Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Hipster" Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread

I have a confession...I am a dreamer and a super a fault sometimes.  I know, I know, its not always going to be a fairy tale.  There are no glass slippers and pumpkin carriages in my everyday life.   True love will not always turn a beast into a prince, but there are times in life when I like to dream, and think up crazy romantic things to do.  I mean for my first anniversary with Charles, I had my mom teach me how to shag dance (it's a Southern thing).  I then bought one set up a picnic shelter, and with the help of some great friends, lined the path with candles to the shelter where there was a fire setup, music and dessert waiting for us...did I mention I can be over the top.  Sometimes you just have to dream bit though, and although there are tough, really hard days sometimes, there are other that you will never forget.  They are the moments that make up for the hard times.  The times when you beat yourself up, but you just have to keep dreaming and striving for those better times.

This week my friend Meghan was the first to share this video with me, which you have probably seen by now, but I have to share.  It is basically amazing and one of those videos I need to watch on the days when I am down, and have stopped dreaming for a bit.  Kid President says to "Create something that will make the world AWESOME."

This week I was in a funk, and I just needed to get out of it.  So, I went back to the basics for the one thing that lets me take my mind off of things, and stop beating myself up.  Back to baking a sophisticated yet simple and playful cookie.  I have to thank Courtney and Dusty for these awesome cookie cutters and the inspiration for baking cookies.  It only took me a drive home after dinner with them to know that I was going to be making shortbread cookies when I got home.  Then with a little help from Martha Stewart and a little twist, I had these fun and playful cookies under way.   What I would like to call my hipster hazelnut espresso shortbread.   If you have ever had a chocolate covered espresso bean, these cookies taste like those with just a hint of hazelnut.  They almost melt in your mouth and have a delicious buttery coffee flavor.  This might sound truly crazy but they taste like the smell of a donut coffee and sugar.  I am not a huge shortbread fan but these are delicious!  Will definitely be making them again!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sugar "Cookie" Cupcakes with mini Sugar Cookies

You know those days where you are just in a funk.  Where you would try anything to get out of it.  Buy yourself flowers?  Have a brownie?  Put your head phones in and just turn up your music? Ughh yesterday was totally one of those days...but today is totally a new day!  It's no longer Monday, so I can't be in my "why can't it be the weekend still, its raining and cold outside so all I want to do it stay in bed, read my book and drink coffee" mood.  Well I can but not as easily.  This weekend was relaxing and filled with running and food.

Honestly, I was dreading my long run Saturday.  I needed to add two more miles to my distance as compared to last weekend and I was NERVOUS.  Plus, it was seriously cold when I started running it was 28 degrees.  So, to get myself just a little bit more excited, I downloaded some new songs, and mapped out a slightly different route.  A little change makes a big difference.  Plus, I just had to keep thinking about how I would be stuffing my face on Sunday when I went with Melissa as James' fill-in; plus I totally stuffed my face with one of these cupcakes or well two on Friday.   

Seriously though Sunday was a LOT of food.  This is just the desserts (it doesn't even include the ice cream sundae bar), and we went through what it would have been like to attend an entire wedding reception and dinner.  I am so honored that James let me take his place since he was in Arizona for work.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On a breakfast kick...Spinach Herb Bacon Frittata

So here is a little truth...I totally check my astrology through only one website about every week (Free Will Astrology).  I totally blame Meghan for this obsession.  (P.S. I can also blame her for getting me to run more, eat more veggies, and explore more in life.)  You see the thing is, sometimes they get it sort of right.  For instance two weeks ago it talked about metaphorically speaking having a rock in my shoe, something that was always on my mind and I just couldn't stop thinking about.  This is most definitely still true.  I just don't know how to appropriately remove the rock, so I ask my girl friends and they tell me to wait it out.  That some thing or some people in life are "recollection roadblocks" and you just have to "drive over it and be done with it."  (P.S. Kathyrn should totally right a book of advice.)  So I am, and in the mean time I just keep baking.  

This frittata has ultimately served two went great with the overnight caramel French toast on Sunday for brunch and has been a delicious lunch this week too.  It is filled with tons of spinach, some onions and bacon.  A little thyme and oregano add great flavor that pops out of nowhere since you aren't really expecting it.  Its simple and easy to make, plus re-heats easily in the microwave.  So, if you need a quick breakfast for the week or lunch or are just having friends over, give this a try!  Enjoy!

Brunch set-up.  Since I have so many mis-matched plates, I picked out my favorites and actually set the kitchen table.  This is only a big deal because my roommate and I never actually use the kitchen table.  Seriously, it just sits there and over the course of each week get piled with stuff until we clean it up over the weekend.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Favorite Overnight Caramel French Toast

I have been meaning to post this recipe from some time now.  It is my go-to brunch item and is so easy and basically amazingly delicious.  Plus you do all the work the night before, so the morning of you just have to throw it in the oven.  You see the problem has always been that I forget to take a picture of the final product.  I normally pull it out of the oven right when guests start to arrive, so that it is piping hot and ready to be served immediately.  This weekend though, I made sure to take a picture as I was waiting for Thomas and Peter to arrive. They were bringing the sausage biscuits, and I whipped up this French toast along with a quick frittata, some black pepper maple bacon and of course mimosas.  Don't judge on the amount of food that was made, I felt that I deserved it after my long run of 16 miles the day before.

So this French toast it worth a full description of its own.  It is almost like breakfast bread pudding.  The bottom is gooey and has this awesome cinnamon caramel flavor, while the top is slightly more crunchy and cinnamony.  You can serve maple syrup along side of it, but you don't even really need to.  This is a scrap your plate with the fork, because what you really want to do it lick the plate recipe.  It is easy, simple and delicious; plus a definite crowd-pleaser.  Give it a try and enjoy!

I ran past the Capitol Building so I could check out the set up for the Inauguration.  Might as well check out the sites when I am running for 2+ hours.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A little twist with a lot of flavor: Cinnamon Bourbon Blondies

I was dreaming about desserts's a problem sometimes.  About different flavor combinations, about different textures, about yummy chewy blondies apparently.  I baked a little extra this week to grant a small wish.  I wish for cookies out of the blue.  So, I decided Friday was going to be cookie day, but then I had to decide what kind of cookies.  I mean where do you start?  Classic? Original? Soft and chewy? Crunchy and buttery?  The choices are endless.  I originally thought about making snickerdoodle bars, thanks to an old co-worker's pin on Pinterest.  Then I got to thinking about blondies, because I have never actually made blondies before.  So, I looked up Smitten Kitchen's recipe, saw that she had one with bourbon in it and new I was headed in the right direction.  

I have been on a serious bourbon cocktail kick lately you see.  Well I decided to try and put my own spin on her recipe, kind of combining the idea of the blondies with bourbon and my desire to make snickerdoodle bars.  Thus, we have cinnamon bourbon blondies with cinnamon in the dough and cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top.  These would be amazing served with vanilla ice cream and a cup of warm spiked bourbon cider.  They are a warm you up inside dessert with out actually being warm.   They are soft and chewy with just a little crunch from the cinnamon sugar. This is the dessert that I would serve the ladies of the Joy the Baker podcast if I ever had them over for dinner.  (P.S. Joy and Tracy are HILARIOUS and you should totally listen to their podcast!) Although, I have to admit if you are not a fan of bourbon, these are not for you. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

For Breakfast I am thinking....Apple Strudel

This post was inspired by Molly...who gets to hear what I have to truly think about a recipe or a tough night of baking.

About the coconut key lime pie bars from last week: "They were so frustrating.  I could not stop these from falling apart."  I had whipped cream everywhere!

About the cinnamon roll whoopie pies:  These elicited a small dance.  "They came out exactly like I hoped they would!"

About the Maple Bacon Donuts: I had to basically pry these out of the pan.  I definitely did not spray these pans with enough non-stick cooking spray.  They caused me to be a bit late for work, but I had donuts with me.

About this apple strudel: "It took too d*mn long."  Truthfully it only took about an hour and a half.  I was just tired after work and going for a run.

You see the thing is I do love baking, seriously I do.  Sometimes though, I try to do things in a rush, when I am a little too tired after work, or when I try to fit in baking in the hours before work.  Sometimes I just try to do too much, and I underestimate the time things will take.    Through my frustration though I am able to test the recipe, and figure out how to change it and explain it so that you hopefully won't have those same frustrations.  I am learning though, and sometimes delicious, beautiful things require a little bit of a challenge.  

Like this strudel for was well a challenge.  The recipe didn't really go according to plan...I had WAY too many apples.  As in I ended up just baking the left over apples so that they wouldn't go to waste.  The strudel was delicious though!  The phyllo dough is crisp and tender all at the same time.  The apples are sweet, cinnamony and baked to perfection.  The raisins are plump and add great flavor; with the walnuts adding wonderful crunch.  I will definitely make this recipe again...I just won't cut up so many apples next time.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Maple "Pancake" Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting

I think I am starting to figure out this whole life and me thing.  I know I am little late but for some reason on Friday I was thinking about the 2012 post I did.  I realized then that what really came out of 2012 is that I was able to figure out who I am, what I like to do, and live my life.  I know their are a million posters out there that say "Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself." So, I guess in 2012 I really began creating myself.  I strangely have a topsy turvy 2011 to thank for my 2012.  2011 was filled with change in my personal life, between friends and boys and in work life, transitioning into a new position, but it lead to an amazing 2012.  One that was hard and challenging at times, but fun and exciting at others and totally worth it!  My thoughts on Friday night about 2012 lead me to be even more excited for 2013 and the future.  The funny part is that as I walked in to my office Monday morning, the first new picture I saw read "chase yours dreams."  I think that will be my goal for 2013; to start that chase.  I have James and Melissa to thank for setting me in the right direction for this.  I can't wait to make their wedding cake and cupcakes!  

So, since I wanted to get 2013 started off on the right foot, I thought what better way than to cross a cupcake off my that I have had on my list to bake for two months now.  The idea came from the smell when I sat waiting for Sabrina at Occasionally Cakes; even before I know they were actually baking cupcakes this flavor.  So a "breakfast" cupcake it was, maple "pancake" cupcakes with maple buttercream frosting.  These cupcakes make your house smell amazing!  The cake itself is a little dry, but tastes like a pancake (The recipe called for oil or butter; I used oil.  I think you should use butter.) and the smooth creamy frosting is well, I wanted to just eat spoonfuls of it with a cup of coffee.  If you like pancakes, maple or just cupcakes, give them a try for a little something different this January.  Enjoy!

Good morning...the best way to start a Friday is with a sunrise like this.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Coconut Key Lime Pie Bars...a little taste of summer in the winter

I am currently clicking my ruby slippers...I wish I was still in Scotland, I wish I was still in Scotland...damn that totally didn't work.  Oh well time to jump into 2013.  My weird planner self has already made plans, plans for running, for visiting friends, for welcome back parties, for baking and moving.  Planning ahead is totally just my personality, I won't deny it, or shy away from it.  I love a good to do list.  This weeks list included baking the first office birthday dessert of 2013.  

The request coconut key lime bars.  A little summer in the cold DC winter.  The bars have great crunch along with a smooth creamy top.  They are a nice refreshing treat after all of the chocolate consumed this winter.  The coconut and key lime really ring summer in the dead of winter.  So, give them a try.  If you are going to be serving them at a party, I would recommend making them in a cupcake tin for easy serving purposes.  Enjoy!

A few fun pics from the place I wish I was...filled with lazy afternoons when life felt like a vacation.

A stroll through the park to the botanical gardens.

An afternoon beer at Brew Dog...with the best coaster...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Spinach Mushroom Calzones

Have you ever begrudgingly gotten on an airplane?  Like you really, really don't want to leave, but you have to, you have to go back to the real world, to being an adult, to not living as if life is a vacation?  I know, I know, this is part of being an adult, but I did not want to leave Glasgow last Saturday. Not after an amazing trip to London (check it out) and two weeks off from work.  But alas I got on the airplane, came home and back to the real world.  

I decided I needed to be very productive Sunday as a result; that it was best to jump with two feet in and get back to life.  Lets just say unpacking after over two weeks is not fun, but feels amazing once you get done.  Cleaning the house and going grocery shopping meant real life had just hit me in the face.  So, to take my mind off of the fact that I was no longer in Scotland getting to just hangout with Charles, I prepared for the week and baked up my lunch.  

Although these calzones are a two step process, they are fairly easy.  They only slightly hard part is making the pizza dough and it was easy, trust me.  Step one being to prepare the dough and let it rise.  Step two is preparing the filling and baking them off.  These calzones are totally worth the time.  They are healthier for the New Year; my way of easing my way back in to my mostly vegetables lunch, but without making me eat salad every day.  They are loaded with spinach, mushrooms and onions, with 2% mozzarella and a little Parmesan cheese of gluing the filling together.  The dough came out light, and the filling delicious, earthy and garlicky.  So, if you have a little time, or even want to take a short cut and buy store bought pizza dough, give these a try.  I plan on reheating mine in the toaster oven this week for about 10 minutes on 300 degrees F.  Plus, they should definitely freeze well.  Enjoy!

Loving my new cookbook.  Thanks Meghan!  Time for the pizza dough.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Guest Post #12: Salted Caramel Cheesecake

The weekend before Christmas I got to bake with one of the cutest kids I know (we totally made a birthday cake for Jesus)...see the 2nd picture below of the three year old who totally now knows how to pose for the camera while baking.  I don't get to see him, or the rest or my family in Charlotte often enough, but he is a great helper in the kitchen and helped Katie, my sister-in-law, make this cheesecake.   

I was so excited when Katie sent me an email with the link to this recipe, and told me she was making it for Thanksgiving.  I only wished I had been able to try it, because it looks and sounds amazing.  I immediately emailed her back and asked if she would do a guest post of this recipe.  I knew it would be delicious, because well Katie is a great cook!  She and her mom have always been a great inspiration in the kitchen, and my brother has always raved about the food they cook.  It's hard to believe sometimes how long we have been family.  Even before Katie and my brother were married, I have memories of her coming to middle school plays.  My brother even challenged me when I went off to college to work my butt off and be on the dean's list every semester like Katie was...which somehow I managed to do.   I really couldn't ask for a better sister-in-law and truly appreciate all of the support she sends my way.  Oh and I am definitely going to have to give this cheesecake a try!

Katie, Oliver(also one of the cutest little boys I know) and I.

Direct from Katie:
I am not much of a baker because I don’t follow directions well and I have two small boys who take up most of my time. I’d rather just throw together the ingredients for a soup, taste as I cook and add a little of this and a little of that. However, I was assigned dessert and this is what all of Lauren’s yummy salted caramel items on her blog inspired me to make.