BzzAgent Post

Hello :)

So, in thinking about what to write to show that I'm interested in the Star Wars blu-ray set, I have to admit something first.

I've never seen Star Wars.

Yes, I realize I am the last person on Earth who hasn't seen it. Because to quote an episode of 'How I Met Your Mother' - "The only people in the universe who have never seen Star Wars are the characters in Star Wars and that's 'cause they lived them, Ted. That's 'cause they lived the Star Wars." And while I may be on the short side, I've definitely never been an Ewok. ;)

I know the basics of the story, because, hey, who doesn't? But I just never got around to watching it. My fiance is a huge fan, and I think it bugs him a little bit that I haven't seen it. So, I'm excited to be part of this campaign, as it would make both my fiance and George Lucas very proud. ;)


SHF : Rustic Apple-Cranberry Tart

It feels like it's been ages since I've actually been on time enough to do a Sugar High Friday event. Usually it can be summed up to bad timing - or, well, forgetfulness. *shrug*

This month's theme is the holidays is hosted by Cherrapeno, a blog I've just recently discovered and drooled over. ;)

After a disastrous attempt at a Nutella flourless cake on Wednesday night, I wanted something fruity. On a whim, I wound up at the Ocean Spray website, thinking, hey, at the very least, maybe I'll find a coupon for Craisins. I wound up finding this (alas, no coupons), and was thrilled to see that it could be easily put together on Thursday afternoon.

I would love to tell you lovely folks that I made my own crust. But I won't lie. Pie dough is still very intimidating, and I'll conquer that... when I get there. :) While I love the combination of the sweet apples and the tart cranberries, this is easily adjustable to any fruit combination you'd like.

1 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
21 ounces apple pie filling
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen, chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. Place pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate.

Combine the apples, cranberries, and cinnamon, mixing well. Spoon into pie crust. Fold eges of pastry over fruit, pleating so that crust lies relatively flat. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F, and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until fruit is bubbly and crust is golden. Let cool a bit before serving. Makes about 8 servings.

Devil's Food Cupcakes (Christmas style)

Yay! I survived! ;)

I hope everyone reading had a fantabulous holiday, despite any mad rushing around or last-minute baking.

We had a relatively quiet Christmas. My aunt and uncle came over. Food was delicious, loud conversations ensued. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was on all day on AMC. No matter how many times I see it, when the squirrel jumps out, I'm busting up with laughter.

The present-opening part held two good surprises for me. I've spoken in the past of wanting to get one of those vhs-to-dvd recorders, to preserve all the home movies and dance recitals and such; Dave got me one, which was a really, really big surprise. Secondly, between four gift cards, I've got about a hundred dollars worth to Barnes & Noble. :D

It's the end of the year, which means my annual 'end of the year' book. The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is my FAVORITE book. I've lost count how many times I've read it over the past ten years. In order to, well, make my own tradition, I decided to read it but once a year. I'm quite confident that I'll finish it before midnight on the 31st; currently on page 363, out of 876. Slightly worried, yes, but I'm still posting this before it's a week old - woohoo! ;)

Anyways, I first made these about a year and a half ago? I wanted something simple and chocolatey. And who doesn't love cupcakes? :)

(Sorry, Mel, the duck didn't fully make this picture. But Stitch did!) ;)

½ cup boiling water
6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup flour
½ + 1/8 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

½ cup butter, softened
10 Tbsp. brown sugar
6 Tbsp. sugar
2 eggs

In a bowl, whisk boiling water into cocoa until smooth. Add in milk and vanilla; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in batches, alternating with cocoa mixture; beginning and ending with the flour. Fill liners about halfway full.

Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Chocolate Ganache:
½ cup heavy cream
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chunks
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

Heat the cream until boiling, then pour over chocolate, stirring to melt, adding the corn syrup. Dip each cupcake into ganache upside down to get a good coating on it.


Cheddar Scones

See, this is what happens when it's a snow day - Kristen actually posts in the blog. ;)

There's about 20 inches of the white stuff out there right now. I think snow days were much more fun as a kid. As an adult, you find yourself thinking about how much more work there'll be to do tomorrow. But as a kid, all that mattered was getting out there, building a snow slide, and staying out there for as long as your parents would let you.

Now I often refer to snow as that "dirty four-letter 's' word."

Sure, it's pretty and all - when you don't have to go out in it. We saw one plow come through - probably around 4am. This afternoon, an ambulance got stuck at the top of the street. A second one was called in, and had to back down the hill in order to get the woman to the hospital. Because one plow doing ONE trip up the street just doesn't cut it. I will get ranty if I continue on the subject of my city's obvious bias towards the downtown area and the section where the mayor lives. Hmph.

Alright, onto the scones! These are my very first ever homemade scones. My friend Steve isn't a huge fan of sweets, but is a big cheese fan. So, I offered. And it was... an experience. My dad played sous chef and cut more butter for me, and turned the water on when my hands were a big floury-buttery mess. I had visions of how Paula Deen must feel on a regular basis. ;)

Overall, for a first time, because of course I tried one, not bad. Next time? More cheese. And some cheese on the top of all of them. I found the basic recipe on AllRecipes, but altered it a bit as I went. So the recipe below is what I wound up doing.

2 cups self-rising flour
3 Tbsp. butter, cold, cut into small pieces
Pinch of salt
½ cup shredded cheese
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Sift flour and salt. Rub butter into flour lightly, until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Stir in cheese. Make a well in the center, and pour in milk, reserving 1 tablespoon. Mix until just combined.

Knead lightly and briefly on a floured surface. Press to make a 1-inch thick round. Cut into wedges (or whatever shape happens to be easiest, in my case). Brush lightly with reserved milk. Sprinkle a bit of cheese onto the top.

Bake at 425F for 10-20 minutes, or until light brown. Let cool briefly on wire rack. Serve warm or at room-temperature.

Minty Mint Chip Brownies

This past Tuesday was round one of the annual Christmas Baking Extravaganza. I've learned over the years that it's best to space it out a bit. Do the mailables first, then locals, then Christmas desserts. It's working, for the most part.

Three out of the five mailables were all things that I've done before. Which definitely made it a bit easier. The biggest problem? Four things needed an 8" pan. Of which I own two. That was fun. :P (Solved by doubling one recipe and then stowing the first dish in the fridge to cool faster)

This one is a slightly altered recipe from one previous this year. Amelia's my twin, and when faced with uncertainty on a baked good, I suggested something minty. Thus, minty brownies.

The batter both tastes and smells delicious. Earlier in the month, I found that Nestle put out some semi-sweet chocolate and mint chips - not swirled, though. But they're pretty enough in the dark chocolate batter. I had the tiniest smidgen of one and really enjoyed the flavor, and promises were made to my dad that more would be made, in order to keep him away from these. (That sentence seems awfully disjointed.)

The picture was a last minute one, right before it was put into the box. And that is my 'tiny' (6') tree in the background. :)

½ cup butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. peppermint extract
3/4 cup flour
1-1½ cups mint and chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8-inch baking dish.

Melt butter and chocolate. Gradually beat into sugar. Add eggs and peppermint. Gradually add flour, beating until well combined. Stir in chips. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Makes about 16.


Pumpkin Squares

If I remember correctly, this was one of the first things I made here at home after I had started baking. Possibly January 2004? That was the last time I had come home from CA in the winter before moving back here. Both my parents loved it, as did my cousin and her husband. And now this is the second year in a row where it's been requested at Thanksgiving. *shrug* Works for me!

An oatmeal cookie-esque crust with a pumpkin custard on top, it's pretty easy. I always add in spices that aren't in the recipe - allspice, nutmeg - and never seem to measure. I can't cook because I feel more confident in my boxes and measurements, but I can improvise with cinnamon and the like. Another thing we'll just chalk up to a Kristen Quirk. :)

Oh, and because I can rationalize ANY food as being good for you - pumpkin has vitamins and oats are good for lowering cholesterol. There ya go, Leslie. ;)

1 cup flour
½ cup quick-cooking oats
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened

15 oz. Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin
12 oz. evaporated milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves

½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup quick-cooking oats
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat flour, oats, brown sugar and butter in a small mixer until crumbly. Press onto bottom on an ungreased 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Beat pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in a large mixer bowl. until smooth. Pour over crust. Bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Combine brown sugar, oats and butter in small bowl; sprinkle over filling. Bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

Chocolate Agave Cake

I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving. :) Mine was good. Except for the whole "working the next day at an ungodly hour" part. The joys of working in retail, right?

Mu aunt has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, so I sought out a lower-sugar dessert that everyone would enjoy. Having heard about agave nectar on a few different blogs - how it's lower on the glycemic index than even an apple - the quest began for a recipe using it. It was surprisingly harder than I had expected. Monday turned up results, though. Over at Baking Bites. (I really need to write a post-it to order myself one of the cookbooks)

The cake was SUPER easy to bring together, and I was happy to discover that agave nectar moves faster in the pouring process than honey does. The cake is very fudgey, but not as chocolatey as I had hoped. The frosting isn't very sugar-free, but I did use far less confectioners' sugar than the recipe called for. Everyone else loved it, though. Now that I think about it, I don't recall ever seeing it again after I went to bed so early. Hmm... :)

2¼ cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup agave nectar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sour cream
¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch round pans and line them with greased parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by agave nectar and vanilla extract.

Stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the sour cream. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the milk, before stirring in the remaining flour mixture. Mix only until just combined. Divide evenly into prepared pans.

Bake at 350F for 22-28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry or with some moist crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Turn cakes out onto wire cooling racks, peel off the parchment paper, and let cool completely.

Agave Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup butter, room temperature
3 tbsp honey
¼ cup milk
2-3 cups confectioners' sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat at high speed until smooth, gradually adding the confectioners' sugar until a thick and spreadable consistency is reached. More milk can be added to thin the icing, if necessary.


Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Alright, everyone. Try not to fall over - I'm actually updating. ;)

It feels as though I'm fighting an uphill battle in the fight against the lazy. I'm baking every weekend, but the lazy monster keeps coming up with paltry excuses from updating. Or even photographing. "It's rainy; no good light." "It's near-dark by the time I get home from work; no good light." Even worse, when the lazy monster gets in cahoots with the self-esteem gargoyle. "Oh, who's gonna care about yet another brownie recipe?"

But I'm doing good tonight. Baked yesterday, photographed a little over an hour ago, and here I am. (That and I told myself I couldn't read anymore of the book until I post this. Motivation, you come from the strangest places.)

So! I found this over at Recipe Girl and instantly fell in love. Pumpkin? In blissful union with snickerdoodles? Oh, my! You know it's gotta be something good if I'm making cookies before Christmas. ;)

And truly? These make me so ridiculously happy, it's not even funny. They're that perfect couple that, even though they're perfect, you aren't annoyed by them. You revel in their perfectness. You don't even feel that twinge of jealousy when they finish each other's sentences and get lovey-dovey.

(That last paragraph, upon re-reading, did make me raise my eyebrow in perplexedness. Have I gone off the deep end for good this time??) ;)

Anyways, divine. Everyone should make these. :)

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon

½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. allspice

Cream butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar and pumpkin puree, and beat well. Mix in egg and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into liquid mixture a little at a time until incorporated.

Cover dough with plastic and chill for at least an hour, or until dough becomes slightly firm.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice in a small bowl.

Using a medium cookie scoop (1½ Tbsp.) or a large spoon, scoop out dough and roll into balls. Roll dough through the sugar/spice mix. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten slightly.

Bake at 350F for 10-14 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3-5 dozen (depending on the size, of course)


Chocolate M&M Cookies

Whew! It seems like it's been ages, hasn't it?

Well, first, vacation was WONDERFUL. Somehow squeezed in seeing everyone that I wanted to see, as well as nearly 12 hours of driving on the way to Oregon and back to the Bay Area. Not only was it great seeing friends again, but also the food that I can't get out here! LOL I really did pack a box and mailed it to myself, full of stuff that I can't readily get over here. (Why, yes, that did include vanilla from the Ferry Marketplace Building in SF lol)

In other awesome news, last week Southwest Airlines had a big 72-hour sale, with one-way flights as low as $25. Naturally I couldn't pass that up, so come January, as a little birthday present to myself, I'll be heading out there for a few days. And Amelia mentioned those wonderful words of "road trip" and "Disneyland." Quickest way to make this little girl smile. :)

Halloween was fun. My friend Leslie has been having a Halloween party with her daughter for quite some time, and I was able to go this year. Of course I volunteered baked goods, and cookies wound up being the choice. The regular chocolate chip stand-by and this one, which is based off a recipe I used a few years back. (So out of it tonight; I do apologize lol)

I did a half batch only because it was Halloween morning that I was making these and time was limited. The recipe's quite easy, mostly one bowl (I got lazy and just mixed the flour and stuff in the actual measuring cup *shrug*. The dough is a bit on the sticky side, and very yummy, so you might want to chew some gum while making this, just to resist the dough-eating. ;)

1-1/8 cups flour
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. cocoa
½ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
½ butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
1 egg
6 oz. M&M's

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add egg. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture. Stir in M&M's. Place teaspoonful-sized dough at least 1-inch apart on prepared sheets.

Bake at 350F for 9-11 minutes. Let cool on sheets for two minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen.