Making Tiramisu

This week I attempted to make another dish that looks more complicated than it is (see pies 1 and 2). Tiramisu seems deliciously complicated, but it is really made with 6 simple ingredients: mascarpone, eggs, sugar, coffee/espresso, cocoa powder, and lady fingers. (Some recipes also call for rum or marsala, but skipped it this time.)

Tiramisu Ingredients

Tiramisu, which means “pick me up,” was supposedly invented in Italy in 1969. If you haven’t had it, well, then you just haven’t been living. It is a scrumptious creamy dessert, and one of my favorites.

Tiramisu Egg Yolks

This recipe contains a lot of room temperature raw eggs. This, of course, did not stop me from licking my fingers throughout the process. We’ll just call it quality control. First, I mixed 6 egg yolks with 1/4 cup of sugar. This took several minutes to get it thick enough. A consistent complaint I saw while searching for a recipie was that the custard came out too runny. Apparently, the eggs are the culprit. Once it seemed thick enough I added in the mascarpone (basically an Italian cream cheese).

Tiramisu Egg Whites

Some recipes skip egg whites. However, this helps give the custard its thickness. The recipe said to beat 4 egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar until stiff, glossy peaks formed. I had never beaten eggs for a dessert before so I was surprised just how fluffy they got. This took a while to accomplish. Although my recipe didn’t explain this, the egg whites should be at room temperature and the sugar should be added in gradually. I probably should have beaten them longer, but I was concerned about over-beating them and having to start over.

Lady Fingers

Once the eggs, mascarpone, and sugar were combined, it was time to prepare the pastry portion of the dessert. The recipe called for 36-48 lady fingers, but it took 60 for me to do two full layers in my dish.

Tiramisu Lady Fingers

The lady fingers (make sure you get the hard rather than spongy ones) are dipped (very quickly) in coffee or espresso, just long enough to cover them. If you let them soak they will get too soggy.

Tiramisu Lady Finger Layer

Then it was just a matter of building the layers. Two of the coffee-soaked lady fingers and two of the custard.

Tiramisu Layers

I’m really glad I got an extra box of the lady fingers “just in case,” though I was hoping to have extras to snack on. No such luck.

Tiramisu Finished

Finally, it was time to put tiramisu in the refrigerator for 8 hours and try to pretend it wasn’t there.

Tiramisu Unsweatned Chocolate

When it was ready, I added a healthy layer of unsweetened chocolate to  finish it off. I may have gotten a little overzealous with it, but you can’t blame a girl, can you? While I definitely do not have a career ahead of me as a dessert photographer, it was rich, creamy, and delightful.

Homemade Tiramisu

If you want to try this at home, you can find the recipe I used here.

Kickboxing

To kick off my return to blogging I wanted my first post to be about something active. I have been pretty sedentary the past few months and it has made me antsy. To counteract my restlessness, I signed up for my first kickboxing class with Title Boxing Club.

Title Boxing

My friend Lilas (who joined me on my juice cleanse and taught me how to make pumpkin pie) accompanied me so I would not have to go alone. When we got there we were greeted by an adorable white pug named Maui. I firmly believe every business should have a resident dog mascot.

Before we got started, the manager, Kathryn, helped me get ready for class. She wrapped my hands with 15 foot long fabric wraps. The bands hook on your thumbs and go around your hands and between your fingers until the knuckles, hands, and wrists are completely protected. They were surprisingly comfortable, despite looking otherwise. The class started with a 20-minute warm-up, which in itself was a workout. I knew I was going to be sore before I ever hit anything.

Gym

We were taught the basic hits: jab, cross, hook, uppercut, and of course some kicking. Finally being able to unleash on the bag was invigorating. All of the tension I had been feeling slowly lifted with each punch. I was exactly the release I both wanted and needed. The class consisted of 8 “rounds” alternating between hitting and active rests. During the rests all I could think about was that I just wanted to get back to hitting, and with each round I hit harder and became more focused.

I am pretty sure Lilas, who is in a lot better shape than I am, did not break a sweat the entire time. I, however, looked like I’d just run a marathon. I could already feel the muscle soreness kick in on the way home. My legs, shoulders, and core ache (but in a good way) and I am sure the rest of the body will join in shortly.

Boxing Lesson

The class left me with an absolute endorphin high; it was utterly blissful. Despite the pain, I can’t wait to go back for my next lesson. But I suppose I wouldn’t be a litigator if I didn’t like sparring.

Return from Hiatus

It has been a while since my last update. For the past few months I have been preparing for my first trial. It required my full attention and left little time for anything else. Unfortunately, on the list of life priorities, the blog fell below all of the other things I had to do such as occasionally eating and sleeping. (Although, now that I think of it, the trial was possibly the mother of all New Things). Work has slowed down for the time being, so I hope to cram in as many activities as possible before things pick up again. (And yes, we won.)

The absence of New Things in my life made me realize how much I love my adventures and how energizing they are. I realized that not having a hobby is indeed my hobby, and I have missed it quite a bit.

Over the past few months several friends have asked me about my list and have said they have been inspired to make their own for 2015. While looking at other lists can be helpful, examining your own goals is the best place to begin. Your list should of course have fun bucket list items you have always wanted to try, but the most rewarding things are the ones you think you are too afraid to try or think you will not be able to accomplish.

Speaking from my own experience, I can say that taking a flying lesson has been one of the most fulfilling undertakings yet. Saying that I was a nervous flyer is an understatement. While I never had a full mid-air breakdown, I was convinced (despite knowing I was perfectly safe) that the tiniest bit of turbulence was going to send us spiraling towards the Earth. I spent most of my flights holding the armrests for dear life as if I could will the plane to stay in the air. However, the flying lesson, which was terrifying in itself, had a sort of time-release effect on me. I learned a lot about how planes work and could feel how getting close to the clouds affected the movement of the wings. Now, I fly for work fairly regularly and when turbulence hits I just look up from my laptop, look out the window, think “ah, clouds,” and go back to my typing (ok watching TV). I don’t think I would have that peace of mind had I not forced myself to take a lesson.

I hope you all will keep reading despite my hiatus, and stay with me on this journey. Somehow, along the way, the blog has received visits from people in 158 countries. That is astonishing. If anyone out there has been inspired to make his or her own list, please share it with me. I’d love to see it.

Blog World Map 2015

PS: If any of you know one of the 57,000 people who live in Greenland, send them my blog. They take up a lot of space on the map.

Baking a Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

This week’s New Thing is actually an old New Thing that I didn’t have an opportunity to post about before. However, given that we are well into autumn, and Thanksgiving is fast approaching, I thought now would be a good time to share it.

Pumpkin pie is my favorite holiday treat. I can’t get enough of it. (Though oddly enough, I may be the only girl who does not go crazy over all things pumpkin spice.) I casually mentioned to my friend Lilas (who joined me for my juice cleanse a few months ago) that I was curious about how hard it was to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. Lilas, who seems to know all there is to know about everything, responded that it was not hard at all and she had a recipe I could use.

Pumpkin Pie Ingredients

It turns out, other than a pumpkin and condensed milk, I had most of the ingredients in my pantry. The recipe called for sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, ginger, vanilla extract, some salt, eggs, evaporated milk, and of course one pie pumpkin (which, it turns out, you can find in most groceries this time of year).

Pumpkin Carving

Cutting open the pumpkin was not easy. It took quite a bit of sawing and hacking before I was able to split it open. I was convinced I was going to lose a thumb in the process. In fact, I managed to nick my finger. Don’t try this at home, kids. You should use a serrated knife rather than a smooth knife because, ironically, a smooth knife might slip and cut you.

Inside Pumpkin

After a fair bit of work I was finally able to split the pumpkin open. I used an ice cream scoop to remove the seeds to get it ready for steaming. Unfortunately, I forgot to save the seeds, which is a pity because they are delicious when roasted.

Steam Pumpkin

Once the pumpkin was sliced and cleaned, it was time to soften it up. You can do this in the oven, on the stove, or in the microwave. We chose the microwave because it was the fastest method. Even with the quick option, it took 15-30 minutes for it to fully soften.

Pumpkin Pie Crust Ingredients

While the microwave was doing its magic, we started on the pie crusts. You can’t make a homemade pie using store-bought crust.

Making Pumpkin Pie Crust

Instead of making the crust completely from scratch, we cheated a bit and used gingerbread cookies. (This also made for a yummy mid-baking snack.) We threw a box of the cookies in the food processor and crushed them until all that was left was crumbs. This took longer than expected, apparently food processors are not made to crumble cookies.

Gingerbread Crust

All it took was cookie crumbs, a lot of butter, and some eggs.  We formed our crusts and put them in the freezer to harden and help prevent them from burning while baking.

Cooked Pumpkin

Finally, the pumpkin was softened and we were able to scoop the cooked pumpkin from the skin. Lilas said that the pumpkin skin was tasty, so I decided to give it a try. She was right, it was delicious. The great things about making pumpkin pie is that the entire pumpkin is scrumptious.

Pumpkin Puree

We threw the cooked pumpkin into the food processor and pureed it until it was nice and smooth. This is what is affectionately known as “pumpkin glop.”

Pumpkin Pie Filling

We combined the pumpkin glop with the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, vanilla, eggs, and evaporated milk. I expected it to be a thick consistency, since it had to harden up to be a pie, but it was practically liquid. This concerned me, but Lilas said it was normal.

Pumpkin Pies

That one small pumpkin was enough to make 3 pies! I was shocked!

Pumpkin Pies in Oven

The pies took about an hour to bake and made the house smell like heaven. They probably would have cooked faster but I kept obsessively checking on them. The entire process took a while and, like the last time I baked a pie, they had to cool before we could enjoy them.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

The pies turned out even better than I expected. They tasted absolutely perfect! And the great thing about having 3 pies means you can give them away to friends.

In conclusion, if you want a delicious homemade pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving but you don’t want to risk slicing off your own digits, just send an invite my way.

A Camel Safari & A Drive-Through Petting Zoo

After another long hiatus from the blog, a few weekends ago I crossed something off of my list I have wanted to do for a while: going to a drive-through petting zoo and riding a camel. My friend Amy (from belly dancingrock climbing, the aerial fitness class, and several other posts) joined me for the day. The 100-acre Circle G Ranch is just north of Knoxville and is home to 500 animals (30+ different species).

Long Horn Cattle

When we got there they were still saddling up the camels so we took a drive through the park while we waited. We bought a few buckets of food for the animals so we could have an up-close-and-personal experience.

Cow Attack
When we started the trip around the park we leisurely passed some zebras, llamas, and alpacas (yes, like the sweater). I thought it was going to be a pretty uneventful drive. However, upon rounding a corner we came across a herd of longhorns, water buffalo, and highland cows. They were really excited to see us.

Highland Cow

The quadrupeds had little concern for personal space. All they cared about were the pellets of food we had to give out. The highland cow even took one right out of my hand. He had a rather dirty mouth. (You should have heard the things he said!)

Emu Attack

It turns out the highland cow was the least of my concerns. I soon discovered the waking nightmare that is the emu. They are terrifying. They are like small feathered velociraptors with long necks and soulless red eyes.

Emu Attack 2

You couldn’t look away, even for a second, because as soon as you did they would multiply in number. At one point three of them had their heads in the car. One even stole some food right out of Amy’s lap. There may or may not have been a lot of screaming involved.

Ostrich

After the run-in with the emus I was quite glad to see the ostrich behind a fence. It made Big Bird look small in stature. They can grow up to 9 feet tall.

Barbary Sheep

Not all of the animals were terrifying. The barbary sheep were absolutely beautiful, though there were so many of them in the herd they created a bit of a road block. We had to distract them with food to get them out of the way of the car.

Fallow Deer

We also saw several fallow dear. They had gorgeous white cream colored coats with spots on their back; a bit different than the ones you see in your backyard.

Pot Belly Pig

There were of course also some very curious farm animals. This little piggy just had to come say hello. There were dozens of adorable piglets running around too.

White Camel

Is it just me, or does this camel look like Don Knotts?

Camel

After our drive, we saddled up for a ride around the park. This one, above, kept trying to make a meal out of my arm. Apparently I looked tasty.

We took the same path as we did in the car and the entire trip took about an hour. It was a cool fall day, but fortunately we were still bundled up from a football game earlier that morning. Our guide told us all about the animals in the park, where they are from, what they eat, and how they care for them. A few of the animals are even endangered.

Riding a Camel

It was a really relaxing ride. I should note that despite referring to several of the animals as “terrifying” we actually had a great time. They weren’t really that scary … just “curious,” or so I am told.

End of Ride

Apropos of nothing, while it doesn’t really qualify as something new, I wanted to share another image from my safari weekend. 102,455 Tennessee football fans (minus a few Florida fans) got together and made the coolest showing of school pride in the history of sports. We managed to turn Neyland Stadium into a giant checkerboard.

Neyland Checkerboard

We didn’t win the game, but getting to see this in person was still very special and something I will never forget. We should try to do this again sometime, eh?

Eating at a Restaurant Alone

Normally when I do something outside of my comfort zone on this blog it involves jumping out of a plane, walking on fire, or plunging into an ice-cold lake. While this week’s post seems mundane by comparison, it actually made me really uncomfortable to think about it. When I saw an article asking “Are You Ashamed to Eat Out Alone?” I decided it was time to mark this one off of the list.

Yes, I’ve grabbed a quick bite here and there by myself before. I have a favorite lunch spot back home that I sneak off to each time I visit and I’ve spent hundreds (probably thousands) of hours studying alone at coffee shops. But I have never gone to a nice restaurant and enjoyed an entire meal alone.

I set up a few ground rules:

  1. I could not go to a bar, but it was ok to sit at a bar.
  2. No technology. I had to keep my phone in my bag (though taking a photo or two was ok).
  3. I had to go to a nice local restaurant.
  4. I had to order, at the very least, a cocktail I’ve never tired, an entrée, and either an appetizer or a dessert.
  5. I could bring one piece of reading material.

Picking a restaurant was not an easy task. There are new amazing restaurants popping up in Nashville every day. The choices were limitless, but I wanted to find just the right spot. Perhaps I was over thinking it, but since the only thing I was there to enjoy was the atmosphere and food, I had to make sure both were just right. I tried to find a place I hadn’t been to, but nothing was really striking my fancy for this particular experience. I perused lists of the best restaurants in Nashville and City House seemed to pop up every single time. I’d been there before so I knew it had excellent food, a great drink selection, and I could sit at the bar and watch what was going on in the kitchen. It was perfect.

I had to work late, so I got to the restaurant after 9. I asked for a seat at the end of the bar. I settled in and ordered a drink called the Bandit, which was made of Averna, grapefruit juice, Ginger Ale, and a lime. It hit the spot.

Margherita

I ordered a margarita pizza. Usually you can order it with an egg on top, but they were out that night. Heart break! If you have not had an egg on a pizza before then you are not living life to its fullest. I had the perfect seat; I could watch the guys spin the dough and then cook the pizza right in front of me in a beautiful wood-fire oven.

Pizza Oven

To keep me company I brought a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, a book I have not read since middle school. Perhaps it is appropriate that the epigraph states, “Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.” I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure. In fact, other than in-flight magazines, I don’t think I’ve read for fun in over a year. I forgot how nice it is.

Kitchen view

For dessert I had the Honey Vanilla Panna Cotta which had fresh peaches, preserves, prosecco jelly, zabaglione, and buttermilk cornmeal cookies. This was my first time trying panna cotta. It was basically a sweet creamy gelatin dessert with some white wine jelly and fresh peaches. The peaches were sweet and fragrant; they were all I could smell while I was eating the dessert. It was absolute heaven.

Panna Cotta

I really liked eating by myself. I was nice to have some alone time at the end of the day. I particularly liked that being alone meant I got to move at my own pace. If I wanted to read for a few minutes while I contemplated having a 4th slice of pizza I could (and did). Usually I am so busy talking at dinner that I forget to eat and then have to devour the food so I don’t make people wait. This time I could eat as much as I wanted at the pace I wanted, and I enjoyed the dining experience a lot more. I even finished my entire dessert (but I did take home the last 2 slices of pizza).

The Roller Derby

This week I decided to expand my horizons in the world of sports and attend my first roller derby. I’ve heard about the Nashville Rollergirls for a while, but I’ve never had a chance to go see them. I spent most of the time confused about what was happening, even after reading the rules.

The teams each have 5 skaters on the track. The teams are made up of a Jammer, a Pivot, and 3 Blockers. The Jammer wears a star on her helmet and is the skater who scores the points. She does so by passing the other team’s blockers. The Pivot is a blocker who may become the Jammer, and score points, if the Jammer passes on her star. Finally, the Blockers try to stop the Jammer from passing and scoring points.

Roller Derby Block

Really, it just looked like a lot of people running into each other. Each bout consists of a series of 2-minute “jams.” They start out with a lot of shoving until eventually a Jammer breaks free. In this instance, it was Toronto’s Jammer who constantly lapped Nashville’s blockers. There are actually some rules regarding blocking; a skater may block with her shoulders, hips, and rear (yes there was a lot of bootie bumping), but blocking with elbows, hitting in the back, and tripping are illegal.

Roller Derby Jam

Perhaps we didn’t pick our first bout well. The Toronto Brusiers beat the Nashville Brawl Stars 342 to 136. Ouch.

 

I asked my friend Will to come with me. He agreed, as long as I promised to photograph and post his “disappointment at watching women play sports” on the blog. Knowing Will’s sense of humor, and believing him to be a relatively normal human being, I assumed he was joking. Then it occurred to be that a few weeks prior we had to explain to him what Title IX was. The jury is out. However, Will actually loved the roller derby and got pretty invested in the game. In fact, I took another video, but couldn’t post it because of his enthusiastic and expletive laced cheering. So instead, here is a picture of Will lying on the floor pretending to be a cat.

Will Cat