Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Baker's challenge

Courtney of Coco Cooks and Linda of make life sweeter! are co-hosting this month's May challenge.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

To say that I was a little nervous about this challenge is the understatement of the year! Cheesecake I can make...but strudel??? Strudel is the type of dessert that I would see in one of my cookbooks or I would watch some celebrity chef make and think, oh that's nice. It's the type of dessert I would buy but never make! Do you have anything like that? Needless to say I was worried. I kept thinking what have I got myself into, I can barely make pie crust! Brian of course was Mr. confident, don't worry about it he said it will be fine. Alright...whatever! Now mind you the filling does not frighten me, that I can handle. The hostesses did supply a recipe for an apple filling. We had the freedom to choose any type of filling we wanted sweet or savory. I was so nervous about the dough, I decided just to tweak the filling a bit.
We had decided we would make the strudel on Monday. Here goes nothing I thought. I started making the dough in the mixer like the recipe suggested. Brian has used the dough hook on our kitchen aid many times, but I have not. Once I switched to the dough hook, I wasn't quite sure what to look for, so I called him to come take a peek. We let it go a little more, then I gave him the honors of kneading it. I oiled a plate and wrapped it tightly with plastic wrap. I was worried about this because I thought how could it rise? I'm not sure it is supposed to rise as much as rest. We let it "rest" for 90 plus minutes. I cleared off the dining room table and found an old clean sheet and ironed it. Brian floured the sheet thoroughly and placed the dough on it. He started rolling it out, but then started stretching it out. I thought, that looks like fun. We were going around and around the table pulling and stretching the dough. The texture is very elastic and fairly easy to work with. I'm not sure we got it 2 feet wide and 3 feet long, but it was tissue thin. I had made the apple filling a little earlier and Brian laid it out and rolled up the dough. We placed it on a baking stone and baked it for about 30 minutes. If we were to make a filling with fruit again I would place it on a rimmed baking sheet (you don't want the juices spilling). We probably let it sit for about an hour. The strudel looked nice, but I wondered what it would taste like. The dough was very flaky and light, just like I think strudel should be. In fact I would actually say it was good. Neither of us were crazy about the filling, we both thought it needed more sugar. It wasn't bad, just not great. Now Brian had a slice the day after and he actually thought it tasted better the second day.

I'm glad that I did this challenge, and a challenge it was. I guess that's the point, right. I might even try making this again. I think it would be a wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving dessert table. Thanks Courtney and Linda for helping me stretch my baking skills!

Here is the recipe if you are interested in trying it. For the filling I increased the cinnamon to 1/2 tsp. I omitted the walnuts and raisins. I added about 1/2 cup of dried cherries to the apples.

Preparation timeTotal: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes
15-20 min to make dough 30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling 20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough 10 min to fill and roll dough 30 min to bake 30 min to cool
Apple strudel from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbsstrudel dough (recipe below)1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.
3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.
4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.
Strudel dough from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour 1/8 teaspoon salt7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.
Tips- Ingredients are cheap so we would recommend making a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn't come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try;- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyster;- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves;- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Weekend plans

1. Make a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie.

2. Plant veggies in the garden.

3. Make the Daring Baker's challenge (I'm nervous).

4. Take a walk around the Lake.

5. Date Night.

6. Play outside.

7. Watch my handsome husband make Southern fare on the grill.

8. Drink Sweet Tea.

9. Laugh until our bellys hurt.

10. Sit on the Patio and stare at the wonder of it all.

Happy Weekend Friends!!!!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Date Night

Sorry I haven't written about Date Night lately. We have had some wonderful ones these past few weeks! Last week we dined on the porch with our stringed lights on. It was so pretty. I love having our meals out there


The Farmer's market has opened up, and is right where Brian works so he has been stopping the last couple of weeks. It's always fun to come up with recipes using the ingredients he has brought home.

Secret #3

TIME. Let me share with you a string of e-mails that we sent each other a few weeks ago. It went something like this;

Brian: I love you and miss you so much.

Rachel: Me too. We need to stop with all the computer stuff. I'm feeling a little disconnected.

Brian: I agree. I think we need to get a feel for where we both are at. There are some nights when I just need some time with you and other nights were we both just need some veg time. I think we just need to be more intentional.

Yes, the couple that has date night most every week needs to be intentional about spending more time together. Clearly, sitting in the same room on our separate computers is NOT spending time together. We have all heard the whole quantity vs. quality argument, so there is no need to go further with that. We have done a few things to help. Lots of walks in this beautiful spring weather. We watched the movie Not Easily Broken. We both enjoyed it and discussed it afterwards. Compromising how we spend our time, for example "you watch your show, while I blog, then we can hang out." We still have a lot to learn on this journey together! I'm enjoying it though.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bits of encouragement

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27



Monday, May 18, 2009


I'm not a camper. Sure I went camping with my youth group and went to camp and all, but I didn't go "camping" with my family. We certainly traveled...all over the world (literally). It seemed like we were always taking trips in the summer. Long, road trips, with a few other families. I remember driving out to Oregon and visiting Yellowstone on the way back. Florida was another big trip, spending time in Opryland on the way. There were numerous trips to Chicago and Texas with plenty of stops on the way. Then there were always our trips overseas. As a child/young adult I went to India four times with my family. There were always stops in exotic places, like London, Japan, and Malaysia. There was always hope that we would get a complimentary stay at some four star hotel on the way, and there usually was. Camping we did not do though. My parents like to fish so there were some cabin trips, but that was about as rustic as it got.

A few years after Brian and I were married he started requesting some camping gear. A nice tent , a very nice sleeping bag, and a fancy hiking back pack were purchased from L.L. Bean. He went up North one year when I was pregnant with Katie and used the tent and all the gear. Every year he takes a winter trip with some of his friends and the sleeping bag and pack get used. Last year Brian said "why don't we ever go camping?" "We have this really nice tent and I've used it once in all these years." The quest for camping trips begun. The first one last year was on our front porch with Brian and the kids. Then on two different occasions we went to two different State parks. The kids love to camp! Brian seems to really enjoy it. Me, I would much rather go to a Hotel. I love the outdoors and the hiking, but I really like my warm bed and my hot shower. This is the sacrifice I make as a Mother. I know that we are making wonderful memories with the kids. I don't want them to look back on those camping memories without me, because I was a stick in the mud. Besides, I don't do much besides pack a few things for the kids. Brian does all the hard work...the cooking, the cleaning, and the setting up of our site.

This past weekend we went to one of the park's that we went to last year. Brian had reserved a really nice spot for us. The weather was not very cooperative though. It was sunny, but the wind was very cool. He made a wonderfully, warm fire, and grilled brats for us. I roasted marshmallows and we had s'mores for dessert. We took a short hike and headed back to our site. It was time for bed. We cozied up in our sleeping bags and I brought along a few quilts. We had many layers of clothing on included hats! We all brought books and read for awhile. In the middle of the night we realized that the air mattress had a leak in it and we were basically on the ground. A chilly morning arrived and Brian made eggs, hash browns and sausages. I was served in bed. Then we cleaned up and headed for home. These little camping trips are not what I consider vacations...but adventures. My favorite things about camping are the campfires and the s'mores. On the way home I asked Brian so when are we going again? He smiled at me and said let's take a look at the calendar.

Doesn't he look like Brian in this photo?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge

The very first Daring Cooks challenge is Ricotta Gnocchi!

When I joined the Daring Kitchen we discussed the cooks challenges to be a joint effort, so we made this recipe together.
I was super excited about this challenge, because I LOVE gnocchi! I've never gotten around to making it before, so this was the perfect opportunity.

I asked Brian earlier in the week if he could go to Delmonico's and pick up some fresh ricotta. We had planned on making the gnocchi for dinner on Saturday evening, so he would pick it up on Friday after work. Well, I completely forgot about it, so I didn't mention to him how much to pick up. Once he pulled up to the market he wondered if they would even have fresh ricotta. He walked up the stairs and there was a sign FRESH RICOTTA. When he asked for some, he had to guess how much so he said two pounds (we only needed 1 pound).

This recipe needs to be started 24 hours ahead so you can drain the ricotta and get it as dry as possible. I did that but very little water came out. The "dough" did seem rather soft, and it was very delicate. We both shaped the dough, which required a very light tough. They were not the easiest to make, and they didn't turn out the prettiest. The real test is to see if they hold together when boiled. I tried the "two testers" and they held together well. The recipe suggests putting them in the fridge to firm up a bit. We wouldn't do that again, they dough ended up getting sticky and it wasn't easy getting them off the paper. Brian plopped them into the boiling water, they stayed together for the most part. If we would make them again I would have the water boiling, but not at a rapid boil. It is easier on them.

I decided on making a sauce for Lidia's Italian- American Cookbook. My In-laws gave me this cookbook a number of years ago one Christmas, and it is one of my favorites! I loove Lidia!! Anyways the sauce I made was a Contessa sauce. It was very rich, and very good. This is the type of sauce you make once a year. It had cream, butter, basil, pine nuts, prosciutto. Now you know why you make it once a year.
The gnocchi was very light and quite good. The kids really liked it and so did Brian and I. I'm not sure if I would make this again, it was good, but didn't have that WOW factor for me.
I loved that this challenge made me try a new ingredient, fresh ricotta. We had quite a bit extra, so we put some on homemade pizza with roasted tomatoes and fresh basil. We added honey to it and used it as a dip for fruit.
Thanks Lis and Ivonne for the challenge! We enjoyed it and had fun!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Alfred, we will take our evening meal on the front porch

When we were looking to purchase our home, Brian was really hoping for a front porch. I thought it would be fine, but it was not a priority. One Sunday afternoon we happened upon a little house and we knew it would be perfect. That little house just happened to have a nice size porch, and soon became our home.

The front porch doesn't get much use during the winter season, but the rest of the year there is much activity out there. We have parties out there, friends join us for dinner, the kids play rain or shine, painting, drawing, and of course dining.

We have had most of our evening meals out there these past few weeks. When I announced that we would be eating out on the front porch as much as possible my little family was quite excited. "Alfred" isn't ususally summond. It ususally goes something like this on my way home from school with Ian. "Mom, it's a really nice day we should eat on the porch." "Great idea, sweetie!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Book club (meeting 2)

Friday was our second Book club meeting. We meet seasonally...this was our spring meeting. Liza hosted at her home. In honor of Cinco De Mayo we decided on a Mexican theme for the menu.


Veggie Enchiladas

Guacamole, salsa, chips

Beans and rice

Six layer dip and chips

Fruity margaritas


Did I mention that this is a book club and not a cooking club???? YUM!!! One of the aspects of our book club that I love is that we are very relaxed. We do take time to talk business and discuss the book, but the majority of time is letting our hair down and having fun together. Yes, this is a book club and the whole point of meeting is to encourage one another to read and discuss that read together. Honestly though, none of us really needs encouragement to read. Clearly all of these ladies spend a good amount of time perusing their local libraries/bookstores. We are all really different but we get along well. One friend has a daughter graduating from high school this spring and one friend's first born is turning 1. Talk about different life stages! It is so fun just to get together and LAUGH!!! Well, enough about group dynamics.
Jen chose this season's book Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. I think we all liked this book for the most part. We all agreed that it was a very sad story, but enlightening. The story takes place in Paris, France in July of 1942. The French police are arresting Jewish families. This particular story is about a ten year old girl and what her family goes through. I probably would not have picked up this book on my own, but I'm glad that I read it.The characters are fictitious, but the events are not. Needless to say we are reading something more lighthearted for meeting three.

I decided to get a little crafty and make each of the girls a book mark. I had fun putting them together! Thanks girls for the laughs, the food, the fun, and of course the good reading!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

From my heart to yours. Have a wonderful day!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wanna play hopscotch?

I know she's my daughter, but she is a beautiful girl isn't she?

Her spirit is even more stunning.

Then there is this little guy. He has been so snuggly and sweet lately. Saying things like "I love you so much mom." The other day while we were getting ready for school out of the blue he said "You're the best mom." What is he up to anyway...

I'm gonna get you Katie!!! Moooom, Ian's gonna squirt me!!!!!!!!! IAN!!!!!!!!

That's right sweetie...water the plants.

I know you know how I feel about these two, but I just love my children!



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bits of encouragement

"A cheerful heart is good medicine." Proverbs 17:22 a

Monday, May 4, 2009

Someone's trash is my treasure

A few weeks ago I had gotten the children off to school and was on my way into work. I was enjoying the beauty around me and out of the corner of my eye I spotted what looked like a chair on the side of the road. I wasn't far from campus, but decided to keep going. Once I arrived, I decided I would regret it if I didn't at least take a closer look. I turned around and headed back towards the lonely chair. As I pulled up I noticed an older lady in the driveway. I walked towards her and asked her if she was getting rid of the chair and if so could I please have it. She said please take it, so I did. I haven't decided quite what I am going to do with it yet but it is sitting on the front porch for now...basking in it's new home.


Take a walk with us around our little neighborhood

Have a beautiful day!



Friday, May 1, 2009

Weekend to do list

1. Date Night
2. Spring clean
3. Bake a chemistry cake (Katie's science project).
4. Watch BOLT with the kids.

5. Have fun all weekend long!!!!

Have a GREAT weekend friends!

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