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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hot buttered rum

Now how many of you are familiar with Harry Potter?  Most, I would guess.  All of you fans, then, know about the famous butterbeer that Harry and friends drink when they venture to Hogsmeade.  I have always thought,  That sounds so delicious!  If only there were something like it in real life! 

When my stepmom Debbie started making hot buttered rum on Christmas night, I immediately thought of butterbeer and was so excited to try it!  (My mom thinks that butterbeer would be more like cream soda, but I would have to disagree - boring!)

How lovely it sounds to curl up with a blanket in front of the fireplace with a book and a warm cup of hot buttered rum.  What a perfect night that would be indeed.

Hot buttered rum

Serves about 12

1 stick butter, softened
2 C light brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Dark rum
Boiling water

First, look how cute my little bro Carter is.  He is just about to turn two, and he learned how to skate that day!

Now, add butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to a mixing bowl.

Beat until well mixed.

Pack mixture to the bottom of the bowl.

Boil a pot of water over the stove.

While the water boils, add about 2 tablespoons of your butter and brown sugar mixture to a mug with 2 shots of dark rum.

Once the water boils, fill the rest of the mug with hot water.

Super easy, right?!  And mighty delicious as well.

Enjoy a cup on a cold and wintery night!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Cake balls!

Christmas Eve I woke up far too late around 10a, and had to a) make cake balls b) make caramels c) make artichoke dip and d) do last minute Christmas shopping.  All before 3:30pm.  Ugh! 

I started with making cake balls.


Now what's inside these festive little treats, you ask? 

CAKE AND FROSTING!!!  And the best cake and frosting you've ever had, at that.

Bakerella is famous for her cake pops, but I actually learned how to make them from Crave. Indulge. Satisfy.  The best part about this recipe is that you can use any cake recipe and any frosting recipe you'd like.  Naturally I chose my favorite:  Iowa chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.  I request to have it on my birthday every year.

There are many steps in creating the perfect cake ball/pop:

1.  You must first bake your cake.
2.  Then make your frosting.
3.  Once the cake has cooled, cut it in to chunks.  In to a food processor they go to create fine crumbs.
4.  Mix the frosting with the crumbs, and roll the mixture in to small balls.
5.  Dip each ball in to melted white chocolate and sprinkle.

WHEW!!!  That is a lot of steps!

Now I will walk you through each step more in depth.

To bake Iowa Chocolate Cake (aka The Best Chocolate Cake Ever), you will need:

3/4 C butter
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C boiling water
2 C flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 C cocoa
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9 x 13 in pan with Pam.  You can also use two 8 x 8 in pans, which is what I did.  Beat first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Add dry ingredients to hot mixture and mix well.

Beat in eggs and vanilla.  The batter will be very runny.

Pour the batter in to your pan or pans.

Start baking 20-30 minutes and bake more as needed.  I usually never set a timer, because ovens are always different.  I just watch it closely.

While the cake is baking, make your frosting!  Click here for the recipe.  I've included the recipe in my (jumbo) Cupcakes! post.

Once the cake is done baking and has cooled, cut half of the cake in to chunks and transfer to a food processor.  Pulse until cake has turned to fine crumbs, and transfer crumbs to a large mixing bowl.  Repeat with other half of cake.

Speaking of food processors,  never in my life have I used a food processor, and I have used one at least four times in the last two weeks.  They are fantastic!

Now add your frosting to the crumbs and mix well.  This may be a bit hard, but continue to mix until all crumbs are thoroughly saturated with frosting.

The mixture should now be sticky enough to roll in to balls.  Place each ball on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet.

Once all balls are rolled, melt your white chocolate chips.  You will need between two and three bags, but I  melted each bag one at a time.  So melt your first bag in the microwave.

Start with two minutes in the microwave at 70% power so as not to burn your chips.  Remove the bowl every 30 seconds or so to stir.  Add more time as needed, always at 70% power, until chips are fully melted.

With a spoon, dip a cake ball in to the melted white chocolate and cover completely.  Remove and place back on the cookie sheet.  Sprinkle before the chocolate hardens.  The first few times may be a it tricky, and extra white chocolate all over the place, but you will catch on quickly, and they will turn out beautiful!  Like this!

And how did they taste?

"Death by baking." - Aunt Chelle

That pretty much sums it up.



Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Annual Progressive Dinner Party

First, you must be wondering what the "progressive" in the title is all about.  Each year my family and close family friends get together before Christmas for a great feast.  The night starts out with appetizers and cocktails at the Blasiers house.  We then migrate to my parents house for the main course.  My aunt and uncle provide the Spanish coffee for dessert, and Trav and I provided the treats this year.  There you have the short version.

Moving on, though, you all know how much I love a great glass of red wine, so I had to add this in here.  Mark and my mom went to Costco before the party and found this.


Uncorking the thing was quite a spectacle.


I also have to show you all this because it is so fantastic.

This was once a bottle of chardonnay called Big Ass Chard (what a great name!) and is now a candle.  My aunt Julie's neighbor makes candles out of wine and beer bottles.  My mom picked this bottle out because of the cute label - it has a bike on it!

I am going to learn how to make these one day.



Christmas festivities - Chocolate chocolate chip biscotti

Christmas festivities started promptly when I got home on Thursday afternoon for Christmas.  Our Annual Progressive Dinner Party fell on the 23rd this year, which means the last three days have been non-stop baking, cooking, and eating.

My cousin Travis, who is an incredibly talented baker, and I were in charge of dessert for our dinner party.  Figuring there would be so much food throughout the night, we chose light.  I made chocolate chocolate chip biscotti to complement our traditional Spanish coffee, and Travis made yummy brownie cheesecake bites topped with chocolate-covered berries.  I guess those don't sound so light, but they were bite-size.

When I brought my cupcakes in to work the other day, one of my co-workers told me about a blog called Smitten Kitchen.  She said that every recipe she has ever made from the blog has been fantastic.  I figured it would be a great place to get a recipe for biscotti.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Biscotti,  modified from Smitten Kitchen

You will need:

1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 C flour, plus extra flour for rolling surface
1/2 C cocoa
1 T ground espresso
Pinch of salt
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
4 eggs
1 1/3 C sugar

Combine flour, cocoa, espresso, salt, baking powder and soda in a bowl.  Mix well.

Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl until well-mixed, and remove 2 T of egg in to a small bowl for later. 

Add sugar to the large bowl of eggs and beat well. 

Now add in your flour mixture.  Blend well.  The mixture will become very dense!

On a VERY WELL-FLOURED surface, with very well-floured hands, form half of the dough in to a square, 8 inches by 8 inches. Spread half of your chocolate chips over the surface of the dough and press them in to the dough.

Roll in to a log as shown below, and place on to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Coat each log with the remaining egg using a kitchen brush.

Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 until tops are firm.  Take out of the oven and let cool for 5 minutes or so.  Transfer to a cutting board and slice each log diagonally, as shown below.

Transfer slices back to parchment paper, and bake for 15-20 more minutes. 

I was not so convinced with the end result; I even considered not serving them!  I drizzled them with a bit of white chocolate, but I still wasn't totally convinced.

When the basket of biscotti came around the table, I rolled my eyes, took one, dipped it in my Spanish coffee, and took a bite.  What a pleasant surprise!  The biscotti was delicious, and so I had another.

The next day my stepdad Mark said, "Katie, I HATE biscotti, and your biscotti was INCREDIBLE." 

Take from it what you will.

As for Travis' recipe, he totally improvised, which is far more than I can say.

Some oreo crumbs and butter for the crust, topped with a layer of brownie mix and a cheesecake-like mixture, and voila - bite-sized yumminess.

So there you have it.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

(jumbo) Cupcakes!

Hello friends! 

Yesterday, feeling inspired, I decided to bake cupcakes to share with my co-workers today.  You all know my opinion on cupcakes (and muffins):  why make standard when you can make jumbo?!  So jumbo brown-sugar vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting it was.

I am not sure why I was inclined to make white cupcakes with white frosting - kind of boring, and I am such a chocolate girl!  But I wanted to try making white cake from scratch, and the last time (and only other time) I did was in high school.

Sooo, I found a recipe for vanilla brown sugar cupcakes on a sassy blog called Cheeky Kitchen.

Click here for the recipe.

I used my own recipe for buttercream frosting.  To make the frosting, combine 1/3 C butter, 3 C powdered sugar, 2 T milk, and 1-1/2 t vanilla extract.  Beat until mixed thoroughly.  If the frosting is too thick, add milk a little bit at a time until desired consistency.

This is the BEST frosting you will ever have.

How did the cupcakes turn out, you may ask?


The batter was very dense, and so were the cupcakes.  They turned out more like cupcake-muffins and weren't as sweet as I expected them to be. BUT, paired with the sweet frosting the cupcakes were really quite good.

And let me tell you, it was quite the ordeal getting them to the office.  My car was towed this morning. UGH!!!  To make my morning better I treated myself to a very large latte with extra espresso.  So there I was, trudging to the impound lot, latte and large box of cupcakes in hand.  I suppose it was worth it.  I received many complements on how cute they were.  One of my co-workers emailed me after I left, "EXCELLENT CUPCAKES!!!"

Much baking and entertaining soon to come, so stay tuned!

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 20, 2010

More from my holiday party!

I went home on Saturday to bake for the party, and it was perhaps the most chaotic, poorly-planned baking day ever.  My mom was already baking when I got home, and all of my projects just added to the craziness.  It was one of those days that I would start one project and move on to another half way through.  Multi-tasking is not exactly my forte.

After baking cookies, I moved on to rosemary-roasted cashews.  Super easy and always a favorite.  You can find the recipe on my 'recipes' page.

Next I prepared the artichoke dip.  As I was scatter-brained beyond belief on Saturday, of course I forgot to take pictures!  Boo!  I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I will post it on my 'recipes' page.  It was very delicious, as most of PW's recipes are!

I found the recipe for Garlic-Brie Crostini from Real Simple - the GREATEST magazine - online.

The recipe was very nostalgic for me; french bread with tomato rub and olive oil is a very traditional Spanish tapa.  It brought back fond memories of my semester in Barcelona!

Now, the best part.  Sangria is always my go-to beverage for entertaining (also a very traditional Spanish drink).  I make both red and white sangria, but I made white for Saturday.  It was not only delicious but so pretty in the pitcher!

To make white Sangria:

Mix 3 bottles of white wine (I used 3-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's) with 1/2 C orange-flavored rum with 1/2 C orange-flavored vodka.

Heat 1/2 C water in the microwave for a minute and a half.  Add 1/2 C sugar  to the hot water and stir until dissolved.

Add the water to pitcher.

Now add fruit!  I used an apple, grapes, and a lemon, but you can really use whatever.  I don't recommend using raspberries.  They look very amoeba-like in the pitcher.  Very unappetizing.

There is only half of the recipe in this pitcher, so I added between 8 and 10 ounces of club soda right before serving.  I you have a pitcher or punch bowl to hold the entire recipe, add 16-10 oz of club soda right before serving.  So pretty!

The party was a huge success! 

This is my beautiful sister Karly.  She is the best!

My best girl friends minus a few.

Need help planning your next party or just need ideas?  Let me know!  I live to entertain!

Cheers, and more holiday festivities soon! 


Sunday, December 19, 2010

First Annual Holiday Party - the preparations

Saturday night my roommates - Sarah and Rachael - and I hosted our First Annual Holiday Party.  With finals finally out of the way, I was able to shift in to full planning gear.  If there is one thing I love more than baking it's entertaining and party planning.

Friday night I started prepartions with a trip to Target.  Decorations were first on my list, and - sadly - I spent maybe 30 minutes in the same aisle trying to feel inspired.

A bulb ornament tree was the best I could do.  We can't fit a real tree in our apartment.  I also filled a small glass vase with bulb ornaments.  Very fun and festive, and great colors.

I can't take credit for this one, and I wish I could.  My mom came up with this idea.   The candle holders are homemade from buckthorn.  Though a very invasive weed that runs rampant in our woods, we have found other great uses for it.  I filled in the tray around the holders with more bulb ornaments.

Saturday was crunch time.  I have found that no matter how far in advance I plan an event/party, and no matter how organized I am, I always end up scrambling the day of.  It is inevitable.

The menu consisted of the following:

Artichoke dip with pita bread
Toasted crostini with brie and roasted cherry tomatoes
Cinnamon sugar almonds
Rosemary-roasted cashews
Christmas cookies
Red velvet whoopie pies
AND Sangria

I started with baking, Christmas cookie cutouts first.  These were far more labor-intensive than they were worth and really aren't my favorite, but festive nonetheless.

Red velvet whoopie pies were next.  See my last blog post for the recipe.  When I baked them last weekend I filled them with marshmallow cream cheese frosting.  I made regular cream cheese frosting for this batch, which was - in my opinion - much better.


More later.  (I know this is abrupt.  Sorry!)



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Storm of the century - Part II

Also featured in the taste section of the Star Trib was a recipe for red velvet whoopie pies.  Having mastered pumpkin whoopie pies I was so excited to try this recipe.  Red velvet is not my favorite flavor, but I am always drawn to baking it because of the color.  It is so festive!

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

For the pies:

2 C flour
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 C butter at room temperature
1 C firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 C buttermilk - combine 1/2 C milk with 1/2 T lemon juice
1 - 1 oz bottle red food coloring

For the filling:

1/4 C butter, at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese
1 - 7 oz jar marshmallow cream

First prepare the cookies.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla until well-mixed. 

Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating between additions of buttermilk, and ending with the final third of flour.  Add food coloring and mix until thoroughly combined. 

Place spoonfuls of batter on to the parchment paper with a few inches of space in between. 

Bake for 7 - 9 minutes until the tops of the cookies are set.

Place a generous dollop of filling on one cookie and spread evenly.  Place another cookie over the frosting to make a sandwich. 

How cute!

They really are quite delicious.  I personally favor the cream cheese frosting from the pumpkin whoopie pies over this more marshmallow-ey frosting.  So you could try that as well!