Hello, I'm glad you're here, and hope you enjoy your visit. It has been said that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." This blog is about me, my adventures, silly moments, and keeping in touch with you. Life is exciting and so full of possibilities, so let's enjoy the journey together.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Classic Blonde Moment

 This little unit caused me great distress this week!

 This is a cadence/speed sensor that attaches to your bike.  It tells the “head unit” also known as the computer attached to your bike, how fast you are going and how fast you are pedaling.  Well I purchased a new watch this past January with my award for health and wellness program that I participated in through my employer.

 This sports watch is the “FR 305” and will come in useful when running or doing triathlons. I have been using it for most of January till now. In fact this is the unit that I used to track all my walking when I was without a car last month, and my ice-skating adventures.
 DSC01001My Edge 705, (it's the big black computer) the GPS that I currently have attached to my bike is a little awkward to take running, which is what prompted me to buy the new FR305 watch.  Needless to say having a watch attached to my wrist rather than carrying the 705 is a welcome relief!  (the little computer is the Polar, a great little computer which has served me faithfully for many years, but it's not GPS capable nor does it sing at me when I pedal too slow)

Okay, back to the story:  I have not been able to pair the FR305 with my cadence sensor that I have been using with my Edge 705.    I called tech support and was told that you could only pair one cadence/speed sensor per device.  Frustrated, but having no reason to disbelieve their own tech support peeps, I graciously said thank you and hung up.  But logically it didn't make sense.  I then e-mailed dcrainmaker  this guy writes a blog that I follow who does the most incredible, in depth reviews on this stuff and asked him if there was a different cadence/speed sensor that I should be asking for.  He quickly replied with, “they are either confused, or don’t know what they are talking about, because it can be paired with multiple Garmin units” He then explained what the problem might be along with some simple instructions to get it working.

So I anxiously went about following his directions.  I turned the FR305 on, and was greeted with the message "low battery" and it promptly died.  In my utter frustration, (and obviously not taking the time to think about things logically), I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  So I called Garmin technical support again.  The conversation went something like this:
Tech:  Thank you for calling garmin technical support, how may I help you
Me:     Yah, I have a FR305, purchased less than a month ago from Target, and now it won’t turn on.  It says the battery is dead.
Tech:  So your FR305 is dead.  (this is a statement not a question)
Me:    Yes. (I’m annoyed at this point, I hate it when they repeat the simplest thing just so they can say they listened to me.  Like I'm stupid or something!)
Tech:  so it just won’t hold a charge?
Me:  . . . . . thinking to myself: charge?  Duh, I didn’t charge the dumb thing!  Okay, I’m so glad that you have no clue who I am because I’m feeling pretty stupid right now, no I’m feeling like a pathetic dumb blonde, even though I’m not really blonde at all! well, okay, maybe just for today, right now, at this moment in time.  But thank you for your help, and you have a nice day.  (Now I was simply sounding like a babbling fool and decided I'd better end this quick before it got any worse)
Tech:  Is there anything else that I can help you with today?
Me:    No, I think I will just go and charge my watch now, but thank you anyway.  Click.  I quickly hung up at that point.
I knew that the watch needed to be charged and have charged it several times since it arrived in my mailbox in January!  After the watch was charged, and I determined that it still wasn’t pairing with the speed/cadence sensor, I called tech support again. Thank heavens I got a different person!  Again they were most helpful and determined that I must have a defective cadence/speed sensor.  Since I have had it less than a year, they and are sending me a new one, under warranty.

The defective idea makes perfect sense, because two or three weeks before LOTOJA it started acting funny, I replaced the battery and it appeared to solve the problem, but then the night before the race, (Friday) it went caputs again,  It didn’t work for the entire LOTOJA ride which was kind of sad.  I had my polar unit still attached, but the polar doesn’t sing at me when I pedal too slow.  I missed my 705 that day.

So now, I am anxiously awaiting for the postmaster to deliver my new sensor.  and, Yes, I will make sure the watch is charged first!  This happened a few days ago, and I'm still feeling stupid. . .

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm tired of Bananas and Oranges

                 . . . So let's have some pineapple! 

We had another winter storm blow through yesterday, after teasing us with beautiful weather for the past couple of days.  In fact I even took my bike out on the open road for a few miles, even though it was still a bit chilly out.  Now today,  more snow. . . Pineapple was the perfect pick-me-up!

Selecting a pineapple:    
I have heard many different ways to look for "ripe" pineapple, such as slightly tugging on one of the leaves, which is fine, but what if you are at the grocery store and you are let's say, the 16th customer to test that pineapple? well naturally speaking that leaf is going to be weak and may pop right out, but not because it's ripe, but because it's been abused. Color isn't a solid indicator either.  


 Someone once told me that if you see signs of age in the leaves, or to check for dried/wilted flower at the base, looking for the beginning of mold on the bottom around the flower, these were how to tell if the pineapple was ripe. . . well, not necessarily.  Again, if the pineapple is just old, this is not a very good indicator, but is a tad better than the pulling on the leaf method.

The best way to determine is a pineapple is ripe is to notice the eyes on the pineapple, there is a little poky thing coming out of the center of each eye. . .

they should be uniform in diameter throughout the length (top to bottom) of the pineapple. 

 This simple little gadget is a must have for fresh pineapple lovers!

If one or two pineapples are all you use a year, you may not want to invest in the $15-$20 little gadget, but then again, if making things easy and simple is the name of your game, you may reconsider even for the one pineapple a year.  

First cut off the top and the bottom, so you have a flat solid surface on both ends of the pineapple 

Center your pineapple corer over center of the core, apply pressure in a downward direction and twist the handle until you poke out the other end

Like This

Pressing in on the tabs located on the handle remove it from the pineapple slicer

 Slide the skin off, then slide the pineapple off the tube, next remove the core

to remove the core, use the blunt handle of a fork, knife, spoon whatever kitchen tool you desire, firmly tap on the core to begin sliding it from the inside of the core.  Once it is started then you may just grab onto it and finish pulling it out.

 For round pineapple slices cut on one side of your spiral and the slices come out in a circle.
This little gadget is best to use when you want to have pineapple chunks, If you want circles they will have a cut on one side.  For me slices in my circles is typically not that big of a deal, however, for you it might be.  If you want continuous circles like for BBQ'ing then this old fashioned way is the method you will want to use.  Which is demonstrated at the bottom of this post.

For us, we love pineapple and with this awesome gadget we are more inclined to add pineapple to our shopping list more frequently.  Fresh pineapple is simply better than the canned stuff!

 For chunks, just keep cutting them until they are the size just right for you!

 Yum, Yum, Yum
 This pineapple took about 2 minutes to cut and slice up, and that INCLUDED taking pictures!

The Other Way to Cut a Pineapple: 
In other words; you don't have a fancy cutter. . . 

(The old fashioned way)
cut the top and bottom off, just like if using the pineapple corer/slicer.
Then slice off one side of the pineapple, cutting off the eyes all the way to the flesh.

 Now going around your pineapple, you can see where the eyes end into the outer edge.  Cut just behind them.
 This method isn't quite as fool proof, as you can see that I will need to trim off of couple of eyes that were left behind on the bottom edge, but your pineapple is ready to slice.  if you want chunks, just cut around the core, cutting them how you like them. 
 For slices you will need to remove the tough fiberous core.  To do this use a small biscuit or cookie cutter, and cut the core out of each slice, just like you would cut the hole out of a donut.  
I know, you are probably saying, hey wait a minute, this pineapple ring is sliced!  Very observant of you. . . it is.  See, I forgot to take a picture of this little trick, so I pieced one back together just to be able to show you. . . that's dedication. . .  I hope you appreciate it.  :-)

Either way you cut it, pineapple is good stuff
I'm going to have some pineapple!!!

Bottom Line: What I Think- - -
So, this little gadget has it's place!  It's fast, easy and fairly foolproof. The Limitations are that it's very specific as to what it can do. . . pineapple.  The other thing to watch for is that it only does one thickness size, so if you have a fat pineapple there may be more waste than you would like.  If you have a TALL pineapple, it can be tricky to get your corer all the way through.  Mine is stainless steel, but they also come in plastic, while plastic isn't as durable, it is all one piece making clean up afterward a little easier.  As you can see with this one, the pineapple gets stuck in the joints and it becomes necessary to clean all of that out.  Not to bothersome, but it does need to be done nonetheless.  Overall, I would recommend this if you like pineapple and purchase it more than 3-4 times a year.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Making Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are one of my trademarks. Several years ago a friend was receiving anonymous gifts for the 12 days of Christmas and suspected my family of being responsible. They continued to believe this until day 10 (or somewhere around there), when they received cinnamon rolls. They knew it couldn't have been me because "the rolls weren't good enough". That day I learned, if I want to be anonymous, Cinnamon Rolls cannot be in the equation.. . . so the legacy continues
 Cinnamon rolls are one of my specialties so I thought I would attempt to share the secret of success with you here.  The perfect cinnamon roll is tender, soft, moist and just a little bit sticky. . .

This idea was inspired by my sister.  She was making cinnamon rolls and needed the recipe,  the recipe is important, but the technique and science behind it are what makes them deliciously, irresistibly, successful.

Here we go:  How to make the perfect cinnamon roll:

first, plan on at least 2 1/2 - 3 hours from start to finish for these to be ready.

First we will discuss the yeast.  Yeast is an important component and two mistakes that are most commonly made are first: your water is too hot and second your yeast is bad.  Yeast likes warm water, like baby bottle warm.  or the best method is a thermometer.  Your water should measure between 98° f and no more than 105° f. 

I typically have it at about 103°f and 104°f  yeast is "killed" at 110°f  in other words. . . start over

The first thing to do is "test" your yeast and make sure it is good.  To do this put it in warm water with a Tbsp of sugar.  you are looking for a soft pillowy look, not like the first picture which is grainy and separate. Let it rest for a few minutes.  
After it sits for 5-10 minutes it starts to change forms to look like this (second picture)

and ultimately it will look like this:

just in case you are curious, yes, this the the exact same bowl of yeast 15 minutes later.  If your yeast does not do this, get some new yeast.  Just for the record I use a SAF yeast, it is a high quality yeast and the most consistent.  you may store it in the refrigerator for quite a long time.

Add your yeast to the eggs, melted butter, powdered milk, and sugar, that have been placed in your large mixing bowl.  I personally recommend a Bosch mixer for breads, there isn't a better machine on the market that I'm aware of.  I also have a Kitchen Aid which I use quite a lot for different things, but not for bread.

Begin mixing.  In the beginning you are just mixing in the flour, the dough will appear lumpy and rough in texture.  When you pinch off some dough it's sticky and just hasn't developed that smooth gluten texture that you are ultimately waiting for.  You can see how the dough is still sticking to the bowl and leaving tracks, it's not ready yet.

The dough is still not ready.  I never "measure" my flour, I go by the feel of the dough.  The second error made when making rolls is adding too much flour.  Adding too much flour makes a tough dense roll, giving you something that resembles a hockey puck more than a cinnamon roll.   The problem is, that the line between not enough flour and too much is pretty thin. An extra 1/2 to 3/4 cup extra flour can put it over the edge.

We are getting closer here.  We are looking for a smooth SUPER soft dough.  Hopefully you can tell that the dough is developing a smoothness to it and it is beginning to develop gluten, gluten development, or lack of it is the third biggest error I see when helping people make rolls.   In a Bosch I let it knead/mix for a minimum of 8 minutes, once I begin the mixing process.  Much more than that and you over mix and begin to break down the gluten, which translates:  Rolls that don't rise.

Not enough mixing= rolls that don't rise  Too much mixing = rolls that don't rise.  

in this picture, the dough is still slightly sticking to the mixing bowl, but is developing a smoothness that the previous picture didn't quite have.  The smooth texture of the dough indicates that the gluten is developing nicely.

The gluten test:

The gluten test is pretty simple.  pinch off a small ball of
dough about the size of a grape, or a grape tomato.  Using vegetable oil, rub a little on your hands, like you would lotion, to keep the dough from sticking to you, you will use this same oil to roll and shape your cinnamon rolls too, so just keep out on the table/counter where it is handy.

Okay, now take your little ball of dough and flatten/spread it apart in your fingers.

This dough is not ready yet,  you can see how it breaks apart and is still fairly thick. i.e. the big hole that created itself in the middle.
This new little ball of dough is better, but still not yet.  Keep mixing.

Hopefully you can see this okay,  the newest little ball of dough is almost transparent, you can "almost" see through it before it begins to "tear" or develop a hole.
This is where you want your dough. . . perfect!

(your dough will be super soft and if you don't have oil on your hands, it will stick to you). . .

very annoying!

Put a small amount of vegetable oil on your work surface to keep the dough from sticking.  Traditionally flour is used, and if you have a true butcher block counter/table/work surface, flour works fine, but the desire and the goal is a soft pliable dough, and if you use flour you are adding more stiffness in; using oil prevents that.  If you have too much oil on your surface,  just use a paper towel to wipe off the excess.

Remove your dough from the mixing bowl and create one large ball of dough.  Using a knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough in half.  Cover the half you are not using with a towel and just let it rest to the side until you are ready for it.  

Using a rolling pin, or just recently someone showed me that they use a 2' length of 1 1/2" - 2" diameter PVC pipe, and it worked great!  (MUCH less expensive that the rolling pin I have).  You can see the shiny surface of my table, from the oil spread out.

roll your dough into a rectangular shape so that it is approx. 1/2" thick.  
These are a tiny bit on the thin side, but I'm going to use them anyway.

With the dough rolled out into a rectangle we are now ready to transform the dough into something that everyone will remember. . .  Cinnamon Rolls!

First, soften your butter, DO NOT MELT the butter, but you want it super spreadable soft.

Because the Genius does not like, nor will he eat raisins, we use apples instead.  so chop up your apples into small bite size pieces.  If you prefer raisins, plump them over steaming water first.  They need to be soft to be wonderful in cinnamon rolls.

Now mix your sugars and cinnamon.  
I use a mixture of both white and dark brown sugar, sooooo good!

mix them together until they are well blended

okay, now evenly "slather"  your butter over the dough. 

evenly spread the sugar mixture on top of the butter

sprinkle the apples or raisins on top of the sugar

because everyone I know thinks it's special to get a little chunk of apple (or raisin) in the very center of their cinnamon roll, I take special effort to make sure each roll has an apple in the very center, by lining up a row of apple along the inner edge of my rectangle of dough.

Now you are ready to roll them up! 
Begin by folding the dough over like this.

then just roll, until you have a log like this. 
Notice the seam on the top;  make sure it sticks to the roll.
Wetting your fingertips slightly with water: tap & pinch the dough together to seal it shut

Notice the dental floss?  you are going to use it next.  
(it's important to notice that it is un-flavored)

Take your dental floss and slide it under the log/roll and pull both ends opposite of each other, slicing your dough into approx 1 1/2" - 1 1/4" slices.

you will have something like this.
(when sliding the floss under the roll, always begin from the end that you have not cut yet)

If you want more individual rolls place them on the pan about 1" apart
the ends are usually a little odd shape, put them upside down, so they look more like the rest of their partners.  I prefer to use a silpat mat or parchment paper, but a well greased pan works well too.

Now place them in a warm place to rise.  If your dough is cold, or the room temperature is cold, this will take longer.  If you can find a place that is about 95°-100°f this is perfect.  I often will use the top of the stove and cover them with a towel.  In perfect conditions, you can expect them to be ready for the oven in about 20-30 minutes.  When they almost double in size, you know they are ready. Note that they will not raise in height much, but rather in diameter.  They get their height more while they are in the oven.

they will bake for 20-25 minutes and just barely turn golden brown.  AS SOON as they come out of the oven top them with cream cheese icing.

The icing will melt down inside and makes them . . . . well ~ ~ ~ oh. . .

sooooo. . . . yummy, yummy, yummy!
These are done raising and ready for the oven.
This batch I put in a smaller pan and had them almost touching so they come out more like sticky buns, but there is no edges to worry about getting over cooked.  It's personal preference and each has it's place.  If I am delivering them to the neighbors the individual method works a little better because they are all the same size, and they are easy to put on plates for presentation and delivery.  The "sticky bun" method is good for family when your main concern is just yummy goodness to eat.

The sticky buns have been iced and are ready to "pull apart" and devour with a glass of cold milk.

Now you know all my secrets to Perfect Cinnamon Rolls. . . .
Hopefully you will be excited to try these for your family!
enjoy your treat!

For the recipe that you can print, click on the button above