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Friday, May 31, 2013

Cheesy Broccoli Orzo

It's Cheesy.  It's Broccoli.  It's Orzo.  It's cheesy broccoli orzo, and it's what we had for dinner last night.  This is one of those fast and easy one pot meals that will get my husband to eat his broccoli.

Cheesy Broccoli Orzo

  • 1 cup Orzo
  • 1 and 1/2 cup Broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1 Tbs Butter
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • Season to taste.  I always go for the Oregano.
  • Start boiling the orzo for 9 - 11 minutes or whatever it says on the package.  At about 7-5 minutes left on the timer add broccoli to the pot so they finish cooking together.  Drain.  Add back to the pot with butter, milk, and cheese.  Stir together until the cheese is nice and melty and serve while it is still warm.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

J's Weight Loss Story

August 2010
 I used to watch this show called "My Amazing Weight Loss Story". Here then is J's Amazing Weight loss story.  Before we met J was very active.  He did Kendo and Iaido martial arts three times a week, lifted weights and would ride a stationary bike every night before he went to bed.  Then he moved to Utah.  He managed to drive up to Idaho once a week for martial arts and still lifted weights but no longer had a stationary bike.  Gas became too expensive to drive to Idaho. Weights slowly began to drop off the priority list as life  got busier and regular exercise became sporadic, and then ceased.  We like to call this photo the Incredible Stay Puffed Marshmallow Soldier (or the blueberry dough boy). 
May 2011
One day, sometime in March 2011 after speaking to his brother whom had been experiencing a series of health issues J had his "ah-ha" moment. Realizing that he had a young wife that he needed to be around for he needed to do something.  We had both gained quite a bit of happy married weight. Tipping the scale at close to 300 lbs J realized that he was the heaviest he had  been in his life and serious health issues must surely follow.
October 2011
We both signed up for gym memberships.  I had been going to the gym for a couple of years with some moderate success.  My BMI dropped from "Overweight" to a borderline "High Normal".  The personal trainer at the gym, we refer to him as D-bag Dave (the origin of this honorific is, as they say, another story), told J that he would not be able to lose any weight without professional help.  Trainers cost $35+ a week  a luxury neither of us could afford.  This made J  determined to lose weight without "professional" help. 
May 2012
 I picked up a shabby exercise bike from D.I. for him on March 24th, 2012 and J started riding it every night as he had done back in his halcyon days.  He cut soda intake to zero, replaced two suppers a week with salads, and really started looking at what he and I ate.
June 2012
We upgraded the exercise bike in July 2012 to a more sturdier model and kept on going.
August 2012

August 2012

December 2012
May 2013
J is Happy, happy, happy.

                                  Before                                                              After
This is J's 100 pound amazing weight loss story.  No longer is he the Incredible Stay Puffed Marshmallow Soldier (one might say he has gone from the blueberry dough boy to the "straw"berry dough boy).  We now refer to him as skinny.  He weighs less than when we got married, and is back to his fighting weight and in great shape. And all this without "professional" help. Hmmmm, interesting, is there a lesson here? Perhaps you should decide.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Civil War Widow at Salt Lake City Library

Saturday May 18th, 2013.  The Salt Lake City Public Library had a presentation on Abraham Lincoln this month and they wanted some Civil War re-enactors to help promote it.  I decided to go as a widow since J had to work that day.  We had been playing with the idea of making me a Civil War Widow persona for some time.  J gave me my new Widow dress for Valentine's Day (So romantic).  I made some black petticoats, and pinned black trim around the bottom of my hoop skirt.  I also did some research on proper 1860's Mourning customs and even made a quaint poster about it.  If they could afford it, Widows would wear black petticoats or at least the bottom part of the petticoat and hoop would be covered in black cloth so when they walked no white would show beneath the skirt.
Here is the Library's fabulous Lincoln exhibit.  It was very nice.
Each section had three sides.
Top of the line.
Museum quality.
     Below is the most complete group shot of the day.  Not everyone made it into the photo.  A dozen or so people volunteered.  Every person that volunteers is greatly appreciated.  Rachel even brought all four of her darling children.  They are all so well behaved and look great in period clothes.   
I arrived at 8am to start setting up.  Since it was raining  heavily we were allowed to set up inside.  I cannot drive in my hoop skirt, so I got dressed as soon as Rachel arrived.
Patrick, our library contact and nicest guy ever, lead Rachel and I through the employee only parts of the library to his personal office in the puppet room, so we would not have to change in the public restrooms.  The library is huge.  There was no way I could ever find my way there again, even if I did have the magic key card to open all the doors.  I felt like Harry Potter at Hogwarts.  
The puppet room was aptly named, because it was full of puppets, lots of puppets, puppets that filled the shelves that line the walls. Nope, not creepy at all.  (sarcasm).     
Myself, Kelly, Rachel, and Crystal.  
This was Kelly and Crystal's first Civil War event.  We are all wearing new dresses.
This is Jake's display.  Not only did he make all the uniforms, he also made the mannequins they are displayed on. He got mad ninja historical display making skills.
Rachel set up her calligraphy station.
This is her daughter practicing.  Good job Kendal.
This is our fearless leader Kris, president of the Fort Douglas Living History attachment 1858 - 1865. He was demonstrating the daily life of an era solider ( they apparently slept a lot) and displaying items they generally carried with them.
This is my poster.  I felt like I was in elementary school again gluing pictures onto a board and presenting it to the public(Ahh! the halcyon days of my bygone youth).  Mourning was work primarily relegated to women.  A widower would wear a black arm band or black crepe band around their hat for up to 3 months or so but a widow was expected to mourn for at least 2 and 1/2 years.  The first stage of mourning was called Heavy or Deep mourning where the mourner dressed all in black and wore a black mourning bonnet with a long black veil to cover their face. The veil protected the mourners dignity by not allowing people to see  her tear stained face. Only jewelry that was black (often made of polished coal) was worn.  This period was to last a year and a day from the time of the mourned ones death. Full Mourning then began where the veil could be shortened and some hints of color (white collar and cuffs) were allowed. Finally the Half Mourning period began  in which purple, gray and lavender colors were added to the wardrobe.  Wearing  black was a sign of respect.  Going through the stages of mourning helped the mourner to progress through the stages of grief.  Some widows never stopped mourning for their dearly departed.  Famous Civil War era Widows of note include Queen Victoria, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Mary Anna Morrison Jackson ( Stonewall Jackson's wife) all of whom remained in mourning and wore black the rest of their days.
 My Daddy came to support me.
Larry and his display.  He and his lovely wife Crystal came all the way from Cedar City to play with us.
Mrs. Rachel and the littlest reenactor baby Kenna (10 months).

The library was planning on having a Lincoln look alike contest, but alas there were no Lincoln proxies to be judged .  These are our two Lincoln Librarians who planned on being the afor mentioned judges.  The gentleman in the blue shirt is Patrick (he of the not at all creepy puppet room) who helped us set up.

Local author Will Bagley gave a presentation on Utah and the Civil War.
  Below is the lovely Mrs. Bagley selling books during his presentation in the lecture hall.
Some candid public shots.

A very fun day indeed. I hope we are invited back soon.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Trek Enterprise Cake

Oh the things I do for cake.  My brother-in-law Steven asked for a Star Trek Enterprise Cake for his birthday.  6 months in advance.  He is a Star Trek fan and since the new movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness, came out the same weekend as his birthday he thought it fitting to celebrate both.  This has been my most daunting cake challenge to date.  I would like to apologize to all those Star Trek fans that boldly go to my silly little blog looking for a good Star Trek Enterprise cake.  This is not.  I am an amateur at best.  I make things up as I go.  I know the dimensions are wrong.  I know the colors are wrong.  I know the size of the saucer is wrong.  This is my attempt at making a passable caricature of a Star Trek Cake. 
That being said.  I think I did a pretty good job at making it recognizable.
This is the first time I made my own fondant.

Marshmallow Fondant

  • 16 oz (one large package) mini marshmallows
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 2 tsps clear vanilla
  • 8 cups (2 pound bag) of powdered sugar
  • Butter or Shortening
  • Add mini marshmallows and water to a double boiler on simmer.  Mini marshmallows melt faster.  Stir until smooth and add vanilla.  Grease a plastic or metal spoon with butter or shortening for stirring.  Add 1 cup at a time of powdered sugar and stir in until it becomes too thick.  Dump it out on a powdered sugar dusted table top and knead in the rest of the powdered sugar until it becomes as takes on the texture of play dough.  Grease up some clear plastic wrap and wrap the fondant ball multiple times to make an air tight seal.  Put the wrapped ball into another large plastic bag or wrap in tin foil.  Refrigerate overnight.  The fondant is good for 2+ weeks in the fridge.  When you are ready to use it cut off a chunk and microwave for 10+ seconds at a time until it is more pliable.  Roll it out on a powdered sugar covered surface and use as needed.  One quarter of the fondant ball is enough to cover an 8" cake.  I used every bit of fondant for the Enterprise cake. 
This is J's practice piece of Fondant.  I asked him to do the writing on the saucer "USS Enterprise NCC-1701" because I think his handwriting is better than mine.  Writing on fondant with cake pens is very different from normal writing with pen and paper so he had to practice first.  
 I had to rearrange my fridge to fit it all it.  I made the cake in multiple sections.
 Fitting it into the car was equally challenging.  Along with the Star Trek Enterprise Cake I needed to return Dad's USS Enterprise model WWII ship which J painted for him, my usual shipment of saved egg cartons since they have chickens that could use egg cartons, and I made some cake pops for Mom.
 But in the end it was all worth it.  Once I got the thing put together with popsicle and lollipop sticks.
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Insert Star Trek music here.
 Here is Steven, our birthday boy.  We had some chocolate on chocolate action.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

  • 1 and 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Beat all the ingredients together and bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes.

Chocolate ButterCream Frosting

  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup butter – softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 – 4 Tbs heavy cream
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbs Meringue Powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Chocolate Ganache Filling

  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Chop up chocolate. Heat cream in saucepan.  When it is almost at a boil pour cream over chocolate and stir until melted.  Refrigerate until cool.  Whip together.
End music.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Breast Cancer Cupcakes

My friend ran in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this past weekend.  She asked me to supply a dozen cupcakes for the team.  Her only requirement was that they had to be pink.  I was more than happy to oblige.  Not only do I love making cupcakes, I also enjoy supporting a good cause.  This is my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe. 

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup butter - softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 and ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 and ½ cup milk
  • Cream sugar and butter.  Add eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients.  Alternate adding dry and milk starting and ending with milk.  Stir to combine.  Bake 350°F for 18 – 20 min. Makes 24 - 30 cupcakes.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz (1 package) of Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of Butter, softened
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 3 Tbs Strawberry puree
  • 2 Tbs Heavy Cream
  • 7-8 cups of Powdered Sugar
  • Mix the Cream Cheese, Butter, Vanilla, and Strawberry puree together.  Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time and mix it in.  Add Heavy Cream as needed for consistency.  
  • I find it really hard to flavor cream cheese, since cream cheese is such a strong flavor in an of itself.  To make the strawberry really stand out I boiled down 1 cup of strawberry puree with 1/4 a cup of sugar until it was reduced to about 1/3 cup of a thick syrupy paste, then added it.

I wanted these to scream "Breast Cancer Cupcakes" and not just pink cupcakes so I made some pink fondant ribbons for them.

Then, as if I did not have enough pink, I added pink sprinkles.
Now I have my Pink Breast Cancer Cupcakes that is more than just pink cupcakes.
I ended up with 30 cupcakes.  I brought a dozen for the race and another dozen to share at work.
Destroy Breast Cancer.  It sucks.