Monday, December 31, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Whoopie Pies and 2012 in review

Happy New Year!!!  Holy cow another year down.  I can hardly believe it seriously.  This past year has been crazy amazing and I am so thankful for it.  I have been able to do and experience some amazing things that I never thought I would do.  So a quick recap of the year is definitely in order...

January:  Somehow I totally flew an airplane...seriously!  And Stephanie agreed to be my first guest poster with her Peppermint Coconut Macaroons.

February: In the freezing Birmingham, I finished my first half marathon with one of my very best friends.

Friday, December 28, 2012

December Donuts - Week #4: A Classic Cinnamon Sugar Donut

Well let me tell you a quick story.  It is another one of those stories where I had to grow up once again and be an adult real quick like.  So, I was supposed to fly out to Glasgow on Wednesday to visit Charles.  I woke up at 6 am and was in my car driving to DC by 6:25 am.   I made it to DC, repacked, and hopped in a cab to the airport with plenty of time to make my 4:29 pm flight.  The flight was of course delayed, but I wasn't worried yet as I still had plenty of time.  Well long story short, and 3 hours later of just sitting on the airplane in DC we finally took off.  I of course missed my flight to Glasgow out of New Jersey (there being only one direct flight a day), so off to a hotel I went.  But I can't complain because I still get to go to Scotland!...even if it is a day late.  

This is what happens after 2 and half hours on the plane.  I start to text pictures of what is going on to keep myself entertained.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cranberry Orange Pecan Coffee Cake

Merry, Merry Christmas!  Just a quick post to share with you all this awesome quick bread recipe.  Seriously so delicious and a great gift.  I was excited to share this bread with my family.  With two loaves, I was able to take one down to Charlotte for my brother and sister-in-law, and give half a loaf each to my mom and dad.  I thought when I came home I might stop baking for a minute or two.  I was very, very wrong as I have been baking everyday since I got home.  This bread was totally worth the effort, plus I had all afternoon to make it.  With my mom at work, I turned on the Christmas music and got to baking.

This bread is loaded with cranberries and has a great orange flavor.  The streusel topping just makes this bread absolutely delicious.  Give it a try, make the full recipe, and just give the extra loaf to a friend.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

December Donuts - Week #3: Baked Gingerbread Donuts

It might sound weird, but I am a little sad the boot camp I started before Thanksgiving is over. Does that make me sound crazy?  I sort of got in to the whole waking up at 5:15 am to workout at 5:45 am for an hour: running, doing squats, lunges, push-ups, etc.  Plus, you know, not feeling guilty about indulging in things like these donuts in the middle of the morning at work after making them when I got done working out.  FYI I am totally still trying to decide between making a classic cinnamon sugar donut or a chocolate salted caramel donut as the week 4 donut.  What do you think?  I might just have to do both.

So these donuts...once again I was able to prep these the night before, which made it so much easier to bake these after boot camp and before heading to work.  Out of the 3 donuts I brought to the office, these might have been my favorite.  Then again I am totally a sucker for gingerbread anything and well cream cheese frosting.  I might be on just a little bit of a kick this holiday season, since there has already been gingerbread tiramisu and I am planning on gingerbread cinnamon rolls by the end of the year.  These donuts came out super light and fluffy, and full of flavor!  The cream cheese glaze adds a great tangy flavor to go with the spicy-cinnamon flavor of the donut.   Definitely worth a try!  Enjoy!

The night before I pre-measured all of the dry ingredients and stored them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I also measured out the yogurt, molasses and milk in small container, storing it in the refrigerator.  As well as the apple sauce and brown sugar in another.  Then the only thing I had to measure in the morning was the canola oil and add the eggs.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Boozy Apple Cider Cupcakes

Sometimes life comes at you fast!  Like in a no holds barred kind of way, its not backing down, there is no pause button, and definitely not a rewind button(as much as we might want one sometimes).  You read something in the paper, on Facebook, catch it on the news,  wherever and it can completely turn your day upside down...and sometimes its only 8:00 am.  Then you do one small act, like giving a homeless man one of these cupcakes after dropping off the last Christmas/birthday presents at the post office and it goes in a whole other direction.   As Steve Jobs once said, "Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick.  Don't lose faith."

Yes, those are whisks with cookies in the middle.

Therefore I am going to start a pre-new years resolution that was brought on by a Christmas gift from James, that said "Without whisks, there are no rewards."  In the coming month and year, I want to truly take some advice from Steve Jobs in a quote that I have had highlighted on the back of my work notebook..."Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."  

It is hard to believe another year is almost over, that 2013 resolutions will soon be a topic of discussion.  That as of this December I have been out of school for 5 years!  Shouldn't I feel like an adult now?  Do we ever really start to feel like adults?  That I have been spilling my guts and adventures on this blog through baking for two years and 160 recipes, and loving every minute of it!  I just can't wait to see what food adventures the coming year brings.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gingerbread Tiramisu

This is my very first ever tiramisu.  I have been meaning to attempt to make tiramisu for some time now, but it always felt very daunting.  It also felt like a dessert I should make for a special occasion.  I might have just be thinking this way because one of the restaurants I worked at during college served the most amazing tiramisu cake that I totally had as my birthday cake one year.  So, when Shanan in my office suggested I try making this dessert this holiday season, I thought why not.  Then when we started to plan the office holiday lunch I thought to myself, this is as good a time as any.  Plus, lets be real here folks.  This is a time intensive dessert, and you could definitely break up preparing this between two days (make the gingerbread on day 1 and complete the tiramisu on day 2), but I had a Sunday afternoon of movie watching with my mom on my hands.  Therefore, time was on my side.  

Some how this very complicated dessert only needs two words to name it.  This only seems strange to me because I can have cupcakes or even donuts for that matter that need four and five words to really name them.  (Like maple donuts with maple glaze and bacon crumbles or  browned butter vanilla bean cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting.)  However, when describing this dessert there are a multitude of words that come to mind...moist, spicy, decadent, creamy, rich, light, gingery...this tiramisu is full of flavor and well worth the time and effort.  The gingerbread adds this warm, cinnamon, ginger molasses flavor that goes surprisingly well with the cream filling and coffee flavors.  So, if you have a little time on your hands, and want to make a dessert this holiday season that is bound to impress, give this one a try and Enjoy!

Part 1: Making the gingerbread

Getting together the dry ingredients: flour, spices, baking soda and salt.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

National Cupcake Day = Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

So this weekend there were two things that were definite musts on my to-do-list.  One go for a long run around DC (to train and well burn off the calories that I will be taking in from these cupcakes) and get out for a bit.  Two, make cupcakes for National Cupcake Day.  These are only one set of cupcakes I made to go along with the theme of the party I attended Saturday night.  The theme being an Apres-Ski Party.  Think about the clothes you would wear after spending a day skiing and then you go and hangout with your friends.  Well and drink hot chocolate and cider while stuffing your face.  So, I decided to make cupcakes to go along with the theme.  

These hot chocolate cupcakes start with devils food cake with hints of coffee.  They are then topped with marshmallow fluff frosting, a couple toasted marshmallows and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.  They are the essence of hot chocolate in a cupcake and would be perfect for any party this time of year.  Enjoy!

A little planning went into these cupcakes...

My longest run yet led to some awesome site seeing.  Seriously, being able to go for runs around the city and see so much, is one of the best things about living in this area.

Friday, December 14, 2012

December Donuts - Weeks 2: Maple Donuts with Maple Glaze and Bacon Crumbles

It's official, Christmas is just around the corner, like a week from next Tuesday! The thing is, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around it, but I am seriously trying.  I think my problem is that the temperature in DC is throwing me for a's warm, then cold, then mild.  Who knows what is going on, but I have been trying to get into the holiday spirit!

I am almost, so very, very close to being done with my holiday shopping!  Just a few more things need to arrive in the mail.   Christmas postcards are in the mail.  I have checked out Christmas trees, even though we don't have one up in my house in Alexandria.  Holiday parties are happening, and a gingerbread house has been built! (Check it out below.)  A Christmas Vacation has been watched!  I am planning the menu for the annual Christmas Eve brunch at my mom's house, and getting to listen to my nephew sing Away in a Manger.  I think it will truly feel like Christmas time though once I get home and get to hangout with my family.  I mean that's the big part right?  I mean family and seeing friends when we are all finally, for the most part in the same location.  

So, what are you doing to get into the Christmas spirit?  Have you watched Love Actually yet?  It is totally on my to do list this weekend!  Are you attending any awesome tacky Christmas sweater parties?  Making gingerbread men and attending cookie exchanges?  Let me know!  Happy Holidays!

What can get you in the spirit more than lights in the shape of animals?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pecan Cinnamon Raisin Sticky Buns

I must admit I can be a total nerd and completely awkward.  I am not always great in social situations, but I have definitely grown over the past few years.  When I first starting working, everyone kept telling me "you change a lot in your 20's." I never really wanted to believe them, but its so true.  Over the past few years...

....I have grown to be more comfortable in my own skin; trust some people completely, but take what others say with a grain of salt; not take the little everyday things for granted as much, because they can have the most impact sometimes;
...that some days we all need to try a little harder to smile and really can make you feel better;
...that sometimes impromptu dance parties are just what you need (especially with your closest friends);

Maybe that looks something like this..

...that the best way to really clear my head is by going for a run and zoning out to really loud music
...or baking;
...and that I am truly a morning person.  Like even when I try to sleep in, I can't.

This weekend, I was early riser, waking up before my mom, so I decided that cinnamon buns for breakfast were totally needed!  Plus, I have been wanting to try this recipe for weeks.  I didn't have apples so I substituted them for raisins.  These buns come together easy, but do take some time.  The texture is a bit more like a coffee cake since they aren't yeast rolls, but the cinnamon pecan flavor is awesome.  They are a great breakfast treat, and the leftovers reheat wonderfully.  So, if you have someone special to make breakfast for I totally think you should surprise them with these!  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

An Interview with a Baker: Erin of Pie Sisters

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Erin from Pie Sisters.   She and her sisters opened their shop in Georgetown this past January and have been receiving rave reviews ever since.

When I walked into the shop it felt like I just walked into a country home. With "If You're Gonna Play in Texas" playing in the background, this pie shop feels like it should be in the South.  However, sitting here you have views of Rosslyn and the Key Bridge, plus some prime people watching of those strolling through Georgetown.  The decor is absolutely perfect for a pie shop and only compliments the delicious pies.  The picture of two of the sisters during construction of the shop, that hangs in the shop, lets you know how much love has gone into building this pie shop, and everyday in the making of the pies.  From savory to sweet, Pie Sisters serves up fresh, seasonal and delicious pies.  

I brought two back to the office, and James may have even used the word phenomenal when describing the chili pie.  The filling in both the chili and the chocolate bourbon pecan pies were absolutely delicious, and the crust was incredibly flaky.  Plus, it was so nice to sit down with Erin and learn from her experiences over the past year.  So, to say the least I would highly recommend stopping in Pie Sisters next time you are in Georgetown.

A quick tour around the shop...

I want this cool!

Friday, December 7, 2012

December Donuts - Week 1: "Peppermint Pattie/Mounds" Donuts...Chocolate Cake Donuts with Peppermint Glaze and Toasted Coconut

It is time for donuts!  It has been over a year, and I have been waiting to get my pans back to make donuts. So, December will be donut month.  One donut recipe every Friday this month.  Next week, maple brown sugar donuts with a maple glaze that might just have to have bacon on top.  The trick is I want to serve the donuts the day they are made; they just aren't as good the second day around.  So, the game plan, and it worked this week, is to prep all materials the night before.  Even measuring out the butter and storing it in a plastic container.  Then, when I get home from boot camp its donut time, and time to get ready for work!  It can be done!  So ...Happy Donut December! 

The first donut this month is what would happen if a York Peppermint Pattie got together with a Mounds bar and had a donut.  The base is a baked chocolate cake donut.  It is then topped with peppermint glaze and finished off with toasted coconut.  The flavors really do go well together. The donut came out light, cakey and delicious.  Give them a try, because donuts really are fun and easy to make at home; its really just all about having the pans to do it.   Enjoy!

This is what happens when you meet a friend in the city for happy hour and to get your donut pans back.  First the pans end up sitting on the bar at Zengo...where else was I supposed to put them?  Then I walked out with them in my arms.  Finally I realized, Oh Yeah my purse is pretty darn big. I wonder if these pans will fit in it while I ride the metro home.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Crackers anyone? Cheddar Cheese Crackers Two Ways

I was watching the TV the other day when I caught the last half of the movie Garden State. I had forgotten how much I love that movie, plus all of the awesome music in it.  Just a few years ago, I could be caught quoting it, to the annoyance of my boyfriend, who does not necessarily share my love for the movie.   But really, as a freshman in college I thought that it was so "enlightening," so for your enlightenment here are a few tidbits from Garden State.

"If you can't laugh at yourself, life is going to seem a whole lot longer than you'd like. " - Sam

"I know it hurts. That's life. If nothing else, It's life. It's real, and sometimes it fuckin' hurts, but it's sort of all we have. " - Sam

Then there are times I think when we all feel like doing this to let it all out.

And then some of the better songs: "I don't think I will ever get over you" - Colin Hays
                                                                   "Such Great Heights" - Iron and Wine  

What is it about songs and movies that can take you back?  That can so easily mark specific times and even moments in life?  I guess food does the same how the standard boxed butter cookies with red and green sprinkles always make me think of holiday programs at daycare growing up.  How pomegranates make me think of my friend Lauren who was eating them back in middle school, long before they were a "cool" food.  And well cheese crackers make me think of Christmas, and cheese straws, which somehow makes me think of sausage balls.  I know, I know strange, but it has to do with the spiciness of sausage balls, plus they have lots of cheese in them.

So, lets talk about these crackers.  If you own a food processor they are super easy to make! They puff up the way goldfish do, have a nice cheddar cheese flavor, and are great by themselves or with tomato soup.  Plus, I did these two ways, one batch based on the original recipe and then in the second batch I added some paprika and chili powder for a bit more flavor and spice.  These would be great served at any holiday party this season or even thrown in a gift basket.  Enjoy!

James enjoying them in his soup with lunch this week.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What can I say I am on a pumpkin kick...Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies

Happy December and thus Happy Holidays!  So, I think a count down of sorts is in order.  Today marks...

3 days until my mom comes to visit for her birthday weekend!
21 days until Christmas.
23 days until I get to go back to Scotland!
28 days until the New Year...time to start thinking about those New Years Resolutions.
75 days until the Mercedes Benz Half Marathon in Birmingham with Meghan (Hopefully it won't be as cold as last year.)
102 days until the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in DC
4ish months until Charles moves back from Scotland

Are you counting down to anything?  Have fun Holiday plans coming up?  Are you already making plans for 2013 like me?  

So, in the midst of this count down, over the course of December I will be counting up to four.  A total of four donut recipes that is, as I am coining this month Donut December.  First on the list, baked chocolate cake donuts with peppermint glaze and toasted coconut...look for it on Friday!

Let's talk about these cookies though.  They were a challenge that I accepted a couple of months ago, and have been thinking about how to recreate a cookie that I have only seen a picture of and heard a description of.  The cookies I was trying to mimic...Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies...see below.