Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mini Strawberry Rhubarb Pies.

For the past few weeks, every time I walk into Whole Foods, which is practically every morning for a bagel, I am greeted with a barrel of fresh rhubarb in the middle of a display of berries.
After two weeks of the rhubarbs staring at me, I had to buy some.   They looked so colorful and pretty.  I grabbed a container of strawberries as well and decided to tackle strawberry rhubarb pie. 
The only time I've made this pie was for my good friend Peter. It was a thank you pie for giving me a ride from the fair so I wouldn't be late for work. That was 8 years ago!  
I used three different recipes to make the pie: Smitten Kitchen, Post Punk Kitchen, and I dusted off my America's Test Kitchen cookbook.  I guess four if you count the crust recipe from good old Martha.  Best pie crust recipe I've made.  But then again, put a lot of butter in anything and it's bound to be good.
First things first, make your crust so that you can let it chill in the fridge while you make the filling.  
Then cut the rhubarb into 1 inch pieces and cook them on the stove with 1/4 cup sugar.  Americas Test Kitchen says you want them to release their liquid, but still remain firm.  
Look at that great color..and all the liquid releasing on the bottom left picture.   Let the rhubarb cool and in a bowl mix together the rest of the filling ingredients (written on the bottom) and the cooled rhubarb. 

Looks like a gooey mess.  
Set it aside and bring out your crust dough from the fridge.  I decided to make things complicated and make mini-pies.  Chad's not a fan of desserts, and I can't eat a whole pie by myself, or I shouldn't at least, so I made little ones that I could give away as treats or freeze for another day.  Definitely more time consuming to make mini pies than one big pie.  Making little lattice tops for them got tiring really quickly. 
But it was totally worth it because they turned out pretty cute. 
I think Peter would've really enjoyed them...
And because I will gladly admit I am not Martha 
Stewart, here are some of the not so pretty ones;
poor little guys.  However, their looks did not take 
away from the taste.  They were just as yummy
as their pretty siblings. 
What you'll need for the filling:
1 lb rhubarb
3 cups strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tblspn lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tblspn tapioca flour
2 Tblspn all purpose flour

Tuxedo Strawberries

I'm a sucker for chocolate covered strawberries.  They are oh-so-tasty, and simple to make as well that it's a perfect treat for any occasion.  In fact, last year,  I decided to hand out tins of chocolate covered strawberries instead of the traditional christmas cookies.  They were a big hit.  Who doesn't like strawberries dipped in chocolate? 
But today I realized I may have been doing this simple thing all wrong.
Did you know you have to "temper" your chocolate?  I had no idea what that meant. I had to look it up here
Turns out there's a science to melting chocolate. Chocolate usually comes tempered.  When you heat it up you are breaking the crystals in the chocolate and causing them to not align properly.  This is why you have to temper it by varying the temperature while melting it to make sure they come together nicely again to give you that nice snap and shine that Klondike bars usually have.  I also found that the chocolate that I've been using, Nestle chocolate chips, are all wrong.  Chocolate chips have additives in them to keep their shape when you're baking them in cookies.  They are nearly impossible to temper.  
Here is a photo tutorial to making little strawberry tuxedos for your next dinner party.  Try not to eat them all in the process! 

Temper your white chocolate
Wash and THOROUGHLY dry your strawberries
(Otherwise the chocolate won't stick to them)
Stick a skewer in there for easy handling and dunk strawberry

Let white chocolate completely dry (15 min..ish)

Temper dark chocolate
Dunk strawberries in an angle on both sides.  

Take a pastry bag and with a #3 tip pipe bow ties and buttons
What do you mean you don't have a pastry bag and a #3 tip?  
Pour the chocolate in a ziploc bag and cut a small hole on the side.  
I put them in the strawberry container with mini 
strawberry rhubarb pies I made.  Super cute gift:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

David, I think it's time we met (Part 2)

I managed to wrangle some friends from New York to join Chad and I for David Sedaris's book signing. Johnny, the grinning gentlemen above, I have known since I was 15 years old, he is my brothers best friend and I consider him family. Jessica, the lady on the right, also someone I have known for at least 10 years now, also a close friend of my brothers, and also someone I consider family.  They just happen to be in a relationship as well, and graciously host us whenever we travel to the big city.  Amie, not Amy or Ami, (on the left, who kind of looks like she's jabbing her privates-sheesh Amie, try not to do that in public), I met when we both worked at Starbucks back in Bellingham in 2005.  She recently moved to New York with her boyfriend (Tim) and has New York adventures of her own that you can read all about on her blog:
Close to 5pm, the bookstore, McNally Jackson, had a small line going around the corner, nothing too long yet and I was finally beginning to accept that I was actually going to meet one of my favorite authors.  
After standing in line for ten minutes Amie and I realized that the rest of our gang ditched us.  There is still debate as to whether we were properly informed of their departure.  We were so close to meeting David, I just couldn't imagine who would just leave like that!  Fools I tell you! Fools. 
While waiting close to an hour in a very unorganized line, we noticed the store clerks had armfuls of the new book and just handing them out to people.  
Not selling them to people, giving them to people.
I looked down at the receipt of the three books I made Chad run in and purchase when we first got in line outside.  I was afraid of them running out, or me having to leave the line and lose my place to purchase it later.  $90 for three hardcover books, and here these people are handing them out.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!

When I finally found myself in front of David Sedaris, I was so nervous I was at a loss for words, which is very rare for me.
I wanted to tell him how my bangs were sticking to my forehead because of my nerves, how I wore a low-cut dress for him, though I know he is gay,  and in a relationship, and that my elbows were probably ashy and it was really distracting me from this moment.
Luckily, I didn't say any of that.
I found myself throwing Johnny, Jessica and Chad under the bus as an ice breaker with Mr. Sedaris.  I grabbed one of my three copies and had him address it to them.  I explained how they ditched us in search of food, and how in conclusion they must not like him. 

He politely chuckled and signed their book: To Jess, Johnny and Chad - I hope you're satisfied with yourselves.
The next book he signed was BFF Crystals, her inscription read: To Crystal- Your charming friend bedazzled me. 
ME! I bedazzled him. (Don't take it away from me, let me just have that).
My inscription read: To Meenal- My Abandoned friend.  And lastly, Amie he signed- To Amie, a slow and steady friend.   Amie got a drawing in her book, the lucky bastard.
He told us an interesting story of his time in Bellingham, never rushed us off, and all around was a pleasant man, as I just knew he would be. 

Our meeting did leave me with two regrets:
Being so star struck in front of him that I lost all eloquence, 
and not making him cupcakes or chicken curry. 
Ah well…next time.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

David, I think it's time we met.

I was introduced to David Sedaris' work on a road trip. It was an audiobook -Me talk pretty one day

I instantly became a fan. 

Since then I have only purchased the audio version of his books because I really enjoy hearing him narrate them. I wouldn't be able to replicate his deadpan delivery if I was reading it to myself.

He came to Bellingham once when I lived there and Crystal and I wanted to hear him but it was sold out.  We have tried to see him when he came to Seattle but it never worked out. We finally came to terms with probably never seeing him live.

I consoled myself by telling {me} that its stupid to pay lots of money to hear him read his book when I can just listen to the audiobook and it'll basically be the same thing.

I mean was he going to sing? Play an instrument? Do magic? Probably not.  

Oh man! What if he does magic?? I can't focus on that now I've already decided I'm not going to see him do a reading. 

Being a fan of his on Facebook I found that he was going on tour again this year, but before that, he was doing book signings in random cities promoting his new book -Lets Explore Diabetes with Owls. I quickly scanned the events page to see if he would be making a stop in DC. 
He wasn't. 
And then, instinctually, I checked if he was doing a book signing in Seattle. I don't know why; to feel sorry for myself that I wouldn't be able to go I guess?  
Lucky for my feelings he wasn't stopping in Seattle either.  I did notice that he would be signing books in New York City.  I AM always looking for an excuse to visit New York...

I am so fascinated with the city. I think I'm in love with her.  I get completely swept up in her grandeur.  But we ll only have brief flings, after all my heart is spoken for.

I wasn't sure if Chad would be up for driving to New York to meet David Sedaris, so I dismissed the idea. But as the date got closer I decided to casually run it by him.  Because my car was riding on a spare, I decided that it may be smarter to take the megabus. The megabus goes from DC to NYC for $20 one way. You don't have to pay tolls, worry about parking, or have to stay awake while driving. ...Or at least that was the spiel I gave Chad. 

I think almost 3 years into our marriage he is accepting that I often come up with crazy ideas that I think are completely logical. 

"You want to ride 4 1/2 hours to New York on a bus... to get a book signed?"
And then shaking his head and with a smile I'm sure I didn't fabricate he said, "...Sure, honey."
It was settled then, I was going to meet David. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday, May 4th, The Surprise Anniversary Party.

I wasn't sure if we would be able to pull it off, but we did.  My mom was in tears she was so surprised. Mission. Accomplished. 
The completed centerpieces...I put a few drops of food coloring in each vase. Saturday-Centerpieces 

The banner made by the Silhouette Cameo machine, It was so windy I thought it would fly away, along with the tablecloths.  Monday-Banner

The big 40 on the punch/dessert table, (with niece Liv in the back and pregnant cousin Diana on the side) Wednesday-The big 4-0 and Friday-Last prep day

My mom's surprised reaction.

An outfit change:

40 years.

In case you missed any of the days in the prep week not listed above:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday-Last prep day.

I have almost everything done, except the cardboard 40.  I have waited till the very last minute and now I want to throw it in the garbage.  I think I'm tired.  
I can't get it to look pretty like Oh Happy Day's tutorial.  I don't have the crepe paper to make the fancy decoration, and I've come so far that I can't just stop and not follow through, or can I?  Chad's asleep and I am very jealous.
I decided to switch up the decorations and cover it up in scrapbook paper and pictures instead.
My floor at the moment:
There's still the sides to do and a few more pictures to put on.  
Hopefully I will be able to get done and still have some time to rest before the big party tomorrow.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday-Cutting chicken.

In order to lighten my cooking and work load tomorrow, I cut and cleaned 11 pounds of chicken tonight for the chicken curry.  
It took me three hours. 
That's a lot of chicken.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wednesday-A big 4-0.

Today, I am making a big 4-0 out of cardboard for my parents 40th Anniversary.
 I saw this on Pinterest:
It is on Oh Happy Day's blog.  She tells you in great detail how to make this which leaves you believing that it actually might be possible to pull it off.   I mean just look how fun that looks!  This 25 is supposed to be a pinata.  I wasn't sure if that was where I wanted to go with it, but I knew it would be a great addition to the decor.   Pinterest has a way of thinking you can do anything.

I found scrap cardboard from Costco, it wasn't as big as the picture from Oh Happy Day, but I got over it, reluctantly.
I left the rest up to Chad.  I would enter the scene again for the decorating part.

Gotta love him.  I will decorate either tomorrow or Friday.