How (Not) To Diet [Christmas Edition]


Dieting is your body’s natural inclination to stay slender. We all try to fight it. The struggle is real.

But why diet? It’s not bikini weather. There are scarves and big coats and loose pants out there for a reason.

It’s time to follow Santa’s example. Stop dieting. Here’s how.

Continue Reading 

White Chocolate Bon-bons

Feel free to eat the cream, if you want.

Honestly, I wanted to make the red velvet cupcakes again. But I got some. . . Kindly dismissive answers from my dad.

He groaned aloud. “Oh please don’t.”

He was acting like I was making them for him. They’d actually be for my girls’ bible study group, but for whatever reason, he pleaded with me to spare those poor girls the privilege of seeing the Lord face-to-face before their time.

Fine. So I made my famous white chocolate bon-bons. . I got myself into a good little system too.

There are 36 cookies in a package of Oreos. As you know if you’ve read Bravery, Optimism, and Chocolate, I use a package of Oreos for this recipe. That’s the original recipe. With the white chocolate variation of the recipe I’ve made (ha, I love saying that, makes me feel so smart), I use vanilla cookies. The cheap ones. Hehe.

Funny thing about cheap cookies, you get a lot of them. So I counted out 36 to scrape the cream out of. Oh, also, as usual, take your package of cream cheese out before hand so it thaws on the counter. Ha, oh yeah, I guess I should give you the ingredients, huh?

1 Package of Oreos
1 Package of cream cheese
Meltable chocolate.

I know. Oh so hard.

Once you’ve scraped them of the cream, put them in a blender and crush them up real fine. You might have to do this periodically with little batches of cookies, dumping each batch of crumbs in your bowl at a time.

Something I’ve noticed about cheapo cookies (or maybe it’s just the vanilla ones, I don’t know) is that they’re not as moist as Oreos. Keep that in mind when you start mixing the crumbs with the cream cheese. I left out about seven-ish cookies from the 36 count. You don’t want your bon-bons to be crumbly or they won’t hold together. But at the same time, you want the inside of the bon-bons to taste like the cookie and not like cream cheese.

When it comes to combining the cream cheese and crumbs, patience is key. But if it looks like there’s chunks of crumb-coated cheese just dancing around your bowl, laughing at you, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Take off your rings, and squish everything into one big mass, then go over it with your mixer again. You can do this a few times, or even smash the big chunks with a spoon. The final goal is for it all to be the same color and consistency.

Once you’ve gotten to that stage, taste it. If it tastes like cream cheese or needs to be sweeter, add more crumbs and kneed it in with your hands until it’s incorporated. Then taste it again. Not really rocket science. X-) Just be careful, you’ll start eating more than you’re actually making into bon-bons.

Start melting your white chocolate, stirring as much as you can. When it’s ready, or while you’re waiting between stirring  (be careful that the chocolate doesn’t burn), start making little balls. I make mine to be about the diameter of a quarter. But whatever floats your boat. Just don’t be crazy. You want people to come back for more, not get one stuck in their throat or something. Make it about two bites big enough.

Picture I took of them on the way to the bible study.

This is a great recipe for kids, by the way. If they want to help you in the kitchen, scrapping cookies or making little balls.

You finish by dipping the balls in the chocolate and placing them on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. If I’m making bon-bons for events, I like to freeze them before hand. They taste better cold. But if anything, freezing them will simply keep them from melting before the event.

You can also sprinkle them with colored sugar crystals for a little bitty crunch. Or decorate them however you like, even with left over crumbs.

See? Easy as. . well, not pie. .

Georgetown’s Purple Velvet cupcakes

So, I made the Georgetown cupcakes the other day. . .

Haha gosh, yeah. That’s the best I can do for an opening line, short as it may be.

Okay, so. First of all, I followed the recipe. . For the most part.
The recipe starts with you sifting together the flour and salt. Which for me just means messy kitchen. Does it happen with anyone else that more flour ends up on them than in the bowl or am I just special?

It might have something to do with the fact that I’ve been using what I think is a strainer as opposed to a sifter actually. That could possibly be my main problem. I just dump everything in the sifter and shake, or toss it up and down like I’m some professional making an omelet (but then, I have so much fun doing that, it gets a little crazy and then there’s more of a mess). And it was my bowls’ fault for being too small.

Next, about creaming the butter and sugar, you’ve probably heard this before, but let the butter sit out for a while to soften. . I hate butter. But then I love butter. (Oh gosh, I hope you’ve read on after the “hate” sentence. I really don’t want nasty butter-haters-must-gorge picketers at my door.) It’s just that if the butter is too cold, it seems like it – not only won’t cream – but refuses to cream. It just cuts itself in chunks that roll around your bowl, laughing at you, until you smash them with a spoon like some sort of butter-murdering psychopath. . And can you tell I’m watching The Adams Family while I’m writing this? Yikes.

You should’ve seen the floor

Whisking the vanilla, red food coloring, and cocoa powder makes another mess if you’re not paying attention, which seems to be one of my special skills in life. Then, I realized I didn’t have enough food coloring! Red Velvet cupcakes call for four TABLESPOONS of red food coloring. I always get the little box that comes with these mini dwarf-like drop-bottle things in four different colors. It’s kind of a staple, so I never thought in my grocery shopping that I’d need it. . Turns out, one of those little bottles is like the equivalent of half a tablespoon. And the random mixture I was making in my bowl just looked so dry, I felt like I needed to add something else. Red and yellow/green/or blue? Red and blue sounded so perfect. I thought it was pretty funny. Purple Velvet cupcakes, ha-ha. So that’s what I did.

I got a little tinge of excitement while mixing it. I really thought I was so clever, even the batter looked purple. Then, I used my mini ice-cream scoop (don’t ask me how I got a mini one, I don’t know) and filled a twelve cupcake tin, with more than enough left over. It was strange. The recipe said it made twelve cupcakes, but I made an exact twenty-four. Oh well, I stuck them both in the oven. One on the top rack, one on the bottom to experiment with the heat distribution.

It looked more purple in real life

I was washing dishes when the timer rang, so that could’ve been a reason why they failed. Maybe they just cooked too long. Although, I did check them the first time and they weren’t cooked all the way. At least the top one wasn’t, I forgot to check the bottom one, but figured that one would cook even slower than the top. I might’ve left them in two or three minutes after the timer rang, just to finish a dish and dry my hands.

While they were cooling , I started on the cream cheese frosting. This, I was really excited about. Because at Georgetown cupcake they PILE the frosting on. And in my opinion, unless it’s Devil’s food cake, too much frosting is too much. Especially on a cupcake, it gets all up in your nose and stuff. But their customers frequently buy and eat their cupcakes, frosting and all. So there had to be something special about it.

I thought ahead about leaving the butter out this time, so that didn’t give me trouble. No. It was the four cups of the confectioners sugar that did it.

Are you stinkin’ kidding me. I couldn’t believe I didn’t have enough powder sugar too. But I got optimistic, finding two open packages of in the pantry (another random staple in my house). Luckily, out of the first box came just about a cup. The second one was a bag. I got about a cup out of that too and was feeling pretty good about myself until remembering I was still two cups short. . .

Sugar 101:

Confectioners sugar is, in other words, powdered sugar, and as the name suggests, it’s powdery light and will incorporate nicely into a frosting, adding sweetness without any crunchy sugar crystals getting in the way. Granulated sugar that you put in your coffee has sugar granules. And then there’s super-fine/castor sugar, which is in between the two in fine-ness and is used for meringues and such. Hence, I split hairs and went for superfine, adding only one cup of that, thinking since the crystals are obviously bigger than powder, they must be sweeter as well?

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I can tell you, my frosting certainly had some crunch to it.

If you try real hard, you can kind of see purple. . 

When my cupcakes came out, I focused on them for a good thirty seconds, trying to find any hint of purple in them. They were looking pretty brown. I was disappointed. But on one, I did see a hint of purple swirl along the top. Elated, I picked a cupcake and tasted it. Red velvet has always seemed like this kind of sweet, noncommittally chocolate taste to me, so I think I nailed that area. Otherwise, it was pretty dense.

If you’ve seen Charlie’s Angels with Cameron Diaz, I’d say that my cupcake wasn’t exactly a Chinese fighting muffin, but it was definitely thinking about it. It just wasn’t moist or fluffy. It kind of swallowed like a dry lump sliding down your throat until it thumped at the bottom. This is when I started thinking that I maybe left them in too long.

My final hope was that the frosting would perk them up a bit. And I guess for the most part it did, but then I started running out of it toward the end. But yeah. . I made these Wednesday and there’s still about ten sitting there, like their non-purple depressed selves. Guess what’s for breakfast?

I obviously did something horribly wrong. Or, it’s an advertising trick “you obviously can’t make these delicious cupcakes at home, so buy them here!” But I’m probably just skeptical.

I’ll try again, after buying coloring and powder sugar. . . Another thing I used was a hand mixer, since I don’t have one that stands alone. The recipe said I could, but I can’t help but wonder if that happens to make any difference.

Anyway. Even though they weren’t gaggingly awful, they were still dry, dense cupcakes with crunchy icing. . Fail.

P.S. For a quick story.

We had some recent work done on my house. And the guy was so nice and took his time. So, when my mom entered the house after checking the work and seeing him off, she smiled at me.

“Oh Rebekah, I gave him a cupcake.”

I just kind of stared at her with a smile frozen on my face, forgetting to breath out. “One of my cupcakes?”

“Yeah! . . He was so touched.”

“Those cupcakes are disgusting!” I blurted, almost panicking.

Okay. Don’t get me wrong. The guy was super nice and deserved a cupcake and it was sweet of my mom to do it. And she was insisting they weren’t that bad. (She did eat a couple too. Not in the same sitting.) And I know they weren’t THAT bad. I just felt like he definitely deserved a better cupcake, and I was also too busy voicing my opinion to hear her say anything otherwise.

“He’s going to think that we hate him! And that he did a horrible job and that’s why we’re giving him a nasty cupcake!” I started hoping that all the hard work he did would make him ravenous and that he wouldn’t even realize the cupcake was dry and crunchy, because he’d eat it so fast.

I’m kind of embarrassing now that I think about it.

Merry Christmas! And, by the way, I hate molasses

Heather flipping her hair. Don’t worry,
she’s away from the food.

I’ve been sitting around the house, wondering what to do with myself since I’ve been a busy body these past few days. So I figure. I might as well blog and tell all you wonderful people (um. . *squints into the darkness* marco? Marco . . Is anyone out there?) about things.

So I had that Christmas party Saturday! Before I tell you how that went though, I’ll tell you about the Friday before. (Because I know you absolutely can not wait to hear about the Friday before. You’re practically begging me to please, for the love of everything good and holy, tell you what I did the Friday before. Well beg no more, dear heart. I’m here for you. I’m here for you.)

As usual, I stayed up late finishing the desserts. .Yeah. .

“But how can you say that,” you may be asking, “when you started so early?”

Well, well. I’m glad you asked. See, things didn’t exactly go the way I planned. Which was typical. So, looking back, I should just plan THAT. And that way, things will go the way I planned. Heh, I’ll try it next time.

So, turns out I DIDN’T have the whole day to bake, which is how I planned it. I thought I’d wake up and just bake pleasantly all day, with this sweet and easy going smile on my face like any good homemaker, the wind breezing gently across my face, just happy and joyful and everything’s going so well. . .WELL. Hah-hah. You see. .

Okay. I did know that someone had to go pick up my older brother from the airport. Really I did. I just didn’t know I was required to. . participate in the going to pick him up.

That’s like two hours going and coming and not counting waiting for him there and lunch. So half my day went POOF. It’s crazy how it does that sometimes.

To retaliate I woke up early and prepped as many desserts I could before we needed to leave.

I started with the sugar cookie dough. I squished it into a ball (which I think is what they mean when it says “form into a ball” instead of “roll,” am I right?). And, I thought the ball looked like the butter was still in big chunks and I didn’t mix it in all the way. But I didn’t think too much about it because I needed to move on.

The peppermint puff dough went pretty good, I think. I don’t remember anything really horrible.

But then, came the spice crackle cookies. (Honestly, they’re just ginger snaps. Haha. But oolala, doesn’t spice crackle cookie sound so much more interesting?) I used two new ingredients in my spice crackle cookies: crystallized ginger and molasses. .

Have you ever seen crystallized ginger? I sure as heck hadn’t even heard of it until I read the recipe. I can take a picture of it if you want or if I have time. But it really just looks like weird chunks of yellow gummy candy, coated with sugar. My first issue with this was ew, that’s going in my cookies? And then, the recipe says “chopped.” What the heck does that mean? How big should they be? Well, I chopped it up until it looked  like you couldn’t be able to feel it in the cookie. (Maybe they dissolve in heat, but I didn’t want them to be like ginger raisins *shudder*) And then, the more I chopped it up, the stickier it became, which was interesting. But yeah. So there was that.

Then *foreboding tone* there was the molasses. Oh. My. Gosh. Have you ever smelled molasses?? It’s frikin’ disgusting. I got a headache smelling it. When I got to rolling out the dough balls and dipping them in sugar, my arms were stretched out so I could get as far away from the bowl as possible. It was really nasty stuff. And my main fear was that I thought molasses takes forever to pour out in the winter. HA! That part was easy.

I had some friends stay the night Friday to Saturday. They came over at seven, and by then I still hadn’t decorated the snowflakes, dipped the peppermint puffs, or even made the chocolate bon-bons I thought I could make, since I didn’t have time to do the mocha meringues anymore. But since they had shown up and I was already pretty worn from baking and everything, I thought I’d toss the bon-bon idea too.

Well, I immediately put them to work to try and help me finish as soon as possible. Each of us took a turn decorating the snowflakes with the runny icing I made. We even had a contest. Mine was the first, and the best one. Amy’s was so-so. But then Heather started getting into it, and we all quickly realized she was the best, so we folded from the game and bowed to her almighty icing powers.

Amy trying her hand at icing.

Amy and I got to work on finishing the peppermint puffs as Heather did that. I don’t know about you people out there but white chocolate is very stubborn to melt in my opinion. It’s very. . high maintenance. You can’t just leave it alone like milk chocolate, let it melt, come back, mix it, and you’re good to go. If you leave it, it gets cakey and disgusting. I always have to put oil to thin it up and mix it constantly. Sometimes even mashing it with a fork because it won’t melt all the way. So after a while of me trying to get it right, Amy started on dipping the peppermint puffs, while I grounded up some candy canes in the blender. (Question: I have a vitamix thing, will the candy canes ruin the blades? Heather and I got in an argument about this, until I settled it by going “oops” and hitting the blend switch.) But the good news is, it wasn’t white powder this time! There was red in it, so it looked nice. =-)

Quick heart shout-out to Heather. She washed most of the dishes. I was mixing stuff. And Amy admitted she was doing the fun chocolate dipping jobs. But Heather just randomly parked herself at the sink without anyone asking and started washing. She was SUCH a big help. And we were making a mess. So thank you Heather. ❤

Fuzzy picture of Heather and me talking
in the kitchen. Don’t I look like a mother in that apron?

Since Amy was in a chocolate dipping mood. We went ahead and made the bon-bons pretty quickly, with her dipping and Heather and I rolling out the balls. Then I wiped the counters while Heather resumed the messy chocolate pot (hey you can see it in the picture!) washing.

Baking stuff with friends is fun, people. It’s not something only little old ladies do. Especially stuff that’s as tedious as chocolate dipping, or cookie decorating, things that are really repetitive, it’s really fun. You should try it! You can have everything baked beforehand – which is what happened to me, not like I planned it – or bake it from the beginning with friends. Try it. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. What’s the worse that could happen?

Actually, nothing went horribly wrong. And the spice crackle cookies were a big hit, so I guess my torture was worth it. And no one asked about ginger raisins, so I guess they dissolved? *shrug* There was only one chocolate bon-bon left over and one sugar cookie. But there were a few of the peppermint puffs, not that they weren’t good. I had one and they were perfectly refreshing. And my friend Kyle even made fudge to bring, and yeah! A fun success. =-)

Hey they don’t look that different compared
to the magazine picture!

"I would like chocolate cookies"

That dog likes heights

        I was doing my schoolwork today and saw my little brother, who obviously didn’t have anything better to do, sitting around. (Sorry the picture to the right isn’t the best.) So I came to his rescue by telling him I would like chocolate cookies with maybe some sort of filling.

         “I don’t know how to make cookies.” Was his excuse.
         “Well learn.” Aren’t I helpful?
         I have a way of selling people on “delicious, mouth watering chocolate cookies with rich and creamy vanilla icing.” Eventually, he caught up to me as I was coming out of my room.
         “I’m ready to make the cookies,” he said.
         “Good, I’d like chocolate ones. Oh! And if we have chocolate chips, that’d be good too.”
         “Um. I thought you were going to teach me.”
          I told him to find a recipe. But when he asked me where he could find a cookbook (there’s a huge bookshelf in our front room, you can’t miss it), I realized we’d need more help than I thought. But, genius that I am, I thought up a brilliant idea.
          “Go find a box of chocolate cake mix,” I said, then left him in the kitchen with a confused look on his face. A minute later, I returned with a proud grin, a cookbook in hand, and a crooked chefs hat on my head.

          On the box of Pillsbury Funfetti Cake Mix is a recipe for Funfetti cookies, so I really didn’t need my cookbook after all. I simply had him follow the recipe on the Funfetti box, but we used devil’s food cake mix instead. I wanted chocolate cookies after all. (Hehe)
          I started off by telling him that this whole thing was an experiment. (I’m used to things flopping, and I’m pretty good humored about it. But considering this was his first time, I didn’t want him to think he was as bad as me right off the bat.) Then we got started. Well, mostly him. I “supervised” by correcting his techniques, giving tips, cracking the whip . . You know, that kind of stuff. Oh, and answering the most intriguing questions like:

        “I should probably wash my hands, huh?”
        I didn’t even answer this question. He got the hint, left to the bathroom, then came back.
         “Where’s the oil?”
         “In the pantry.”

         “Are the eggs supposed to have those white things in them?”
        He was lifting a nostril and looked genuinely disgusted, so I took a peak in the bowl. He wasn’t talking about the egg white but the little globs that I believe baby chicks are made out of. Signs that the egg could’ve been fertilized. Personally, I try not to think about these kinds of things while I’m baking.
         But he wasn’t letting this question go. He started poking one. “What are those things?”
         “Oh, how should I know? The eggs are from the store. They should be fine. Just keep going.”

        “Is the oven working?”
        “Press START.”
         But none of these questions beat: “what kind of spoon?”
         This one caught me off guard. “What do you mean?”
         “The box says, ‘mix with spoon.’ What kind?”
         “It doesn’t matter.”
         “Where can I find one?”
         “You live here, LB.” [LB stands for “little brother”. I’m trying to protect identities and whatnot.]
         “Yeah. But what kind of spoon?”
         “It doesn’t matter!”
         He began digging through a drawer. “This one?”
         “It doesn’t matter!!”
         “A wooden one?”
         “It stinkin’ doesn’t matter!”

         He reached for a wooden spoon, eyeing me cautiously. “I think I’ll use this one,” he said timidly. I gave him a bored look. Then he finally started to stir.
         After I told him how to make the dough balls and showed him my technique of how to flatten them with the bottom of a glass, he was off and running. I think the only other thing he was confused about was when he noticed all the dough in the bowl wasn’t going to fit on the one cookie sheet. But I explained how he had to make cookies in batches, and he went “ohhhhhh.” So I figure, he got it.
          I didn’t help him at all on the second batch. And he proudly announced to everyone that they were done. (There are two types of announcements that happen in my household. Actually, three. No, four. 1) we’re going to watch a movie. 2) food of some sort is ready. 3) we’re in trouble. Or 4) family discussion. If you were curious, this one falls under #2.)
          The cookies were pretty good! A little dense, but very chocolatey. We had the option of spreading vanilla icing or whip cream on them if we wanted, too. So I’d say it was a success. Congratulations, LB!

Happy happy birthday from all of us to you

     My dad’s birthday was here once again. And this year. . . I nailed it.
     It was beautiful.

     He didn’t want a German chocolate this year so you’ll see a new type of cake with “Papi” on it.
     Devil’s food cake with white frosting. Yum!

     Even though I did well I do have a story — because my mom had some last-minute card buying to do. And we needed an stealthy excuse to go out, without giving our intentions away.

     I had actually messed up my mom’s clever reason to “stay home” as my dad and brothers went for a run. It went so stupid I have to tell you how it happened.

     My mom, ever so nonchalant: “Maybe we should stay home as you boys go out.”
     Me, ever so . . . very, very chalant: “No! We have to go on this run . .” I made a fist and planted it in my palm, “as a family.”
     I was so incredibly and idiotically passionate about this that I didn’t notice the what-the-heck-are-you-doing look on my mom’s face. Then, when I eventually did notice, I was confused. Haha. Took me a moment until “ohhhhhhhhhh, heh, whoops”.

      So I had to fix it. This was the day before my dad’s birthday. I had to think of a reason to go out.
      “Hey, um, I think we need cake mix.” (Okay, okay. My secret’s revealed. I made my dad’s cake from a mix. You caught me.)
      My mom chipped in, “yeah, we should go tonight to get some.”
      I nodded like a good little actress.

      The second I got home, I scrambled to the pantry and grabbed all (six) of the boxes of devils food cake, spilling spaghetti, bottles, and spice containers then ran to my room and stashed them in my closet. The best part of my sneakiness was I was able to come home afterward, casually go down the hall with the bags, and oh “whoopsie” I left them in my room by mistake. Silly me. =->

     With my record clean of stupidities, I baked the cake and decorated it. The best decorating job I’ve ever done too. Pretty proud of myself, I have to say. Success!

Well what do ya know

     As you know, I hadn’t the slightest idea of what to do for Christmas Eve desserts. It was the day before baking that I magically came up with a faint plan.
     You know what? The plan was so faint I don’t even remember what it was. I barely remember anything, actually. So I’ll start by telling you what I made.

    Choco-mint stars, white chocolate bon-bons, classic sugar cookies, two pumpkin pies, and . . . Nope, that was everything. Everything that I made, I mean. My mom made a flan, mini cheesecakes, and a double layer cake (chocolate cake on top, vanilla on the bottom, with dulce de leche filling – I think – and frosted with chocolate. Yep, it was rich and delicious). And if that wasn’t enough, two of the guests brought desserts! One brought an apple bunt cake. And the other brought butterscotch, marshmallow bars, and chocolate covered peanut butter balls (AKA “buck eye-balls.” Call me immature, but I had to have them say the name about three times before I fully understood it. I was surprised at first, like, “gasp! You’re church-going people. How can you use that kind of language?” Then I realized I was the sicko with the problem. Ha, you should’ve heard me though: “ohhhhh. EYE balls. Gooootcha.”)

    Well, what do ya know, everything was great . . . I think. I was so full from dinner that all I had for dessert was a little bit of flan and one of the buck eye-balls. (Hah, hah.) But I heard no complaints! And, of course, I was too distracted to remember pictures. But nothing was truly interesting to look at that you can’t imagine it in your own mind.
     The sugar cookies were shaped like Christmas bells. I piped a yellow outline of vanilla frosting and a green bow on them. Something that was just a perfect “figures you’d make that kind of mistake” was that halfway through baking the bells, I flipped the cookie cutter around and realized they weren’t bells at all. They were tulips! So that’s why I decorated them, to decrease confusion. I tested a couple people too. I asked my brother what the “green” looked like (because to me, it looked like a big, fat, green mistake.), but he said “bows”. And I asked a guest what she thought the cookies were. She focused on them with a confused look on her face. “They’re bells, aren’t they?” Bingo.
     Oh. I also sprinkled green and red sugar crystals on the white chocolate bon bons.
     Oh! I had this awesome idea for the choco-mint stars. I was going to crush up candy canes and sprinkle bits of candy over the cookies to give them a Christmas-y look. What ended up happening, though, was that I got a little too happy with our mallet and made too small of crumbs that it just looked like white stuff on the cookies instead of nice, red and white, candy pieces like I imagined. It was pretty ugly. But I quit while I was ahead and only did a couple cookies that way. Also, the candy cane crumbs kept sticking to my fingers. So when I tried to pinch a bit to sprinkle it on the cookies, nothing was sprinkled because they wouldn’t rub off. It was strange.
     But anywho, everything went really well! I had a great time, and I think the guests did too. Score!

Tasting Soup Pie #2

    I bet you thought that all the commotion about the soup pie was over.

    Au contraire.

    Well, even though the recipe said to cover the pie with plastic wrap in order to “keep a skin from forming”, I think I just plopped the pie, cover-less, into the fridge out of frustration when I realized it was soup for the second year in a row. And I thought that was that.

    Out of curiosity the next morning, I tilted it. Still soupy. Ugh, useless thing. I plopped it back in the fridge.

    I don’t know how many days later it was when my mom knocked on the door of my room, telling me that the pie seemed to have set. That evening, I decided to cut myself a slice.

       I slid the knife in and started tracing out a piece. At least I could tell it wasn’t soupy, because the piece stayed solid instead of filling back in. It was when I started pulling it out that it fell apart. The crust had sucked in all the lemon moisture and was now soggy so it didn’t hold together enough to be tugged out like a normal pie. But I had set my mind to taste this thing, so I wasn’t giving up quite so easily.
      Using the knife, I scooped the slice onto it, walked over to the kitchen sink in case it fell off, and tasted a bit. (Not exactly safe, using a knife, but hey, I wasn’t going to dirty a plate, a fork, and a knife for a nasty piece of pie.) The filling was tangy, with a hint of sweet, and creamy, and you didn’t even notice the soggy crust on the bottom. Yum!

    “Hey you guys! I made lemon pudding!”

    My little brother was the first one to the kitchen to ask for a slice. I proudly showed him the scoop method as I served. He liked it so much that he had two servings. Everyone else, though, I’m sorry to announce, was too scared to try some. Oh well, they didn’t know what they were missing.

    Of course, there’s always more to the story.

    Yesterday, I walked into the house to find my little brother finishing another slice of my lemon pudding pie.
     He licked his fork then looked at me pitifully, “Mama says I can’t have any more of your lemon meringue pie.”
     “Why not?”
     “She says it’s bad.”
     This didn’t make sense to me. I had tried it myself. How could it be bad? I thought that was the end of the conversation so I turned to walk down the hallway. Then he asked the fatal question.
      “Hey Rose? Are there supposed to be chewy things in your pie?”
      Heh, heh. Um yes??

      Don’t worry, folks, little brother still lives.

Soup Pie Reincarnated!

Can you hear it laughing at me?
I can.
       Yup. The soup pie was back. With vengeance.
       And I was keeping a positive attitude. I was. Honest I was. My best friend (you’ll remember her from “Bravery, Optimism, and Chocolate“) asked me how the baking went (she was there to witness the original soup pie). I told her my cup was half full, everything was going great. Flash a smile. Everything’s wonderful. Perfect. Marvelous. (Of course, I didn’t tell her that I was too scared to check the lemon meringue pie and hadn’t seen it since the day before.) But my cup was still half full.

       I wasn’t going to be caught off guard like I was last year; bragging about my desserts, just to have one fail, leaving me with one measly one left. Oh no. This year, I made three desserts. AndI kept my big mouth shut to the guests.
       I started baking Wednesday. (Thank you, thank you. I know. It was a smart move. See? I was off to a good start.)
       I began by putting two frozen pie crusts in the oven and washed the dishes as they baked. The pie crust would be for the lemon meringue pie. I only needed one, but they seemed so shallow that I figured it’d be better to bake two and have one extra, than bake one and for it to be too small. So two it was. And I didn’t burn them! I set them on the counter to cool.

       With the dishes washed and sink cleared, I did the chocolate bon-bons next. I was supposed to use oreo cookies for the chocolate bon-bons, but I checked the grocery bags and found that my parents bought some sort of cheapo imitations. *exhale* Oh well, use what you get and don’t throw a fit.
       Usually, I’d scrape the cream off the cookies then throw the cookies in a blender. But those darn wanna-be-oreos did NOT want to come apart! With a regular oreo, you twist the cookie, the cream almost peels off, and you’re done. The ones I had wouldn’t even twist. I had to use my butter knife to wedge ’em open. And the cream was far from peeling off. It was like trying to peel off cream cheese. There was no such thing as peeling. Eventually, I got it apart. Then I made the balls, dipped them in chocolate, put them in the freezer, and was on to dessert number two.

       There was a little confusion regarding where the heck the cornstarch was. But my mom found it for me, so I started with the lemon meringue pie. Or the custard part, I mean.
       The recipe read – and I quote! – “heat water and cornstarch mixture until thickened. About 3 to 5 minutes.” Sixty seconds later, the cornstarch was suuuper thick. I’m trying to think of a way to describe it. . . THICK. That’s the best way. Picture a bowl filled with gray marbled, swirly, thick goop. The recipe said “until” thickened. And it was thick. So, I stopped at sixty, added my egg yolks the special way it says, mixing constantly so they don’t cook in the mixture. Then lemon juice. Mix, mix, mix. That should do it.
       Just for the heck of it, I dipped my pinky in the yellow liquid and licked it. Ack, sour. Oh my gosh, I never put in the sugar. Why didn’t the recipe call for sugar? . . . It did. “Mix cornstarch and water, and gradually add sugar, stirring until smooth. Then, heat . .” (Yes, I have an excuse for this mess-up) See, the reason I missed that little detail was because I was too busy freaking out over the “gradually”. I thought I was supposed to gradually add cornstarch.

          “It said to gradually add cornstarch. But I didn’t. Do you think I should start over?” I asked my parents.

       They asked me what happened, then assured me it would be all right and to continue the recipe. So I did. And I continued it until it was “ready” to be poured in the crust. That was when I did the pinky-taste-test, and that was when I made my little discovery.

          “Um. . .”–my parents looked up for another announcement–“I forgot to add the sugar.”
          I think they rolled their eyes. “When were you supposed to add the sugar?”
          “Um. Like . . . in the beginning?”
          No, I think this is when they rolled their eyes. “Just add it now and we’ll see how it turns out.”

       It’s just sugar, I thought, surely this wouldn’t cause another soup pie. I added the sugar, mixed it in for a while so it’d dissolve, I think I heated it a little more also, then poured it in one of the pie crusts. (Guess I didn’t need the other one after all.) Then I covered the top with plastic wrap and stuck it in my fridge.

       My third dessert was pumpkin pie. I was going to cheat and buy the kind that comes in a can, pre-mixed. But my mom couldn’t find it, so she got me canned pumpkin instead. Nothing like good ol’ made-from-scratch. It actually wasn’t that hard. (Except, next time, I’ll use a bigger bowl.) I followed the recipe like a little angel and divided it among two frozen, deep-dish, pie crusts. Little here, little there, little here. . The pie crusts were beginning to reach capacity, and I still had filling. That’s when I noticed the extra pie crust I had left over from the lemon meringue, sitting gloriously on the counter top.
       I smiled at my cleverness as I poured the rest of the pumpkin filling into that crust. It took a little while for me to realize that was stupid. Since the deep-dish pie crusts were raw and frozen, and the one I just filled was already cooked. Ugh, it’s going to burn. Great idea, smarty pants.
       I left my mom in charge of the pies so I could go with my Dad and little brother to the store. I had to give her specific directions – like a mother, leaving her child – on how to care for my babies. And I told her about my “experimental pie” on the bottom oven rack. I was expecting to find it charcoaled, but when I came home, I found three, beautiful pumpkin pies cooling on the counter! I couldn’t believe it! The experimental one just had darker crust with a black ring around the filling. Eh, who could tell? It worked!

          Needless to say, I was positive the lemon meringue pie would be just as successful.

       Thanksgiving day, my plan was to do the meringue at the very last minute. Probably when people were done with dinner and wanted to digest before dessert. So that’s exactly what I did. After dinner and a little talking, I put on my apron and checked the pie for the first time. I tilted it. It didn’t seem to be sloshing under the plastic. Score! I put it back in the fridge until it was needed.
       Happy like no other, I took the egg whites from the fridge, scooped some particles out of it with a spoon (ha, oops, probably should’ve covered that before putting it in there. Hey, God blessed you with immunities, don’t worry about it), added the cream of tartar, and started to blend. Vrrrrrrrrr!

          I was so happy that I even started took pictures of the meringue in process.

La-dee-daa, la-dee-daa, just whippin’ up some meringue, la-dee-daa. Ooh, it looks good. La-dee. .

I’ll break it to you now that this was
the last pic I took. I was too busy
pouting to remember to take pics of the other desserts.

       When I got it to were “stiff glossy peaks formed,” I took the pie out of the fridge again and peeled the plastic wrap off it. The edges seemed to be a little different than the center. I picked it up and tilted it. My heart sank. The center of the pie was oozing about. It was soup pie all over again!! I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. How could this be?

       Obviously, I didn’t learn my lesson from last year, because my very first instinct was to stick the darn thing in the freezer. But I didn’t. Instead, my mom told me in hushed tones not to make a big deal, no one knew about the lemon meringue pie. Just put it back in the fridge, and maybe we can bake the meringue. My mom likes these cookie-type things that we thought were made from whipping up meringue and baking little dollops of it. So that’s exactly what we did.
       I scooped dollops onto a cookie sheet and baked it for a couple minutes. The tips began to brown so I took it out. My mom poked one. It was still squishy. My thinking, I told her, was that they’ll harden as they cool. I mean, who could blame me, that’s what cookies do. . . Well, in short, they did not harden. Instead, (out of spite, I’m sure) they shriveled into ugly brown, wrinkled lumps. My mom pulled one apart. It was marshmallow textured. I actually thought it was pretty cool. Hey, we made marshmallows. When life hands you lemons. . . or in this case, meringue, you make marshmallows. Who knew?
       I pulled one apart and stuck it in my mouth. It was nasty. The burned top had a sticky skin and the foamy center tasted funky and burned. There went that experiment down the drain.
       But still, my mom assured me, we still had the pumpkin pies, the chocolate bon-bons, my brother made a lemon-cookie-pudding type thing, it was going to be fine. Also, no one knew I tried (and failed) the lemon meringue pie anyhow. It was fine.

       We began asking the guests what they wanted for dessert (minus the lemon merinuge) and the compliments poured in about my pumpkin pie and bon-bons. That’s when my friend’s dad looked at me. “Sooooo, no lemon meringue pie, huh?”
       I gave my friend a glare that she returned with a sheepish grin. Yeah. No one knew about the lemon meringue pie. Not a soul.

Crumble Cake

       Wow. . . I took a little longer than planned, huh. Just a bit. Well I’m sorry. Life has been hectic. I haven’t been able to bake for months! Not to mention, I’ve been sick. And sick bakers are generally frowned upon. .
       But this post isn’t just so you know I’m still live.
       Oh no.
       See, just ’cause I’m sick, doesn’t mean there isn’t any baking going on at my house. Or baking failures, that is.
       My Mom’s birthday came around. . *dramatic gasp* This is almost an anniversary. Remember last year, I made that smelly mug cake! Wow! Remember that? Oops sorry, being sick makes me easily distracted. *sniffs then stiffens* I’m focused now. Back to my post . .
[For the record, I did ask him if I could write this story on my blog.]
       My older brother took charge of making Mom’s birthday cake this year. I think his plan was to bake two rectangles of yellow cake, fill the center with chocolate frosting, and frost the rest of it with white frosting. Simple enough, right?

       I was studying at the breakfast table while he baked. When I finally turned to look into the kitchen, I saw him in there all right. But it was the strangest form of cake decorating I’ve ever seen. Since he had already baked both layers of cake and filled the inside with chocolate, all he had to do now was frost the entire thing white. But what I saw was my brother with an expression of determination and concentration, hovering over a half frosted cake. He had a messy decorating knife in one hand and was kind of pinching a bare side of the cake with the other. His attempt seemed to be to gently squish a broken section of cake into place, while using icing as glue. Honestly, I thought he was on the right track. Seemed logical to me.
       What came next was somewhat humorous in my eyes. (Okay, I thought it was the stinkin’ funniest thing in the world, at the time.) But I can only imagine that if I were the baker, I’d be one angry puppy.

It looks better in the picture

       While he was patching up that one corner of cake, an opposite corner fell off. Then another. Eventually, the entire left side fell off. He fixed this problem by cutting off the right side to make it even, and then it seemed good.
       Have you ever used one of those push-down apple cutters? You shove it through the apple, then the little sections pop out in different directions like flower petals? Does that make sense? Well, that was how his cake looked in the morning, the day of my Mom’s birthday. Despite the inch of frosting, the cake still fell apart. There’s no better way of saying it. It fell apart. Crumbled. Disassembled. The sides tumbled. The center separated. This thing hated itself. It was almost depressing.

Thinking back, I guess we should’ve
turned the cake around so the birthday girl
saw the nice side, instead of the

       But by golly, he made that cake, we were still using it and eating it. So we put the candles in and sang happy birthday. And you know something? That cake was delish! It was moist and spongy. It didn’t even need the frosting to taste great. Mmmm, I want some right now.
       The next day, we figured out what went wrong with his cake. He never leveled it. So since the tops of both layers were rounded, it collapsed on the sides. Then I guess the cake concluded that it was already ugly so it decided to die and separate in the middle too. But hey, it was still bomb.
       Here’s a little extract of that night that he was baking. It was too good to not record.

       Dad came in the kitchen to wash the dishes just as my brother finished putting the cake in the oven. He looked around the cluttered sink. “Oh, did you wash the little whisks for the electric mixer?”
       “Huh? What mixer?”
       Dad turned to look at him. “You have to use the mixer for the cake batter. . You didn’t use a mixer?”
       “No, I used a spatula.”
       “Didn’t you read the directions?”
       “Well . . .  I thought I did.”
       Ha, brothers; ya gotta love ’em.