Over Sweet Condensed Milk

You have to know how much I wanted to make these to do what I did to make them.  I pulled this recipe off of her site several months ago.  Since then, I have been taunted by several food bloggers posts about them, how much they loved them, how easy they were to make....

I was holding out.  When I finally broke down and did make them, I used up my entire store of sweetened condensed milk.  Those of you expat cooks/bakers understand how we love honor and cherish and hold close those hard to get American food stuffs.

My tubes of SCM I found last December in Julius Meinl's at their flagship store in Vienna..

That's right people, I had to go to a gourmet store in another country, pay 4 Euro a tube for 6 ounces of sweetened condensed milk.  So I did what any self respecting expat/frustrated baker would do....

I bought every tube they had.

You USAers who freely wheel your shopping carts up and down miles of supermarket aisles overflowing with giant size, reasonably priced goods...  Yeah you people, who carefreely throw can after can of sweet condensed milk in your carts can all mock me now.

Sorry about that momentary relapse into shopping and product envy..

Monday, June 14, 2010

Salted Caramel Blueberry Filled Cupcakes With Caramel and Blueberry Buttercream

This month's Cupcake Hero challenge is hosted by Kitchen Koala who asked cupcake fanatics to create a cupcake with a blueberry flavor. I was curious to try filling cupcakes for the first time. Now I had a good excuse.

There are thousands of amazing cupcake recipes out there and gadzillions with blueberries. I had a hard time thinking up something a little different. My first idea was to make a blueberry girl Willy Wonka cupcake with fondant, etc.  Then I had a talk with myself about this compulsion I have to design and create everything over the top.  It doesn't usually work, this talk.  But this time it did. I am trying to practice restraint in this area, specifically my addiction to over embellishing baked goods.

So I thought about my favorite flavors and went with pairing blueberry with caramel. I will eat caramel anything. It's one of my "stranded on a desert island" flavors. Keep chocolate. Pass the caramel please.

Salted Caramel and blueberry. Not very original and not quite as visually dramatic as my blueberry girl idea, but they taste day'm good.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Quilt Cake

My sister in law is definitely superwoman.  Four kids with crazy schedules, a (wonderful) husband, a part time job, a house always breaming with extended family and a yard full of animals that are a full time job themselves.  She balances it all so well. Makes it look easy even.  Oh, and did I mention she is also creative?  She makes so many beautiful things for her home, to wear and to eat.

She is especially talented at quilting.  I'm really impressed by this skill of hers because I can barely thread a needle.   Her walls are covered with things like this...

and this...

and these:

And these:

She has also made quilts for each of her daughters.

I think these are the most beautiful of all because of the gesture in itself.

What a lovely gift to pass on to someone you love.  A thing of beauty that brings comfort as well.

So for her birthday I decided to make her a quilt. No, not a real one. That would take me at least 10 years with my (lack of) sewing skills. But I can definitely try to make one out of sugar...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World Oceans Day - BP This One's For You

Today is World Oceans Day.  My plan was to celebrate by making several different colorful ocean creature cookies. I set aside a few hours for frosting, decorating and embellishing dolphins, sharks, octopi, manta rays, parrot fish, whales and eels. My plan was to create a cute, fanciful and festive post as well as an informational one. I was going to include interesting facts about each creature and throw in an ocean conservation helpful hint or two.

But now that it's here, all I can think about is this horrible oil slick, those tragic pictures of oil covered animals washing up on the beaches and the grim faces of people whose livelihoods have been destroyed. My anger trashed my previous post plans.

I believe most scuba divers have a deeply (excuse the pun) personal relationship with the sea. For those of you who have never taken the plunge, there are really no words to describe what it's like - the sensation of flying over mountains, the colors, the amazing creatures from the microscopic to the big pelagics, the feeling of peace and humility. It's more than a sport. It's a religion. I wholeheartedly believe if more people were scuba divers, the oceans would be healthier. You learn a respect and awe observing underwater you can't fully comprehend on land and emerge fiercely protective of the ocean and deeply thankful for all it has given to you.

The ocean is not a grocery store. It's not a garbage pail either.

But we just can't stop.

90% of the big fish in the ocean are gone. We kill 100 million sharks a year in a brutal way, slicing off their fins and throwing them back in the ocean to slowly drown. (In comparison, sharks kill roughly 25 humans a year. Who should be afraid of who here?) We dump all kinds of chemicals and pharmaceuticals in the oceans.  Don't EVEN get me started on the garbage patch. We cause pods of whales to beach themselves by conducting underwater sonar tests that damage them and throw off their inate navigational abilities. We still hunt whales and dolphins, even with all the amazing knowledge we have about them. And most egregiously, we let big oil companies with no real concrete or effective disaster plan drill in the oceans putting humans and animals at risk and jeopardizing the natural environment.

What right to we have to treat the ocean and it's creatures this way?

The truth is we don't deserve the oceans until we learn to take care of them properly.

By then, it will probably be too late.

So my rage over this oil spill obliterated my ability to create beautiful, colorful, happy sea creature cookies. They will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Komodo Drag-carons with Strawberry Arrack Jelly

The Mactweets challenge this month was to create a macaroon inspired by a favorite wild animal.  This is right up my alley.  I have been in love with exotic creatures my whole life.  To come up with an idea for my wild animal macaron, it was with pleasure I mentally revisited my animal encounters and jungle adventures throughout the years. And now I am going to subject you to some of it...

Me in a shark cage
Isla Guadaloupe, Mexico

Great Whites are probably my all time favorite wild animal. As an avid traveler, scuba diver and nature lover most of my vacations are booked around observing wildlife in their natural habitats. My most thrilling encounter to date was being surrounded by five Great White Sharks off Isla Guadaloupe in Mexico. However, since there was no mention of the sea in this challenge I will save that story about Bite Head, Patches, Salsa and her friends and my other numerous sea life encounters for other posts.