High School Sweethearts

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Like Matt and I, my friend Noelle and her husband, Justin, met in high school on their school’s swim team. They dated long distance in college and eventually got married a few years after graduating college. She is my #1 go to for relationship advice, complaining about Matt’s incompetence and general life advice.

Today she sent me the following email:

Subject: Reason Justin did not take out the trash

Body of the email: “It didn’t look full”

Attachment:

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This email prompted me to ask her “how did we end up with such idiots?” Her response was spot on. “We locked them in early and attributed their ridiculousness to adolescence.”

Sometimes marrying your high school sweet heart isn’t so romantic. Just ask us! Don’t worry Noelle, at least we have each other. And blogs to publicly shame our husbands.

Valentine’s Day Cake

I will pretty much celebrate any holiday if it means I get to bake. Pair that with access to a photographer and I will bake a million things! So, in continuation with the blog post from the past couple days, I am going to continue with another Valentine’s Day treat.

I turned to my trusty cook book, BakeWise by the wonderful Shirley O. Corriher. I love this book because, not only does it have incredible recipes, but the explanations on why you want to do something a certain way and tips on how to actually do them, are  unmatched. So, I wouldn’t be doing the cookbook justice if I didn’t strong encourage you to get a copy for yourselves. The recipe that I used for the cake was the magnificent moist golden cake – it is a moist and sweet cake that was easily sliced into three layers.

I had much more success with this cake, as compared to my last; however, it was still far from seamless. After baking for 40 minutes, I open the over door so that I could insert a toothpick into the cake to see if it was done. Unfortunately, when I opened the door, the middle of the cake dropped. I saw it happening and quickly shut the door and continued cooking the cake for another 5 or so minutes. I seemed to limit the damage, but there was a slight sink hole in the middle of my cake and when I sliced it open, you could see that the middle was slightly undercooked. So while I’ve progressed and aren’t overflowing my cake pans anymore, it seems as though I still a bit of practicing left to do before I achieve perfection!

Up next was my favorite part – frosting and decorating. I decided to make Shirley’s Crusting Confectioners’ Sugar Buttercream because I was intrigued by the smoothing technique she described that called for using a Viva paper towel (I know, now you are probably intrigued too!)

Crusting Confectioner’s Sugar Buttercream

Make about 4 cups (*I made a half recipe and had plenty to frost a three layer cake)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Crisco or other shortening with emulsifiers
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons clean vanilla flavoring (if you can’t find this, regular works – just know your icing won’t be bright white)
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 tablespoons water
plain white Viva paper towels

  1. With the paddle attachment of a mixer, whip the butter until soft, and then whip in the shortening. Beat in the extract and flavoring on low-speed.
  2. Sift the sugar through a large strainer with medium mesh just to remove any lumps. Beat the sugar and the meringue powder into the fat mixture on the lowest speed. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  3. Stir the salt into the water to dissolve and mix it into the icing thoroughly on low-speed only.
  4. Adjust consistency to a spreadable icing with a little more water or confectioners’ sugar. Do not over mix or mix on high-speed.
  5. For a very smooth cake, similar to a cake draped with rolled fondant, let the icing dry just until a dry Viva paper towel touched to the side does not stick, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the humidity. To create an absolutely smooth surface, use a plain white Viva paper towel  and start with the sides. Place the towel against the side and smooth up and down gently with your fingers or palm. Do not allow the towel to pleat or fold. If desired, smooth a contour edge and smooth the top.

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I decided to add chocolate piping around the top and bottom (similar to the design that I did on my last cake). I then finished it off with some shaved milk chocolate on the top – with a hearth silhouette for Valentine’s Day.

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I was happy with the way it turned out but as I said earlier, I still have  a long ways to go before I can compete on Cupcake Wars or start can claim to be the next Cake Boss :) Unfortunately, for my co-workers, that means a lot more cake tasting!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope yours is filled with love and baked goods.

Valentine’s Day Cookies – Part 2

Yesterday I posted about the cookie part of the Valentine’s Day sugar cookies that I made. However, everyone knows the best part of any good sugar cookies is the frosting.

Some places will use royal icing for their frosting and pipe it onto the cookie. While this definitely allows for a clean and professional look, they don’t taste that great. For these cookies, we use a frosting that has a much better flavor, but has to be spread onto the cookie and has a more rustic feel.

Sugar Cookie Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup margarine (Imperial or Blue Bonnet) *cut up if cold
1/4 cup half-n-half

  1. Pull all of the ingredients in the mixer
  2. After blending, whip on high for 5 minutes
  3. Add food coloring if desired (*I prefer gel food coloring)

I would like the thank my friend Kristin Boyd for coming over to photograph this baking session. Kristin is a trader by day, amature photographer by night. She is currently taking a photography class that focuses on environmental photography. For her homework each week, she is asked to photograph people in their natural environments. So when I asked her to come over and take pictures of me in my kitchen for this blog, it was a win-win for both of us! I hope you enjoy the pictures.

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What do you think? Could I be the next Food Network Star? Or maybe just a really good Room Mom.

Valentine’s Day Cookies – Part 1

Sugar cookies are my favorite. They taste good, they are pretty to look at and they are a Brethauer family staple. We first learned the recipe when my family took a trip out West and visited my pen pal (who was the daughter of my father’s medical school roommate) and her mother made them in the shape of starts. Since that point, we’ve often referred to them as “star cookies” regardless of the shape we chose to make.

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to make some heart-shaped “star cookies.” I often make these in 2 (sometimes 3) steps.

First you have to make the dough. then refrigerate it for at least an hour before rolling out. And I tend to wait a day before frosting the cookies. That way, you can ensure that they are 100% cooled and you don’t get too tired!

Rolled Sugar Cookies (AKA Star Cookies)

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (softened)
3 Tablespoons half-n-half
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use vanilla bean paste)
1 egg
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Combine dry ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter until flurry. Add half-n-half, vanilla and egg. Mix well.
  3. Add dry ingredients in two parts. Blend.
  4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour.
  5. Roll dough onto well floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. (*Don’t roll the dough too thin, unless you want crispy cookies!)
  6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes.

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Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on frosting!

What love language do you speak?

I have a secret to confess.

I am currently reading a self-help book. There, I said it.

While I haven’t gone full-on Bridget Jones, I’m definitely moving in that direction. But it is ok, I was a psychology major in school. This is just continuing my education, right?

The book that I am reading is called The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. Now before you start making assumptions about my marriage, let me tell you, it is fine. It is better than fine, it is great. Matt and I are coming up on our first year of marriage next month and the 11th year of our relationship next week. I am amazed by how exciting and new our relationship still feels. And I am truly amazed by how I am constantly reminded why we fell in love 11 years ago.

That being said, I am a big believer in the saying “never stop learning.” I think it is important to apply this to all aspects of your life: never stop learning at your job, never stop learning about yourself, and never stop learning in your relationship. And even though Matt and I have been together for more than a decade, I’m the first to admit that we still have a lot to learn about each other.

The Five Love Languages highlights the importance of being able to express love to your spouse (wow, that word makes me feel old) in a way that your spouse can understand. He calls this type of communicating using the five love languages. The five languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality of Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. You can take a quiz to determine what language of love you prefer, here.

Now, I’ve only reach the chapters on Words of Affirmation and Quality of Time, but I am really enjoying the book. It is definitely bringing me back to college and the days when I spend my days in classes like Personality Psychology, The Psychology of Romantic Relationships and The Science of Happiness. Also, I am learning more about myself and the type of love language that I “speak”. I am starting to realize that I speak to Matt in the way that I want to be spoken to, not the way that is best for him. But enough about me, this isn’t a therapy session…

If you are a quality of time person, the book suggests, making a list of all of the activities that you enjoy doing with your spouse. I can definitely see myself in this “language style” so I thought it would be fun to create this list.

Unfortunately, after reading it over, it made me realize how big a nerd I am and how addicted to TV I have become.

A Few of My Favorite Things to Do with Matt

1. Go on long bike rides (however, this is becoming less and less fun as Matt gets more and more in shape and I can’t keep up)

2. Watch House Hunters on HGTV and predict which house they will go with.

3. HBO & ice cream on Sunday nights

4. Receive a note in the mail at work from Matt

5. Hold hands

6. Go to brunch in Brooklyn

7. Do arts & crafts together (this essentially never happens, but the few times it did, I loved it)

8. Watch New Girl and talk about our shared crush on Jess

9. Cook/Bake (particularly when Matt helps me as the sous chef)

and of course 10. Drink Bloodies with our 3rd wheel at Daddy-Os.

So feel free to judge me for reading a self-help book and for actually doing one of the “activities” that it suggested. Just remember, when Matt and I are old, wrinkly and still happily married, I am going to laugh in your face.

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Nothing Says Love Like Homemade Meatballs and a Teddy Bear

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Matt and I have a tradition where we go out to breakfast to celebrate before work. For some reason (I think that reason being that I am fighting off a cold) I wasn’t really feeling into that idea this year. So we decided to forgo the breakfast and didn’t plan anything special.

When I got home after work I received a phone call from Matt informing me that he was on his way home and was going to make a Valentine’s dinner. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

He came home with grocery bags in each arm and a box of chocolates from Jacques Torres, one of the best chocolate stores in NYC. He also carried up a package that his father had sent me. It was a Vermont Teddy Bear and the world’s cutest note:

“Thank you for marrying him. Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, Dad #2”

I immediately understood where Matt got his “moves.” Thanks Dad #2!

I sat on the couch as Matt chopped, measured and stirred. I saw a box of spaghetti but couldn’t figure out what else was going on in the kitchen…

I was impressed when Matt brought over a plate of spaghetti and homemade meatballs. I was blown away when he insisted that he would do all of the dishes and clean up the kitchen.

This morning as we were getting ready for work I was telling Matt just how impressed I was with his Valentine’s Day surprise. His response, “I bet you wish it was Valentine’s every day and I cooked and cleaned all the time.”

Umm, yeah. Like it is for you?

Extra, Extra! Read All About It!

Sometimes Matt will send me interesting articles that he finds online that he thinks I might enjoy or find useful. Sometimes they highlight one of the Robin Hood board members, while other times they talk about the changing policies on tax deductions on charitable gifts. Sometimes they are about giraffes and other times they are about Notre Dame football.

However, last night, I received one of my favorites yet.

 
I love when people live relatively small lives and leave a large mark for doing just that. It’s the little things that matter.
 

 

Matt, I can’t wait to experience all of the little things with you. Let’s leave a mark together.