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Eclecticisms: August 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quick Update

I missed Tickled Tuesday but I'm on a short hiatus from blogging right now, as you may have noticed. This summer has been a busy one, and my brother is getting married this weekend (!) so I haven't been doing much baking or cooking. I'll be back soon with lots of delicious recipes though, along with pics of my new art room and other fun stuff.

"See" you soon!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

This Tuesday I'm reminiscing. I watched a bunch of commercials from the 80's and had several "I HAD THAT!" moments. We didn't have a ton of the more commercial toys when I was a kid, but here's a few I did have. Even if you can't relate, at least you can laugh at the hair-dos!

Be jealous.

Happy Tuesday!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

Casserole- what a concept. What deliciousness. What great left-overs!

I was craving macaroni and cheese the other day (in 95 degree heat... don't ask) and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted a slight crunch, rich sauce and tantalizing flavor. No sir, simple macaroni and cheese just wouldn't do. Thanks to smart phones, I spent my train ride home looking for recipes to try and immediately found this Alton Brown recipe. Given his genius along with my luck trying his lentil soup recipe, I was all for giving this one a go. I made only slight alterations (Sorry, Alton...) and was very satisfied with the results. My brother and sister-in-law loved it as well, so this will definitely make more appearances. Maybe even for holidays!


1/2 pound elbow macaroni (*I used 3/4 lb)
3 Tbs truffle infused olive oil (*My addition)
3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
3 slices provolone (*My addition)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper


3 Tbsps butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Boil noodles in a large pot until al dente. I found the sauce to be very thick and rich, so don't be afraid to use more pasta than is called for. I used more and it was still plenty thick! Once the noodles have cooked and have been drained, add the truffle olive oil and mix well. Not only will this add an amazing flavor, but will ensure the noodles don't start to stick to each other after the've cooked.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large pot. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes, making sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika.

Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf. (*I found the bay leaf flavor to be quite noticeable and would remove it after 7-8 minutes next time, so it is a bit more subtle.)

Temper in the egg. (Make sure to temper it in and not just add it or you may end up with a scrambled egg!)

Stir in the cheddar (only 3/4ths if omitting the provolone). Season with salt and pepper.

 Stir macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with provolone or remaining cheddar.

To make the topping, melt the butter in a small pan/pot and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Serve alone, or paired with some delicious veggies. I went with one of my favorites, browned brussel sprouts. YUM!

Happy eating!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate Butter Cake

If you know cakes, you know The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I'm ashamed to say that though I've had this in my possession for nearly 2 years, I just recently made a recipe from it! I came to have this book when I met my 2nd cousin Debbie at a mini-family reunion she held in her beautiful home. We had gotten to talking about baking and, inevitably, my blog. She told me about how great this book was and loaned it to me so I could try a few of the recipes (and blog about them, of course). So, for my birthday this year, I made this chocolate cake and it was excellent. Not too rich but wonderfully sweet with a scrumptious moist consistancy. I'm not a huge cake person, but man was this good.

For those of  you who haven't checked out The Cake Bible, do so. It seems a little intimidating at first because it's SO chocked full of information, but don't let that fool you. It's as friendly and easy to follow as any of your old favorites.


1/2 Cup + 3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch-pressed)
1 Cup boiling water
3 large eggs
2 1/4 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 Cups + 2 Tbs sifted cake flour
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 Tbs unsalted butter (softened)

Prepare two 9" x 1 1/2" cake pans by greasing, then lining with parchment paper and then greasing and flouring.

Preheat oven to 350

Boil the water and whisk together with cocoa powder in a medium bowl until smooth.Set aside and let cool to room temperature. (I put mine in the fridge for a bit to speed along the cooling process. It probably wasn't the best idea, but I was in a bit of a rush.)

In another bowl, lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cooled cocoa mixture and vanilla.

In the bowl of your standing mixer (or a large bowl), combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined.

It's a heart!

Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture, mixing on low until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. (I told  you this book was great!)

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. (Mixing isn't just to combine the ingredients!)

Oh man, was that batter good.

Scrape down the sides and split batter into the 2 prepared cake pans (about 1/2 full). Bake 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted near the center. (The cake will spring back when lightly pressed.)

Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Run a knife along the edges to loosen any part that might be sticking. Place the cooling rack on top of the cake pans and invert to release the cakes. Flip and allow to cool completely before frosting. If letting the cakes sit overnight, wrap well in ceran wrap. As with so many other recipes, cakes tend to taste better after they've had a chance to sit overnight.

Don't forget to level your cake if you'll be icing it!

Frost, or sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy! Keeps for up to 2 months frozen, 5 days refrigerated or 2 days at room temperature. (Serve at room temperature.)

I ended up using Martha Stewart's swiss meringue buttercream frosting recipe because the ones in The Cake Bible all seemed to call for use of a candy thermometer which I don't have (yet). The match really made a perfect pair. I had some issues with the frosting being too warm and messy so I didn't go too crazy decorating the cake, but still got to use some of the fun techniques I learned from my cake decorating class.

Happy (birthday) cake eating!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

I got this in an e-mail at work, and had to share it. It will bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart. Animals never cease to amaze me, and there is so much we can learn from them. If only more of us knew that. Enjoy!


 "By the choices we make, by the attitudes we exhibit, we are influencing lives every day in positive or negative ways."~ Mac Anderson

After losing his parents, this 3 year old orangutan was so depressed he wouldn't eat and didn't respond to any medical treatments.  The veterinarians thought he would surely die from sadness. 

The zoo keepers found an old sick dog on the grounds in the park at the zoo where the orangutan lived and took the dog to the animal treatment center.  The dog arrived at the same time the orangutan was there being treated. 

The 2 lost souls met and have been inseparable ever since.
The orangutan found a new reason to live and each always tries his best to be a good companion to his new found friend. 

They are together 24 hours a day in all their activities. 

They live in Northern California where swimming is their favorite past time, although Roscoe (the orangutan) is a little afraid of the water and  needs his friend's help to swim.

Together they have discovered the joy and laughter in life and the value of friendship.

 They have found more than a friendly shoulder to lean on.

Happy Tuesday!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cucumber, Mint and Feta Salad

This is the first year since I've been in my home that I didn't grow any mint- mainly because it grows like a weed- which I felt bad about when I ran across this recipe. Honestly, I'm surprised there isn't any in my yard now, given the catnip (cat mint) that is springing up everywhere, but paying for mint wasn't the end of the world.

As I mentioned, I had my annual B-Day BBQ this past weekend. I tried two new recipes, both of which were deeelish. This cucumber, mint and feta salad was incredibly refereshing and tasty. A perfect refresher on a hot day at a BBQ, the balance of cool, salty and sweet will delight even the most critical taste buds.

 Here is the recipe I used, with some minor adjustments to measurements.


1.5 lb thin skinned, mild (non bitter) cucumbers. (I used Persian)
1/4 red onion
4 or 5 red radishes, thinly sliced
13 mint leaves, thinly sliced
White vinegar
Olive oil
1/4 pound feta cheese

As easy as it gets! Chop up all ingredients and stir together in a bowl. I chose to dice the cucumbers and onions, which I think makes it easier to eat and serve. The recipe calls for slicing them.

Add olive oil, vinegar and cheese. Stir well.

Serve and enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

My birthday was this past Sunday, and I had my annual B-Day BBQ. I'm always so happy to see friends and family- it really made my Birthday weekend spectacular.

Today's Tickled Tuesday is in honor of all the strong women in my life who help make me who I am. You know who you are.

"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass."

-Maya Angelou

Happy Tuesday!