Saturday, March 27, 2010

Distracting desserts

I think I should start a countdown to graduation. It's feeling soooo far away, but I know it's actually really close. I know that because I've started buying my graduation stuff. Cap and gown? Check. Two tassels? Check. Phi Beta Kappa registration? Check (I'm really happy about that one!). Self-designed graduation invites so I save money and have a more colorful invite? Check. Red and blue supplies for graduation-themed cupcakes from Bake It Pretty? Check. Soooo now I just have to make sure I actually graduate. Sigh.

I'm having to prioritize my homework right now into a few categories: have to do immediately, might do later and probably won't ever do. It seems that most is falling into probably won't ever do, but I'm hoping to change that. On Friday, my project draft was due for depth reporting. I think my brain turned into jelly while working on it; let's just say I have a way to go till I feel comfortable with where it's at. Next week a computer test. Ugh.

But, ultimately, it's all worth it for graduation. Because I got a job! I'm going to be overnight reporter at the Lawrence Journal-World. I interned there this summer and was again this semester, but now I've started working the overnight job already (in fact, that's where I started typing this 5:30 a.m.). For those of you who know me, you know I'm a night owl, so this will work out really well for me. I'm pretty darn excited.

My stress this week, though, was tempered by baking. Actually, I baked when I should have been working on stuff. Baking does a really good job of distracting me from stuff. Earlier this week, I felt like cupcakes, but not enough cupcakes to have to take them anywhere. I made Martha's malted milk cupcakes again, but naturally I've already started editing the recipe to be more malt-y. I put a bunch of malt powder in the frosting, too, too make it more malty. I wanted to make pretty springtime cupcakes, but man, that pink food coloring was strong! Oh well, they were tasty.

Remember that project I was talking about? Well I had to take a break every once and a while, and one of my breaks equaled in Kansas Sunflower Bread. I've made this before, three times actually. Except, it's only worked one of those three times. I'm not sure what the deal is, but I'm thinking I wasn't kneading it enough, so if you make it, be sure to be thorough. Plus, it's a really thick dough, but thick with yumminess, like sunflower seeds, oats and bulgur. It's very substantial bread.

Another break took the form of raspberry lemonade bars. I saw this recipe a while ago, I think originally on Food Gawker, which led me to 6 Bittersweets, which led me to the recipe I used. I put it away for a rainy day, which actually happened to be a brain-melting day. I'm a HUGE fan of Martha's lemon bars, but raspberry lemonade sounded like such a good twist I had to try them. The crust was easy enough, but you have to put the raspberries through a strainer, which I'd never done before. The recipe calls for a cup of frozen raspberries, thawed, then strained to get the juices. I put well over a cup, which I think worked out fine. My only critique of these bars is that the filling is a bit too thick for my liking, and I think a shorter bar would be better. Nonetheless, the bars are sooo tasty. Nice and tart, just like raspberry lemonade should be. I'll definitely be making them when the 100 degree weather hits, whenever that is! Actually, today at work, I read an article that said this winter was one of the warmest on record. I don't know what record they're going by, because it's been SO cold!!

Anyway, I need to really get to studying sometime soon. But for sure I'm making cupcakes today. I haven't decided yet what kind, but I'm thinking cookies and cream or margarita. I'm also considering entering Iheartcuppycakes' Cupcake Hero competition for the first time. She does it every month, and it has a theme. This month's theme is to make a cupcake from the Hello Cupcake book, something I don't have. Seems like a good excuse to buy it, right? I'd like to think I can decorate well enough to not embarass myself, but that's probably not the case. At least I'll improve my skills. We'll see where it goes from there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vegas Vacation

Well this week was spring break, so not much baking for me. But I did go to Vegas! I made it a goal to get as many creative desserts as possible, and I took pictures. Most of them were amazing! Too bad I got sick during the trip, and am now home, in bed, on antibiotics. Ugh. Oh, and if you've ever wondered, flying with any sort of infection in your head (mine was ear) is a bad, BAD idea. My ear has yet to pop since we landed Thursday at 4. Painful. So anyway, I'll do food first, then other various pictures.

Our first night we went to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in Caesar's Palace. We did this last year and had the most amazing chicken tacos with a peanut butter spicy barbecue sauce. Mmmmm. I even got my favorite prickly pear margarita! For dessert, chocolate corn bread pudding. I was too full to eat too much of it, but it was reallly tasty.

Liz and her friend Alex went to Vegas the same time we did, so we did a lot of walking around. Which meant some pretty monster blisters. We went inside the new Aria casino, part of the new City Center development. I think the theme is as-over-the-top-as-you-can-possibly-get. None of it really goes together, but it's still cool. These awesome cakes are from Jean Phillippe Patisserie and were so pretty!

Then we got crepes there. Liz inspired me to get a Nutella crepe, and it was wonderful! I know the crepe place in the Paris casino used to be the only one, but now everywhere makes crepes! That's definitely on my list of things to learn how to make.

This is a chocolate fountain from the Jean Phillippe store in the Bellagio. Doesn't that look tasty? I'm not even a chocolate person and it looks yummy.

This is an edible toucan also from the store in the Bellagio. I guess all toucans are technically edible by carnivores, but this is a chocolate/pastry one.

We stayed in the Mirage, which is easily my favorite casino. The rooms were amazing (and the beds quite comfy!) and everything we wanted to do was right near us. Drew and I saw the Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil for the second time, and I loved it even more this time. It is my favorite show, hands down. Everyone should go see it! This is some yummy cheesecake frozen yogurt. Maybe that will be on my list of things to learn how to make too.

This is a black and white shake from a place called the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay. It's done by a chef named Hubert Keller. If you watched Top Chef Masters, he's the French guy. The shake was cookie dough and vanilla ice cream and tasty. The burgers were excellent too, although too much food for me!

For dessert here (after having a shake already!) we got the dessert burger. The bun was a doughnut with a filling of cheesecake, strawberries and pineapple. I know it sounds really heavy, but it was actually pretty light. I'm sure it wasn't in the calories though. This was the day we went to Ka, another Cirque show in MGM Grand. It's based on a lot of martial arts, which is something I'm not as interested in, but the stage was a-maz-ing. As in, the whole thing was on hydraulics and went vertical and spun and everything. It was the most fantastic stage ever (check this out at about the 2:10 point).

The last day I was stuck in our hotel room sick for most of the day. Drew got me this key lime pastry from the Jean Phillippe store. The green disc thing on top is edible and really cool. I'm thinking it was white chocolate. I did go to Lion King this night, which we got free tickets too. A good show, although my least favorite of the bunch.

Now for the non-food photos. This was the Grand Canyon out our plane window. I guess I forget how gigantic it is!

This is the ceiling of the Bellagio. I know it's fairly famous, but still stunning! These are all glass.

This is in the Wynn. So cool and colorful.

We all know by now that I'm an animal person too, which means we definitely had to visit the dolphin and cat exhibit at the Mirage. It's for Siegfried and Roy, so it has some of their tigers and all that kind of thing. Last year we went too, and there were baby dolphins, but this year they were all grown up. These dolphins were 7 years old and the other was in his 30s, which the trainer said is on the upper end of their expected lifespan.

One of my favorite kitties was the big lion down in the right-hand lower corner. He was sleeping with his tongue out :). Top-left was a panther, a.k.a. Melvin's big cousin. Next to that is a white tiger who hated some lady outside his cage. I think it might have been the colors she was wearing (yellow and green). He was pacing his cage and stared at her, then sprayed her multiple times. Yuck. Next to him was a tiger that was a teenage tiger last year, laying in the sun. In the bottom left was one of the two babies they had there. They were eight months old and this guy was chewing on a box. The other one was licking a block of ice that they froze blood into. They were super cute.

On the right is the leopard we saw this time. To the left is him last year as a baby. So cute!

So now I'm home with a giant to-do list unable to do it because either my sickness or medicine is making me sleepy. My final project is due a week from today — eek! But, I did have a really cool story run on the front page of the Journal-World last week. It was super fun to write! I'm going to update my Web site to include it for sure. Anyway, I have Princess and the Frog on repeat now, so hopefully I get better soon and can get some stuff done! Also, it's snowing. Seriously Kansas??

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The most involved cupcakes I've made yet (plus better than Cheez-it crackers!)

So it's spring break! Eeeeeeeee!!! So happy!!!

Okay. Excitement over. Not really, but on Sunday I leave for Vegas. Can't wait! I'm excited most about two things: Cirque du Soleil's "Love" and the amazing food we're going to eat. Well, and going with Liz and Alex. And seeing Case and Traci. And going out. And seeing all the sports book people show up Wednesday for the NCAA Tournament. And not worrying about stuff going on here!

It was a tough week, but I strategically placed some baking time in there to de-stress myself (translation: avoid studying). First, I tried baking these Parmesan crackers. I've never made crackers before, but these were super easy to make. Getting them thin was another story, but whatever. They were still tasty. You basically just throw flour, salt, butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese (mmmmmmm) into a food processor, add half-and-half and you have dough. Then comes the rolling it out part. Like SmittenKitchen says, you have to go waaaay thinner than 1/2 inch like the regular recipe calls for. I tried as thin as I could, but even after poking holes in the crackers with a fork, some still puffed up. Oh well. They were really yummy snacks!! I'm usually not a cheese cracker fan, but Parmesan makes everything better. Can you tell that I like Parmesan?

Tuesday night I had to study for a test. It was one of those tests that's in a lower-level class but the teacher wants you to know everything about the topic plus how to change your car's tire while it's moving. As in, ridiculous amounts for something that's not worth it. Tuesday's my long day of classes too. So naturally, I get home and both of my food magazines are here: Food Network Magazine (my absolute favorite and you should totally go subscribe) and Martha Stewart Living. I read those. Then I decide to make brownies. Both things that help me accomplish my studying. But Easter candies are out and I had to make Easter M&Ms/Easter sprinkles brownies, right? Well that's what I was telling myself.

So this test was yucky. It did have a feminist question, though, so I owned that, courtesy of my yucky test last week. Something totally new and different happened to me, though, while studying for it. I was going strong, and then got tired at 1 a.m. Anyone who knows me knows that I stay up late...always. But this semester I've had to get up early for class or work every day and don't really have any sleep-in days, which I guess has thrown me off of that ability. So I went to bed at 1 a.m. the night before my test. SO weird. Even weirder, I got up at 6:45 to study again. Yeah. I don't do early mornings. But I did, and I took it. Maybe that means I'm getting older. Hmph.

Thursday night was my last school commitment of the week. I had to turn in computer class homework, but I wanted to do some cupcake-ing before I did. So I used the marsala I got when I was with Mom and tried these tiramisu cupcakes (the first photo is courtesy of Tanner Grubbs, again). They are quite yummy, but look closely at the directions if you want to make them. They're super involved: you heat up milk and vanilla bean pods and then let it cool and strain it, sift together dry ingredients and in the meantime beat together lots of eggs and sugar. Then you have to whisk that over simmering water, and beat that again till it's light, and then combine the dry ingredients in, and put some of that in your milk mixture and then put it back in the's a lot. Then you have a coffee-marsala-sugar syrup you brush over the top and marscapone frosting. Tasty but not easy.

And now it's break! And I got to sleep in today for the first time in...I don't know how long. I'm so happy about that. I also just bought a book to read for pleasure rather than school. It's such a foreign concept! I should probably do homework too, but whatever. Kitty is going to be mad at me for leaving him, but he's got good people to take care of him. And with that, a final thought, courtesy of "Ace of Cakes."

"Dogs have owners, cats have staff." — Mary Alice

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Follow the rainbow cake to Fake Patty's Day

One week from spring break. That's about all I can think of. That, and the mountain of work I have to do before graduation. Ugh. Also, I couldn't resist the cute kitty picture.

It's been a busy week. My contemporary feminist political theory (say that three times fast!) test ate my soul. That was so much studying for only four questions! It's time to take a break from Judith Butler, intersectionality, social construction feminism, the mobius strip and all that stuff for a while.

My whole week disappeared into that test, but there was one really excellent part: the KU-K-State game. I probably should have spent that time studying, but it was so worth it. And I wasn't going to miss my final home game as a KU student. It was amazing! It was the loudest I had ever heard it; I think we got up t 109 decibels. And it was Sherron's last night. The most winningest player in KU basketball history. He was crying coming out onto the court, and I'm pretty sure I teared up. It was sad, but it was also the realization that my college career is soon over as well. Scary. The referees were terrible, but ultimately, we won. And there was some K-State guy in the student section a few rows in front of me. He got hit with balls of newspaper for the entire game. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost. He should have known better than to sit in the KU student section in a purple shirt.

I got to do a little baking this week. I made some yummy chocolate cookies and saved a bag to take to my depth reporting class (see: the picture includes Elliot's hand). Naturally, I modified the recipe to include more chocolate. I had to put in the Easter M&Ms. I'm not really even into the holiday itself, but it's so fun to cook with holiday ingredients! I made a double recipe, and I highly recommend these cookies for chocolate lovers. I don't like chocolate that much and I liked them.

After taking my test, I kind of just sat comatose for the rest of that day. Friday, Kelly and I decided to finally try the rainbow cake. I used Smitten Kitchen's yellow cake recipe, the same one I used for Drew's birthday cake. Then Kelly and I split the batter into six equal amounts and mixed in Wilton's icing color dye. Kelly managed to turn a couple fingers blue in the process — she's a smurf. Apparently this type of dye is better than using normal food coloring because it's a gel and more concentrated than the liquid stuff. And those were some super bright colors! Then we layered the batter into cake pans. It's a little hard to layer three semi-liquid items too. We put purple on the bottom of one, then blue, then green. In the other we did yellow-orange-red. I'm not sure if I would do it that way or reverse them (starting with red and green) because the cakes rise and you end up cutting off a lot of one color. Anyway, we made regular buttercream icing (this recipe was *just* enough, so I'd consider making a bit more, maybe 1 1/2 of the recipe). Sprinkles on top, and we had an awesomely colored cake. It's tasty, too!

I ate this cake for breakfast (so healthy, I know!) after coming home today from a trip to Manhattan for Fake Patty's Day with Liz and Sonya. We stayed with Keane, and Rummans and Billy were there too. It was a really fun time, although some of the people we saw were unreasonably drunk. I guess that's the point. I ran into a lot of friends and a lot of people I hadn't seen in forever, even some friends from middle school. Weird.

So now I have one more test, this time in political theory. I'll need some baking ideas for this week because I'm starting to run out of energy. I've switched from study mode to pick-out-what-restaurants-I-want-to-go-to-in-Vegas mode. I have to study at least a little bit before I get in full-on spring break mode! And I have to bake a bit more too.

One last thing: This video makes me giggle. Guess what kind of animal it features ;)
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