Not All Cereals are Created Equal

I have fond memories of eating bowls and bowls of sugary cereal as a kid.  My mom would always buy us healthy cereals most of the time.  However, on our birthday we would get to pick a birthday cereal.  This is when I would enjoy the wonders of Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, Honey Combs and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  There is something special about Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  It leaves your milk so absolutely cinnamon-sugary wonderful that drinking the milk from the bowl is just about as good as eating the cereal!  Anyway, with food prices going up, up and away I have been trying to buy more store brands.  Ben and I were at HEB a few weeks ago and I picked up a box of the generic brand Cinnamon Toast Crunch called Cinni-Mini Crunch.  As I place the box in the cart, Ben says “No, you can’t buy that.  It doesn’t taste the same.”  With a sigh and an eye roll I get the regular and more expensive Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  I’m at HEB a few days ago and I decide that I’m going to buy the Cinni-Mini Crunch despite Ben’s warning.  I ate a bowl of it yesterday morning and…Ben was right!  It looked the same and smelled the same, but upon the first square of cereal entering my mouth I could tell that it was not the General Mills cereal known as Curiously Cinnamon in the UK.  So, my husband was right and generic CTC is just not as tasty as the real thing.  Lesson learned.

Cooking and Controversy

I attended a cooking class last night at Central Market in Austin.  Rebecca Rather, who I have blogged about before, taught the class.  On the menu: cold cucumber soup, bread salad with summer vegetables, frosted sugar cookies, molten chocolate cakes, and ginger peach upside down cake.  I’m not going to go into detail about the class.  The food was tasty, especially the bread salad and peach cake.  My reason for writing is to address an issue I started contemplating on my drive back to Waco last night.  Cooks, chefs, cooking teachers and cooking entertainers…who is more worthy?  More important?  More talented?  During the class last night, someone mentionned a show on the Food Network and referred to the host as a chef, to which Chef Rather replied, “Well, those people aren’t really chefs.” as she stirred another unknown and unexplained ingredient into the recipe I was suppossed to be “learning” to make.  I have been to other classes at Central Market where the chef teaching the class really explained what she was doing, why it was important to cream butter and sugar thoroughly, how to tell how well meat was cooked just by poking it, and how to avoid common cooking problems.  The class was entertaining and I ate great food.  None of those teachers, however, owned 5 star restaurants, had their own cooking show, and had also written numerous award winning cookbooks.  Can anyone be an incredible chef, teacher, entertainer, and business owner all at the same time?  Emeril Lagasse entertains and has a celebrity personality.  I wonder about his cooking abilities at times.  Rebecca Rather has two successful businesses and has written great cookbooks…but she was not the best teacher.  Christopher Kimball can explain in great detail how to make the perfect poundcake, but I would not want to watch him on tv.  Anthony Bordain wrote an entertaining article about the Food Network.  I agree with some of the ranting, but also think that not all people in the business of food can or should be judged on the same criteria.  Ok, so Rachel Ray is annoying and none of her recipes seem too amazing or inventive to me…but she’s incredibly popular, she’s easy to relate to and she’s doing quite well for herself I imagine.  Part of me says “What a shame it is that people like that are making tons of money making mediocre food while well trained chefs at small, increbibly delicious and wonderfully innovative restaurants go unnoticed by the majority of the population.”  Maybe that’s how it SHOULD be.  Maybe fame would ruin those chefs and their restaurants.  If those chefs decided to write a cook book and create a line of their food to sell at HEB maybe they would be spreading themselves too thin and the restaurant would no longer be a success.  Do I think that the Food Network people are the best chefs out there?  No.  Do I think they should be burned at the stake for making recipes using store bought foods?  No.  This brings me to the battle between Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star.  These shows are completely different.  You can’t even really compare them.  Top Chef looks for a true CHEF who can really cook.  They don’t have to be funny, witty, clever or good looking.  Food Network Star is all about personality and presentation…and their food must be edible.  In conclusion, people are different, people have different talents and that’s just how it is.  Is it fair for people with less cooking talent to make more money than those CIA trained chefs?  As I tell my fifth graders…life is not fair.  That is my two cents.

Nutter Butters

I found this recipe from who got it from a New York Times article about Bouchon Bakery.  I also found reference to these copy-cat Nutter Butters on a site I just found called which reviews New York City desserts.  Anyway, I like the Nabisco version, so I thought it would be fun to try this recipe.  The cookies are easy to make and very yummy even without the peanut butter filling.  They are salty and sweet and have great texture.  The humidity in Texas was not kind to the cookies after a few days in the tupperware.  They lost a little crunch but still taste great.  Be sure to place the cookies far enough apart or they will join forces and become a giant monster cookie than must be consumed by its maker 🙂  These cookies don’t taste exactly like a real Nutter Butter…and that’s ok by me.  They taste more homemade, and that’s a good thing.


Cookie Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped peanuts (omitted and used crunchy peanut butter)
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats

Cookie Filling:
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar plus a tiny bit more if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare Dough:
In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and peanut butter. Add sugars and beat at medium speed for 3-4 minutes, scraping down bowl twice.

At low speed, add egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until well mixed, frequently scraping down bowl. Add peanuts (if using) and oats, and mix well. Using an ice cream scoop 2 inches in diameter or an extremely heaping tablespoon, place balls of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets at least three inches apart.

Bake until cookies have spread and turned very light golden brown, about 10-14 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool and firm up, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before filling.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until very smooth.

Spread a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) on underside of a cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat.

Makes 12 large cookies (I ended up with about 18 cookies)

Rate My Place!

I have recently begun spending most of my tv watching hours on HGTV.  House Hunters,  Open House and Hidden Potential are my favorites.  Anyway, this new interest resulted in a google search to find some design website and I came across Architect Studio 3D.  Its from the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.  You get to choose a client, a location, floorplan, building materials and everything else to make your very own home!  Wall coverings, flooring and furniture are limited.  I also have had some trouble getting things to hang on the walls and making the wall color look right.  Despite my troubles, I had a great time designing my own little home on this site.  Another cool thing is that I can share it with you!  Go to then go to Design Studio, Enter Design Studio and then enter my code: VYYUCNUR  After you check it out you can rate my place…keep in mind that I am not an architect!

Adventures in Waitressing

I am really liking my job! It has been fun working in an environment that is so much different than the classroom. I do feel a little out of place with all the young kids…but the boyfriend and girlfriend gossip is entertaining at least. I’ve earned quite a bit in tips, but every shift is unpredictable. Some days lunches are really busy and I’ll get $40 in tips. The same night will be completely dead and I’ll end up with 3 tables the entire evening and $16 in tips. I worked in the bar the last two nights, so my clothes and hair smell like smoke and beer when I get home. I’m meeting the “regulars” in the bar which is fun. It’s more laid back and there aren’t as many kiddos. The downside is that people tend to stay in the bar past close, so the bartender and I are the last people to leave in the evening. I also encounter more interesting people in the bar. Last night for example 3 women came in about 10 minutes before we close. They looked like they’d spent the day at the lake, and I’m pretty sure that they’d been drinking all day already. So I was not thrilled when she ordered a margarita and complained that I was new. She voiced her opinion that I wouldn’t be nice like her regular waiter and get her free liquor. Sorry, lady! So they order their nachos, I get them some water and bus some of the other tables in the bar. Suddenly she comes up behind me and drops the chip bowl on a table next to where I’m cleaning, “We need more chips, hon.” and then goes back to her seat. I know chips are important and I also hate staring into a empty bowl of chips, but her bowl was not empty. In fact, the impact of the chip bowl on the table caused whole chips, not just crumbs, to fly into the air and then onto the floor. So, I just smile and get more chips for the sweet, sweet woman. I bring their nachos upstairs and fill up waters, chips (again) and salsa. They ask for a to-go box and some salsa to go. Here’s the problem, we close at 9:30…it’s 9:55. They’ve already put all the salsa in the walk in except for a few little plastic containers they put in to-go orders. So I get her the two I had left and explain why I couldn’t get her anymore. She rolls her eyes and mumbles something, so I apologize again and go print the check. The ticket came to $17.01. She gives me a $20, so I get her $3 in change. They get up to leave and the sweet woman goes to the restroom. I start to clean up the table and see that they’ve left me the $3 as a tip, which is not bad. I bring the cups back behind the bar and as I stand up I see her walking back by the table where she picks up the tip, looks at me, says “Sorry!” and goes downstairs. It was great! I was really more entertained than irritated with the whole thing. Check back soon for more “Adventured in Waitressing”!

Operation Birthday Cake

My dad will turn 60 this month and the daughters are throwing him a birthday bash! We’ve had to plan mostly via email since we’re scattered around the nation. We divied out jobs between us; Lisa does the invites, Linds and Sarah get the food ordered, Mom does the guest list, and Sarah and I are in charge of the cake. I am a fan of Ace of Cakes, so I start to consider getting a really cool sculpted cake for the party. It just HAD to be a motorcycle! My dad has really gotten in to riding over the last 6 years or so, so it seemed like the perfect thing for him. Sarah and I have been searching bakeries in Austin and getting price quotes. Looks like its going to be about $200 to serve 30 people. Yowza! But its going to be great. I’ll update y’all on the cake once we get it ordered and have the party. For now, check out this video. No wonder it costs so much…4 days to make this thing.

Hi, my name is Carrie and I’ll be your server tonight…

Don’t worry, I haven’t quit my old job. I am still teaching in China Spring. But what’s a teacher to do in June, July and 2 weeks of August? I’ve heard a lot of people say that teaching is so great because you get summers off. Not so if your husband spends 14 hours a day working on Law School stuff and you don’t have a cat to keep you company! So, the job search began. Rejected…rejected…rejected…you get the picture. Monday, my first official day of summer vacation, I decide that I’m going to call every business in the phone book and take whatever I could get. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did promise myself that I would not apply to Taco Bell despite the huge “Now Hiring!” sign in front of the shop. I will not do fast food. Ever. There’s a mexican restaurant, La Fiesta, about 5 miles down the street from our apartment. They have 3 locations in Waco. Ben and I have been to the one in town a few times, but always thought the one close to our place looked too creepy, so we never wanted to chance it. I took a chance on Monday and walked in, asked if they were hiring and if I could get an application. The manager asked if I’d waited tables before…nope! She asked when I could start…ASAP! Can you come in tonight…sure! I was hired on the spot and was to return for training a few hours later. I was pretty excited. I’ve always wanted to see if I could wait tables. I’m a fairly competent person and lets just get it out there…not all waiters are competent people. So, I should be able to do this. If I can teach 5th grade…I can wait tables. Right? 5pm. I will be trained by Josh who graduated high school the same year I graduated college…and he’s one of the oldest wait staff there. I feel a bit out of place. He assures me “It’s a Monday. We’ll be pretty slow.” He was right about one thing…it was Monday. It was not slow. It was fun…even invigorating. I like being busy, but I hated not knowing what to do to help. He tried to fill me in as much as possible in the first hour when things really were slow. This is where dishes go, silverware, cups, chips are here, salsa is there, sweet tea on the left, unsweet on the right, don’t touch plates under the warmer with bare hands (no joke!) learn the menu, 3 tortillas for fajita fundito, 6 tortillas for fajitas for 2, and get your own charro beans and rice. I also learned the computer system which is how the kitchen gets your orders. Nice system, but you better be on top of things or the system and the kitchen cannnot save you. I have to learn what every item on the menu looks like, how to fix orders when they’re wrong, what orders get sour cream, cheese, when to ask for fajita meat, etc. I’ve worked two shifts so far in training. Tomorrow will be my first REAL day. Which also means my first day to get tips! Woohoo! I am a waitress…at least for now.