Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Watermelon Shark

I'm so sorry it took so long to get another post up; I was having terrible troubles with sizing and placing photos.  I now have a tiny understanding of HTML...who would've guessed that!  It sure wasn't on my summer "To Do" list...  I'm really glad to be back.

This January, my pal, Lindsay, introduced me to Pinterest.  Wow…what a wealth of ideas!  If you have not checked it out, it’s pretty neat.  There is a large variety of topics to choose from and you can peruse with or without joining.  You need to be e-invited by someone who belongs if you want to make your own digital pin boards.  Anyway, back to the shark story.

I began to show my students some neat food ideas and child-appropriate jokes from Pinterest as they visited and ate lunch.  One day in early spring, I brought up this image of a watermelon shark from the National Watermelon Promotion Board at www.watermelon.org in their Carvings section: 
“You’ve gotta make that for us, Ms. L-G!” 
I replied that that I would practice and hopefully bring them one at the end of the school year.

The last week of school, I was making individually-tailored word clouds for students and staff (another Pinterest idea!), and time was passing by very quickly.  I bought the watermelon, studied the pictures a little bit, but it was 12:30 a.m., Wednesday night, I was still making clouds, and Thursday would be the last day for students.  Instead of staying up until 3 a.m., I decided to take in all of my tools and have the students help me make it!  We projected the well-detailed tutorial on the SMARTBoard from http://sunscholars.blogspot.ca/search?q=Watermelon+shark , took out our popsicle stick name cup, and drew for turns so only two kids had sharp objects at a time.  The others visited and had a real popsicle to help them pass the time.  The tutorial from Sunscholars blogspot is really good but I will describe the photos a bit.

  • Pick an oblong watermelon vs. a spherical one if they are available so you have a more-elongated, sharky shape to work with. Toward one end, take a slightly slanted slice off (nice alliteration, eh?) to make the base on which the shark head will sit.  The stem at the top won’t be at the top now, and it should face the way you want the mouth to open.  
  • Set the shark facing you on a cutting board or non-serving piece; things are going to get messy and although it may become gruesome, juicy everywhere is probably not the effect you’re looking for.  Plus, the juice doesn’t look like blood anyway!
  • Picture where you want the V-shaped mouth to be, perhaps from the stem about 10 cm/4 inches down.  DON’T CUT YET!  You need to leave an additional 2.5 cm/1 inch LESS (making more mouth) where the teeth will be. 
  • NOW cut the mouth V.  It’ll look like the mouth is too small until you get the teeth in there.  If you think the mouth will be WAY too small, now is the time to enlarge it.  BTW, one may use the words “maw” or “yaw” may be used to describe the gaping mouth of a shark.  Thought you’d want to know…decent points for game of Scrabble, too. 


You can see in the left side picture where the stem would have been (the lines would have intersected at that spot).  On the right side, you can see where I started the first tooth at the top and how we started scooping out the melon balls.  Hopefully, you can also see that I peeled off quite a bit of white ("pith" in a watermelon, too?) and that made for wiggly teeth.  Peel off as little white as possible.

WOAH!  STOP!  LIGHTBULB!  I just thought of a great way to plan out the shark's maw!  (See what I did there? ;-)  )  Do you have any big rubber bands and toothpicks or very hygienic pushpins?  You could stick the sharp-object-of-choice (SOOC) where the “hinge” of the mouth would be, pull the elastic flat, stretch the ends of the elastic from the front of the mouth over the SOOC, and adjust the two elastic sections to the desired yaw opening PLUS teeth allowance.  You could even use two elastics if you wanted to see where the whole teeth section would be.  Back to the steps...

  • Now having a clear vision of where the teeth will be, use a small, sharp knife or V-shaped cutter to pare away the one inch of green rind. Cut VERY shallowly (spell-check did not complain about that word), otherwise your shark teeth will be as wiggly as a 6-year-olds! You want a nice, fat band of white for the pearly pointies (spell-check does NOT care for that word but I do not care).
  • Before making the teeth, you need to create the cavernous mouth by scooping out the watermelon. If you have a melon baller, you can scoop out nice little spheres to serve out of the yaw (haw haw) later. We had two containers: one for melon balls, and one for the scraps. One kid suggested that we put the scraps in instead of the balls because it’d look more gory!  True, true…
  • When you estimate that you’re approaching the bottom o’ the mouth, do a check. It’s a good idea to leave at least an inch of flesh between the mouth and the surface underneath to limit the juice leakage. There will be some but a lot just gets messy. Use a metal spoon to tidy up the inside of the mouth; you want the redness but it doesn’t need to look like poor Sharky has a lot of lacerations in there.
  • Teeth Time!  Back to using the sharp little knife or take out your V-shaped cutter if you have one. I knew I would use it again someday! For the latter tool, align the point to the top of the white section for the top row of teeth, slowly push in, whereby cutting out the holes between the teeth. If you’re using a knife, cut upward at 45 degree angles to the top of the white part from the bottom of the tooth point.
  • When you’re ready for the bottom row, flip over the V-shaped cutter to point-down position to do the same procedure, or cut down from tooth point to bottom of the white section.
I shall warn you now that you may lose a tooth here or there…perhaps six times.  I heard that this happened to someone…  Should this happen, fear not.  Effective dental surgery is but a half-toothpick away.  Our shark was in need of some work; I have a good dental plan through ASEBP so it wasn’t a problem. ;-) 
  • Time for the little details like gills, holes for the eyes, and the fin.  You know what?  Just check out the link   http://sunscholars.blogspot.ca/search?q=Watermelon+shark if you can’t see it in my pictures.   It would be hard for me not to copy the text; the work above has been from my pictures and my memory and, therefore, paraphrasing with giving credit and, hopefully, avoiding my goal of not plagiarizing!
I hope you have someone in your house or neighbourhood who likes black olives; one must sacrifice the majority of a can of black olives just for two sharky eyes. 

                                          I think the eyes look AWESOME. 

Any other fans of the Jaws movies out there?   (The first two anyway…)  I love Quint’s monologue about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.
 Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes.  You know the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white.” – Robert Shaw, Jaws, 1975.
You can watch that clip on YouTube.  I just did.  Just Google "Jaws monologue."  No link = less chance of copyright infringement.  ;-) 

Almost done! 
  • Prepare a tray for your shark display.  (Good rhyming, eh?)  Sun Scholars suggested covering a silver foil tray with plastic wrap, having kids draw watery blue and green squiggles all over it, and then covering it again with plastic wrap.  Other pictures show a shark head surrounded by fruit.  My students liked the gummy fish in the water idea, so that’s what we did.  I also bought gummy worms for more variety of prey.  Sea snakes?  A huge sturgeon like the man from the UK caught last week?  It worked for us!  We layered fish and melon balls in the mouth and scattered fish around in the “water.” 


So…are you going to try to create a watermelon shark? 
If you’re local, I’d help you! 
If you are local and ask really nicely, I would probably just make one for you.  J 
I told you I loved this kind of stuff!

Thanks for coming back to the island!
Swim safely away, my friends…duh-dun…duh-dun….duh-dun duh-dun duh-dun duh-dun…


Monday, 23 July 2012

Happy Birthday! Cakes Part III: Batter Bowl Cakes B

For our football-loving boy, I decided to make a football cake one year, using the SBB, cutting the cake in half from top-to-bottom and placing the wide ends together.  Unlike the fish bowl, flat ends wouldn’t do for the pigskin!  I used a 250 mL Prep Bowl with a little batter in it to bake the points of the ball.  As you can see, the ends didn’t turn out perfectly, but Mommy tried… 

To make the base of the cake, I baked a double batch of brownies in my Large Bar Pan, then cooled, cut and stacked slices of it. There were a few scraps of cake left and my “canvas” of the large cutting board was looking a bit bare, so I used my football cookie cutter to make some shapes to finish it up.  I still was quite green in the ways of fondant, plus my football was kind of lumpy so I hope none of you gagged at the sight of the brown object… :-P   As I tell my students, a mistake is a chance to learn…  Yeah – learn to leave fondant to the experts!

If you have created anything with your Batter Bowl, I would love to hear about or see it.  This will be it for birthday cakes from my island for a while – salads or the Watermelon Shark will be coming up! Write a comment if you have a preference.  Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday, 21 July 2012

Happy Birthday! Cakes Part II: Batter Bowl Cakes A

My “play job” outside of school is being a Pampered Chef consultant.  If you are not familiar with Pampered Chef Batter Bowls, they are glass with a handle, spout, raised graduated measuring lines, and you can use them in the freezer, microwave, and even for baking.

Many little girls have been delighted with Barbie cakes featuring a cake skirt baked in the Classic Batter Bowl (the large one), iced, with a dolly sticking out of it.  Some cooks have used the Small Batter Bowl (SBB) to bake breasts for breast cancer fundraisers or stags!  A quick Google image seach for “pampered chef batter bowl cakes” showed bee hives, hot chocolate and tea cups, volcanos, jack-o’lanterns, graduation caps, ladybugs, pineapples, and pregnant bellies.

For Miriam’s 9th birthday, I made a fish bowl.  I prepared a regular cake mix batter and baked two cakes in the Classic Batter Bowl (CBB).  Once cooled, I adhered the two wide sides together with icing to form a whole bowl shape; the flat top and bottom were perfect.  Next came a layer of white around the top for the “clear” part of the fishbowl, then water-blue for the rest.  As you can see, I’m not very skilled at smooth icing-work…L  I tried to conceal the not-so-perfect edge with piping to show the “rim” of the bowl.  Something to work on...  Do you see the waxed or parchment paper strips underneath the cake to keep the plate clean? 

To decorate the bowl, I wanted some aquarium plants so took some packages of Fruit-By-The-Foot and put them in the fridge; my thought was that the roll-ups might firm up a bit before cutting.  I grabbed some kitchen shears to cut them into weed shapes but, NO, the stuff was still VERY sticky!  I kept rinsing the shears with cold water, sprayed them with Pam, and whatever else I could think of to make the job easier.  No improvement.  Can’t win ‘em all, I guess. 

Next, it was time to add the fishies!  No-brainer for this, just added Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers. I did give them a little icing-dot eye.  Now you can buy different colors of fish so your cake could depict more diversity in the waters.  I couldn’t have suffocating fish, so added white chocolate chip bubbles.  I had to poke them really firmly into the icing and cake since they’re relatively flat objects. 

Here is a look at what the completed cake looked like: 

(I love the laughter of my nephews and daughter in the background;
in 2009, I sure didn't anticipate that I'd be creating this blog!)

Finally, for the aquarium rocks, I came up with an edible mix of Rice Krispies and Willy Wonka Nerds candy.  I took little handfuls and pressed them up against the bottom of the cake.  You can see in the video that I used a Lazy Susan to help spin the cake as I iced and decorated.  Miriam had a friend party on one night and then a family party the next day.  When I served the cake at Soiree #1, we cut and served the top half of the cake only.  I hadn’t planned it, but as the bottom half remained, I just had to bake another top, ice it, and add some more decorations for use at the next party!

Glad you came to my island today! Thanks to my friend, Jenna, for letting me know that the comment section was being tricky.  I hope you can all add comments to the blog now if you wish to!


P.S.  I made miniature versions of the fish bowl cake on cupcakes; I will do a posting on this later on but if you’d like it sooner than later, let me know.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Happy Birthday! Cakes Part I

Since our children were born, Larry and I have taken turns making their birthday cakes.  At first, we chose ideas which caught our eyes in cookbooks or that were a big thing in their lives, such as John Deere tractors for Gregory.  As the years passed, the kids started to offer their input and sometimes helped out with the birthday treats.  Cutesy cakes became interest-focused: animal themes like fish, horses, and pets for Miriam, football for Gregory.

Gregory’s very favorite cake to this day is the Extreme Chocolate Cake from Company’s Coming.  From 2007 to 2012, he has requested “his cake” numerous times for either his friend or family birthday parties, to share at school with his classmates, for holiday potlucks, and for bake sales.  We have also made it for church lunches, teacher gifts (Miss T!), and retirements, sometimes our own idea and sometimes by request!

Alas, I share this link with mixed feelings as I wonder if the cake will seem as impressive once you discover how easy the recipe is to make…  I do hope that you will try to make it and then you may bask in the oohs and ahhs as I have over the years.  http://www.companyscoming.com/recipes/extreme-chocolate-cake/2003/10/29/
***WARNING: The only thing lite/light about this cake is that you will probably have one on in your kitchen while you prepare this!  That being said, I do use sugar-free Jell-O pudding mix and low-fat sour cream every time.

Here are a few suggestions for optimal results:

1)   If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer or the like, it’s just as easy to make two as one!  Dump in double the ingredients and you’ll have one for now and one (un-ganached) to freeze.

2)   Leave your eggs out for an hour or take the chill off by setting them in warm water for a bit.

3)   Spray your pan fairly generously and sift cocoa in your pan/s; it’s kind of a pain but it is very disheartening to lift off the pan to find a chunk of cake stuck in it. :-(

4)   With or without chocolate chips, it’s still delicious!

5)   At about 50 minutes, start toothpick-testing the cake; sometimes it’s done by then.

6)   Follow cooling directions as per the recipe.  When it’s time to take the cake out of the pan, use a soup spoon to push down as deep as the spoon’s handle into each of the inside and outside ridges to help it come out as neatly as possible.  Use a serrated knife to trim off any unsightly bumps which would prevent your cake from sitting on its plate properly when unmolded.  The cake baker is authorized and obliged to eat said bumps.

7)   I am aware of two ways to make the lovely, shimmering chocolate ganache:
     a.  As per the recipe, heat the cream until boiling in a pot or in the microwave, add the
         chopped chocolate, stir slowly until it is melted fully into the cream.  Sometimes it seems
         like it won’t blend, but it will.  Just keep stirring, stirring, stirring, just keep stirring, Dory!
     b.   Chop the chocolate and put into a heat-proof bowl/cup, heat the cream separately as
          above, pour the boiling cream into the chocolate, let it sit a minute or two, then stir it
          until uniformly beautiful.  Homer say, “Mouth….watering…ahgullalla.”  Let it sit a bit to
          cool or the ganache will run down the sides too quickly and pool on the plate
          instead of the majority of it settling on the cake.  If the ganache has gotten too thick,
          gently heat it up a little before giving it another go!

8)   Cut with a clean, thin knife like a filleting knife.  Dip it in hot water and wipe it dry if the blade starts to get sticky.  Sometimes I pop the cake into the fridge for 15 minutes before serving to firm it up the ganache a bit before slicing.

Well, my Helpful Hints got a bit longer than I’d planned; the teacher-hat took over.  :-) 
Thanks for coming back to my Island and have a chocolaty day!


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Inaugural Post from My Island


Seven months ago at Christmas dinner, my cousin, Trevor, suggested that I begin a blog about my kitchen exploits.  I joke with my friends that I'm not particularly creative - I don't scrapbook, quilt, make cards, or do interior decorating - but I do love to play with my food and share it with others.  Some people dread being asked to bring something to a potluck, bake sale, church lunch, baby shower, etc., but I look forward to it!  The only problem with my love of trying new recipes and trying to create interesting presentations of the food is that a few friends have made comments like, "I can't invite you over for lunch because I'll be too embarrassed to serve you what I can make..." :-(

Goals of my blog are to share:
1) stories of my adventures in cooking,
2) interesting recipes, both nutritious and sinfully rich,
3) tips and tricks I've learned (I am a teacher after all!), and
4) how my passion for food would never motivate me to judge my friends' or family's cooking!

If I'm really fortunate, I hope to
1) get friendly feedback and ideas from other people who visit me here,
2) learn more about myself,* and
3) avoid any infringement on copyright rules and/or get sued! 

This is my very first blog so if you have suggestions about the format, can correct any unintentional faux-pas of blogging, or want more information about either something that I've written about or that you wonder if I've tackled, let me know!  I have been trying to get my name under my photo but am calling it quits for tonight.  Baby steps, Jenn, baby steps...  Blog posts I hope to assemble soon include the watermelon shark I made with my class, birthday cakes, and summer salads.  Any preferences?  I'm so glad you came to see me! :-)


*I was going to add "avoid grammatical or word-choice errors" because have a few Grammar Goddesses as friends," but then I realized that this comment was akin to the "I'm afraid to cook for you" issue.  Ahh...learning more about myself already!