Thursday, December 24, 2009

Two days of baking, seven Christmas treats

Ah the holidays. How....uncomfortable you can be.

I drove back to Salina yesterday to beat the weather....that still hasn't hit Salina. It's come to Lawrence though, so I suppose leaving early was actually a good idea. Coming back, though, I'm still not so sure about. For one, I had a completely full car, including seven varieties of baked goods (yup! I said seven), all my Christmas presents for family, two blankets and a pillow, clothes, and the ever-whiny cat. Couple that with rainy/foggy weather, and it's can be an interesting 2-hour drive.

The older I get, though, the more I realize I only like part of the holidays. I love the baking, decorating and gift purchasing. I hate the actual day. Last night I went out to a bar in Salina, and throughout the course of the night there were at least 100 people from my high school there. Some were people I hadn't seen in forever and was happy about, but others were people I sort of recognized but couldn't place their names. I also found out my ex-boyfriend got engaged, which is doubly weird. We dated for four years, and for a while thought we would get married. It could have been me getting that ring last night, although I'm glad it wasn't. There are so many people getting engaged right now that I feel like I should be; after all, Drew and I have been together for as long as my ex and his girlfriend have. But I know I'm not ready for that. Not for a while.

I had nothing to do a couple days ago, and decided to go on a baking extravaganza. Last Christmas I brought cookies home that Drew's mom had made, but I wanted to bring home my own this year. I started with chocolate chunk cookies that I found in the Food Network magazine. They were one of the most labor-intensive cookies I've ever made because the dough isn't very sticky. I had to form each individual cookie, because it was more chunk (chocolate, white chocolate, M&M and cashew) than cookie. They were yummy though.

The next day was my big baking day. First it was pizzelles again to take to my grandma. I had Drew put them on the iron, and I've found he has quite a talent for it. I think I know what his job will be from now on. :)

Then it was my mom's old no-bake butterscotch cookies (essentially these minus the peanuts). We used to make them when I was little. They're super easy and only four ingredients, but get really hard to stir. You melt butterscotch chips in a pan, then add peanut butter and later marshmallows. The marshmallows make it really tough to stir, and then you add chow mein noodles. They're soooo rich but so yummy.

Then came one of my favorite recipes: peanut butter brownies. This is easily one of my favorite recipes, one I found on another baking blog. They go pretty quick too once you set people on them. They're basically brownies with chocolate and peanut butter chips in them. You bake them in muffin tins, then let them fall and fill the void with peanut butter. Top them off with chocolate and peanut butter chips and you're set! I went for the more festive vibe and did Christmas M&Ms.

I made three things I never had before as well. As you can tell, I baked for like a solid five hours. First were pineapple cookies with pineapple glaze from my Golden Book of Cookies. They are super moist from the crushed pineapple in them. Then I made biscotti a la Bobby Flay. It has blue and yellow cornmeal and pistachios. It's supposed to have Sambuca, a licorice-flavored liqueur, but I didn't have any of that and wasn't about to buy it (yuck!) so did Triple Sec instead. Last, I made chocolate-dipped pretzels. Mmmm.

Now I just need to figure out who's going to eat all this food. I'm not sure I'll be here as long as was planned.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Time for Christmas baking

It's finally winter break! Woo hoo! I've done some baking here and there for the last few weeks, but now I'm probably going to step it up. I have all this time, after all.

I did make those oatmeal cream cheese butterscotch bars for the newsroom. They were kind of interesting to make. You make the crumble part of the bars by putting butterscotch chips, oats, butter, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar all in a food processor. By the time all that was in, my foot processor was full. To the max. The bars turned out yummy though, a good sweet.

Then came LNOP, our newspaper tradition. No baking required for that, but still a fun time. It was the end of the semester, and my end as editor of The Kansan. It's kind of bittersweet. It was a great time, but so stressful. I think if I'd done it any longer, I wouldn't have been any good at it any more. My best friends are from The Kansan, though, so it was definitely worth it. Next semester, the last of my senior year, will be my final one on staff and my 9th total. Wow. I'm going to be in the in-depth reporting class, which I'm pretty excited for.

Not being editor, though, is going to give me a lot of time to bake. I've done a bit during break. The classic pudding cake, which is my dad's favorite dessert. It's such a baffling recipe. You put the solid ingredients in the bottom of the pan and pour water over them, and somehow the top becomes a solid cake and the bottom becomes hot fudge-like. I remember making it when I was little for all my dad's birthdays. It's perfect with vanilla ice cream.

Then Friday, my friend cooked pumpkin enchiladas and I made quadruple chocolate brownies. Yup, that's right, four chocolates. I make this Martha Stewart recipe, which includes melted chocolate chips and cocoa powder. Then I stir in whole semi-sweet chips and white chocolate chips. They were like two inches thick and SO good.

I've had some pretty good desserts out lately too. Some friends and I went to Angler's, a local seafood place. They have some pretty awesome infused rums: pineapple and peaches and pears. But they also had key lime creme brulee. It makes me want to try that dessert, but I need the hardware for it first. It's on my list.

Last night, I went with the same friends to Yardhouse in Kansas City, which has a ridiculous amount of beers on tap. There, I had a lemon souffle. Pretty good. Never made one of those either, so that's on my list too.

I'm excited for next semester because I'm going to have a lot more time to cook and bake. I better add going to the gym to that list or I'm going to gain like 50 pounds. But I will definitely keep taking baked goods into the newsroom, and probably more than I did this semester. I'll take requests!

It's almost time to head to Salina for Christmas day. I think I'll take some pizelles. And my cat.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Post-sickness baking

So the last few posts have talked about how I've been sick. Well, it's been a month now. On Monday it started getting tough to breathe, so I decided to go to the doctor. I had to wear one of those masks (like when you get SARS) in the health center. I felt pretty stupid. Anyway, they told me I had an upper respiratory infection. After 2 1/2 days in bed, antibiotics, an inhaler, Mucinex, snuggling with the kitty and a whole lot of Kleenexes, I felt better on Friday. Not exactly the best time to be sick, but what can I do. And, it's senior year, so I'm considerably less concerned about grades. Probably the wrong attitude. Oh well.

So Friday I started to bake. A lot. I had a few days to make up, after all, so I started making some favorites. Lemon bars (for Drew and Co.), pumpkin bread (for Stephen and Co.) and pizzelles. I had press club later, and then people came over for games, so I had enough people over that I could bake that much. We played Catchphrase for three hours. You could tell we were playing with journalism kids. For "Who's who": "Blank blank at KU!" and another, describing one that was a gerund. It was super fun though.

The lemon bars are the old faithful recipe from Martha Stewart that is just perfect, but how it works hardly makes sense. The crust is really strange, as in, you grate butter into your dry ingredients, push it into a pan, freeze it and then bake it. They sure end up yummy, though. The crust is half the bar, but it doesn't taste that way. This is easily one of my favorite things to make.

Then there's the pumpkin bread, a two-loaf recipe. I found the recipe on, and it ends up tasting great, but there's one huge problem. The recipe says bake it for 30 to 40 minutes, and it definitely takes 50 minutes to an hour. Can't these people count? The pumpkin loaves made an exit when Stephen returned after Catchphrase with three hungry lacrosse friends. Neither Drew nor I like pumpkin bread, but everyone else seems to, so Stephen took the loaves.

The last recipe is of pizzelles (see the Wikipedia article). They're Italian cookies that almost taste like a waffle cone and are super thin with designs on them. You have to have a special iron (like a waffle iron) to make them, which I have. These have kind of a family history with me. My not-really-grandma Mildred, who is my aunt-through-marriage's mother, makes them every Christmas and sends them to my grandma in an old ice cream container. I steal a few each time, and finally I just asked my aunt for the recipe. It's incredibly simple and only has six ingredients: margarine, eggs (a whole bunch of them!), sugar, flour, baking powder and flavoring. I usually make vanilla, but Mildred makes anise-flavored. The annoying part about these cookies is they make forever to make. The iron only has a spot for two cookies at a time, and it's a pretty huge recipe.

The cookies were a hit though, and I'm thinking of making lemon-flavored ones for the first time tonight. It's strange; I had two papers due Friday and now have almost nothing till finals. It's winding down and I'm finding I have free time. It's definitely a foreign feeling. So last night I watched a musical last night I'd never seen: Meet Me in St. Louis. I absolutely LOVE musicals. My mom is an organist/choir director/carillonneur, and my dad played in KU's marching band, so music is pretty much how I grew up. Music Man, Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, etc. Meet Me in St. Louis was a Judy Garland one, and I'd forgotten how unbelievable her voice was. A good movie all around. My other new discovery: the Boomerang channel and Cartoon Network. They play the Flintstones, the Jetsons, and Cartoon Network is bringing back Looney Tunes. I'm DVR-ing it.

Anyway, we'll see how much I decide to bake this week. I think it will be a fair amount, because I have a lot of free time at night this week. Another consideration of something to make: oatmeal cream cheese butterscotch bars.
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