Monday, March 10, 2008

Looking for a Little Blogger Help Please :)

Ok - it's time to add an RSS feed and tune up this otherwise fa-bulous blog. I must say, though I've gotten the basics down, I'm a better cook than bloganista, at least as far as the technical aspects go.

Would anyone like to lend me a hand? I'll trade cash (though my budget is tiny) or cookies -- you pick :)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Coffee Anyone???

Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about supporting local businesses, especially those downtown. But today, it seems like no matter what, my efforts to secure a little caffeinated deliciousness were thwarted! Perhaps it was just my utter need for a caffeine boost on this daylight savings time "spring forward" day, but it was all but impossible to get coffee downtown this afternoon.

I was meeting my new friend Ross to discuss a cool place I stumbled across for his business (he'll be entrepreneur of the year 2010 or 2011) and suggested that we meet downtown for a caffeine buzz. My first choice? La Dolce Vita on Carroll Creek. There is a lot of really great coffee downtown, but this is my favorite. I can pick up some caramel notes just in the regular beans and their milk foaming (I know, I'm such a prima donna) is perfect. It is truly delicious. I was physched, especially to introduce someone new to this independently-owned shop.

Well gosh darn it, it was closed! At 4:00! On a Sunday! With daylight savings time, so it was really like 3:00 (ok, I'm sounding desperate...) Ross was waiting for me when I got there (I was on time, I swear!) and said that he had counted no fewer than 12 people trying to get in in the 10 minutes he had been there. Ever since their new winter hours have gone into effect, I can't get a bevie there. I am bummed! I like to drink coffee before 9:00 (seriously -- it's a coffee shop) and sometimes a little later in the afternoon, especially on weekends. During the week, my friend Josh and I had to go around the corner to Nola, on Patrick St. So naturally, that was my second choice today, mostly because the sofa is really comfy.

Nope. Nola was closed too, and their sign said that they're open until 6 on Sunday. This was at 4:35. Errrrrr.

Finally, we popped into Proof. I like their coffee (not as much as those AMAZING pastries) and we got the comfy seats by the window (I LOVE sitting there). Proof was hoppin' and partly I'm thinking because it was the only shop open in that part of Patrick/Market Sts. The coffee was yummy, and I was grateful they were open, though we were promptly booted out at closing time (6p).

I know that The Frederick Coffee Company is open 24/7, it just wasn't close to where I was, and ever since I broke my toe (that's another post...) I just can't stroll around the same way I could a few weeks ago.

I was thinking, Starbucks (the evil empire to some) was totally open. Their service is quick and the coffee is reliable. I still really, really, really want to patronize locally owned and operated businesses, but sometimes, there's no other choice.

Thoughts? I am just cranky because I could practically taste that cappuccino from La Dolce Vita and was then shut down? Should I just get over myself (be gentle dear readers :)?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Magical, Mystical Marshmallows

Ok people -- listen up! There is no need to ever eat one of those sorry, chewy, bouncy things that grocery stores call marshmallows ever again. I promise!

My newest obsession is making marshmallows from scratch. I know what you're thinking..."Oh come on Chris, you have got to be kidding. Marshmallows? REALLY? Like I have TIME for this???" Oh yes you do my friend, oh yes you do.
Let's be real here: In most households, marshmallow consumption is not an everyday thing. Marshmallows are a special treat. They are amazing with cocoa, really great (and totally necessary) in s'mores, and good for the occasional nibble. Other than that, you don't typically use too many (It's still ok to use store bought for Rice Krispie treats :). Besides, imagine your kid's, spouse's, or even your own face when these work out so beautifully.

Let's walk through it, shall we?

Step one: Soften your gelatin in cold water.

Well, what the heck does that mean? Short answer (and I'm totally guessing here, but it's an educated guess): Professional pastry chefs use gelatin in long sheets, not the powdered stuff we get from Knox at the grocery store. Gelatin sheets are placed in cold water and actually do soften. I'm pretty sure that's where the terminology comes from. For our purposes, sprinkle the powdered gelatin over cold water and let it expand and get semi-firm.

Step Two: Bring some water, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil and cook to 240-degrees (soft ball stage).

Step Three: Take some egg whites and beat them to stiff, but not dry, peaks. Essentially, beat them to stiff peaks but make sure that they still look glossy and pretty, not kind of stiff and almost broken up.

Step Four: Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and add the gelatin. Stir gently until the gelatin is dissolved.

Step Five: Turn on your mixture to the lowest setting and pour the blazing hot sugar mixture into the egg whites. BE CAREFUL!! Hot sugar is like napalm -- really. IMHO (in my humble opinion), sugar burns are the worst. DO NOT let your children help you with this part. I mean it. You do this one.

Step Six: Add some flavoring and turn the mixer up to high (woo hoo!) and beat for 10 minutes or until fluffy and high and gorgeous. The mixer bowl will also be cool to the touch when it's ready. We also added a little food coloring to make them pink. Here's a hint: Use a touch more food coloring than you think you should. As the air is beaten in they will get lighter in color.

Step Seven: Spread the yummy, gooey marshmallow mixture into a greased (this is important!!!) 9x13 pan. Top with a sheet of parchment paper that you have sprayed with Pam or the like, pressing onto the surface of the marshmallows.

Step Eight: The hard part...Just let them set on the counter overnight. That's it. Really. And seriously, you won't believe how good they really are. The melt just right on cocoa and make it so delicious. I would not lie. You can even cut them out into shapes if you like (we did hearts, but squares are just as good and less wasteful):

Here's a recipe I like from Martha Stewart's web site:
Just skip the fudge part of the recipe because it's tricky to do and really not even necessary, at least for our purposes.

FYI : We're actually going to make our own marshmallow chicks in our Easter Treats class on March 15. Use secret code MARSH to take $20 off the class if you register by March 12. This is a special offer just for blog readers and your friends.

Bon appetit my friends, and happy marshmallowing!!