July 25, 2014

Stuff and Things 7/25/14

Life as I know it
It's been a while since my last Stuff and Things post. It's been crazy, guys. I'm still working on getting settled and getting back into a blogging routine. I have already had to call 911 (I woke up on July 4th to this really loud crackling noise. I looked out the window and the recycle shed was engulfed in flames. Good times. And now I don't know what to do with my recycle)
I put in a service call to our security company at work because one of the maglocks on our data center wasn't getting power. They sent out two techs-- the first one walked in with a ladder (?) and didn't appear to have any idea what he was doing. The second one fixed it, I think, but in the process took apart an emergency shut-off switch that was connected to the AC in the data center, and the temperature sky rocketed and it was really bad. G was there for five hours saying, "hey, you think the tech might have done something?" and everyone told her no, and then she texted me, and I was like, "that must be related to the maglock," but she told me no, and then the landlord found the switch and everyone was like, "Wow, G was right."

So I've decided this must be the employee motto of our security company:
Brought to you by Captain Hammer, corporate tool
They also manufacture tools (sort of a weird crossover, I know) and I hope those are good, because their security techs are not exactly the sharpest in the shed. (Get it? I made a funny)

I finally watched Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, and I loved it. That's always been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, so it was really fun to see some of my favorite actors in it (because Joss Whedon filmed it in like a weekend, so he just called up all his friends and said, "hey, you wanna do a thing?" And he apparently invites his actor friends over all the time to do Shakespeare readings, and I want to go to there. I'll bring cupcakes and just sit in a corner and be completely unobtrusive, promise.)

I also watched Magic Mike, and, umm, it just made me feel really uncomfortable. Like, really, really uncomfortable. And was there plot? Because I couldn't find the plot. Maybe Matthew McConaughey's character scared it away (he was so creepy). I'm sorry, but I just don't get the appeal. I will just take this as more proof that I don't know how to girl.

Speaking of girling, the brother and sister-in-law are getting married the same weekend as NYCC. Which was super disappointing at first. I was like, well maybe I can manage to go on Friday, then I was like, no I'll probably have to do bridesmaidy things. And then it hit me: Comic Con Bachelorette Party. Aw yiss. And the sister-in-law said yes, so it's on like Donkey Kong. We even decided on a Doctor Who group cosplay (the sister-in-law insisted I be a dalek. She'll be Rose, my brother will be 9, MOH will likely do River Song, and then we might have a cyberman and a Captain Jack. Honestly, we spent more time deciding on our cosplay than on the bridesmaids dresses.) I'm going to make little somethings to identify us as a wedding party: a Tardis boutonniere for the brother, maybe a blue tiara and veil or something for the sister-in-law, and maybe mini blue corsages for the rest of us. I don't know. I still have a lot of brainstorming on that part. My dalek cosplay will be more stylized than screen accurate, a lot like my Tardis dress, I've just got to work out the actual crafting bits.

TV- Beyond this point, there be spoilers

Falling Skies- So I just totally marathoned the first three seasons of this show, and I was pretty impressed. Aside from a couple inconsistencies (like who the frack is actually taking time to embroider peoples names on their uniforms post apocalypse? And where do they keep finding all these military uniforms? And why aren't they using the mech bullets anymore? And why do the Espheni keep not killing Tom?) I really liked it.

But this newest season, with this whole Lexi storyline, I'm not loving so much. I mean, the half human/half alien messiah child with the accelerated aging process and magic powers? That's straight out of Stargate. And let me tell you, Adria was annoying, but a lot less so than Lexi. And WTF is with Lourdes being all crazy stalker fangirl? Wasn't she devoutly Christian? Isn't she supposed to be smart? Is this like that Doctor Who episode where when your faith is shaken, the minotaur takes it over and makes you praise him before he eats you? Is Lexi the minotaur? Whoa, I think I found a new headcanon.

Posts from this week

July 23, 2014

Cocoa Pebbles Grilled Bananas

I have a confession to make: I don't own a normal people grill. I would have no where to put it if I did. (I have a balcony, but the HOA says only an electric grill can go there, and I don't grill enough to really worry about it) I do own a George Foreman grill, however. That's right, the lean, mean, fat-busting machine. (It's a cheapo one, though, so I'm a little leery of trying to cook meat on it-- mostly I use it as a panini press)

Bananas made on a George Foreman grill are still grilled bananas, right? Even if the marshmallows didn't get toasty?
I don't know about where you are, but here in NJ, it's been hot. And not just hot, but muggy and humid. Turning the oven on is not recommended. These bananas, stuffed with peanut butter chips, Cocoa Pebbles, and mini marshmallows, are a great warm weather dessert, especially if you've already got the grill going for dinner. Something magical happens to bananas when they start to cook-- I mean, you know how much I love bananas in my baked goods-- then the peanut butter chips get all melty, and you know peanut butter and banana is a rockin' combo. But what else goes with peanut butter and banana? That's right, chocolate. That's where the Cocoa Pebbles come in, giving it a sweet, chocolatey crunch. And if that's not enough, the whole thing is topped with gooey marshmallows, and if you have a normal person grill, they'll get all toasty too.

I was going to tell you how filling these were, and that you can probably eat them instead of a meal, because I was a little uncomfortably full after eating one for dessert. But that wasn't the banana's fault, I soon realized. I forget I'm not supposed to eat blue things, and when you use multicolored marshmallows, there are bound to be a few blue ones. (This weirdo blue food coloring intolerance of mine is very inconvenient, mostly because I don't eat blue things that often, so I forget about it) But I will still back you if you want to make these for breakfast. It's fruit and cereal, right? Totally okay for breakfast.
Cocoa Pebbles Grilled Bananas

4 large bananas
1/4 cup Cocoa Pebbles Cereal
1/4 cup Peanut Butter Chips
1/3 cup miniature marshmallows

Cut each banana lengthwise about 1/2 inch deep, leaving 1/2 inch uncut at both ends.  Gently pull each banana open, forming a pocket.  Fill each pocket with Cocoa Pebbles cereal, peanut butter chips and marshmallows, evenly divided among the four bananas.  

Wrap each banana in foil and grill over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until marshmallows are melted. 

Serves 4. One banana per serving.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Photo courtesy of Post
*Disclaimer: I was provided with free samples of Post Cocoa Pebbles so I could feature this recipe. I receive no other compensation for this post. All opinions remain, as always, my own*

July 16, 2014

Black and White Mini Cupcakes

Did you guys know my momma is part of a local digital photography club?

Of course you didn't. Because I never told you, and you don't know my momma.

Anyway, they had a showcase this past weekend, and they provided free food in order to lure people in. They were supposed to bring finger foods, so my mom volunteered to bring mini cupcakes. And guess who actually did the baking of the cupcakes?
It shouldn't be that hard to guess, since this is a baking blog, and the cupcakes are pictured above.

I suggested the idea of black and white cupcakes (since it was a photography showcase. Black and white cupcakes, like black and white photography, get it?), and my mom loved the idea, so I went with a dark chocolate cake (with a couple drops of black food coloring- the cake is dark enough you don't need much) and a vanilla frosting. I sprinkled them with some black nonpareils I had chilling out in my massive collection of sprinkles, et voila, black and white mini cupcakes!

Except, I think I kind of went too high concept with the idea of black and white cupcakes. Nobody really got it. My mom made a point of telling people they were black and white cupcakes and got no reaction. My dad said there was a guy talking about black and white photography, and he started eating a cupcake, and he didn't make the connection. *le sigh* I mean, it's a photography club. They should be creative types, right? I thought they'd get it. (And there were still most of them left after I got there an hour into the showcase. I am not used to this. Of course, I sent her off with almost 4 dozen, so there is that.)
Anyway, on to the technical parts: the cake is sooper yumtastic. I got the recipe off of Hershey's Kitchens, I just added a little instant coffee to really bring out that chocolate flavor, and I used vanilla bean paste instead of extract because... I'm not completely sure where that ended up, (hashtag movingproblems) and it kind of tasted like the cookie part of an Oreo. Except it wasn't a cookie, it was cake. The vanilla frosting is also reminiscent of Oreo filling, and it's seriously good.

Now, the batter is really easy to bring together (I didn't even need my mixer, just a bowl and a whisk), but it's also really liquidy. So if the cupcakes overflow, it's kind of a disaster. Normally with mini cupcakes, I use one cookie scoop (about 1 tablespoon) of batter, and that's fine. For these, one tablespoon was way too much, and they overflowed and baked onto the tin and it wouldn't come out of the tin and I was just left with cupcake carnage. So if you use this to make mini cupcakes, use only 2 teaspoons of batter per cupcake.

But I wouldn't really suggest using it to make mini cupcakes, because it makes a buttload. Seriously. I think I got about 8 dozen, but I lost count around 5 dozen, and I got fed up towards the end (because I only have one mini cupcake tin that only holds 12 cupcakes) and just used the rest of the batter to make a mini cake. So, not really the best batter for making mini cupcakes. But a layer cake or regular cupcakes? Or jumbo cupcakes? Oh yeah, this cake is awesome.
Totally and completely unrelated: what should one do with a buttload of leftover mini cupcakes (sans frosting)? Asking for a friend...

Black and White Mini Cupcakes
Yield: Approximately 8 dozen mini cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 cups sugar
1¾ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. instant coffee
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
A few drops black food coloring
1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup solid white vegetable shortening (Crisco)
3½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients, until well mixed. Add the milk, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, and mix until well integrated (some lumps are fine). Add the food coloring and mix until the color is even (repeat if necessary to achieve the desired shade). Add the boiling water and mix until smooth (the batter will be very thin).

Line a mini muffin tin with liners (foil works best, but paper is fine), and fill with maximum 2 teaspoons of batter (do not overfill). Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently pressed. Allow to cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with electric beaters, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla bean paste and salt. Gradually increase the speed to high, and whip until light and fluffy.

Cake recipe adapted from Hershey's Kitchens. Frosting recipe by Kim
And a quarter for scale...

July 9, 2014

S'mores Round Up

Hey all! You know what? Summertime is s'mores time. Let's revisit some of the s'mores recipes I've posted in the past!

(P.S. If you need s'more inspiration, you can always check out my S'more Please! board on Pinterest)

S'more for breakfast:
S'mores Cinnamon Rolls: Graham cracker-y yeast dough stuffed with a brown sugar and chocolate chip filling, and topped with a marshmallow drizzle.

S'mores Scones: Whole wheat, brown sugar, chocolate chips, and more marshmallow drizzle

S'more chilly treats:
Easy S'mores Pudding Pops: Instant pudding frozen with fudge sauce and mini marshmallows, with a buttery graham cracker crust
 S'mores Mud Pie: Layers of chocolate pudding and toasted marshmallow mousse inside a graham cracker crust.
S'mores Sundae: Toasted marshmallow ice cream with chocolate chunks, topped with crumbled red velvet graham crackers
 S'mores Icebox Cake: Graham crackers layered with fudge sauce and marshmallow whipped cream, allowed to soften in the refrigerator
S'mores Milkshake: Jennie of The Messy Baker stopped by to share this delicious rocky road milkshake with toasted marshmallows

S'more Cakey:
 Busy Day S'mores Cake: Simple and delicious chocolate cake topped with toasted marshmallows and crushed graham crackers

 S'mores Cupcakes: Graham cracker inspired cupcakes topped with a toasted marshmallow and my favorite chocolate buttercream frosting

S'mores Whoopie Pies: Graham cracker inspired cakes filled with classic marshmallow whoopie pie filling and rich  fudge sauce

More S'mores:
Hot & Cold S'mores: Spicy chocolate spread and marshmallow Fluff spread between two graham crackers.

S'mores Cereal Treats: Graham cracker cereal treats stuffed with marshmallow Fluff and fudge sauce.
 Graham Cracker Marshmallows: Honey and brown sugar marshmallows coated in graham cracker crumbs

July 2, 2014

Individual Cheater's Meatloaf

So, this recipe was not meant for the blog. Like, at all. I'm still working on stocking my pantry (I went to the grocery store on my lunch break Monday and bought nothing but spices and sauces. And Bisquick. The cashier looked at me funny), but I had this box of cornbread stuffing mix. I got it for free, and I'm not the hugest fan of cornbread stuffing, so I was just looking at it like, "what am I going to do with you?"

Then I thought, "well, I could make meatloaf" because my mom always makes meatloaf with stuffing mix and I love it. But then I was like, "I don't have any ketchup or barbecue sauce or anything." (Hence the recent shopping for sauces) But I did have a can of condensed tomato soup. And I had chopped meat and onions and eggs, so I was just all, "what the hey, I'll try it."
And I decided to make it in a muffin tin because... because it seemed like a good idea at the time. It didn't occur to me that you could make mini meatloaves freestanding. They would have probably looked better if I shaped them by hand. I'm just too used to baking things that need to be contained, I think.

Now, I'm not adverse to a few shorcuts here and there, but as I was mixing the ingredients together, I couldn't help thinking that I was making cheater's meatloaf. I didn't have much in the way of spices (pretty much just salt and pepper), so I was relying on the stuffing mix and the tomato soup to add most of the flavor. So it kind of felt like a cheat. Which is part of the reason why it wasn't intended for the blog. (The other part was that they were ugly)
But it was actually really good. The edges get browned and crusty (which is just about my favorite part of meatloaf). The loaves themselves are nice and firm-- you could pick them up and eat them with your hands with very little mess. The flavor was excellent. It's not really a regular meatloaf flavor, since you're using cornbread and tomato soup. They meld together excellently and add a nice, subtle flavoring to the meat. Now, I also added diced, sweet onion, but that's optional. Sweet onions don't add huge flavor, and most stuffing mixes are already flavored with dried onions or onion powder. I had already started cutting the onion for a different recipe, so I had it on hand.

I figured that there might be other people out in Internet-land that would like a ridiculously easy meatloaf recipe with only 5 ingredients. And, though I haven't tried it with this recipe, meatloaf traditionally freezes well. So you can always keep them in the freezer until you need a last minute meal. I'm a big fan of leftovers.
And in case you didn't notice, there is barbecue sauce on the meatloaf, which I just said I did not have when making the meatloaf. I took a picture of my leftovers. Is that some sort of foodie faux pas?

Individual Cheater's Meatloaf
Yield: 6 loaves

1 lb ground meat (you could use beef or turkey. I used "meatloaf mix" which is a mix of beef, pork, and veal)
1 (6 oz) box cornbread stuffing mix
1 (10.5 oz) can condensed tomato soup
2 eggs
1/2 sweet onion, diced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a jumbo muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, add all ingredients. Mix until all ingredients have been well incorporated (be careful not to overmix or the meat will be tough). Divide the mixture evenly between 6 openings in the prepared muffin tin, and press it in firmly.

Bake 35-45 minutes until well browned and the internal temperature reads 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Serve hot.

Tip: If you don't have a jumbo muffin tin, make smaller loaves in a regular muffin tin. Or shape the loaves by hand and bake them on a rimmed baking sheet. Just make sure to adjust the cook times accordingly.

Recipe by Kim