How I Made Floofy White Icing For A Happy Freaking Birthday

Ok first off, here’s the recipe for a standard three layer cake:

8 Cups Confectioners Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Shortening
4 Tablespoons Softened Unsalted Butter
1 Teaspoon Salt
2/3 Cup Milk (I use 2% usually)
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract

Add the milk a little at a time for consistency to the other ingredients in a large mixer and mix well.

Here’s what I ended up doing –

First I ALWAYS mix the icing until it gets a lot of air into it.  It will actually get a sheen like a metallic paint.  Gives a lot more volume that way and it never fails.

Second make sure your butter is soft.  Room temp is best.

Third make sure you have all your ingredients before you start.  

Why did I say that?

We just got a pantry cabinet from Ikea.  Put the thing together.  I didn’t know that the top part of the cabinet was the new, official home for the mixer parts.  It took me 15 minutes of checking the “Logical Places” for the parts like under the sink or under the oven where they had been for years.  Of course I did watch as they got moved to the cabinet, I really did… it just didn’t register that I would ever really find a need for the blasted things again!  Out of sight out of mind!  Cue swearing while I actually find the mixer parts.

I added the 8 cups of confectioner’s sugar to the mixer.  That’s 2 pounds of sugar!  No wonder why people save a sugar coated frosted cake for a special occasion!

Add all the ingredients save the milk to the mixer.

Go to the refrigerator and realize that I had saved only a wee bit of the stuff for today.  Oops.  It turned out that I had a little more than an ounce of milk in the bottom of the container – 1/6 of a cup or 1/4 of what I needed.  

Cue some more swearing.

Realizing that I had about a pint of whipping cream in the refrigerator, I grabbed the carton gave it a sniff.  Ahhh! Still fresh! Since Heavy Whipping Cream is really just thick milk, that 2/3 cup milk ended up being a substitute.  1/6 cup milk, 1/6 cup water, 2/6 cup heavy whipping cream for a total of 2/3 cup of “milk”.

All swearing aside, it turned out amazingly light and fluffy.  I would even call it Floofy.  You can add cocoa powder to get chocolate icing, but that can be tricky and you may have to add more milk to get the icing back to it’s floofy best.  I’ve got those two containers full of icing that will go on the birthday cake once I get that made.

Since the milk just got delivered by a surprise visit from Kevin at lunch I really have to get started.  I’ve got three layers to bake, little circles of wax paper to cut and baking fun for this afternoon!

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Happy Birthday Kevin

How would you like to have a dinner outside in a tropical garden next to a waterfall?

Would you mind if the waterfall was a “prefab” and from a fountain? 

You probably shouldn’t mind since the place is absolutely gorgeous and lush and unlike anywhere else I have ever been before.

This weekend we celebrated Kevin’s Birthday.  It was another trip to Mai Kai, which is a Polynesian restaurant near me over in Fort Lauderdale.  It’s about 3 miles from the house and a world away.  They have their shows, and I have never seen them except by passing through the building on my way in or out.  Being as tall as I am, the building’s decor which can best be described as below decks meets Polynesian kitsch, I walk through ducking my head through the beauty of the indoor waterfalls and out to the Lanai. 

The Lanai is open to the elements with a bamboo railing and palm frond accented roof.  The view we get is the one you see in this picture, and luckily for us they seem to seat us at the same table each time we go.  Coincidence of our habit of liking an early dinner and getting in just as they open.

I had the barbecued pork tenderloin that was cooked in the Chinese Oven.  It’s a method that seems to be as if you have skewered your main course on a metal pike then hung it in a chimney.   The pork comes out amazingly tender, unlike anywhere else that I have ever had.

Have a “Barrel of Rum” to drink with, but don’t drive home.  It actually lasted me through the meal and well into the evening after we had dessert of Chocolate Mousse Cake.

Redundant, yes I know,  someone with the long time nickname of Moose having a Mousse cake and so forth.  It was excellent and absolutely worth the calories.

Thank you Kevin for allowing me to share your uninterrupted company at the restaurant.  I truly enjoyed it.

One more week to the 20th Anniversary.  Wow!  I had better start baking!

$5.37 – Humor

Lately Velma has been sharing quite a few jokes, some I can use here, others I pass along to selected friends.   You know, keeping it safe for work and all that.  I do have to wonder what my dear friend is trying to tell me though with all these old fogie jokes?  I’ll have to get my reading glasses out and see what she is saying here. 

$5.37

Age gracefully it’s the only acceptable way out…….. 
Can any of you identify with this?  CERTAINLY NOT ME ….
If you have seen it before, it is still good for a chuckle.

Stuff like this can happen to anyone with a few years on their bones.

$5.37! That’s what the kid behind the counter at Taco Bell said to me. I dug into my pocket and pulled out some lint and two dimes and something that used to be a Jolly Rancher. Having already handed the kid a  five-spot, I started to head back out to the truck to grab some change  when the kid with the Elmo hairdo said the hardest thing anyone has ever  said to me. He said, “It’s OK. I’ll just give you the senior citizen discount.”

I turned to see who he was talking to and then heard the sound of change hitting the counter in front of me. “Only $4.68” he said cheerfully.  I stood there stupefied. I am 56, not even 60 yet? A mere child! Senior citizen? I took my burrito and walked out to the truck wondering what was wrong with Elmo. Was he blind? As I sat in the truck, my blood began to boil. Old? Me?

I’ll show him, I thought. I opened the door and headed back inside. I strode to the counter, and there he was waiting with a smile.  Before I could say a word, he held up something and jingled it in front of me, like I could be that easily distracted! What am I now? A toddler?

“Dude! Can’t get too far without your car keys, eh?” I stared with utter disdain at the keys. I  began to rationalize in my mind!   “Leaving keys behind hardly makes a man elderly! It could happen to anyone!”  I turned and headed back to the truck. I slipped the key into the ignition, but it wouldn’t turn. What now? I checked my keys  and tried another. Still nothing.  That’s when I noticed the purple beads hanging from my rear view mirror. I had no purple beads hanging from my rear view mirror.

Then, a few other objects came into focus: The car seat in the back seat. Happy Meal toys spread all over the floorboard. A partially eaten doughnut on the dashboard.  Faster than you can say ginkgo biloba, I flew out of the alien vehicle.

Moments later I was speeding out of the parking lot, relieved to finally be leaving this nightmarish stop in my  life. That is when I felt it, deep in the bowels of my stomach: hunger! My stomach growled and churned, and I reached to grab my burrito, only it was nowhere to be found.  I swung the truck around, gathered my courage,  and strode back into the restaurant one final time. There Elmo stood, draped in youth and black nail polish. All I could think was, “What is the world coming to?”

All I could say was, “Did I leave my food and drink in here”? At this point I was ready to ask a Boy Scout to help me back to my vehicle, and then go straight home and apply for Social Security benefits.  Elmo had no clue. I  walked back out to the truck, and suddenly a young lad came up and tugged  on my jeans to get my attention. He was holding up a drink and a bag. His mother explained, “I think you left this in my truck by mistake.”

I took the food and drink from the little boy and sheepishly apologized.  He offered these kind words:  “It’s OK. My grandfather does stuff like this all the time.”  All of this is to explain how I got a ticket doing 85 in a 40 mph zone. Yessss, I was racing some punk kid in a Toyota Prius. And no, I told the officer, I’m not too old to be driving this fast.

As I walked in the front door, my wife met me halfway down the hall. I handed her a bag of cold food and a $300 speeding ticket. I promptly sat in my rocking chair and covered up my legs with a blankey.  The good news was I had successfully found my way home.

Pass this on to the other “old fogies” on your list (so they can have fun laughing, too).

Five Minute Management Course – Humor

Velma came through for us today with some management humor.  Yeah, you know those dry and sometimes humorless people with offices that have doors and usually a window?   Well here’s how they tend to view the world.  

Or so they say…

5 Minute Management Course

Lesson 1:

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings.

The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.

When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor.

Before she says a word, Bob says, ‘I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel.’

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.

The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.

When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, ‘Who was that?’

‘It was Bob the next door neighbor,’ she replies.

‘Great,’ the husband says, ‘did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?’

Moral of the story:

If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2:

A priest offered a Nun a lift.

She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg.

The priest nearly had an accident.

After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.

The nun said, ‘Father, remember Psalm 129?’

The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.
The nun once again said, ‘Father, remember Psalm 129?’

The priest apologized ‘Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.’

Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.

On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, ‘Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.’

Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson 3:

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.

They rub it and a Genie comes out.
The Genie says, ‘I’ll give each of you just one wish.’
‘Me first! Me first!’ says the admin clerk. ‘I want to be in the  Bahamas  , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.’
Puff! She’s gone.

‘Me next! Me next!’ says the sales rep. ‘I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.’

Puff! He’s gone.

‘OK, you’re up,’ the Genie says to the manager.
The manager says, ‘I want those two back in the office after lunch..’

Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say..

Lesson 4

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.

A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, ‘Can I also sit like you and do nothing?’
The eagle answered: ‘Sure, why not.’

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

Lesson 5

A turkey was chatting with a bull.

‘I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree’ sighed the turkey, ‘but I haven’t got the energy.’
‘Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?’ replied the bull.
They’re packed with nutrients.’

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree.

He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral of the story:
Bull S___ might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there..

Lesson 6

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field.

While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was.

The dung was actually thawing him out!

He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.
A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.

Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Morals of the story:
(1) Not everyone who messes on you is your enemy.

(2) Not everyone who gets you out of mess is your friend.

(3) And when you’re in deep mess, it’s best to keep your mouth shut!

THUS ENDS THE FIVE MINUTE MANAGEMENT COURSE

Co-evolution and the Coffee Roaster

I’ve been roasting at home for around 2 years, probably longer.  I didn’t realize that I was in a loop when I was doing it.

What I mean is that like any “process”, your results will be fine tuned by the equipment that you use to make the “product”.

How’s that for a lot of hooey?

Ok, it’s complex but the idea is that what you use to do something is as important as is how you do it.

I’ve skated 21,000 miles on inline skates.  Easily 10,000 of them were done on a very low end pair of skates.  One of my friends on the team said, you’ve got great form but those things are holding you back – pointing at my skate boots.  The next time I had a little extra money I treated myself to a new set of skates complete with shiny racing frame and five wheels instead of the four that are usually on a pair of skates.   My speed increased by about 10 percent.  I had tuned myself to skate with the old skates with the wobbly wheels and the breaks that would stop you on a dime.

Eventually I adjusted to the new race skates and tried the old wobblies back and realized I had moved on.

With the coffee, I have a popcorn popper that I trained myself how to get the perfect results that I wanted.   Perfect for me that is.  You may think it’s too light or too dark, and I know how to get just those results too.  Since I’m roasting for myself, I’m going for the results I like.  Medium to light roast, lots of flavor, low acid and low bitterness.   Plug in the popcorn popper, the fabled “Poppery II”, fill with 1/2 cup of green beans and wait 6 minutes before checking.   It’s right almost 99% of the time.  Sometimes I let it go another 15 or 30 seconds depending on how I felt about the last batch.

Today’s results effect tomorrow’s actions.   It’s a “Feedback Loop”.

When Emilio came over earlier this week he had a brand spanking no name air popper.  Casually looking at it after he said “is this the right kind?” and “can it be used?” I said “Sure…” and we set to work.

Two problems showed their ugly heads. 

First the hopper was smaller.   I had poured the beans in there using a measured 1/2 cup and thought no big deal, they don’t expand much.

No they really do expand and by the end of the roast some of the beans were flopping over the end of the bin.

Second, there wasn’t as much air coming through the machinery.  The fan was “weaker”.  What that meant is that the beans that were in there were not spinning around.  They needed to be shook around until they had evaporated some of the water. 

Roasting is a process of caramelization and deyhdration so the beans got lighter.   If you doubt me, next time you roast a chicken, weigh it once you’re done and you’ll see that it is lighter.

Yes, it was a usable popper, but we had to adjust the process.  

First step was to cut back the amount of time.  There was the same amount of heat, but it was not moving past the beans so it resulted in a faster roast.

Second, cut back the amount of beans.   That allowed the air to flow freely.  He needed to only use 1/2 of what I was using in my popper, 1/4 cup or 2 ounces of beans.

Third watch the time closely.  Mine takes 6 to 7 minutes to roast beans.   The first batch we did I bailed on at second crack which was at only 5 minutes.  

Second crack is what Starbucks APPARENTLY roasts to get the their distinctive flavor.   It’s too strong FOR ME, and that taste is what gave them the nick name of “Burnt Beans”.  I roast just before that at what has been called a City or a City Plus roast.  

Next batch was much better, the third was where I typically roasted to.  2 ounces at 3 minutes 30 seconds.

Bottom line is introduce change to the means of production, introduce change to the process to get back to the same results. 

It’s just like anything else in life, be open to change, you’ll have a better time with your results – or your coffee.

Why does the Old Dog Bark?

Yesterday I was holding a class of sorts.  Emilio came by and wanted me to show him how to roast coffee and in the middle of all of that he had a call he had to take.

We were out back on the Tiki Bar by the pool so to give him a little privacy I wandered off toward the pool.  It’s January, I’m in Florida, I’m also in Cargo Shorts and a Polo Shirt.  I was curious how warm the water was and whether it was too cold to paddle around in. 

Bending over I picked up the thermometer from the pool and squinted through the faded and fogged up plastic when I heard it.  BarkBarkBark Bark!  With the scrabble of dog paws, my own little girl was charging toward her long time enemy.

Yes the pool thermometer.

You see she’ll leave it alone for the most part when she’s outside watering the lawn.  Open the back door and she’ll come charging out or ambling out – it all depends on whether she thinks something is out there to herd.  This particular day she went through all that drama and was back under the roof by the little tiki bar snuffling around the foundation of the house looking for whatever it was that left it’s scent oh so many months back.

It was an Opossum that got trapped there and paid the ultimate price.   She smells it and checks the spot  months after we had cleaned it up to our own standards and sent the carcass off to the trash to steam plant. 

Dogs live in a different space than we do.  I think that’s why we keep them nearby.

In this case she’s decided that it was time to attack that pool thermometer with the little plastic duck that helps to keep it from sinking to the bottom. 

Why it was a shock was she’s been acting her age.   She’s over 11 years old now, and slowing down.  There have been two episodes of seizures each of which she has come back from in flying colors.   Her hearing is selective.  I tell people that she’s deaf.  It’s just easier.   In fact if I want her attention, I call to her and realize that she’s not ignoring me, she’s just deaf.   Hard of hearing really, but deaf is easier to say.   So very gently flick one or two hairs on her haunches and she realizes her attention is needed.

Approaching the duck she was barking like mad.   Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the Noon Day Sun to bark at pool thermometers.   She wrestled with it, now that I was bobbing it up and down with a flick of a wrist and I had a visit with a younger version of my longtime friend.   The energy was there, the intensity was literally radiating off her with a sheen.

I realized Emilio had been on the phone so I moved to the back of the pool to drop the duck back in and she followed wanting to kill it back into it’s component parts of glass and glycerine, and send the plastic back to it’s origin in the dinosaurs that died back in the big meteorite some 65 million years before.

Sometimes you just let it happen.  Emilio was off the phone at this point and laughing at the spectacle so I let her have her fun for a bit more.  Enjoy a visit with one of the good moments, let her have her place in the sun and bark at a plastic toy like a fool.

It was a good day to be an old dog.

Now about an Egg Roll? No, the other kind! – Recipe

Yes, the other kind.

As in slice down the middle and have a sandwich with a sunshine yellow ball of soft carbohydrate goodness.

I guess I may as well play with my food while I am at it.  I’ve been having problems with finding just the right roll, and I realize that bread is pretty common, but excellent bread is rare.  There are a few very good shops here in South Florida, one on Commercial comes to mind called the German Bread Haus, but that means I’d have to get in the car and so forth. 

Like I said basic and good.

I had trouble finding a decent Egg Bagel at the same time.  Ok, it’s not the Bagel Place in Cherry Hill with their chewy goodness – and I understand it isn’t even what I remember it from 2006 and has been sold, but I have been having Lenders Frozen Egg Bagels until Publix stopped carrying them in the chain at least in this Region.  Whatever you define a region as.

I also wanted a “right sized” bagel – 150 calories plus or minus 10, not the more generous ones you find when you’re out.  Look at the bag on those – 320 calories.  No wonder why people are fat.

So bake them yourself.   I managed to size them correctly and hit right at 150 calories.  

The ingredients are at the bottom but I did manage to tweak the recipe to get them this way.

First, I wanted rolls, not bagels in this case.  No Egg Wash for Shiny Crust.  Personal preference.  If you want a shiny crust, brush them with egg whites.  Separate an egg and brush with pastry brush.  I didn’t really want that this time.  Maybe next time.  We’ll see how the mood is.

Second, I was going for a set size.  Sandwich sized, not a loaf.  I cut the dough into 9 equal parts.  Weigh the resultant dough, then get the calculator out and divide by 9.  Works best when you use Metric since for some weird coincidence these rolls were exactly 78 grams.   The dough ran at 702 grams.  Just easier to do the math that way since that works out to be 2.78 ounces per roll.

I didn’t think so.  Use a calculator it’s easier.

Third I wanted big poofy fluffy rolls.  I added extra Yeast.   USE 2 TABLESPOONS OF DRY YEAST.

Fourth I allowed 4 hours to rise.  Just felt better that way and I tossed them in the oven when they looked happy.  I could have stopped earlier and had denser rolls and they just didn’t seem to be getting bigger at that time.

The Recipe: 

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup Warm Water
1 Package Yeast – I used 2 Tablespoons and got what you see above.
2 Tablespoons plus 1 Teaspoon of Sugar
2 1/2 Cups of High Gluten Flour
1 Tablespoon light tasting Oil.   I used Safflower for heart healthy.
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Egg

Process – Pretty Simple really…

  1. Add ingredients as listed.  
  2. Mix until you get a nice dough.  
  3. Bake at 450 for 8 to 12 or until done like you like them.

I used the Bread Machine to mix the dough but you could just as easily use a mixer with a dough hook or if you’re really feeling like a workout, in a big bowl.   It made for a sticky dough.

Bake at 450 for 8 to 12 minutes.   The picture was the first batch baked at 450F at 11 minutes and my oven is notoriously inaccurate.  The next batch was at 9 minutes, the third was at 8 and I couldn’t tell the difference in the result.  

If your oven is accurate let me know, I’ll come over and use yours.