Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Move, the New and the Tried & True

It's been a week since we moved in. The move went pretty smoothly, thankfully. And now, a week in, the house is coming together very nicely. A few highlights of our new digs:

  • After some initial confusion, we have come to love our high-efficiency heating system. Let's just hope those utility bills reflect all those savings we've been told we'll have!
  • We have lots of kitchen cabinet space! I think everything has finally found a place (even if it's not its permanent place) AND we still have a few drawers to spare.
  • I love our new washer and dryer (thank you Grandma Jackie!). They aren't the fanciest on the market, but I am so enjoying not having a random ring-shaped stain appear on our clothes from the old washer's agitator -- gotta love the front loading washer!
  • We have a party tub. Seriously, we have a party tub. It comes fully equipped with programmable air jets AND color-changing lights. As Jay says, it's like living in a house on MTV Cribs. And yes, after taking my first soak the other night, I can report that it is as fun as it sounds
  • Verizon FiOS. No words. LOVE IT. Highly recommend it.

As we settle into our new life here, the craziness of the week or two before the move are starting to resurface in my consciousness. Between my job and packing, I completely forgot that I had done some baking. Not that I would have had time to blog about them, of course. But now I have a few moments, so I wanted to share one of my favorites -- my Nana Sara's Butter Balls.

Butter Balls -- The Fall Collection
These nuggets of buttery goodness are the hallmark of my matriarchal line. My maternal great grandmother, Sara, was known as Sara Lee because everything she baked was impeccably yummy. Nana Sara was a big part of my life until she passed just shy of my 18th birthday. We spent many a Sunday visiting her at the nursing home. Sadly, by the time my memories begin, Nana was already under the grip of Alzheimer's Disease. So, it's through recipes like these that I can connect with Nana in her prime.

Of course, I'm far from the first woman in our family line to pick up Nana Sara's talents. My grandmother and my mother are both quite talented in the kitchen. When it comes to Butter Balls, though, well, that's been my mom's territory for years. She can make these things in her sleep. And she makes them for every occasion (except Passover, of course). Every family member and friend has come to expect these little babies at any gathering, from holiday dinners for nearly 30 to Sunday night BBQs for 6.

So, it's been so important to me to master the famous Butter Ball. It's taken me a few tries, but I think I've got it down. I'm almost reticent to post the recipe here, for fear I might be bested at my own genetically-thrown gauntlet. But, I have faith that with a cookie this simple -- and this simply delicious -- the secret is the baker's own flair. :)

Nana Sara's Butter Balls

1/2 lb. butter (I always use salted here)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour

Combine butter and egg yolks and sugar. Beat well. Add flour.

Form into balls (you may need to keep your hands moist to prevent dough from sticking) and place on nonstick cookie sheet. Make a thumbprint on the top of each ball.

Pre-frosting cookies
Bake at 350ยบ for approximately 15 minutes or slightly golden on bottoms. Cool for 5-10 minutes on sheet before moving to cooling rack. Freeze before frosting for best results.

1 stick butter (again, salted)
Confectioner's sugar (about 3 cups, but just use what you need to get the consistency you want)

Beat butter until smooth; add confectioner's sugar a small bit at a time until you get a thick frosting. Add a little milk to thin out. Add more confectioner's sugar to balance if you add to much milk.

Once you have a semi-thick frosting, separate and color as desired. Use spoon to frost frozen cookies (dump and swirl method).


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Switchin' Kitchens

It's been quite a while since I posted a new recipe, but I promise, there's good reason.

Jay & I finally closed on our new condo!

We are thrilled to be homeowners again, but are currently in the throes of packing up our apartment and taking everything over to our new place.

The whole process -- which for very long and convoluted reasons -- started way back in April and, after fits, starts, and really awful performances by the seller's agent, it finally ended just last week. The place is small (really small), but it's beautiful. It's one unit in a 2-family home that was recently gutted and rehabbed into two condos.

I could list all the benefits of the place, from the party tub (yes, party tub... complete with color-changing lights) to its ideal location less than a mile from our current apartment. But let's focus on what counts: it has a fabulous kitchen!! We sealed the deal just in time to pick out the granite and the appliances ourselves. Keep your eye out for future posts testing the accuracy of my brand new oven...

Today, as we waited for the locks to be changed, the new washer/dryer to be delivered, and the carpet to be installed in the basement, we unpacked our kitchen items into the abundant cupboards. The final piece of the day -- the KitchenAid Mixer. It took its rightful place on the counter. So, it's official folks -- I have arrived!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Baker Hits the Mill City

Recently I had the rare opportunity to join Jay at one of his many conferences. This time his meeting was in Minneapolis, MN, which is also conveniently the new home of one of my best friends, Jenny, and her family. So while Jay sat in sessions all day, I went to play with Jenny and her almost 3-year-old, Noah.

Jenny is always a great hostess, so she planned some really fun things for us to do. We spent one morning at the Mill City Museum, a tribute to the flour factories that used to be the city's main industry. I didn't know this before my trip, but Minneapolis used to the flour capital of the world -- perfect for the baker in me. It was cool to see how the mill operated, and I really loved the exhibits paying homage to Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and the like! Noah, on the other hand, could have spent all day with the trains and trucks. Boys...

Baking with Noah
In truth, Noah himself is a great baker. In fact, Jenny suggested that instead of bringing him a gift (I make it a practice never to go see a small kid without a trinket in hand) I bring with me something for us to bake together. What a great idea! I loaded up my suitcase with all you need for yummy Funfetti cupcakes (shout out to my Drachler buddies! Funfetti is a key to grad school survival), and Noah was a super helper. We had so much fun making them -- and eating them -- together.

In the midst of all the zaniness that has been our lives lately, it was so wonderful to spend time with close friends. Thank you Jenny, Jon & Noah for a fun weekend! Please come to Boston soon so we can host you.