Making Pumcakes

So I think I’ve shared that on Saturdays, we’ve started making dinner.  Not only are we cooking for 25 people, something none of us do regularly at home, but we are cooking need to be creative as the ingredients and/or kitchen appliances and materials available might be different from what is at home. 

This Saturday we had made pancakes.  Pretty simple right?  We even got a box mix from the grocery store.  I mean, sure some of the directions were in Arabic, but it was in English too, so we thought it’d be super easy to pull together.

I think that each week when we cook, we manage to overlook some detail that we needed to plan ahead for.  This week the issue was the milk.  The milk here is in bags, which reminds me of my Grandma Karsjens’ kitchen in Iowa.  One bag is usually in the fridge, while the rest is kept frozen.  A small, yet oh-so-important, detail.  We had two giant mixing bowls with eggs and vegetable oil in them.  We just needed to add the milk and then the mix.  We then realized the error of our ways.  Most of the milk we needed had yet to be taken out of the freezer.  Whoops!

While we tried to think of a plan, Jessica held the milk bag over a pan that was heating up on a burner.  It was not the most effective thing we tried.  We heated water over the stove and then poured it into the sink where the milk bag could defrost from the hot water.

you might think this was an ineffective attempt because this picture makes it look like the water barely reaches the milk bag. which is only partially true.

We tried the defrost option in the microwave.  At risk of the bag melting, eventually we decided to just try normal microwaving, since nothing else was working as fast as we needed it to.  This worked really well until the power went out.  This happens fairly often, but this was one of the worst timed instances we could think of.  Until Jen came in and told us a circuit had just blown and the power wasn’t actually out.  PTL.

a sight that caused panic in our hearts until we learned we could switch the power back on…

The kids were super confused by our meal, and kept asking, “What is this?”  “Pancakes.”  “What is this?”  “Syrup.”  We also taught them to say, “Breakfast for dinner”.  We couldn’t decide if they actually liked it or not, but the next day they couldn’t stop talking about the Pumcakesthey’d eaten the day before and asking to have them again.  So I think it was a success.

we love pumcakes!

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Cookie Quest

One of my friends is currently on a quest to find the best chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe.  She has collected 12 recipes and is working her way through them.

After an especially disappointing batch of cookies, I suggested that perhaps baking with friends would be a good way to move on past this incident.  So last night we got together to whip up the next three types of chocolate chip cookies on her list.  After some careful taste testing, we picked our favorite so far, and then looked at all of our mixing bowls.  We all had just a little dough leftover… but not enough for a whole tray.

The only logical next step was to combine all three cookie doughs, mix ’em up real good, and throw them in the oven.  While we waited for our cookies to bake, we talked about what they might taste like.  Will they be the next winning batch of cookies for the State Fair?

Um, NO.

They were the grossest chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted.  They were a weird color, had an awful texture, tasted disgusting.  But perhaps the state fair judges will feel differently??

 

A Stellar Spring Break

“Miss K, I have a secret!”

whispers in my ear: “It is spring!”

I thought about telling him in response that I had a secret too: technically it isn’t spring yet.  But between this amazing weather in Minnesota and the fact that we just got back to school from something called Spring Break I could see where the confusion came from.

Speaking of spring break, it was great!  Thanks for asking.

Here are some highlights:

  • cleaning my room
  • doing my taxes
  • re-reading the Hunger Games
  • seeing The Vow.  Although I was disappointed in myself for my lack of tears.  Are you made of stone, Laura??
  • going to the zoo.  (A special thanks to Rachel and 3M for bringing penguins to the zoo.  I can only assume that since she works for 3M, she played a big role in that exhibit.)  (I’d also like to ask why anyone would name a Tiger who doesn’t have a tail, Whirl.  We decided that was just kind of mean.  Brooke suggested Nubby as a better name.  I think it is absolutely more fitting.)  (Also, did they get rid of the wolves after they got out last year?  I have heard conflicting rumors on this topic)
  • walking around the lake

    a frozen lake on an 80 degree day? so confusing! but i will take it.

  • getting FroYo
  • sitting out in the sunshine looking at magazines
  • playing with blocks with an awesome four year old
  • friends
  • chuck e cheese (yes, the kindergartners were all jealous)
  • sister day (I have been receiving threatening emails because I have not updated you on what we did.  Update coming soon, I promise.  Like maybe tomorrow.  (threatening might be a bit of an exaggeration)).
  • shopping with my mom
  • getting a super generous graduation gift from my parents (I didn’t know there were gifts involved in finishing grad school.  Now that I realize this, I am contemplating going back for more degrees!)
  • that is a lie.  Even sweet gifts couldn’t convince me to go back for more.
  • David and Lindsey’s wedding
  • Lindsey and David’s wedding
  • (being at a good friend’s wedding is totally worth two bullet points.  Even if it is just one event) 
  • Jill’s baby shower
  • sleeping in
  • relaxing
  • Sunshine.  How did I not mention sunshine until the end of the list?!  I seriously cannot believe how nice the weather has been.  I would say there is a definitely possibility I got more than one freckle this week.

Wow, looking at that list, I’m surprised I found the will to go back to work today!  Those children are so lucky.

Dessert in a Jar: Twix Trifles

We had a cousin’s dinner this past weekend.  I needed to drive 40 minutes to my cousin and his wife’s home, so keeping in mind my recent struggles in dessert transportation, I thought to myself, what is the easiest, most fool-proof way to transport a dessert?  Naturally, the conclusion I came to was to transport the desserts, ready to serve, in individual jars.

fool-proof dessert transportation, right??

I called my sister to confirm how many guests were going to be at the dinner.  The total was 11.  I had 12 jars.  Since I had an extra jar, I thought it made sense to throw the spare jar on the ground so it would shatter into millions of pieces.  Or I accidentally dropped it after washing the jars and it shattered and I was sad that I now needed to clean up broken glass.

Now on to the trifles. So cute, right?

I don’t know about you, but when I think trifle, I immediately think of the episode of Friends where Rachel is making a traditional English trifle for Thanksgiving dessert, and the pages of the recipe magazine she is using got stuck together and she is unknowingly combining two recipes.  One for trifle and one involving things such as beef and peas.  

I was hoping no one would pull a Chandler and say, “This is so good I need to go enjoy it on the balcony” when I served my Twix trifle.

Using instant pudding sounded too easy, so I made my pudding from scratch.  First though, I chopped up some twix.  Then I put a layer of twix choppings in the bottom of each jar.  Then I made homemade caramel pudding.  I was shocked at my baking abilities (let’s be honest, I really mean my recipe following abilities) and was excited that I actually made pudding!  After that chilled, I made the chocolate pudding (doubling the original recipe) and layered it on top.  I topped that with more twix pieces, then whipped cream, then put the lid on the jar.  Ready to go!  

It was delicious.  I would totally recommend this recipe.  The only thing that would have made it better was these cute little red bows.  But I ran out of time.  So we went bow-less to the party.  I would also recommend that you remember you have a cousin who is lactose intolerant before you serve a milk-based dessert at dinner.  Sorry again, Elizabeth!  Next time I will bring something dairy-free… And thanks Steve and Kaia for hosting and serving us a delicious dinner!  Cousin’s dinner success!

Click here for the Twix Trifle recipe

A Double Dessert Review

I feel the need to share with you about two most recent things I have baked.  I feel this way because I generally share my baking successes and failures with you all.  And good news: today I have two baking success stories to recommend to you.

First of all, I think we can all agree that nothing says Christmas like Toffee Crunch Cupcakes.  Ok, maybe I can think of a few things that might say Christmas a little bit better: gingerbread cupcakes, eggnog cupcakes, peppermint mocha cupcakes, etc.  However unfortunately I did not think of these things before I saw how amazing the Toffee Crunch Cupcakes looked.  And they looked delish.  They are a smidge time intensive, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Step 1: Bake the cupcakes.

Step 2: Make the chocolate ganache.  Chill the chocolate ganache.  Frost the outer ring of the cupcake with chocolate ganache.  Roll this in toffee chips.

Step 3: Make caramel merengue frosting.  Frost the cupcakes.

Click here for real directions/the recipe a’la Annie’s Eats as per usual. 

So easy, right?  I may have been a bit late to Christmas Eve because I didn’t factor in all the heating and chilling needed for these multiple frostings for one cupcake.  But it all worked out in the end.  Look how amazing they are!  And I cannot even tell you how tasty they are. Somehow the toffee does this magic trick where it creates a chocolate cupcake that isn’t so rich you want to die.  It is the perfect amount of not-too-rich that you just want to keep enjoying it.  And the frosting.  Mmm.  Delectable.  So block off a day on your calendar and then run, don’t walk, to this recipe.

Second up is the tuxedo NYE cake.  I know we’ve talked about this before.  We’ve talked about how transporting a 3 layer cake is a bit treacherous.  And we’ve talked about how it can be done with careful driving and a trusty cake-holder.  But I did realize that I never mentioned that the only way I deviated from the original recipe is that I put chopped up strawberries on the frosting in between each layer of cake.  And in my opinion, that totally made the cake.  LOVED.  And have we mentioned that this cake is so good that even your non-cake-loving friend will not only eat it, but also like it??

Also with this cake, there is some cooling time involved between steps, so plan your day accordingly.  People will be impressed by your fancy baking skills, and honestly it wasn’t that hard.  You can do it!

Click here for the recipe.

Now the two questions that remain are what should I bake for my church’s annual meeting and what should I bake for my cousins’ post-Christmas dinner.  Any suggestions?

Minimal Effort Baking: cookie-cookie-brownie-bars

I promised I would share my non-from-scratch bars with you. 

Ingredients:

  • Cookie Dough (I used a mix for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip.  It was made by Betty Crocker or one of her friends).
  • Oreos
  • Brownie batter (Once again I used a mix – this one I think by Target).
Directions:
  • Line your cake pan with parchment paper and spray with Pam (or her generic cousin if you are like me).
  • Prepare cookie dough according to directions and spread the dough in your cake pan.
  • Layer with oreos.
  • Prepare brownie mix and pour on top.
  • Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
  • Serve with ice cream!  Delish!

Here is the original recipe I followed.  Their pictures will make you drool, so consider yourself warned.

On a different baking note, the student teacher across the hall made these truffles.  A student saw one sitting on my desk and asked what it is.  I said, “It is a truffle!”  He said, “You know how to make another kind of truffle.  The kind with the stick in it!”  “Why yes, I do.”  Either my baking talents are known farther and wider than I realized or he had been eyeing the cake pop that was sitting in a ziplock on my desk for a week before I ate it…  I’m guessing that I am just famous.

a little case of kitchen envy

I think I figured out the reason that my kitchen and I aren’t getting along lately.

You know how you shouldn’t say things behind someone’s back?  Well, I think my kitchen must have overheard the things I was saying about my friend’s beautiful kitchen.  And then she decided that if she wasn’t my favorite kitchen, then I wasn’t her favorite baker named Laura.  But really, can you blame me?

my kitchen.

my dream kitchen. aka my friend Jill's newly remodeled kitchen. aka my kitchen's arch nemesis.

We had a little heart to heart.  It went something like this, 

“Kitchen, I know you are feeling sad right now.  I realize that I probably said some things that hurt your feelings.  But sometimes we have to face a hard truth.  You are not as great as some other kitchens.  And you never will be.  But that is not your fault.  I do love you just the way you are.  You might have ugly orange window treatments.  You might have dishes that were just washed piled up high with no butler/housekeeper to put them away for me.  You might not have any counter space.  But you know what?  We have still had some good times together.  Remember the time we dripped cheesecake on the bottom of the oven and it smoked for years and the smoke detector kept shouting, “FIRE!  FIRE!”  every time I turned on the oven?  Remember the time we made homemade oreos and people loved us for them?  Remember all the cupcakes?  Remember the time we almost died from accidentally OD-ing on chipotle peppers?  Remember the time we bonded for nearly 72 hours straight making jungle themed baked goods?  We have a shared a lot of smiles and a lot of tears.  You might not be as pretty or as spacious or as shiny and new as other kitchens.  But at least we have each other.  Don’t let go of that.  Because someday I will be letting go of you.  You are a rental, remember?  We need to embrace each moment we have together.  Never give up.  Never surrender.  We’re all in this together.”

And then I bought her flowers.  Whether or not we are ready to move on, to forgive and forget, no one knows.  Time will tell.

I think she likes them.

In the meantime, I will continue to cheat on my kitchen whenever possible, visiting other kitchens that still like me.

On a Break

So, the kitchen and I are on a break.  Do you remember how Ross and Rachel were on a break?  It is kind of like that.  But actually a lot different.

I don’t know what happened, but the kitchen seems to hate me.  I thought we were getting along well.  We were sharing, laughing, enjoying one another’s company, when out of the blue, THIS happened.

Pumpkin Truffle? I think not.

I should probably tell you that is a good one.  And none of them looked like this

What the Whole Foods recipe told me Pumpkin truffles would look like.

I could have recovered from this truffle fail if

A) it wasn’t happening on the heels of my Apple Pie Cupcakes Mental Breakdown Disaster of the previous week.

B) if my too-good-in-the-kitchen-sister-in-law hadn’t made it sound so easy when she passed the recipe along to me

C) if when I tried to go to Michael’s to get a candy mold (in efforts to stop trying to dip truffles but mold them into being instead) if the candy molds would have been in stock instead of sending me on a wild goose chase around the suburbs

D) if I hadn’t been on a deadline

E) if I hadn’t been making them to serve at a dinner party with strangers

F) if I hadn’t wasted an entire beautiful fall day failing in the kitchen. 

“What when wrong?” you might ask.  The answer is that after forming the pumpkin mixture into balls, when I tried to dip in in the white chocolate coating, the ball formation fell apart – melting into the white chocolate and creating a pumpkin-chocolate swirl.

I tried calling and leaving a desperate plea for help on Rachel’s voicemail.

I tried using candy molds instead of dipping.  That kind of worked.

I tried using a variety of fall colors of candy melts to disguise the ugly.

By the end I was so bitter that I threw away the rest of the pumpkin filling and baked pumpkin snickerdoodles instead.  

I served some ugly truffles to my sister and she said they tasted good.  So I took a deep breath, packed up both the ugly desserts and the potentially tasty cookies (and threw in some candy corn as a last resort back up), and headed out to my dinner party.

“Was it worth it?” you might ask.  The answer: No.  The other guests brought a dessert, so I never even took mine out of the bag. 

“Will you ever enter the kitchen again?” you might ask.  The answer: I tried last week to cook up some delicious broccoli for a dinner with my cousins.  The result: Nast.  I warned people not to eat the broccoli because it wasn’t good.  I said, “Eat the delicious bread that I made from scratch  bought at Panera instead.”

So people, it is official.  The kitchen and I are on a break.  If I ever try to re-enter, please stop me, and remind me to walk away.  I am still allowed to wear cute aprons, but only for fun – not for anything kitchen-related.

yum.

p.s.  You might be wondering what I did with the leftover questionable desserts.  The answer is four-fold: 1. I dropped some off at the g-parents.  2.I packaged them up in cute fall packaging and gifted them to a friend who told me she didn’t think I could be a train-wreck in the kitchen.  3. I served them at a baseball watching party.  Rachel giggled at each and every one she took out of the box.  4.  I served them to co-workers.

Yes, I am an awesome granddaughter, coworker, and friend 🙂

If you would like to prove you are the better baker, here is a link to the pumpkin truffle recipe, and here is a link to the pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies. Godspeed.

Sprinkling a cupcake with disaster.

Rachel’s birthday was on the most beautiful fall day ever.  We decided we’d make it a day of fall fun followed by hanging out with friends at her house to party it up that night.  Naturally, cupcakes were in order.  After all, it was a birthday, right?  I asked Rachel what kind she wanted and she found this recipe for Apple Pie Cupcakes.  I thought to myself, “those look pretty tasty!  But I just think they could be even better.”  So I did some googling and found THIS: Caramel Apple Pie Cupcakes.  Picture it (or look at the picture below): a cinnamon cupcake with apple pie filling and caramel frosting.  A little bit of fall heaven, right? 

Sometimes I say, “Read this and find out how to make delicious treats!”

Today I will say, “Read this and learn how NOT to make delicious treats.  Then after you read, click on the link to the original recipe and learn how the pros competent people do it.”

The first thing to keep in mind is that you probably shouldn’t bake if you are feeling 100%.  I mean, what fun is that?  Where is the drama if you are awake, coherent, and healthy?  Boring!

The second thing is you definitely shouldn’t check and make sure that you have all of your ingredients.  Absolutely do what I did and just start baking.  I’m sure you’ve got what you need!  Then, when you realize that you don’t have corn starch, you can have a total meltdown and flee your house, nearly in tears, leaving a confused roommate in your wake.

Another thing is you probably don’t want to have an awesome roommate who will help you finish the cupcakes when she sees how emotionally unstable you are while working around dangerous things like knives and hot ovens.  

Oh, and before I forget, try to not mix the batter well.  It will be so much more fun if you think it is odd how runny the batter is, double check the recipe, shrug your shoulders, and move forward with the baking.  Merrily scoop the batter-soup into the cupcake liners.  Then shake your head with dismay and sorrow as you reach towards the bottom of the mixing bowl and come up with chunks of batter-glop that clearly should have been mixed with the batter-soup.   At this point you can oh-so-carefully pick up each soupy-filled liner, and squeeze the batter back into the mixing bowl to try again.  Now you have effectively wasted enough cupcake batter to go from a double batch to a 1.5 batch of cupcakes.  Think of all the time you are saving yourself in the frosting stage!  Less cupcakes = Less work.

Now just put the cupcakes in the oven to bake!  While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the apple pie filling.  After the cupcakes are cool, use your handy dandy cupcake-corer to take out the middle of the cupcake, spoon in some apple pie filling, and swirl the caramel buttercream frosting on top!  

As a final touch, I would recommend drizzling caramel on top.  If I were you, I would do this as messily as possible so that everyone who eats your delicious creation is a sticky (but happy) mess.

Happy Baking!  Enjoy the little taste of fall-heaven in your mouth after you complete the above steps of fall-not-so-much-heaven.  

p.s.  If this baking plans sounds awful to you, but the cupcakes sound delicious, please click here for the actual recipe and directions for a successful baking experience.  And note that because I am lazy, I used the frosting recipe found here.  I actually really would recommend this recipe to you.  The cupcakes were amazing.  I don’t know how to describe them except to say that taste like everything that fall should taste like.

Homemade Granola!

This recipe is courtesy of my amazing Aunt Laurie.  If you get a recipe from her, you know it is going to be good.  I should probably get stickers for my cookbook that say, “Aunt Laurie Approved”.

It was super easy to make, and is obviously delicious!  (I know people don’t really trust my opinion on what is easy to make, but I promise you will also think it is easy)

 

Ingredients:*

  • 4 c Quick Cooking Oatmeal
  • 2 c Whole Almonds (raw or roasted – no salt)
  • 1/2 c Sunflower Seeds – no salt
  • 1/3 c Flax Seeds
  • 1/3 c Olive Oil
  • 2/3 c Honey
  • 1 c Golden Raisins
  • 1 c Chopped Dried Pineapple

Preheat oven to 300*  Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

In large bowl, mix the oats, almonds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds.  Warm the honey in microwave (this makes it easier to coat above mixture).  Add the honey and olive oil to the dry mixture and mix until well-coated.

Spread evenly over the prepared jelly roll pan, pressing down lightly with the back of your spoon. 

Bake 30-40 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool completely.  In large bowl, break apart the cooled granola.  Mix in the raisins and pineapple.  Store in an airtight container.

*Don’t let this recipe limit you – feel free to add whatever nuts or dried fruit you prefer!  

I like to eat it with yogurt and fruit.  But you do what you want to.  I’m not there to make sure you eat it the same as me. There are no rules here.

In case you are wondering how good it really is, my students were watching me eat it, and were quite envious.  They wanted to know where I got it.  They said they’d seen it on TV.  One kid said “ew” and I said “that makes me sad.”  So obviously they changed their tune and so now I can say that 100% of children think this looks delicious.