Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Truffles


This weekend Bertie’s Bakery embarked on a whole new journey!

Chocolate truffles!Truffles-3

I love chocolate truffles, and I have always wanted to learn more about the art of tempering chocolate, so with that I took the plunge into a day of chocolate! There were a lot of lessons learned, but I will say that the time spent was well worth it as the end product was a huge success!

I started with about a pound of chocolate. IMG_0115The milk chocolate was for the centers and the dark chocolate was for the outer shell. The biggest tip that I can offer about chocolate truffles is that you MUST be organized! Prepping the chocolate, measuring the weights, having all of your tools ready, etc. is key to being successful. Once you start heating your chocolate, there is no turning back (or time to run around your kitchen looking for you favorite spatula!).


Once the milk chocolate ganache was made I pressed plastic wrap down onto the top layer of the chocolate.  This helps protect it from getting a thicker skin on top as it cools.IMG_0123

Then using my mini cookie scoop (1.5mm) I scooped endless amounts of ganache onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan.Truffles-8IMG_0128

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with plain milk chocolate, but I figured this was going to make a lot of truffles and it might be nice to change it up a little. The pan above has: 1) Plain mild chocolate 2) caramel center, 3) pistachio center, and 4) dark chocolate coffee.

Since these rough scoops of ganache need to be hand rolled into nicer, rounder balls, I pushed the pistachios a little further down and popped them back into the fridge to cool. Once they come out cold and a little firm they are much much easier to handle and shape.Truffles-6

I do apologize that there are no pictures of the actual dipping process, but the Boss was off on his trail run and I only have so many hands to balance the delicate and time sensitive steps! Hopefully you can forgive me and will settle for pictures of the final product???Truffles-7

Going from the top row and working our way down (on the photo below):

The green sprinkles on top are the pistachio.
The coco powder dust is the pure milk chocolate.
The dark chocolate drizzle is the dark chocolate coffee.
The white drizzle is the caramel filled ganache center.

photo 1

Finally I packaged the chocolates up (what was left of them) and disbursed them to friends! I am excited! The flavors worked out fantastic, and I can’t stop thinking about what to put in the next batch!

I’m thinking a peanut butter ganache center is going to be a must! What about you?

Friday, April 27, 2012

2012 Race Calendar… errr, Lack there of

Many of you have e-mailed or asked in person “what’s next” on my race calendar? After a very successful 2011 race season, what does 2012 hold for me?

Currently I do not have any triathlon or running race on the schedule. Instead I’m picking up competitive Paddle Boarding.PaddleBoarding

I’m sure that some of you are scratching your head wondering where the heck that came from? But first, let me explain. As a disclaimer, I am not complaining. Stuff happens, and it’s what you do about it that counts… with that said, “stuff” has hit the fan so far in 2012. For the foreseeable future (errr first half of the race season), I will only be cheering at races. 

As you might remember from a few posts over the past few months, I have mentioned that I had several long time injuries that escalated from nagging to screaming. Unfortunately since the New Year these injuries have kept me from training.

First there was the IT band issue.ITB

I finally went to see a physical therapist, who diagnosed me as being gluteus-ly challenged! She said that having zero gluteus muscles contributed to a terrible running form, which in turn caused terrible strain and stress on the IT bands.  So for six weeks I really backed off the running to let the inflammation and irritation in both knees cool off and focused on functional core and glute strength training. By the end of the sixth week I was running relatively pain free up to around 10 miles.

Back to running: Check!

While all of the running issues were being worked out, I was also getting a long long looooong time injury checked out. My shoulder. I have no idea what I did to this shoulder, but for about 5 years I haven’t been able to lift my right arm over my head. I know, “WHO NEGLECTS SOMETHING LIKE THAT???”. Well, school teacher insurance wasn’t so hot and I found ways around not using my right arm above shoulder height! Problem solved :)mriUnfortunately my physical therapist didn’t think this was as cool of an adaptation as I did, so She sent me off to a specialist. Where you see the arrow (above) is where they stick a very unfriendly stent/needle and “distend” your shoulder joint with an entire bag of saline solution and MRI dye. Had I known the MRI was going to go down like that… I would probably still be adapting to new ways to avoid use of my arm!

In the end there was absolutely nothing wrong with the integrity of the joint. Meaning it was my muscles and my brain that were not communicating very well. With almost complete atrophy of some rotator cuff muscles along with over built and stiff other rotator cuff muscles… we had a lot of work to do! However, as of yesterday I am back in the pool!

Back to swimming: Check!

Now you’re thinking, “if all of her injuries are on the mend and almost completely recovered, is she really going to switch to paddle boarding?”Serious Swim[3]

Well my friends. Since this spring has been full of rehab mixed with a little homesickness, my Coach and I decided that I would benefit from a break from his vigorous training schedule. I wasn’t focused, I wasn’t healthy, and I needed time to recover. So, once I was recovered enough to run around and be active again I signed up for the one and only thing that my coach always asked me to stay away from while in competitive training mode! You know how it goes, you were told “not” to do something, so as soon as the opportunity arises you go an do it. That something would be soccer! Yep, that’s right, I was playing in an Arlington women’s leauge. The only problem was that once people saw that “your back” in the soccer world the phone starts ringing for you to come play pick-up, sub for their team, etc. and you end up with more than one game on a given day.

You have to remember that soccer was my LIFE for almost 20 years, that’s something that you can’t just forget about. Mentally I suppose. Your brain can’t forget about your first love, but your muscles sure can. 599

Even though I’m no longer a fraction of the technical player I used to be, I still play as hard as I did then. And thus with efforts like that… you tear your unprepared muscles. That’s right. I went ahead and played too many games in too short of a time, and ended up partially tearing one of my quad muscles. Nice job!

Back to Running: Fail.

So, I hope that through my tone you can understand that while I am pretty disappointed I’m not walking around with a black cloud over my head. Life is still good, and I am in good spirits finding other things to do with my time.

Mostly those “other things to do” include driving my husband crazy, messing up the kitchen, cleaning up the kitchen, and day dreaming about moving to a tropical island to spend my time paddle boarding around! That would take my mind off of running.IMG_0639

Thanks to everyone who has sent along words of re-hab encouragement and interest in racing life. There will be race reports again some day!

On that note, I’ll leave you to ponder moving to a tropical island.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

zucchini Muffins


As I wandered through the grocery store the other night I had a hankering for my mom’s Zucchini muffins. I absolutely LOVE my mom’s recipe, it’s so fluffy and moist and packed with flavor! And even better, there’s zucchini in there so it has to be healthy right??? Well… upon closer review of the recipe there’s no wonder why I love this recipe. IMG_9950

Once I got home with my zucchinis I started pondering the recipe. It seems as though my love for these muffins may have been partially due to the sugar content. There was a fair bit of fat in there too. Geeze Ma, I’m starting to wonder if this is a zucchini cake! Sorry, I love you, please forgive me.

So I started playing with the recipe a little. I figure if I up the ingredients that bring natural sugars and flavors to the muffin, maybe we won’t miss the sugar too much?IMG_9951IMG_9953

I decided to up the zucchini to two cups packed grated (don’t worry, recipe is below), and added toasted nuts, along with increasing the amount of raisins, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

The next morning I got up bright and early and gave the newly revised recipe a whirl. I have to say, I certainly enjoyed the end product!IMG_9963

Were the new muffins quite as good as my mom’s recipe? Honestly, no. But that is pretty much the same as comparing eating a cupcake or a rice cake! However, I would declare the new recipe a success. The muffins were really delicious and still held their light fluffy qualities. Now, I can eat these muffins and not worry about just how much extra sugar I have consumed.Recipe

What are you waiting for? Go try them!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Business Logo Cookies

Recently I was contacted by a friend of a friend who was looking for something personalized for her husband’s upcoming birthday.IMG_9850

Her husband had recently started a new business and this was the company’s logo! She questioned if it were possible to have something designed that would resemble just that.

IMG_9863 logo

What do you think? Was I close?

I was feeling pretty confident about the design so I went ahead and whipped up a dozen to ship off.IMG_9848IMG_9853

Happy Birthday!

I’m waiting for the day that a guy thinks this one through and orders “Will You Marry Me” Cookies! Let’s be honest, if a girl gets Diamonds AND cookies, she’s bound to say “Yes”!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The end of an Era: Discovery Space Shuttle

Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early (read 9am) with a mix of both excited and sad butterflies in my stomach. I was heading over to Regan National Airport for a unique morning of plane spotting. ShuttleDiscovery-10ShuttleDiscovery-11ShuttleDiscovery-13ShuttleDiscovery-14

Yup, you saw correctly. That is the Space Shuttle Discovery taking it’s last journey via piggy-back on a Boeing 747, and yes, these are all my own photos. Now, unless you were totally asleep for the last two days, this is old news. It has been all over the news, radio, and internet that this final flight was going to take place, and fly a few “victory laps” around the DC Capital area.

The only difference is, not all of you actually live here. So the idea or ability to get over to bare witness might not have been a thought along your brainwaves this week. However, I DO live here, and I HAVE followed the space program my whole life! Holy crap, I better get a good spot! What if I miss it? Will we be able to see it? How fast and low will a 747 be able to fly  with a space shuttle on top? How low will an airplane be allowed to fly around the Capital Buildings?? Ahhhh!

Have no fear. I outsmarted the best of them! While Gravely Point (the park at the end of the runway at Regan National) was completely packed, I ventured into the Airport itself! No one ever said that the airport parking garage was only for people taking a flight! I drove up to the top level and hung out for a while! Okay, there were a few others who showed up as well.IMG_8047

What was interesting was that not only were people showing up on the top deck of the parking garage, but people were popping out of all sorts of roof tops and high up places!

TSA on top of the DCA’s roof top:IMG_9904

Airport Tower workers (as if they didn’t already have prime viewing!)IMG_9905

And the roof tops all along Crystal City were peppered with anxious observers.IMG_9906

As I sat along the ledge of the parking garage awaiting the arrival of the Discovery Shuttle, I thought way back to my first experience with the space program. I was really young and we were on a trip visiting Cape Canaveral.  PD_0005

I’m the one who is second from the end on the right. Next to the girl with her arms crossed and pouting. I guess my sister was not as excited as I was about the space module! I honestly did believe that I was going to be an Astronaut one day. After all, I did have the same name as the famous Canadian female Astronaut, Roberta Bondar!

Then more recently (May, 2010), The Boss and I flew down with friends to Cape Canaveral to see one of the last shuttle launches. It was to say the least, one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I had always watched the launches when they were available on TV, but being there in person, sitting in a crowd of hundreds, feeling the rumble of the launch in your chest from over 11 miles away, and listening to the wild and proud cheers, that was a moment to remember.

IMG_7366-1(Picture courtesy of DCRainmaker; aka The Boss)

So back to yesterday. Now you might have a better idea of why I was a little sad to go say farewell to Discovery. The crowd cheered loudly as Discovery took those last few “victory laps” and paid tribute to the incredible explorations the shuttle took. But the murmur in the crowd that soon took over after the shuttle was out of sight, was a sure indication of the disappointment in the decision to phase out iconic American Space Program.

This was the first spotting of the entourage from when I was sitting.ShuttleDiscovery-9

We couldn’t believe how low and close the shuttle came! ANNND that the clouds broke for just those few minutes!


The next time the shuttle came back we all noticed it had some company!ShuttleDiscovery-20

I hoped so badly that this photo would have come out better, but it will have to do. The Shuttle Discovery on it’s last voyage, circling the National Monument.ShuttleDiscovery

So long Discovery. photo

Did you catch a glimpse of the shuttle yesterday? Get any good photos? I would love to hear about it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lilly Pulitzer Inspired Cookies

lilly pulitzer-14

Last week an old friend from college got in touch about surprising a family member with “Happy Wedding Week” cookies. I had never heard of “Wedding Week” presents but I thought that it was a very nice idea, and having experience a stressful wedding week myself, I could appreciate sending a bride to be a little love!lilly pulitzer-11lilly pulitzer-13

Now you might be wondering how (or in my case who) does Lilly Pulitzer come into all of this? Well our Bride to Be is a huge fan of anything Lilly Pulitzer and loves pink! These were basically my instructions for the cookies. I had full creative privileges outside of these ideas! NICE! Now, I suppose I should figure out who Lilly is!

Turns out Lilly Pulitzer is a designer with an appetite for bright colors and large flowery prints! Here are a few samples of the different patterns I was considering.photo1There were several disaster cookies in the making with these detailed prints, but don’t worry those “bad” cookies didn’t go to waste!

Finally I came to really like this one pattern that is featured on this springs dress line! I knew the Bride was a pink kinda gal so I just inverted and slightly changed the color scheme to satisfy the cookie request while keeping true to the pattern!lilydres

lilly pulitzer-7

What do you think? Was I close? I also created a few green cookies just to break up the sea of pink. I don’t think I’ll get into too much trouble for that!lilly pulitzer-5

In the end I was really pleased with how the cookie design turned out! I hope the Bride can take a few moments through out the week and enjoy them too! And incase she’s reading, Happy Wedding week, enjoy every moment of it!lilly pulitzerlilly pulitzer-9

Thanks for reading!

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