09 May 2011

Life Gets in the Way

Well it has been a number of days/months since the last post.  Life seems to get in the way.  This is finals week for my students.  I will be giving one on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.  Today will be spent writing the exam.

We have been having wonderful weather:  nice and warm, a bit breezy :-).  Today will be a bear at 95 for the forecast (or 99 according to one site).

I went with coworkers to the Tulip Festival in Wamego on April 16. 

We had graduation reception for our GCC students.  CC made the delicious cakes.  They are much better than my pictures imply.

01 February 2011

More snow

Yet again we have snow days, yes that is with an "s".  We were closed yesterday due to icy roads.  I know it was icy as I went down the two steps in front of my house.  Wounded pride mostly as the neighbor next door was out.  I was VERY careful after that.  Late last night the snow started and has continued this morning getting a little heavier and the winds are gusty.   Not sure if we will have classes tomorrow!

Yesterday I mixed up baked some of  Aunt Sheila's Chocolate Chip Cookies--it uses 2 bags of chocolate chips!  Today, I made a large amount of brown and wild rice (about 2 1/2 cups raw). I will put it in the freezer in muffin cups and it will be ready for quick lunches or dinners.  Also made Chai Concentrate from this recipe from Tasty Kitchen.

Next up this afternoon, finishing Valentine plushies from felted sweaters for the nieces and nephews.  Pictures when I finish.  Oh, probably should work on Assessments and/or class notes and homework.

10 January 2011

Free Day!

So, no work today.  Campus was closed due to the weather.  Did I work on my lecture or syllabi? No.  I just realized I had better get the chem 2 syllabus done in case we have classes tomorrow.  I don't want them just sitting there.  I have the others done since they were due before we left for holidays.  This one I was not going to teach but things got all switched.  I finished "True Believer" by Nicholas Sparks; I don't think he will be among my favorite authors.  I thought it contrived.  All the way through, I kept thinking about the movie "Doc Hollywood" with Michael J. Fox. They have the same type of characters and the same dialogue.

Some pictures of the snow from this morning and this afternoon.  It is snowing some more and the winds of 30 mph are supposed to start at midnight.

I shoveled my front sidewalk and driveway and cleared off my car today.  Took about an hour.  The temperature was really pretty good.  I was sweating at the end (out of shape!).  It took about an hour.  The snow was pretty easy to move as it was fairly dry and fluffy.  I debated last night about parking my car in the garage.  The problem I have with that is that the alley won't get plowed.  Not that my street got plowed but there is at least some traffic to make pathways.  The alley only has one, maybe two who park beyond me.  I will have to check out how full of snow it is.  Tomorrow I really need to park in the garage since it will be in single digits overnight.

06 January 2011

Carnival Season has begun!

Today (6 January) is Epiphany and the start of Carnival Season.  Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas and is the day the three wisemen (kings) found Jesus in the stable.

In south Louisiana it is also the start of Carnival Season which runs from 6 January (King's Day) until Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras also known as Fat Tuesday and is the day before Ash Wednesday or the beginning of Lent for Christians.  The date of Mardi Gras changes according to Easter.  For 2011 it will be 8 March.  This is a fairly long carnival season.

King Cakes are traditionally served only during Carnival season and it is customary to find a small plastic baby hidden in the cake.  Whoever (whomever?) gets the baby is the King/Queen for the day and must provide the king cake for the next gathering.

Living in Kansas means I don't have easy access to King cakes so I had to make my own.  First it is important that one understands that these cakes are not traditional layer cakes.  Rather they are a sweet bread dough, brioche like.  I used my Grandma's overnight roll recipe with some tweaks.  I used 3 eggs instead of 2 but next time I may bump that up even more.  This recipe will make 4 nice sized king cakes.

I have trouble sealing the dough and my butter/cinnamon leaks out and I think I would double the amount of cream cheese for the next one.

I did not have any plastic baby so I put a large lima bean in each cake.

The colors of purple, green and gold symbolize faith, justice and power.

King Cake
3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
½ cup butter
3 eggs, beaten
2 packages yeast
10-12 cups flour

Filling 1
¼ - ½ cup butter melted
¼ cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon

Filling 2
1 8oz package reduced fat cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 Tbsp milk
1/8 tsp lemon flavoring
½ tsp vanilla 

For cake (sweet bread):
Bring 3 cups water, sugar and salt to boil in saucepan on high.  Let boil 2-3 minutes.  Add butter so it melts.  Let cool to lukewarm.  When lukewarm add the yeast and stir.  Let set a bit to bloom (5 minutes).

Place 4 cups flour in large mixing bowl and add the eggs and then the yeast mixture.  Mix well with wooden spoon.  Continue adding flour and mix well.  You will not be able to add all the flour.  Turn out onto floured countertop and knead in more flour until smooth and elastic.  Place in oiled bowl, turn over so all surfaces are oilied.  Cover with plastic wrap and towel and place in warm, draft-free spot until doubled.  Punch down and place in refrigerator (Note: at this point I split it into 2 separate bowls).   Allow to stay in refrigerator overnight or even a few days.  Deflate dough if becoming too large.

Take one bowl (1/2 the total amount) out of refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.  Dough will rise during this time.  Take ½ of this dough and roll out on floured countertop to rectangle about 15 x 24 (this is  approximate).  Dough will be thin.  If dough shrinks back, allow it to rest 10-20 minutes.  Fill with appropriate filling and let set for about an hour.  Then bake 375° F for 25 minutes.  Cool and then drizzle glaze and sprinkle with colored sugars

Filling 1:  Cover surface of dough with melted butter and then sprinkle sugars and cinnamon on top.  Roll from long edge.  Seal edges and form into circle on baking pan (I used a sheet of parchment paper).

Filling 2:  Mix softened cream cheese with sugar and flavoring.  Spread down the center third of dough.  Bring bottom and top flaps over the filling.  Then fold in half the long way and seal.  Form into circle on baking pan.

03 January 2011

Orange Ginger Cranberry Marmalade

I made some orange-ginger-cranberry marmalade for Christmas gifts.  The flavor was good but I should have let it cook down just a bit more to gel better.  I had purchased a large bag of oranges with the intention of making marmalade for co-workers but ran out of time.  I then made some for family but decided it needed a bit more than just oranges and so grabbed a knob or knuckle of ginger and grated that into the mixture and added some Craisins(R) .  Next time, chop the Craisins(R) into smaller pieces or even use regular cranberries as there is more than enough sugar in the recipe.

Getting the oranges sliced is the most difficult part as my mandoline just did not want to cooperate.  The oranges were too big for the guide so I cut in half but then just slipped past the blade.  I finally got 4 sliced since you want them thin.

Orange-Ginger-Cranberry Marmalade adapted from Alton Brown's Orange Marmalade
4 large oranges, sliced thin and then cut into quarters, save the juice
1 lemon, zest and juice
6 cups water 
3 pounds sugar
1 large knob ginger, peeled and then grated using microplane
1 6oz bag Craisins
Place oranges, any saved orange juice, lemon zest and lemon juice in large heavy-bottom saucepan.  Add 6 cups water.  Heat over high until boils.  Let boil about 15 minutes to soften fruit.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve sugar (note: it will increase the volume of the contents considerably so make sure pan in big enough).  Add ginger and Craisins.  Reduce heat to quick simmer and heat with occasional stirring until it reaches 223-224 F using candy thermometer.  (I got a bit impatient here).  This took over an hour.  Perhaps I should have raised the temperature a bit. 

Carefully pour into prepared (sterilized) jars and can 10 minutes in boiling water bath.  You can sterilize jars by running through dishwasher or wash with soapy water and then cover with boiling water.

Note:  be aware of potential burns.  The marmalade mixture may boil up a bit and spray out of pan, hot sugar mixtures can give bad burns.  Also, the jars with boiling water and/or hot marmalade should be handled with hot pads.

02 January 2011

New Year, New Post

Since I posted my blog address in my Christmas letter, I guess I had better get something new up for visitors.

Christmas was spent in South Dakota with an abundance of snow but not nearly as much as last year. 

Lots of laughter, lots of family and lots of food over 8 or 9 days. 

Had a bit of trouble getting the 4 little ones to sit for a picture.  Next time--picture before gifts.  They were so tired and wound up.

29 August 2010

I am in the Prairie

So I have done it.  I have moved back to the prairie.  In a whirlwind of a few weeks I interviewed for a new job, was hired, found a place to live, accepted the job, packed up my apartment, said a few brief good-byes to some wonderful friends and moved to Kansas. 

I am in the middle of the Flint Hills which are part of the Tall-grass Prairie.  Only 4% of the Tall-grass prairie remains.  I have yet to explore very much.  I have been too busy trying to get myself organized to teach my classes.  Two things that have struck me most are the open skies (which I knew would not disappoint) but it still takes my breath away and the hills.  Guess that whole living in the Flint Hills would give it away. 

After living in coastal Louisiana for so many years one gets used to the flatness of the land.  I would go to South Dakota to visit family and get the rolling hills but these are more than that, there are real hills and valleys. 

One of the best things about this location is that I am within a days drive of some many places:   most of my family in South Dakota, Denver, St. Louis, family in Iowa, Little Rock.  It will be really loooong day to get back to Louisiana but doable.  Probably for my spring break.

I found a local yarn shop in the next town over and already purchased a skein of luscious wool.  Started a scarf.  Not sure who will get the scarf--I had thought my mom but she does not generally wear such things.  It would go with lots of grandma's things so she might be the recipient. Then there is my one of my aunts that gave me a purse and this would be a nice gift for her.  Or I will just keep it.  I am already behind on the Prairie Chix for my mom's Red Hat group and have not picked up anything on the afghan for my sister.  I have to get going on it so it is done for birthday/Christmas.