Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Picnic baking: Root beer cupcakes, apple pie ice cream and bread x 2

Well, it's definitely summer in Kansas. Every winter it gets so friggin cold, and then I can't believe how hot it gets! It says it's 93 right now, but I bet the heat index is way up there. And the thunderstorms have been wild too, what with all the rain and wind and craziness. Saturday I was working and the power flickered before kicking to a generator, which killed the cable, our sites and eventually the internet. Lemme tell you, it's hard to web produce when there's no web. And I've been baking a lot of foods that seem like they'd fit in with a picnic...but it's too hot to picnic right now.

It's been a fairly low-key week for me, which is exactly what I needed. I worked weekend days this week, which meant I was actually around when a lot of other staffers were. Which for me, naturally, means baking. Kelly and I made root beer cupcakes, which I think are totally weird but were a big hit. Root beer concentrate is definitely not the easiest thing to find in Lawrence. The cupcakes have both the concentrate and root beer in them, so they make a really runny batter. We couldn't decide what flavor of icing to do, so I swirled root beer and vanilla together, and then put a straw in them. I think they were cute :) And they newsroom definitely ate them up!

Saturday the weather hit the newsroom, like I said, and Sunday was just plain hot. Monday, though, I went to Aunt Betty's and we did a baking extravaganza. I've been wanting to try out ice cream, which yes, I admit, isn't baking. But it's dessert, so it works. I found this really great recipe for apple pie ice cream, it just sounded perfect for summer! So I made it the night before. I'd never made custard before, which involves cooking a milk mixture to a certain temperature, adding in the eggs slowly, cooking that to a certain consistency and then cooling it down really fast. It made me nervous, but apparently I did it right, because the next day when we put it in the ice cream maker with the apple mixture, it turned into ice cream! And it was sooo yummy. Ice cream might be my new thing, and I don't even really like ice cream that much. But the homemade stuff just tastes so much better, you know? We made a quart, but between me, my aunt and uncle, we finished it off.

Also on the list of things to make was a yummy pesto bread that a friend at work posted a link to. I like making bread at Aunt Betty's because she makes it so often and it always turns out perfectly. We made the pesto from the basil in her garden, definitely tasty. I know I'm going to ask for a new food processor for my birthday, because hers is so much better than my crappy cheap one. Yes, I live dangerously, asking for a food processor. Anyway, the bread was made kind of like a jelly roll, spreading out the pesto inside and then rolling it up, which also meant some pesto squished out. In the end, though, it turned out looking very pretty. My coworkers Sarah and Whitney also made the bread, and Whitney wrote about it on one of our sites. Definitely a fun thing to try making.

When I was browsing the site the pesto bread was on, I also found a recipe for pretzel rolls. You never realize how much goes into making pretzels until you actually start. You make the dough, let it rise, cut it into separate rolls, let it rise again, boil it in a baking soda-water combination, egg wash it, salt it, cut it and then bake it. All of those steps are worth it, though, because these might have been my favorite of the day. They browned wonderfully and were soooo yummy right out of the oven. And they were yummy with peanut butter, too! I think I will make some into sandwiches later.

I wanted to take that ice cream I made earlier into the newsroom, so two nights ago I remade a giant batch. I took it by last night and it seemed well-received. I can already tell how much of a workout my ice cream machine is going to get this summer! In between ice cream-making, I've been doing some massive cleaning and painting. I even organized my baking cabinet so I can see all my cupcake papers for next time I want to bake. I'm a dork, yes.

No cleaning for me today, though. I definitely have the itch to bake again, but instead I'm going to make use of my new gym membership after I take a nap. :) I love summertime!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Drinks in desserts: pink lemonade pie and cherry limeade cupcakes

Today is my day off. So far I've caught up on sleep and gotten a haircut. Pretty active day, eh? Oh well, that's what weekends (since this is mine) are all about.

It's been fairly active in Lawrence lately. We had a monster of a storm yesterday; it was raining so hard you couldn't see more than three feet out the window. Parts of Lawrence flooded, I-70 was closed and KC got hit really hard too. Just another Kansas summer. I guess it's not boring, though.

It's been a week since I got back from my trip out to Lewis, which is always a good time, but also kind of sad. I love going on the road trip with just my dad and grandma, because we don't do stuff limited to just family very often. But it's also filled with sad memories — death of my maternal grandfather, death of my cousin's little girl, death of my dad's brother when my dad was 11. I mean, I guess that's how life goes, but it's so sad to think about all that in one day. After we plant flowers, we always do a mini-tour of the area around Lewis of places back in my grandma's and dad's life, the first being a farmhouse that was the first place my dad lived. He went inside it and it was abandoned, run-down, smelled bad, everything. It's weird to think that if I went inside the house my dad built for me to grow up in I'd probably be really apprehensive too. It's not abandoned, but it's been completely changed. Anyway, point is, the trip is always very sad, but happy too. I still have my grandma to go with, and that's definitely always an experience. Plus, every time I go I learn more about her life. We went through her cedar chest and found both her wedding gown and a plaque from her college sorority 1941. Those letters in the picture are ones my grandpa wrote her before they were married and he was stationed at various army bases, dated 1940-1942. Incredible.

The weekend after coming home from that, I really wanted an easy dessert to make. I was browsing the LJWorld sites and found a food blog they have called the Flying Fork. Somehow I stumbled upon a pink lemonade pie that looked really yummy and easy. Originally I wanted to make pink lemonade cheesecake, but the recipes all called for chilling overnight, and I didn't really want to wait. So I ended up with an easy pink lemonade pie — four ingredients! Okay, so it wasn't technically as much baking as it was chilling, but it was dessert and tasted really yummy. That night AC came to town, and we all went to see the A-Team, which I actually liked. I know critics hated it, but for a movie about a show that was already really ridiculous, they did a good job. The casting didn't bother me either, and I thought it would. Murdock is still my favorite :)

Saturday I worked dayside at the newspaper, and I got the best assignment ever. I got to cover the cat show! I know that sounds horrible to some people, but I have no issue spending part of the day with kitty cats. One Maine Coon was the biggest I'd ever seen; he was longer than the torso of the guy carrying him. There were definitely some characters there, including one guy whose Maine Coons were named things like Francoonstein and Coonzilla. Creativity, yes! So I went to the show and then wrote the story for the paper and put together an audio slideshow. It was a fun day at work.

If you couldn't tell, I've been on a cupcake kick lately, and that continued after my cat extravaganza. I made cherry limeade cupcakes to take into the newsroom. Man, those cupcakes are lime-y. The recipe uses limeade concentrate out of the freezer — the whole can! They'd be really tasty as just lime-flavored cupcakes too. Then on the frosting I departed from her recipe and kind of just made my own grenadine frosting. All in all, I thought they were pretty good, but I'd kick up the cherry flavor a bit next time.

A couple days ago I made brownies just for fun. No picture of those, though. They were eaten before I could shoot a pic.

Now it's time for me to head to the gym to counteract all this baking. I joined Body Boutique this week, so now I just have to make sure I actually go on a regular basis. I guess the nice thing about working in a newsroom (among many other things) is that when I bake, there are always a bunch of people willing to eat the desserts. Plus, cupcakes always brighten my day, so I hope they brighten other people's as well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CCDCC = Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes + even more cupcakes

Well, I currently sit awake, unable to go to sleep. Working nights really screws with my sleep schedule. It gives me a perspective I've never had before, though. Being awake at 6 a.m. consistently. Before, the only times I'd been up at 6 I had just rolled out of bed and not happily. Now I'm getting off work at that time, and it's a totally different perspective. Not too many people are up and I can run errands if I want to. I stopped by Hy-Vee the other day and there were just a few old men drinking coffee and friendly clerks there. I get to see the sun rise sometimes too, unless it's like today or yesterday (translation=summer storms in Kansas). Yesterday it stormed all day, but I think in a place where it didn't storm I'd get bored. Mom says when it even thunders once up in Michigan, they think it's a storm. Hah!

One of the most exciting things I've done in the last couple weeks is see one of my very oldest friends get married. We lived down the street from each other, and she and her sister and I played together all the time. We danced to Spice Girls songs, went to middle school dances, threw birthday parties for my cats (come on, are you really surprised?) and spent a lot of our childhoods together. She got married and looked unbelievable in her dress. I'm so happy I got to see her. Congratulations Jessica! I guess I'm really growing up.

I've been baking cupcakes a lot lately, and then taking them to work. The biggest problem has been dragging myself out of bed in time to make them. Good thing I'm not planning them later, because I should have been asleep an hour ago. I am excited for later, though, because I'm about to go on a family tradition trip. Every Memorial Day (or thereabouts), my dad, grandma and I head down to tiny little Lewis, Kansas, a.k.a. where my grandma and grandpa grew up. In the '20s and '30s. Most of my dad's side of the family is buried there, so we load up a car with flowers and water for them, make the hours-long drive and go to the graves. On the way down, we stop in Claflin, which is where my mom grew up and my uncle still has his farm. My maternal grandfather and one of my cousin's daughters is buried there, so we plant flowers there and visit my uncles multitudes of animals. Then we stop in Larned at Pizza Hut for lunch every year. Then Belpre, a tiny town like three miles from Lewis, where my grandpa's sister is buried, then Lewis, where everyone else is. Then we drive around Lewis for a bit and the country, then back to Salina. It might sound boring, but it's time I get to spend just with my dad and grandma. It's a long day, but I'm excited.

So obviously I'm off work the next couple days. Last week at work we had a bake sale, and I decided to try these cookie dough cupcakes I'd been wanting to try. Yes, they're as yummy as they sound. First you make chocolate chip cupcakes, then make an egg-less cookie dough to fill it, then make a cookie dough-flavored frosting and top with mini chocolate chips. They were sooo tasty but so rich too. One and I was good on dessert for the day. They were all gone when I came to pick up my cupcake container, too, so I guess that means everyone liked them! :)

Then I was craving cream cheese icing, and I'd seen a recipe for lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese icing. I guess summer makes me really want to try more citrus-y desserts. I only made a half batch, and I think next time I'd make them more lemon-y. But the icing was pretty tasty.

Friday night I worked, so I stayed until 7 a.m. so I could go to the Lawrence Farmers' Market. I hadn't been yet this year, but I definitely want to make it back. Veggies seemed to be featured right now, but I can't wait till they have more berries. I really want to try more pies since my rhubarb pie lesson with Aunt Betty. Anyway, they had some really tasty snap peas and some grass-fed beef, which I can't wait to try.

Yesterday I had a really grouchy day, but a baking-related event really helped cheer me up. My friend from college Becka is in town from California and wanted to meet me to give me something. I was meeting another friend downtown for dinner, so Becka stopped by with Beale, her guide dog-in-training. She made me this awesome apron for graduation! It's even got cupcakes on it, how perfect! Turns out my graduation gifts definitely had a cooking theme, but none of the others were homemade like this. I haven't baked with it yet, but I can't wait to!

Yesterday and the day before I wanted to make cupcakes again, but I just kept sleeping later and later. I'm talking waking up at like 5 p.m. or later. Someone described me as a bat a couple days ago, and while I don't hang from the ceiling, I'm definitely sleeping in a dark room during the days. It's weird. I finally got time today, though, to make pomegranate velvet cupcakes. I've made them once before as well, and I found them on IHeartCuppycakes. They're basically like red velvet but with pomegranate flavoring and pomegranate cream cheese icing. I brought them to the newsroom, and the production guys spotted me with them on a camera so I took them over there. It's good, because otherwise I would have had waaay too many left over. Anyway, if you ever make these, pay heed because the frosting recipe kind of sucks. I like using Martha Stewart's cream cheese frosting and then adding the flavoring to that and adjusting the thickness.

So now I've got a couple days off, and we'll see if I bake any more. My guess is yes, but I might just feel like laying on my couch and not getting up!
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