Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crikey! I've lost my mojo!

No seriously. I'm serious. I have really lost my mojo. But in the way you are thinking. I have lost my baking mojo. Case in point:

1. Tried to make a batch of April's Super Yummy Brownies about a month ago. I put them in the wrong size dish. They burned. The texture was all wrong. They turned out to be super YUCKY!

2. Saturday I attempted to make a simple batch of pumpkin bread. Except I substituted Splenda for sugar and self-rising flour for all purpose flour + baking soda. The bread was flat, a weird color, dense, and not tasty.

3. I recently burned break-n-bake cookies. Who does that?

For those that know me well, or those who have tasted my delectable treats, you know this is very un-Sheri like. I've been baking since I was a kid. I was a semi-finalist in a cooking contest last year. I don't screw stuff up like this. Ever. That is...until now.

I'm blaming Mississippi. I haven't done a lot of baking since I moved. I could also blame work for keeping me busy and distracted. Really, the cause is inexplicable. I have no idea why my dishes are failing, and failing so often. I mean, this is me. The gal who wants to own her own bakery one day. Why am I having such a hard time in the kitchen?

I plan on redeeming myself over the next few weeks. I have to work myself out of this slump before the mad rush of holiday baking season. My family will be counting on me for lots of tasty treats. Maybe I'll start with my "never fail" banana bread, or something easy like a boxed cake. Whatever it is...I gotta shake it! Life is so empty without cooking! : )

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Things that make me happy on a crappy day - Tuesday, Oct. 27 Edition

Sometimes I get really stressed out at work and I let all of the frustrations really get to me. Today I decided to quit complaining and start focusing on the good/fun things that happen. Here is a list of my happy things from today:

1. Several folks commenting on the cuteness of my new feather headband.
2. I don't have a headache for once!
3. My can of Diet Coke tastes particularly good today.
4. Starbucks made an error in my favor, and accidentally shipped me an extra travel tumbler. One of them was slightly cracked, so I guess that makes up for sending a slightly defective (but still usable) product.
5. The free Starbucks VIA in my package tasted really great.
6. My grad student posted a link to the awesome Banks interception/touchdown from Saturday night. Watch below!
7. A dear, old friend of mine became a father of a baby girl today!
8. I was home by 6:00 p.m. and in my pj's.

And...a # 9 last minute submission thanks to Facebook. Here's a great cover of one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands. *sign*

Friday, October 23, 2009

Loyalty. Pride. Passion.

At my office, we have adopted the tagline "Loyalty. Pride. Passion." to be the theme of our fiscal year. Though the phrase appeared on our stationary during the middle of FY 08-09, the notion didn't take off until this summer. Now it underlines everything we do for our division marketing efforts. Its a "State" of mind that we have adopted, and a way of life for the many loyal, proud and passionate alumni that now grace the halls as staff and faculty members.

Whether "my competition" stole the theme from our letterhead or not (I am now forbidden to speak to the competition marketing folks about anything we do because they did kinda steal one of my ideas, and I helped them), it (as in the theme) also adorns our beloved Davis Wade Stadium on massive size banners depicting scenes of our underdog football team and fans.

I think our tagline really captures the spirit of the university here. It goes beyond our goals of giving and stewardship, beyond being a fan of our sports teams, and really sums up the State "state of mind." There is a spirit around here that really exudes family, togetherness, and devotion. It is so much more than being a fan of a university. It is fidelity, dedication, zeal, enthusiasm, commitment, devoutness, and any other word that describes loyalty and love.

I'm very proud to be a part of this family. Its not a movement or a phase. Its always been like this around here. From the time I was a kid going to football games with my parents, to my four years as an undergrad, and now, to my life and career as an adult...this place has always been the same. Its special, and its something that really can't be described in words or pictures. It has to be felt. You have to walk along the historic Drill Field or spend time with friends and family in The Junction to realize what State is all about. It truly is a remarkable place.

I guess all of this mushiness is due to an article I read this morning in the New York Times. Its on misfit football team and prize new head coach. I believe the media did us justice, for once, in talking about the love and devotion of our Bulldog family. They understand that we are always an underdog, but we always fight, we always love, and we will always be loyal, proud, and passionate for our school.

To borrow the tagline from one of my clients....We are

Forever your university,

Forever your family...

Forever maroon and white.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wisdom from NBC's "The Office"

I feel like this some days. Maybe today is one of those days.

Quote by Oscar in the episode "Mafia."

Pam and Jim are on their honeymoon, so there's not the usual balance between "sane" and "others." Toby has mentally checked out since June. It's a very dangerous time. The coalition for reason is extremely weak.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

A special thanks to my friend Kim for posting this on her blog. She made this dough with her one-year-old as a bonding experience. I think that's a great idea to get kids into cooking. I love when Will helps out!

I am definitely going to try this next time I need pizza dough. I bought a pre-made crust yesterday for my at home pizzas. Its okay, but I would prefer whole wheat.

Are we in need for another blog-a-thon? What's your favorite homemade pizza?

Momma Hopper’s Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (Dough)

2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. warm water (80-110 degrees F)
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbl. olive oil
1 1/4 c. all-purpose whole wheat flour
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Italian Seasoning
Yellow Cornmeal
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
Yield: Enough dough for 2 large pizza’s.

1. In a large bowl, dissolve brown sugar and yeast in warm water. Let set for 10 minutes.

2. Stir salt and olive oil into yeast solution. Mix in 2 1/2 cups of flour (half of this amount should be whole wheat, and half should be white) until well blended. Add in more flour until dough is no longer sticky and easy to work with. (You may not need all 3 1/2 cups or you may need much more than that amount–it depends of the weather!)

3. Knead dough with hands for about 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and soft. Add more flour to dough as necessary.

4. Place dough ball in a well oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Set the bowl in a warm location to let the dough rise until double in size (about 1 hour).

5. After 1 hour, punch down dough and divide into two tight balls. Allow to rest for one minute. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

6. Roll dough out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle pizza crust with Italian seasoning. If using a pizza stone, lightly dust top of stone with flour and cornmeal. Place dough on stone and brush outer edge (where the crust will be) with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Poke inner (non-crust) area with a fork to create air holes. Bake crust on lowest rack in oven for approximately 5-10 minutes (depending on thickness) just until lightly browned. Remove from oven to add toppings.

Side note from Kim: You may wonder why not 100% whole wheat…the dough can tend to taste rather grainy, which is also why I think my mom would add a little brown sugar when dissolving the yeast…to help give a little sweetness to the whole wheat. I have done this using only whole wheat only, but I personally prefer doing 1/2 white flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour.

PS - This dude is my pizza inspiration...and I kinda have a crush on him. He's got mad skillz!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Must have kitchen gadget!!!

While browsing through The Pioneer Woman's blog today, I came across another "must have" for my kitchen - a personalized cake pan! O. M. G. How have I lived this long and NOT had one? The design I think I am going to order is the Bake-A-Cake that says "From the kitchen of SP." And probably in red. Or maybe blue since I already have a lot of red in my kitchen. Either way, I MUST have one of these cake pans!

So, aside from this, I was thinking last night. Maybe instead of my dream of opening a bakery, I should just open a restaurant. I mean, I cook more than I bake, so I'm getting a lot more experience in that area. I could always sell baked goods at my restaurant, but open a little diner as the main part of my business.

Since I'm in a college town, I'm thinking of an affordable place that offers good, ole home cooking, but from a healthy perspective. I'm always trying to find ways of turning my favorite Southern dishes into something that's low-fat and not completely terrible for you! And if it was cheap enough for college students to afford, I think I would have a pretty good market in this town.

Alas, for now, these are just dreams of mine! I would have to save up a lot of money before I could even BEGIN to think about quitting my job and starting my own business. I'm thinking the 10 year plan I had for myself is turning more into 20! I mean, its going to take at least 15 to pay off my mortgage, and there is NO way I can save that much money before my house is paid for. That is...unless I win Monopoly money at McDonald's (ha ha! Twitter followers know what that means.) So for now, they are all still just dreams of mine...dreams that will hopefully one day turn into reality.

But back to the subject of this post...I need a personalized cake pan.