Random Acts of Baking – Part 1

For my birthday, Emily M. bought me a whole bunch of neat baking related things (she knows me well!).  One of them was the Magnolia Bakery cookbook.  Well, I left them in Lincoln for almost a month but finally got them back and have spent the last few days trying to scratch away the itch to bake something.  I’m not talking cake mix with a can of pop baking.  I mean with actual eggs and flour and butter.  I finally, with the help of Em, decided that I would bake stuff and then just drop it off for random people.  I’m going to try to do this at least once a week.  We’ll see how it goes!

Since Emily M. gave me the cookbook, I thought she should be the first recipient of my Random Act of Baking.  I also thought it was fitting to make the signature vanilla cupcakes and frosting from Magnolia Bakery.  Now, I’ve never been there, and I’m sure mine don’t compare, but  I think they turned out pretty well!

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4th of July Cake!

Mom and I both agreed that we wish we would have had a solid color table cloth for a background.

I know my thousands of readers been extremely concerned by the fact that this originated as a food blog and it’s been more than two months since I last posted a recipe.  Well, you’re in luck tonight!  I found this recipe over at Dashing Dish and thought it was too cute to ignore.  As far as WW goes, it’s only 5 points.  That’s pretty good for cake.  I don’t even want to think about how much a piece of my chocolate cake is.  The cake turned out pretty well.  A couple things worth noting:  The recipe calls for Light Cool Whip (we might have actually used completely fat free).  I’ve found, in general, that fat free stuff can be kind of runny.  I don’t know if it’s because there’s no fat to hold it together, or what, but if you’re more concerned about looks than calories, go for the regular Cool Whip.  Also, it would be way faster to make without the gelatin syrup stuff.  (Side note:  I have to thank my mom because she actually made the syrup part.  She was smart enough to see that it had to sit for 2 hours before frosting and made it since I was still in Lincoln.)  Now, full disclosure, I’m not a Jell-O fan.  I had a procedure done when I was in high school where I had to fast for a couple days beforehand.  The one food I could have… yep, Jell-O.  So I took advantage of this and ate so much Jell-O, that I was sick of it within 6 hours.  So, while the gelatin syrup stuff may have been amazing, I’m kind of thinking that the next time I make it I will just slice up some strawberries to put with the frosting in between layers.  It would save time and dirty dishes.

I had a great day visiting family in York.  We grilled out and my aunt and uncle made homemade vanilla ice cream, which was the perfect compliment to the cake.  I hope you all had a great 4th of July!

 

4th of July Strawberry Blueberry Poke Cake

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1 Box White Cake Mix (you can also use reduced sugar white cake mix.  I think we’re going to try this next time!)
  • 5 Egg Whites (or 2 whole eggs)
  • 1/3 cup Plain fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup Water

For the Strawberry Jello

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 2 tbs sugar alternative or 4 pks stevia
  • 1 tbs unflavored gelatin (or 1 pkt knox gelatin)

For the Blueberry Jello

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbs sugar alternative or 4 pkts stevia
  • 2 tbs unflavored gelatin (or 2 pkts knox gelatin)

For the Whipped Frosting

  • 1 cup Cold skim milk (or milk alternative of choice)
  • 1 small pkg sugar free instant white chocolate pudding
  • 2 (8 oz) containers light cool whip (or Tru Whip, a natural alternative)
  • Optional:  additional blueberries and strawberries for decorating

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 8 inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, egg whites, yogurt, and water.  Beat until cake mix is smooth.  Bake cakes for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cakes cool to room temperature, but leave in cake pans.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine strawberries, water, and sweetener, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 3-5 minutes or until berries are soft enough to mash.  Place strawberries in a strainer, and mash over a bowl to remove strawberry pulp from strawberry sauce.  Dissolve gelatin in strawberry syrup, and stir.  (be sure to do this while it is still hot so the gelatin dissolves).  Let cool to room temperature.  Repeat with blueberry sauce.
  4. Use a skewer to poke holes in the top of each cake layer.  (cakes should still be in pans, and completely cooled at this point)
  5. Pour cooled strawberry syrup over one cake layer, and the blueberry syrup over the next.  Cover cake pans, and place cakes in fridge until gelatin is set, about 2 hours.
  6. To make the frosting, whisk together the milk and pudding mix until smooth.  Fold in cool whip, until smooth.  Chill frosting in the fridge until the cake is completely cooled, and ready to be frosted.
  7. Remove cake from cake pan by running a knife around the edge of pans.
  8. Remove the strawberry cake and place on a cake stand.  Spread 1 cup of the whipped topping over the cake.  Top with blueberry cake.  Frost the cake with the remaining whipped cream.
  9. Decorate with additional blueberries and strawberries if desired.
  10. Chill at least one hour before serving.  Enjoy!

Nutritional info: Serving Size: 1/16 of cake.  Calories: 187. Fat: 3 grams. Carbs: 33 g. Fiber: 1 g. Sugar: 16 g. Protein: 4 g. WW Points Plus: 5

Oops, I did it again…

Weigh-in was today.  Last week after I weighed in, I walked confidently to the front of the meeting with a big smile on my face.  I had lost 8.4 pounds.  This week was more of a sneak quietly into the back.  I gained 3.8 pounds…  Almost half of what I lost the week before.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect to gain.  On Saturday, we celebrated my birthday with pizza and cake and ice cream.  Then Sunday (my actual birthday), my grandpa made the BEST bbq ribs.  Also, after I ran the 5k on Saturday, i took a brief sabbatical from working out.  My legs were so tired, and it’s been kind of nice to rest a bit.  I’m confident that once I get my routine back on track, I’ll start losing again.  But for now, I’d like to stop worrying about it and share my Birthday Week details!

My week was just awesome.  My 16 month old niece visited Tuesday through Saturday and we had SO much fun.  Every time I see her, she’s just smarter and cuter and all-together even more awesome than the last time I saw her (which I really didn’t think was possible).  We went on a lot of walks with the wagon and she helped me push the cart at the grocery store.  The house is so quiet without her here!

Friday, I made my birthday cake.  Now, before anyone gets all concerned about me making my own birthday cake… I WANTED to do it.  I don’t bake cake all that much anymore, especially since I’ve been eating healthier.  This is a cake that I’ve made several times.  In fact, it’s sort of my specialty.  I’m to the point where I almost have the recipe memorized.  While I was baking, I was SO excited.  I didn’t have to go back to the store for any extra ingredients.  I cleaned up as I went along.  Nigella was on the Cooking Channel.  (I’m kind of obsessed.  Her voice is what my inner dialogue sounds like when I’m baking, even though the only accent I can do in real life is Southern.  And even then, it’s not so much “Southern” as it is “hick.”)  Anyway, things were going pretty well.  I took the cakes out of the oven (they looked flawless) and let them cool for a very appropriate length of time on the cooling racks.  After they had cooled, I leveled them off and started frosting.  As soon as I finished, I noticed a crack in the top layer about an inch long.  I called to my mom, who was talking to my aunt, for advice.  She kept on talking while the cake kept on cracking.  I kind of pushed it together with my hands to try to save it, but it just kept falling through my fingers.  After many half cuss words were said, and surprisingly no tears spilled, I decided to just let it be.  There was talk of going to Central City or Grand Island to get an ice cream cake, but I decided we’d eat this one.

She’s a beaut, right? As my friend, Kim, called it: Pangea Cake

Since we had family over, I didn’t really have an opportunity to let go of steam regarding the cake.  So, I did what any normal person would do.  I went to Jazzercise… Angry.  I know you probably think Angry Jazzercise is not possible.  Well, it is.  I mean, it’s not EASY, but it’s possible.  I’m sure people thought I was crazy, but it was exactly what I needed.  By the time I got home, my sister and sister-in-law had arrived, so I was happy.  Also, one of the last songs of the set list was “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, and that’s a REALLY hard song to stay angry to.  Friday night, we had a dance party with Little Miss Whitney on our deck and it was so much fun.

Saturday morning was the 5k and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  (At least, not for me.)  It had rained the night before and was cool and cloudy and I just loved it.  I had so much fun running with my sister.  There were a lot of random spurts of “dance running.”  We were also passed, about halfway through, by a woman pulling her two kids in a wagon.  I mean, she was walking fast.  But still, she was walking.  We eventually passed her right before the finish line (mainly because she let us).  According to my watch and the lady calling out the time, we finished in about 43 minutes.  HOWEVER, once they posted the times, they had me listed at 45 minutes AND said that I was 40 seconds slower than my sister when we pretty much finished at exactly the same time.  It’s not a big deal, but I was still a little pissed.  Then we went to a pancake feed at the airport, took naps, and CELEBRATED.  My mom had bought a little toy Batgirl to put on my cake, so that made my cake appear kind of badass.

I like to think Batgirl is saving Southern California from a giant earthquake/mudslide.

Waiting to blow out candles with my grandmas.

Yep… I DID blow them out with one breath. There was A LOT of smoke.

All-in-all it was a good Birthday Week.  We went to the Henry Doorly Zoo yesterday and had so much fun.  I’m ready to get back into a routine, though.  What I’m not looking forward to is running in this heat and humidity.  It’s 103º F in Aurora right now.  Yikes!  I think I might have to wake up at 5:00 am tomorrow to run.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies! Please excuse the quality of the pictures. I took them on my iPod.

Sorry, it took so long to post another recipe!  I was without internet in my apartment, but I have it now.  Woohoo!

Last weekend I was missing Emily M. like crazy.  Specifically, I was missing our Cookie Company cookie dates like crazy.  When she was in school in Lincoln, we would meet at the downtown location and sit on a bench outside and eat peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies while people watching.  Their cookies are seriously the best.  So when I was at my parents’ house last weekend with free range of their kitchen (and ingredients) and nothing to do except miss my friend and watch the documentation of Kim Kardashian’s failed marriage (Please don’t judge my viewing choices.  I was watching Chopped, but a guy cut his finger then put a latex glove on so he could finish making his meal and the glove kept filling up with blood, so I had to change the channel), I decided to make some.  I found this recipe at the Brown Eyed Baker’s blog and was very pleased.  I think the recipe only made around 15 cookies, but you could easily double it.  Plus, it’s sometimes nice not to have a ton of cookies around.  Trust me, you’ll want to keep eating this.  A limited quantity is probably a good thing.

Now on to the cookies… The blog post said that each ball of dough should weigh 1.7 oz.  I weighed the first couple on my mom’s food scale and the battery ran out.  But really, unless you’re entering them in the fair for 4H you probably don’t need them to be that perfect.  A 1.7-ounce cookie was pretty much my mom’s big cookie scoop (I think it was probably closer to 1 or 2 tablespoons than 3, which is what the recipe calls for) with a little bit more dough added on.

Also, I can get a little out of hand with chocolate chips.  Usually I measure out what the recipe says and then pour a little more into the dough… and then usually a little bit more after that.  I don’t know if it’s because I love chocolate chips or if straying from the recipe just makes me feel like a rebel.   It doesn’t matter what I’m making.  I always add more chocolate chips.   However, this recipe had the PERFECT amount of chocolate chips.  I was pleased.  Enjoy!!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

This is either a picture of the ingredients, or an Affiliated Foods ad. On that note, I shall deliver the best grocery related pickup line ever: "Do you work for Affiliated Foods, cause you're Shurfine!" Get it???

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

I feel it's important to make sure you have plenty of Diet Coke on hand before starting any project. At least any day time project. If it's after 5:00 p.m., replace Diet Coke with wine.

3. On medium speed, cream together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour until just combined. Stir in the oats, and then the chocolate chips.

See... perfect chocolate chips:everything else ratio.

4. Use a large cookie scoop and drop dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

I love when so many cookies have been made on a pan that you can see the cookie outlines. I spaced these out a little bit more since they were bigger and I wasn't sure how much they'd spread out.

First pan, finished! Actually, I looked at these for about 2 minutes after taking them out of the oven and decided the needed to go back in for a little bit longer. So this is the NEARLY finished first pan.

Second pan, finished! I decided to keep these in the oven a little bit longer after the timer went off. I started doing some dishes and forgot about them, so they were a little big crispier--but, luckily, not burnt.

http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/02/24/peanut-butter-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Thanksgiving Pies

pies

Left to right: Pumpkin, Cherry, Apple

I think I probably made my first pie when I was around 12 or 13.  It was sort of like a rite of passage.  It was, however, a much more pleasant rite of passage than everything else teenage girls had to go through.  My maternal grandma taught both my sister and I how to make pies.  I remember rolling out a perfect pie crust to start with, and my grandma praised me so much for it.  Being a typical youngest child, anything that gets me positive attention gets a repeat.  I thought that pie making would be my thing.  And while I do love making pies, I’m not so sure I’m as good as I thought I was when I was 12.  My sister is the true pie expert in our family.  Since she couldn’t make it home this year, I made the pies.  Sometimes I think it would be easier to just buy a crust, but where’s the fun in that?

Also… for the pumpkin pie, I just used the recipe on the back of a Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Filling can.  I’ve tried using real pumpkin, but in my opinion the can is just a lot easier and tastes better.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking I should have tried something a lot simpler for my first post, but we will get through it together.   Remember, it’s my first time.  Please, please, please be patient.  Hopefully, I’ll get the hang of all the formatting stuff.

This pie crust recipe dates back to at least when my older sister made pies for 4-H.  The recipe we have on hand is copied down on a piece of paper that has details for the 4-H Song Contest on the back, so it’s not too thorough.  I will do my best to give better directions, but just ask if you have questions… and then I will ask my mom what she would do.  I think in general, a good rule of thumb is to mix all ingredients so they stick together and form a ball, but you really don’t want to over mix it.  If you over-mix, the dough will become tough and you might become grumpy.  Not that I know anything about making an imperfect pie crust or being grumpy…

“Good Pie Crust”

3 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 egg

1/3 cup cold water

1 tsp. vinegar

1 cup lard or Crisco

Mix dry ingredients with pastry blender.  Add in Crisco.   (Side note:  I hardly ever bake anything with Crisco anymore, so it seems silly to have a big thing of Crisco on hand.  I do, however, LOVE Crisco Baking Sticks.  They come wrapped like butter and are so much easier to measure and add into recipes.) Beat egg; add water and vinegar.  Add egg, water, and vinegar into Crisco and dry ingredients mixture.  Form into a ball.  Let “rest” before making into pies.    This crust recipe will make enough for one 2-crust pie and one 1-crust pie.  For example:  An apple pie and a pumpkin pie.

I don’t really know what tips to give on rolling the dough out.  I usually just cover everything with a lot of flour.  If you are at all worried about making a mess, I think you can roll it out between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper.  And… I do have to say… Although I usually LOVE my pampered chef utensils, I much prefer our basic rolling pin to their fancy pie rolling pin.

The recipes for fruit pie came from the 1969 edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  This might be my favorite cookbook.  When we were little, my sister and I would experiment with all the muffin recipes.  I didn’t think anything of it then, but our mother had to have been so patient to put up with that kind of mess every Saturday morning.

The recipes include amounts for 8, 9, and 10-inch pies.  I made a 10-inch cherry pie and a 9-inch apple pie, so I will probably just include the recipes for those.  If you would like the recipes for other sizes, let me know and I can post them!

10-inch Cherry Pie

1 2/3 cups sugar

½ cup Flour

3 cans (1 pound each) pitted red tart cherries, drained

1 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

Cherry Pie Filling: This might be my favorite color combination.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Stir together sugar and flour; mix with cherries.  Turn into pastry-lined pie pan; sprinkle with almond extraxt and dot with butter.  Cover with top crust which has slits cut in it; seal and flute.  Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning;  remove foil last 15 minutes of baking.  Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.  Side note:  I usually brush my crust with an egg wash.  Usually I just mix an egg with a little bit of cream or milk.  In the past I’ve done this as a last step, but yesterday Paula brushed her crust before cutting the strips for her lattice crust.  I might try that next time.  I should also note that the last time I made the cherry pie, I was also making an apple and pumpkin pie.  I thought it would be more time efficient to make the fillings for the different pies then roll out the crusts.  By the time I got around to putting the cherry filling in the crust, there was a lot of juice so I had to scoop a lot out.  Next time, I’ll immediately fill the crust and put it in the oven to avoid this dilemma.

9-inch Apple Pie

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup Flour

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Dash salt

6 cups thinly sliced pared tart apples (I believe I used Golden Delicious)

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Apple Pie Filling

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Stir together sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt; mix with apples.  Turn into pastry-lined pie pan; dot with butter.  Cover with top crust which has slits cut in it (I chose to do a lattice top); seal and flute.  Cover edge with 2- to 3- inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil last 15 minutes of baking.  Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.

Thanks to my mom for finding this awesome apron at TJ Maxx!

I’m always sooo bad at knowing what to do on 2-crust pies to seal the crust.  I usually just kind of pinch the two crusts together, but I would appreciate any help on what you do!  I just never thing that part of my pies looks quite polished enough.