Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer cupcakes and pie

I've officially been a college graduate for a week and a half. Now I'm a working girl. It's taking a little bit of getting used to. On the bright side, it gives me more time to bake and try new things. On the down side, I'm experiencing the end of college — namely, people moving away. I have friends moving all over the country, which I guess has happened before, except now I'm not going back to school after it happens. I imagine that when fall semester comes, it will be even stranger. I always have this feeling at the beginning of a break, where I've been so stressed with schoolwork that when it's over, I still feel like I should be doing it. I bet I get over that though :)

I've been watching a lot of movies. Saw Cabaret for the first time...jury's still out on what I think of that. And the Fantastic Mr. Fox. Definitely a cute movie. I watched Kiss Me Kate too — any musical lovers should appreciate that because Howard Keel is in it and his voice is amazing. Then some old favorites too, like Grease and 10 Things I Hate About You. "My insurance doesn't cover PMS!"

I've had a lot of time to bake lately, which is always fun. I made pink lemonade cupcakes about a week ago, sort of following the recipe. The weather was crappy and rainy, and I thought something like that seemed spring-y. You put in pink lemonade concentrate, but I added some of the powdered kind too, which made it extra pink-flavored. Same with the icing, which I also modified. Overall, they were pretty tasty, but totally weird. I guess I'm used to chocolate cupcakes or vanilla or something like that. I liked them though.

Then Keane came to town for his final goodbye before moving all the way up to Minnesota. He's working in the industry he loves, but I'm still sad to see him go. On the plus side, I guess, friends moving away mean lots of fun little trips for me to take! Anyway, Keane and AC came, and I made key lime pie cupcakes, which I've made before but apparently not written about. They're so tasty! You make a graham crust for them, and then a lime cupcake. Then you put in a key lime-marscapone filling, and top it off with key lime frosting. I'm not so hot at filling cupcakes, and might try a different method soon if I can't get better at it. But, they taste wonderful! Even though they fall apart when eating them. I made them initially for the guys, but gave them out elsewhere as well. The night out was fun too, and involved three boys singing "Shoop" in my car, putting the child lock on the windows and doing the Safety Dance.

My next project was to make bundt cake. I got this awesome bundt pan for graduation from a family friend (lemme tell you, my graduation gifts definitely had a theme, and they were all about cooking and baking). I'd really been wanting to try it, and stumbled across a recipe for Jones soda bundt cake. I've never made bundt cake before, but I had to try it. Kelly came over and helped me make the cake, which is seriously like half butter half sugar. It was flavored with Jones soda cream soda and berry lemonade, conveniently my two favorite flavors. The recipe called for just a normal glaze over the top, but I made glazes of each of the sodas instead. It was an awesome cake and very moist.

On my day off this week, I went to my aunt's house to make rhubarb pie. I've kind of shied away from pies because I'm not real confident in my crust-making abilities, so she taught me how to do it. My first crust was definitely a disaster, but a tip — roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper. Definitely helps. We made three pies, three different crusts, all from Joy of Cooking. The first was the normal pastry crust with strawberry and rhubarbs. The second, the better crust with just rhubarb. And finally, the best crust with fresh strawberries and rhubarb. The third was definitely best, but I guess that's what you get for putting more butter in, right? They all ended up really great, so now I guess I'm at least semi-ready to make my own pie crust. Fourth of July calls, right? Apple pie? I think so. Maybe I'll even brave making a lattice top.

So now I settle into summer and working. I'll leave you on an entertaining note — or at least I thought it was funny. I hope everyone watched Looney Tunes at least a little bit (and I still do if I get the chance!). Remember the cat that PepĂ© Le Pew always chased after? We knew she was French because she said "Le meow, le purrrr." So, my dad's in the Czech Republic right now for an airshow and sent me an e-mail today with the subject line "Czech pussycats" (I seem to always get animal e-mails...wonder why). In the body it said "Czmeow......czprrrrr!" I thought it was hysterical...coulda just been me though :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Baking for my college graduation

I did it! I'm an official college graduate! It's so weird that I won't be taking college classes again, unless of course I go back to grad school, which is not in the near future. It was an awesome weekend full of family, friends and baking.

Mom got in on her birthday, for which I made an ice cream cake. She was lucky to land, because it was really stormy and monsooning when we were waiting for her. Apparently the ride was really bumpy too. When we were driving back from KCI we actually had to stop on the highway because the rain was so heavy. But then there was cake waiting. I wasn't fully prepared for how large it was going to be. I used Smitten Kitchen's rich double chocolate cake recipe, which definitely isn't for the faint of heart. I used Ghirardelli chocolate and cocoa just to make it extra yummy. Anyway, the recipe calls for 10" cake pans, which I had thanks to my initial disaster with rhubarb upside-down cake. That's a lot of cake batter. In the center I put Edy's vanilla ice cream with a fudge ripple, and in between layers some cookie crumbles and fudge. Iced it with whipped cream, and then put some chocolate frosting around the edges. Luckily, my mom likes chocolate a lot. Turned out well, except that the cake was SO tall that you could really only eat a tiny sliver.

Dad, Cathie and Grandma got in on Friday. I'm super lucky that Grandma could come; she turns 90 this year and she's kind of my partner in crime. I cooked dinner for them, a penne with tomato vodka sauce I absolutely love. Oh, and breadsticks from scratch. I figured it would be easier than trying to get into a restaurant, plus I got to hang out with family.

The next morning was our 8:30 a.m. graduation ceremony. Whoever thought it was a good idea to schedule the ceremony for the kids who inherently stay up late was stupid. The weather was rainy too, so that kind of sucked. But it was nice to see all my friends from this year all in one place. I lacked a lot of the nostalgia though. Maybe I'm just relieved to be done. I think that's probably it. I liked seeing teachers at the reception, too. After that, we did family time again, everyone plus my aunt and uncle and cousin and his girlfriend. Drew's parents came too. I was supposed to go to another ceremony, but I really just felt like hanging out with family.

Later, Liz, Taylor and I had our party at his house. I made cupcakes...a lot of cupcakes. Kelly and I had a cupcake factory going the day before our party. Three flavors: red velvet cupcakes (with blue icing), devil's food cupcakes (with red icing) and yellow funfetti cupcakes (with yellow icing). Let's just say the KitchenAid mixer got a workout. And the kitchen looked like a bomb went off. You don't even want to know how many sticks of butter went into those cupcakes. I think we ended up with about 65. It was super fun because we had some awesome red and blue cupcake papers and sprinkles from Bake It Pretty, and some cool little Jayhawk pennants from somewhere else. I also wanted to put them on a cool cupcakes stand. Luckily, one of my favorite blogs, I♥Cuppycakes, posted do-it-yourself stands like a week before graduation. Kelly cut out all the pieces of the foamcore and then I covered it with Jayhawk wrapping paper, red ribbon and assembled it. I think it turned out pretty snazzy, if I do say so myself :)

The party was a great time, and we had lots of friends and family show up. Later I took Dad and Cathie to the Sandbar to have a shark attack. I just had to! Later was Barrel House and the Tap Room, but there were lots of goodbyes, especially to Student Senate friends or people in political science classes. It's strange, but I feel like I will see them again. One told me that we would meet again, and I would write the article exposing him (he'll be a politician someday). I hope I don't have to expose anything, but if it has to be done! Hah.

Sunday brought the walk down the hill. After going through the Campanile a gazillion times as a kid since my mom played it, it wasn't a huge deal to me I guess. But it was still kind of the end. I got to go home, lay on the couch, and not have any more homework.

So now it's on to the rest of my life. I'm working full time, and I really enjoy the people I work with and what I'm doing. I will have time to read books (that aren't about feminist theory or computer science!). I will have time to watch TV and movies I've been wanting to see. I will be able to take vacations. I will not feel guilty about doing stuff and not doing my reading for class.

I'd say easily my favorite thing about this graduation, though, was the family part. It had been a very long time since all of those people had been together — high school graduation, to be exact. I got to see both parents and stepmom, and my grandma, who is definitely not getting any younger. Aunt and uncle, cousin and his girlfriend, Drew and his parents and brother, and lots of friends. It was just a really good time, something I needed after how difficult this semester was. But that doesn't matter anymore. I'm a college graduate!

Rock chalk!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No time to bake or blog

Today was the first time I baked in a week. Can you believe it?! I sure can't. But I did bake a few things more than a week ago.
Right now I'm in between finals — I took one on Monday and I have one on Thursday. Monday was Contemporary Feminist Political Theory (eek!) and Thursday is my computer class. I keep forgetting I have to take this test and study for it. But, after it's over, I'm done with college. Done! And I'm so excited. Not to say that KU hasn't been a blast, because it has. I've had a great time on the Kansan too. But it's definitely time to move on. I'd say nine semesters in that newsroom were enough. It's given me some of my best friends, which I'm incredibly grateful for. What's funny is that working will actually be a break for me, a lot fewer responsibilities than I've had in the past. I looked on my calendar the other day and saw a day with nothing at all! It looks like a wonderful thing.
The past few weeks have been completely nuts with school and work and stuff. My project ran, like I said last time I wrote. I also took a test, wrote a paper and sent a yearbook that week. The paper was for that feminism class, and let me tell you, watching "Dexter" through the lens of feminist theory is pretty interesting. The yearbook took a lot of effort to put together, but I finally finished it with Drew's help, and now it's out! It's so strange to see something you put together on glossy paper and full color — it looks SO much better like that. I thought I'd have time after all this stuff, but then I had to write a paper for another class about my ideal society ideology-wise. I wrote about Salina...again an interesting exercise, especially when I haven't lived there for four years. Then there was reading for this feminism final, and on top of all that, working! Two of my good college friends got married this weekend, too, which brought a lot of friends I hadn't seen in a very long time to Lawrence. It was awesome to see them all, but I wish it happened more often. Seems like weddings are the key to getting everyone to town :)
This weekend is graduation weekend, so right now I'm in a frenzy trying to clean. There's a bunch of ceremonies to go to, but it will be great seeing my family. Mom gets in later tonight, so I'm preparing an ice cream cake for her. More on that next time, though, since it's not done.
A couple weeks ago, I was definitely in a peanut butter kind of mood. I made monster cookies for one, and took them by both the Kansan newsroom and the LJ one. I love this recipe, which I think is from Paula Deen, but I always leave the raisins out. Ick. Then AC and Rummans came to town, and they wanted me to make dessert before I went to work. Rummans picked out these peanut butter brownies with chocolate ganache topping. It's one of the tastiest (and richest) desserts ever. Part of that could be because I always make twice the amount of ganache, but I just don't think one amount of it is enough. Last time I made these for the Kansan newsroom, and they were a hit. This time I brought them to the LJ, and people seemed to like them again. I will definitely keep them in my rotation :) So I was keeping some of these to take pictures, and Drew threw them away. Blame Drew for lack of art ;)
Then I felt like making cupcakes for my last day of depth reporting class. I made my favorite yellow cake recipe (plus sprinkles to make funfetti) from Smitten Kitchen, but I've never made it in cupcake-form before. It made an awesome birthday cake for Drew, but it definitely makes more than 24 cupcakes. If I had to guess, it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 or more. But I thought they looked pretty cute when I was done. And they were all gone.
Like I said, I baked the beginnings of an ice cream cake today. I also have cupcakes for graduation. Beyond that, I'm not sure. Definitely have a cheesecake on the list of things to make. But I'm pretty sure being graduated will mean a lot more baking.
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