September 27, 2010

Compromises and Simplicity

The vote on the second challenge of the Project Food Blog competition is now open! If you would like to vote for me you simply have to follow the link "see my profile" under the silly picture of myself on the left sidebar of my blog or you can follow this link! But before that, I would like to leave you with a simple yet delicious post! Enjoy!

I’m stubborn, perfectionist, impatient. I’m feisty, opinionated, idealist. And much more than that! And I don't think I really learn many lessons from my mistakes. But if there is one thing I can say I’ve learnt in the past few years is the art of compromise. There are always important things to compromise on: in life, in relationships, even in blogging! For many people compromising equals sacrificing but I have learnt to compromise with a different perspective in mind: simplicity.

I’ve always been a very simple person by nature. But I have had a complicated (and/or complex) life in many instances. I still have, sometimes. Don’t we all have complicated days? But I have learnt to use the simplicity of my person in these situations and to translate it into simplicity of life. I’ve started by dropping out of a PhD program that was making my life miserable and by choosing to become a wife and a pre-school teacher. Yes, I gave up the opportunity of a big career (I actually had it already before starting my PhD) and of a great salary (ahh, the life of a pre-school teacher….no money!) but I gained in mental health and in time to dedicate to myself, my home, my husband, and now my blog. I chose simplicity also when I started my blog. I could have had a blog with daily posts of all the amazing Italian recipes I cook every day. If you read my first post for the Project Food Blog competition you already know that I cook almost all our family meals. It would have been easy to fill up my blog with my daily cooking activities but for me it would not have been as much fun as with only baking experiments. I compromised and I decided for a more simple blog, with fewer posts but focused on baking, what I really love.

And this week, I made that choice once again. It’s time for you (and me!) to vote for the second challenge of the Project Food Blog competition. I thought of doing a complex or mind-blowing dessert to show you that I deserve your vote. But then life as always gets in the way: my kitchen is almost fully packed for our move (yay!) and I have zero free time to dedicate to my blog these days (sigh!) and so, once again, I chose simplicity.

So I leave you all with these shortbread cookies. In all simplicity and humbleness I would like to thank you all. First, for your vote on the first challenge and, if you intend to do so, for the vote on this second one. But mostly, for all the amazing comments I have received. I really had a lot of fun thus far and the best part of this competition has been getting to know new bloggers or getting to know better those that I was already reading.

The recipe is from the amazing Joy of Baking. These were very simple and amazing cookies are perfect to start the week with. I do believe simplicity is underestimated and these cookies are the proof!

Chocolate dipped shortbreads
yields about 20 shortbread cookies

260 gr (9 oz or 2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 gr (1/4 tsp) salt
226 gr (12 oz or 1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
60 gr (1/2 cup) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
180 gr (6 oz) semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, for the chocolate dip

In a medium bowl whisk the flour with the salt and set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and put the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured into a ¼” thick circle.  Cut into rounds or other shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter. (I chose hearts…I was feeling very cheesy today)

Place on the prepared baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. (This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked)

Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until the cookies are very lightly browned. Let them cool on a cooling rack.

For the chocolate dip, I once again opted for simplicity and melted the chocolate in the microwave. If you choose do to so, 90 seconds were really all it took but remember to stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula from time to time. (I stirred it every 30 seconds)

Taking one cookie at a time, dip one end of each cookie in the melted chocolate and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once all the cookies have been dipped in the chocolate, place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, or until the chocolate has hardened.

Have a sweet day!

September 24, 2010

From Russia with Love: Paskha for my second Project Food Blog Challenge


I think it’s pretty obvious to say that I am very happy I passed the first challenge of the Project Food Blog Competition. Of course I’m happy because I can advance with the competition but most importantly because I have been thinking about the post for the second challenge since when the competition started. Why am I so excited about the second challenge? Because it gives me a chance to share with you a recipe that is very dear to me. Not because it is a family recipe or because I have made it many times before and really mastered it. Quite the opposite! I had eaten it a couple of times (and loved it) but never made it. The challenge gave me the opportunity to make it for the first time in my life and to do some research about it.

September 22, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with (or without) Orange Frosting: pick the one you like most


Cupcakes! Oh cupcakes! A delight, but also a bit of a challenge for me. Wally loves them. Many people love them. Me? I like them. They are cute, quick to make and I really enjoy eating them from time to time. But I have to admit that, although I find it hard to completely fail a cupcake, I find it even harder to find a cupcake recipe that wows me.

September 20, 2010

On the day of the vote, CaffeIna goes savory: maple bacon muffins


Yes, believe it or not I don’t just bake in my life. As I said in my first entry for the Project Food Blog Competition , I cook almost 90% of our meals. Simply, I don’t blog about them.

And yes, I also bake savory stuff! These muffins are the proof. So, what are you waiting for, go ahead and vote for me! You can do it through the badge you see on CaffeIna homepage or by following this link. Well, even if you decide not to vote for me (but really, why not?), try these muffins! These are the muffins that made my husband make a public praise. Yes, really! He posted on facebook a comment about how I outdid myself. How adorable is that?

September 18, 2010

A Saturday morning of celebration: marbled pull apart bread with orange sugar filling


After a couple of weeks of crazy events it was about time to celebrate! Wally and I are not really party-people but we sure know how to celebrate with a great breakfast. This is how we did it this morning.

September 16, 2010

About the short past of CaffeIna and about her long future!


When I first read about the Project Food Blog competition organized by Foodbuzz I thought: ”This is going to be a great incentive for me and my blog to grow!” That’s how I see this competition: as a way to grow. Not to increase the numbers of followers, or of comments to my posts, or of “page hits” in my stats (although, that would be really nice too!). But to grow as a person and as a blogger. I started to blog 6 months ago and still consider myself a newbie. I think I will always consider myself a newbie, even 5 years from now, because blogging put me in touch with a whole new world, of which I knew very little and that is continuously changing and expanding. This, for sure, keeps up pretty well with my insatiable curiosity.

September 14, 2010

My Tuesday morning (half) failure: lemon cheese buns


This week has definitely started on a different note. Yesterday evening we signed the title documents of the house (still hoping the seller will do the same and we will not have to go through lawyers!), the school is opening tomorrow, we are in a good mood after our great weekend! All in all, this is going to be a super busy week, but also a positive one. And with these good premises, I decide to tackle my wish-to-bake-soon list.

September 12, 2010

Positive thoughts and Italian semolina cake


Thank you everybody to bear with me this week. It has been a hard week, full of ugly emails and phone calls, visits to the lawyer and uncertainty and I feel I threw all this on you guys. But I’ve had enough with stress and bad thought for this week! Today I just want positive thoughts and something sweet and delicious to share with Wally and with all you!

September 10, 2010

The simplest and most delicious white bread


This is turning out to be a terrible week. It was supposed to be a week of celebration. We knew we were going to have the official approval of the loan for the house and basically we would have closed the deal. After that it was going to be only a matter of “when” (not “if”) we were going to move into out first home….Ohhh our first nest….our dream house….everything seemed too good to be true.

September 07, 2010

Learning to cherish my failures: faux (but delicious) ice cream whoopie pies


I wanted to make whoopie pies. More precisely ice cream filled whoopie pies. I had never made whoopie pies before and, as usual, I just looked around the web and in my books, looking for a convincing recipe. I found thousands of them and all different from each other. So I came up with mine.

September 04, 2010

Lemon Curd Layered Cupcakes


Have you ever dreamed about eating an entire cake? Yes, an entire cake. Being able to taste two layers, the filling, and the frosting ALL around the cake? Now you can! Yes, I’m serious! You just have to make tiny individual cakes instead of a big one. That’s what I did last Wednesday.

September 02, 2010

Versatile award or all you wanted to know (and probably more!) about...vinegar


A couple of days ago I was give the Versatile Blogger Award from Koci of La Kocinera. This is my third (omg! Third!) Versatile Blogger Award and I really really really want to thank you all cool bloggers for giving me the award and for reading my little unpretentious blog!

After saying “thank you” to the blogger that passed the award on me, I’m supposed to say 7 random things about myself. However, I have already done that and I don’t want to challenge your patience with 7 more things. I would risk of losing you all J Many things about myself come out from my posts and in addition I will be participating to the Project Food Blog so you will already read more about myself with the first challenge (btw…get some fingers-exercise so that you will be in great shape to click on “vote for CaffeIna” when the time will arrive!)

So, instead of talking about myself I would like to tell you seven random things about a guy that versatile is for sure: vinegar. What the heck?! You might be thinking. What’s going on in Sara’s mind to decide to talk about vinegar. Well, you have to know that the past week has been a week of little accidents in my house (chill out….I said little….nothing bad…don’t rush to buy a flight ticket to Oakland to check on me! Although I would be very happy if you did!). First off, my girl kittie, Zoe, decided to pee in the basket of the dirty clothes…needless to say it was so stinky that even after washing the clothes three time I couldn’t dare saying “mission accomplished!”. Second off, I slipped in the shower (auch!). Thank God, I stopped on time but I still hit my back on the edge of the window (double auch!). Last but not least, I totally crashed my pinky toe against the wood part of a door (triple auch!). It hurt soooo badly, even with the ice on it. The day after my right pinky was double size and purple. Lucky me, I don’t need pinky toes to bake and it was a great excuse to cheer myself up with cookies J

But again…what does this have to do with vinegar?! Well, my wise mom suggested me a use for white vinegar for all the above mentioned situations. So when I got the Versatile Award I thought :”he is the real versatile one!” Vinegar deserves this award too. Mr Vinegar kindly accepted and now he is going to tell you 7 random things about himself [There are many more interesting things you should know about Mr Vinegar but you can easily find the rest yourself on Wikipedia and other sites).


1. The French…ahhh, the French….they really got me! They call me vin aigre, which means sour wine. And that’s exactly how I was discovered. Somebody noticed that a cask of wine gone past its time had turned to a wonderful new product. Through the centuries I have been produced from many other materials, including molasses, dates, sorghum, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey. But the principle remains the same: fermentation of natural sugars to alcohol and then secondary fermentation to vinegar.

2. The ancients were the first ones in giving me the Versatility Award! Around 5,000 BC, the Babylonians used it as a preservative and as a condiment, and it was they who began flavoring it with herbs and spices. Roman legionnaires used it as a beverage. Cleopatra demonstrated its solvent property by dissolving precious pearls in it to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal. Hippocrates extolled its medicinal qualities and, indeed, it was probably one of our earliest remedies. The Greeks also reportedly made pickled vegetables or meats using vinegar. Biblical references show how it was much used for its soothing and healing properties. And when Hannibal, a great general, crossed the Alps with an army riding elephants, it was vinegar that helped pave the way. Obstructive boulders were heated and doused with vinegar, which cracked and crumbled the barriers. By about 3000 BC, the making of homemade vinegar was being phased out and, in 2000 BC, vinegar production was largely a commercial industry. During the American Civil War, vinegar was used to treat scurvy, and as recently as World War I, it was being used to treat wounds. [Source: The Vinegar Institute] This is where CaffeIna’s  mom comes in…when she hurt back and pinky toe she suggested her to cover the ice with a some cotton fabric wet with white vinegar!

3. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that any product called “vinegar” contain at least 4% acidity. This requirement ensures the minimum strength of the vinegar sold at the retail level.

4. Many of you probably already know that I’m good at household chores but you might not know (CaffeIna didn’t) that I am good also with animals. That’s why CaffeIna’s mom suggested her to wash the stinky clothes with water and myself! I can even be used to wash doggies….but I’m not really sure they like me L

5. Americans (big bumper stickers’ lovers!) should also know that I have a nice trick to remove bumper stickers. Just wipe the sticker with white distilled vinegar until it is soaked.  In a few minutes, it should peel off easily.  Test on a small invisible area of the car to ensure there will be no damage to the paint.

6. I’m a multitasker in the kitchen! I bring out the sweetness in strawberries and melons, as well as I add a twist to spicy salsas and marinades and wake up the flavor of sauces and glazes. I’m also aware of health issues and I can help you cook lighter dishes. For example, replace heavy cream or butter with a splash of white vinegar to balance flavors without adding fat. The tangy taste also reduces the need for salt.

7. In particular, baking is of course one of my favorite activities. I like doing a lot of things, for example, cake icing. Cake icing can be prevented from becoming sugary if a little vinegar is added to the ingredients before cooking. The same is true when making homemade candy.

You can check for many other uses (in the kitchen or not) here

Well, thanks again CaffeIna for the Versatile Ingredient Award and I wish you all a sweet….oooops… an acid (in the my way) day.