Thursday, January 19, 2012

Baked Alaska, penuche and cat treats

It's a little surprising how peaceful the lake can be even during the winter. Last weekend I went to my dad's place out at a lake about two hours from where I live. Despite it being pretty chilly (and we certainly stayed away from the water), the air was clear and the water beautiful. 

I got some reading done, I enlisted my dad to help me with some baking (which I'll share with you next week), I cooked kebabs for lunch one day, and generally hung out with my dad and stepmom. Also, it was an excellent place to watch the second episode of Sherlock, which was scary enough in broad daylight! If you haven't watched this show yet, go find the first season on Netflix. Excellent British television, and each episode is a like a mini movie.

Baked Alaska is one of those things that's always seemed a little weird and intriguing to me. After all, you're baking ice cream, and that's not totally normal. So on a recent trip to Aunt Betty's, we made it.

Courtesy of Joy of Cooking, we made the chocolate genoise cake bottom, molded the cookies and cream fro-yo and piped on the meringue, which insulates the ice cream so it doesn't melt like you think it would. And actually, as far as desserts go, it's not that terrible for you. I think next time, though, I'll make it for a dinner party or something. Definitely a dessert for many.

Back when I visited Keane in Salt Lake City, we went to a chocolate and candy shop where I met my new favorite candy: penuche. Basically, it's brown sugar fudge. I was definitely one of those kids who tried to sneak tastes of brown sugar when my mom made cookies when I was little. So having a brown sugar-flavored fudge is like heaven. This is also a Joy of Cooking recipe that includes pecans mixed in. And I will definitely make it again.

Aunt Betty suggested we try making cat treats because, you know, we're cat people. Well, animal people. Anyway, this is Archie, her black kitty, investigating the treats. We made tuna treats and modified the recipe a bit so it wasn't too runny and would actually form treats. Basically, they're tuna-flavored patties that you bake to dry them out. Honestly, they weren't much of a hit with both Archie and my cat, Melvin. Oh well. Worth a shot!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy 2012: NYE & birthday margarita cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and baguettes

A professor from my journalism school posted a link on Twitter the other day that was really thought-provoking. It was a blog post about questions to ask for yourself about the last year. Yes, perhaps it is something that's written in some form or another every year, but honestly, it made me realize what a wonderful year I've had. The most amazing thing I did in 2011? Get a new job and move to a new city. Am I happy about where I am in life? Completely. I have some amazing friends, many of whom I got to see during the holidays even though they live far, far away. I got to make plans to visit them in 2012. I got to see both of my stepsiblings for Christmas, even though they live in Canada. And as a whole, I'm really happy where I am emotionally and mentally. So 2012, bring it on. Let's make it even better. /end typical year-beginning/year-end post.

I'm not the type of person to really go for the whole big New Year's Eve out sort of thing. But one of my best friends, Tara, has her birthday on NYE, so I celebrated at her house with her family. That included bringing my customary bday gift of cupcakes, which this time was a margarita cupcake. And despite not being kid-friendly for all the little ones running around, I'd say these were definitely a hit. They're basically a lime cake brushed with tequila and then topped with a lime-tequila icing. Pretty good alcoholic treat for NYE!

I've been a little low on energy since the holidays ending. I was busy with family and friends for basically two weeks straight, so my baking was relatively basic, including these brown sugar chocolate chip cookies. Simple, yet always a hit. They always seem to disappear rather quickly at work.

Among the kitchen items I asked for for Christmas (how great is an immersion blender, seriously? Or is that just me being a dork?), I found something awesome on a sort of scavenger hunt Cathie sponsored. She loves to thrift, so on Christmas Eve, she gave each of us kids a $5 and told us to thrift and find something awesome. One of my finds? A baguette pan for $2.75. Not too shabby, especially for something I assume was given to the thrift store because whoever donated had no idea what it was. So on a recent trip to Aunt Betty's, we made a couple baguettes from one of her old bread cookbooks that came out perfectly, even with those little dots on the bottom, which are from the perforations on the pan. What a great find!
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