Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Queen, King, Ace of Cakes

Jake's cousin Nick is a pretty nice guy. He has hung out with us a lot, and we're going to miss him when he moves to Colorado. However, that's not exactly the reason I decided to make a four layer fondant cake...it was mostly for selfish reasons. It's weird because I will swear up and down that I DON'T want to be a baker, and yet the only things I ever make at home (or have any desire to make) are items in the baking and pastry field. I have always wanted to decorate a cake with fondant. Not because I think it would be tasty or fun, but because I want to learn.

I confided in my friend/coworker Renee about my plans for the cake. I have never worked with fondant before, and didn't exactly want to have an epic fail the day of the hootenanny (chock full of hoot just a lil' bit of nanny) so she decided to come over and give me a hand. This all began at 7am, mind you. We spent some time at Hannaford's getting groceries so that we wouldn't have any need to leave the apartment. In addition to regular cake ingredients, I purchased what I would need to make my fondant from scratch.

We baked off two 10" round pans of homemade yellow cake. After cooling and cutting both in half (horizontally) we slathered the inside with strawberry frosting...Not just any strawberry frosting! Frosting made with the Renee's mom's homemade strawberry jelly. After that we did a quick crumb coat with regular buttercream and began to make the fondant as the cake chilled.

The fondant was pretty easy to make. It's literally 1c. shortening 1c. corn syrup 2# powdered sugar. I threw it in the kitchen aid for about 3 minutes with a dough hook, and it was done! We rolled it all out, and draped it over the cake. FAIL. The humidity caused the fondant to sweat and pull apart, in addition to leaving ugly-ass lines all over the cake.

However, because we are badass, Renee and I made fondant shapes to go around the outside of the cake to cover up the messes! I made ocean with waves, mountains, and a bear while she worked on coloring the fondant and making trees and grass.

After we molded everything to the cake (Renee had to leave), I made a rough outline of the country on the top of the cake with a little road map leading from Maine to Colorado. Originally it was supposed to mark the map with a lobster and a snowboard, but the snowboard looked more like an evil olive monster/ flute. Therefore I settled with making a Colorado-shaped state and writing "CO" on it.

I know this entry is all so interesting, but I'm sure you're thinking, "Just show me the damn pictures already!!!1!!!1!1" Okay, fine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Podcast Terror

So here's my beef. Jake and I spent quite a bit of money in the prospects of beginning a podcast. We got a capture-card to get gameplay for reviews, purchased a Flip HD, recorded a buuunch of stuff and keep. hitting. rock. walls. It's pretty outrageous.

Our first podcast was with Jason Bosch, and all in all it was pretty good. Avid wouldn't edit the file, so we worked tirelessly with Windows Movie Maker to scrounge up a semi-adequate episode. That took about 5 days. SCORE! We're finished! Ohh no, no, no.

1. Vimeo won't let you upload videos with gameplay (We played L4D)
2. Youtube only allows up to 10min videos (ours was 20 min)
3. Megavideo is just a bitch and won't show our video (it's been 2 weeks and it's still not up)

It is then that we bought a Flip HD because we figured that as long as we didn't include gameplay in the longer episodes, we could post them to vimeo and if we want to post gameplay just do it on youtube. We got a full 2nd episode done aaaand couldn't edit it. Nothing we have will edit HD. What? Are you kidding? The Flip came with a program but it's literally MORE basic than WMM was...you can't even have credits more than 5 lines long. We saved all the video, but still have no way of posting it yet.

THEN there was Warped Tour. An overall effed-up series of events that somehow transferred into a practically flawless (compared to the previous episodes) podcast. By flawless I merely mean that there was not a lot that needed to be cut out or altered; we merely had to put all the pieces together. Which was great, because that's literally ALL the Flip program does. So I spent the evening editing, saving, and being genuinely excited. And it's 2.13gb. Not just 2...2.13. So now, we are on a search for a compression program to make it so our (so far) ONLY successfull episode can be uploaded.

Some might say "take the hint..it's not meant to be" but that's what they said about flying and electricity. And now we've got light bulbs IN airplanes...so suck it. Just kidding, that was uncalled for, but if anyone is willing to help out and knows of a good video compression program for PC (Vista). At this juncture it's more important than finding a new editing program, but suggestions for those would also be appreciated.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Coffee Ice Cream Conundrum

It's happened. Failure.

Yesterday I decided that it was time to expand my ice cream to bigger batches, and to start giving out free samples to local Maine Twitter folk, friends, and family in order to get feedback on my products. I chose coffee ice cream as my public debut, which was probably the stupidest idea I ever could have had. My friend Renee had given me a recipe for an amazing coffee ice cream that she had made at work, and I was pretty excited to make my own version of her masterpiece.

I started off with a daring 1 1/2 quarts of half and half. As I waited for it to simmer, I whipped 18 egg yolks in a bowl with 2 1/2 c. sugar. Using Jake's French press, I brewed two cups of dark roast coffee. After tempering my cream into the yolks, I added the coffee and gave it a taste. Huh. Pretty much tasted like heavily sweetened coffee. No problem...must not be enough. I brewed two more cups. Flavor stayed the same.

"Oh crap," I thought to myself as my stomach churned. I nervously called Renee..."So uh...when you told me to add coffee to the milk...did you uhh...did you mean brewed coffee?" (insert me squinting and crossing my fingers, hoping against hope she'd say "yes.") "No, I meant coffee grounds." Poop. This meant that I now had a quart of water in my ice cream base, which would cause a major tear in the chemistry of the final product. Would it spin properly? Would it freeze alright? I knew the answers were both "no" but how could I possibly justify throwing away one gallon of liquid? I tried adding coffee grounds to the base for more flavor, making the mistake of not putting them in cheesecloth or another helpful steeping assistant. I then tried to cook the base in a double boiler to allow the water to evaporate. Fail. Fail. Fail. AND! On top of that, the base separated in my ice cream maker, making it evident that I had no chance at redemption.

So in the future...never put water in your ice cream. Never add coffee grounds if you have no way to strain them out. And never, EVER, make bulk batches of something you've never made before.

Class dismissed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Smoothies with Jason Bosch

Jason Bosch of Floboski Films will be guest blogging for Byte Size each week (hopefully!) to bring you Sunday Smoothies! A tasty way to keep healthy and NOT hungry :) You can follow Jason on Twitter.

Today's smoothie is something new that I just recently tried. Its an apple-banana smoothie, and its pretty great. I made this one at work for everyone and it was a success. Here is what you will need:

-1/4 c. Apple Juice//~30 Calories (optional)
-1/2 Banana//~40 Calories
-1 Apple//~55 Calories
-1 tbsp Honey//~64 Calories
-Vanilla Danon Yogurt//60 Calories
Total Calories = ~219

I would suggest starting off with the apple juice to give it some more zing. Although I didn't use any in mine, it was still great. You don't need to do much to make this one! Peel the banana, and peel & cut the apples. Add to the juice, and blend. Toss in the yogurt and honey and blend until smooth. Boom, done.

Give it a try and make sure you leave a comment to let us know what you think or if you have any suggestions for us to try. We would love to know what you think!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thursday Tea is back...just delayed..

Last week, I made a promise to Jupiter Sinclair that we would review Dead Until Dark for Thursday Tea. I even set my mind to remind her...which I did....a few days later. Oops. But here I am, fashionably late.

Thursday Tea was a little thing brought to you by BirdBrain(ed) Book Blog and my inspiration was drawn from Jupiter Sinclair. Here is the schpeal:

Tell us what tea you are drinking (and if you like it). And then tell us what book are you reading (and if you like it). Finally, tell us if they go together.

While I have been experimenting with the sciences of ice cream, Jake has been doing research about tea. As I previously posted, we are huge fans of Homegrown Tea on Congress St. in Portland ME, and Sarah has kind of inspired Jake to look at herbs, spices, and plants in a more beneficial manner. A few months ago, I purchased some rose hips. I had thought about making my own tea, but never got around to doing so. Combined with some peppermint and gunpowder green tea that we bought yesterday, Jake attempted to make his own tea creation.

After steeping it for 3 minutes we realized that those two things probably didn't go best together. Along with having no real significant flavor, it was pretty much summed up with the word "bitter." But every aspiring mad-scientist has to start somewhere, and once in awhile they are allowed some less than perfect experiments.

Being an enormous Buffy fan, I was excited about the prospects of True Blood. I had heard that it used a lot of the same mythology that Joss Whedon follows, and well...Anna Paquin. Need I say more? I jumped into the pilot with excitement...and soon felt as if someone pulled my chair out from under me. It felt like a joke. I couldn't stand it. The acting was not believable to me, and felt WAY overdone. I have watched all of season 2 so far, and my biggest gripe is that they spend 45 min whining and crying, and only the last 5 minutes of the show are awesome. It feels like HBO is under the impression that if they show Anna Paquins rack at least three times an episode, the acting doesn't really matter.

When Jake and I went to NY Comic Con in February, our waitress at Jekyl & Hyde's could not stop raving about the Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mystery Series by Charlaine Harris; the novels behind True Blood. Luckily, my amazing roommate has the first book so I began reading it a few weeks ago. I feel like if HBO can't make it the show I want it to be, I can at least still learn the story the way it was meant to be told, because I love the concept...just loathe the televised follow-through. Although I'm only on page 26, I enjoy it a lot. I'm hoping to get some more reading done on the drive down to Warped Tour next Monday.

How do the two go together? Well...the tea and the TV show were both things that were good in theory but somehow managed to not be so great. Let's hope the book doesn't have the same result.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Little Big Planet of Grape Sorbet

Grape Sorbet With Melon and Ginger on Foodista
Not so firm grape sorbet 07/17/09

Tuesday night I felt the serious urge to be productive. Not the same sense of productivity that I bombard myself with everyday, but to productively chill out. I decided to start with making some grape sorbet. In my never-ending quest to manipulate ice creams, I decided to substitute water with grape juice, and (again) use agave nectar in place of simple syrup and trimoline.

I started off by cooking down 2 1/2 pounds of red grapes in 1 cup of white grape juice. I let it cook until the grapes were very mushy, and the contents of the pot were mostly just juices. I then strained the grapes from the juice and let it chill in the refrigerator.

While my grapesplosion was cooling, I loaded up Little Big Planet in the PS3. I have played a couple of times with Jake, but never played through the game by myself. I started at the very beginning, and really enjoyed how they turned the tutorial into an actual part of the game. I feel like it's a new-age Mario where collecting all the stickers and stuff is important, but doesn't necessarily impact the outcome. In that same respect, I enjoy how you play through the level and follow a map. One thing that continues to frustrate me is moving through the different planes. Would you call them planes? You can move closer and further from the screen, making it possible to access different aspects of the level and find different items. I just have trouble switching to and from particular planes for some reason. I think it would be fun to play some of the online levels again, but overall I really like playing through the game, itself. I think that with a lot of newer games, people focus so much on the online/multiplayer aspects that they forget that there is a good game to begin with.

After completing three levels, I added 1 teaspoon of red wine and 1/2 cup agave nectar. After spinning and freezing it overnight, it still wasn't firm enough. I think that I added too much sugar, so in the future I'm going to reduce the agave to 1/4 cup instead. Or maybe I'll just add some water to balance it. I have yet to decide, but I still have plenty of time to continue my experiments :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Migis Lodge

I met with my boss yesterday in attempt to show him how seriously I take my job. I have been busting my butt tweeting for @blackpointinn (even if I haven't been doing as well as the professionals) and wanted to show him the patterns I have followed as well as the results of said patterns. I brought graphs from TwitterGrader, Trendrr, and TwitStats...all prepared to talk business. Until I heard "What are our goals for using Twitter?" Huh? Goals? What? Crap. I've never been too good at those. I know what I want to achieve, but putting it in writing has always been a bit on the difficult side for me, but I NEED to put myself to it. We came up with a few, talked a bit more business, before my BEST BOSS EVER said, "Want to go to Migis Lodge for a night?" Umm..WHAT?! I said "sure," knowing that I would have to scamper back to the parking lot and figure out what to do with the recently-ill puppy while Jake and I took this once in a blue moon offer.

We made a few calls and set everything up to have Zoey cared for, and were on our way. I left an extensive note (which was probably overwritten), portioned out the food we have to start giving her, left careful instructions, took her for a long walk around the neighborhood, and said goodbye. Jake and I had to stop at Goodwill to get him a sport coat, as it is required when dining at Migis. We found a verrryyy sharp looking suit for $5, stopped at Walgreens for some makeup, and by 5:00pm we were pulling into the parking lot.

Everyone was SO nice. They knew who I was as soon as I stepped up to the counter...it blew my mind. In fact, the entire stay we never had to introduce ourselves as everyone already knew who we were. Our cottage was "Canoe" and Dear. Lord. It was gorgeous. We walked in to see the enooormous living room with a fireplace, walls of book shelves (with books ON them), a leather chair, couch, mini-fridge, desk, the works. The fireplace even had everything all set, so all we had to do was light a match and we were good to go!

Dinner was exceptional. We got all dressed up, Jake in his $5 suit, and me in my grandmother's dress. She had it when she was my age, and it fits me SO perfectly that it's almost eerie.


Icy Cranberry Shrub
Honestly, I have never heard of a "shrub" like this before! I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to eat it...spoon? sip it? IDK! I finally chose to sip it, and used a spoon once I reached the bottom. It tasted incredible. It was like cranberry heaven. Coulda been the sorbet-ish scoop of goodness floating in the delectable juicey awesomeness that won my heart <3>

Stuffed Clam
I don't like clam, but I liked what I had of these. Jake's complaint was that they weren't clammy enough, but I thought that was fine :P

(I didn't get to take pictures of this course because we scarfed it down so fast)

Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo
Ehh...I've never had real gumbo before, so I am always so skeptical of it. Overall, I thought it was good soup. Nuff said.

This was this first time Jake or I had ever had gazpacho. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but he LOVED it. I don't think I have ever seen him so happy about a meal. Unfortunately, someone came by and cleared our dishes as he was eating, and he didn't get to finish. Talk about a super-pout.

Mixed Green Salad with House Dressing
It was okay that I was "eh" about this salad because it wasn't mine. It was very basic and I didn't think the dressing had much flavor, but Jake thought it was awesome and that's all that mattered.

Boston Bibb Lettuce with Lemon-Dijon Dressing
OMG. I loved this salad. It was bibb lettuce with tomatos, apples, pecans, and a sweet, delicious dressing. Goodness, I'm practically drooling.


Roasted Lamb with Asparagus
The lamb had a mint pan-sauce which complimented well with whatever they did to the onions the lamb was served with. I have no idea what they did to them, but it was fantastic. The meat itself was well-done...not well as in good, but well as in temperature. To some, this would be an abomination, but I thought it was fine. While I much prefer the flavor of a medium lamb, I don't like to spend 1/2 hr chewing my food, so well was fine and dandy. The asparagus was tasty as well, though I paid little attention to the rice it was served with.

Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables
Upon first sight, I thought maybe they got Jake's order wrong. There was a mound of grilled vegetables on top of his plate, and it was about 10 minutes before he finally reached the pasta, itself. I thought the vegetables and sauce were great, but I had a bit of an issue with the dish. It wasn't ravioli...it was tortelini. Yeah, okay, stuffed pasta is stuffed pasta, but if something is advertised as ravioli, I expect that to be on the plate. Or at least to have been informed that the pasta had run out, and would tortelini be okay instead? That's just my needy griping, though. Maybe it wouldn't have bothered other people.


Profiteroles with Chocolate Mint Ice Cream
While Jake wouldn't allow me to order the chocolate mint ice cream for myself (allergy) he was nice enough to share his with me :) Good thing, because chocolate mint is probably my favoritest flavor in the history of EVER. It was heart-stopping, fantastically amazing ice cream. Just sayin'

Cherry Chip, Yellow Brick Road, and Coffee Ice Creams
I won't lie, I got the cherry chip just to see how it compared to mine. While theirs wasn't as cherry-licious as mine, they did get it right by putting chunks of cherries in the ice cream...something I failed to do. Notes for next time ;). Yellow Brick Road was vanilla ice cream with caramel swirl and it was hella tasty, and the coffee went very well with the other two believe it or not. It was the bottom scoop so I got to it last, but I thought it was great.

Although it was very tasty (despite the absolute allergy attack I had later due to an OD of chocolate in said dessert) it was not what I expected as a Tiramisu. I'd say they took a little creative license, which is much appreciated with a classic dessert. We had to bring it back to the cottage with us for later because we were wayyyy too stuffed to eat it when we ordered it.

It was so great being able to start a fire and sit in silence. Pure silence. I didn't remember that silence like that existed. There are usually always airplanes, barking, crying, yelling, whining, even just water running or pans sizzling. But this was just 100% silence. It was fantastic.

Not only did we get dinner, but we had breakfast as well! They had an a la carte menu as well as a buffet. I ordered the Eggs Benedict (obviously...I'll eat just about anything with Hollandaise
slathered on it) and mooched off the buffet as well. We got a tour of the kitchen, and were almost coerced into staying for lunch...but adult responsibility took over and we realized we should probably forego the lobster sandwiches for quality puppy time instead.

Would I recommend this place? For sure. Did I love dressing up all pretty-like? Definitely. Would I trade my puppy for another night there? Probably not.

Ice Cream Social?

Kelly's homemade plum port sorbet: 07/09/09

I was incredibly excited to see that Savor the Thyme was co-hosting an "Ice Cream Social" with Tangled Noodle and ScottySnacks in celebration of National Ice Cream Month. What better time is there to show off a discovery!? Plus, being incredibly in love with ice cream doesn't hurt my enthusiasm any ;)

As a wannabe-mad-scientist, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen trying to concoct the perfect ice creams and sorbets. I take basic recipes, taste them, and take notes about what I would want to be different. Afterward, I go through my books to figure out what alters the chemistry of these tasty treats. I brainstorm how I might be able to use this information to manipulate the original recipe, and try again. Most have come out pretty decent, but it wasn't until I conducted my "plum experiment" that I created a frozen explosion. I had decided to make plum ice cream and plum sorbet as a test of which product would taste better. Although the "winner" of the experiment (sorbet) was not all that surprising, the level to which it surpassed it's creamy competitor was astounding.

In the beginning of my experiment, I wasn't sure how plum skins might taste so I cooked them separately from the rest of the fruit. I knew I would at least use some of them (for color), but wanted to be sure that they wouldn't provide any flavor or textural issues. In fact it was quite the opposite. Aside from giving the sorbet a gorgeous deep red color, the skins provided it with a much more intense and delicious flavor. In addition, the port wine not only complimented the plum very well, it also gave the sorbet a wonderful texture.

I'm really proud of how this recipe turned out.

3.75# ripe plums- pit removed
1 c. water
1/3 c. raw sugar
10 T agave nectar
3 T port wine

To see how to make this sorbet step-by-step view the video below. It can also be found on Youtube.

Dramatic Spoonful from Kelly Arsenault on Vimeo.

To some it may seem like a very basic recipe that could be found in any book, but I approached this specific experiment with no recipe at all. I feel that, going in blind, this was a tremendous success in my overall development as a mad scientist.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

FAVA Byte #1

Food And Videogame Adventurists bring you a Byte Size review of the movie Slither starring Elizabeth Banks and Nathan Fillion.

Synopsis: A small town is taken over by an alien plague, turning residents into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters.
Fifth thing we forgot Nathan Fillion starred in was Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Umm..HELLO. AWESOME.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Smoothies with Jason Bosch

Jason Bosch of Floboski Films will be guest blogging for Byte Size each week (hopefully!) to bring you Sunday Smoothies! A tasty way to keep healthy and NOT hungry :) You can follow Jason on Twitter.

So for today's recipe I decided to go with an Apple-Kiwi Smoothie. We all know that this equals a delicious combination, so I won't brag about how awesome its going to be.

This is what you will need.

- 1 small green apple [~53 Calories]
- 1 kiwifruit [~46 Calories]
- Half a cup of strawberries [~25 Calories]
- 1 Strawberry Dannon yogurt [60 Calories]
- 1/3 cup apple juice [40 Calories]

Total Calories - 224

In order to make this smoothie you will need to peel and cut the apples and kiwis into chunks. Take the tops off the strawberries and slice them. Throw the fruit into a blender with the remaining ingredients. Mix, and...shaboom...you have an apple-kiwi smoothie.

You can change this recipe any way you want, as well. I use the Dannon yogurt that comes in a 6 pack. They are small and contain only 60 calories, which is perfect. By mixing these three fruits together, it gives you a great energy boost, so its great for early mornings.

Just as a side note, this recipe can easily be broken up into two servings, so divide those calories in half and let a friend in on the secret...if its even a secret.

If video games were IRL.

I'd use a Katamari to clean my house. Sure, I'd have to buy all new furniture, but I would just rob banks and be able to get away with it, so I could pay for it no-problem-o. I would have level five shock so if my car dies, I can just give it a quick jump...also if someone pisses me off I can just threaten to turn them into human jerky. Then make a witty joke about how they already are because they're already a "jerk." Get it? In turn, my personality stats would go up, and I would be more popular...until I have to steal something again and then my morality would slowly creep closer to evil. I would probably grow horns or something. Nahh, I am pretty 50/50 when it comes to picking either good or evil, so I probably wouldn't have any outstanding features.

I would wear the most sensible clothes because I care more about efficiency than style. My dog could locate treasure for me which I would pawn off to the villagers (similar to a yard sale, I suppose). Since I'd have sweet knife skills, I would be able to cut carrots more uniform. No one likes a shitty julienne! If I get hurt, I could just drink some potion and be good as new. I'd never get ill, and my only real addiction would be to plasmids.

But alas, I'm just an ordinary girl.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Would you rather spend $54 or $230?

So apparently 2k announced that they are releasing an epic crap-ton of PC games on Steam in one super pack for $54. My first thought was "Okay, sure, but they're all probably stupid ones no one wants," umm..WRONG. All I had to see was Bioshock and I caught a case of the gimme-gimmes. Check out the list of games on here:

Sid Meier's Civilization IV
Sid Meier's Civilization III Complete
Sid Meier's Pirates!
Shattered Union
CivCity: Rome
Civilization IV: Warlords
Sid Meier's Railroads!
Railroad Tycoon 3
Railroad Tycoon II Platinum
X-COM: Terror From the Deep
X-COM: Apocalypse
X-COM: Interceptor
X-COM: UFO Defense
X-COM: Enforcer
Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword
Freedom Force
Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization

Sure, aside from Bioshock I really have no interest, but that's not the point. Getting each of these games individually would cost you SO much more. I think it's destiny, since I have been wanting to play Bioshock again and have never played a PC game before...it's sure to be a new experience that I'll enjoy :)