6.30.2011

The Big 2-7!

. No, it's not my birthday (or my age, for that matter!).

Nope, I would just like to let everyone know that today is a very special day.  A very special day indeed.

Today marks my Mom and Dad's...



27th Wedding Anniversary!

Hope you two have an absolutely wonderful day reminiscing about the years you've spent together.  I love you both so incredibly much! .

6.28.2011

Tried & True Tuesday: Blueberries & Cream Sweet Rolls

. The day has finally come!!


Notice any changes around here?!  It's been a long time coming, but my new blog design is finally making an appearance!  For the last month or so, I've been working with Leah from Cutesie Blog Designs to create a new look for Life's Simple Measures.  And after my 5...hundred different requests, questions, and comments, we finally settled on this!  I wanted something fairly simple and I've even been trying to go through the different things on my sidebars, taking things out I probably don't really need.  Overall, the whole design process was really great!  Leah was more than accommodating and worked with me to get almost everything I wanted (Blogger has some lame-o restrictions that prevented a few of my visions from coming to life, but nothing you can do about that I guess!).  Anywho, Leah was such a pleasure to work with and she must really have some patience since she had to work with me for such a long period of time.  It was also very affordable, which is always a plus in my book!  But I hope you all like the new change!  Feel free to leave any comments or suggestions if you see something you like/don't like or wish I had!

So now on to my first Tried & True post in a very long time.  I don't know what happened, but those Tuesdays just kept flying by!  But I'm so incredibly excited for this post, I've kept this recipe in my back pocket waiting for my blog design to be ready.


So, this recipe holds a dear place in my heart because it's an actual Wakasugi family recipe.  The very original recipe is actually for Sweet Roll Dough that is tied into little knots and eaten as little snacks.  Apparently these were at all of our family reunions and of course, the biggest hit (though I thoroughly must have passed right by these when I was younger because I didn't ever remember eating them!).  But I've taken the recipe, added an ingredient or two, and made them into the form of cinnamon rolls.  And with this particular one, I added blueberries, making them into Blueberries & Cream Sweet Rolls.  Along with the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies from this last weekend, we also had these to scarf munch on.

Truthfully, this recipe is my pride and joy.  A recipe that I will continue to make for the rest of my life not only because they are a family tradition [and somebody's gotta do it!], but because they are beyond ridiculously good.  Let me repeat.  Beyond Ridiculously Good.


Ugh, they really are.  The fluffy bread has an ever-so-slight sweetness, the blueberries add a wonderful tartness, and the cream cheese filling AND frosting don't need much of a description.  It simply takes these over the top.

Need I say more?  I think not.  You can thank me later .

Blueberries & Cream Sweet Rolls


Ingredients:
Dough:
1/2 c. warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1-1/2 c. milk, lukewarm
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. butter, softened
7 c. flour

Cream Cheese Filling:
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Scant 1 c. blueberries

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese
3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. milk
1-1/2 c. powdered sugar

Directions:
1.  Pour water into large bowl.  Add yeast, milk and sugar, stirring to dissolve.


2.  Stir in salt, eggs and butter.



3.  Stir in, with wooden spoon, 6 cups of flour (add more if needed).  


4.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic.

Note the one-handed knead technique.  Yep, definitely didn't have anyone around to take a picture for me!


5.  Round up dough in greased bowl; cover with damp cloth.  Let rise until doubled (about 1-1/2 hours).

6.  Punch down dough; let rise again until doubled (about 30 minutes).


7.  Meanwhile, for filling, mix together cream cheese, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract until smooth.



8.  Heat oven to 325°F.  Roll out dough into 15x12-inch rectangle.


9.  Spread cream cheese filling onto dough.  Sprinkle blueberries evenly over dough.



10.  Roll into log, starting lengthwise. 


11.  Cut log into 12 rolls and place in greased 15x11-inch pan.  Let rise slightly (about 20 minutes).


12.  For frosting, mix together cream cheese, butter, milk, and powdered sugar until smooth.  Set aside.


13.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned.


14.  While still warm, spread cream cheese frosting over rolls.


Yield: 1 dozen rolls

6.27.2011

The New York Times Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

. Hello everyone!  How was your weekend?!


As you may know, my parents were down in Omaha for the last few days to visit and attend some CWS games.  We had yet another wonderful weekend together, but I'm pretty sure that happens every time they come to town.  If you haven't already guessed, I absolutely adore my parents and I definitely do not get to spend enough time with them.  Not in the least.

But as I mentioned in my previous post, we opted to celebrate Father's Day while they were here since we couldn't all be together on the real Father's Day.  So, naturally, some baking was in order.  Almost the instant I thought about what to have, I knew what I would be making.

Father's Day present? Two Twins tickets for the Fourth of July.  Cute little package adorned with Twins colors, not included.

See, it's kind of a running joke in my family that I can't ever make anything plain [or better put, 'classic'].  I tend to gravitate towards recipes with a slight twist here or there.  I can't help it, it's those interesting treats that always peak my interest.  But my dad is always requesting PLAIN chocolate chip cookies, PLAIN chocolate cake.  You get the point.  "I want plain chocolate chip cookies, no nuts, no foreign chocolate, no exotic fruits."  Ha, and that is a quote straight from his two lips.  Makes me chuckle every time ☺

So for Father's Day, I decided I do it my dad's way.  Hence, I bring to you the New York Times Best Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted from Jacque Torres.  I've seen this recipe sprinkled throughout tons of different blogs.  And you know how it goes, everyone claims they have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe because of this or that.  But when I came across the post for this recipe on Cherry Tea Cakes and saw her picture of this delight, I couldn't say no.  Not really sure what it was about that picture, but it did me in.


And all I can say is that these really, truly, from the bottom of my heart, are the best chocolate chip cookies ever!  Again, not sure what is it about them [the marinating of the dough for 24 hours, bread and cake flour combo, chocolate disks, butter, butter, and more butter] but Jacque sure knew what he was doing.  And appropriately named 'Mr. Chocolate', I wouldn't expect much less from him.

The ending result is a chewy, thick, [extremely] chocolate-y, cookie.  Simple as that.  No bells and/or whistles, just a perfected chocolate chip cookie.  An American classic, just in time for the ultimate American holiday {dum, dum, dum...], the Fourth of July!  See, there's aaaaaaalways some logic behind my posts.  Well, sometimes .


The NYT Best Chocolate Chip Cookie
From Cherry Tea Cakes


Ingredients:
2 c. minus 2 tbsp. cake flour
1-2/3 c. bread flour
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 c. unsalted butter
1-1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/4 lbs. bittersweet chocolate disks
Sea salt (for sprinkling)

Directions:
1.  Sift cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into bowl.  Set aside.

Please note my new sifter, LOVE it!

2.  Using mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, light brown sugar, and sugar together until very light (about 5 minutes).  


3.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in vanilla extract.  Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients; mix until just combined (5 to 10 seconds).  


4.  Stir in chocolate disks, carefully, so not to break them.


5.  Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate 24 to 36 hours (can be refrigerated up to 72 hours).

6.  Heat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

7.  Scoop 6 generous golf ball-sized balls of dough onto sheet.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.


8.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown but soft.  Repeat with remaining dough.


Yield: 1-1/2 dozen cookies

*My Notes:
  • If you're finding a hard time believing my claim that these are the best chocolate chip cookies, I'm offering up the NYT article that's entirely about this baked goodie.  They used some serious amount of ink to describe every last detail from the inception to the finished product.  Must be kind of decent, right...?
  • Chocolate disks can be hard to find sometimes [and a bit spendy].  I used Guittard Semisweet Chocolate Wafers, which I miraculously found at our local Williams Sonoma.  However, you can usually find them at specialty grocery stores or order them online through the Guittard website.  Also, if you can't get a hold of the wafers, here's a fun tip: Cherry Tea Cakes suggested tempering the chocolate you have and shaping it into a thin rectangle.  Freeze and then chop into large pieces.  Resourceful!
  • When scooping the dough balls, I shaped them into thick cylinders.  I've mentioned this before in other recipes and I felt like it worked great this time around, too.

6.25.2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars


. Will life ever slow down?  The moment I think it might, I'm going 100+ mph the next minute!  The calm before the storm, right?

But I can't and will not complain.  I'd almost always (almost is the key word!) be busy and going, going, going, then bored.  I may whine about the hectic-ness sometimes but in the end, I think I like 'life in the fast lane.'  Figuratively speaking.

Anywho, this week has again been craziness not only because of the CWS (if that wasn't enough!) but because I was trying to get everything ready for my parents visit this weekend!!  Which means lots of fun, relaxing times over the next couple of days, BUT it also meant crabby Jess during the week because I spent it cleaning the house, finishing laundry, and stressing out what snacks/beverages I needed to buy for my parents dad so that he doesn't lose any poundage during the visit.


My parents got into town on Thursday night and we spent the entire day today at the ball park watching a couple of fantastic baseball games.  It was also absolutely gorgeous outside, so we really couldn't have asked for more.  We decided to celebrate Father's Day this weekend as well since we all weren't able to get together last weekend.  And so far, I think my dad has had a very good time.  Baseball, good food, lots of sun...key ingredients to a wonderful weekend!

We actually just got back from one of the games but I want to get one recipe out to you for the weekend.  Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars are yet another great Farmer's Market recipe.  This treat includes a very simple, cinnamony crust, filled with strawberry jam and rhubarb (get both of these at your local farmer's markets, they're always the best from there!), and topped with a crumble made from the same crust ingredients.  A super simple bar that's easy to put together and has a very old-fashioned taste.  Once you try these, you'll get what I'm saying.  Eat up and I'll see you all in a couple days! .

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars
From the Cookie Book


Ingredients:
Filling:
1/4 c. sugar
2-1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
2-1/2 c. rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-1/4 c. strawberry jam or preserves
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. finely grated orange zest (optional)

Crust/Topping:
1-2/3 c. all purpose flour
1-2/3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. unsalted butter, very soft but not melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1-1/2 tsp. water

Directions:
1.  Heat oven to 350°F.   Generously grease 13x9-inch pan with nonstick spray.

2.  In medium heavy saucepan, stir together sugar and cornstarch until well blended.  Stir in rhubarb, jam, cinnamon, and orange zest.


3.  Bring to simmer, stirring, over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, for 3 to 6 minutes or until rhubarb softens just slightly.  Set aside.


4.  In large bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  


5.  Add butter and stir or knead with your hands until the mixture is well blended and crumbly.



6.  Firmly press a scant half of crumb mixture into baking dish; set aside remaining crumb mixture.


7.  Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until crust is firm but not browned.  Spread rhubarb filling evenly over crumb layer.



 8.  Stir together reserved crumb mixture and 2-1/2 tablespoons of egg mixture until streusel forms small clumps.


9.  Sprinkle streusel evenly over filling, breaking up large clumps with fork or fingertips.


10.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until streusel is nicely browned and filling is bubbly.  Let cool completely.


Yield: 24 bars

6.19.2011

Happy Father's Day!

. Happy Father's Day, Daddio!

Me and the Pops!

I should actually probably be a little bitter over here.  I tried giving my one and only dad a phone call this morning and he didn't answer!  And I don't believe I ever got a call back?!  Nice.  But I guess I can forgive you, Dad, since it's your day (wink, wink).

Obviously I didn't get to see my family today since my parents live in Minnesota, but they're actually coming down next weekend for the last CWS games.  So we'll be celebrating this special day then.  And I have some special baked goodies lined up, too!  But I feel like a little Father's Day post today is still very necessary.


Moving day, lifting heavy boxes! (And those are definitely empty)

Gosh, what is there to say about my father?  I've been thinking about this post for quite some time, trying to formulate the correct words to describe the man he is and the influence he has had in my life.  And it's been hard...in a good way.

My dad is an amazing man.  Really.  I know everyone thinks that of their family members, but I truly mean this.  Not only is he an amazing man to his family but also to everyone he meets.  My dad sees no fault in anyone and from the first time he meets someone, they become a friend.  Not just an acquaintance, but a friend.  And I'm not really sure it's even his intention, but he possesses this quality that makes people want to be around him.  He just has this ora about him that draws people in, I really can't describe it in any other way.  If you've ever been in a room with him, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Whether he's looking for it or not, my dad eventually becomes the center of attention.  It's like he'll be talking and people will just naturally begin to gravitate towards him.  It's the most weird thing, but it's something I've noticed ever since I was little.  He is always making people laugh, no matter who you are, and who wouldn't want to be around someone like that?  He has a way of making every person feel special and welcomed.  It's crazy, but oh so true.

This picture says it all!

He is also the most selfless person I have ever met.  And this is something I didn't fully realize until I was older and finally in the real world.  But now I've come to see that my dad did anything he could for his family to give us the best opportunities he could.  And he was willing to sacrifice his own needs for us, and that is something that I will never be able to pay him back for.  It was an act that can never be monetarily repaid, I can only try to do something with my life that makes him proud.

My dad (along with, of course, my mom) has also been my biggest supporter.  Whether it's been my personal, athletic, or academic life, he has always been on my side and saying/doing whatever he could to let me know that I could make it.  To say the very least, I never could have gotten through my college career without both of my parents encouraging words.  Seeing their smiling faces on the weekends when they traveled to Omaha for my softball games was always something I looked forward to.  And something that always held me together.  I remember standing in the batting cages before our first practice back from a Christmas break (and dad, you know which Christmas break I'm talking about) and dedicating my next season to him.  I know I've never told him, or anyone for that matter, of this moment, but here it is.  Everything I did from that Christmas on was for my dad.  And it will always continue to be that way ☺

My #1 Fan!

Reading over this post kind of disappoints me.  I can't ever describe the millions of special memories I have with my father and the millions of things he's taught me along the way.  I wish I had the days to let you in on every thing but I guess these thoughts will just always be something special between me and him.  And honestly, I kind of like it that way.

Love you, Daddio .
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