26 August 2014

It's Still Summer

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
You've probably heard that pumpkin spice lattes are already available at Starbucks, and maybe you even know someone who already got one, and maybe even that person suggested that the lattes signify the start of autumn. Well, folks, it's still summer, and I'm not yet ready for it to be autumn. Considering that the high is still over 75° most days, I am right. If you don't want to take my word for it, autumn doesn't officially begin until late-September here in the Northern Hemisphere. Although I've continued ordering (hot) lattes at Starbucks all throughout summer, those lattes were not seasonal flavors. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
So, in defense of summer, I present you with these Pink Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies from Martha Stewart. The bright flavor is perfectly summer with a balance of sweet and tart. Although winter is the season for citrus fruits, citrus is a flavor I tend to associate with summer, such as pitchers of freshly squeezed lemonade and lime cookies with confectioners' sugar coating. This recipe have been on my radar for a while, actually, but procrastination is my number one hobby. Finally, I get to cross them off my list!

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
Both the cookie and the buttercream contain grapefruit juice and zest. While this makes the cookie flavorful, the juice might be the reason the dough came out softer than sugar cookie dough should be, making rolling and cutting circles difficult. Despite baking the dough straight from the freezer, the cookies didn't hold shape in the oven. It also browned a little more than I would have liked, and I suspect that has to do with the oven temperature not being accurate.

What would I do to remedy the soft dough? I might add more flour next time, or decrease the egg yolks from two to one. I don't want to reduce the grapefruit juice since that's what gives the cookie its flavor.

Pro tip: Wax paper is useless for rolling out sticky cookie dough.
Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
Mmm, buttercream! The fresh grapefruit juice really helps cut the cloying sweetness of the confectioners' sugar-based buttercream. Tinting it pink is optional.

The texture of the cookies improves the longer its stored, going from crunchy to soft. Then again, maybe they're supposed to be crunchy. Not entirely sure, but either way, the cookies are delicious.

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
I don't mean to sound Grinchy about the upcoming season. I'm looking forward to some things pumpkin, crunchy leaves in orange, red, and brown colors, crisp, cool temperatures, and apple cider. But since I don't work in advertising, I'm not going to rush it. When the time comes, I will have my celebratory pumpkin latte... If Starbucks hasn't already run out of syrup by then.

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies

11 August 2014

I come bearing pie.

Maple Pecan Pie
Well, hello. It has certainly been a while, unfortunately. I'm not going to get into all the specifics of what lead to my hiatus (because who reads this blog, anyway?), but, among other things, I wasn't satisfied with the direction I had taken the blog. If you noticed the increase in sponsored posts, I apologize. Although I tried to keep them relevant, I felt like I was unable to seamlessly integrate those posts to fit with the normal content. I could have worked on that and continued earning enough to pay for a few small bills, like the blog hosting, Flickr account, and cell phone bill, but the requirements rose while the profits dropped and I didn't feel like the work I would have put into it was worth it.

At that point, I had begun despising blogging. The aforementioned was a small part of it; another part of it was that I felt as if the community that once drew me in seemed to have lost its path, but it was really was just me losing my way. I won't be eliminating product reviews or sponsored posts altogether, but it's not going to be nearly as often. It's just not what I want this space to be about.

So, I offer up pie, because that is what this blog is about. Not much of baking has been going on around here, either, making it almost impossible to find anything to blog about (I'm not even going to get into running right now.) I really do want to get back into the kitchen and bake/cook/blog more because it's a skill I enjoy developing and it's pretty much one of my biggest hobbies. I hope to utilize my subscription to Bon Appetit more than I currently do, as well. Have you heard of MasterChef? That show is also my inspiration. MasterChef is probably my favorite cooking competition show and I've always thought it would be amazing to have the skills necessary to audition. My skills aren't that refined, but maybe one day it will be.

Maple Pecan Pie
I've made this maple pecan tart around four times total, learning something new each time. The first time, I learned that I did not like the crust in the recipe; it's more of a cookie-shortbread crust than an actual pastry crust. For the filling, I toasted the pecans and browned the butter, two simple changes that I felt made the pie even better than it would have been otherwise.

Maple Pecan Pie
The second time, I used David Lebovtiz' tart dough that is prepared in the oven and pressed into the pan. It would have worked out well if I had doubled the recipe. As is, the bottom was too thin and the filling leaked through, causing the filling to seep through and caramelize, making the finished tart impossible to neatly serve.

But, I used Georgia pecans a friend sent to me as a gift, so the memories of that tart are associated with good things.

Maple Pecan Pie
The third time, I made an all-butter dough using a folding technique found on Chez Pim. I LOVED this dough. It's so easy to work with, and I actually did notice a difference. I was even asked if I used puff pastry instead of pie dough, that's how flaky it was. Instead of a tart pan, I baked it in a pie dish, and there ended up being a thicker layer of sugary, eggy filling compared to the tart version.

The fourth time, I baked it in a tart pan again and the crust (using the same dough) didn't thoroughly bake, since I forgot to compensate for the pan being on a baking sheet by moving the oven rack down.

Maple Pecan Pie
In this incredibly too close-up picture, you might be able to see the visible layers beginning to form. Had it been thoroughly cooked, like the edges of the crust in the first picture, this crust would have been perfect.

But the filling was good. What I especially like is that it isn't too sweet given the fact that it has three different types of sweetener (brown sugar, maple syrup, dark corn syrup). It's all balanced here.

The recipe itself is incredibly consistent, and I didn't have a problem with the filling not setting after cooling. Being able to neatly slice a pie or tart is as important to me as the taste, so if a neat slice isn't possible, I feel like I missed the mark.

Maple Pecan Pie
I'm glad I finally got this pie up here. A little early for the upcoming holidays (it's really almost that time again, isn't it? Sigh...), though better early than late. For that, thanks goes out to people who prefer birthday pies over birthday cakes.

And I hope to see you around here soon.

09 May 2014

Reebok Skyscape Review

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for Reebok. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating. #sponsored #skyscrape
Reebok Skyscape review
Hey guys! I had this great opportunity to test out some new shoes you may have heard about (Miranda Kerr commercial, anyone?), the Reebok Skyscape. It was perfect timing, since I had been looking for casual shoes that are comfortable and was going out of town to play spectator at a marathon Alex ran. That meant I would be on my feet for around three hours. I was intrigued by the selling points of the shoe:

Reebok Skyscape is considered to be an everyday shoe perfect for active and casual occasions, featuring 360 degrees of foam comfort packed into a stylish silhouette that can be paired with a variety of outfits.

The Skyscape upper is crafted using the same manufacturing techniques and processes as molded foam bras, but with materials optimized for the stresses and strains placed on the feet. The material is a seamless, 2-way stretch to comfortably envelop the foot, while allowing for natural foot movement and breathability. The sole resembles cloud-like pillows for cushioning, comfort, and flexibility. The Skyscape comes in a broad range of colors.

It definitely sounds like a great shoe! Of course, I'm ever the skeptic, and nothing compares to user experience.

Reebok Skyscape review
I ordered my shoes, size 9, from Kohl's (currently on sale for $60!) and eagerly waited for them to arrive. Upon opening the box, I was a blown away by how pink they were, even though I knew based on pictures that these shoes would be bright. To me, the color isn't obnoxious, though, and it adds a burst of color to my otherwise monotone wardrobe. Another selling point of these shoes is that they can be easily washed in the washing machine, so I'm not too concerned about stains. In fact, because I'm me, I got a stain on them, which I just scrubbed out with soap and a washcloth. At some point, I'll try washing them and see what happens.

Weighing in at just five ounces, these shoes are very lightweight, making them easy to pack or just to walk around in all day. Being so light, I wondered if it would really provide enough support to back up their claims.

Immediately after slipping them on, I was blown away by the cushioning. I was making dinner at the time and didn't want to take them off. Unfortunately, I can no longer wear them as house slippers since I've worn them outside, so perhaps I need to channel my inner Mr. Rogers and buy a pair for indoor use.

Reebok Skyscape review
I haven't really had the opportunity to style them with any fun outfits yet, but the bright pink did give my spectating outfit a little more pop.

Reebok Skyscape review
Pretty basic outfit.

I didn't wear any socks, yet I didn't notice my feet becoming sweaty or stinky at all. There was minimal discomfort with the tongue of the shoe sliding to the side and rubbing the top of my foot, but after adjusting it was fine. As for the shoe itself, it fit really well, and very glove-like. After walking and being on my feet for a couple hours, my feet and legs did not feel nearly as sore the next day compared to when I wore other shoes that were not as cushioned. I'm also pleased to report that these did not scrape the back of my heel.

From a purely vanity point of view, I am happy with how these look for a casual sneaker. Because I absolutely do not wear athletic sneakers with jeans, I tend to stick with flats, loafers, or casual sneakers that don't look clunky. I'm very happy with how these look with jeans.

So, if you're in the market for a similar style of shoe, go and try these on, at the very least.

(I also shared a review on Kohls.com)

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Chronicling my adventures from the kitchen to the road, and back again.

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