Archive | January, 2010

sunday night impromptu deliciousness!

31 Jan

So have you ever been baking something and suddenly REALLY wanted it to be something else? Well for many of you this probably never happens, because I know the larger percentage of my readers are my family members who don’t bake… but for my bakers out there, maybe you know what I mean! You might be making a friend’s birthday cake or a special occasion dessert and suddenly you really really really want chocolate chip cookie dough? That’s exactly what happened to me. I was working on the dessert bars for the quilt retreat next weekend (making Samoa bars… post coming soon!) and I just needed cookie dough. So I pulled out the trusty bag of milk chocolate chips and 1/4th the cookie recipe. Mostly because I was afraid I might eat it all.

Let me tell ya, making 1/4 of the recipe was super quick, and I just decided to divide the batter into two heart shaped molds and pop them in the oven for a warm cookie ice cream dessert for me & my dad. (and my mom had a bite or two too). So basically I’m super full now, but it was majorly worth it. That is what they call a well-spent day off 🙂

a dark day in the very best way :)

28 Jan

Kinda crazy, kinda silly day – but I’ll elaborate on that if anything comes of it! 🙂 But baking wise, I needed a tiny bake break in the middle of my day to keep me going. Plus, I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to lick the spoon…. and eat the extra m&ms.

This was another quick & easy baking stint. In fact, couldn’t have been easier. As I said the other day, I’m doing quite a bit of baking for my mom, and this is just one more. Her annual winter quilting retreat is next weekend and she’s “hired” me to do a dessert-bar bar.  Since my life is hard to plan lately, I figured I’d pound out the easiest of the treats this afternoon. So easy that it involved the following:

Yep. That’s pretty much it. One box of Dark Chocolate Betty Crocker family-sized brownies and one bag of Dark Chocolate Valentine’s Day M&M’s. Ok… I also used 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, a little Pam in a can and parchment paper, but that’s it.

Now, I am a true baker, BUT, I always make brownies from a box. This is not something I hide from anyone. I honestly love them and think that homemade brownies can be a little dry. Betty’s red box are my faves, but I like the blue Pillsbury ones too, even the store brands are good. There is just something about boxed brownies that is delicious and SOOOO easy!  Also, I’m pretty sure boxed brownies are the first dessert I was actually “good” at making. It is a little known fact that my initial attempts in the kitchen were failures. I couldn’t shape a cookie for my life and half of my cakes constantly stayed in the pan when I tried to flip them. I was also extremely impatient and while frosting, I would tear the tops off… granted that was with canned frosting, which I refuse to use. But that was all a long, long time ago… eww almost 10 years ago! Now I’m a pro, or at least I know what I can and cannot do, but either way I’m sticking with my boxed brownies. They’re a constant success, and their ease makes it super fun for me to pump them with something extra – today’s extra’s being the M&M’s. And like I said, I needed the batter and the rest of that giant bag in my tummy to finish my day 🙂

Quick & Simple… but a little sticky!

25 Jan

After having quite the two weeks of being sick and injured, I finally made it back into the kitchen tonight, again for a meeting of my mom’s. It’s super helpful for me that she is the ConKerr Cancer Chicago coordinator and also hosts quilt retreats because she often has mini get-togethers that I can bake for. Since my dad lives in Canada Monday-Friday and my waitressing schedule is so sporadic, baking generally gets saved for special occasions these days – so I’m hoping special occasions keep coming up!

So for her meeting tomorrow I made raspberry scone drops and caramel-apple muffins. The “quick & simple” part of this title goes to the scones. This really isn’t baking… my mom had a mix in the cabinet for at least 6 months and I finally mixed it with water. Seriously, that’s all it took to make these.

Just 3/4 cup of water and the dry mix yielded 12 scone drops. I decided to make these little guys into drops instead of wedges so that there were be more of them. 12 instead of 8. They smelled good, the batter tasted good and the crumbs that fell off were yummy too, so I hope they’re a hit, though as I said, I can’t take much credit.

The second snack I made is the sticky reference. Since my mom and some of her friends do Weight Watchers, I sometimes have to fall back on low-fat recipes – because, like I said, sometimes she’s the only one here! So today I tried this caramel-apple muffin recipe, because they looked pretty cute and we had all of the ingredients. Plus, as a weight watchers points value of “3,” it’s roughly 150 calories, so it has yummy-potential. This recipe was quick & simple, but tremendously sticky. The note at the bottom warned me, but I didn’t realized how stuck my fingers would be! If I make these again, I will make sure to divi up the batter and then add the apples because mixing in was kinda a pain. (Stickiness intensified by caramel glaze, too!)

In the end they looked and smelled super good too – I’ll have to have the ladies comment on this post with their reviews of the treats, and I’m hoping to get a few more recipes baked this month. I just got the new Paula Deen magazine and there is a super cute idea for Valentine’s Day – get excited!

6 months and no cakes?

14 Jan

After this baking experience, I looked in my pictures and realized I hadn’t baked a cake since July. I couldn’t believe this, but it seems I have been much more cookie-minded lately, and for birthdays I had been sticking to cheesecakes and pudding pies. I’m guessing it is because cakes take a bit longer and I’ve been busy since I started waitressing, but it was a shock! My mom will definitely be getting an awesome cake for her birthday in February!

The reason I bring this up is because Monday I baked a cake and encountered some difficulties.

Problem #1: No parchment paper. So, since I’ve been so cookie-minded, not having parchment wasn’t so terrible. I used some Silpat sheets and they worked well. This isn’t the case for cake. I decided to use foil, and it was a mini mistake. My cakes lost their corner when I pulled them out of the pan.

Problem #2: As a result of losing the corners, the frosting wouldn’t stick without breaking the cake. Now, I was well aware that this was going to happen once the inside of the cake was exposed, but I figured that I could make it work. Well, eventually I was able to, but it called for MUCH more frosting than I expected.

Problem #3: Guacamole frosting. I didn’t actually make guac frosting, but i initially frosted the cake with milk chocolate frosting and then had the bright idea to make green and layer it. Result – guacamole like frosting. Lesson learned: stick to one color and remember, always make more frosting then you think you’ll need!

Enough with the problems, I can’t complain too much because the cake ended up cute and was ridiculously delicious. And I’ll tell you why – graham cracker cake batter! This is one of my absolute favorite cake recipes. I discovered it three years ago while baking Bridget’s birthday cake. She loves S’mores so I wanted a graham cracker base.

This cake is super quick and simple. All of the ingredients are thrown in a bowl at the same time, mixed up and baked. And I’m not kidding it’s an amazing flavor. It’s light and full of flavor without being super sugary.

So this is a long post because I need to explain the importance of this cake. My mom is the Chicago coördinator of ConKerr Cancer, an amazing organization that provides children in hospitals with cheerful pillowcases during their stay. The Chicago chapter reached 5,000 pillowcases and to celebrate this amazing feat, my mom

held a volunteer luncheon for the chapter. Please click the link and learn more about this great organization, it’s a great way to help children who need more smiles in their lives!

The cake was for about 30 people, so that is why I stuck with a sheet-type cake – easy to cut and serve. My mom designed the cake – a clothesline with pillowcases hanging, and even though it might not be one of my most inventive or prettiest creations, it was super yummy and a great way to celebrate ConKerr Cancer’s success. Congratulations!!

gotta love the oatberries

8 Jan

Oatberry cookies are my absolute favorite cookie to make. Ok, it’s because I invented them and so they are MY cookies… plus, everyone loves them. I know, that sounds snooty, but I honestly have never had someone tell me they didn’t like them. In fact, when I brought them to work today, one of the other servers walked up the stairs to give me a hug and to say that was the best little cookie he’s ever eaten.

Oatberries were born two and a half years ago in Des Moines on a rainy day when baking was a must. I think it was a Wednesday. I had no eggs or any chocolate chips or other fun mix-ins in the house, and was too lazy to go out and get anything, so I worked with what I had – vanilla yogurt and frozen blueberries. The Oatberry cookie was born.

Each time I make them I do a little more experimenting. This time, I decided to make mini ones, and so far, no complaint. I actually think it was a good change because they seemed a little less flimsy than usual.

Aside from the possible health benefits (oats, yogurt and fruit), the other awesome thing about Oatberries is that they freeeze magnificently. You can eat them right out of the freezer, no thawing necessary. I think this is because they are a really wet cookie. I used to leave them at room temp but they got a little soggy, so now I throw them in the freezer and they last longer and seriously taste almost better frozen than fresh. Either way, they are an ode to the blueberry muffin and so easy to make. The recipe is on my “recipe” page, so bake them soon!

Enjoy your weekend!

happy new year!

6 Jan

We all want to start the new year happy and healthy, right? This cheesecake took care of both of those goals!

I tend to make cheesecake for new years because I don’t like it. I am always on total sweets-overload after Christmas and want to make something for my family to enjoy and not be too tempted myself. Problem this year: the cheesecake was too delicious! And I tried to make it completely unappealing for me, but super appealing to my dad & sister – the lemon lovers. Turned out to be healthy and yummy so everyone was pleased.

I based this recipe on a Kraft foods lemon cheesecake recipe, but made some changes due to ingredients on hand.

First step – crust change. My dad LOVES Jingles, a gingerbread-y holiday cookie. Although this is a little bit of an insult to such a homemade baker… I decided to use half the box he had in the cabinet to make a ginger-y crust. It was amazing, and I don’t even like Jingles.

Next I changed the cream cheese to fat-free because that’s what we happen to have in the fridge, I added quite a bit of lemon zest and fresh lemon juice, baked the cake, refrigerated for a few hours and topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream and more lemon zest. Between the six of us eating, we devoured it. Even Madeline wanted more!

One more thing that made this dessert delicious – pairing it with raspberry sherbet.

A fruity, healthy and fun way to start the new year – mmm!

Christmas Cookies!

5 Jan

For the past four years, I’ve been baking for holidays, birthday, Sundays… whenever I can, this, however was the first Christmas that I wasn’t away at school in Iowa, so I baked the WHOLE month!  Luckily, a few days before Christmas I took a look in the freezer and realized it was time to stop… over 18 different kinds of confections were stored there and are now here for you to see. yum! Can’t wait until next year!

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