Friday, September 27, 2013

It's a Tube Thang

The company I work for derives most of our revenue from private label drug and cosmetic items.  We fill a lot of soap and mouthwash and hand sanitizer, those kinds of things.  Most of them are fluids filled into plastic bottles, but some go into jars and others go into tubes.  Things like creams or acne scrubs will go into tubes that are sealed at one end with a flip-top cap at the other, ready for the user to squeeze out and use.  Sounds really simple, right?  And if nothing changes, it is pretty simple.  But when things change  - as they are want to do MUCH of the time, it isn't so simple.  LOTS of details go into making the changes successful, and sometimes a little bit of food can help when those details make a body want to run from the building screaming and with their arms flailing.

Not that I know anything about wanting to run from a building screaming and with my arms flailing. But some people some where may feel it from time to time.

So this beautiful lady decided that we needed a tube food day - as in everything that folks brought in should be a tube food.  She has flowers sitting in empty, blank, upside-down tubes.  She has Tootsie Rolls and Little Smarties.  And she is holding a mini Slim Jim.  Get it?
 
 
We had little pigs in a blanket and tube cakes.  And for fellow employees who read this, they will appreciate that this dish was "not compliant" since the tube wall thickness was inconsistent.  It's ok; you either get it or you don't.  It's a tube thang...
 
 
Here is how I got in the theme of things.  This was the end result...

 
...and here's a few of the steps I took to get there.  I will start with the little cigarette tube cookies.  The recipe is from Helen Fletcher's The New Pastry Cookbook  so I won't publish it here, but this is a similar recipe, except that Helen's technique to mix in the butter very much like tempering eggs is the main thing that makes her recipe the clear winner.  (I recommend this cookbook if you have any interest in baking!)  Anyway, it has been so long since I made these, that I began with baking only 2 at first to test the baking time and rolling.  You spread batter on the pan in about 3" x 3" squares and then bake for about 3 - 4 minutes in a 425 oven. Helen recommends a non-stick cookie sheet for these and she's right, but I don't have any non-stick, so I used my regular pans. 

 
After 3 minutes and 45 seconds, here is how they look.  The trick is to loosen then from the pan, flip them over and roll them around the end of a wooden spoon while still hot.




Each time I do these I re-learn some of the tricks like flip the cookies over on the hot pan to keep them hotter longer while you are rolling the others.  Or like have 4 wooden spoons ready with the offset spatula.  Or like wash the offset spatula between each pan, so you get a clean removal. 

 
Once they were all cooled, I dipped one end in white chocolate and sprinkles to make for a fun, tube garnish for my other tube - this pumpkin spice roll.  I probably wouldn't do this again; I like Helen's buttersponge recipe better, so I want to figure out how to add pumpkin to the butter sponge.  But the one I made last night wasn't bad - it just wasn't as good as it could have been.  I'm feeling the gap - the Rule # 1 stuff...making it worth the calories.  Speaking of which, there is a Rule # 4 - Remember that people eat with their eyes first.  I was reminded of this after posting the 3 rules a few days ago.  I was in the company lunch room of all places, eating my minestrone soup when 2 folks that I don't know were chatting about heating up one of those ready-made box pasta type things.  She wasn't sure if it would be any good or not, and he said "They never taste as good as the box make them look."  And I realized there was a Rule # 4 that I'd forgotten.  But I'm sure there isn't a Rule # 5.  At least I am pretty sure there isn't...
 
Anyway here are a few shots from putting this together...dusting the towel ready for the hot cake...

 
The hot cake, ready to roll...

 
And the hot cake all rolled up, ready for bed...or was that me who was ready for bed?

 
The cake may tear a bit, but that doesn't mean ya give up...

 
You fill it anyway, and re-roll...

 
And then cover up imperfections with powdered sugar, icing, caramel, cigarette cookies...you get the idea...

 
And ya put it all together, and ya get a tube thang...and people smile...which is always way better than running from the building screaming and with your arms flailing.  Jus' sayin'...

 
 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pie!!

Pie Night 2013 has been scheduled!!!!


Actually this year, there are two Pie Nights!  Well, ok, one is a Pie Day and one is Pie Night because Pie Day is for my team members at work, and Pie Night is Pie Night. 

I suppose it could be argued that Pie Day is 1/2 a Pie Night, since the SAP Team at work was divided into 6 sub-teams, and each sub-team chooses a pie, so it's only 6 pies to make for that next Wed.  I will be posting pics of those pies - and hopefully get better about posting Pies In Progress (PIP) so you can see how they come together.  But I'm brushing up on recipes like Derby Pie and Strawberry and Cappuccino already....along with making letters from pie crust....there may be a trip back to KC for 3 new cookie cutters...hmmmm...
 
 
And there there is Pie Night Pie Night!  We have decided to set a regular date for this event like The Pie Night Family has done for years.  We can't do the Wed before Thanksgiving like this fine family has done now for 3 generations, but we have set Pie Night as The 3rd Thursday of November!  Woo-hoo!  I feel more official already, don't you?  This will be our 4th Annual Pie Night - I just haven't quite figured out what to call it, since we now have multiple last names in the mix.  If we call it the Langston Pie Night, then it has to have a new name whenever G&I are dead and gone.  If we call it the Chenoweth Pie Night, then that means S&A have to take it over, and if we call it the Wolff Pie Night, then that means S&K have to take it over - and that could be a whole lotta pressure on each of these young couples.  So what's a Mother to do? 
 
Ah, the big questions of life!  But no worries.  We have pie to help us in the tough times!!!

 
Stay tuned!!  Happy Pie 2013!!!
 


Monday, September 23, 2013

Summer 2013


As of yesterday, fall is here.  Kids have been back in school for weeks, so I'm late in posting "What I did on my summer vacation."  Folks may not find this interesting.  Folks may not find any of what I am posting interesting or fun or worthwhile.  That sorta comes with being out of practice when it comes to writing, so I'm trying to post frequently to kick my brain back into gear.  Feel free to read or ignore, but thank you for your patience with me as I try to get in the practice of posting.

We had a really fun summer - funner than I've had in years.  We began by celebrating Christmas in May with a day at a Cards' game, courtesy of Aunt J and Uncle G.  Little J is quite the Cards' fan already....
 


 
Then we had a trip to see family in Springfield, MO over Memorial Day - playing with grandkids and doing some shopping in Branson. We even managed to catch a fun little grin on O's face here. He has his sober-side moments when a camera is pointed his way, but we managed to catch a sweet grin when he wasn't looking!
 
On a work trip to TN I ran into these two cuties in the airport security line of all places.  Their flight was about an hour later than mine, so we got to hang out and play at the gate.  It was like a little mini surprise vacation.  Trust me, little K, charmed the shop owners throughout the airport, but who couldn't be charmed by this face?  She is going to be a big sister very soon, too!  We got to feed them some homemade ice cream in late August as well, which was great fun for G & I, too.

 
In late June we headed on a long road trip to Belton, TX, a couple hours south of Dallas.  On the way we saw the kiddos in Springfield again and then my cousin, S, and his wife, hosted us in Fort Worth for a couple of days to do the FW touristy things like the stockyards and cattle drive.  Here is a pic of most of the cousins who made it to the reunion along with my 2 aunts and 1 of their cousins in the front row.  Keep in mind, my aunts are both now in their 90's.  Pretty amazing, isn't it?  Believe it or not, I am the youngest person in this pic...not that I'm saying any of us is getting old or anything!
 
 
On our way back we spent another few days in Springfield where G did some landscaping and attic work for the kids.  I'm pretty sure that G sweated off about 53 pounds in those few days.  That might be a slight PK hyperbole, but not by much, I assure you.  He has a real gift for creating beauty in a yard, and is quite handy with a tool belt, but there was still plenty of time for a 5-yr old to spend some time in grandma's shoes...which were shoes we picked up in Branson at this cute little shop when we were there Memorial Day.  The best way for me to describe the shoes in this store was whimsical - artsty and whimsical.  I bought 2 pairs but only after asking if I was too old to wear them and was told that I wasn't.  Sales ladies will tell you anything, right?

 
We spent the 4th of July in Springfield and got to share a cupcake with this little guy after fireworks on the Branson landing on the 3rd.  Does it get much simpler and better than this, folks?


 


There was also time for some Andy's frozen custard, cause there's always time for ice cream when little ones are around, right?  Mmmm....chocolate....and raspberries...
 
But then it was time to come home.  But it doesn't mean we can't have fun squishing the air out of Grandpa G's air temporary bed!  Giggles abound!
 
 
 
Then a few days later, R&E and their 2 boys came to St. Louis!  We packed a TON of things in on those few days, too!  A ball game, the zoo, followed by a picnic and then hanging out at this really great playground at Forest Park.  Here's hoping that the video of O getting totally soaked but having a blast playing in the water works...
 
video
 
But that's not all, folks!  We also introduced them to the Soulard Market and the Magic House.  I am pretty sure G&I need a grandparent's membership to this place.  It has grown soooo much in the last few years.  It's always been a great place to visit, but now it is even better. 


 
We ended the trip with a big family dinner at Rigazzi's (no pic from that event) and then a trip to Grant's Farm where even the big turtle was up and moving around and eating.  Since O loves turtles so much, I knew it was a special treat from God just for little O!  We didn't get a pic of the turtle (I know, Deb the Picture Airhead strikes again!), but Mr. A and I got our first camel ride.  Not sure I would want to cross a desert on one of these, but it would beat walking, no doubt.

 
By August, S&K were buying their first home and we were helping them move in!  I am so happy for them.  This is more space than S has ever lived in her entire life.  It is a great house for them to grow into.  Somewhere along about this time, we caught this pic of Aunt B, actually smiling.  But shhh!! Don't tell her she's smiling in this pic, or she'll figure out some way to shut this blog down!  Know why she's smiling?  Cause she sorta likes her nephew.  Sorta a lot, as a matter of fact...
 
 
I got to close out the summer with these 2 special things.  A friend from work got married without anyone knowing.  It's kinda his style, but we weren't going to let it pass without making him the center of attention for even a half hour with a "wedding" cake and a gift.  A bunch of us had so much fun putting this together for him.  He's just about the sweetest guy you'd ever want to meet.  We couldn't be happier for him!
 

 
And last, but certainly not least, I got to be Mimi for 4 days straight!  We went for walks, we played outside, we played in the grass, we went to visit J's great grandmother, and we laughed a lot.  J loves the game "Uh-oh!"  And Mimi gets to be Mimi and play as long as J wants to play drop the spatula and wait for Mimi to say "Uh-Oh" and just laugh. 


 
Great summer!  I smile all over again rembering the fun.  Love from J'Deb!!


 





Sunday, September 22, 2013

Baking Rules

I like to bake.  I like to bake breads - yeast breads, quick breads, biscuits, rolls (sweet and savory), scones - just typing this makes me itch to go mix some warm water and yeast together and create something to take to work tomorrow.  I like to bake cakes - layer cakes with fillings, pound cakes with streusels and sugary toppings, seasonal fruit cakes like apple or peach, buckles, coffee cakes, cupcakes with piles of frosting on top.  I like to bake pies - glorious pies from fruits and custards and pecans and flaky crusts and cookie crust and graham cracker crusts - I can't wait for Pie Night!  I like to bake cookies - gingerbread and sugar and murbteig and amaretti and even simple oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip.  (Chocolate chip cookies for breakfast this morning, in fact.  It's a breakfast of champions, I promise you.)  I like to bake pastry - croissants, puff pastry, phyllo, danishes - those extra-special treats for extra-special occasions and extra-special people.

But it isn't enough for me to simply bake it and serve.  I have a philosphy of baking that I've spoken through the years but don't recall articulating in writing.  Until now.  I am calling them Baking Rules, but they aren't what you might be expecting.  They aren't rules about oven temperature or only using certain chocolate or unsalted butter or having every unitasker or baking pan at your disposal.  They are more motivational rules, if you will - what I look for when baking over and above the act of making cinnamon rolls or blueberry buckle with fresh peaches and ice cream or fresh blueberry pie or gingerbread men or apple danishes.  (Why am I suddenly hungry?  I can't imagine...)

Rule # 1 - It should be worth the calories.  We work out at Gold's Gym fairly regularly although I'd like to be more regular/frequent about it.  Don't get me wrong here.  I don't want to be more regular or frequent because I like to exercise.  I think athletes make it up when they talk about the runner's rush or some such nirvana type feeling from exercise.  It's all a ruse, I'm sure of it, I just haven't been able to prove it yet.  Nope, exercise for me is simply a discipline, always has been; I 'spect it always will be for me.  I'm now of that age where blood pressure starts to climb.  And I hate to take daily medicines, so we joined Gold's Gym a little over a year ago.  And the last few times my blood pressure was checked, it's back to normal levels.  Beyond that I can tell that my heart is getting stronger as are some muscle groups.  I have a looooooong way to go to meet any sort of other goals along those lines (do I have goals along those lines???), but I have no plans to give up baking or eating what I bake.  (See paragraph # 1 above.)  So it better be worth the calories.  All too often baked goods simply aren't worth the indulgence.  I've made plenty of things that aren't worth the indulgence, but when that happens, I will more often than not either not eat it myself or pitch it out.  I have come to believe that if we're going to indulge, then the indulgence should be satisfying.  Otherwise why bother? It's why we buy real bacon, not necessarily expensive bacon, but really good bacon.  It's why we use real butter.  It's why we use real cream, full fat sour cream.  You get the idea.  I'd rather have less of the really good stuff than more of the just ok.  And when it comes to baking, the same is true.
 

Rule # 2 - The results should be predictable.  It's why I love King Arthur flours so much.  It's why I love Helen Fletcher's pastry recipes so much.  It's why I don't scoop flour when I measure it.  It's why once I found my go-to roll recipe, I quit looking.  It's why I'm constantly tasting for gaps in a baked good - what I think it should taste like vs. what it does.  It's why baking is both an art and a science, neither of which should trump the other, but which work hand in hand so that the result may have a range of predictability (I'm not asking for perfection every time here) but it doesn't break Rule # 1.
 


Rule # 3 - You better be able to taste and feel the love.  Even if Rule # 1 and Rule # 2 are adhered to, if you can't taste the love, then the "cake snob" in me has gone to the dark side.  And that is never a good thing.  I took a new friend from work to my favorite foodie store in the St. Louis area, Kitchen Conservatory, on Thursday to share the love with her. Cause baking, whether it's the results or the tools or the ideas, needs to be shared with others, to pass along the love.  I went back to Kitchen Conservatory yesterday and spent 15 minutes looking for a single cookie cutter for a grandson who really likes a certain animal, cause you better be able to feel the love.  I debated about calling this one Rule # 1, and maybe it really is, but I had trouble ranking these rules since they all play together in my own heart and mind.  The antithesis of this rule is that I better not be baking from pride.  If I am, then I'm setting everyone up for a disappointment, and baking should be about bringing smiles and joy.  And love.
 

So there you have it.  The 3 main rules of baking according to Deb.  Cause baking rules.  (Get it?)  I do love me a good pun!

What does it say about me that I can write multiple paragraphs about what motivates me when baking? 

Don't answer that.  I'm not sure I want to know the answer.

Hmmmm....I may get the hang of this Deb Dessertation idea yet....

Friday, September 20, 2013

Awkward Moments...Saying Stupid Stuff

I am not in the habit of blogging regularly.

Yet.

The operative word here is yet.  But I want to blog more regularly, to gain more traction, to spark more ideas, to find my voice better, so someday I can grow up and have a real blog.

A real blog.  One that works like a real website.  Where I have sections for each primary interest in my life.  Family.  Cooking.  Baking.  Or maybe Cooking and Baking.  Faith and Community.  Even SAP cause I'm a geek like that. 

It will have a new name, too.  Instead of Deb's Dissertations, it will be called Deb's Dessertations.  Get it?  Combining 2 things I love to do - write and bake. 

I have to give credit where credit is due for that name.  Paul Allen, yes I just used a full name and not initials, because I'm giving credit where requested, and no, this is not THE Paul Allen, but it is The Paul Allen, who sends me more emails in the company we work for than any other individual, bar none, came up with it one day.  And I liked it. Immediately.  It fit.  But he said that if I ever became an internationally famous bloggest someday, I had to give him credit for the name.

I'm far from being an internationally famous bloggest, so this isn't full credit.  Yet.  But it is credit.

I'm far from being a nationally famous bloggest, so this isn't full credit.  Yet.  But it is credit.

I'm far from being a locally famous bloggest, so this isn't full credit.  Yet.  But it is credit.

I'm far from being a famous bloggest in the family, so this isn't full credit.  Yet.  But it is credit.

Cause Paul Allen is "sensitive" and likes credit.

But wait, the title of this post is Awkward Moments...Saying Stupid Stuff.  I need to get to that, because it's already 6:15am, and I need to start getting ready for work soon!

I've been thinking some lately about awkward moments.  Have you ever noticed how awkward it is to spell the word awkward?  It doesn't flow off the fingers or pen well, does it?  It sorta spells like it feels.  I wonder if there's a word to describe that phenomenon when it occurs.  WKW - when else do those 3 consonants stand up next to each other in a word?

That whole paragraph reminds me of the "I like the word bookkeeper" incident, which I blogged about back in 2011 here .  Here's hoping that link even stays...See how much I have to learn about blogging still?

Was that just an awkward moment?  If that link doesn't work well, then you can accuse me of saying stupid stuff here.  Or of doing stupid stuff.

Do you ever say stupid stuff?  I want to believe we all do.  We say stuff without thinking. We say stuff that at the time we may even really mean and then later go, "Why did I say that?  What WAS I thinking???"  Am I the only one who does that?

Help me here.  Tell me you do that.  Or you hear others say stupid stuff and suddenly there it is.  The Awkward Moment.  Only the person speaking (i.e., ME) is clueless that they've just created one.  All others nearby are aware, but the one doing the speaking is clueless.

Oy vey.  That's when everyone just sorta wants to sigh and say "bless her heart."

And they'd be right. 

But they don't.  So often, they don't.  They let the moment pass.  They graciously and patiently let the moment pass without saying anything and making it worse. 

Cause sometimes the person (i.e., ME) wouldn't get it anyway.  At least not yet.  Not in that moment.

Cause sometimes we remember when we've said stupid stuff and didn't realize how stupid until we thought about it again a long time later.  Long time being a relative term lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few years or even longer. 

Cause sometimes the better part of wisdom is to let something go.  Or maybe that's the better part of love.  Or maybe that's the better part of grace. Or really it's the better part of wisdom, love and grace.

I'm grateful when people are gracious and patient.  I like it when I get that right every so often.  Life is happier when I exercise grace and patience with people.  Whether those are people in my family, or my work family, or my community or even the customer service/tech support folks at Best Buy.

But I will blog about that tomorrow.  Or maybe I'll blog about a dessert, cause I made a really good version of this cake the other night with some crushed peanut brittle/toffee in the middle and  some chocolate sour cream frosting instead of the ganache called for by King Arthur . 

If those two links work, too, then it will be a good day cause I learned and practiced something new!  Happy Friday all!!