Saturday, August 05, 2006

Marion County Fair

Although I have only recently learned to make pie, I decided to enter a pie in the Marion County Fair Merchant's Contest. I read about the Merchant's Contests in the newspaper, and after a little encouragement from Ken, I thought I was up to the challenge of entering an apple pie and chocolate chip cookies. So, last Thursday, among regular work responsibilities, plus the reopening of the Japanese border to U.S. beef, I managed to bake a pie and a batch of cookies. I took the cookies to the newspaper office, then came back for the pie. To get it there by the deadline, I had to take it out of the oven a few minutes early and "speed-cool" it in the refrigerator. I was so worried it was underdone! On Friday afternoon, I had a message from the newspaper office . .my cookies received third place, out of 15 entries! I heard nothing about the pie . . . all weekend I worried about the pie. I thought something was wrong with it and I second guessed my decision to enter the pie in the contest.

On Monday morning, I was getting ready to leave for a meeting at work, when Ken came home from running errands. He had a huge smile on his face and a blue ribbon in his hand, on top of my pie plate. I thought he was kidding and demanded to know where he got the blue ribbon from! He wasn't kidding - my pie won first place in the apple pie contest! I am so excited!

The pie recipe is posted on my July 9 entry. The cookie recipe follows (adapted from Cook's Illustrated):

2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled until barely warm
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg (large)
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in bowl; set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate cookie dough for at least 30 minutes (or up to two days).

3. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of dough and form into a ball. Place dough onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets (spray with non-stick cooking spray if you don't have parchment paper), 2 inches apart.

4. Bake 15-18 minutes or until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to set and centers will be still soft and puffy. Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

Amanda's Baby Shower

Last Sunday, Amanda, Dawn and I hosted a baby shower for our friend Amanda H. She is due in September and doesn't know whether she's having a boy or girl. Since blue and pink were out, we decided on a green and orange theme for the shower. Some of our inspiration came from InStyle magazine. The baby shower menu consisted of:

Veggie tray with dips
Mini grilled-cheese sandwiches
Hamburger bites (meatballs with pineapple and orange bell pepper)
Melon (honeydew and cantalope) wrapped in prosciutto
Make your own ice cream sandwiches with shortbread cookies and lime and orange sherbet
Orange Dream drink (virgin for Amanda H., add orange and vanilla vodka for the rest of us!)

For the mini grilled cheese sandwiches, we used cocktail bread (found in the deli, cracker, or bread section of the store) and cut slices of Swiss, Cheddar, and Muenster cheese to fit in the mini-slices of bread. We buttered the outside slices of bread and baked them on a baking stone at 350 degrees until the bread was golden and the cheese had melted.

Amanda D. made the melon and prosciutto by simply wrapping thin slices of prosciutto around pre-cut melon.

Dawn made the burger bites; I'll try to get the recipe and post it here.

The orange dream drink is equal parts orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream, with a handfull of ice and one shot each of orange vodka and vanilla vodka. Mix in blender until all ice is crushed; serve immediately.

This was the first baby shower we have hosted, and we all agree - the orange and green theme and menu made it easy and fun!