Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Play Ball!

Last night I joined my city in watching America's greatest pastime.
A few weeks ago, you may remember a certain post railing against the Red Sox and my dislike for them disrupting my evening commute. And, if you'd asked me 2 weeks ago, I'd have confirmed that there was no way I'd ever go to a baseball game.

E and her Fenway Frank!
Then, last week, a friend was given free tickets to last nights game against Detroit. Neither of us were baseball fans so we figured that made us the perfect companions to hit up Fenway and see what all the excitement was about: Also, let's revisit the word, "Free".

On the advice of a die hard fan, we arrived a little early to enjoy the full effect, and loved the pregame atmosphere. The music, the people watching, and the smell of cheap food was intoxicating! Then, the anthem was played, the first pitches were thrown out, and the first inning started. I was really into it for about one batter, then I started to think, "Wow. . .so there are nine of these? I wonder how long that takes?"

Fenway, though, seemed determined not to disappoint. About 15 minutes into the game, a woman in my row passed out or had some medical emergency which involved a dozen Fenway staff and police officers charging through our aisle for an intervention. 

I snuck this shot of our plumber pals around beer 7 
We were joined by two hilarious middle aged plumbers who each had about 12 beers (although  they kept buying 2 at a time and spilling their second one) and bags of peanuts. At one point they spilled beer all down our seats while we were off getting soft serve. We didn't know so my purse, pants, and cardigan all were soaked and had that lovely cheap beer smell the rest of the night! I also keep finding peanut shells in my purse. . .

They turned out to be very nice, though and one of them did invite us to go drinking after the game. Their comments, drunken throat clearing, and camaraderie with everyone around them was probably the highlight of the night!

As if the drunk plumbers weren't enough, Fenway threw in one last bonus and we got to watch what happens during a rain delay. At the bottom of the eighth (look at that use of baseball terminology! Also, I can't remember if it really was the bottom. . .) it suddenly started pouring. It was pretty fascinating to watch the facilities people swarm the field in their red shirts and khaki shorts and get it done. They looked like little worker ants on a mission!

We waiting it out, determined to see every minute of the game, and I have to say it was quite a fulfilling evening! I may never make it back inside those hallowed gates, but I think my first Sox game was a success!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Motorcycle Drive By

Saturday some friends and I had a lovely day soaking up the sun and enjoying some music from our younger days. A Boston area radio station was giving a free concert with bands including Eve 6, Switchfoot, and Third Eye Blind. Hello, middle school, I've missed you!

3eB was the final band to play. They were and still are one of my favorite alternative bands. At some point mid set, my friends and I were joined by a very enthusiastic man and his pal. They were standing behind us and as one of my favorite 3eB songs came on, he and I began separately rocking out; belting out the lyrics with gusto. My friends and I laughed a few times at how into he was, and they kept egging me on to chat him up since we both share such a passion for the same music.

I laughed them off, but, finally, after we both sang out my favorite part of the song in tandem, I turned to tell him I appreciated his zeal. I hadn't really seen him up until that time since he was behind me, but turned to find a somewhat seedy looking man in his late twenties, early thirties. After letting him know I appreciated his enthusiasm, he opened his mouth to tell me how much the song meant to him. I was met with a host of rotting, nasty teeth and in his drunken spiel, he spit in my eye

So, the wedding's definitely not this weekend. . .

Here are some scenes from the better bits of the day:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Champagne Cupcakes

For a dinner with friends this weekend I decided to start tweaking a recipe for a concept I'm hugely fond of, baking with alcohol. Baking wines and champagnes into pastry provides a great depth and oakiness of flavor you don't get from anything else. And just the other day I had a beer bread that was positively delightful.

I first was seriously introduced to this concept this winter in my pastry class when we made a white wine cake.  For various reasons, I wasn't hugely impressed with my classes white wine cake, but I've been ruminating on possibilities for this technique ever since.  

You can imagine my intrigue, then, when my mother sent me an e-mail for pink champagne cupcakes she saw on the Betty Crocker website. The recipe used a boxed cake mix with just some added champagne and food coloring. Not to sound a snob, but no way was I going to use a preboxed cake mix, so I started doing some research on scratch champagne cupcake recipes I liked. 

After combining a couple recipes that I like, the result was a sort of pound cake using champagne as the liquid and whipped egg whites to lighten it up. While I liked the finished product, I think I'm going to try for something a little lighter next time, more spongy, so the texture of the bubbles in the champagne will really come through.

I finished this batch off with some homemade vanilla buttercream and a chocolate speckled strawberry. And then, did the unthinkable,: I didn't take any pictures!

Well, except a quick shot snapped in the car for a friend begging to see them

If you're interested in the recipe, check it out below. I used an almond champagne for these, but I think I'll experiment with a muscato next time!

2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup champagne
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners (yields about 22 cupcakes).  

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy.  Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of champagne combined with vanilla.  

In a clean bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they hold stiff peaks.  Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the batter then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.  Transfer batter to cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake approximately twenty minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

I might regret this later

I debated a long time today about whether or not I wanted to write this post. I'm all for a bit of comic mishap especially when it happens to me, but this is actually quite embarrassing.  I feel, though, that it is too rich not to put down in words.

Saturday, a friend of a friend was visiting from CA and so 3 of us decided to take her out to one of the most beautiful seaside towns in Massachusetts: Rockport. After a perusal of some of the shops we made our way to a giant jetty that juts into the water. Not content to just stand at the edge my 3 companions began to hop scotch across the boulders making their way out to the distant edge, and the ocean. I stepped out onto one rock and this irrational, intense sense of fear slammed into me. I couldn't go one step further onto that craggy jetty with the ocean water lapping below.

About halfway out my friends realized I was not leaping behind them with gazelle-like weightlessness and motioned me to join them. I casually waved for them to keep going with out me, I'd just. . .wait here. Yea, right.

pre panick attack with Sarah.
Not sure why we went with an engagement photo pose. . . 
My friend Sarah scuttled back over the rocks grabbed my hand and insisted I come with them. Amidst protests and insistance that I was fine and could just photograph them from afar or something, I followed Sarah out onto the rocks. The next few minutes involved a slightly panicked me being coaxed over the rocks by my pals. We finally made it to the very tip and it actually was very beautiful. A light, warm breeze fluffled our hair as we watched boats motor in and out of the harbor and listened to the sound of the incoming tide slap against the lower rocks. For some reason, butterflies were everywhere, dancing between the jutting slabs.

When we decided to head back, a swell of anxiety started to mushroom its way up into my chest shattering the serenity of the moments before. Even now, I can't really explain what caused this but, suddenly, about a quarter of the way back across the jetty I started to have a full fledged panic attack. In case you've never had one before, (I imagine there a bit different for everyone) I'll try to explain it. Very suddenly my whole brain goes blank of every thought and it feels like I'm standing in a room with all the windows open and wind whipping through in every direction.  My body reflexively starts to breathe deeply in long tense gasps. There is never enough air. All the sounds around me start slipping by in a nonsensical meter and volume. My whole body starts to shake and if any thought enters my mind is it this:  I. can't. breathe.

And so it was. On a jetty. In the ocean. With three very calm friends trying to convince me I was fine and we would be across in no time. Thankfully, my friend Sarah uttered the magic words that can calm me from just about any panic attack. You're fine. Just breathe. Hold my hand.

The girls were able to keep me going across the rocks, and I started to feel really silly that I was so freaked out. My mortification was made complete, though, when we came upon a group of 10 or 11 year old boys, totally calm, crouched fearlessly in and around the rocks. One of them had crawled under a triangle of boulders and was shouting "dirty words" from underneath us. That particular moment stands out in crystalline clarity. There I was, full grown, in a moment of spastic panic (in a situation that should not be that scary) being  upstaged by a group of inappropiate boy children and their gutter-minds. It was kind of poetic, really. In a sort of horrifying way. . .

Needless to say we made it back fine. As we reached the end of the jetty and hopped up onto solid land, I fully understood why, after a traumatic experience in a movie, people are always collapsing and kissing the ground in gratitude for whatever beneficent creature invented it's sweet, solid, expansive mass. Given that I'd already embarrassed myself enough for one day, though, I stayed standing. But mentally, my lips were on that asphalt.

And I really needed a drink. . .

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stand Mixing

Folks, I know my birthday is over and done with. I blogged it, you read it, you moved on.

But can we please revisit the fact that I received a Kitchenaid stand mixer for my birthday?? As in, the one thing I've been longing to own. It's one of those sorts of appliances I resigned myself to not owning until I got married (hello, bridal registry). Or at least, I'd assumed that would be the case.
Then along come my darling friends and their scheming and voila: I'm not just a saucy gal with a penchant for baking and a hand mixer, anymore. I'm, like, legit. 
Hand me my chef hat, please. 

 Despite dying to take her on her maiden voyage this week, I just didn't have the opportunity until last night. A friend and I hosted our initial meeting for a book club we're starting and we decided to whip up some of my favorite cookies: Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Blackberry Jam cookies. 

A stand mixer and my favorite cookies?? Be still my beating heart!

Here are some photos of this momentous occasion, a new era for KatyintheKitchen, really.

Oh, and if you are interested, check out the video below of me opening my mixer during my birthday dinner with some close pals. It's not filled with hand flapping, surprised shrieking or anything like that. . .

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'm Vintage!

Yesterday was my 25th birthday! A baby in the grand scheme of life, I know. But it's the oldest I've ever been!
I know I'm usually in the super hilarious and pithy (and impeccably well written) business, but pardon me while I get a little sentimental.

I've been spending a lot of time this week being introspective and thoughtful about how my life has gone these last 25 years. Even in all my wildest imaginings as a child, I would never have pictured my life now (and believe me, I had a pretty crazy imagination growing up, just ask my mother. . .).

What I mean is, when you're small you don't think about the great relationships you will cultivate. You don't think that for some crazy reason you will love people and they will love you back and want to do things like celebrate with gusto the day you entered this world. You can't imagine that one day, on the eve of your quarter century birthday a group of your sweet, sweet friends will present you with something you've dreamed of owning since you were tiny.  That they will know you're heart, your passion, the thing that makes you tick and will want to encourage that thing. You could never imagine that twenty five years after she pushed your sassy, right-on-time, pudgy little self into the world, your mother will be more like your friend (and a best one at that) and that you both will never run out of things to learn about each other. 

Those are the things little me could never have imagined. And those are the things that have made these last twenty five years so special. 

Here are some pictures from my full and wonderful quarter century celebrations which included a zoo trip, live music, good food, a stand mixer (my life's dream) and some of the best people I know.
some sweet friends joined me for dinner and live blues at The Beehive

Ice cream mugs. I actually didn't have a cake this year for my birthday, but there was NO shortage of amazing ice cream! (ps-look at my poor momma's gimpy finger. Stay away from log splitters, friends)

My amazing, wonderful, thoughtful friends chipped in for this beauty. It was love at first sight!
Long Sands Beach, York, ME: one of my favorite spots on the East Coast
1) awkward elephant pose during a zoo trip to Roger Williams Zoo,  2) Moroccan couscous at the Beehive, and 3) a giraffe!