Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

I was such a lucky little kid. I was raised in a family where the women were fabulous cooks and they weren't afraid to let me in the kitchen! In all gender fairness, my dad is a mean grillmaster and I had grandfathers who could cook like crazy. However, the biggest influence on my ability to cook were the women in my life. From my Aunt Connie's recipes that had such inspired lines in them as, "get them drunk enough and hungry enough and they'll eat anything" and "beat the hell out of it" to my Mom's red Better Homes and Gardens cookbook the things I learned to cook were simple, yet amazing.

Chocolate chip cookies have always been a staple of our family. My dad will tell you that there is really no need to BAKE the cookies, the cookies are just a vehicle for dough! However, I've taken to baking them tens of dozens at a time and love having a cookie jar full of them! My family will tell you that the cookie jar is often full of the 'rejects' or the cookies that I don't want others to have! But I would argue that the jar is just as often full of delightful cookies that are NOT rejects! :) I learned to make chocolate chip cookies when I was very young, and am just now teaching Avery how to make them. Patrick used to love being in the kitchen with me, but somehow his love for all things sports has taken over his love for all things baking! He still makes a mean grilled cheese and some very tasty waffles, so at least he won't starve in college! In addition to the chocolate chip cookies I have very fond memories of making little mini apple pies when my mom was making the real pies. I do, however, tend to cheat these days and buy my pie crust pre-made, but back in those days the crust and all were crafted by hand! My mind is also full of Grandpa Trambly's pork chops, Aunt Connie's frog eye salad (and many other fluffy salady things), Grandpa Trambly's homemade french fries (which will, undoubtedly be the #1 cause of any clogged arteries I have later in life), and Grandma Woody's Red Velvet Cake. Like it or not, food is such a staple of family life and cooking is truly becoming a lost art! I am forever grateful that I had these strong role models of cooking in my life because I'm not afraid to try anything in the kitchen. I love that I can make 95% of what I cook without a recipe and without using processed or boxed foods. It's a good feeling to pass this skill on to my own daughter. If you're afraid of cooking or say "I can't cook" I challenge you to bust out a computer, type in your favorite food, accompanied by the word 'easy' into Google and TRY IT! I want to hear about your adventures with new recipes! Tell me all about it in the comments section!

I don't let the kids help me in the kitchen when I'm processing orders, for obvious reasons, but I do like to get them involved as much as possible. Last week Avery and her darling BFF, Grace, had a great time decorating their own cakes. They decorated them using a Bearcat football theme, both believing that their cakes would be the good luck charm that the Bearcats would need to advance in the playoffs! It worked! Perhaps they need to bake again this weekend so that we can win our final game before the National Championship!

Good eats,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making a list, checking it twice!

WWWWHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! I honestly have NO idea what's happened to November and the first seven days of December. I am significantly shocked that Christmas is just three weeks away. It seems like the Bakers were just all here for Thanksgiving. Then came the rush to get the tree up, decorating done, etc. I downsized significantly on my decorating for Christmas this year and I've been so pleased. We did a smaller tree than usual (our living room ceilings are 20 feet high, so we usually have at least a 10 foot tree). We bought an adorable little Frasier fir from Hy Vee and it's just charming. I think sometimes the holidays become so much work that they stop being fun and we completely lose the point of the season. One of the most wonderful things about this new adventure is that I get to be a part of making the holidays (and other special occasions) nice for others. There is something really wonderful about knowing that my 14 hours in the kitchen have made the holiday season better for a mom who has worked 10 hours, has small children to get ready, and is responsible for baking holiday goodies for a work party. If I can spend my 'work days' doing that for others, well, then this is a pretty darned good job!

I mentioned in my last post that a new flavor had been born to the family. Unfortunately I didn't remember to snap any 'baby pics' of this one, but it was born because of my pregnant sister-in-law's penchant for cordial cherries. I DO NOT understand the love of chocolate covered cherries by they are a real favorite of Anne's. So the 'Queen Anne' cupcake was created! It's a very simple chocolate cupcake filled with cherry filling (cherries in heavy syrup), topped with whipped chocolate ganache and topped with a Queen Anne cherry cordial. Apparently they were yummy, but since I absolutely do not love chocolate covered cherries, I stayed away! Maybe I should make all food in my world chocolate covered cherry flavored and then I'd look more like Jessica Simpson rather than Julia Child! ;)

It has been a tremendously busy week at the bakery and I don't see things slowing down any time soon! I keep a book and a calendar of all of my orders, but I'm always terrified I'm going to forget someone or something. I can't imagine being Santa! No wonder he checks his list twice! I think I check my book and calendar at least twenty times a week!!! Here are a few of the things I had the privilege of making last week...

This fun cake was for little Allison's first birthday. Allison had a farm themed birthday, so her mom chose this fun cake design. The top part of the cake is a jumbo cupcake decorated to be a barn. This served as Allison's little 'mini' cake for her to do with as she pleased.

These fun jumbo cupcakes were created for a little guy and girl who were both celebrating their first birthdays. The jumbo cupcakes are covered in black fondant and the ears are made with black fondant and buttercream.

I had the opportunity to get a bit of an education this week. Prior to Monday I had never heard of Chuggington. Apparently Chuggington is the new Thomas the Train. I had to do a quick study of the Chuggington characters in order to make the cake for Cash's 3rd birthday. I was worried about the figures not being exactly like the actual characters until I walked into Cash's house and he said, "CHUGGINGTON!" WHEW! Making actual characters can be so stressful because you can't quite ever get them exactly right. I think Cash and his mom were pleased, and I was happy to get my Chuggington education!

Another adorable 3 year old celebrated his birthday with a Just Like Mom's cake and cookies. Kort is a Handy Manny fan so I created this fun tool belt cake for him. I got to have fun creating some tool cookies, as well. I would do some things differently on these cookies the next time I make them, but they worked out just fine for this particular cake! I hope Kort enjoyed it!

I'm off to catch some ZZZs before another long day of baking and frosting. Tomorrow I'll show you some pictures of my adorable assistant bakers!

Good eats,