Merry, happy, and a shot of Kahlua

Nothing says Christmas like a hot cup of cocoa with a blanket, family gathered around the hearth, and an overflowing jigger of Kahlua.

Instant hot cocoa mix

recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

Ingredients:

2 – 1/2 C. dry, non-fat milk

2 C. confectioner’s sugar

1 C. cocoa powder

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 pinch cayenne (optional)

Directions:

Mix all ingredients until combined.  To prepare, mix 2 heaping tablespoons mix with 8 oz. hot water.  Add Kahlua (optional) and enjoy.

Delicioso.

Epic baking fail

As much as I enjoy that you believe me to be the queen of domesticity (…because, you do, right???), today I’m zero for two.

Here you see that I’ve overstuffed my slightly-smaller-than-standard loaf pan this morning with a delicious cranberry bread for Thanksgiving.  The lovely char smell now resonating through the house from the globs on the bottom of the stove are making me feel real good about myself.  I guess we’ll just have to eat this one ourselves and make another for “company”.  In spite of this miserable failure, this IS a great recipe:

Lauren’s Mom’s Cranberry Bread

Ingredients:

2 C. flour

1 C. sugar

1/2 tsp. each of baking powder, baking soda, and salt

3/4 C. orange juice

2 TB melted butter

1 C. cranberries (frozen, halved, and seeds rinsed out)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350-deg F.  Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add orange juice to melted butter and add to dry ingredients until well incorporated. Fold in cranberries (add chopped walnuts to batter, if desired). Turn into prepared loaf pan and bake at 350-deg F for 60 minutes. This loaf freezes really well.

Add to this failure my previous pat of on the back in processing our jack-o-lantern to make canned pumpkin for homemade breads and pies.  Apparently, the work schedule these days isn’t as conducive to pumpkin processing as it once was, and my brilliant idea to store the roasted inners at room temperature would (five days later) present itself as fermented, white-ish pumpkin goo.  I’ll spare you photo documentation of this, and instead offer you the plan B for “homemade” pumpkin pie.

Fudge pops make home improvement palatable

My co-workers asked me what I was doing for the 4th of July weekend….

Co-workers: “What are you doing for the 4th of July?”
Me: “Digging rocks out of my backyard.”
Co-workers: “Really? For five days?”
Me: “Yes”
When I bought a charming little bungalow, the backyard was shrouded by a blanket of white. When the snow melted, I was greeted by stumps, fountains (seriously), underground hoses (for irrigation, duh), and lots and lots of rocks.
In the middle of the yard.
Lots of rocks.
So two solid months of rock digging led up to a very special weekend, when the last of the rocks were finally cleared out, and, in it’s place, SOD!
As a part of this transformation, I was also forced to finally address the five or so relatively big maple tree stumps in the way.
The point is, working outside in the pursuit of home improvement is hard, and I can think of few better excuses for a homemade fudgy pop.

Homemade Fudgy Pops

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 2 TB cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 C. milk
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Directions:
  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and milk
  2. Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until boiling and thick
  3. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla
  4. Pour into popsicle mold and freeze until firm
* Pro-Tip: to get them out of the mold, pour a bit of running hot water over the mold to let the plastic expand and release the fudgy goodness.

Kitchen organization and visions of zucchini muffins

I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to kitchen organization. Take for example this shelf in the baking cupboard above. Yes, each item is poured into a clear glass container, and yes, Each clear glass container is labeled with a labelmaker.

What goes where is also exceedingly important. Everything has to be in a cupboard that’s accessible to what you’re doing. Cups next to the fridge, potholders in the drawer next to the stove, plastic baggies reachable with one hand to where I make sandwiches in the morning.
It took me five years to perfect the old apartment kitchen, and this one is twice as big with three times as many cupboards. I’ve rearranged twice already (much to Nancy’s dismay), and I just finished the third installment. Admittedly, it’s putting me in the mood to bake…

Record heat is the talk of the day on the Book of Faces, and all I can think about is hot, delicious zucchini muffins.
 
The thing is, there’s a delightfully cool breeze coming through the kitchen window, it’s reaching noon-time and still 74 out, and so while it seems crazy to voluntarily heat my kitchen to 375-degrees on the purported hottest day in five years, this run-on sentence is trying to say that I’m going to do it anyway.
 
 
Who could refuse this already defrosted shredded zucchini from last summer’s bounty??

Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 C. applesauce
  • 1/4 C mashed banana (applesauce and banana can be substituted for 2 eggs)
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 C. vegetable oil
  • 2 C. shredded zucchini, unpeeled, liquid squeezed out
  • 3 C. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375-deg F. Whisk applesauce, banana (or egg), sugar, vanilla, and veg. oil together until well blended.
  2. Stir in drained zucchini. Add flour, baking powder, salt, soda, and cinnamon and mix until well blended.
  3. Fold in nuts, if desired.
  4. Turn into greased muffin tins and bake 18-25 minutes or until pastry pick comes out clean
** You can also cook the batter in a loaf pan to make a bread. In that case, bake 45 min-1 hour
Makes approximately 20 muffins

Pass the syrup

I get a hankering for pancakes about every other week. A peculiar pancake craving came over me yesterday morning and, alas, there was no syrup in the pantry. Channeling my inner Better Crocker I converted the logic of a simple syrup to brown sugar. I could not tell the difference, and in fact, I may save myself $7 for a 12 oz. bottle of maple syrup and make it this way all of the time…
Brown Sugar Pancake Syrup
1/2 cup of pressed brown sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup hot water (not boiling)
Directions:
  1. Pour hot water into a small sauce pan containing brown sugar and cornstarch. Set heat to medium-high and whisk until sugar dissolves.
  2. Stir constantly until boiling.
  3. Continue to boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly
  4. Pour into serving pitcher and enjoy hot or cooled.