Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hello, Jill..where are you????

I'm HERE!! It's been a wacky, crazy, slightly irritating kind of week! I had two big projects this week- class and a huge presentation, so I was already WAAAYYY behind on the blog when the stinky two-day migraine hit. Grrr.... it's still not completely gone, but a trip to Dairy Queen and one look at my extremely messy house has motivated me to slowly re-enter the land of the living!

So, in the world of the church ladies things came to a bit of a stand-still. We had several 'meet and greet' activities in the last few days that didn't require me to cook much! Plus, couple that with a VERY fun, large cupcake 'catering' event and the church ladies took a back seat! I have SOOO much to tell you!!!

First, let's talk about the cupcake commandment I mentioned several blogs ago. The commandment I broke is, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's cupcake tower." O-M-G!! I have wanted to build some kind of display structure for some time. Super husband and I were at a 'tasting' dinner for the University catering service and there it was, like Mecca beckoning me...a gorgeous cupcake tower. The cupcakes were nice, fairly average decoration and flavor, but the tower was to DIE for! This completely motivated me to talk to my dear construction-savvy friend, Sonja, about building me such a structure. I MUST have one, I NEED one...Dad, this is when you should NOT live in Florida! We have food structures to construct!!! AAAACCKKKK!! Ok, so I'm getting myself together now. All of this coveting has lead me to research some cupcake tower designs. Hopefully I'll have my tower constructed in the next two weeks so that I can use it for open houses, displays, etc. I'm also looking at using 'found objects' (wash tubs, antique plant stands, crates, etc.) to make creative, versatile stands. I'm really hoping to get some large 'catering' gigs so that I can make use of some of the hundreds of cupcake design ideas that are floating through my head!!!

Speaking of catering gorgeous, talented, inspirational friend, Amy, is starting two new businesses. She'll be a consultant for Willow House and will also be running her own business called Inspired Designs. She is one of my two incredibly creative design friends. She had her business 'launch' open house on Tuesday of this week and was kind enough to ask to display some of my products at her open house! I crafted about 96 cupcakes. I had my signature chocolate peanut butter cupcake called, 'The Perfect Complement'. This cupcake is a chocolate butter cake, chocolate ganache filling, and peanut butter buttercream frosting! In addition to The Perfect Complement, I had my 'Bunny Hop' cupcake which is my caramel filled carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting- yum-o!! There was also my 'breakfast-style' cupcake called 'That's How We Roll' which is a cinnamon coffee cake with a crumble top and finished with cinnamon buttercream frosting. Finally, I had 'The Pride O' The Bride' which is a classic white cupcake topped with champagne buttercream frosting! YUM YUM!!! I was super excited to debut these recipes and had great response. I have such fun creating these recipes from my own. I do 'cheat' and use cake mixes as bases and then add my own elements. I love to experiment with flavors and frostings, and am a pretty big risk taker when it comes to flavors! I am so filled with creative energy when it comes to baking!!! I can't wait to try out the next wave and can't wait for the orders to flood in! Just tell me what you love and I'll craft a cupcake for you! I am following a very 'Ben and Jerry's' philosophy...the names of my cupcakes will reflect pop culture, music, history, name it! Too fun!!!

Next up is my adventures with the fantastic fresh-picked apples I bought at the orchard in Fort Dodge, Iowa. There is NO better place to buy apples in the tri-state area!!! You can even order online-!!!

Good eats,

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Off to the Orchard!!!

Headed to the orchard today! Will post lots of pics and discuss my latest gourmet cupcake on tomorrow's blog! Stay tuned!!!!!!

Good eats,


PS...Just Like Mom's got our FIRST big 'catering' gig!!! WHOO HOOO!!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bees, Bananas, and the 'Bible'

Thought I'd share a picture of the 'bible' for this month's recipes!

The church ladies served up two fabulous recipes in the last couple of days, one involving bananas and one involving bees!

I know it's time for baking banana bread when your well-intentioned bananas begin to resemble my high school advanced biology fruit fly project! Where do those little yucky bugs come from? Ugh....

I digress- I thought banana bread would be a great church lady challenge. Granted, banana bread is one of the most simple 'quick breads' to bake but there are always opportunities for variation in the recipe. I chose a basic recipe- nothing fancy- and it turned out three fantastic loaves of steamy banana goodness. I sliced up two and put one in the freezer for a rainy day or a hostess gift. Yum-O! Can't wait for the next batch of bananas to go bad!

The church ladies served up a great chicken recipe for dinner! The recipe was entitled 'Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs'. No one in our house likes to eat meat on a bone, so I simply cut up chicken breasts, (BTW...we use the SMART chicken in our house- cage free, antibiotic free, and hormone free! DELISH!) and made them the approximate size and density of a chicken thigh. These church ladies were fairly progressive and gave a cooking time option for boneless meat. The recipe called for honey, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. SOOO easy! We have some very dear friends who are beekeepers in their spare time so I called up Susan and asked for a honey delivery! You have not lived until you have tasted true, fresh, unprocessed honey. It is divine! It was the perfect compliment to the fresh squeezed lemon juice. Again, the recipe isn't wonderful to photograph, but the taste was fantastic. I paired it with jasmine rice, steamed broccoli florets, and fresh homemade biscuits. The kids loved it, even if it was just a vehicle for fresh honey!

Again....just remember this is NOT my finest food photograph! It's a quick, "holy moly, I forgot to take the picture! Let me just snap a picture of your plate.", picture!

The 'trinity' for this recipe.

I love this picture of my grandma Wood's crystal citrus juicer. I snagged this little item from her house after she passed away. It has served me well and makes me smile when I use it! She used it to juice the oranges and tangelos that fell from her trees in her Arizona backyard and would always serve me fresh-squeezed juice! It was perfect for the lemon juice for tonight's recipe!

Tomorrow the cookbook collection AND breaking a cupcake commandment!

Good eats,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Validation.....Aprons AREN'T antiquated...they're lovely.

I received the most appropriate e-mail today from my stepmom, Leslie, called 'The History of Aprons'. She knows of my affinity for cooking, sewing, and creating, and couldn't have sent me a more timely message!

The History of Aprons

I don't think our kids know what an apron is.

The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material. But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.

After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folks knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.

Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.

I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron - but love...

I love aprons. I think they're delightful little fashion statements. I'd have thirty of them if I could. I currrently have one very, very well-worn Husker apron that needs to be replaced and one that came from some conference Matt attended. They're not very fashionable, but that's all about to change!

Matt's delightful Aunt Robbie found a terrific set of retro apron patterns at her local quilt shop. She made the most adorable aprons for her sisters and sister-in-law and handed them out at this year's family reunion. I instantly attached myself to Aunt Robbie and the aprons and begged for the pattern. Lo and behold, about a month ago I received the most WONDERFUL package in the mail....THE PATTERN BOOK!!! I've made two aprons out of the book so far and they're terrific. They remind me so much of the aprons that my Grandma Trambly wore. I can almost smell applesauce spice cake and pork chops when I look at the finished products. Matt doesn't love being my living dress form, but he does look pretty hot in the aprons!

I'll be cranking out many more aprons around Christmas time and will hopefully get my newest one done soon, as well. I'll be sure to post pics as I finish. But for now, enjoy this little history of the apron. In today's 'heat and eat' society it's nice to see the beginnings of a return to real cooking and along with it, real aprons....with fashion sense, that is!

Tell me about your favorite use for an apron! I'll pick my favorite use and that lucky blog reader will win two dozen custom cookies from Just Like Mom's!

Good Eats,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

News from the fondant front and a little church lady love, too!

Good news! The ginormous fondant cake has flown the coop! I think the cake, which was for an awesome young lady on the occasion of her 21st birthday, was a success. Naturally we're always most hyper-critical of our own work. I look at the pictures and I'm already finding things I would change and am not happy with. BUT...all-in-all I'd consider it a success- that is, unless I hear from the family that the cake went crashing down in the midst of the party creating the leaning tower of carbohydrates! The young woman's mom assured me that if the cake fell, she'd never tell me! I hope I see some pictures of the successful party soon! Here's the final product...

I had a terrible time deciding what to do for the cake topper. I made a '21' out of gumpaste and loved the look of it, until I put it on the cake. It just wasn't 'whimsical' enough to match the style of the cake. I tried lots of different sugary glitter techniques and finishes and just couldn't get the look right. So I decided to scrap the whole idea and move to fresh flowers. I really like the way they turned out!

I struck gold at our local Hy Vee floral department with the great bouquet of flowers I was able to purchase for $5.00. The combination of the bright pink Gerber daisy and the chartreuse pom pom chrysanthemums was perfect! I have absolutely no clue what the little purple flowers were, but they matched the purple on the cake perfectly. I secured all of them with heavy gauge floral wire pushed through all of the fondant layers. I know that if I'd used a lower gauge floral wire the wire simply would've buckled and not been able to stand up to the hardened fondant. I'm so glad to have this project under my belt, and am up for the next big fondant challenge! I'm considering a class at the Culinary Institute in Kansas City geared primarily at food art/decor. We'll see how that pans out!

The church ladies scored big with our family on Thursday night. I made an incredibly simple recipe entitled, 'Easy Baked Pork Chops'. When I read the recipe I sincerely wondered if the pork chops would be cooked using a 100-watt lighbulb. Luckily the 'Easy Bake' referred to in the recipe had nothing to do with lightbulbs and everything to do with Stove Top stuffing. I rarely, almost never, purchase food from a box, and purchasing STUFFING of all things from a box seemed like a culinary sacrilege. However, once again I had to bow to the church ladies and purchase an unfamiliar item! The recipe turned out fabulously and everyone indulged, including one of the many extra children that seem to find their way to our dinner table each evening! Paired with some lovely fresh strawberries and green beans, it made a terrific meal!

From the church lady experience I have learned that many of the main dish recipes do NOT photograph well and really aren't about presentation. I guess I have to look at it the way I look at French food. French food is ALL about the presentation and very little about being hearty and comforting. Church lady food is ALL about comfort and has almost nothing to do with presentation. Perhaps that will be my mission in writing a cookbook... churchlady flavor wrapped in a chef's presentation. Yeah, I'll do that in my free time!

Good eats,

Oh yes, and as I promised... a little picture of sweet Patrick immediately post-op with his lovely Dermabond sealed sutures. He's doing well and the Dermabond is starting to itch. Good sign? I guess! :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Worlds Colliding...ambulatory surgery, fondant, and a fun fest all in one day!

Nope, wasn't my surgery. It was for sweet Patrick. Sweet Patrick (the resident ten year-old athlete of the family) had a wide lesion excision (fancy way to say big ol' mole taken off) today on his sweet face. He survived his latest trek through the ambulatory surgery ward and managed to charm the anesthesiologist out of his scrub cap, the plastic surgeon out of his 'body pen' (a pen with ink that is safe to use on bodies, apparently), and the recovery nurse out of breakfast! I managed to charm a great chocolate chip cookie recipe conversation out of said nurse, and probably a $1500 bill!!

I'm also one of the chairs of the kids' school Family Fun Fest. It's a fantastic fundraiser and a really great time (well, at least it's a good excuse for some of us who are great friends to work on a project together...with booze!). Needless to say, I wasn't thinking well when I also agreed to make a friend's daughter's birthday cake today! AAAAACKKK!! SO...after returning home from surgery (around 11), making a quick trip to the Maryville mall (AKA Wal-Mart) for fondant, and setting up the fun fest, I am happy to report that as of 10:16pm CDT the cake in question is presently chilling in the fridge (move over broccoli...make room for six layers of buttercream, fondant, and fresh flowers). I think it looks fine, although I'm horrifically critical of my own work, and I think the birthday girl will dig it!

I came to the place of my posting inspiration (my bed) with the cord to the camera and no camera, and I'm far to lazy to cross the house again to get the camera. I assure you there will be pics of the latest church lady creation and the finalized cake tomorrow....I might even just throw in a pic of the Dermabond clad face of sweet Patrick!

Nighty night!

Good eats,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

That's why Campbell's Soup is MMM MMM good!

Well, due to this.....

Dinner Wednesday became this....

Church ladies had to be tabled for the evening. Instead, the kitchen was taken over by six layers for a cake, 24 strawberry cupcakes, and two 'experimental' cupcakes.

I find myself fantasizing about a large commercial kitchen with stainless steel countertops and a HUGE marble island...perfect for rolling out fondant! My dreams have changed from a flat stomach and perfectly sculpted guns to a 48-inch refrigerator and large, 'Martha Stewart-meets-Rachael Ray-on the way to see Nate Berkus', labeled farmhouse bins for flour, sugar, and confectioners sugar! ice cold margarita and a lawn chair and life would be bliss!!

But, alas I am back in the land of reality and the kitchen is huge, but lacks the countertops I'd love to have. I'd love to hear from each of you about which surfaces you think are the best for the heavy amount of cooking that occurs in my house! I am umbillically connected to my appliances, it's just my countertops that I'd like to disown!

Tonight the ladies of St. Mary's are cooking up a lovely dinner including pork chops and another mystery grocery store item I haven't purchased in at least 14 years! Stay tuned!!!

Good eats,
Jill's a sneak peak of what's to come in the cake world!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Doritos and crescents, and church ladies...OH MY!

I'm not sure I've made a recipe that calls for both Doritos and crescent rolls since college. At our house it's usually brown rice, couscous, chicken and veggies, etc. Doritos? Seriously? Well, in accordance with my plan to cook my way through St. Mary's, I had to oblige. This recipe was called Quick Crescent Roll Taco Pie. MMMMM.... I couldn't bear to use full-fat ingredients, so I bowed to the 'reduced fat' gods and used reduced fat crescent rolls, 93% lean organic beef, and BAKED Doritos! My trusty sous chef, Avery, did the Dorito crushing and crescent roll patting for me. The dish was tasty, although very dense, and seemed to have been consumed by one and all in the house. It's not a dish that presents itself in a gourmet looking fashion, and it's even a bit difficult to photograph, but we documented it anyway!

I've decided that the Maryville Hy-Vee is probably going to issue a 'cake mix APB' for me after I purchased 12, yes 12, cake mixes today! I like to use the boxed mixes as bases and then add all kinds of ooey gooey favos! Today I'm working on baking a three-layer, fondant covered birthday cake. Cupcakes and cookies are my passion, but every now-and-then I do a big cake as a favor, present, etc. for people I love. Hopefully it'll turn out great! I'll let you know how it goes!

Tonight's dinner is TBA...stay posted. Donning my apron now!

Good eats,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Julie and Julia?'s Jill and the Church Ladies!

Well, after being inspired to start a blog about a year ago, I went absolutely NOWHERE with it! So, today I'm inspired again to start blogging about my adventures with food as well as my adventures starting a home-based business! I'm very excited about launching 'Just Like Mom's'! Just Like Mom's Cupcakery and Cookie Bakery is a small bakery devoted to the pursuit of custom cupcakes and cookies, including our signature cookie delivery service. Kind of like a 'tuck in' service for college students, friends, etc. I'm just getting started with logos, price lists, etc. and can't wait to roll it all out! I'll take orders anytime, day or night, as I start to get the word out!

But, for now, my cooking conquest will be left to the 1993 St. Mary's Altar Society cookbook. After watching 'Julie and Julia' I'm inspired to cook through the whole darned church ladies cookbook! "Why this cookbook?", you ask. Well, I'm missing my mother-in-law lately and going back to her roots seemed like a logical place to start! So, look here for daily postings on the adventures of Jill and the Church Ladies and I'll keep you posted on the progress of Just Like Mom's, as well!

Good eats,