28 February 2011


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I know you have all been eagerly waiting with bated breath since I announced I would be doing a product review for CSN stores.  Wait no more!  Behold the product review as promised! 

Choosing a product to review proved to be no easy task.  I knew I wanted to review a kitchen product, and I wanted to try something new.  After lots of browsing and just before Valerie was about to snap from all the ideas I was bouncing off her, I found it.  A Cuisinart Crêpe Pan

I had been wanting to make crêpes for a long time.  In fact, before I made them, I had never even had a crêpe.  My interest began when I was working at a bank in Indianapolis.  Every Friday, someone from the branch brought breakfast for everyone.  My manager Emmanuel, who was from France, was excited because someone was bringing crêpes and Nutella for breakfast.  That morning, as Emmanuel was smearing Nutella on his 'crêpe', he looked at me and said, "These are not crêpes."  He was right, they were pancakes, and he went on to explain how crêpes are not like pancakes in that they are unleavened and wafer thin.  I took that to heart, and I always wandered what a real crêpe would taste like.

As the years went by, I would see crêpe pans in kitchen stores just begging me to buy them.  While tempted to by one, I never did.  This product review opportunity from CSN Stores pushed me over the edge, and I anxiously waited for my pan to arrive in the mail.  When it arrived, I opened the box to observe the new hardware.  The pan looked nice; it had sloping sides with a distinct bottom, just like Alton Brown recommends.  Then, the real test came.  Does it look good on my pot rack?


The weekend finally came and I was ready to actually make crêpes.  I used Alton Brown's recipe, and the batter came together in an instant.  Then came the fun part, cooking the crêpes.  It definitely took some practice to get the batter to spread in the pan evenly.  In order to keep the crêpes thin, I had to use just enough batter to barely coat the bottom of the pan.  My first couple crêpes looked like jellyfish, but I finally got the hang of it.  

This is the only nonstick pan I own, and it certainly comes in handy.  With the nonstick pan and a little butter, I did not have a problem with any of the crêpes sticking.  In fact, I was able to flip them by hand; mainly because I couldn't figure out any other way to do it.

The batter made over a dozen crêpes and we enjoyed them that morning with a little Nutella and bananas.  The crêpes were more delicious than I imagined them to be, and they were quite durable for being so thin. 
They were tender, delicate, slightly sweet, and the Nutella and bananas were a perfect compliment.

I should have garnished the plate a little better to improve presentation, but we just couldn't wait to eat.  The crêpes were a bit intimidating at first, but once I got the hang of it, they were a cinch to make.  The pan was very nice, too, and I am sure I will use it again and again.\

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter, for coating the pan

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.

Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

24 February 2011

Losing Shiny Happy People

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REM - Shiny Happy People

There is a story on R.E.M.'s official website entitled 20 Years of Losing My Religion.  It pays homage to, arguably, R.E.M.'s most popular song.  Plus there are 14 different videos for your viewing pleasure.  Seeing this tribute got me thinking about how the album Out of Time also contains the song that R.E.M. seems to hide from the most, "Shiny Happy People". 

"Shiny Happy People" was the second single from Out of Time and is the last R.E.M. song to reach the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100.  I can remember hearing the song on Z93 while riding the school bus, and it always brought a smile to my face. 

R.E.M. has not performed the song live on tour since it was released, which is kind of strange for a top 10 hit.  "Losing My Religion", on the other hand, has been a staple of an R.E.M. concert since it's release.  "Shiny Happy People" also did not appear on the bands latest greatest hits album, In Time: The Best of R.E.M.  Curious, to say the least.  R.E.M. has only had four top ten hits, and they put the others on greatest hits compilations.

Perhaps they never played it on tour because they didn't have an way to replace Kate Peirson, but that didn't stop them from performing "E-bow the Letter" without Patti Smith a few times.  Maybe the guys will dust it off one of these days.  After all, they did perform "Kohoutek" after vowing never to play it live, and it wasn't ever released as a single.

"Shiny Happy People", for better or for worse, is a part of R.E.M., and I embrace it and sing along every time it comes up on my playlist.  It may not be the best R.E.M. song, but it's a darn good fun-loving bubblegum pop song.

20 February 2011

Quilt Rack

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I never thought I would be so excited about getting a quilt rack.

15 February 2011

Avocado Buttercream Frosting

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Curious, yet tasty, this Alton Brown application is sure to please.  Lemony, sweet, creamy, and green, it is unlike any frosting I have ever made, and it would surely make Dr. Seuss proud.  I made this frosting to go on a cake I took to my mom's Super Bowl party, thinking it would be a fun way to use avocados in a less traditional way.  The Hass Avocado Board stated that 53.5 million pounds of avocados were eaten on Super Bowl Sunday; I doubt many pounds were eaten as frosting.  So, I was happy to contribute my 8 ounces.

The first time I met Alton was on June 4, 2005 at the Castleton Square Mall in Indianapolis.  During the live demonstration, he was showcasing different ways to use avocados.  I was so far away, I couldn't really see him or hear what he was saying.  On November 2, 2005, "Curious Yet Tasty Avocado Experiment" aired and I was finally able to see what AB was doing with those avocados.  Being an avocado lover, I had to give the recipes a try.  My favorite recipe from the avocado experiments is the avocado buttercream frosting.  It not only looks cool, it tastes pretty good, too. 

Avocado Buttercream Frosting
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Printable Recipe

•8 ounces avocado meat, approximately 2 small to medium
•2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
•1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
•1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Peel and pit the avocado. Place the avocado into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment along with the lemon juice and beat until lightened in color, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat until smooth. Add the lemon extract and mix to combine. If not using right away, store in the refrigerator.

09 February 2011

Brotherly Love: The Luigi Quilt

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Remember the stack of squares I showed you in May?  If not, I can't say that I blame you.  If so...thanks!  Well, what I didn't tell you at the time was that stack of squares was for both a Mario and a Luigi quilt.  I initially planned to keep the Mario quilt for myself and give the Luigi quilt as a Christmas present.  What I didn't know is that Ari would eventually claim the Mario quilt as his own, leaving me without the new quilt I was wanting.  He was so excited when it was finished and it looked so good in his room, I more than happy to let him use it.

I decided to keep the Luigi quilt for myself, and I ended up making the Link quilt to give as a Christmas present.  Even though I had all the squares cut for the Luigi quilt, I made the Link quilt and the Colts quilt first since I needed to have them finished before Christmas.  After those quilts were made, it took me some time to get motivated to finish Luigi.  Much to my surprise, once I finished the Luigi quilt Ari claimed it for himself, preferring to have it on his bed instead of Mario.  I gladly indulged the boy, and I ended up with my Mario quilt after all.  It's funny how things work out sometimes.

05 February 2011

Biscuits and Gravy

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A family tradition. When I was young, we went to my grandparent's house every Sunday morning for biscuits and gravy. As I got older we stopped going as often, then we stopped going altogether. I decided that if my grandma didn't want to make biscuits and gravy every Sunday, I should learn how to make them, and everyone could come to our house. So, I asked my grandma to teach me how to make them, and she agreed. I was so excited to learn from her and get the recipe!

As we were in the kitchen together getting ready to make biscuits and gravy, I asked her where the recipe was. To my surprise, she told me there wasn't a recipe; she just knew how to make them. At that point, I knew I had my work cut out for me. We got started on the biscuits. She put some shortening in a bowl and then added some flour. I asked her how much flour she added, and she told me she didn't know. She just knew what it supposed to look and feel like. I was beside myself. Then came the buttermilk, again, no measuring. Same with the sausage gravy; no measuring there either. Learning how to make biscuits and gravy proved to be no simple task.

We finished making breakfast together that morning, and the biscuits and gravy turned out to be delicious. I studied her every move in the kitchen that day, but I was nervous to try it myself. I was finally ready to try it myself, and my parents invited my grandparents over for biscuits and gravy. I had all my ingredients ready and got started. My grandparents arrived before breakfast was done and I remember my grandma asking me if I needed any help. I politely declined since I wanted to try to do it myself. The biscuits were in the oven and I was working on the sausage gravy. As I added the milk, little lumps were scattered throughout the gravy. I whisked and whisked to no avail; my gravy was lumpy. To add insult to injury, my biscuits were dry and crumbly.

Everyone ate my biscuits and gravy that morning, but I think they were just being nice. They really weren't very good. I had a long way to go before my biscuits and gravy would be like my grandma's. I didn't give up though, I was determined to make them right. The gravy technique came fairly easy, after a couple more tries, it was no longer lumpy and had good flavor. The biscuits, though, those posed more of a problem. Some were too dry, some were too dense, some fell apart, and some were just plain inedible. Then, one day, it all clicked.

Learning from all my past biscuit failures, I soon learned what the batter was supposed to look and feel like at each stage of the mixing process. My biscuits were consistently coming out of the oven light, fluffy, golden, brown and delicious. The only variation was how many biscuits each batch would make; sometimes 12, sometimes 14 or 16 or more! I had the technique down, and I was making biscuits like crazy. I was the first time I really understood what I was doing in the kitchen, not just blindly following a recipe. Learning how to make biscuits is really what developed my love of cooking.

I don't make biscuits and gravy every Sunday, but I do make them quite often throughout the year. Whenever we visit my dad in Louisville, I almost always make biscuits and gravy on Sunday morning before we leave. I also make them when they come to visit, too. It has become tradition for me to make them on Christmas morning for the in-laws. I've thought about writing down a recipe, measuring out the ingredients as I go, but I haven't done that yet; and honestly, I don't know if I want to. I'm just happy that I was able to keep the tradition alive.

01 February 2011

Picky Eater

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(click image for larger view)

A scene all too common at our dinner table.  When Ari asks, "what's for dinner?", if I don't answer with pasta, hot dogs, chicken nuggets or eggs, the answer is inevitably, "I don't like that."  But, I guess that's to be expected from a five-year-old, and Emilie follows suit.  I'm sure he'll grow out of it, but that's not going to stop me from serving him new foods until he does!


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