Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't Make Me Bake:How to Make Baked Alaska in 4 Short Days

As I mentioned before, Mike is currently redeeming his "Dessert of the Month" gift from Christmas 2009.  He has a sweet tooth that I can't help but admire and his Holy Grail of desserts is Baked Alaska.

Mike had Baked Alaska (fire and all!) on our honeymoon.  Several times.   We kept returning to the same restaurant so he could have this one dessert.  Whenever he gets the chance now, he orders it.  (I don't share his sentiment on this one, but that's ok...we complement one another!)

I promised him that I would make it for his birthday; it was one month late, but I delivered!

Luckily for me, Food Network Magazine featured an easy Baked Alaska recipe on their cover last year.  You can find the recipe here...and it really was so simple that even I could do it successfully!

I won't pretend that I can improve upon this recipe, because I can't.  It is simple and delicious.  I won't even tell you how much of it Mike ate all by himself...but let's just say, it was a lot!

Here are my tips for a successful Baked Alaska:

1. Start with quality ingredients.  There really isn't any baking or making involved here; just assembly.  If you assemble ingredients that are of a good quality, then your Baked Alaska will also be good quality. 

2.  Read the entire recipe from start to finish - there are several steps that require you to freeeze, re-freeze, etc.  When I tried to fit this process into my regular schedule, it took me four days.  It will not take you this long, I promise. 

3.  Taste as you go.  Andrew helped me in the beginning by rinsing the ice cream scoops between flavors.  He was in charge of quality control, so I let him taste the ice cream and Oreos.  It was 9:30am when we made that layer but we both thought the chocolate was a lot of fun!

4.   Invert the dessert onto a baking sheet.  I put it on a pretty glass serving plate.  Sounds nice, right?  Unfortunately, the plate wasn't sturdy enough to go from the freezer to the 500 degree oven (which I realized before putting it in the oven, thank God!).  As a result, we didn't get the pretty singed peaks on the meringue.  Maybe next time. 

5. Feel fancy.  People will think you are a big deal if you make this and share it.  You and I know the secret to its simplicity, but it is certainly a dessert that dresses to impress!

(Tilt your head...I can't figure out why it isn't horizontal. Sorry!)

Stay tuned for the rest of our dessert adventures this year...Mike's dessert for September is Blondies.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where I Was When It Happened...

I was at work.  We heard a few things about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NYC and thought it was a stunt plane.  Then we heard that another plane hit the other tower and knew something bad was happening. 

I talked to my dad on the phone a few times; he was retired and at home watching the news.  We couldn't get on any news websites because they were all down due to overwhelming traffic.  I knew very little - only enough to be scared.

I went out at lunch to pick up a sandwich (Quarter Pounder with Cheese, if you must know) and still remember the piercing clear blue sky.  My friend Patrick was living in DC at the time and I worried for him. 

My clearest memories of that day begin in the later afternoon when I left work and returned to my apartment.  That's when I first saw the images of the day.  I sat on the phone for so long with Kristina, talking and crying and fearing.  Looking out the big window in my living room, there were no planes in the sky but I was convinced that one would probably crash into my building. 

Kristina died three months later.  The first time I entered an airport or boarded a plane was for her funeral.  Her death and that sadness is weirdly woven into my memories of September 11th. 

As I drove to the farmer's market this morning, I reflected on the meaning of this anniversary.  Today I am not astounded by how much my life has changed since September 11, 2001; rather, I am amazed at how much has not changed.  This can only be attributed to the people who protect our freedom, at home and abroad. 

We will never forget.

"Thoughts that do often lie to deep for tears." - William Wordsworth

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Got The Call Today

I was so excited to hear the voice mail...a local school is stepping up and wants me to join their quest for healthier kids. 

I don't know the details yet, but I will finally be able to get to work as part of the Chefs Move to Schools program led our First Lady's Let's Move.  More details will surely follow. 

For now, I am so excited to know that I will be playing a role in helping local kids eat healthier and learn more about fabulous foods!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hungry & Harvesting

We've let things go a bit this summer.  We relaxed our budget and our nutrition considerably.  We found ourselves searching out pizza, pancakes, ice cream, huge portion sizes, and other indulgences...mostly out of laziness and carelessness.  It might have been easy and fun, but we didn't feel good with the results.  Our biggest struggle is portion control and late-night we keep telling each other that we are soooo hungry; however, I think we were just accustomed to over-eating. 

September 1 was the date that we gave ourselves to get back on track - a little extra structure in our lives will help us to feel better and lose those extra pounds we tend to carry. 

We eat very little meat in our home, for a variety of reasons.  During the times that we go almost completely vegetarian, I love to seek out new recipes to keep things exciting.  I turn toward Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors for most of my vegetarian dishes.  These cuisines offer bold flavors and many vegetarian options for main dishes.

Here is a peek at the dinners our family will be enjoying next week:
  • Baked Spinach Kofta with Hummus and Pitas
  • Black Eyed Pea Gumbo
  • Collards Stuffed with Red Beans and Rice
  • Curried Eggplant, Lentil, and Quinoa Burgers
Planning our family's menus help me to save time and money.  I buy the ingredients we need for the week; knowing what we will be eating helps me to prevent waste.  When we have ingredients lurking in the fridge and daring us to cook with them, I like to add them to my stand-by blank canvases:
  • Quinoa
  • Polenta
  • Quiche
  • Pizza
  • Enchiladas
  • Pasta, pasta, pasta!
These are simple to whip up on a weeknight when I don't feel like cooking or when I really need to find a quick use for a veggie that is turning bad.  Keeping my pantry stocked with quinoa, cornmeal, eggs, flour, yeast, tortillas, pasta, and canned tomatoes allows me to have many simple meals right at my fingertips.

Confession: I ignored our garden for awhile.  During the hot and humid weeks when I really couldn't play outside with the kids, I never even glanced at our garden.  Once I tamed the weeds and the humidity broke, I was excited to see the beautiful vegetables growing.  We lost most of our collards to some buggy invaders, but our butternut squash, eggplant, cabbage, and onions are doing great!  Last night I harvested 8 squash and still have many more waiting for me.  (It sounds so much better to say "harvested," don't you think?)  Our "harvest" is spread across my kitchen counters right now and I am so excited to dig in.  The squash will wait a few weeks.  When it is ready, then I will be armed with lots of fabulous Fall recipes and freezing methods.