Oh yeah, baking! Or… frying, as the case may be.

Gulab Jamun

Our first foray into making dessert for the week has been one of my choices, Gulab Jamun. Or, as my “Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking” book calls them, “doughnut rounds in rose syrup.” I think I prefer the proper name… It sounds less like fried hush puppies in syrup.

To begin with, the recipe and instructions.

gulab jamun

Ignore my poor handwriting.

Yeah, I’m that lazy. I didn’t even scan that shit in. Phone camera, baby!

So, as you can tell from the handwritten notes, things didn’t quite go to plan. To begin with, we made a double batch which necessitated an emergency run to the store for more dry milk. We were about a quarter cup shy. So, while the hubs made the run, I started on the syrup. It boiled, but I think it should have maybe boiled for a minute or so before I followed the recipe’s order to turn it down to medium.

Also, we used rose water instead of rose essence, because that’s what Wegmans had. I am not hunting through Baltimore and DC for rose essence. The recipe said to use 1 tsp rose water per ½ tsp of essence, but I just used ½ tsp of the rose water… because I didn’t notice that instruction (on the picture page!) until after everything was done.

Hubs got back with more milk, a different brand and texture, but whatevs, and we mixed up the dough. Dry. Crumbly. Impossibly tiny balls. A single batch makes twelve. I managed twelve with a double batch, then divided each shooter marble-sized ball into normal marble-sized balls.

I also didn’t have quite enough veg oil, so in went a few tbsp of cooking veg lard. Good ol’ Crisco.

crisco

No, I didn’t paint the kitchen avocado, despite my use of Crisco…

I was delighted to discover that they puff during frying, and puff further while soaking up the “essence” syrup for three hours. By the time all was said and done we had delicious Gulab Jamun the size of ping pong balls in golden rose scented syrup. We’ve kept ourselves to three per night to keep from overdoing them, and with a night out last night, we just might make it all the way to Friday! Maybe I’ll actually make Indian food on Friday for our last night of this dessert.

Mmm… Tikka masala.

Et voila! Our Gulab Jamun.

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Oh, yeah. We made those! Go make your own!

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So, I’m still here…

Holy crap. A year. It’s been a year since I posted and it’s amazing how much has changed.

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This motivational shit ain’t how it went down.

So, a month after my last post I discovered I was WITH CHILD! I’m barely bouncing back from the foot issue and suddenly I’m pregnant. So long, dreams of running 5k. So long, dreams of work. So long, staying awake! I didn’t suffer the sitcom-esque morning sickness that I know many women are afflicted with, but man was I tired. I slept like a teenage boy on summer vacation. So much sleep.

Compounding the discovery of my impending spawn was the decision to purchase a home. We literally closed on the house the week we found out, and suddenly what seemed like a logical next step for housing became ADULT STUFF. The stuff grown ups do. House, baby, property taxes, escrow!! All those words you associate with mom jeans and ties for father’s day…

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Who are these people? Why are they so happy? Why are they so white? Is someone forcing them to wear pastels? The longer I look at them, the more I’m sure there’s someone off camera forcing them to smile at gunpoint…

Now, a year after my intended list (so much for that shit), I live in my own home. I have a three month old sleeping in his bassinet as I enjoy a morning cup of decaf (darn boob juice) and bake some banana bread for breakfast while listening to jazz. And oh, the posts that are coming.

On your marks.

Get set.

BAKE!

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This show is just the best. Seriously. Mary Berry is a fucking treasure and Paul Hollywood haunts my bread…

No, I’m not in the tent. First off, I’m American. Secondly, the commute each weekend would kill me! But, I am engaging in my own ten week baking challenge (with other stuff thrown in here and there.

The hubs and I have each chosen five dessert recipes that we will make for the coming week. Interspersed with these challenging sweets, I will be baking other recipes and documenting their success, challenge level and possible failures here. Woot! So, pull out your treadmills, dust off your ellipticals and re-lace your gym shoes. It’s baking time.

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You didn’t really think you’d escape a picture of my spawn, did you? BASK IN THE ADORABLE!

 

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It LIIIIIIVVVEEESSSSS!!!!

BOOM BABY!!

BOOM BABY!!

So, I’ve been gone for a long, long while. After healing from my broken finger and working back up to my 5k running skills, we got PCSd by the Navy! Again! I hope you can understand and forgive me. Posts will begin again soon! Prepare for a list!

Holy shit a list this is the best day ever oh my god oh my god oh my god!!!

Holy shit a list this is the best day ever oh my god oh my god oh my god!!!

First, though, I must tell the tale of the shit-storm that was Fall of 2014. Dun-dun-duuun!! They sent us right back to the same place we were before going to CA, but we had sold our house so now we’re renting a condo. We had less than 30 days to pack, find a place to live and get across the country. On the way, I am sad to report, Miss Kitty passed away.

Rest in peace, Miss Kitty.

Rest in peace, Miss Kitty.

The stress of it all caused my back to lock up. The doctor (once we got here) put me in physical therapy, but the office was at the hospital which required close to three hours of driving to and from for 45 minutes of stretches. Fuck that noise. Yoga was working for me and I could finally get my underwear on by bending over again. Seriously. I couldn’t put on my panties without laying in the fetal position. Still, I was on the mend and making my way back into the gym. Then, disaster struck again.

Taking out the trash one morning, I stubbed my right toe, lunged forward to brace myself and…. felt the arch pop and give away. Part of my foot that has never touched the ground felt the cold cement. I couldn’t put weight on it. I had sprained my mother fucking arch.

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This was right before Halloween. It is now just past St. Patty’s Day and while I can walk now, I still can’t run or play volleyball. Advil is  never less than three feet away. I still have Flexeril (for my back) that I need to take some nights just to get some rest. I now weigh about ten pounds more than I have ever weighed before – even when I gained my “freshman 15.”

Still, I can go to the gym again. I have lost four pounds so far and can go five miles on the stationary bike. Work is still a bit of a pipe dream, but a clean house is totally within my grasp. And now that we’ve shaved Boyo, once I vacuum I’m fairly certain I can keep this ridonc cream carpet clean.

And with that… peace and I’m out

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Summer is coming!

So…

How are you?

How’ve you been?

Been a while, huh?

I’d love to say my absence was due to something awesome like fighting space nazis on the moon, but the truth is that I am boring and turned into a couch potato. On the upside, I maxed the leveling for my character in Mass Effect on 1 and 2, and am now working on 3.

Okay, so stuff did happen. I moved out of MD and am now living in CA. Yay! We’re too far north for truly hot beach weather, but it is pretty here when the fog isn’t obscuring my view of the ocean. Plus, wild turkeys everywhere.

I broke my ring finger in November, but it’s healing well. I can’t play volleyball again until July or August, but that just means I have time to focus on losing weight. I’ve seriously gained like 15 lbs since I last blogged. Yuck.

To help with the weight loss and strength/muscle gain, I’ve been doing strength training at the gym and running with the hubby, though I’m still only at 3k. Don’t worry. 5k isn’t far off. I also decided to start swimming again. I haven’t done that with any regularity since I was a teenager. I don’t feel comfortable rocking a 2-piece, though, so I bought a one piece and it’s fab!

Esther Williams!

Esther Williams!

It’s one of those rare finds that was totally worth the money. My biggest problem with swimsuits is the fit. My girls require a bit of support, and my upper torso doesn’t quite match my hips (which are definitely Italian childbearing hips), but this beauty works wonderfully! It’s also a quality make, so I don’t have to worry about busting a seam for the next couple of months as I work the flab off my butt (not pictured here).

So as soon as Aunt Flo heads back to Reno I’m heading to the pool!

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Flepic Pail of Doughm!!

Mediterranean Black Olive Bread

Ingredients (Original recipe makes 1 - round loaf)
3 cups bread flour  
                    2 teaspoons active dry yeast 
2 tablespoons white sugar          1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup chopped black olives       3 tablespoons olive oil 
1 1/4 cups warm water              1 tablespoon cornmeal

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, yeast, sugar, salt, black olives, olive oil, and water.

2. Turn out dough onto a floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside, and let rise about 45 minutes, until it doubles in size. Punch down. Knead well again, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Let rise for about 30 minutes, until it doubles in size.

3. Round the dough on kneading board. Place upside down in a bowl lined with a lint-free, well floured towel. Let rise until double in size.

4. While the bread is rising for the third time, put a pan of water in the bottom of theoven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C).

5. Gently turn loaf out onto a sheet pan that has been lightly oiled and dusted with cornmeal.

6. Bake loaf at 500 degrees F (260 degrees C) for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake for 30 more minutes, or until done.

Again I’m all bakey. It seems that lately I’ve been on a massive kitchen kick, and I can’t help feeling it’s related to the fact that I finally cleaned all the random crap off the table. I can sit at it, the curtains are tied back to let the sun in and I can watch all the old people that live in the park drive by on their way to work.

So today we’re trying a bread from scratch that I’ve been eyeballing for a while. Olive bread. Yum! I buy olives every year for Christmas dinner (along with a couple of pounds worth of cold cuts and cheeses) because fuck turkey at Christmas. That ain’t how the Bernasconi clan rolls. Speaking of, I used croissants rather than sandwich rolls this year and it was delicious!

Back to the bread – I bought my usual Sicilian spiced and oil cured olives in the smallest quantities possible because I married a viking who fails to appreciate the genius of olives. This year, however, I bought the olives at the local Dutch market and apparently the Amish believe “oil cured” means “salt lick substitute.” Boy howdy! So those went back in the fridge and have just been staring at me for the last two weeks. Then I stumbled across an olive bread recipe and it was a miracle!

It’s on the first of three rises/raises/risings (DARK KNIGHT!) so I have no idea how it will taste. I do know that my next attempt at this bread (since I have half a thing of olives still) will include less water and/or oil. That stuff never became properly elastic during the kneading the way bread dough usually gets and I’m a tad concerned that it’s going to affect the eventual outcome of the bread. I guess we’ll know in a couple of hours.

EDIT: I’m sorry to report that my bread has failed. It never rose. I’m gonna bake it anyway because the oven has already preheated, but yeah… Never fear. Tomorrow we’re trying again with less oil and water. Yay!

EDIT (Part 2): Umm… It actually baked up okay. It’s pretty good as the bread for a prosciutto and provolone sandwich with mayo. Nom.

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It’s Not Quite What It’s All About…

Those who know me may or may not be aware that I worship at the altar of Nigella. She is my idol and (as Eric von Zipper says) my ideal. She cooks and bakes to picturesque picture perfect perfection – okay, alliteration failed me – and it always looks like something you’re meant to eat. And she does. And I want to… a lot.

The other day I watched a few hours worth of The Almighty N on youtube and got all bakey. So I made a Mediterranean herb and cheese bread from a bread machine mix. Only I’m an epic failure with those death machines so I did it all by hand. It was a little chewier in the center than I would have preferred – a little dense – but the hubbs loved it and we ate the whole thing with oil and balsamic vinegar. Yay!

For New Year’s we made a Russian chocolate cake (apparently a traditional thing there) from scratch. He loved it even though the cake was a bit dense and dry (totally my bad on poorly scooping flour) and the rum wash didn’t quite come through the flavor of the ganache. I love that word. Ganache. All this baking and cooking and talk of food makes me want to get even more bakey so I’m trying a recipe that’s deceptively difficult.

Hokey Pokey. Honeycomb. Diabetes in a tin. That’s what I’m working on right now. You know what they say – third time’s a charm!

We’ll see.

Batch one was awful. The instructions call for 1 ½ tsp of baking soda. I accidentally grabbed a ½ tbsp. Whoops.

Batch two tasted better but was flat and chewy and still a tad too carpet powdery. Blech.

Batch three is cooling now and I’m praying my tiny heart out – oop. Nope. Flat and chewy again.

The whole idea of this snack/desert thing is that it’s supposed to set all fluffy and hard and then you smack the crap out of it with a hammer to make hard little chunks of biteable yummy. I can’t tell what I’m doing wrong but I’m doing it WAY wrong because I keep ending up with chewy taffy-like stuff. While I’m sure someone somewhere could do something with this stuff I’m unfortunately not that talented and I’ve got a hubby on a diet. WAH!! Anywhoo… there are no pictures of this baking failure, but I will embed what should have happened a’la Nigella.

All hail Nigella!

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Couch to 5K

For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a runner. I’m not a huge fan of running, but since I spend a majority of my time home alone I realized I needed some form of exercise.

I was playing pickup volleyball for a while at a gym north of my town, but because of the time it started and the cost to play it was rather prohibitive. Six bucks to play, an hour there, starting at six in the evening and driving home between nine and ten at night… Yeah, rough.

If I fail to get some exercise, the penalty is Inui juice.

Anywhoo… I ran across a program called Couch to 5K. It starts you off slow and eventually works you up to running a 5k (just over three miles). There’s the original C25K program and then the podcast 5K101 with music and the dj cheering you on and announcing intervals for you. Week one of the C25K starts you with a five minute walk to warm you up and then intervals of running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds. This goes on twenty minutes then use the walk as a cooldown. Week one of the 5k101 program is roughly week three or four of the C25K program.

Ryan has been working on the first week with me, but with the hurricane my schedule was a bit off. As a result, I’ll be redoing week one, but since Ryan goes back to work on Monday I’ve realized there’s no way I’ll be able to run and watch a clock at the same time. To help myself until I get up to the 5K101 week one, I created my own weeks one through three with countdowns to listen to on my run.

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

If anyone’s interested, I’ve posted them here. I’m not sure if downloading is possible, but if not then let me know and I’ll email them to you.

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