Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wow! It has been almost two whole months since I have posted! This is ridiculous.

I have been back at college in the Greater Boston area since the beginning of September.  As one could guess by the time it has been since my last post--- I am a busy girl!  I am enrolled full-time at college taking five classes, I am the President of our student programming board (the Campus Activities Board), and I work almost 30 hours a week as a host in a local restaurant.  Literally the only time I have is devoted to homework and club responsibilities.

Since I am at school, I do not have a kitchen to bake in.  I am living in one of few houses on campus that do not have ovens or refrigerators in the the kitchen --- therefore, I do not do any baking here. 

However, I figured I would post so it does not look as though I have dropped off the face of the earth.  I have had some interesting food experiences since being here!

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I went out to dinner at Union Street Bar & Grill when he was visiting for a weekend.  I went with the predictable and safe option --- White Truffle Mac & Cheese. Oh my gosh, it was SOOOO delicious.  It was served in a small frying pan.  The cheese was all melted in the bottom half of the pan, while the top half of the pasta had a layer of seasoned bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  The first bite mostly tasted of the truffle oil and crumbs, but then I realized the best way was the messy way --- stir it all up!  The dish was quite flavorful, and I could taste just the right amount of garlic in it.  With me, macaroni & cheese will always be a hit!  Next time I visit, I want to try one of their pizzas off their large menu.

As President of the Campus Activities Board, I planned our group retreat.  Usually we pick up some cookies from the grocery store for a dessert, but I asked my advisor to purchase some cake mix and frosting --- not my first choice, but with no equipment, it was the only choice.  I was desperate for some baking!  We chose one chocolate and one rainbow chip cake mix and corresponding frostings all Betty Crocker brand.  I just LOVE the Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip Frosting!  It wasn't that exciting, but it reminded me how much I miss having access to my baking ingredients, equipment, and a stove!

I have recently started training for a serving position at my job.  With that, I was invited to attend our food tasting when we rolled out our Fall Menu.  This was an adventurous night for me.  I have always been a picky eater and not willing to try much.  However, when I am offered something to try for free, why not?  First, I tried our Day Boat Scallop entree.  I was really excited for this one, because it was an half an acorn squash filled with pumpkin risotto and topped with scallops.  Then, I tried our Veal Chop entree: It was served on a helping of polenta with smoked Gouda and onions, and broccolini on the side.  Lastly, I tried the Braised Ox Tail.  I tried it, and it tasted good, but I was not a fan of the texture or entree as a whole.  All in all, I love working for this restaurant, because it is a loyal supporter of local businesses and focuses on using the most local ingredients whenever possible.  This belief is also reflected through the restaurant's drink list, which has a huge list of beers from local (New England) and Belgium beers. 

So, here I am in my college dorm.  No kitchen to speak of.  Just a sad, unused microwave in the basement (it's not creepy at all...).  Every day I day dream about what I will bake when I go home for Thanksgiving!  Definitely Pumpkin and Apple Pie, maybe some Raspberry Muffins (or something with the raspberries I picked this summer!), and who knows what else.

That's all I can think of for now.  School/work/club stuff has consumed my life.  My boyfriend, best friend, and her boyfriend are all coming to visit next weekend.  I am SUPER excited to see them all.  I am trying to plan for our meals out, but still not sure where I'll take them.  I'm thinking we'll check out the New England Aquarium, the book festival on Copley Square, possibly browse Harvard Square, or go kayaking.  I really can't wait though. 

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Month of Summertime Fun and Baking!

Where has the time gone?? I can't believe it has been a month since I have posted on here! This past month has been crazy with double my usual work hours, but in turn I have saved a lot for my upcoming trip to Italy in January!

During the week of my last post, my boyfriend and I celebrated both of our birthdays.  For my birthday, I got so many great new baking things! My best friend, Anna, bought my a pretty floral apron and some silicone baking cups.  My boyfriend bought me a Better Homes and Garden's Stand Mixer.  I used both right in time to bake some yummy Chocolate Oreo Cheesecakes for my boyfriend's birthday!

These worked perfectly!! The cheesecakes popped right out after they cooled.

I used half of an Oreo as a base for the Chocolate Oreo Cheesecakes.  I can't seem to find the site where I found the recipe... but those Chocolate Oreo Cheesecakes were SO delicious, and everyone loved them! I don't even usually like cheesecake.

July is the perfect time for berry picking, and you can bet that I obviously had to take advantage of that!  My boyfriend and I went berry picking for raspberries and blueberries.  I made some fresh blueberry pancakes, then baked a pie with the rest of them.  I'm not really sure what to do with the raspberries yet, but for now they are just waiting in the freezer.

Mmm sugar and butter deliciousness haha.
I had quite a difficult time making this Blueberry Pie.  I used a recipe found in a 1978 copy of Reader's Digest Creative Cooking given to me by my grandmother.  I realized as I started that it only had one crust on top.  I personally love the crust, so I made the last minute decision to make a classic crust for the bottom.  The recipe found on Betty Crocker here.  Baking in a hurry never works out that well, but I always find myself rushing  within a limited time frame.  Neither of the crusts were working out properly! Finally I managed to get one into the pie pan, and I barely got the Reader's Digest one on top.  It looked like a mess, but it still ended up tasting ohhh sooo goooood. 

Recently we have gotten TONS of blackberries out of the field behind our house.  So far, I have made two pies for my mom.  I worked 40 hours each of the past two weeks, so I have not had much time for baking.  I ended up using two pre-made pie crusts for the first one, and only one for the second.  I decided to try out a crumb topping with oats for the second one.  Both were very yummy!

It was all I could do not to eat JUST the topping.
In other fun updates --- I went to the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 midnight showing! IT WAS SOO GOOD. I just love the books and the movies. I have learned to separate them from each other, because movies always end up being different than the original books.

Of course my best friend and I had to get the 3D Harry Potter-shaped glasses :)
For my boyfriend's birthday, I bought him tickets to see Stephen Marley.  He ended up taking me, and it was so awesome.  I love live concerts.  I had also heard that his brother, Damian Jr. Gong Marley would be in town performing with Nas for their Distant Relatives album.  I was back and forth, but I finally decided to buy tickets for my boyfriend and I to see them too.  We just went to the Nas & Damian Marley show last Friday and it was by far one of the best concerts (after Paramore!) that I have been too.  I am not as familiar with Nas as I am with Damian, but both were extraordinary.  They performed Road to Zion and multiple songs off of their album including: Nah Mean, Land of Promise (love it!), As We Enter, and Dispear.  They both performed some of their own songs, and of course they ended with Could You Be Loved by Bob Marley.

Nas & Jr. Gong

Can we just talk about how long his dreds are?? Down to his ankles!
All in all, I would say this last month has been absolutely fantastic! Now, I am going to go try to recover from getting my wisdom teeth out yesterday (and eat some mashed potatoes and ice cream --- my fave!) and enjoy what I have left of my summer in Vermont!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

4th of July Baking

So, I realize the 4th of July was a week and a half ago, but I have been very busy!  I was house-sitting that weekend, so I was not on the computer much.  And since then, when I have not been at work, I have been at the river or the gym!  The weather has been absolutely amazing for the river. 

For the 4th of July, my family held a yard sale at our house.  I thought it would be a great idea to bake tons of cupcakes to give away or sell. Long story short --- timing and everything did not work out.  I did not end up selling them, but my family (my mom, and my sister and her boyfriend who had temporarily been living with us) and I ate them up!

I baked a pouch of Betty Crocker's Sugar Cookies and I made White and Red Velvet cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream frosting from scratch.  Everything turned out delicious.  First, I baked the cookies, because I knew I could do those a day or two in advance.  I cut them into cute star shapes to go with the theme !

I found a new attachment that worked like a charm on mixing the dough!

Then I baked the familiar white cupcakes from Tish Boyle's "The Cake Book".  While they taste delicious, I decided I need to try out a few more recipes until I find my go-to white/vanilla cake recipe. 

The ziploc bag is a great tool for evenly distributing the cake batter into the paper baking cups!
My favourite part was baking the Red Velvet cupcakes.  This was my first time working with a Red Velvet recipe so I searched around online before deciding on one.  Of course, I chose the original recipe I wanted that I had found on Lindsey's blog Gingerbread Bagels.  I used her Red Velvet Fondant Cake recipe.  I love reading her blog, because you can tell she has a fun time sharing her experiences and personality through her posts!  I used Paula Deen's Red Velvet Cupcake recipe for a temperature and time guideline.

Now, the recipe called for 2 tablespoons of Red Food coloring --- which turned out to be two bottles of the food dye you buy in 4 packs at the grocery store.  I barely had two, so my cupcakes did not turn out as deep of a red as I had hoped. 

More of a cherry red, maybe?
They tasted very yummy though! Again, I'll have to try multiple recipes before I find my go-to recipe, but I have plenty of time ahead to do so. 

The next step was the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.  Common sense should have told me that baking --- especially something with frosting --- is not the best idea on the first super hot weekend of the summer.  In an already full refrigerator, I now had to store 4 dozen cupcakes... The frosting was worth it though, it was simple to make, smooth and tasted delicious.

I used different frosting tips --- it was so warm in the house that I did not have time to clean and reuse the first one!

Friday, June 24, 2011

White Cupcakes with Sprinkles Cupcake's Strawberry Frosting!

So last week, I told my boyfriend that I would bake dessert for dinner with his family.  I was dreaming up different cupcake/frosting combinations, and I finally decided I would use white cake batter and strawberry frosting (white cake batter is my favourite, and I just LOVE strawberry anything!). I went with my semi-newish book, The Cake Book by Tish Boyle, again for the cake recipe.  However, I had to search around on Google for a good Strawberry Frosting recipe.

Google brought me to Oprah's website, where there was an article on Sprinkles Cupcakes, the "world's first cupcake bakery" located in Beverly Hills.  Lucky for me, the owner shared a recipe AND video  for strawberry cupcakes with strawberry frosting.  I figured this MUST be trustworthy, so I went for it!

Again, I have made a few cakes using the recipes in Tish Boyle's book, so I am used to the process and consistency of the cake batter.  Her directions are quite simple to follow, and there are multiple chapters in the beginning explaining everything including accessories, different types of ingredients, methods for frosting and decorating, and even a troubleshooting guide.

As I looked for inspiration for my cupcake and frosting flavor combination, I knew I had to check out Danelle's blog.  She writes about her personal baking and graphic design experiences.  In one post, I read that she put white chocolate chips in vanilla cupcakes.  I was sold --- I knew it would be the perfect addition to the white cake batter.

I totally forgot to mix them IN the batter for the first dozen...

But I did remember to sprinkle them on top for both at least!

They settled in nicely after baking, they were such a tasty addition.
 Now strawberry frosting obviously requires pureed strawberries.  This was a perfect opportunity for me to try out the food processor my best friend's mom found for me at a yardsale!  The food processor worked perfectly, looks like someone just needed to clean out and make more room in their kitchen! 

The flecks of strawberry look pretty!

The strawberry puree gave the frosting a lovely pink color, but I would have loved to add a tiny drop of red food dye for some more color. However, I forgot since I didn't give myself enough time.   Piping the frosting on was pretty simple.  After my first attempt, I had gotten used to using the Wilton frosting bags and 1M star tip.

Not kidding --- I could eat probably about 4 in one sitting, because they are so delicious.

The recipe for the frosting is listed below, but the whole article on Oprah's website can be found here.  It DOES say that the frosting "makes enough for 1 dozen", but I found that I had plenty for two dozen the way I frosted them.  You should consider visiting the site, because the recipe for the strawberry cake batter and another cake batter can be found there, yum! 

Sprinkles Cupcakes - Strawberry Frosting
 .5 C frozen whole strawberries
1 C unsalted butter, firm and somewhat cold
Pinch of salt
3.5 C confectioners' sugar, sifted
.5 tsp. vanilla extract

"Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners' sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended. Do not overmix, or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream."

All done!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rainy Days Mean Time for Baking!

It has been a rainy week. Non-stop thunderstorms and rain, boo.  The one good thing as a result of such days? Baking.

Well, it WAS my driveway...

So I was able to check another item off my baking to do list. The other morning, my boyfriend and I made these Double Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins.

The recipe made 2 dozen. It was more than enough to share with my boyfriend's family!
I found the recipe on a blog that I follow called Sprinkled With Flour.  I really enjoy reading this blog because the author, Amber, is always seeking ways to make recipes healthier and tastier! She tweaked the original recipe that was printed in the Oprah Magazine Cookbook.  I followed Amber's suggestion (or rather, original mistake) of adding the entire can of pumpkin.  The result was a wonderfully tender and yummy muffin.  Mmm these were quite delicious, and the raisins really added to them! I can't wait to try more muffins!

This is before I added butter... it is a weakness of mine.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Strawberry Smoothies and Blueberry Pancakes!

Today --- I have the entire day off. No work, no plans, just me doing what ever I want.  Unfortunately, it has been a little bit since we have gone grocery shopping, so we are low on some key baking and breakfast ingredients.  My options this morning: cereal (love it, but let's be real --- it gets old when you can have this any day at school, but at HOME you can make anything your little heart desires) and Bisquick pancakes (I halve the batch, meaning I only need the ONE egg we have in the house).   So, I chose the pancakes.

Yummy - Blueberry Pancakes!

The other day, my best friend said she was craving Strawberry Daiquiris and that we should make them when we hang out.  I LOVE strawberries, SO much --- so obviously I agreed.  We were a little short on strawberries so we added a peach, and I brought a key ingredient to add as well...  Anyway, we enjoyed them on her patio in the sunshine.  So on this bright shiny morning, all I could think of were those daiquiris. 

Mmm Strawberry Daiquiris are best shared with your best friend <3 We did not have any leftover strawberries to garnish with, so we were unique and used lemons?

I thought I would try my luck at the freezer, since I know we also have no fresh fruit at the moment.  And there they were, two bags of frozen fruit. I defrosted them while doing laundry, then made the smoothie to enjoy as I made my pancakes (Which I added blueberries to, from the frozen berries!). 

I ended up blending 5 ice cubes first (my blender is one of the cheapest you can find, so you have to be smart about it).  Then, I added about:

1 cup frozen berries
3 oz. Yoplait Stawberry Cobbler flavored yogurt (.5 of the container I had)
1/3 cup Dole Orange Pineapple Banana juice

You must always use color-changing Friendly's straws for all occasions possible.

 I will probably never repeat this exact recipe again, because of the way I created it.  I created it with my imagination and what I had on hand.  That's the fun part about smoothies --- you are allowed the joy and fun to create absolutely anything you can think of with any of your favourite fruits, yogurts, and juices (or honey as an alternative to take out the bitterness).  And obviously, I would have preferred FRESH strawberries, but they are not quite ready to be picked yet!

All in all, I would say that was a fairly healthy breakfast. And, I used strawberries, as I said I wanted to more this summer! I absolutely can't wait to go pick fresh strawberries soon!!