How I Jason Segel became my Funny Valentine (and also, homemade pizza)

I wasn’t going to post anything about Valentine’s Day.  My day was pretty uneventful.  I went to school, came home, talked to Emily M., talked to my mom, wrote a paper, made a pizza (Italian Sausage and Pepperoni), drank a portion of a glass of cheap red wine, and fell asleep to Secretariat on Netflix.  When I woke up this morning and checked all my forms of social media, I saw something too similar to be a coincidence, so at the urging of Emily M., I decided to post about my Valentine’s Day, after all.

Those of you who know me, know about my not-so-secret crush on the actor Jason Segel.  My first exposure to him was on Freaks and Geeks.  I think my friend, Savanna, and I probably were about half of the people who actually watched the show when it was on air.  We each had our own crush on the show.  Hers was Daniel Desario (played by a young James Franco).  Mine was Nick Andopolis (played by a young Jason Segel).  Nick Andopolis taught me how to approach unrequited love.   There’s one episode where he speak-sings the song “Lady” to his girlfriend, Lindsay.  It’s one of those cases where he’s way more into her than she is him, and she feels super awkward about it all.  At the time, I didn’t quite get that part of it.  I just saw it as the ultimate act of love.  I started practicing routines to different songs.  It seems like they were all to Marvin Gaye songs.  Not any of the gross ones.  Usually just “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”  You guys, for real.  I was (am) a Smooth Operator.  Luckily, I never had the guts to go through with the “ultimate act of love.”  Nick and Lindsay broke up so he wrote her a song called “Lady L” but before he could sing it for her, Ken (Seth Rogen) smashed his guitar.  I feel like the entire show kind of did for me what Ken did for Nick.  I mean that in the very best way possible.

I first saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall when my dad was having surgery in Omaha.  It was right after I had worked on a campaign, so I was living at home.  Both of my parents were gone, and I was home alone worrying the entire first day.  Then I decided to pour a glass of Johnny Walker Blue (Sorry, Dad) and order FSM on pay-per-view.  I pretty much laughed straight through from beginning to end.  Anyone who writes a Dracula puppet musical is okay in my book.  I mean, it is truly one of the most amazing things ever.  With each scene of that movie, I fell more and more for Peter Bretter.  I starts out as having an enormous amount of pity for him.  He does, after all, get dumped while he’s naked.  Then things just get hilarious.  Maybe someday I’ll just do a post on my favorite scenes from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  I have an embarrassingly large amount of that movie memorized.  According to iTunes, I have watched the digital copy of FSM 16 times.  For now, I’m just going to let you guys watch probably my favorite scene from the movie.  This is kind of what happens when I make up songs.  Except usually I’m not around my piano.  Also, I’m a lot nicer to myself.

A little over a year ago my dad was diagnosed with liver disease and it was a really hard and scary time for me.  I felt like I was doing a pretty good job of keeping my emotions in check.  With school and stuff, I didn’t really have time to get emotional or depressed so I just kept every thing in.  At about the same time, Marshall Erickson (Jason’s character on How I Met Your Mother) was dealing with the loss of his father.  After the episode of his funeral, I just lay in bed and cried for hours until I finally fell asleep.  This was the first time I had really let myself cry, uninterrupted, since my dad’s diagnosis and it was exactly what I needed at the time.  The next day I felt like 500 tons had just been lifted off my chest and I was able to get on with life.  The acting was just absolutely amazing in this episode.  I still tear up whenever I see that episode.  It was definitely worthy of an Emmy or Golden Globe.  At least a nomination!  Jeez Louise, Hollywood.

I honestly could go through every movie or TV show on his IMDB page and give some anecdote as to why I think he’s great.  I think (or, in order to make myself feel less crazy, hope) that pretty much everyone has that kind of celebrity crush.  Obviously, nothing will come of these crushes.  If celebrity crushes were meant to be, my next birthday would be spent with my three best friends and Dr. Spencer Reid (for the sake of argument, fictional characters can be included), Rachel Bilson, and some odd breed of Leonardo diCaprio, Paul Rudd, Adam Brody, and JC Chavez (Seriously, Emily P., who exactly IS your celebrity crush?).  Any way, I have never thought in a serious way, “OMG, I’m meant to be with Jason Segel.”  Logically, that’s silly.  I’ve pretty much been able to write off any similarities between Jason’s characters and my life (with the exception of the Freaks and Geeks years, when I truly thought he was my soul mate), as coincidence.  That is until this morning when I woke up to see what had happened on all forms of social media the night before and found this from Jason Segel’s Twitter:

I’m not sure if you remember, after all the rambling.. But, you guys, that’s EXACTLY what I did on Valentine’s Day Night, minus the potato chips.  So… although he might not be my true soul mate (at least not in the romantic sense), I like to think that maybe he’s like my own comedic guardian angel sent here to make me laugh when I’m said and make me feel less pathetic about things like having a weird passion for speak-singing and watching Secretariat alone on Valentine’s Day.

I suppose after all of that, I should share information about the food.  This is a food blog, after all.

I use my mom’s recipe for pizza dough.  She usually make a big batch of the mix to keep in the freezer and it’s super handy.

Donelle’s Pizza Dough Mix (makes about 22 cups)

5 pounds wheat flour (for those of you who live in Aurora, the Grain Place sells whole wheat flour at Espressions Coffee Shop.  I think that’s what my mom usually uses.  You can also buy it at pretty much any grocery store in Lincoln)

3/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoon salt

1 cup instant nonfat dry milk

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Put in a large airtight container.  Label.  Store in a cool, dry place.  Use within 8 months.

I lost the actual recipe for the dough, but this is what I’ve been doing:

3 cups Pizza Dough Mix

1 cup (maybe a little more) water

1 package quick rise yeast

1/4 cup (maybe a little more) oil (really any kind.  I usually use vegetable.  My mom uses peanut oil.  Last night I used olive oil)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.  Put three cups of pizza mix in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, dissolve a package of yeast in a cup of warm water.  Stir together mix, water/yeast, and oil.  Sprinkle a flat surface with pizza mix and knead the dough until it forms a ball.  Put ball of dough back in large bowl and cover with a dish towel for about 20 minutes.  On a greased, sprayed, or oiled pan, roll out the dough and let sit for 5 minutes.  Spread pizza sauce and your choice of toppings. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes.

When I started making the pizza last night, I had every intention of posting about it.  I have been trying SO hard to create a good pizza and it just never works out for me.  The main problem is that I have just a truly awful oven.  It’s really small and overheats anywhere from 50 to 150 degrees which causes inconsistency as far as times and burning goes.  I should just ask for a new oven, but my landlord bought a new one before I moved in.  It’s never worked properly, but I feel weird asking for a new one.  Any way, things were going my way last night and I was ready for the perfect pizza.  The dough had risen properly, my oven was within 50 degrees of the desired temperature, and to make things even better – I had fresh mozzarella left over from when I made lasagna not too long ago.  I browned the sausage (I used ground sweet Italian sausage.  I think next time I will try the hot instead of mild), layered the pepperonis over the sauce, sprinkled the sausage over the pepperoni, and cut the cheese to arrange over the sausage. [note: As I was doing a quick proofread of this I realized I had actually used the term “cut the cheese.”  I was going to change this, but then realized everybody who loves me also loves a fart joke, so I kept it in.  Also, before handling fresh mozzarella, I put it in the freezer for maybe 10 minutes.  This makes it easier to cut, grate, or slice.]  It never occured to me that I should check to see if there was anything different I needed to do to make a pizza with fresh mozzarella instead of grated mozzarella.  That was a big mistake.  When I went to rotate my pizza (if you have a regularly functioning oven, you don’t need to do this) at the halfway mark, i noticed the pan was filled with liquid.  After a quick Google, I realized that since fresh mozzarella is wet, when you put it on a pizza the water gets released.  So I poured the liquid into the sink and put the pizza back in the oven.  The dough was a little soggy, and there were places that the liquid had burned onto the pan, but I have to admit the pizza was amazing.  It really was the best pizza I’ve ever made in my apartment.  The sausage and pepperoni worked great together.  The dough was perfect.  It just all turned out amazing.  Next time I’ll probably try to follow instructions on how to do the cheese.  Google sent me here:  http://www.ehow.com/how_8288916_put-fresh-whole-mozzarella-pizza.html.  Also, I sprinkled Italian seasoning and parsley on top of the cheese and chopped up a few cloves of garlic to cook with the sausage.

Please excuse the old bananas... I'm making banana bread tomorrow!

 

Admit it, your Valentine's Day would've been more fun had you consumed boxed wine from a TMNT glass.

I’m going to try to be more consistent with my posting.  So far, it’s been pretty random.  I’m also going to try to make my posts more polished.  I’ve noticed I use a lot of parenthesis and ramblings and I KNOW my sentence/paragraph/grammatical structure is not always proper.  Hopefully if I get on a more regular schedule and my posts aren’t so sporadic (Thank you, Cher Horowitz), I can be the blogger I’ve always dreamed of being.  Happy Belated Valentine’s Day, Everyone!  Also, I might try to steal my parent’s digital camera back so I can have slightly better than iPod quality pictures.

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Birthday Cakes!

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This past weekend was my niece Whitney’s first birthday.  It’s so crazy to think that a year has past already.  The year has gone by so fast, but at the same time it’s hard to remember life before Whitney.  She has changed and grown so much in one year.  I know that as an aunt it’s my duty to brag on Whitney, but really – she is awesome.  She has soooooo much personality for someone her age.  When we have story time, she’ll pick out a book and let me read about 3 or 4 pages, then she’ll want down and will walk (because she’s already walking like a boss at a year old) over to her books to pick out a new book and lift her arms and say her universal sound for book, up, yes, or more.  Again, she’ll have me read a little bit then she’ll pick out a new book.  This cycle can go on for a long time, but I love it.  I have a confession, though.  This might make me seem like a horrible aunt, but I had to hide a book from her when I was babysitting on Super Bowl Sunday.  She kept bringing me the book “Doggies” by Sandra Boynton.  Now listen, I LOVE Sandra Boynton books and I totally get the point of this book.  It will have one doggy and that doggy’s barking sound.  The next dog will bark twice, and it has a different sound for that.  The next one will bark three times and so on and so forth.  I understand that it’s a counting book and for that purpose it’s great.  I’m sure there are a lot of kids who learn how to count from it.  The problem is, I’m HORRIBLE at making animal noises (with the exception of a velociraptor).  I’m lucky to just get out a “woof” in the right voice, but then I have to do it ten different ways.  Some of them are weird, too.  When have you ever heard a dog that goes “nnn-nnn-nnn??”  I think a dog making noises like that probably needs to go to the vet, because he probably just ingested a bunch of chocolate or raw chicken and things are going to get ugly soon.  Any way… when I was babysitting her, she KEPT bringing me this book.  To top things off, this wasn’t a read 3 pages and put away.  This was a read all the way through book.  I swear she knew what she was doing to me, because this is not one of her usual favorites.  Maybe she just liked hearing Aunt Sally sounding like she was having some sort of stroke or attack, but she was so into this book.  Eventually, I had to put it on her dresser behind the lamp.  She initially looked at me like “ummmm… what did you do with my book.”  It was worth it, though, because we spent the next 30-45 minutes reading Jamberry, Goodnight Moon, a variety of Little Pookie Books, and ended the night with a continuous replay of Barnyard Dance.  I honestly think I probably read it seven times before she fell asleep- and maybe a few times after she fell asleep.  I sooo did not want to put her in her crib.  It’s such a rarity for her to fall asleep while I’m holding her anymore, so I was willing to just spend the night in the rocking chair but I did eventually put her in her crib.  I always have this weird anxiety about putting her to bed that the second I lay her on her mattress she’s going to wake up.  However, she handled the transition magically this time.

I suppose it’s time to move on to the cakes.  Not only was Whitney’s birthday on the 11th, but my brother’s was on the 12th, AND Whit’s cousin Will’s birthday was on the 13th.  This meant I had a lot of cakes to make.  Grant wanted an ice cream cake, so I didn’t have to worry about that.

Will’s Cake – Chocolate Butter Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting

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The Birthday Boy! Isn't he adorable?

I got the recipes for both the cake and frosting from Smitten Kitchen.  I have to say, this was my favorite cake.  It was my first time using these recipes and the cake turned out sooo rich, that I was worried the kids might not like it.  They said they did, but they’re polite kids so they could’ve just been using their manners.  The recipe was for three 9” square pans, but I ended up using two 9” round pans.  I had every intention of using the left over batter for cupcakes, but by the time I got done with all the cakes it was about 11:00 or 11:30 pm, and I still had to clean.

A couple notes:  You want to use a REALLY big bowl for the cake.  I started with just a normal big mixing bowl and realized after mixing the dry ingredients it wasn’t going to be big enough so I switched to my mom’s giant Tupperware bowl that she mixes puppy chow in.  It was plenty big.

Also… The recipe calls for cake flour, which the Aurora Mall did not have.  To make my own cake flour, for every cup of all-purpose flour I put in, I took out two tablespoons of flour and replaced it with two tablespoons of corn starch.

So… Mathematically speaking: 1 cup flour – 2 T flour + 2 T corn starch = Cake Flour.

This might also be a good time to let you know, Mom, that you are out of corn starch… And also cocoa powder, but we will get to that later.

Chocolate Butter Cake

http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/project-wedding-cake-the-cake-is-baked/

Makes one 8-inch square, three layer cake

3 cups cake flour

3 cups sugar

1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)

3 teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon salt

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups buttermilk

3 eggs

1 ½ cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature (I only had about a half cup of coffee left after my daily consumption, so I filled the rest with water.  I think it turned out fine.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch square cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.  (My method of preparing cake pans is spray or butter, then flour, parchment, spray, and flour.  Flouring twice might be excessive, but I’m a little cautious when it comes to cake sticking to the pan)

2. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans; each pan will take about 3 1/4 cups of batter.

4. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. Remove the paper liners only when they are cool.

Instant Fudge Frosting

http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/08/espresso-chiffon-cake-with-fudge-frosting/

Note: the recipe calls for the frosting to be mixed in a food processor.  Unfortunately, I don’t have one.  Instead I just used a regular mixer.  It might not have been as easy, but it got the job done.

Makes about 5 cups (this was enough to frost this cake, decorate the owl on Whit’s cake, and have some left over).

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled.

4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature

6 Tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth.

Whitney’s Cake! – yellow cake with Swiss Buttercream frosting

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I have another confession to make.  For the actual cake, I used a box mix.  I had every intention of making it from scratch, but our road was blocked so I couldn’t get into town to get to the grocery store until about 3:00 or 3:30 when our neighbor came through and cleared it.  By that time, i decided to just settle on a box.  My favorite kind of box mix to use is Duncan Hines.  Unfortunately, Aurora Mall didn’t have any.  (Seriously, AM step up your game in the baking aisle!)  I think instead I used Sara Lee.

This was my first time making this frosting recipe.  For decorating, it was a dream.  It spread smoothly.  It piped smoothly.  It was just kind of perfect in that sense.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  I liked it a lot better when it was actually on the cake, but I had my doubts when I was just tasting the frosting.

I made two 8″ round cakes and two 4″ round cakes with the box mix.  I reallllly wish I would’ve made the big cake at least 9 inches.  It was harder to fit everything on the 8 inch pan.  Also, the owl kept getting bigger, so then I had less room to write.  If I would do it over again, I would probably do the writing part first.  I was so paranoid of hitting the owl that I felt it didn’t look the best.

Swiss Buttercream Frosting

adapted from: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/project-wedding-cake-swiss-buttercream/

2 cups sugar

8 large egg whites

6 1/2 sticks of butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)

Add the vanilla.

Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip.

Beth (my sister-in-law) swam at Rice University and owls are so in right now, that it just made sense to have Whitney’s cake be owl themed.  I wish I would’ve taken pictures of every step of decorating.  It was a lot of making it up as I went.  I pretty much traced a small circle on the cake and went from there.  The little smudge of yellow at the bottom of the cake is not the owl having an accident.  Initially, the owl had feet, but when there wasn’t enough room to write Whitney’s name, I had to amputate them.

Oh!  I’m sure you’re wondering how the Birthday Girl liked her cake.  After all, one of the best parts of first birthdays is getting to see the baby go crazy on their cake.  Right?

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She went crazy, all right!  I won’t hold this against her.  I mean, how can you?  She manages to look adorable while crying.  This talent will get her far in life.

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All Better! Seriously, how cute is she?

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Me with Whitney and her adorable cousins, Will and Kate.

Thank you, Beth, for taking such great pictures!