Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - French Yule Log

It's Daring Baker time again - and lately it seems like the only time I blog is for a Daring Baker challenge. Sad. But I RESOLVE to be a better blogger next year!
This month's challenge is a long one - in fact - I'm still making it! I'm going to publish the recipe, then post the pictures tomorrow.
Our recipe was chosen this month by Daring Bakers Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and Marion of Il en faut peu pour etre heureux. The recipe was authored by Flore and can be found on her website Florilege Gourmand.

You may be wondering, what is a French Yule Log? Apparently, a French Yule Log is different from a regular old Yule Log because it is filled with a frozen cream instead of a genoise or buttercream. Hmmm - they both sound scrumptious! There are six elements to this French Yule Log :
1) Dacquoise Biscuit
2) Mousse
3) Ganache Insert
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert
5) Creme Brulee Insert
6) Icing

The assembly is basically a Dacquoise Biscuit at the bottom, and the inserts inter-layered with mousse, with an icing finish. Sounds easy enough - right?

As of right now, I've completed 4 of the elements. I haven't made the Ganache yet because the recipe recommends waiting until right before you pipe it into the mold to make it, and the icing hasn't been made yet for the same reason. My Creme Brulee is in the freezer as we speak (or as I type) - hopefully setting up nicely for placement in the log.

So, onto the recipe! (Oh, and we were given many different flavor options in each element. I'm only going to post what I made, but check Hilda and Marion's blogs for more options!)

French Yule Log

Element 1: Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

Finely mix the almond meal and the caster sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
Sift the flour into the mix.
Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 2+1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler (or one small saucepan in a larger one), heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
5. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

*My mousse is waiting in the fridge - staying cool until I'm ready to assemble.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them.
If you want to make your own praline, please refer back to the Daring Baker Challenge Recipe from July 2008.

To make 2.1oz / 60g of gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil
Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

**I used rice krispies, and I skipped the praline (gasp!!). I didn't have time to make one more element today!

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
Add to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

Depending on whether your mold is going to hold the assembly upside down until you unmold it or right side up, this order will be different.
You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.

1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version A or you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log as in version B:

2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.


2B) Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.
3B) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
4B) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
5B) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
6B) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
7B) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
8B) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
9B) Close with the Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with TWO pieces of Dacquoise the order is:
1) Dacquoise
2) Mousse
3) Creme Brulee Insert
4) Mousse
5) Praline/Crisp Insert
6) Mousse
7) Ganache Insert
8) Dacquoise

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with ONE piece of Dacquoise on the BOTTOM ONLY the order is:
1) Mousse
2) Creme Brulee Insert
3) Mousse
4) Praline/Crisp Insert
5) Mousse
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise

Unmold the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

So - we shall see tomorrow what my Buche Noel looks like, and we'll taste it at our progressive New Year's Eve party! Stay tuned for pictures and updates on TASTE!

Happy New Year!!


Here is the completed yule log. It didn't look as pretty as the examples, and I'm not sure I liked it. It was a bit too rich and chocolatey for me. But as always, the Daring Bakers challenges are a great experience to try new techniques and ingredients. Make sure you check out the other talented Daring Bakers on the Daring Bakers Blogroll!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

It's Daring Baker time again! The Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting recipe was chosen by this month's host Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, and her co-hosts Alex, the Brownie of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food. The recipe itself was authored by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, and published at Bay Area Bites .

This month's recipe was a challenge for me because I have a fear of all things Caramel. Well - I have a fear of making caramel, because I always end up burning myself! This recipe ended up no differently - I got 4 small burns on my arm while making the caramel syrup. (Please take note of the safety warnings in this recipe! Wear long sleeves and have ice water standing by!!) But despite the burns, I enjoyed making and eating this cake!
Caramel Cake
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F
Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
Sift flour and baking powder.
Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.
Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

I decorated mine with some fresh sliced strawberries, then drizzled some leftover Caramel Syrup over the top. I shared it with my family and some friends from down the street - which always makes dessert taste better!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza Dough

It's Daring Baker time again! This month's challenge was one I looked forward to all month - Pizza Dough. I love delicious, thin crust, stone baked pizza, so I was excited to try this recipe. I waited until my husband returned to make it, and I made 3 of the 6 pizzas. (I froze 3 dough balls for later use.)
I made a basic marinara sauce by sauteeing onion in olive oil, then adding crushed garlic, then crushed tomatoes, red wine, fresh basil, salt and pepper, then simmered for about an hour.
Then I sauteed some baby bella mushrooms with green peppers in olive oil and a splash of red wine for one of the toppings. I used some leftover sausage and chicken for some toppings, as well as some sun dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, and banana peppers.
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled -
FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).
2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.Or2.
FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.
3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).
NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.
5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.
6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.
7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.
8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
Or8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.
9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.
Or 10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.
11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.
Or11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
Or 12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.
NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.
13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.
Or13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.
NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.
Here is my first attempt at tossing. It didn't toss too well, and I ended up with a twisted dough that I still topped with sauce and fresh mozzerella slices. It was ugly, but delicious!
This was our 1/3 plain cheese, 2/3 sausage, chicken, sundried tomato, banana peppers, artichoke hearts, pepperoni pizza.
This was our half veggie and half meat pizza, with fresh mozzerella added to the top.
And here are my happy co-chefs who enjoyed the final products!
Please go to the Daring Baker Blogroll to check out the creations from all the other creative bakers. They inspire me everytime I browse through their blogs!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More pictures

Here are some more pictures from the past month!
Some from Abby at her preschool's trip to West Produce's Pumpkin Patch.

A picture of my absentee ballot that I sent in a few days ago. This was my first time voting! (I was naturalized after the last election!)

Pics of Abby enjoying the Jalepeno Cilantro Hummus I whipped up the day Scott came home. She refuses to eat any fruit or vegetables, but she loves green hummus!

And pics of us from dinner at the Mash House last night. Emma was super hyper - very excited about going to her favorite restaurant! Abby was a little grouchy, and didn't appreciate my attempts to cuddle with her until after she devoured a plate of Macaroni and Cheese. (She was pushing me away in the picture!).

And me and my hubby - together again!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

He's home!

Hooray! Scott returned home yesterday!!! We are so happy to have him back!

(These are the only pics I have so far, but we'll be going out to eat tomorrow night, so I'll get some more then!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

1 hr 53 minutes

That's how long it took me to complete the Army 10 Miler this past weekend! I was very happy with my time - I'm a pretty slow runner, so I didn't have a particular pace in mind, but I had been running an 11 min mile during my training runs. The race was more fun than I thought it would be, and I'm so happy it's over!
We spent the whole weekend in the DC area before the race. My parents were very kind and flew to NC last week, then drove with me and the girls up to DC on Thursday. We spent Friday morning in the Capital, viewing the monuments and trying to view the White House (we were deterred by the large men in SWAT uniforms blocking the pathway).

We spent that evening in the Old Town area of Alexandria with my good friends the Roseann and Drew and their kids. We ate at Union Street Public House , where we had a nice dinner catching up with our friends.

I had a fabulous dinner there - I think it was the first time I've ever been offered a vegetarian chef's special!! It was too good to pass up - roasted acorn squash, roasted asparagus, eggplant, portabello, and corn, and rice pilaf. The acorn squash was excellent - the waiter told me it was roasted with orange juice, brown sugar, and butter. I'll definitely be trying it at home soon. We walked around the area a little after dinner, on our way to get some ice cream.

We happened to run into another good friend there - our friend we knew from my grandparent's town of Pune, India! We knew she lived in the area, but didn't think we'd be able to see her this weekend. What a small world that we ended up on the same busy street in Alexandria as Gia and her husband Tarak!!

The next day we had a later start, but I managed to maneuver around the Metro with my two girls to get to the Race Expo at the Crystal Gateway Marriott. I picked up my race packet there, got a new running shirt with a built in zippered pocket, some power gel to store in said pocket, and then made it back to our hotel in the Roslyn area of Arlington. I tried 3 different local delis to get lunch, but they were all closed. So I ended up at Ruby Tuesday, where Abby pulled the fire alarm on our way out the door! Emma was really distraught by the sound of the alarm, and was really worried about getting out the doors, even though she saw Abby pull the alarm! The hostess at the restaurant was very kind and understanding, and even hugged Emma to make her feel better. Naughty Abby!

(My parents were exploring the Smithsonian Museums while we had our adventures, so they missed the excitement. )
We headed to Fairfax that afternoon to visit some more friends. My parents and I had a great time catching up with our friends Lauren and Jenny, who we met when I was in kindergarten, and Lauren's husband Merrith. They fed us a delicious pasta with roasted red pepper sauce, grilled zucchini and squash, and my favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip! It was the perfect pre-race dinner. And my girls had a really fun night playing with Lauren's kids. It was a strange feeling, to know our kids are now the same age we were when we first became friends, and we are now the age our parents were at the time.

I woke up the morning of the race feeling pretty nervous, but once I got on the Metro with about a thousand other runners, I felt better. There were over 26,000 runners at the Army 10-Miler that morning - I didn't cross the start line until about 8:20! As I said before, the course was amazing. We started at the Pentagon, ran through the Lady Bird Johnson Park, crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge, ran past the Lincoln Memorial, past the Watergate Hotel, (past the gas station where we asked a cab driver for directions when we were lost on Thursday night,) past the Washington Monument, past the Smithsonian castle and museums, around the Capital building, past the museums again (fyi - it is mentally painful to double back!), back again over the Potomac River, ran on a really long and boring overpass, and then FINALLY ran back to the Pentagon to cross the finish line.
The first 7 miles were fine, but the last 3 were tough. I was thrilled to finally finish! And I was relieved to find my family after the race - with so many runners, I was worried I wouldn't find them for hours! They said they saw me cross the finish line - I'm sure it wasn't a pretty sight.
My friend Roseann also came out with her kids to cheer me on. Maybe she'll run it with me next year!
My husband was kind enough to run his own Army 10 Miler in Iraq that day. He woke up in time to run it at the exact same time as me, and called me after I was done with my race! So sweet! I knew he was going to be running when I was, and that thought helped me get through the last few miles, when I was not having as much fun anymore!

After the race we headed back to our hotel on the Metro, then drove to Roseann's house in Alexandria. She treated us to a delicious lunch and let me shower and relax at their house for a few hours before we headed back down I-95 to North Carolina again. The drive home was pretty painful. Sitting in a car for 6 hours after a race is not good for recovery!
I'm proud of myself for finishing the race, and I'm glad I had this to look forward to and to train for while Scott is away. I'm not sure where we'll be next year, but if we're around here, I'll definitely try to run this race again. (Hopefully with some friends running with me! Heather? Roseann? Lauren?)