Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wes' Chilean Pineapple Cake

So Wes' birthday was earlier this week. You know what that means... I get to make a cake! This time I wanted to be a little adventurous so I asked Wes what his favorite cake was. He told me about this mythical cake that he would have when he was studying in Chile. A quick google search got us to here which is the base of this recipe. This is one of the more interesting things I have baked, it was a lot of fun, but took a long time. A good evening was devoted to this.

Chilean Pineapple Cake

6 eggs (whites separated from yokes)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. baking powder

1 fresh pineapple
1 can pineapple juice
1/6 cup Coconut Vodka (really any liquor you want... pair it with pineapple)
1 quart heavy whipping cream (2 pints for those of you (like me) who would need to look that up)
3/4 cup powder sugar
Coconut Flakes.

Before we start I am going to let it be known that I made two of these cakes. So if for some reason you are trying to make this exact cake, you are going to need to double the above.

First up: in a small sauce pan, add sugar and get it a little wet (1-2 tablespoons, this is not very exact). Heat this on medium low heat until sugar turns in to a homogenous liquid.
You kind of want to taste it... but then you realize it is just sugar.
  While this is going on beat the egg whites until stiff. If you have never done this: You really do not want to do this by hand. You need to make sure you do this in a really dry bowl, any amount of water can throw this whole process off. Beat the heck out of the eggs. If you are using a mixer you should be up in the 8 - 10 range (out of 13). When you are done, when you lift a fork out of the liquid, it should look really thick and stable. Add the melted sugar (while it is still hot and liquidy) to the whites, beat well.
A sighting of the elusive Big Foot of the Coat Factory. Also there be stiff egg whites.
At this point turn on your mixer to beat (8-10) and slowly add the egg yokes. Be sure each one is incorporated before you add the next.
In a separate bowl add the rest of the ingredients. Sift/mix/shake until everything is well mixed, then slowly beat in to egg mixture. Now you are ready to pour all of this in to a greased pan you are going to make this in. Don't worry, this batter rises a lot. Like a lot a lot. Double at least. Throw that bad boy in to the oven for 30 mins at 350 degrees.

Now while this is baking, you can start preparing the filling. Cut up your pineapple. This was the first time I have ever, personally, demolished a pineapple. First thing I did... put a slice in my mouth. Dang that hurt. Turns out pineapple is a citrus fruit and is often used as a meat tenderizer. I didn't. But my tongue found out. Anyway, slice really thin, as thin as possible. We don't want any of the outside roughage, and we don't want any of the core. If you are hardcore, you can squeeze all of the juice out of the outside and core, we are going to need juice later.

At this point, look out your window and see the flock of wild turkeys wandering around...
Right outside my window.
Back to work! Set all of the pineapple stuff aside. Mix together the liquid that is going to make this cake great. Take a large amount of pineapple juice (12-20 oz) and add some Vodka. Mix well and set aside.
I used juice from a can of pineapples, I needed more than I could get.

To prepare the cream filling, it is suggested that you refrigerate the bowl and beaters you are going to use. I am sure this will help it set nicely, but I didn't know this, so I skipped this step. Pour in your heavy cream, and set your mixer as high as it can go. If you have one like mine you will get milk spray. But pound though it, because after a minute or two you will be the most beautiful looking cream you have seen. Mix in the powdered sugar to make it taste even better. Set the entire thing in the fridge until the cake is ready.

When the cake is down let it cool a bit, then start slicing. This is a layered cake, so you want it to have as many layers as you can get out of it. I ended up slicing each one in half because of the size of my cake.
Right out of the oven
We are going to be pouring the pineapple vodka liquid all over this thing, so slice the top layer to aid in the absorption of the liquid.
Now we are ready to start assembling. Put first layer down. Sprinkle pineapple liquid all over the layer, getting everything soaked. Not dripping, but certainly moist. The more liquid you can fit in, the more flavor this cake will have. Once you are happy with the liquid content of the layer, throw down a few dollops of cream and spread.
Then add a layer of pineapples:
Don't you just love my serving plate.
Then add another few dollops of cream on the pineapple layer. Now, take the next layer of cake and turn it upside down, sprinkle with pineapple liquid, and return upright, place on top of previous layer. Continue this until you have no more layers.

This is where our paths will diverge a little. From here on out all you are doing is frosting and decorating. Cover your creation with cream. Garnish with pineapples and sprinkle the whole thing with coconut.

But for me, I had to make this thing in to a 'W'
Look at all those extra... what am I going to do with those.
mmmmm.... layers.
Finished product.
 Everyone loved it. It was great! I had fun making it. Wes said that it was really close to what he remembers. It turn out to be a really nice and light cake with a great flavor from the pineapple.

Only done side, it gets kind of weird after two days of sitting in the fridge, I would suggest consuming within a few days of construction.

Sunday Cookies: Toffee Oat Wonders

Installment two of my soon to be weekly cookie experiment, there was generally wonderful feed back from the last cookies, the Mint Chocolate ones... but someone did not really like chocolate. So then I suggested Peanut Butter next time, and turns out someone does not like peanut butter. So I set off in to my cookie book (taste of home:cookies, pg 23 for those following at home) to find a cookie sans chocolate and sans peanut butter that I would like. There were lots of options, but these looked awesome. And turns out they are! Very straight forward (unlike the cake I am about to post) and very tasty.

Toffee Oat Wonders

4 dozen cookies
15 min prep
10-12 min bake @ 375 per batch.

 3/4 cup Butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
2 1/4 cup Old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 oz. English Toffee Bits **

** here is a little side note that is going to make Gramps get all red in the face. He may even write a strongly worded letter. It could get ugly. The recipe calls for One 10 oz Bag. Turns out all of the toffee bits I could find came in 8 oz bags. Then I looked around an all of the chocolate chips and whatnot were all in smaller sizes. So now we have to either resize our recipes, buy two bags of chips, or deal with a shortchange. I would much rather pay the 50 cents extra and outright know they have raised prices then have a false sense of price consistency. This is food inflation, and I want none of it.

Anyway... back to the cookies. Cream butter and sugars in a bowl until they are all smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mix well. If you are doing this by hand (I was) be sure to get everything really well mixed, this will prevent lumps later on. Beat in vanilla. Set this aside.

In a different bowl mix everything minus the toffee bits together until well incorporated. Then slowly mix the dry bowl in to the creamed mixture. Once all of this is well mixed, toss in your toffee. Mix well.

Scoop a tablespoon size amount of batter and roll in to a ball, place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Give the balls lots of room to breathe (I managed 13 on each sheet). Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375, or until just turning brown on the edges. Remove from oven, let cool, then place on wire rack. Then consume and be happy.

I love cookies... what am I saying! I love food!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brian O'Donovan is a great guy.

So back in the Tri, one day Alan told me to got to this one website and listen to this NPR Celtic show. He and I both like folk music, so I thought it would be great. This was my first introduction to Brian O'Donovan and his wonderful 'Celtic Sojourn.' Then, fast forward a few years, and I am driving around Boston doing some errand on a Saturday and I hear the melodic tones of Brian's Irish voice. I got really excited. And I sat in the car for the end of the show, seeing as I would miss it if I walked in to the store. Now, fast forward a few weeks to St. Patrick's Day, and I was on my way to WGBH presents: A St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn in New Bedford, a town south of Boston. I thought that it was just south... but turns out the Boston Metro area is big (go figure)... the drive was close to 1:30 one way. When I rolled in to New Bedford, I quickly found the Zeiterion Theater and a parking space across the street. In this case, quite literally... my car was directly across from the doors.

When I walked up to the ticket counter the ladies thought that I was a performer. This is rather flattering, as I am generally impressed with the wear of most performers. I was wearing a Dropkick shirt, my gray jacket (with all the buttons), my new brown kilt, and my flat cap. Turns out it was more likely to do with my age. The average age was around 60.

The show was great. The general format was of a Celtic Variety show. There were 11 or 12 musicians who would come on at different times, and in different configurations, playing all sorts of different styles of music. Occasionally there would be some dancers who would come out. And there was lots of stories and narrative of the music. It was quite like A Celtic Sojourn, but in real life. And you all know I love Celtic music, especially live Celtic music.

Earlier in the day I did watch the Gonzaga game. I was going to go in to a bar (as I don't have cable... ) but then I remembered that I have a broadcast antenna and the game was on CBS. Done. So I stayed in a tried to make Tater Tots. You all see the cool things I make... but occasionally my experiments go wrong. These went wrong. Ill try again later and give you an update.

Monday, March 19, 2012

St. Pat's Day Fun

These past few days have been great, with lots and lots of festivities, so much in fact that I have not had a chance to write about them!

So last week was a great week at work. I am getting further and further steeped in the projects going on around me, I am contributing, I am making things and making progress. It has been both educational and enjoyable.

At home I have been working on a little project for Gwyn. It is a little bit of a surprise, so you will not be able to see a final product for a while, but I have some cool pictures of engineering! So what we have here is an Arduino interfaced with a long range infared detector. So the micro will be able to 'see' an object, possibly a person, approaching.

The little blue thing is the Arduino, and the black thing on my sticky notes is the range finder.
Brian, Alan, Phillip... look familiar?
A little anecdote: the IR sensor I am using is the same as the one we used for wall following on R2-GU, my senior design robot. I was bringing back lots of memories working on it.

So first up in events of last week: PI Day! Becasue of a date mix up, I didn;t end up making my Pie until the evening of Pie day, but it was still made. I took it in to work, with much praise from my coworkers, one who said: "why are you working here?? you could be making these!" I laughed. That would be fun though... Mom, lets do it.
4pp13 PI!
Thursday, Wes (my office mate), and Marissa (one of our office neighbors) came over for some Corned Beef. This is one of my favorite things to make, it is so dang easy, and so dang good. Ill post the 'recipe,' if you want to call it that, later today. Needless to say we had a great time, ate lots, and got in to the St. Patty's Day spirit.

Friday, a coworker had an extra ticket to a show in Harvard Square, so I went off for another adventure in Cambridge. The performer was a guy named Paul Kelly. He reminded me of a well put together, and harmonic, Bob Dylan. He was great. The venue was at a place called 'Club Passim.' A non-profit performing art project. Attached to it is Veggie Planet, a place of equal wonder. As you can guess, everything is vegetarian, but amazing! I had 'Portobello Redhead' an amazingly flavorful mix served on a bed of coconut rice. It was great. The whole evening was fun. And a nice introduction to Harvard Square.

I just looked at the time, I need to go get ready for work! Coming Up: A Celtic Sojourn, and A Southie St. Patrick's Day (a.k.a. What you get when you throw down a parade in South Boston, a heavily Catholic working class neighborhood with way too much Irish pride)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

T-Shirt Excange!

So I signed up for Reddit's T Shirt gift exchange! Because, as we all know, I love shirts. I am currently on the look out for my matches perfect shirt...

But in doing so I came across this beauty. If anyone every feels compelled to get me a new shirt, I give you this awesomeness: "What Trooper?"

Also the site Shirtoid is also great. I want them all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Act Five: Rohrering Pittsburgh Artist

Over Christmas break many of my family asked about Gwyn. As she is an important part of my life, you would think that I could describe what she did, as an artist, in a little more detail than: 'Um... digital art. Like photoshop, but not like Colson and Grandpa photoshop. Like lots of layers... and textured. Oh! And she is a sculpture/installation artist, primarily in textile pieces... (because, you know, I just barely know what that means.)."

Well, for those of you who would like to know. I direct you to the following website, Gwyn's Artist Portfolio. There you can all just go look at what she does, that way I don't have to explain anymore.

If you are interested in any of her stuff, really you should contact her. She is a artist, she loves it when she gets feedback. And she really likes getting paid for her work. If you are really nice, you I would imagine you could even get her to make something just for you. Support Local (and by local, I mean in the global sense) Artists! I do!

Tangy Beef and Vegetable Stew

Another cook book that I unearthed was my 'Taste of Home: Big Book of Soup.' Gwyn suggested that I try out a Stew this week. So I found this great one. I was amazed at the depth of taste, it was so good! For some reason I always think of stew as bland and comfort ish, this one was so flavorful. I did modify it a little to make it work for what I had.

Tangy Beef and Vegetable Stew

Serves 7-9 people
Approx Prep: 40 minutes
Approx Cook: 6 - 9 hours

3 - 4 medium Russet Potatoes, peeled, cubed
2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled, cubed
8 medium carrots, thickly sliced
2 medium onions
3 pounds Beef Stew meat, cut in large bite sized pieces
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup flour
3 beef bouillon cubes (the recipe called for 4, after tasting, you could use 2 and be fine)
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared Horseraddish
4 tablespoons Mustard
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups sliced mushrooms

You can mess around with the proportions. I did. If you want a stronger taste add some more horseraddish, ketchup, mustard and vinegar.
I am really liking this kitchen!
Peel, chop, slice, and otherwise prepare the potatoes, onion and carrot. Assemble and mix up at the bottom of a crock pot.

I do love my crock :)
In a fry pan, brown the beef in the oil, just getting the outside cooked. As the stew...  well stews... the meet will fully cook. When beef is done, place on top of the potato/vegetable mix in crock pot. Sprinkle with flour.

Dissolve bouillon cubes in boiling water. Mix well. Add vinegar, ketchup, mustard, horseradish and sugar. Pour over beef.

I added this step for my own piece of mind. Add water to the pot until just about to cover the vegetables. This might not be necessary as everything starts to combine together the liquid level will rise.

Cover and set crock pot to cook on High for 5 hours, or low for 8-9 hours (or how ever long you are at work). Add peas, corn and mushrooms. Stir, smell the goodness. Cook on High for 45 minutes - 1 hour. 

After a full day of stewing. Oh boy, did it smell good.

I assembled this Sunday evening and cooked it during the day on Monday. As I started to make the recipe I realized that my crock pot would not hold everything, so I split everything in two and froze the ingredients for another week!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Interesting Things About Pittsburgh

This was originally on the right hand side of the blog, but as 'here' is no longer Pittsburgh, I need to refresh. But for posterity, and for us all to look back and laugh, here are the goods:

Interesting things about "here"

  • I take back all previous comments about PGH drivers... they stink. They stink like garbage.
  • Cars like to get all cozy with bicyclists.
  • Fogging up glasses.. in the morning... walking outside.
  • 90 Degrees + Humidity + Rain = Grossest Summer Rain Ever
  • Car to Car Conversations.
  • I miss Rocky's
  • Fireflys. In the words of my dear friend Brodie: 'I didn't have a favorite bug... but now I do.'
  • No matter what, you have to hate Philadelphia.
  • Speed limits are more of speed suggestions.
  • Tolls are dang expensive (just for you Caleb)
  • I need to get into SteamPunk
  • P3 where have you been all my life?
  • Watch out for Hipsters
  • Smell for Alcohol before getting into a conversation on the bus.
  • It is not appropriate to wear a Terrible Towel as a hat.
  • Pittsburghers don't know how to drive in the snow. And most (like 98%) don't have snow tires.
  • Don't use a shovel to move snow... just throw salt at it. It will go away.
  • CMU students like to boast about how little sleep they got.
  • During Hanukkah, saw a car with a 6 foot, electrically lit, Menorah driving down the road. Awesome
  • They don't know what a "California Stop" is because they just don't stop. And Red Lights are optional.
  • The loudness of your walking is inversely proportionate to your importance.
  • Made it all the way to School with my fly down. Awesome.
  • Is "Robustify" a word?
  • I silently judge young, able bodied people who sit in the front 1/4 of the bus.
  • They don't follow Traffic Laws... at all.
  • The trees are not all changing, some are still green.
  • Rob Wever - I hope you got your tire fixed
  • Whiteboard tables - Genius
  • Short Skirts and Dresses are not appropriate for bike use.
  • Yinz luv da Stillers - valid english here....
  • Pghers are very particular about how lunch meat is sliced
  • Some one from Pittsburgh is a "Pittsburgher" (Pitts-berger)
  • "Watch Children" Signs are a little creepy.
  • It is really hilly here.
  • They don't appreciate Chili like I do
  • I am at an "international school"
  • "Stop here on Red" signs are way back from the intersection
  • Unprotected Left Turns get the right-of-way (aka The Pittsburgh Left)

Temporrary Intteruption

*** Your regularly scheduled blog post will return tomorrow when enough sleep has been achieve to stop making simple spelling mistakes. Enjoy the half broadcast!***

Chocolate Mint Dreams

One of the best things I opened up when I was unpacking was my cook books! I got my cookie book back! So I think I may make it a Sunday activity to make a new cookie recipe. These are a great St. Patty's day cookie! So bright and rich looking and with a great mint taste! So to start it off, on page 86 of 'Taste of Home: Cookies':

Chocolate Mint Dreams

3/4 cup Butter, softened.
1 cup powder sugar
2 x 1 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate Squares, melted, cooled
1/4 teaspoon Peppermint extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips

2 tablespoons butter, soft
1 cup powder sugar
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
green food coloring
1 -2 tablespoons milk

1 cup chocolate chips
tablespoon butter

Makes 3 - 4 dozen

In large bowl, cream butter and powder sugar, until light and fluffy. Beat in chocolate and mint. Gradually add in flour and mix well. Add chocolate chips. The dough gets to be kind of dry... but that is ok. These are drop cookies, they will be more like a cake than a hard crisp cookie.

Take about a tablespoon of dough in your hands, roll in to tight ball. Place on ungreased cookie sheet with some room for cookies to spread out. Bake for 7-9 minutes at 375 or until firm. Remove from oven. Let sit for 5 minutes, remove to cooling rack.

Once all have cooled off completely. Make the Icing! Combine butter, sugar, peppermint, food coloring and just a little bit of milk. Mix really well. If too thick, add more milk, but only a little bit at a time. The milk and powder sugar do a lot. If your icing gets too runny add more sugar, if it is still too thick, add a little more milk. Just go slow and mix well. Using a spoon, frost cookies. In a ziplock bag, add chocolate chips and butter. Microwave on medium for 1 minute at a time until everything is melted. Kneed by hand. Cut a small slit in the corner and drizzle all over the cookies.

Eat and Enjoy!

I had to make sure they were ok to eat!
And the glamor shot, so my blog can have 'internet cred'.

Act Three: Using the Kitchen. Like a Boss

I am loving this Kitchen. Of the kitchens I have had the pleasure to use, it is second only to my mother's. Lots of space to work on stuff, things are set up efficiently.

Last Sunday I had to break in the waffle iron in family tradition.
I really don't like my waffle iron. They always have holes, and it always over flows. At the same time. Go figure.
 As per tradition, I made up a batch of cookies last weekend as a way to introduce myself to my neighbors.

Mint and Chocolate Chip Cookies. Only the Best.
All ready for delivery!
So the people living around me: Below is a very nice lady (27 - 37 ish) who may or may not be in the medical profession. I had talked to her the weekend before after I tore apart the crate with a hammer. I apologized for being so loud, and told her I would bring her cookies for make up for it. I did. She was surprised. Above: A couple who had just gotten back. Their apartment was frigid, as their door had blown open while they were gone. They are awesome. It was what I wanted in bringing cookies. I talked to them for a good 15 minutes. We exchanged phone numbers, talked about the area. Set up a good rapport, in the future, I would not mind asking them for a wine opener (something that I tried to do in the Tri and failed) or for some sugar. Next to me: a lovely mom and her daughter. They were both a little shy, but I got to say hi :) And the other side never did respond, so I left the cookies, but I have not heard from them.

So while I was making cookies I was also preparing a 'proper' Sunday meal. I amazed myself with this pork roast, wild rice and green beans:
Ah Yeah... Reeds.
Today I made two things. Mint Chocolate Cookies and Tangy Stew. The following post are the recipes!

Act Two: Life of the Party

Work is going great! This past week went by so fast, and I spent a lot of it working on this interface device. I am excited to go in to work, I am motivated to get stuff done, I am productive. Everything, so far at least, you could want in a job.

The people are also a great aspect. They seem like a good group of peers. To be honest, we all (yes, I am including me in this too) have our quirks. We are engineers for goodness sake. This makes for some interesting lunch conversations: Starcraft commentary, Four Square World Championships, Dangerous things to do in Boston, My maple faux-pas.. among other things.

Outside of work, a lot of my social interactions have been with Wes. Which is great, because he is awesome. He and I share an office, so we spend a lot of time together during the day. We seem to be very different, but get along well. He is a rock climber, in to extreme sports, likes coffee, does not like Rocky's... and we share a particular passion for trying new food places.

Last weekend he and Jamie (his girlfriend who was visiting) came over and we all made some great southwest chili with corn bread dumplings. This past Saturday, seeing the need for some green, we took a trip to Lowes for some foliage for the office and our respective apartments.

And ok replacement, not nearly as cool as the plant Holly gave me.
 In addition. This past Thursday was the start of mustache March. You all know what that means:
to this!
Only one single person commented on it at work. This either means they didn't notice, they think I am serious, or they don't know how to respond. I cant wait for the Mohawk.

Act One: Modern Living

Yay! Pictures! The apartment is great. I am really enjoying it. There is a ton of room, there is great light during the day. At night it is a little dark still. I need to invest in a few lamps. Here are a few pictures. Let me know if you have any questions, or you can arrange for a Skype tour ;)

The look from the front entry way.
My lovely table and the back deck.
The Bob Griffith Collection. I love the pictures! Thanks Gpa!
This was one of my Christmas gifts from Gwyn! I love it! Now we just need a PA one for her.
The living room! Notice the big blank walls, that is the future location of a private gallery of Gwyn's art :)
My new entertainment system. Thanks Mom and Dad!
The ever growing picture wall.
Pierogie Lights!
Entering my room. The bathroom is on the right, and the game closet is on the left.
My awesome desk. My computer was still a little sick at this point.

Looking back the other way, in to the entry way.
The Men's room. It has become even more decked out.
That flag is now hanging from the ceiling.
And Gwyn's room.... man, she should clean up once in a while...
So there you have it, the first look at what I am sure will be a very rapidly changing apartment. I spared the picture of my make shift dresser made out of boxes... just like the Tri. A dresser and bed frame are on my list.

If you are curious as to the lay out, I refer you to this post with a great picture :) If you have requests for more images, let me know, I love taking pictures and sharing!