November 30, 2018

Christmas Baking 2018 Commences

My Christmas tree is up, Christmas music is playing on Spotify 24/7 and I've already played a few Christmas concerts, which means I'm ready for Holiday Baking!! In preparation, I purchased two packs of butter on my Trader Joe's run the other day. And when I got home, I found two unopened packages of butter in my fridge---so I have sixteen sticks of butter ready for some baking (completely unintentional but I'll just got with it).
I love trying new recipes and turned to Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate-Covered Chai-Tea Bars, a recipe I had bookmarked last month. The lazy person in my loves making bars since I don't need to spoon out cookie dough onto a pan and wait for batches to bake.

These call for actual bags of tea to be thrown into the dough. I was confused when I read the recipe a few times, thinking I would need to strain it. But fear not, baking with tea leaves actually works. The Kitchn describes using them as a way to not have to measure out chai spices for the bars—anything to make baking easier!

These bars grew on me after a day--they're not heavy on the spice-level since I used the zest of an entire orange, which overpowers the spices from the tea bags. The recipe recommends using the zest of a clementine to bring out the chai spices better. But the orange and almond flours really come through to create a light, not-too-sweet flavor that would work well with a cup of coffee or tea.

I was telling a friend these are more adult flavors since the bars aren't super sweet. I keep imagining that they would be perfect for tea time.

The Recipe: Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate-Covered Chai-Tea Bars from The Kitchn. Make sure to use one clementine or the zest of half an orange if you want it to have more chai-spice flavor.

November 18, 2018

Little Baby Pies

Confession: in all my years of home baking, I've never baked a pie. There's been the occasional hand pie and galette but never a pie. Last Thanksgiving, I was tasked with bringing dessert and thought these Apple Pie Cookies were a perfect treat to share with friends and a way to dabble into pie making, without fully making a pie.
Calling these cookies might be a bit of a stretch--they're really just mini hand pies. But they're extra festive with the cutouts from my mini cookie cutters and they're perfect if you want a small dessert with the tiny amount of room left in your belly post-Thanksgiving dinner. 

November 8, 2018

My First McRib

I've had this strange goal to eat my first McRib for about the past six years. But since McRib season is always in November, I've wanted to save the extra calories for Thanksgiving and Christmas and would pass on the McRib adventure year after year. Well, as of three days ago, I have finally reached my goal! 
My fascination started back when Jack Osbourne got super excited about the return of the McRib on The Osbournes and every year, my favorite Chicago radio show host sings praises for the McRib. Its cult following and its strange boneless-rib-like shape also piqued my curiosity. 
So how'd it taste? Well, I've always loved McDonald's bbq sauce with its tangy, sweet flavor and since this sandwich is doused in the sauce, it scored some points with me. But the meat, oh the meat. It had an oddly springy texture and had a strange, artificial smokey taste. But the tangy pickles made the flavor a little better but I couldn't get over the fake meat taste. Yet, I managed to gobble up the entire sandwich. 

My first adventure with the McRib might also be my last adventure with the elusive sandwich. But if you're curious, you can find a McRib using this McRib Locator

November 4, 2018

Apple Picking, Doughnuts, Slushies and Cake!

It has been a couple decades since I have been apple picking and I was so excited to finally make plans to do it here in KC. However, when my friend Rebecca and I arrived at the Cider Hill Family Orchard one day in late October, we were met with bare apple trees and the sad news that there would no longer be any apple picking at the orchard since their apple supply was pretty much depleted.
But not to worry, they still had already picked Jonathan apples we could purchase as well as cider doughnuts and cider slushies! And we were informed that late August-late September was the best time for apple picking in KC.
I took about 2lbs of Jonathan apples home with me, which are good for eating fresh or for baking. While they weren't the crispest of apples (I like mine crispy), I decided to use my stash for baking. I opted for this Apple Yogurt Cake since I wanted an easily shareable baked goodie to bring to work.
The Recipe: Apple Yogurt Cake from The Kitchn. Even though it isn't the most visually stunning cake, it is pretty darn tasty. It is so flavorful with punches of cinnamon, not too sweet and perfectly moist. I can't wait to make this again in the future with some freshly picked apples.
Cider Hill Family Orchard
3341 N. 139th Street
Kansas City, Kansas

October 29, 2018

Watermelon Costume

Keeping with the food theme from my Halloween costume last year, I decided to find a somewhat low maintenance costume since last year's donut took some effort to make. I'm not how my search ended when I found this watermelon costume but I knew it would be the perfect, easy project for me this year.
I went the no-sew route since I wanted to rewear the dress but also because I don't know how to sew beyond VERY basic skills. I used a ribbon for the rind, which was attached with hemming tape but I've also seen tutorials that used green duct tape. Either option is pretty low maintenance! 
DIY Watermelon Costume adapted from Studio DIY
a-line red dress (mine came from Old Navy)
2.5 inch or wider green ribbon
black duct tape
hemming tape
1. Cut ribbon and line the bottom of the dress with ribbon. Attach with hemming tape. (I used green ribbon with wire, which gave the dress more of a flared structure but it was a little difficult to line up against the dress).
2. Cut seed shapes out of black duct tape and attach to dress.
3. Accessorize with some watermelon earrings or a headband (I found one at target).

October 27, 2018

Beer Cake

A few weeks ago, this beautiful, chocolate cake on one of my favorite food blogs caught my eye and I knew it would be my birthday cake. Since I've baked my own cake the past two years, I thought, hell, maybe I'll make this a tradition. So, I baked myself my birthday cake again a few days ago.
This was a massive cake: 4 eggs, 4 sticks of butter, 4 cups of flour and 4 cups of sugar in addition to a pint of stout or dark beer. I'd never baked with beer before and I was curious to see how it fared against the usual cake ingredients (I used a chocolate stout beer I found at Whole Foods).

The result: the chocolate cake actually had a beer, yeasty flavor to it, which was balanced well against the ganache frosting. However, since the cake layers were so massive, I didn't do the best job of adding enough frosting between the layers, for fear I wouldn't have enough to decorate the outside of the cake (I almost didn't have enough!). But it was a moist, tasty chocolate cake that wasn't too sweet and was also the most cylindrical cake I've ever assembled.

The recipe: Chocolate Stout Cake from King Arthur Flour

October 15, 2018

My First Whoopie Pie!

It's that time of year...I've popped open my first can of pumpkin and welcomed the fall season with some pumpkin-spiced baked goodies.
I love a good whoopie pie with its creamy, frosting-like filling sandwiched between two soft cookies. After all these years, I've never made one myself so took this pumpkin can-opening opportunity to make some seasonal whoopie pies.
And since I was sharing them at work, I thought the normal sized 4 inch whoopie pie would be too big (I've noticed people enjoy eating bite-sized goodies), so I used my cookie scoop to create about 2 1/2 dozen whoopie pies.
The cream cheese filling with the pumpkin cookie created the perfect autumnal treat. A colleague even said to me that the whoopie pies would elicit a marriage proposal...can't say that happened but I'm glad they were the perfect pick-me-up for an exhausting week at work.

The Recipe: King Arthur Flour's Pumpkin Whoopie Pies