Saturday, January 30, 2010

Starting the week off right

Shabbat has just ended, and the new week has started with a bang: Ophira, the daughter of our neighbors Judy and Phil, just got engaged! Mazal tov! We are so excited for everyone! Lookig forward to making beautiful desserts for their engagement party, whenever that may be.

The week that passed was also full of occasions. Ariella took a field trip to "Olam Ha'avaz" (literally "Goose World") and thoroughly enjoyed seeing and learning all about birds and even holding a baby chick. Dani is now officially registered for Chorev boy's yeshiva high school for seventh grade - it should all be with mazal. Dani and Lola both received their teudot(report cards) on Friday, and we are so proud of both of them for exemplary marks and behavior, in school, at least. Shana and Ayelet will receive theirs on Sunday, and then have a couple of days off between semesters.

As far as baking goes, I made birthday cupcakes for a client this week, yummy vanilla cupcakes with a really delicious chocolate buttercream (a new recipe I had been wanting to try) and sprinkles.

Hope the birthday boy enjoyed!

I also did desserts for a bat mitzvah of a young lady visiting from the US. Her family are old friends who used to live in our neighborhood, and the mom and I were pregnant together with Dani and Esite, the bat mitzvah girl. It was so nice to see them, and wild to see Estie - and their other kids - all grown up! The platters included alfajores, chocolate cake bite truffles, chewy oatmeal cherry cookies, chocolate espresso cream wafers, apple crumble bars, lemon wedges, cinnamon squares, and caramel brownies.

The party was lovely - we all had fun and enjoyed the blast from the past.
The chocolate cake truffles were something I had never made in bulk before. Rolling them in the chocolate was something of a challenge. Once I had made a sufficient quantity, I still had a bit of the mixture left over. Since we were invited out for dinner Friday night, and David and I were attending a bar mitzvah lunch, I did not have a ton of cooking to do. I took the opportunity to make cake bite truffle pops - so cute, and very tasty.

That's enough sweets for this week! Shavua tov everybody!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Playing catch-up

I am getting the feeling that life is always just a game of catch-up; no matter how clever you think you are, you are never going to get ahead of the game. So this post is a catch-up of last week's happenings, about which there is not a lot of interesting stuff to say.

Last week Ariella got her glasses. She is very pleased to be seeing better, and the teasing seems to have lasted just one day (in school, of course, since she is joining the majority at home. Now we can mock Dani for his perfect vision!). She looks adorable and is acting relatively responsible.Not the most fab picture, but it will have to do for now.

Besides last week's hamburger adventure, I also did cookies and cupcakes for a sweet sixteen party in Ra'anana. The cupcakes came out very cute - chocolate mini-cupcakes with pink vanilla frosting and a blossom accent, and red velvet mini-cupcakes with white vanilla frosting and daisy accents.

The cookies on the platters (yes, already wrapped, sorry Abba - I forget until it is too late!) are thin mint hearts, peanut butter bars, sugar cookie ganache sandwiches, butter pecan turtle bars, linzer cookies, and polka dot cookies.

Shabbat platters were the same assortment.

Shana and Ayelet have both recently attended plays organized by their English classes - Another Antigone for Shana, and The Chosen for Ayelet. We are in the final throes of choosing a high school for the Donald, so stay tuned. I am working on cupcakes and a cake for a birthday order, as well as a bat mitzvah order. Then I am sure I will be playing catch-up again!

Wish me luck!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Want fries with that?

At long last, I can unveil the project that has consumed so much of my time lately - the hamburger cookie stack!!!
This is it - my albatros. A number of months ago, my friend Caryn, who is also a party planner/runner par excellence, came to me to talk about her son Eli's bar mitzvah. He wanted a barbeque for his party, and Caryn loved the theme. Among other thematic elements - the red and white checked tablecloths, the b-b-q style food, the hot dog mylar balloon and ketchup bottle base centerpieces - she wanted to do some kind of hamburger and hot dog style dessert, and asked me to come up with something. She came up with the idea of canollis filled with red cream to represent hot dogs (pigs in blankets) and I was to come up with the hamburger element. I had seen the idea done with cupcakes and brownie cut outs, but we both wanted to go with something a little more realistic looking, as well as tastier. So I came up with this - black and white cookie on top, whoopie pie cookie in the middle, chocolate chip black and white on the bottom, with frosting lettuce and ketchup. First baked were the bun elements

and then the burgers (less out of focus than the buns).Assembly was made possible through the kindness of my family, who helped speed the assembly line along, and who cooked two-thirds of Shabbat. And this was the result:Feedback was excellent, from the wow factor to the actual eating. Yay!!! It was a great party, and I was very happy to be a part of it.

More on the rest of Shabbat and last week coming up next....


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Five Minute Break

This post is my little break for the day - it's a wacky day, with a lot of orders to work on. I just finished a batch of red velvet mini-cupcakes, and I think I am a convert. I know food coloring is gross, but the cupcakes look so cute and taste yummy too! I also cheated a little by putting them in red cupcake papers, to kick up the red value a bit. They are for a Sweet 16 order in Ra'anana, pick-up tomorrow. Then I have to deal with regular Shabbat orders, and Saturday night's bar mitzvah dessert, which is well on its way to completion, I hope. Lots going on - chocolate mini-cupcakes are next up, then a couple of bars. I have already baked five types of cookies today, not to mention filling, drizzling, dipping, frosting - the works. Hope to regale you with pictures, but probably not until after Shabbat, or maybe later than that, as next week is very full as well!

Getting back to it,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not Missing Paula that Much

While it is not Thanksgiving, I would like to take a moment to give thanks for that which has been restored to us - new television shows!! Thank heavens the season has resumed, with lots of new episodes and the return of some great shows, by which I mean Chuck. Also, the whole family is enjoying American Idol, especially the new hit song, "Pants on the Ground," by the sextegenarian non-contestant. We are also excited for the hillbilly girl to take a ride on the aeroplane and eat some peanuts. Now I just have to hold out until Lost returns, and show true patience and forbearance until the return of Glee. Yes, along with food (prior confession), I like television. And in his heyday, I loved Steven King. Even more than Hemingway or Steinbeck. There, I guess I really am white trash. So what - so sue me. But to redeem myself, may I recommend King's sort-of memoir On Writing. Part memoir, part writing tutorial, part description of a nearly fatal accident, it is a great read.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Dani's tiyul shnati was "okay." I think that means the hostel was not as nice as last year's, and the season finale of Hisardut (Israeli version of Survivor, same production company, same over-serious production values) had already taken place. The maslulim seem not to have been as much fun. But just as much candy was consumed, so no need to worry.

Ariella needs, wait for it, GLASSES! My baby can't see the luach (or, as she said, "sometimes I can't see the nikud on the luach."), so she needs to join the large family group requiring vision correction. She is way excited!

Shabbat was really nice. Shanie brought two Shana Bet friends, Adina and Shira. They were lovely, and we hope they will come again, though it will not make up for Shanie not being here. Ariel was with us for lunch with the kids, while Josh was in the States. We also attended the engagement kiddush I had mentioned previously, so all in all, a good Shabbat was had.

The cookies this week were great, if I say so myself, as I am so tired as to be unable to filter myself from braggy content. There was a lot of variety this week: chewy chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter bites, lemon drop sandwiches, tuxedo brownies, black and white cookies, honey pecan bars, and linzer hearts.
I also made cute engagement cupcakes, and I actually followed through on the plan to make chocolate cupcakes with coffee buttercream with a sweet fondant heart on the top. Very romantic.
It is now raining here - it is expected to, b'ezrat Hashem, continue for four days! We hope it will stop in time for Eli's bar mitzvah on Shabbat. Speaking of which, it is back to work for me!
Have a good one!
P.S. I am adding a couple of photos of Ariella's kamatz patach party to the appropriate prior post - enjoy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dental Anguish and Sports Related Injury

Every six months or so, we tend to spend an disproportionate amount of time in the dentist's chair. This Sunday continued the trend, following hot on the heels of our previous week's visits. I had a regularly scheduled cleaning appointment, but Ariella had to join me to revisit the problem that she had the week before, which had not cleared up after a course of antibiotics. My teeth were, B"H, just fine (makes sense since I had been checked not two weeks prior), but Ariella's tooth needed to be opened and cleaned out. It turned out to be a sort of abcess that had developed on the spot of a previous root canal. She was, as always, a trooper, and she is now all better. She also lost yet another tooth that evening, during tooth brushing. If she was not so eager to go out and spend her Tooth Fairy money on overpriced candy, she would be a rich woman by now.

Speaking of the Tooth Fairy, she seems to be the type of fairy that is impeded by house alarms. That is, her proxies are bad parents and forget to put money under Ariella's pillow during the night, leading to grave disappointment and tears. Luckily, we are relatively quick on our feet. Last time we told her that the alarm kept the Tooth Fairy out, but if she would go wash up, we would turn the alarm off, and the TF would be able to enter and do her thing, which she did. This time, the TF was too lazy to walk all the way through the house, so she just left money under David's pillow. What a lazy little sprite!

David was the victim of a sports injury on Tuesday night - he got a nice gouge by his eye in a basketball game, caused by his glasses jamming into his eyelid right by the bridge of his nose. He came home and had me use my extensive medical expertise to assess whether his injury required treatment. I used the "Does it make me want to barf?" test, and sent him on to Terem, where he was glued back together, while I went to sleep. Sports loving fool that he is, he is not retiring from play; instead, he is going to purchase sports glasses - Recs Specs, or Pro Specs, or whatever you call them.

Dani has headed out south on his tiyul shnati. He is well stocked with candy, as is the custom for youngsters, and will visit the dentist when he returns.

I am hard(ly) at work on this week's baking. In addition to cookies, I am making cupcakes for a friend of ours who got engaged and is making a celebratory kiddush. Probably chocolate mini-cakes, topped with coffee buttercream. That is subject to change, so I will let you know.

Til later, hope you are having a good week.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

You had a bad day, you had a bad day...

Some days, nothing works right. That, in a nutshell, was Thursday. I had been under the impression that this was going to be a slow week. Then on late Wednesday into Thursday, orders came in. So I baked. But somehow, the baking just didn't work the way it was supposed to. One recipe came out of the oven looking just wrong, so I thought for a while. Then it came to me: I had forgotten to put in baking soda. Interestingly, leaving out the leavening ingredient doesn't just keep the rising from happening. The flavor is actually different. I wish I had taken a picture of the messed-up loaf and then the correct one, because the difference was shocking and fascinating. I know, it is probably fascinating only to me, but what can you do. The only science I enjoy is food science.

Then, the Twix bar experiment failed spectacularly. Because I am not sufficiently scientific, I neglected to follow the scientific method and proper experiment protocol, namely, I changed too many variables in one fell swoop. I should know that it should go one at a time, but I am impatient and short on time. The downside of having steady business (even when I doubt myself) is a shortage of time to experiment. Someday I will manage my time better and have that flexibility. Anyway, the caramel layer wasn't just stiffer, it was like glass. I did not want my family or customers to get stabbed by shards of caramel, so into the garbage it went. The glaze on the lemon cookies was a little too floppy, so the circles of glaze were not as pretty as they should have been. The whoopie pies were off - the cookies did not look right. But on the plus side, the pecan pie thumbprints came out just right, and the coffee and cream brownies were yum. So, not a total loss, just not exactly how I want things to come out.

Shabbat was nice. Elisheva and Chaya were here for Shabbat, and Lori and Seth were here for lunch. And before you blink an eye, Shabbat is over and life starts over again. Wishing you a shavua tov.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A mid-week post?

I am trying to post a little more frequently, to avoid the need for giant catch-up posts, so let's see how this goes. I am skeptical about the prospects.

Well, first off, the news services did report that the inspectors got fed up with the balagan at the front of the yishuv, went to the back entrance, entered unhindered, did their thing and left. Lots of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I guess I should not say that. This was an example of free citizens expressing themselves and their civil rights. Yet, isn't the anger a little misplaced? Tell the leaders who made the rules about your feelings; don't abuse the underlings.

Ariella got her first in-school vaccination. She was awesome, or so she she tells us. I do know that she did not cry, and that she helped a friend be brave. And I was not there, so I guess that is the key to a shot not hurting. I guess there is something to say for the socialized medicine-tough as nails-don't let them see you cry Israeli attitude. She was actuallly excited and pleased about the whole thing, especially the sticker and treat.

Last night was Ariella's "Yerid Kamatz Patach," a fair celebrating the completion of learning all the letters of the alef-bet, in conjunction with the vowels kamatz, patach, and shva. It was very sweet, if a little lengthy. There were stations set up for each letter, with activities and crafts. A number were "chova" i.e. mandatory, and included something to take home. Then the kids performed Naomi Shemer's Alef-bet song,
(10 points if you can find Lola in the crowd!) and adjourned to their respective classrooms for refreshments. Ariella especially enjoyed the traditional olives and pickles that accompany every class meal. Now is the time for baking prep. I am going to try to rework the chocolate caramel cookie bars that I made a couple of weeks ago, in order to make them sellable. I need to fidddle with the caramel, so that it doesn't all ooze out when it sits. Ah, life is so complex! Also, cooking for Shabbat has to happen, and we are having a very exciting sleepover guest - Joyce and Steven's daughter Elisheva, who is on winter break from her first year in college. If only her mom could have come with her...

When I get a chance, and if they are any good, I will post pix of Ariella at her party. She was cute, but generally the view of her was obstructed. UPDATE!!! Pictures are posted, such as they are!


Life in these territories

I just spent 45 minutes sitting in my car, waiting to enter the yishuv. It wasn't traffic that was blocking the entrance; it was politics. Today, the inspectors for the building freeze came for a visit. For reasons unknown to me, they feel the need to enter with fanfare: policemen, border police, riot gear, jeeps, the whole shebang. They closed off all entry to the yishuv, causing a massive backup in both directions. I had a car full of groceries. Thankfully, there was none of the ice cream we like in the store, so that was not a problem. David jumped out the car to see what was going on, and to help keep things under control, and I climbed into the driver's seat. I guess I actually enjoyed a bit of the quiet-sitting-down-nothing-to-do time. I listened to some music, not too shabby. But there it is. Politics are not just in the newspaper. Why did they have to make such a big deal about their arrival? Why not just enter quietly and do what they needed to do (which is likely what happened, while the large police presence distracted the hotter heads here, keeping them by the entrance while the inspectors made their way around the yishuv.)?! It kind of seems like everyone is looking for trouble, from the PMO on down. And exactly what is this freeze accomplishing? Giving the PA more incentive to be even more intractable and demanding. People here are suffering and facing financial loss, but hey, who cares about evil settlers anyway?

This was really not food related. It will probably need some editing later, so don't be surprised if it changes or disappears altogether. But my groceries did make it home in one piece, and nothing seems to have spoiled, B"H. It's all good. Except for what's not.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

When it rains, it pours

No, I am not talking about actual rain, though there was some rain this week, and pouring would be beneficial. This is a dental gripe. On Sunday night, I discovered a broken filling. So I got to head to the dentist and have a repair. Lucky for me, this was a tooth that had no nerves, thanks to prior root canal, so there was no anesthetic and no pain. Then, on Wednesday evening, Ariella complained of pain in her gum. Sure enough, she had an infection. Luckily, after a squeezed-in visit to the dentist and an exam and x-ray, the doctor decided that antibiotics would do the trick, and there was no cavity present.

Shabbat was a quiet affair, just the six of us. Napping was a joy.

This week's orders included two for bar mitzvahs off the yishuv. One, in Modi'in, was a nut-free order. The other was in Ra'anana, where the client has some definite favorite flavors. The first included thin mint sandwiches, Mexican brownies, kicked-up chocolate chip cookies, orange-cranberry-white chocolate chip cookies, and molasses cream sandwiches.

The second had the addition of peanut butter bites, for the non-allergic population. I still prefer to platter them in cupcake papers, so that they won't come in contact with the other cookies. Mazal tov to both the bar mitzvah boys and their families!

Not too much else to report. Lots of work to do, thank G-d. Have a good week.


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