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Another Black Apron in Ku-Ki-Do

Megan’s was one of “our” college students in Pullman. You’ve seen her before on this blog, in my kitchen, and here she is holding her graduation cupcake.

Before starting pharmacy school, she decided to master Ku-Ki-Do – evidence that she already understands good medicine! She’s been texting me pictures of the learning process and I have to say this award is actually overdue. She’s probably given up by now!

Here’s a picture of the first really successful batch that emerged late last summer after some initial trouble shooting.  These were peanut butter chocolate chip. Yum.

Here’s a batch of straight-up chocolate chip.

A couple of weeks ago, she sent pictures of another perfect looking batch, I would show them to you, but the photo isn’t enlarging well from my phone. It made me hungry trying to work with it though!!

So, without further delay….here’s your black apron, Megan! Congratulations – and send the recipe for that peanut butter chocolate chip variation my way!

New Black Aprons in Ku-Ki-Do!

Last summer I awarded Green Ku-Ki-Do Aprons to Nathan and Kara – in the form of online photos. Apparently Nathan found a real one. Here are some of the pictures I’ve gotten since…

That’s the Little Clone Trooper that I used for 14 years before Darth Mixer came to reside on my counter. It makes my heart glad that the little guy is still turning out great cookies!

I love rows of Ku-Ki-Do balls! These ones look like chocolate chip.

Here we have snickerdoodles.

Perfect size.

Perfect shape. These look delicious.

White chocolate chip…my favorite breakfast cookie!

And, these piles are the final proof that the Little Clone Trooper is still going strong and that Nathan and Kara deserve Black Aprons in Ku-Ki-Do!

Congratulations, Nathan – here’s yours…

…and Kara here’s yours. (I just can’t see Kara in canvas!) She is so put together and dignified that I can hardly imagine her needing an apron at all, but she can sure bake…and not just cookies. Take a look at these apple pies!

And speaking of great cooks…that’s Xiao on the left. Trying to keep up with her cooking got this whole blogging idea started.

We miss you guys. Thanks for keeping our Pullman kids healthy with great cookies!

Lessons in Red Velvet

I know that we learn from our mistakes, but over the years I have decided that I am not a fan of this approach, which is why I read trustworthy cookbooks and put into practice what I pick up. This also happens to be a big reason why I study the Bible. I’d rather take wisdom where I can find it and not have to learn the hard way that God had a good reason for what He said to do.

Of course, in spite of the best guidance, I occasionally think I have better ideas, like with red velvet.

The foundation for this lesson started on Good Friday when I procrastinated about buying a cake mix (my usual approach to cake baking) and couldn’t find a red velvet mix in Pullman. A bunch of students were coming over after the Good Friday service to watch The Passion – and have dessert. I had racked my brain for what kind of desert might go with such a gut-wrenching movie and come up with a plan to make a cake that illustrated Isaiah 1:18. There was no time at the local IGA to think of a plan B. Thankfully, I had been ogling the Pioneer Woman blog and happened to remember that she had recently posted a red velvet cake. (See it here.) It was beautiful and I had looked pretty closely at the ingredients so I grabbed buttermilk and red food coloring and trotted home.

The cake turned out nicely – until I hurriedly tried covering over red crumbs with cream cheese frosting that was too thick for the job. It turns out that hiding crimson with white is harder than it looks in cakes, not to mention the cosmos. Anyway, there were crumbs of red embedded in the frosting, but the point was made, maybe even accentuated. Here are a few shots of that cake.

The real trouble with red velvet began when I watched a re-run episode of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown a couple of days before I needed to make red velvet cupcakes AGAIN for our graduation open house. (Note: If you missed my prior plug for that show, please check out the post on pulled pork (here). I’m still looking for someone who can explain the Zans!) In the episode we watched, a woman who owns a bakery made red velvet cupcakes, and she talked about how you shouldn’t use butter in cupcakes because it makes them dry. She believes in using oil. That got me thinking about the Pioneer Woman cake I had recently made, which called for shortening. I wondered if perhaps that perfectly delicious cake might have been too firm to be parlayed into scrumptious cupcakes. Meanwhile, Bobby Flay, used butter in his cupcakes and won, but I was already well down the destructive path of second guessing sound wisdom. Oil, butter, shortening – conflicting expertise – what a dilemma!

My solution – when the experts can’t agree appoint yourself as one. In my visions of blogging grandeur, I even took a picture of myself writing my own hybrid recipe from the two mentioned above. Stupid! I have studied cookies to the point that I can alter recipes with predictable results, but I have no business trying it with cake recipes, when my usual method involves pictures of eggs and oven dials on the back of a box.

This photo is now quite embarrassing!

But, we will never know exactly how this recipe might have turned out, because I failed to even follow my own plan correctly. Here’s how it happened.

Holly and Megan came over to bake with me, which was great fun.

I guess I was distracted with the novelty of a sifter being operated in my kitchen as Holly was measuring the flour and I told her the wrong amount. (It matters how much flour you put in cake, by the way.)

The batter tasted great, but I kept looking through the oven glass at cupcakes that weren’t rising and wondering why it was taking so long. Finally I pulled them out in a fit of aggravation and found that the bottoms were burned. WHAT!?

Worse yet, they tasted burned.

What you cannot see in this trash can is the chunk of my ego buried under the pile.

I called Ric who was already leaving the grocery store after shopping for other graduation party supplies and asked him (in a very miserable voice) to go back in and shake the place down for a red velvet cake mix. He felt so sorry for me that he bought me these flowers to make me feel better.

Maybe I should have baking mishaps more often!

He may have also been feeling bad about breaking the news that he did not find a mix. Instead, he found more red food coloring. Oh, yippee – a chance to redeem myself.

For the next batch I humbly followed the Bobby Flay Throw Down recipe exactly – almost. You can find it online here. The only exception was that I mixed the cocoa and the red food coloring like The Pioneer Woman recipe because it’s much prettier to dump red coloring into white batter. You get a picture like this….

Instead of like this…

…which is how it looks if the cocoa is added in with the dry ingredients. If I wasn’t blogging, I wouldn’t care, but now you’ve gotten to see some pretty red swirls. If you really want to see pretty red batter photography, check out the Red Velvet Sheet Cake on Ree’s Blog.

Both recipes made delicious cake – much better than I’ve ever gotten from a mix. So, the wheels are turning in my brain on this whole cake thing. I will conquer this process!

In the end, the lessons learned were profound. Follow directions when you’re not an expert and be careful about measurements.

Next Post: the graduation cap cupcakes that all of this trouble went into producing. Here’s a sneak peek.

Molly and Becky’s April Flowers

My friend Molly and her sister Becky brought me this GORGEOUS fruit arrangement on Wednesday. They made it themselves! Then Molly brought another one to Bible study on Thursday. What a treat!

I could hardly stand the thought of eating it, but it was too big to fit in the fridge. Thank goodness for photos. I asked if she took pictures while she was making it, because I’ve been trying to drag her into this blogging project. And, she did! So, enjoy…

And last but not least, you’ve got to see the one that her youngest daughter made to take to one of their neighbors. I think it’s adorable that it’s sitting in front of their homeschool chalkboard with flowers already drawn on it.

Thank you so much, Molly and Becky for such a delightful gift!

Pulled Pork and Beans Throw Down!

This week we had pulled pork and baked beans from Bobby Flay’s Throwdown! cook book.

The boys and I really like to watch this show on Food Network as a Wednesday night wind down so they bought me the book for Christmas. I like that Bobby Flay has proven to be an excellent model of sportsmanship. He is obviously a very competitive man, but win-or-lose, he is always very gracious – a great example for certain young men that I know and love.

I won’t write the recipes here, since they are directly taken from the book shown above, but the bean recipe is on the internet (here) as well as a different version of the pulled pork recipe that you can find here, but the version in the book is much easier for home cooks to follow.

In general, pork and I do not get along in the kitchen. I am terrible at pork chops. The NHL could use them. However, I’m married to a Georgia boy who grew up eating pork in all forms, including pulled pork sandwiches from a local dive called Piggy Park – only in the South. Anyway, trying pulled pork the first time was daunting given my record but I have mastered it. It turns out, that with eight or nine hours of perseverance, even pork will give up and get tender so that is how I wage this particular culinary war. Maybe someday I’ll revisit the chop.

The process for pulled pork, according the recipe I was using on this occasion, starts the night before with the mixing just about every ingredient in your spice cabinet into a rub for the pork. It smells great!

Then the pork shoulders spend the night in rub.

In the morning they come out of the fridge looking like this.  Good morning, pork.

For the first four hours they are exposed to the air in a 250 degree oven with apple juice in the bottom of the pan. I used a turkey baster to periodically drizzle them with apple juice so they wouldn’t dry out.

After four hours, they come out of the oven looking like this and ready for the next step.

The next few hours are spent wrapped in foil with apple juice – a new take on pigs in blankets.  I guess you could call this pigs in wet blankets.

It stays in the foil until its internal temperature reaches 190 which is well above the point at which my meat thermometer begins telling me that pork is done. I have to turn off the alarm or it would wear itself out.

When the time comes, let the meat rest and cool for a few minutes before pulling it between two forks to achieve the shredded texture pulled pork is known for.

I used the BBQ sauce from the baked bean recipe to pour over the meat, but you can use any sauce that suits you. I fell down on the blogging job when we started eating and forgot to take a picture of the finished sandwich. Sorry.

On to the beans…

Here’s what goes into the pot when you’re adjusting to feed twenty-five.

This recipe has you making a custom barbeque sauce, browning bacon, and sautéing onions to start.

Then you open beans, and open beans, and open beans…

This is when I wish I had a ZANS! (You can be the comment queen of the day if you know what I’m talking about.)

Again, I forgot to take a picture of the finished beans, but they were good, and the leftovers made great quesadillas. I’ll blame my failure to photograph on these guys arriving.

At least I finally remembered to take a new picture of them. They’re a great group! A few are missing so we’ll do this again if I can hold the thought.

Here was their dessert.

Lemon Cake (from a box) with lemon cream cheese frosting. Yum.

How I Named My Blog

cat·walk n.
1. a narrow ramp extending from the stage into the audience .., esp as used by models in a fashion show
2. a narrow, often elevated walkway, as on the sides of a bridge or in the flies above a theater stage, etc.

I like alliterations. (You know: words that start with the same sound.) So, I got “catwalk” in my head when I was trying to think of a name for a cookie blog. It seemed like if I was parading food for photos on the elevated surface that surrounds my kitchen the definition fit pretty well. The blog moved beyond cookies in my brain before I even started but “kitchen” worked too. Whew! (I also like rhymes.)

This is sort of what I was picturing – cookie dough balls strutting their stuff.

Conveniently, the word “CORNY” fits with the title as well as it does with the whole blog!