Monday, September 30, 2013

Changes in the Autumn Air

Hello my friends! Today is a day of change. Perhaps inspired by the beautiful autumn color outdoors, as evidenced in the photo below by Mark Gallucci (my daughter Meghan's boyfriend), I am motivated to notice more outside my windows and spend less time focused inwardly on my computer screen. It all became obvious this weekend when I missed a date Sunday, one I made with my sister a few weeks ago. I have spent so much time "relating" on-line, and less and less face-to-face, and missed a date that I really wanted to make. When did I stop calling people to say hello? When did I allow texts to replace voices on the other end of the phone?  I miss TALKING with people. (Note to self: turn that cell phone ringer back on after the meeting!). Anyway, missing that date made me feel rotten, and was a wake-up call, a bit overdue. So, the first thing to go is my facebook page, for at least a little while to see how it goes, which is difficult because I love reading your updates, and I love sharing this blog, and photos of my grandsons, and pictures of pretty cakes I've baked. But it all comes at a price, one I am not willing to pay, not if the cost is missing out on real faces, on real conversations.

So now, if friends want to find out what's going on in my kitchen and my life, this is the place where they can find that. If they want to share happy news, here's my email address: (recipes welcome, too!).

This amazing photo was taken this week by Mark Gallucci
Lake Desolation, Middle Grove, NY

So, over the next few weeks, I will be HERE more, spending valuable keyboard time creating interesting blog posts, and bringing you terrific new recipes. The first two recipes are apple-oriented, with Apple Brownies from my friend Diane Loviza (whose brand new granddaughter Kendall arrived today - congrats to Teresa and Nick, the proud parents!), and the second is a recipe I can't wait to share: Apple Cider Doughnut CAKE!  Yes, a cake that tastes just like an apple cider doughnut. Brilliant!

My Grandboys, Henry and Peter!

Loving this family tree!

Please know how much I appreciate all of you, and am so grateful that you stop by now and then to read a post or three.

"See" you soon!

The ADK Baker

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Martha's Pretty Pretty Pie!

I was watching Martha's Cooking School on PBS this weekend. She was making her mile-high apple pie, with its fancy pie crust (pate brisee). I was mesmerized by her fairly simple process. Martha's pie was a  9-inch, deep dish confection. I wanted to make the same thing but I wanted to use a foil pie tin because the pie isn't staying here - it's going to my sister Anne's house and she has big plans for it. I bought a whole bunch of foil pie tins over the weekend, thinking I'll be baking apple pies like crazy and sending them on their various ways over the next few months.The fall and early winter bring lots of baking to my kitchen -- pies, bundt cakes, cookie platters. Friends make requests and I can accommodate a certain amount, but I can't let it get too crazy or it'll be all work and no play for me, since there's that full-time job thing!  Anyway, THIS pie is beautiful. It's based on Martha Stewart's Mile-High Apple Pie (linked here) but I actually made two smaller pies. Martha uses a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate - my foil pans are a bit smaller so I divided the apple/cinnamon mixture into two parts and got two pies from the recipe (double crust recipe, though). I baked one last night and one this morning, since I don't have to be at work until 1 pm today (another late night at the Tang Museum - a fun place to be if I have to work late!)...

Here are some photos of the mess I made in my kitchen, followed by the recipe!

Made some pie crust cookies from the left-over dough!
Great with ice cream and fruit preserves!

based on Martha Stewart's Mile-High Apple Pie
9-inch deep dish pie plate
Preheated 450-degree F oven

Pie crust dough for deep dish pie  (or Pate Bresee, recipe linked here)
5 1/2 lbs. of 2-3 different typses of tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small slices (I used Empire and Cortland; Granny Smith work well too)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces (I forgot this!!!)
1 egg yolk

Divide chilled pie crust dough into 2 parts, one slightly larger than the other. On well-floured surface, will a floured rolling pin, roll out smaller portion into a 15-inch circle. Roll dough over rolling pin and unroll over pie plate, gently lowering into plate. If dough breaks, just press it back together. Note: using enough flour is key here - if dough sticks to surface, nudge it away bit by bit with a sharp knife.

Combine apple slices with lemon juice, flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Toss till well coated. Pile apples into pie crust.

Roll larger portion of dough into 18-inch circle, making sure to use enough flour to prevent sticking. Roll dough onto rolling pin and unroll over apples. Trim edges to about an inch beyond the edge of the pie plate. Fold bottom crust over top crust to create an edge. Press it to seal. Flute or press edge with knife to seal.

Pierce top in 4-5 places for steam vents.

Brush with egg wash (egg yolk whisked with 2 teaspoons water). If you'd like, make leaves and stems from excess pie crust dough. It will adhere nicely with egg wash. Brush decorations with egg wash. Sprinkle surface of pie with sugar (I like to use sanding sugar).

Refrigerate pie for 15 minutes before placing in oven.  Important tip from Martha: "cold pie, hot oven"

Place chilled pie on baking sheet (to prevent spills). I lined my with parchment paper to catch any spills and minimize clean up.

Bake at 450-degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350-degrees and bake for 45 minutes more, for a total baking time of one hour.

While the pie is baking, clean up the mess you made, and savor the aroma coming from your oven!

Remove from oven and admire your creative genius!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Buttercream, Cupcakes, and a Bridal Shower!

Well, it seems I can diet and bake, too. This weekend I made dozens of cupcakes without a hitch for a bridal shower for Stacey, my friend Lisa's soon-to-be daughter-in-law (that's a lot of hyphens!). The shower was held at The Inn at Saratoga, a lovely old hotel in downtown Saratoga Springs. I entered through the back patio, in awe of the beautiful space that was the setting for the shower. A grand canopy enclosed the open area, with a gorgeous chandelier suspended up high in abundant folds of sheer white fabric that transformed the space into something truly elegant. I have been to the hotel a number of times, have had great dinners there, but never realized what a lovely space they had hidden in the back. Lisa tells me they serve dinner out there on weekends in the summer. I can imagine beautiful parties and lovely weddings taking place. If you are in the area and have the opportunity to check it out, you should!

The Patio at The Inn at Saratoga
Saratoga Springs, NY


Lisa requested three kinds of cupcakes for the shower: vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet, all with buttercream frosting. She told me the colors for the wedding were champagne and navy blue. And then she let me decide what to do with that information. I decided to use sheer white cupcake liners to allow the colors of the little cakes show through. I made my traditional buttercream frosting (recipe follows) and to that added just the faintest touches of rose and gold paste food coloring, a bit at at time in the tiniest amounts, attempting to create that champagne color, and it worked very well. To that, I added about a teaspoon of edible gold dust to create a subtle sparkle. I piped the buttercream onto the cupcakes using a large star tip, high and tall, and the finishing touches were navy blue ribbon roses made from fondant. To get the navy blue color, I used white fondant and colored it (and my fingers!) with a deep blue and black paste food coloring. I rolled that out and then cut strips with a pizza cutter, and rolled those strips into little rosettes. Then I painted the rosettes with a mixture of gold dust and lemon extract (which evaporates very quickly, just leaving a sparkle). A portion of remaining buttercream was tinted with sage green food coloring and piped with a leaf tip. These were really a lot of fun to make. While I was working hard, Henry was at the other end of the table with a chunk of fondant creating his own work of art. I'm not sure what it was, but after adding food coloring and using every item in my utensil drawer, he was very happy with his sculpture - and then he took a bite of it - not something he can do with Play Doh!

Bridal Shower Cupcakes
with Buttercream and Fondant Rosettes
Pretty favors!


Lovely Duggan Ladies
(Beautiful Mother-of-the-Groom Lisa, far right)

The Beautiful Bride-to-Be, Stacey (center)
and her attendants!

Such a beautiful setting!

Now that the baking is done, today I have an appointment with the dietician who is working with the food study, and I am looking forward to that meeting. Other participants will be there as well. We will meet once a week to weigh in, discuss the program, any challenges, ask questions, and get a new batch of supplements. It's only day five for me, and in this first week, my scale says I've lost about a pound a day! I know that initial momentum will level off and that I can't expect that kind of result every week, but man-o-man is that motivation to keep going! Must say, at first it was tough to consume only liquids until dinner, but now I just do it and look forward all day (like a lioness on the hunt!) to dinner! Last night Russ was here, and we usually go out to dinner, but I told him I wanted to cook because that way I had a better awareness of what I was eating. We had a great dinner of poached salmon, brown rice, broccoli, and a giant salad with fresh tomatoes. If nothing else so far, this diet/study has made me appreciate GOOD food, the basic deliciousness and purity of food that is not processed, food that is simple and close to nature. My initial goal is to lose weight, of course, but the larger, long-term goal is to learn to eat this way, to not slip back into the life-long love affair I've had with bad carbs and sugar, which was, for me, not a balanced approach to food. My scale tipped deeply in favor of such things, and it's time to bring balance back. I am so optimistic that THIS diet, this time, will get me to that place. I'll keep you posted as I go.

But, for today, I am sharing that buttercream frosting recipe, 180-degrees in opposition to my new eating regime, but there is balance in this world. There will always be celebrations, and there will always be cupcakes. And I will always bake cupcakes, and other things, for my family and friends.

Makes enough to frost and generously decorate a large sheet cake or up to 6 dozen cupcakes

1 bar (4 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco) - provides fluffiness and stability
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 lbs. 10x Confectioners Sugar
1/2 cup milk, plus more if needed

In large mixing bowl, beat butter with shortening until completely blended.  Add vanilla extract. At very low speed, add half the confectioners sugar, mix well then add half the milk, mixing thoroughly. Add the rest of the sugar and as you beat it in, pour in the rest of the milk, a bit at a time. Beat on medium-high speed.  Now is the time to determine if you need more milk - check to see if it's creamy enough to spread. If you'd like it creamier, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it's just right.

I hope you enjoy this post and all the beauty of the day! I'll be back with some great recipes that are keeping me happy on this diet, very soon!

Photos of bride's family and attendants from the mother-of-the-groom's facebook page...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day One

And so it was day one of a 10-week food study I'm participating in at Skidmore College, along with my daughter Katie. It started at 7:45 am with a weigh-in (ugh!), blood tests, and another test to analyze exhaled breath which tells the researchers quite a bit about my current metabolism. Then I received some written instructions and recipes, and a big canvas bag filled with the foods I'll be consuming going forward, including whey protein powder for shakes, vitamin supplements, an herbal tea powder, and really delicious chocolate protein bars.  A calorie counting device was provided, and that's worn for 48 hours and then turned in, giving an indication of just how much I do/don't move! These tests will be repeated at the mid-point of the study and then again at the end, and I am looking forward to making great progress and shedding some of this excess baggage while getting healthier.  Win win!

I'll be making dinner every night and the options are not as dire as I had expected.  Basically, it's a portion of lean protein, good carbs like brown rice or whole wheat pasta, veggies like broccoli and spinach and everything else that's colorful, and salads. Tonight I cooked a 4 oz. piece of cod fillet by poaching it in white wine, lemon juice, garlic, and a little bit of Olivio. Next to that I had a half-cup brown rice and a big pile of steaming broccoli. On the side I had a romaine salad with the freshest tomatoes from my little garden pot, dressed in Paul Newman's Lite Sun-dried Tomato dressing (new fave!).  Then, before bed I have a chocolate protein bar, and I have to tell you, it's like a dessert worth waiting for!  I'd have taken photos of the dinner but it was inhaled (prepared a little later than I'd planned) before I could find my camera.

Since I basically bought one of everything in the produce department today, there will be oven-roasted veggies with the next few meals. They'll go with the salmon, haddock, chicken, and pork sirloin fillets over the next week.

I'm pretty excited as this study begins, and if you'd like to come along for the ride, please do!

Photo credit:

Monday, September 9, 2013

September Brings New Beginnings
Here it is September and at Skidmore College where I work, the second week of classes has started. My daughter Tricia has happily enrolled in an art class here in pursuit of personal fulfillment and developing her incredible artistic talent (says her mother!). In the College's museum, where my day job (and sometimes nights and weekends!) is Events Manager, we've opened a wonderful new exhibition, Classless Society.

September is that month of new beginnings for almost everyone associated with the academic world, whether you're a student, a teacher, an administrator, or know someone who is. Those of us who are not currently affected by an academic calendar can recall that time in our lives when September meant a big transition. In the movie "You've Got Mail," Meg Ryan's character speaks fondly of this time of year, imagining "bouquets of sharpened pencils" along with other hallmarks of a brand new season.

The biggest new beginning in this house is that my grandson Henry started kindergarten last week. It's a huge deal for all of us as we witness his excitement and the newness of this next phase in his young life. Little brother Peter starts nursery school this week, and he can't wait.  Here's a photo of "my boys" anticipating Henry's school bus that first day...

This September is a month of birthdays for good friends, a wonderful sister-in-law, and the very first birthday for the just-born grandson of my very good friend Sue. She's spending this week in Boston bonding with her daughter and brand-new family. Sue retired from Skidmore a few years ago, and we still get together once a week to have lunch. This past Friday, my friend Kim and I had planned a very small (just the three of us!) surprise Grandma shower for Sue to celebrate baby Louis's birth, but since it was a surprise Sue wasn't aware what we were up to and had to cancel to get some things done before leaving for Boston to meet the baby. So, Kim and I had our shower-less lunch and I brought our new-grandma gifts and lemon confetti cupcakes to Sue later that day.

My own new beginning commences tomorrow night at 8 pm when I begin a 12-hour fast prior to medical testing for a 10-week food study with Skidmore's Exercise Science program. It's a big commitment and a big change, one that I'm very excited about. It'll be days of supplements in the form of bars and shakes, with my own snack and dinner. I'll be cooking up lean-and-green meals over the next 10 weeks, inspired by a number of resources including a few really interesting boards on Pinterest.  It's not going to be Caesar salad and grilled chicken every night of the week, that's for sure. I need more excitement than that! It's good to know that I can eat out and choose from a variety of protein and veggies. The fact that there is little room for decision making is actually a benefit to me. I've done a number of Skidmore studies in the past (guess I enjoy being a Guinea pig), and I am never so compliant as when the results are important to a larger purpose. It's a privilege to help with this study, especially since my daughter Katie is participating as well. Instant support and team work. It'll be great doing this with her.

So, tonight, in my own last big meal before the big commitment, I made linguini with homemade tomato sauce, and enjoyed a big chunk of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. No salad. No veggies. Just a carb-laden meal of my favorite things. Henry and Peter helped me make this double chocolate cake that is launching me into the cake-less 10 weeks ahead!

Here's a photo of that chocolate cake!

Hope you're all doing very well, and that September brings exciting new beginnings to you, too.

Photo credit:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Microwave Lemon Curd!

I spend a lot on lemon curd, upwards of $5 a jar which gets me through a few batches of lemon-filled scones. Last week, I wanted to make these wonderful scones but my jar of LC was empty. So, I looked up recipes on-line and that reliable Web site had a great one for microwave lemon curd. Katie had used egg whites in a recipe and had four yolks available.  I skipped the lemon zest because I like lemon curd silky smooth - zest makes it a little too "texturey" for me. I made a few other changes to suit my own tastes, and here's the result -- a beautiful, smooth, silky, and thick lemon curd, cooked in increments in the microwave, and just delicious!

adapted from
Makes about 2 cups (or $10 worth!)

In large microwave-proof bowl (I used a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup with handle), stir together the following until thoroughly combined:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup lemon juice (I used Realemon)
4 egg yolks
1 beaten egg

Microwave on high in 1-minute increments, stirring after each minute, until the mixture coats the back of a soup spoon.  Then, whisk in to the hot mixture (careful - don't burn yourself!):

2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water to create a slurry.

Once cornstarch mixture has been whisked in, return to microwave and cook, again in 1-minute increments, until very thick and bubbly, like a thick, cooked pudding.  Remove from microwave and stir in 4 tablespoons of softened butter, combining until it disappears into the lemon mixture. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Cool and then store in the refrigerator.

Uses for lemon curd: stir into plain or vanilla yogurt as a snack or to create a dip for fruit.  Spread on pound cake slices, or toast. Fill scone dough like a jelly roll and then shape dough into a disk and cut into triangles.  Use as a layer in a fruit tart. Dip Vanilla Wafers into it! Use your imagination!

Most of all, enjoy!

Bonus: Here's a photo of my grand boys, Peter (2 1/2) and Henry (5)! Henry starts kindergarten tomorrow! So exciting!

Little Pete (L) and Henry (R) ~ my pride and joy!