Monday, April 28, 2008

Playing with Cake

A few years ago my sister found out about a cheese cake recipe contest sponsored by Philadelphia and Gourmet Magazine . The winner would get either $100,000 or new professional kitchen appliances, or something like that. She decided to create several cheesecake recipes. She ended up creating several amazing cheesecake recipes, six of which she entered into the contest, including a lemon raspberry and a chocolate mint truffle that are to die for. She unfortunately did not win the contest (although I think she should have), but since then she has become famous for her cheesecakes.

Last summer, a friend from her ward approached her about doing the "cake", or more appropriately, the cheesecake for her wedding. It was a huge undertaking, but my sister is just that crazy, so she said yes. The wedding was beautiful, and the cheesecake was fabulous. Michal was not experienced with fondant at the time, so she found a friend that could decorate the cheesecakes that were on display in lieu of traditional wedding cake. They were simple, but gorgeous.

Fast forward to this spring. Michal had another request for wedding cheesecakes. This time, she volunteered me to be the one to decorate the wedding cake. The bride wanted a very simple cake--one layer of cheesecake. No other tiers. At first, she specified no embellishments. We slowly convinced her that she should at least have fondant, then flowers, then a ribbon.

The cheesecake was lemon raspberry, which Michal and the bride's mother made ahead of time and had frozen. We then iced it with buttercream and covered it with a buttery yellow fondant.

It takes much more time than it seems like it should take, but Isaac was happy to sit and watch, as long as I kept him stocked with a cheerios and toys while he watched. "Come on mom, can't I have some of that?"
After I covered the cake with fondant, I brushed with pearl shimmer, and trimmed with brown organza ribbon. By then Isaac was ready for his mom to pay him some more attention.

At the reception the florist tucked a few fresh flowers around it. It was simple and elegant and not bad for my first fondant cheesecake if I do say so myself. :)

This is what it looked like during the reception, after they cut it.

Here are some of the shots of the cheesecake we served that night at the reception:

Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake with Lemon Curd and Raspberry Reduction

Classic New York Cheesecake with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache

Michal and I actually went to the reception too to cut and plate all of the cheesecake. By the end of the day, we were ready to get off of our feet and, I might add, O.D.ed on sweets. :)

So Evan, what kind of cheesecake do you want at your wedding?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Getting to Know You Survey

Here is a little get-to-know-(random facts about)-you quiz that my friend Trayce sent to me by e-mail. I figured that if I was going to fill it out, I might as well post it on my blog. Enjoy

1. What is your occupation? Wife and mother (I have a Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential for the state of CA and taught 4th grade until October 5th, 2007. :)

2. What color are your socks right now? White

3. What are you listening to right now? Flint on the phone (My computer is in the "home office" so I have to be quiet while he is working.)

4. What was the last thing that you ate? A homemade chocolate chip cookie (you caught me)

5. Can you drive a stick shift? I've learned several times, but I have never had one to drive regularly enough to gain real confidence.

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? aquamarine

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My sister

8. How old are you today? A lady never tells, or at least never publishes on-line.

9. Favorite drink? Jamba Juice (Caribbean Passion, or other tropical flavors)

10. What is your favorite sport to watch? Water Polo if my brother Stu or Evan is, or Football if my brother Tyler is playing.

11. Have you ever dyed your hair? Yes, I like to highlight my hair, but it is currently it is my (cheaper and lower maintenance) natural color.

12. Pets? no (We like to say that it was in the "pre-nup")

13. Favorite food? I love food! I can't pick a favorite, that's my problem. (not fast food)

14. Last movie you watched? Oh Brother Where Art Thou

15. Favorite day? Day of Week, Friday (Flint usually takes the afternoon and evening off.)

16. What do you do to vent anger? Call my sister or mom

17. What was your favorite toy as a child? ? I had a preemie baby doll wrapped in a blanket that was a puppet so I could make it move around like a real baby. (Does anyone remember what those were called?)

18. What is your favorite season? Summer - I love all of the swimming and water sports that we can do in the summer, and I look forward to family vacations, family reunions...

19. Hugs or kisses? hugs

20. Cherry or Blueberry? fresh cherry (not processed cherry or cherry flavored things)

21. When was the last time you cried? When I read my brothers' comments to my sisters blog post about my dad.

22. What is on the floor of your closet? Shoes and my swim bag

23. Favorite smells? Homemade bread, Chocolate chip cookies, pine forests, rain on hot pavement, my baby after his bath...

24. Who inspires you? My mother (of course), I have been reading President Hinckley's biography and his life is also very inspirational.

25. What are you afraid of? conflict

26. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? I love Red Robin's Gourmet burgers (Like the Blue Ribbon Burger: A juicy burger basted with a tangy steak sauce and topped with crumbled Blue cheese. Served with onion straws,lettuce,tomatoes and zesty Chipotle mayo on an onion bun.) Please refer to #13

27. Favorite car? I don't have a favorite car type. I will always love my little Honda Civic, since it was the first (and only so far) car that I bought brand new.

28. Favorite cat breed? I always wanted a Persian (long hair cat) when I was young. They looked so pretty and soft to me.

29. Number of keys on your key ring? 7

30. How many years at your current job? Isaac's Mom

31. What's been your favorite job? This one! (Salary job? Teaching)

32. How many states have you lived in? 3 - Idaho: birth to 18 months, Southern California until college, Utah for college and my first job, back to Southern California to teach, meet Flint, and get married, now Northern California to be a mom. (I know that it is the same state, but Southern and Northern California are so different it seems like I need to specify.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Isaac's First Baby Food

I took so many pictures of this little meal that I thought that I would make a slide show of the event. Since the slideshow program that I have been using takes forever to upload photos, I decided to try something new. I really like the Smilebox program. It is quick, easy, and comes with a lot of templates. The only problems are, the text is hidden up at the top, I can't figure out how to speed up the transitions between slides, and most importantly, it does not play in the blog. If you want to watch it you have to click and open a new window to view it.

I'll probabbly switch programs next time. If you do watch it, I think you'll get a kick out of the faces he made when he got his first few tastes of baby oatmeal.

Click to play first meal
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a slideshow - it's easy!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

CTR Cake

I am always looking for an occasion to make a cake, especially a big fancy one. If you have already read my sisters blog you have already seen the fun cake we made for Kimball's baptism. My mom and sister and I all worked on this one, and we were very pleased about the way it turned out. (By the way, if you don't know, CTR stands for Choose the Right. It is a primary motto.)

Since we wanted it to taste good as well as look good Michal spared no expense. The cake was a moist rich chocolate chocolate chip cake (a Dr.ed up cake mix with sour cream, pudding and chocolate chips). We made two 18 inch square cakes, that we then split to make four layers (the whole cake actually took four mixes).

We used 20 oz. of Trader Joe's chocolate and a cup and a half of cream to make a ganache to use as a filling. We realized after filling the first layer that it was only going to be enough for two of the three filling layers. Since we would have to go back to the store for more ingredients anyway, we decided to fill the very center with a chocolate mousse to mix things up a bit. We should have gotten a picture of the sliced cake. The layers were: cake, ganache, cake, chocolate mousse, cake, ganache, and cake. :) I think that in the end there was almost three pounds of chocolate in the fillings of this decadent cake!

The marshmallow fondant went on quite smoothly, but the ribbon at the base hides several flaws. Mom's lettering was perfect, and the green luster dust, left over from Jared and Kimball's light saber cake, came in handy as a finishing touch.

It was a hit at the party, and I think Michal only went home with one or two leftover pieces.

I wonder when our next occasion will be?

Hartford's Big Island Events

Hartford had quite a schedule of events planned for our group, that would entertain us and show off the beautiful island. They planned evening events every night except for the night that followed the Tour of the island and Volcano National Park.

The first night's event was a welcome reception down at the Hotel pool/beach.

Isaac went to sleep just as it was starting, so we put him in a stroller, covered it with a blanket, and "parked" him near our back corner table. We filled our plates with food from the generous, fresh, seafood buffet, and headed back to our seats.

Before we got back, someone pulled Flint aside and politely as possible let him know that under no circumstances were children allowed at any of the events. NO EXCEPTIONS! Isaac and I were kink of upset about this.

I had been worried about what we would do with Isaac if we were faced with these objections and couldn't see any other options. I can't get Isaac to take a bottle of pumped milk, let alone formula, so leaving him with someone seemed like it would be out of the question.

We just decided to just enjoy the fact that we were in Hawaii together, and not worry about whether or not we could go to any events. With that said, I started researching any options we had to see the island on our own, and/or attend an event or two.

The next day, Flint had meeting till noon. I got to hang out at the hotel beach and pool. I visited with someone I met at last year's convention and she mentioned that since she was feeling sick, she was not going to go the Luau that night. I took a mental note of her room number for future use. At 6:30 the group all headed off to the luau, but I was happy to find out that it was being held at the adjacent hotel (shuttle service was available). Isaac, like the angel he is, fell sound asleep for the night promptly at 7:30. I called my friend who was happy to keep Isaac in her room. I and rolled his stroller into the vanity area of her bathroom, where he continued to sleep soundly, and I rushed off to join the party.

We had so much fun! It turns out that the party was just beginning. I had only missed the sunset photo-opp and cocktails.

The food, flowers, music, and dancing were wonderful!

I know that I'm crazy, but can you believe that everyone was leaving their leis behind! I took a couple extra on my way out.

Mom helped me reserve a rental car for our day trip around the island, since we wouldn't be able to ride on the bus with Isaac. (That reservation didn't end up working out, since the Internet and call center information was wrong, and the promised car delivery was unavailable. Plus, the pick-up location was a $90 taxi ride away). We were saved by Aaron (Flint's boss) who gave us the car reservation with the hotel that he had booked and didn't need after all.

It turns out that most of the people on the tour bus envied us the freedom that the rental car gave us. We went to Rainbow falls,
... then out to a nice lunch, the black sand beach, to Volcano National Park, and to a fun local Hawaiian food drive-in for dinner.

Volcano National Park felt like Jurassic Park. Maybe it was the tropical forest mixed with the strange sulfur smell and the thick overcast sky. Maybe it was the craters and tunnels that made up the rest of the scenery, but it was kind of eerie once it got dark.

Here I am with Isaac in narrowest part of the "Lava Tube" in Volcano National park.

Here is Flint in the biggest part.

The next day was a free day, so we played at the pool and beach all day and recovered form our road trip. We hung out with Mike and Vicky, who had brought their 8 and 10 year old boys. We did some body surfing and snorkeling etc., and came up with a plan to that evening. Vicky didn't want to leave her boys in the hotel room from 5:00-10:30 (the scheduled time for the evening's events at Kohala Ranch) and I couldn't leave Isaac until he was sleeping, around 7:30. We decided that we would split the cost of a rental car so that we could tag team the kids.

We drove up to the ranch together. What a gorgeous drive! The sunset and light were just beautiful when we got to the ranch.

The hillside pastures were breath-taking. These are what I call Happy Horses!

After taking a few pictures, I dropped off Flint and the other couple and took Isaac on a little sight seeing drive across the country side. I wanted to check out the Northern point of the island. I drove back to the ranch by 7:00 so that I could feed Isaac and get him to sleep. When he went to sleep around 7:45. Mike and Vicky took him with them (and the rental car) back to the hotel so that they could spend the rest of the evening with their boys, and I could spend the rest of the evening with Flint at the ranch.

They had an amazing paniolo ranch barbecue dinner with steak, ribs, chicken, baked beans, potatoes, corn on the cob ..... They had a couple horse shoe toss games going (which I am really bad at, and Flint is pretty good at), a lasso toss station (which I am pretty good at, but Flint is not so good at :), a branding station (where we could brand a piece of wood with the ranch brand), a star gazing station with a telescope (we saw Saturn and its rings), a s'more station, and a live country band playing! It was great fun! Doug (one of Flint's Hartford friends) even got up and took a turn with the microphone.

The next day, we used the rental car to drive to Kona and then the Pololu Valley (I'll tell about that in another blog.) That night I decided to play with Isaac at the pool and watch the band and hula dancer on the terrace instead of joining Flint at the "Surprise" final event.

They ended up going to a boat club on the Kuilia Coast for dinner and dancing. Since Flint went alone...

he spent his time taking pictures of the sunset and thinking wistfully of his wonderful wife. :)

(Great pictures don't you think?)