Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

August 15, 2012

birthday cake + a thank you


Today, as I’m sure most of you already have heard, is the 100th birthday of a very cool lady. Mrs. Julia Child was born just a century ago, and I’ve got her book just a few feet away.

I wish I could say I was already a fan of my Francophile heroine before I saw the movie Julie and Julia, but that would not be true. I am one of the many who felt inspired by the film and proceeded to read all I could about the tall, smiley woman from California. My smart husband bought me her cookbook as a gift, and my admiration for Child grew as I poured through her work. What a gal, right?

Once I got my hands on her autobiography My Life in France, I was a goner. Julia had all the wit and charm any girl could want, and went through a self-discovery during her time in France that I had the smallest taste of during my time there. She was a trailblazer and a joker, a lover and a best friend. She loved her man, her food, and herself. Not in a bad way- no, she definitely was not a narcissist. She just accepted who she was and became more beautiful for it.

I love how she describes herself in her aforementioned autobiography. This is who she was before she found her passion:

“Upon reflection, I decided I had three main weaknesses: I was confused (evidenced by a lack of facts, an inability to coordinate my thoughts, and an inability to verbalize my ideas); I had a lack of confidence, which cause me to back down from forcefully stated positions; and I was overly emotional at the expense of careful, ‘scientific’ though. I was thirty-seven years old and still discovering who I was.”

Well, apparently she found her voice… and helped me find mine.

After studying Graphics and Web Design for 3 years at a solid university, I found myself, a newlywed, terribly unhappy with myself. I had wanted to marry Spencer so badly for over a year and although I was so glad to finally have his last name, I discovered a jealousy in myself. I was jealous of what I saw in my husband. You see, he loves to write. He’s the most talented writer I know. He can write anything and make it fascinating. Whether it’s a short story for me or a paper on political tensions in the Balkans, I devour what he shares. He fuels this talent by reading and discussing and practicing- and I wanted that.

When you’re living with someone with so much talent, you can’t escape it. Spencer never flaunted it, but I couldn’t pretend he didn’t possess something I wanted. I wanted that passion, that skill. Not for writing, necessarily. I never really liked to write (that’s why there’s usually a few months between each blog post) so I needed another creative endeavor. Like most young brides, I found cooking and baking to be highly gratifying as my husband would eat anything I made for him. Thus, food made sense.


Add my interest in Julia to this new desire to find my creative spark, and then it happened. I was happier. I would spend hours in the kitchen, practicing and mixing, and I loved every minute. I found new blogs to follow and it was as if my whole world was expanding. It was brighter all around… and much more tasty. All because Julia shared herself with me.

So thank you, Julia. Your story changed me. You changed me. Because of you, my heart can give into ex-patriot passion and my table can be French. Because of your cookbook, I served chicken and asparagus crepes at my Bastille Day party. You taught me to beat egg whites to soft peaks by hand. You let me wear pearls in the kitchen to add a little class to my culinary adventures. Even as a housewife, I get to travel the world and still be home in time to serve my husband a delicious spread!

To celebrate her birthday, I made a little spongecake. This was my first spongecake to try, and I’m excited to say that ma gåteau a l’orange turned out quite well. If you feel the Julia-fever, give this recipe a go. And maybe you’ll try to do all the whipping by hand. My arms are definitely sore, but I’m happy as a clam to be so French today.

Good luck, fellow bakers. Julia perfected it, and now we get to too.

Gåteau A L’Orange (Orange Spongecake) 

adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated (be sure to not let any yolk into the whites)
  • dash of kosher salt
  • grated rind of one orange
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup flour

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter and then line a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper. In one medium mixing bowl, mix egg yolks and sugar til pale yellow and thick. Add a touch of salt, orange rind, and orange juice. Beat for another minute until light again. Then add flour.

In another bowl, beat egg whites with another dash of salt til they form stiff peaks. Add one fourth of egg whites to the yolk mixture and fold together. Then add the remaining whites and fold. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Remove from the pan when slightly cooled. Allow to cool completely.

Using a long knife, level the top of the cake, then cut through the middle so you have two layers. Fill and top as you like.

I thought that blackberries would pair nicely so boiled a cup of berries with 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoon. I peeled a clementine (it’s what I had on hand, you could use half an orange) and threw it in the boiling pot. Next, after mashing up the fruit, I separated the syrup and the bits of fruit left.

To assemble, I put a thin layer of whipped cream on the lower piece, spooned on the mashed fruit, and put the top cake layer on. Added another batch of whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit. Last, after slicing, pour some syrup over the individual pieces.

Bon appétit!

May 21, 2011

a remorseful-ish apology + the recents

Dear friends and readers,

I realize it’s been a long time since I last posted. Can we still be friends? Let me make it up to you. I have details… about myself. Well, that might have been a bit anti-climactic. I’m not the best at apologies. Usually they are accompanied with some type of baked good so that I can literally hand out an apologywhen needed, however, many of my readers are far far from me and I am, at present, unable to present such a treat. So, another apology. Now I’ll assume that if you accept my sorry-s, you’ll continue reading, and we shall never speak of this affair again!

Hear’th thou now what hath pass’ed recentlyth:

  1. The Goat hath been proclaimed a 2nd Liet. in the Air Forceth.
  2. The Goat and his lady hath had bestowed upon their own persons diplomas.
  3. That lady of said Goat hath beguneth the great work of cupcakery!
  4. That same Goat and his same lady are at present one half of one way through the great Kenneth Branagh’s bazillionith version of Hamlet and hark, it hath impacted’th their speech’th!

Obviously, more hath passed, but those are the big points. Oh, except for one small detail…

Yesterday was our 1 year anniversary!!!

As I now have the best job in the States (details following), I was working throughout the morning and afternoon. The Goat had errands himself to run whilst I was baking, icing, and selling cupcakes, so I was caught by complete surprise when my wonderful boss approached me with a vase full of beautiful petite roses. For. Me! Needless to say, he earned himself an Orange Brownie and a kiss on the cheek when he came in the shop a few hours later. Needlesser to say, the cupcakery now smells of sweet chocolaty-ness and buttercreams and slight rose undertones.

The date itself  began with (take notes, men-folk) the Goat picking me up from work, presenting me with a window marker, and then decorating our car with phrases like: “Just Married (1 year ago!)” and “Yay Marriage!”. We then proceeded to get all fancied up, eating an obscene amount of delicious food at Nonna’s, after which we came home, and I got my gift! A compliation of videos called “All the Creatures in the Forest.” In case you haven’t noticed, the Goat and I do so love critters and thus a video of the footage we took of various animals over the years was absolutely hilarious. Finally Spencer told me that our last activity was to… prepare yourselves… watch my favorite movie ever. That’s right. The Mummy.

See, when I was 17, I was dumped quite badly. On that Valentine’s day, my sister Bonnie gave me a bundle of silk daffodils with a note that says, “My heart rejoices knowing that you, Christa Belle, want Jesus to be first in your heart. Keep holding out for a hero- He will send you one in His time.” Just four years later, I was able to put half of those daffodils in my wedding bouquet. The other half (and the bouquet) both sit on my desk now. So readers, I just want to say, do the same. Hold out for a hero. One who watches your favorite movie with you even though he hates Brendan Fraiser, who sends you flowers just to make you feel pretty, and who even decorates the car to celebrate a single day.

Anyway, I guess that was a rant. I’ll just end my sappy anniversary post with this: details on my new job as an assistant baker will come soon, as well as a recipe and party details. But yesterday was our anniversary, and if you know me, you know I’m in love! Can’t you see?

In love... with him.

February 14, 2011

giveaway winners + the conversation

As there were only two entries into the Great Cookie Giveaway, I asked my husband to pick a number. One or Two.


“Just pick one, honey. Please.”

“Why? Why do I need to pick a number?”

“I’ll tell you once you pick.”


“Honey, please…”

“I need to know!”

This went on for a bit until Spencer finally said: 1. So, congrats Miss Beth! You’ve won a dozen cookies from the Blue Squirrel. And as Miss Erin made such a valiant effort, I think she’s earned an honorable mention, which comes with a dozen cookies as well!

Just contact me with the type of cookie you’d like, and the Blue Squirrel will ship them soon!

Cookie party details to come. For now, congrats to the winners and happy V-day to everyone!

February 11, 2011

giveaway + party

In the great tradition of true bloggers, like my friend Erin, I have decided to throw a cookie party.

“A cookie party?” ask the masses. Indeed! You simply take the two things girls love the most (cookies and friends) and put them together. And the result? A tasty evening full of conversation, and several dozen cookies to donate to a soup kitchen. Everyone wins. Especially me, because I have exceptional friends with exquisite taste in baked goodies.

As the hostess for this party, I chose to make 4 different types of cookies. Absurd? Perhaps. But will they all be gone by the time the clock strikes midnight? You bet your knickers.

In the hopes that there will be so many cookies left over after all the girls have had their fill, Spencer and I made up little baggies for girls to fill when they leave with the leftovers. Another copy from Miss Erin, we tried to come up with silly cookie themed phrases for the baggies. My favorites were “CookieBlanca”, a knock-off of Casablanca, and “Cookies are a girls best friend” (instead of diamonds). As we sat coming up with ideas, I thought that this would be a worthwhile theme for a giveaway.


Come up with your own cookie phrase that would look good on a baggie. Random or logical, it’s all valid! And you can’t use CookieBlanca! Post it as a comment and check back on Sunday night to see if you’ve won. I’ll be randomly selecting the winning phrase, and then picking one or two honorable mentions if they’re extra clever. The prize will be a dozen cookies, homemade by yours truly. You’ll get to choose the type as well: Perry’s Peanut Obsession, Cafe-Ready Chocolate Chip, Italian Wedding Cookies, or Homemade Oreos. If you live outside of Siloam, I’ll mail them to you, unless you are outside of the country. In which case, I’ll send you a mental high five.

Let the wit-dom begin!

Also, Sunday night, check back for info on how the cookie party went, as well as details on how to throw your own!

February 8, 2011

3:08 am and don’t tell my mom.

Dear World,

It is past 3 am. I should be in bed, toasty and asleep. Why is has this not come to pass, you ask? Why is the blue squirrel far from her den? Which, by the way, are squirrel homes called dens? Dens. I think that spelled right.
People, this is raw 3:11 am Christa right now. Raw. Rawrrr.

Most college people can do this, however, marriage has added twelve years to my life in that, since wedded bliss, I have the sleep patterns of an elderly sloth. Speaking/writing of sloths, here you go. May it bring light and laughter to your late nights as it has mine.

Anyway, I go to bed around 10 each night, and wake up when the sun does. Or a little later. I do my little P90X stuff, and proceed on with my day, always looking forward to slipping back into a scrumprulescent bed at the end.

Now, I’m up late doing homework! Like, like… like a college kid. Actually, I’m done with my homework and found myself with a strange desire to blog about this event. In the moment. Like I said: raw.

I wasn’t raised to be like this. My parents are hard workers. They stay focused on their jobs during normal people hours so they don’t have to bring it home. Time at home was always for the family. My mom would always warn me about the woes of procrastination. But to a chubby twelve year old, why learn how to work? Especially when you could spend your time eating a Little Debbie? Yum. Any Nutty Bar lovers out there?

So, here I am. I have completed my work and would like to issue a statement:

“People of the procrasti-nation. I, one of your own, recant my beliefs that a Little Debbie (metaphorical of course) is not worth it! Do your work, and then go to bed! My mom was right!”

But don’t let her know I said so.

This brings me to a question for any readers that might be out there. Do you have a similar virtue your parents often exercised, but somehow you still missed the point and practice? I’m curious.

Righto. Off to bed. Tedward, Burnie the Hand, and I are over and out.

(Peppy for 3:32 am, right? Yeah. We keep it real.)

February 6, 2011

bathrobes and a burned hand

Over and over again, I hear from people who love to bake that the price of such a hobby is at least one (disgusting) scar. You know, the big shiny kind that clearly resemble whatever burnt them. Now, I am a very careful baker. I wear shoes in the kitchen if I’m going to use a knife at all because I learned in a class that dropping knives on bare feet is a major cause of kitchen injuries. I have about five potholders to avoid burns, strategically placed around my tiny kitchen so as to access them with speedily if need be.

Why this love for safety? My mom. She can keep four kids and their playmates safe all day. However, when you’re keeping both eyes and 97% of your mental energy on said kids, it leaves little time to be concerned about potentially burning your own hands or slicing your fingers as you chop up veggies. Thus, in the 30 years my mom has been a mom, she’s had a few kitchen injuries, which she always uses as a teaching moment for her girls.

Because of her, I know that I should never put a Corell dish on a hot surface because it will explode. Yes, explode. Not fun. I know that you should wear long sleeves when working with oil in a pot or skillet or you will suffer burned dots on your arms. And I know you should never, ever, ever forget that you put a steel pot in the oven and grab the handle without letting it cool (foreshadowing).

That’s right. Last night, as I prepared a special meal for Date Night with my husband, I got injured. Injured bad. The dish? Roast chicken with creamy dijon sauce. I purchased all the ingredients that day, I had cleared out my husband to relax as I cooked, and I was going to dominate that recipe. After searing the chicken for about 5 minutes, I transferred the entire shallow pot to my oven. The temp? 450 degrees. Just let that sink in.

After 15 minutes, I slid both hands into my very thick and sturdy pot holders, removed the pot from the oven, placed it on the stovetop, and turned around.

Somewhere in that turning, the fact that a 450 degree pot sat behind me fell out of my head. I pulled off my faithful pot holders. I turned back to the seemingly harmless pot and fully grasped the handle.

Sizzle. Sizzle, sizzle, scream, tears, Spencer running to my aid, Spencer calling our moms to ask what to do, more tears, Spencer driving through the ice to get to a drug store for gauze and salve, more tears, calling my sister in med school (Bonnie), and finally wrapping up my shiny, nasty hand.

Needless to say, dinner was put on hold for about an hour. Despite Spencer’s repeated “no’s”, I still finished dinner. Honestly, it was delicious. The sauce was perfect, the chicken cool but juicy, and the rissole potatoes were to die/burn for. Needless to say, I was not in a mood for pictures so those will have to wait for another post.

As Spencer and I sat down for dinner and the new episode of the Office, I thought about how it was sad that I didn’t know what to do when I burnt my hand so badly. I mean, I love being in the kitchen, and that’s the most dangerous room in the house. So, I apologize if you already know this or are bored by the following, but, for the sake of any girls who might read this and think “I wouldn’t know what to do either,” here is what you should do (and not do) when you burn your hand badly (but not so much you need to go to the hospital):

  1. Despite the strong urge, do not cut off you hand. I’m glad that knife was far away.
  2. Do not just sit on the floor and cry. This will not help, as I discovered.
  3. Do run your hand under slightly cool water. It should only be a little colder than room temp. My Bonnie said that anything too cold will shock the injury, which you don’t want. As if your entire system isn’t shocked enough.
  4. Do not begin picturing the blisters that will soon appear. Like me, you might start to feel like you’re about to throw up, which helps no one.
  5. Do clean the burn with soap and apply salve, neosporin, aloe, etc.
  6. Do not take out your frustration on the very attractive red head helping you.
  7. Do call you sister in medical school while your husband is driving to get supplies for you. She will calm you and let you cry while you’re hand is in the water.
  8. Do not drop the phone containing your sister’s very calming voice into the bucket of water. This will ensure further frustration.
  9. Do not ask the person who just drove to the store to help you out why they took so long. Not nice.
  10. Do cover the burn. Exposure to air will allow for infection, according to my sister.
  11. Do take some ibuprofen for the pain.
  12. Do let your nice husband make puppy chow and take care of you.

Simple enough, right? I honestly couldn’t remember if you were supposed to run a burn under cold water as I stood in my kitchen last night, looking at the tight, shiny skin I’d just scorched. Now I know what to do. I hope any readers who might burn themselves soon will be able to use that information.

Oh, one last thing, after burning your hand, don’t even bother trying to wear normal clothes. Put on a bathrobe. And eat some more puppy chow. It burns even more on day two, and sweet crunchy things will distract you.

January 23, 2011

a snowy day in siloam town.

And I am ready for sunshine. Snow is always beautiful for the first hour of it’s company, but soon I find myself aching for warmth without a sweatshirt. And a thermal. And a coat. And a husband to cuddle with. Actually, I’m okay with that last one. Still, I want to return to the sunshiney months of dresses and chaco’s and having cause to shave my legs.

The nicest thing about cold outsides is found on the insides of my little apartment home. What is that, you ask? Warm foods that heat you from the inside-out! Red-bean and carrot chili, black bean soup with chicken empanadas, fresh-from-the-oven honey wheat bread, and filo-dough pockets filled with meats and gruyere and spinach. Yes, I have been keeping myself busy. Obviously, not with school, which started up last week. As a graphic design major, I’m sure I should spend this snowed in time creating/editing work for the upcoming portfolio show. Ah, no thank you. I will certainly be putting my best foot forward for the upcoming event, but snowy days demand snowy consolations. Like savory and sweet heats.

However, following a rather depressing series of events, I decided to indulge in one of my favorite, most comforting comfort bakes, which are not particularly warming. Scones. Yes. And not just any scones. Chocolate chip scones. Or to be more accurate, Cream Chip Scones. For real, don’t be conservative with the heavy cream on this recipe. You’ll be rewarded for your generosity. I’m sure that you could swap the chocolate for any berry, nut, or whatever your heart so desires, but for me, chocolate is the only edible thing that can truly mend a poor day.

I made a few edits to the recipe I discovered, and thus will deem these not quite original. Nonetheless, please enjoy. Especially with a cup of European drinking chocolate.

Cream Chip Scones (adapted from Buns in my Oven)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp butter (melted for brushing)
  • Course sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a medium size bowl. Add the chocolate chips and stir to distribute. Use spatula to form a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the cream into the well. Stir well. When most of the flour is incorporated, turn the dough (might look shabby at this point) onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until dough is well blended. It’s okay if it’s a bit sticky. Next, divide the dough into two even balls and press each into a small flattened circle about 8 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Use a pizza cutter to make eight even triangle slices per circle of dough. Brush the individual slices with butter and sprinkle with course sugar. Place the slices an inch or so apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Very tasty when fresh from the oven, but also delicious with hot cocoa the next day.

December 20, 2010

sore bones and broken pride

This is a blog. I guess. If you’re reading this, you probably know me. And you know that I have a billion few passions. Cooking, baking, art, travel, kisses, and of course the Goat who is always willing to try anything for me (at least once). Basically, I love adventure and I love telling stories about those adventures. If you want, you can join in my life by reading about it, and of course providing your own commentary by commenting.

Adventure #1: Snowboarding

Snow is a treat. As a person who loves treats, I love snow. I’ve had prairie my whole life, and somehow the snow on the prairie is no better than a little house on the prairie (but I’ll always love you, Manly). But snow on the mountain? Why yes, I’ll have some of that.

I guess it’s no surprise then that I chose to join my wonderful in-laws for yesterday’s day of snowboarding lessons. As you might have gathered from the title of this post, it went exactly as I’d feared. I didn’t like landing on my caboose, so I suppose I self-consciously decided to opt for my head instead. This resulted in a plurality of falls and an equal amount of stomping up and down nightmare-ish breathtaking mountains.  However, one very perfect beef wellington pastry and a few hours sleep later, almost all is well. This squirrel is no mountain squirrel. Still, in about 2 hours I’ll be buried in back on the slopes giving it another go.

To regain a bit of confidence, I made a very simple treat for my in-laws last night. Seriously, I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like this. As a amateur baker, it’s so easy that you almost hate making it, but when you need a quick sweet for cheap, I always go for Momma C’s (Addictive) Almond Munchies. And that wonderful recipe will be the next post.