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Saw this at Lifehacker: Make your own spice blends with what you have instead of paying for a can of Old Bay or pumpkin pie mix or whatever.

Peony's Seven Quick Takes

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Seven Quick Takes is being hosted at Betty Beguiles this week.

1. I love coffee. I love cake. I love coffee and cake. I love coffeecake. I love coffee and coffeecake even more when I'm enjoying it with friends. And doesn't coffee and cake taste even better when eaten off cute dishes?

2. I never used to give much thought to cocktails, but between my sister introducing me to Cosmopolitans and some radio show's putting daiquiris into my head, I've been having fun this summer exploring the world of the blender and the shaker.

3. Which puts me in mind of this treasure from the early days of St Blog's: Tom of Disputation's Assumption Swizzle. "...drink only for cheer, lest it lead you to sin, and drink only one, lest it lead you to dormition. "

4. Which makes me think of this fine piece of literature:

Seriously, this book is a scream. Maybe the Assumption Swizzle will make it into the next edition.

5. We have one of these living in the shrubs around our front door.

6. Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, has over 1 million residents. Did you know that? I didn't, until this week.

7. I have so many quotations posted at Happy Catholic starred in my Google Reader. Here's a couple:

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. -- Epicurious

The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. -- Pope Benedict XVI

There's a Care Calendar out there calling my name, so I'm racking my brain trying to come up with a good freezer meal and coming up with... nothing.

What do you recommend? The ideal meal would be something easily reheated in the oven (or even the microwave), moderate in the way of carbs, and peanut/ tree-nut free. I think other folks are going to have the Italian angle covered, so I'd like to stay away from the lasagna/ baked pasta arena.

Any ideas?

After I posted my Seven Quick Takes at Jen's, I followed one of the links back to this post at "So Much to Say, So Little Time", in which the writer mentions that her Wilton instructor was recommending canned icing.

I personally think that the Wilton instructor deserves the stocks or the ducking stool for that idea, so in the comments section I did a little ranting and raving. (At this moment it's still in the moderation queue.) Here's what I posted:

Here via 7 quick takes, and your “Wilton instructor” is full of something inedible. And I say this as an alumnus of the course as taught at Michael’s! Canned icing is not only disgusting tasting, it’s not the right consistency for cake decorating! Ick!

There’s three kinds of cake icing used in the Wilton classes: buttercream (the “basic”), royal (dries hard, used for elaborate make-ahead flowers) and fondant (that dough-like stuff often purchased in packages). I don’t think they get to royal and fondant until Classes 2 and 3.

Buttercream: Sometimes in the class they recommend that you use buttercream icing made entirely from shortening because it’s cheap, stable, and reusable. I wouldn’t use an all-shortening icing on a real cake, though, unless you were planning to serve it in Iraq or someplace like that.

For an actual cake, here’s a good basic recipe:

Wilton Buttercream; I recommend the following adjustments:

– This recipe makes just enough to ice and lightly decorate a standard cake recipe. You won’t have much room for error (and won’t have enough to make roses or basketweave.) If you double it, you’ll have plenty and you can freeze the rest.

– Beat the butter and flavorings together first and just a dab of the milk. Don’t bother with the “colorless” vanilla unless you want a truer white icing.

Add the sugar. I have the best results with Domino’s. The longer you slowly beat your icing, the better it will taste. (Stand mixer helps.)

Slowly add your milk a tablespoon at a time, watching the consistency of the icing.

– I don’t like using the corn syrup unless I am making thin icing for writing.

– The higher the fat content of the milk, the better the recipe will turn out. Half and half (the real stuff, not soy) or even cream is great.

– Shortening makes the recipe stable, stiffer, and a purer white. Butter makes it tastier, a little softer, and a less pure white. You can adjust your ratio — so if you double, you could use 1/2 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups butter. Keep the heat of the day in mind, and the fact that butter has more water in it than shortening. I wouldn’t use all butter until you’ve had more practice.

– Consistency is important! As you beat your icing, watch its consistency. Stiff icing is about the consistency of Spackle. If you’re making roses, this is what you want, so when you attain STIFF consistency, take some out of the bowl and set it aside. Add a bit of milk until you get to MEDIUM, which is what you want for your shells, stars, etc, and is the consistency of regular peanut butter (Jif, not the organic peanut butter )

THIN is what you want to ice the cake and to do outlining, writing, teeny dots of yellow in the middle of flowers, Corelli lace, etc. It is the consistency of pudding. I only use corn syrup when I’m doing writing and lace. I’ve been known to use butter-only for thin icing and butter-shortening for the medium and thick consistencies.

Your icing will never look as smooth and perfect as it does in the Wilton books, so don’t stress. To do the photo shoots, they use royal icing on Styrofoam cake dummies and then sand the icing to make it perfectly smooth.

Hope this helps! This is a great recipe to get you going with cake decorating, and I’ve had nothing but compliments making it. For flowers, I’ve used it for drop flowers, roses, and mums (and made them ahead of time and frozen them and then put them on the cake.)

For chocolate icing, add cocoa powder and adjust the consistency with cream.

To make black icing, start with chocolate and then add the black color.

For red, don’t bother with any color but No-Taste Red.

“Rose Petal Pink” is a lovely subtle pink color. The other pinks are Barbie bright. You can also tone down colors using Ivory — nice effects.

Oh, you can also add meringue powder to stablize your icing. Use 1 Tbsp/ recipe.

You can make and color your icing in advance; just store it in the fridge and then pull it out the morning you’re going to decorate. Keep in mind that your icing colors will get a big deeper over time.

Crisco will give you better results than generic shortening.

Experiment with extracts — I love, love, love 1/8 tsp almond extract in my icing! Coconut is delish as well. When I said “don’t bother with colorless vanilla” I meant to use regular vanilla if that’s what you prefer

Hope this helps,

Peony Moss


For advanced, Rose Levy Berenbaum is a pro baker who has a recipe for Italian Meringue Buttercream that is supposed to be good for piping. I’ve never tried it myself, but the one time I used a similar recipe just to frost a cake, the icing was so tasty I nearly put my head in the bowl to get every last molecule.

The Suburban Banshee comes to the defense of corned beef-and-cabbage against the Authenticity Police -- and shares the secret history of Irish cowboys! Who knew?

Of course corned beef and cabbage is primarily an American Irish dish. What do you think the Irish were eating in Ireland back in the 1840’s, before they had to immigrate?

1. Nothing, once the Great Famine started. The potatoes were all blighted, a lot of other crops got too much rain to thrive, and the price of all other foodstuffs went up drastically.

2. Potatoes and cabbage, before the Great Famine started.

As for me, I skip the CB&C, not because it's Insufficiently Irish but because I just can't stand the stuff. I made the Guinness Beef Stew this year. Yum yum!

Deal Seeking Mom brings news of a free download of a cookbook by Rachel Allen ("one of the hottest TV chefs in Ireland", per Harper Collins) (and it's really an abridged version with recipes "selected by Kerrygold", but it's still free.)

The coupon code is KGLD-0319-2010-RACB and is good for the first 10,000 downloads. (Well, only 9,999 at most; I've already downloaded my copy.)

Homemade ingredients

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From the prosaic (baking mix, baking powder, mayonnaise) to the esoteric (mascarpone cheese, marshmallows, Kahlua): ingredients you can make at home

Recipe rec: Chicken Planks

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The recipe says that chicken planks are "Kinda like Chicken Fingers, ONLY BETTER." Not being a connoisseur of chicken fingers, I couldn't say if these are better, but they are positively GOOD. My husband loved them.

The recipe's here. I tweaked it by marinating the chicken in salted buttermilk and adding a dollop of reserved bacon grease to the frying oil.

YUM. YUM. I might make them for myself for lunch tomorrow.

Feminine Genius Allison posts a terrific recipe for Beef and Guinness Stew. I predict big points from my husband when I make this.

Peony's seven quick takes

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1. Got to talk to Pansy today. She's holding up.

2. Note to self:

3. Baking adventure this week: a Weight Watchers recipe for biscotti. Not a success.

4. Highlight of the day (besides going to Adoration and talking to Pansy): getting a new trash can for the kitchen.

5. Rosie O'Donnell is pretty controversial, what with her keen insight into metallurgy and all. If she wanted to buy into an NFL team, would she be allowed?

6. Dan Snyder reminds me of a kid who plants a bean and then digs it up every day to see if it's growing, plants it again in a different place, fertilizes it, and gives it a gallon of water.

7. Started a novena today for Pansy that I found at Adoro Te Devote: a novena to Our Lady, the Undoer of Knots.


Look What I Made!

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It's a cake!
With six layers!
It looks like a rainbow!
Rainbow Cake!

Notice how Ian marvels!


Today is Ian's 14 birthday! Happy Birthday, Ian! I am so proud of you!

The cake is "white" cake with a lemon buttercream frosting. Ian said it reminded him of Froot Loops.

Recipe stolen from this very fun blog!

If I make this....

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I may actually go a whole day without being reminded that I am a mean mommy:
Buckeye Peanut Butter Cake

MIchael Pollan on Julie, Julia, and the Food Network:

How is it that we are so eager to watch other people browning beef cubes on screen but so much less eager to brown them ourselves? For the rise of Julia Child as a figure of cultural consequence — along with Alice Waters and Mario Batali and Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse and whoever is crowned the next Food Network star — has, paradoxically, coincided with the rise of fast food, home-meal replacements and the decline and fall of everyday home cooking.

That decline has several causes: women working outside the home; food companies persuading Americans to let them do the cooking; and advances in technology that made it easier for them to do so. Cooking is no longer obligatory, and for many people, women especially, that has been a blessing. But perhaps a mixed blessing, to judge by the culture’s continuing, if not deepening, fascination with the subject. It has been easier for us to give up cooking than it has been to give up talking about it — and watching it.

Homemade yogurt?

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So I came across this article by Harold McGee that described a way of making yogurt at home -- without a yogurt maker. My husband and I have been on a bit of a yogurt jag, so I decided to give it a try. I followed the method carefully -- twice -- and got nothing but milk.

Lemons:lemonade::failed yogurt:homemade sherbet, so that came out all right. Now I'm trying a crockpot method, so we'll see how that goes.

Do you make yogurt at home? Do you do it freestyle or with one of those cunning little yogurt makers? Any suggestions?

Di Fattura Caslinga: Pansy's Etsy Shop
The Sleepy Mommy Shoppe: Stuff we Like
(Disclaimer: We aren't being compensated to like this stuff.
Any loose change in referral fees goes to the Feed Pansy's Ravenous Teens Fund.)

Pansy and Peony: The Two Sleepy Mommies