Playing catch-up

21 Jul

I’ve been cooking and baking all the time, but I haven’t bothered to post pictures for you all. So this post is to fix that. Check out some of what I’ve been up to.

Here are some cookies I made when I made the sugar cookie stationary.

I FINALLY got the wet-on-wet technique down!

These got sent to my old co-workers in Texas

This was my favorite cookie of the bunch

When I go to the farmer’s market, I always get lots of zucchini, which makes a wonderful bread. And when I make it in the bread machine, I do approximately 5 minutes worth of work and end up with deliciousness. I’m ok with that input/output ratio. Also! I got new cupcake tips and they’re amazing.

See?

So, between the zucchini I’ve got, and the new tips I bought, I had to make this:

Delicious zucchini cupcakes with cream cheese frosting! So moist. That was the first time EVER I piped frosting onto cupcakes, and I was cackling with glee the entire time.

And since they contain about 2 cups of zucchini, I like to think that they’re good for you.

In other news, I also have an ice cream maker attachment for my kitchen aid, and look at the containers I’ve got to hold my all my beautifully churned ice cream!

Adorable!

I’ve already made several kinds of ice cream, including avocado!

It was not the most appetizing looking of all ice creams. It was ok. Really creamy, and I used almond extract, so there was a good flavor. But there was kind of a grittiness from the avocado that you can’t get rid of, and a very pronounced after-taste. Plus the color and the fact that it was avocado were really hard to get over. But I tried it and so did my family, which I’m proud of us all for. In the end, though, we ditched most of it, and it will not ever be made again in this household. But this one will be:

Homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Yum!

I also made pancakes (and dyed them pink!) with homemade blueberry syrup and homemade whipped cream. I’m not the world’s biggest pancake fan, but they sure hit the spot!

Some fudge sandwiches for your viewing pleasure:

Can you see that filling? Made with sweetened condensed milk, so you KNOW it’s good! This was such a rich and sophisticated cookie. Very decadent.

The sheer amount of sugar and cream that went into this post is mind-boggling. I won’t share the details with you because I don’t want to scare people away. But it was a lot. That’s just how I roll. I bring treats into work, where everyone is on a diet, and I neglect to tell them that the cupcake they’re eating was made with 6 cups of sugar. Ha! Does that make me a bad person? I don’t believe in diets. I do believe in moderation, but not diets.

The end.

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Happy Fifth of July!

5 Jul

I hope you all had a lovely fourth of July! My family and I were invited to a picnic, but we couldn’t find the place. So we ended up stopping for pizza and calling it a day. It was actually very nice. The weather was beautiful, we were all getting along, and the whole atmosphere was laid back. The picnic may have been fun, I don’t know, but I never argue with just hanging out. I don’t need to do a whole lot to enjoy myself.

Speaking of enjoying myself, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I bet you didn’t know that. It’s because of all the history surrounding the 4th of July. I’m a history major and stuff like this makes my heart go pitter-patter. I took a class in college called the American Revolution and it was really interesting to get a feel for the times and the mood of the people. I always knew it was a huge deal that we challenged Britain for our independence, but it’s one thing to know that years after the fact and it’s another to read the writings of people from that time and to understand just how large and terrifying their actions were. A whole nation was flat-out committing treason, and even those committed to the cause were still uneasy over the fact. I won’t go into details and bore you, especially because, though I love history, there’s no denying that sometimes this class was just boring. But there is a lot of intriguing information out there if you take the chance to look beyond what you’re spoonfed in 8th grade American history.

And speaking of spoonfed (how about my segue ways today, huh?!), this is what I fed my family for dessert.

A boring , tipsy, slightly melted cake. Hooray.

NOT!!

It’s a FREEDOM CAKE! Or at least that’s what I’m calling it. My favorite layer is the blue on the bottom. Isn’t it such a pretty color? It was something of a nightmare to make, so I’m really happy with how it turned out. But it was very delicious, especially with a glass of milk. I liked the icing, which is the first time I’ve made buttercream. It gives me hope that later cakes will be better and better, if this attempt turned out so well.

Here’s the recipe, in case you want to give it a go. It’s not really bad. The reason it was a nightmare for me was because I was making this at 10 PM, and I had to crack a coconut. Then I heard a kitten crying, so I had to go kitten hunting, which put me way behind schedule. I’m guessing your night won’t go like that.  So do not be intimidated by this dessert. (WordPress wants me to change this to desert. Not the same thing at all.)

Coconut Cake

Recipe from Baked Bree, who got it from Cooking Light.

Ingredients:

12 ounces cake flour sifted (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2/3 cups softened butter
1 cup warm coconut milk (from 1 small coconut or Goya brand coconut water)
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large egg whites

Directions:

1.  Lightly coat (3) 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray or grease them, then line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper.

2. Combine 12 ounces cake flour, baking powder, and salt, whisk well.

3. Place 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons sugar and butter in a large bowl beat with a mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and creamy.

4. Add flour mixture and coconut water alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

5. Add in vanilla.

6. At this point, you can start preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

7. Beat egg whites on high speed until foamy.  Add 2 Tablespoons sugar, one Tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.  Be careful to not overbeat.

8. Carefully, fold your egg whites into the cake batter.

9. If you are going to dye your batter, split the batter into separate bowls. You will need one bowl for each color. I got about 2 cups of batter in each of the three bowls I was using. Carefully and gently fold in your food dyes until desired color is reached.

10. Pour the batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on a rack.  If you do not have three pans, fill the pans you do have, cook and cool them according to directions, and then wash and reuse a pan for the remaining batter.

Buttercream Icing

Also from Baked Bree

Ingredients:

3 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

Using the whisk attachment mix together the sugar and butter.  When it is combined, beat on medium and beat for 3 minutes.  Add in the vanilla and enough cream to get a nice spreadable consistency.  Beat for another minute.

Sugar Cookies: Stationary

2 Jul

I love snail mail. The thrill of opening the mailbox and finding a letter or card never gets old. In college, my mother kept my mailbox full. About once a week, whether I wrote back or not, she sent me a letter. On Valentine’s Day she sent me flowers, and on Halloween and Easter, she sent me candy. Now that I’m home, I exchange mail with friends. I’d like you to meet two of them.

The first of the pen-pals is a girl I’ve known since third grade. Her name is Angela, and she is one of the nicest people I know. Really lovely, inside and out. She always sees the best in people, and is one of those people who you instantly feel comfortable with, you know? Plus, she’s funny.

Hi Angie!

We went to private school together; it was her first year there. At this school, students were given certain jobs each week, and my soon-to-be friend was assigned the role of bathroom monitor. I’ve been thinking and thinking, and I’m not really sure why the job existed. She was supposed to make sure no fights broke out in the girl’s bathroom, I guess, because what else was there to monitor? My school was big on teaching responsibility, even if technically there was nothing to be responsible for. So there we were: she was brand new to the school, still making friends, and I was fresh off summer break, all pouty about being back and cooped up in a classroom. I was the last one into the bathroom, where she was monitoring, and after I used the restroom and washed my hands we walked out together. And she said to me, “You know, you’re the only one who washed your hands…” Disgusting, right? So we bonded over germs. Pretty effectively, too, because we’re still best friends all these years later.

Looking windswept at the beach

Perhaps not surprisingly, she is now a registered nurse. She moved away in sixth grade, so I haven’t seen her all that much in person, but we still keep in touch. A couple of weeks ago, she sent me a note on the cutest stationary.

Is that not adorable? Naturally I thought I’d send her cookies to celebrate her certification, her new job, and her new apartment. And even more naturally, I decided to match the cookies to the stationary.

I’m tickled with how they turned out, and I hope she likes them!

The other friend I want you to meet is a college buddy. I met her the beginning of my sophomore year. She was part of a group (called the Orientation Team) that guided the new students through orientation week (moving in, picking classes, exploring campus, etc). Her name is Heather, but I call her Awesome, because she is.

My friends are pretty.

I met her at a dance party the Orientation Team was holding while the first-years climbed the tower we have on campus. A few days later, after classes started, I walked into Latin class and found Heather already there. Over the next two years, we bonded over classes, celebrating the end of classes (see pic below), speaking French*, soccer, wearing high heels (we’re both really tall – the heels put us at a couple of inches over six feet), taking a lot of pictures together, celebrating 21st birthdays, and graduation. And that just barely scratches the surface of all the fun times we had. Like Angie, she’s wonderful and funny. As a matter of fact, all my friends are.

* Should you be interested, here’s the story of how we met, in French. Courtesy of Heather.

L’histoire de Sarah et Heather: Il y a deux filles qui manquaient quelque chose. Mais, un jour, les deux filles ont recontré sous la tour de Trinity. Là, sous les lumières, elles ont dansé beaucoup. Puis, après quelques semaines, Sarah a transféré dans la classe du latin et elle a trouvé Heather! Sarah et Heather étaient enfin completes parce que elles se sont eues. C’etait parfait! Les deux sont devenues Princess et Awesome et elles prennent beaucoup d’images.

To celebrate the end of Latin class, we burned all our notecards.

Now we bond over recipes, the World Cup, how we act like 80-year-old women, the places we’ll travel, and current events as they pertain to the World Cup. Since June, most of our topics of conversation have been about recipes or the World Cup, actually.

I have approximately 1,234,096,190,364 pictures of us.

In honor of our letters back and forth, I made some letter cookies for her.

The “A” blob stands for Awesome, and the “P” blob stands for Princess, which is her nickname for me. “Sarah” means “princess,” and it was only fitting that I got a nickname after I dubbed her Awesome.

Did you enjoy meeting my friends? I did, all those years ago and I’m very glad they are in my life. They’re witty, intelligent, loyal, goofy, slightly insane, loving, classy, motivated, and inspiring people. And who could ask for more in a friend?

USA! USA! USA!

26 Jun

USA for the World Cup!!

Who wants cookies?

14 Jun

If politicians handed out these cookies instead of false promises, not only would the world be a better place, they would win the election in a landslide! If men proposed with these cookies instead of diamond rings, marriages would never end. These cookies can cause blind men to see, the deaf to hear, and men to ask for directions.

However, don’t expect these cookies to turn rowdy teenage boys into young gentlemen who clean up your kitchen without being threatened or bribed. Just sayin’. You can expect a lot out of these cookies, but you can’t expect miracles.

So what kind of cookies are these? Chocolate chip, of course.

I’m not really sure why this batch of cookies turned out so flat. The good news is that the taste was not affected! On the contrary, some in my family (cough Mum cough) might argue that the flavor was even better. These were buttery and crisp and delicate and delicious. And the brothers sure scarfed them down. This was about half the cookies the recipe made, and even these are no longer in existence (and I made these cookies last night). The secret ingredient? Besides butter, of course. And brown sugar. And Nielsen-Massey vanilla. The secret ingredient is toffee chips.

You read that right. Toffee chips. You add about half a bag to the batter, and then bake the cookies for 11 minutes or longer (the higher end of the time frame for these babies). This allows the toffee chips to melt, and adds a nice dimension to the cookies. And “nice dimension” is putting it mildly. My vocabulary is failing me right now, and I cannot put into words just how much this simple addition contributes to the overall cookie. You’ll just have to make it yourself. And then come back and try to describe how the toffee chips rocked your world. Ha! Not so easy, is it?

Be careful though. If you don’t bake them long enough, the toffee chips don’t melt and you don’t get the right effect. I’m sure it’s still delicious. But it’s not how I like my cookies, and we all know the end goal here is to be just like me. Am I right? Huh? Huh? Fine, whatever. I was just kidding anyway. About being exactly like me, not about non-melted toffee chips. I don’t kid around about my cookies. Life lesson.

Without further ado, Chocolate Chip Cookies! (From The All-American Cookie Book)

Ingredients:

– 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
– 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
– 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– half a bag chocolate chips or chocolate chunks. Or a whole bag. Go crazy.
– half a bag toffee chips.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease baking sheets or spray with nonstick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar, and sugar until well blended and fluffy. Taste. Sigh with happiness.

4. Adds the eggs and vanilla and beat until evenly incorporated.

5. Beat in the flour mixture.

6. Stir in the chocolate and toffee chips until evenly incorporated. (Are you noticing a theme here?)

7. Drop the dough onto the baking sheets by heaping measuring tablespoonfuls, spacing about 2 inches apart.

8. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 11 or so minutes, or until golden brown all over and slightly darker at the edges. You want those toffee chips melted!

Hello beautiful! How YOU doin'?

Bake these and distribute them. You’ll make friends and influence people. All without reading that book. Now who said I don’t help my friends out? That’s right, nobody.

My Potatoes Terrify Me

12 Jun

I decided I had a hankering for potatoes tonight. And I have a recipe for potato and cheese pierogies that I have been wanting to try out. Perfect! Unfortunately, when I pulled out my potatoes, I was confronted with this:

AAAAAHHHHH lksdhg;oiweha!

Look at those!!! The “eyes” of the potatoes have developed claws!! You can’t look at that and tell me aliens don’t exist. They do and they live in my potato drawer. And I’m never going to sleep again.

That one is the center looks pretty nondescript, doesn’t it? Wrong! It had a big dark spot of mold on the other side. Generous person that I am, I spared you that sight. And the fuziness of this picture? Not due completely to my poor photographing skills. Let that one sink in, will you? Mmm, appetizing.

Hi, I'm a potato and I'M GOING TO EAT YOUR BRAINS.

Yes, I touched that thing, so I could get a better picture of it. The things I do for you guys.

FEAR MEEEE

I think I’m going to make cupcakes or something instead. Provided the rest of the ingredients in my kitchen haven’t sprouted ridiculous appendages. And I’m going to tape my eyes open tonight. I’m not entirely sure these potatoes won’t crawl out of the trash and come for me in my sleep.

*Note, I know potatoes grow those eyes when they’ve been chilling in your kitchen for a while. Not a big deal. I’ve dealt with that before. These guys? A totally different ball game. Plus the mold. Don’t forget that.

Chocolate Cake and Secrets

11 Jun

Secret #1: The other day I spent $15 (with shipping) on vanilla extract. You read that right. FIFTEEN. DOLLARS. Am I going insane? How can a person spend that much on 4 ounces of vanilla extract? Well, you see, it was Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract.

“Finest Quality” is right! Not only did I get a fancy glass bottle and pretty label, I got the Rolls-Royce of the vanilla extract world. You want to know another secret? I was insane not to buy it sooner. You won’t believe the difference this vanilla makes! I’ve got an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe that I love. It makes the greatest cookie ever. And this vanilla catapulted it from great to astoundingly delicious. It was like heaven in a hand-held, two bite raisin-y package. I’m not kidding. This is my new secret weapon. I can’t wait to see how it tastes in sugar cookies!

However, instead of sugar cookies, the very first thing I made with this vanilla was chocolate cake. Ghirardelli chocolate cake. From scratch.

It involved a LOT of brown sugar and butter. So naturally, it was delicious.

Pretty unassuming for such a rich, yet light cake. Light as a pillow!

Wait a minute… Maybe not that light.

That, by the way, is one of my brothers. He’s about 8 feet tall and 100 pounds. You know the type. And he’s the only one out of us 5 kids that is a blonde. Yet he has darker eyebrows than I do. Psh, genetics! I’ll never figure it out.

Super Fancy Ultra Delicious Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

– 1 stick unsalted butter
– 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
– 3 eggs
– 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
– 2 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (I used Swan’s Down. This is actually the recipe from the back of that box)
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch layer pans.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth.

3. Add brown sugar and eggs. Beat with mixer until light and fluffy.

4. Beat in vanilla and chocolate, then baking soda and salt.

5. Add flour alternately with sour cream, beating until smooth.

6. Pour in boiling water, stirring with spoon until blended.

7. Pour batter into layer pans and bake about 30 minutes or until done. Cool completely.

*Note: if you’re in a hurry, you can put the cakes into the freezer to cool them down quickly. I did that for about 10 minutes and they were cool enough to frost.

Super Fancy Ultra Delicious Ghirardelli Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

– 6 Tbsp butter, softened
– 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
– 1/2 Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa
– 1/3 cup milk
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1. In bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, mix powdered sugar and cocoa.

3. Blend sugar mixture with butter alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth.

4. Blend in vanilla.

You want to know my most shameful secret? I am not the biggest fan of cakes. I don’t actually really like them. Give me a cookie any day! Or a brownie, or chocolate, or hard candy, or… You get the picture. I have to really be in the mood for cake to eat more than a couple forkfuls. Or it has to be especially good cake. And this cake? I would eat a second piece. In my book, there’s no higher praise. Enjoy!