Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Haunted Walk!

The beautiful salt marsh I posted about last week was the scene of the annual Halloween Haunted Walk, and I thought I'd take you all along .... that is if you dare!

We were greeted at the gate by a ghoulish character, and were assembled into a group to begin our escorted tour.....

We see the group ahead of us walking gingerly onto the path as moans and screams can be heard coming from beyond the bushes ...... what lies ahead? We cower in terror!

Go back ...... go back.....whisper the trees! Those that enter are seen nevermore.....

.......go back, they cry, but we bravely continue on......

What's this? The grim reaper stretching this poor soul upon the rack! Go back she screams.....go back!

Too late, we can no longer turn around, for the witches have put their spell on us as they stir their dark cauldron's brew.

They offer treats of licorice but we refuse them .... there must be a reason for their offer ..... could it be an evil potion?

..........and then we see that is not only the licorice that has made the rats fat!

Ghouls and goblins follow us, and deeper into the marsh we go.....

..........where every turn makes us howl....

.... every bend in the road makes us scream.....

as frightening ghosts and goblins abound......

.......and mummies, vampires, henchmen, ghouls..... they all were there to haunt us!

This mad scientist displayed her macabre experiment gone awry.

With every twist and turn of the path there was something waiting to make us tremble.

Oh no! Someone from another group that did not make it.....
She was laid to rest as ghostly ghastly as Edgar Allen Poe's Annabel Lee.
"This is the punishment for not doing homework!" said the man throwing the electrocution switch, as the children watching trembled.

Even wild and scary animals were jumping out of the reeds....

....and this friendly scarecrow managed to scare me the most as it jumped out and grabbed me! BOO!!!

The vampires across the road could not contain their giggles after seeing me frightened and hearing me scream.

Finally, we exit the marsh and the headless horseman asks if we would like to jump on for a ride?
But we decline, as this hot rod hearse looks like a faster way to make our escape .....

...and enable us to tell the tale of surviving the haunted walk for another year!


I was boo-ed by Mrs B ..... thank you Mrs B!
And now it's my turn to do the Boo-ing! I would like anyone that has not been "boo-ed" as yet to take this picture and pass it on -- the rules are below.
The Blogging Boo works like this ... Go to as many friends as you want and tell them they've been "Boo-ed". Have them link back to your blog to pick up their Halloween Treat (the cute picture) and tell them to "Boo" their friends. Then, put the picture in your side bar so everyone knows that you've already been "Boo-ed" and to send the pic to someone else.

Ready, set, BOO!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October Daring Baker - Pizza & Toppings

The October Daring Baker Challenge, hosted by Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums, was to make pizza dough and at least two separate toppings, using the recipe for the dough from the "The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Breadby Peter Reinhart.

I made a large rectangle pizza, using two portions of the dough, and made one half Neapolitan style using tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella slices, fresh basil and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and the other half was a more savory concoction of sliced, pre cooked breaded chicken cutlet, steamed broccoli rab, sun dried tomatoes, slices of goat cheese, and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Rosa also challenged us to post a photo of ourselves using the traditional tossing of the pizza dough in the air to help stretch it out to fit the pan, just as a pizza chef does. That obviously takes practice, as it was not an easy task to perform, and it was equally hard for my husband to be able to time snapping the photo to capture it!

I had to do some serious cropping to spare you all the vision of myself with my mouth wide open in a mix of glee and horror as I tossed the dough up towards my ceiling, but here it is:

This is the pizza before it was baked:

Some close ups of the completed baked pizza:

The dough was light and crisp, and my mother, husband and I enjoyed both halves for dinner one evening.


Ingredients: 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled

1 3/4 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Instant yeast -

1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)

1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)

1 Tb sugar

Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.

The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan. (I only have one large rectangle baking stone, so I combined two portions of the dough as my base and made two different sauce/toppings halves to fulfill the assignment)

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly pan.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.


I have to admit that I rarely make my own pizza, as where I live, Brooklyn, New York, is renown for having some of the best pizzerias in the world! One is "Di Fara's Pizzeria", which you can read about in this Epicurious blog post, and I took everyone along to two other famous Brooklyn pizzerias in a blog post when I went on the Slice Of Brooklyn Pizza Tour last April.

With a wealth of exquisite pizzas like these available nearby why would I have to make my own? But, I have to admit, this was a fun assignment and I thank Rosa for the delicious challenge!

If you would like to see wonderful versions of pizzas on other Daring Bakers web sites today, check the Daring Bakers blogroll!

There is also an open forum for general baking discussions here, but you have to be a member of Daring Bakers in order to register to log in for each month's challenge and discussions regarding it. If you think you are up to taking the monthly challenge instructions are on this blog as to how to join! Don't delay, as there is only a 24 hour time limit to join every month for the next month's challenge!

There is even an "Alternative Daring Baking group for gluten-free, lactose intolerant, allergy, vegetarians, vegans and bakers who use alternate ingredients due to other health concerns or life styles."

I hope to see you all doing the November Daring Baker Challenge!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Baby Shower Story

Once upon a time there was a centerpiece cake made out of diapers and baby items, and favors for each guest....

.......... and fun balloon decorations......

.........and a table full of many wonderful presents .......

........and another table full of delicious food ...........

.........and cupcakes for dessert!

Many friends, coworkers, and family members came over to spend the afternoon.... honor this very excited young couple.....

....who had begun preparations for a very happy nursery to welcome their baby boy to be........

...............and their story will continue when the BIG DAY arrives........maybe late November or early December............... and this grandma to be will make the joyous announcement all around blog land ......... and a new chapter for a precious new life will begin!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Mornings

This is where you'll find me almost every morning. I walk with some friends along this one mile circular path in a local park, usually going three times around in total.

We chat, we laugh, and lately we've been having friendly arguments about politics. We talk about our families and our pets, and our ups and our downs. Sometimes we bring samples of something we've cooked for everyone to bring home, and we exchange recipes, books, coupons, surprise gifts.

It's a wonderful way to start the day, and we leave the park feeling refreshed and invigorated.

Across the street from this park is one of Brooklyn's largest parks, with a total of 530 acres of grassland and salt marsh!

I was amused by how each wooden piling in the creek had a seagull resting on top!

These pilings are what remains of an old mill that once was located here in Gerritson Creek that dated back to the early 1700's when the tides coming in and out would turn the millstone. Unfortunately the mill was lost in a fire in the 1930's.

This salt marsh is a birdwatchers paradise. Ducks, geese, cormorants, sandpipers, herons, egrets, red-winged blackbirds, and marsh hawks are just a few of the birds that can be seen here. I saw a heron this morning on the shore, amongst the ducks and seagulls, looking for his breakfast!

This bridge crosses an area where the tides flow into the marsh grass......

.............. and leads to this mile long path cut through the grasses and reeds. It is a beautiful, quiet and peaceful place....another beautiful place to walk on a beautiful morning.

Although peek fall color has not arrived in New York City as yet, I found one tree in the marsh that had some autumnal gold splashed amongst its leaves......

...and this scarlet red vine that seemed to be as invasive as ivy, creeping and climbing up many of the shrubs and trees. Does anyone have any idea what it is? (click on photo to enlarge)

Tomorrow morning I will be flying here:

Do you recognize this airport?

It is Denver International Airport. The roof line of the main terminal is supposed to mimic the nearby Rocky Mountains.

I'm flying with a whole suitcase filled with things like these:

Yes, you guessed it!
There is a baby shower being held this weekend for my daughter-in-law, hosted by her Mom and sister!

My husband and I already sent our gift ahead, but I couldn't resist shopping for some outfits for our little grandson to be.

And I have a couple of fun things, too, to reflect upon some of his Daddy's heritage:

I'm so excited to see my son and daughter-in-law!

I'll be back Monday -- see you then!