Monthly Archives: September 2012

Frosted Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

Food blogger by day, ninja superhero by night! That’s my new adopted motto. Or at least it would be, if I was, you know, famous enough to have a motto.

Right now my motto is “get through these next 24 hours and I’ll give you [you being myself] a cookie.”

Pretty sweet (ha ha yes I’m sufficiently hallucinatory to find that funny) deal, right?

Speaking of alter-egos and frosted goodness, though, every good superhero has an alter-ego. Nobody in their right mind is just a superhero. They’re usually your plain average Joe or Jane, only endowed with extraterrestrial or gadget-inspired awesomeness that’s a smidgen above the rest.

Batman had Bruce Wayne. Spiderman had Peter Parker. Sailor Moon had Serena/Usagi, although how anyone ever fell for that is beyond me. Alter-egos abound in the superhero world, and it’s only a matter of excruciating amounts of suspended disbelief that keeps that balance safe.

But what about the rest of us? I mean, how many times do we come home ready to face-to-bed from work, only to have to slap on a huge smile (or at least an apron and a frown) and play the mom/dad/chef because, oh wait, you are the mom/dad/chef of the house and you have hungry mouths to feed?

I haven’t been the mom, dad, or chef. I’m just saying. It could be a hard life. I’m sure some of you generously patient child-rearing souls out there know what I’m talking about.

Even without the responsibility of another human life on my conscience, I go through so many personalities day in and day out that it certainly feels that way. If Clark thought he had it hard trying to juggle two measley personae, imagine what the rest of us average people must feel juggling, say, fifty.

Anytime I get unduly stressed, as is happening at this very moment as I stand here before you as a newly-inducted undergraduate teaching veteran (I had my first discussion sections today! and they went extremely well, thank you very much), I never fail to make lists. Lists, lists, lists. Sometimes I even make lists of my lists, to keep track of the sheer number of lists I have.

And then I make another list to express all my conflicting emotions about how I have to write lists to make sense of the world. Huh. (If you’ve lost me, no worries–so have I.)

So here’s a list of some of the things I am. I’m a:

Daughter: And a darned good one, if I say so myself. Family is a priority here.

Sister: Maybe not always such a great one. A bit on the harsh side, but a fun baby of the family.

Friend: Also known alternatively as “the hyperactive one,” “the listening ear,” “the neglectful-too-popular gal,” and “just….Ala.”

Roommate: Although my roommate is finishing moving out today–boo!

StudentA second-year English graduate student, to be precise.

Funflour Fact #5: Did you know that James Franco is teaching a class this quarter in my department, in my building?

Classmate: That girl who got her paper and reading done a week early. Again. (I actually hate dealing with this so-called perceived “persona”–lots of people get the wrong impression that I’m doing it as a form of overachieving rather than a) sheer peace of mind, and b) usually a time-sensitive schedule, like vacations or something. As a result, I keep all of my work on the DL now when I can.)

Teacher: Elementary, middle school, high school, enrichment workshop, undergraduate…check, check, check, annnnd check!

Writer: I started sharing my creative work in senior year of high school, when I wrote *ahem* Sailor Moon fanfiction. Since then, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting loads of delighted readers, fans, and other writers in the Moonie fandom (yes, that’s an actual thing–don’t judge) and elsewhere.

Blogger: Along the same lines–but I didn’t start officially blogging here until this summer, when I started meeting all of you wonderful people. How the time flies!

Flour Power: If you’re looking for a great way to support your local farmers, consider signing up for Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes! These are a great way to encourage the farming of fresh local produce, and a fantastic way of staying excited about your food variety, too.

Cook/Baker: FYI Until junior year of college, I used to be the girl who overboiled the ramen noodles. Again. Now I just can’t stop baking and trying new recipes to share, to everyone around me’s eternal delight. Maybe not so much the delight of their waistlines (but don’t tell them I said that!)…

Swimmer: Jumped into the water at age 0.5 years, when I nearly drowned my mother, who can’t swim. I’ve been swimming and competing ever since (go figure)!

Disney Gal: Currently reading the Disneyland Encylopedia. Proud owner of about 10 Pooh shirts, numberless Disney posters, and about a dozen Disney mugs.

Swing Dancer: A newly-acquired hobby of mine since last year–can’t say the going’s good, but the going’s definitely going!

Inspirer: The high-spirited, go-get-’em gal who inspires others to do what they love, and love what they do. This is by far my favorite–and most consistent–persona.

I was a billion and one personae today, and now I’ve only got enough energy for one more:

Sloth.

Oh, and glutton. Go make these cookies! I made a few dozen and they got eaten up by like, 10 people in one sitting. They taste just like the old-fashioned Mother cookies you buy in a package, except (dare I say it?) better.

Rebel. Oh yeah. Done.

What persona/skin do you wear when you go out? Which one are you most comfortable in?

Frosted Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies
Slightly adapted from The Novice Chef
Yield: 2.5 dozen medium frosted cookies
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • For Icing: 1 cup powdered sugar, 2-3 tablespoons milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In food processor, pulse oats until they are ground into a coarse (rather than fine) meal. Combine with flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together melted butter and sugars until smooth. Mix in egg until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and mix in until just combined. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, refrigerate dough for 15 minutes. (The original recipe doesn’t call for this step, but I found that the cookies’ shapes were easier to control if they didn’t spread too much while baking.)
  3. Grease a cookie sheet, then form small rounded balls with dough (about 3/4″ diameter) and set them two inches apart on the sheet. Bake for 7 minutes, then rotate your sheet and continue baking for an additional 6 minutes, or until cookies are a golden brown. Immediately use a spatula to flatten the cookies (gently!) into a nice round flat cookie. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer onto wire rack and cool completely.
  4. To make icing: Whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until completely smooth. Spoon over cooled cookies, spreading as necessary to achieve an even coating of the top (and a drizzle over the edge if you’d like!). Allow glaze to harden before serving.
 

8 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Cookies

Pumpkin Spiced Granola

Do you all know what it means to feel hurt by someone you thought you could trust?

It feels a little bit like you’re sinking, a little bit like you’re falling, and a little bit like somebody’s tied you up by the extremities and thrown you into the water, all at the same time.

This isn’t an angry post, or a vengeful post, or a gossip-y post. This post is just a little…disappointed.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way about anything. The last time was in eighth grade when a guy I’d wanted to get in touch with because we used to be good friends hung up on me when I told him who was calling.

Something happened a while back that I didn’t think I’d have to deal with again. Past life, meet present life. I won’t go into the details, but believe you me–the feeling stinks. It’s times like these that I stop laughing at the cartoons of grown men crying for their mommies, and I curl up and cry for my mommy, too. There’s nothing like a phone call to that ever-loving maternal source to keep you feeling, well, worth something.

Cinnamon helps, too. Cinnamon always helps. I think it’s something about the warmth and feeling of nostalgic autumn days that it lends the kitchen when you’re around it.

Accomplishing things helps, too. I swam the 1.5k today in open water for the first time, then proceeded to get KO’d by food coma via some epic dim sum afterwards. Swimmers’ stomachs. Gotta love ‘em.

Flour Power: No matter how alone or down you feel, remember that the moment passes–but true friends are forever! Go look for a new activity or meet some new people in areas unrelated to your main interests; this will keep your identities from all blurring together, and prevent you from storing too many of your self-esteem eggs in one basket. I’m heading off to a campus activities fair tomorrow with a friend–my goal is to sign up for at least one new thing. (I’m also going to be an International Students Buddy this year!) Wish me luck!

Back in middle school, when the entire world consisted of longing for the time when I would finally grow old enough to get rid of my dorky roller backpack, it was easy to think that every little criticism or disappointment was the end of the world. Boom. Zombie apocalypse? Got nothing on my problems.

And then I “grew up,” and life didn’t consist of being shepherded along with the same 50 nerdy kids in AP classes every single day, and I had to figure out my priorities in life. I stressed, pushed myself, lost 20 pounds, gained 15 back, felt unhappy, felt extremely happy, had the best group of friends I could ever (and still could ever) ask for, and still thought myself the luckiest girl in the world. I graduated, moved, and while I found myself slightly outside of my depth, kept myself very energetic and happy–and for the most part, I’m very happy! Very happy.

It’s just a little bit of a sort of big downer when these things come back to get you. C’est la vie, I guess. You live, you cry, you learn.

It helps that I have a mom and dad who support the living daylights out of me, and tell me they would fly over right now if I need somebody. It’s been hard because lots of the friends I knew from last year have already moved on or graduated, and my other close ones are either from home and undergrad or too far away in LA for me to ask to come keep me company. I love these people so freakin’ much, though.

I’m not even angry. I’ve tried, and I can’t be. I’m just disappointed. But if I’ve lost some of my trust in some aspects of life, I’ve definitely gained an appreciation for a whole lot more.

So here’s to the  finer things in life, to things like people you can really count on, and to sticking to that strong moral fiber that keeps you from telling untruths to anyone else even though it’s been done to you–because even if I lose sleep over this tonight, I won’t lose sleep over it for the rest of my life when it really counts.

I could still use a pick-me-up. Hrm.

Now, about that cinnamon.

Funflour Fact #4: Did you know that, according to the World Food Programme,  there are more people in the world who go to bed hungry at night than there are people in the U.S., Canada, and European Union combined? (In light of serious statistics like these, it’s hard to dwell on personal problems quite as much.)

Pumpkin Spiced Granola
Inspired by recipe from Averie Cooks
 
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup cookie butter (1 batch homemade, or store-bought)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups almonds (or any nut variety you prefer), chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 cup raisins, cranberries, or dried fruit mix; adjust to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine pumpkin, cookie butter, honey, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon. Stir until smooth.
  2. Add oats and chopped nuts to pumpkin mixture. Stir in until completely coated, then transfer to a foil-lined and greased cookie sheet. Spread out granola in a thin layer and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until granola reaches desired crunchiness. (Your granola may take even longer to bake, depending on your oven circulation–watch it carefully! The moistness of the pumpkin keeps it from baking too quickly, but you don’t want your granola to burn, either. Averie notes that the granola is inherently dark, because of the pumpkin, so you’ll want to do a crispness test occasionally by poking a cluster of granola to see if it’s firmed up.)
  3. Remove granola from oven and stir in raisins or cranberries. Allow to cool–your granola should obtain a boosted crunch!–and serve with yogurt, milk, or a plain old comfort food in its own right. Enjoy!

4 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Snacks

Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Ever feel like you’re being pulled apart by the seams from all the stress?

You know…the stress that always seems to converge on the very spot on which you happen to be standing at any given moment? That stress?

I feel that way all the time. Fortunately, this bread does, too. And I always say that there’s nothing better than food that understands exactly what you’re going through.

With the minutes ticking down to the first day of the school term, I can already feel the jitters creeping up all around me, as if someone’s broken into a museum of entomology and set loose all the live specimens.

I didn’t want to bog down this (truly wonderful!) post with my pre-term anxiety, but I’ll get to this amazing recipe in a second. Pinkies! But there are some major changes going on this autumn that make it different from the rest.

First off, I’m going to be teaching this year! Scary, right? Anybody who has ever been a teacher, thought of becoming a teacher, known a teacher, or had a teacher (all right, do we have everyone on board now?) knows at least something of how nerve-wracking it must feel to get up in front of an entire classroom for the first time.

Sure, I’ve been a teacher and workshop instructor before. This past summer, I taught enrichment high school writing and media classes that totally sucked up my life and threw my soul back bright and shiny new–that lesson planning does some major buffing on your self-esteem! I had a total blast, and I know I will be fine as soon as I set foot into the classroom and actually get this teaching gig on the road.

But.

Until then.

Did I mention that the kids (I say “kids”–I mean “people who are probably an average of 1-3 years younger than me; in many cases, they may be older) are all college-age? My parents tell me that it’s one kid teaching another kid.

They’re probably completely right. They were right about, well, pretty much everything else growing up! Except for my being allergic to chocolate, grass, and shellfish. They lied about those. But I guess they knew they were lying, so they weren’t really wrong, either. I adore my parents–they make everything so much more interesting.

Flour Power: When you’re feeling down, try going to the store and picking up something fresh that you’ve never used before! Then try making a new recipe with it. I did this with fresh basil this past Thursday and made basil almond pesto, and it turned out great–nothing like a refreshing success to perk up your day! Recipe to come soon!

On a brighter note, I’m teaching a subject I love–animals in literature!–which is completely jiving with my emphasis in children’s literature, so I’m very excited for that.

Losing sleep is my major way of coping with things. Combine that with mild loss of appetite (not that you could probably tell with the flood of recipes that are about to sweep your way!) and general immune system blah-ness, and you have a grand old way of starting off a new school year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though–wish me luck! I can fight, too, Sore Throat, thanks.

The other big change is one I just found out about today–my roommate is moving out! And we’re not talking about your-contract-is-up-thanks-buh-bye moving out. We’re talking “some anxiety about living so close to campus and working so hard at the library all the time and needing some space off-campus” moving out!

Funflour Fact #3: Did you know that Mel Gibson plays the voice of John Smith in Pochahontas? Erm, yeah. I used to love John–now, not so much…..

I’m going to miss her. It makes me so sad when I can’t help ease the anxiety of someone who’s close to me, but I understand why she had to work this one out on her own. To some extent, it probably doesn’t help that we’re in the same graduate program (although I’m also going to miss being able to come back and blow some steam about things happening with our people). We’re both extremely hard workers and very tough on ourselves–not to mention we’re kind of twins, since we both (and her identical twin! and her dad!) have the same birthday–and I guess always having someone else around for comparison can be difficult.

I know it’s hard on me sometimes. I’m naturally a very competitive person–sometimes I compete with the people next to me on treadmills…and they don’t even know it. I find it both hilarious and super, super ridiculously necessary sometimes. And while I know I’ve been struggling to keep this out of my life and the lives of those around me, I can only imagine that she’s feeling anxious sometimes by the comparison, too.

At any rate, this was supposed to be my gushing about this recipe I found on Julie’s blog post–and it still is! GUSH GUSH GUSH thisisamazingyouNEEDtotrythisandthenshoweverybodyelsetoo–but the jitters were eating up my brains. I made this pumpkin cinnamon pull-apart bread yesterday morning for a dinner and it was absolutely devoured. Thank goodness we all still have the good ol’ reliable kitchen! The only bad things that happen there are that you made too many cookies and have to eat them all by yourself.

I’m still very excited for this upcoming quarter, and what better way to kick it off than a 1.5k open water swim for a breast cancer foundation tomorrow morning?

Any big changes happening in your life soon? This isn’t a one-woman show, and I’d love to hear all about them!

Happy reading, and happy eatings, y’all! (Gosh, I haven’t said that in forever! It feels good to say it now :] )

Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread with Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze
Yield: 1 loaf
Adapted from original recipe: Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
 For the Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread:
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see directions)

Directions: 

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, brown your butter. (Note: This will take anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute; make sure you swirl your butter around occasionally, or certain areas will start to burn before the whole thing’s evenly browned. You’ll want to look for a deep golden brown color to tell that it’s done.) Pour into a heat-safe bowl and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in the same saucepan, heat up milk until it bubbles. Pour into bowl along with butter, and allow the mixture to cool until you can place your pinkie finger in it comfortably for a few seconds, but not much longer than that. (If your liquid is too hot to leave your finger in, its heat will kill the yeast. Conversely, if it isn’t hot enough, your yeast won’t be able to rise properly.) Add sugar and yeast. Stir in until sugar dissolves completely, and wait for 10 minutes. Your yeast should produce a foam–this shows that your yeast is active and ready to go! If you yeast does not foam, you’ll have to throw out the batch (sorry!) and try again with fresh yeast.
  3. Add salt, pumpkin, cinnamon, and 1 cup of flour to the mixture; combine ingredients well. Add an additional 1 cup flour (half a cup at a time works best) and stir well between each addition until flour is just incorporated. Your dough should be only slightly sticky when it’s ready to be kneaded, so you’ll want to use your own judgment here about the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. (You’ll be flouring your board, too, so there will be extra flour incorporated during kneading.)
  4. Flour your cutting board and turn out dough. Knead for 6-8 minutes by pulling your dough outwards (away from you, taking care not to break it) and folding it back in on itself. Turn dough a quarter of a turn and repeat until poking two fingers into the dough leaves two impressions that hold their shape. At this point, your dough will be done, so place it in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Place in a warm spot (I usually turn on the heat for 5 seconds in my oven and then turn it off before putting in the dough) and allow to rise for about 90 minutes, until doubled in size.
  5. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. (You may skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but I find that the overnight fridge visit really helps give your bread that extra lift!)
  6. Roll out dough on cutting board into an approximately 16″ x 10″ rectangle, or until 1/4″ thick. Lift dough carefully occasionally with one supporting hand under the middle to prevent sticking. When you’ve rolled out your dough, follow instructions for cinnamon sugar filling (below–i.e. brush on butter and filling).
  7. Cut dough into sixths lengthwise, then cut again into sixths vertically. Carefully stack dough pieces and place them horizontally across a greased loaf pan; squish in the pieces gently so that they all fit. (During baking, they will expand and not come out in a perfect row, which is perfectly fine! We had lots of fun peeling the pieces off from every which direction.) Cover with damp cloth again and allow to rise 30-45 minutes, or until doubled in size, in a warm place.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake bread for 30-35 minutes, until a dark golden brown. You’ll want to check all areas of the bread with a toothpick to make sure it’s done–if the toothpick comes out clean when inserted completely, your bread is done!
  9. Prepare glaze (see below) and serve over warm bread. Kick up some fall pizzazz (maybe some apple cider!), and pull away!
For Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions: 

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, brown butter. Set aside to cool. In the meantime, combine remaining three ingredients in a separate bowl.
  2. Brush cooled butter over flattened dough, then sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over the butter so that most of it sticks. (Note: Despite having read about Julia’s squeamish reaction and eventual conclusion that the truck-load of sugar is not an insanely exorbitant amount, I still blanched when I came to this step. Don’t! You can trust these amounts, and nobody else needs to know how much sugar you’re feeding them.)
 For Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze:
Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon milk, with additional as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour over warm bread with some sass and sizzle, and serve immediately. Enjoy!
 

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bread

Black Sesame Tahini Hummus

“He bent down and pulled his wand out of the troll’s nose. It was covered in what looked like lumpy grey glue.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to funny-looking foods at my dinner table, I have a hard time keeping my imagination in check.

So when I peeked into my fridge this afternoon and noticed the woeful lack of Trader Joe’s Mediterranean hummus inside, and when I made up my mind right there that I was going to whip up my own batch of hummus with what I had on hand–black sesame seeds for tahini instead of regular white ones–you don’t need a vivid imagination like mine to imagine what happened next.

Flour Power: Making your own hummus, nut butter, or cookie butter from scratch helps you and your family avoid all those pesky preservatives lining your local store shelves. Plus, it’s a cinch! All you need are a few key ingredients, a food processor, and an active sense of adventure!

You can probably see where this discussion is headed. If you’re faint of stomach (don’t worry, I won’t go into anything actually explicit!), you might want to consider jumping to the recipe and forgetting the rest of this post ever happened. Yeah?

Still with me? Okay, here it is…

Troll bogeys.

Okay, there. I said it.

Looking at this black sesame tahini hummus, that was the first thought that popped into my mind.

It’s delicious troll bogeys, though! And the hummus doesn’t actually look like a grey lump of glue–it actually looks, feels, and tastes like your average hummus…only gray.

You can eat it with anything you like–fruit, veggies, cookie butter (okay, maybe not cookie butter, but I do have a great granola recipe to share with you guys soon that you can use it in!). It’s really just your average Joe hummus, except the roasted black sesame tahini adds a nice nutty kick to the flavor. This is what happens when your pocketbook is on a starvation regimen light diet and you can only afford to scour the Asian markets once in a blue moon and have to buy your black sesame seeds in bulk.

Good things! Good things like this hummus happen.

And you thought the life of a poor, underfunded grad student with crazy teaching hours and next to no livable resources was tough. Pffffft.

Funflour Fact #2: Avast ye, mateys! Did you know September 19th is International Talk like a Pirate Day? Arrr! Grab yer parrots and get them swash-buckling scallywags, landlubbers! (And fer more pirate talk, be scuttling on over to this fun website!

What kind of grad students do you know?

We’re as happy as larks.

Eating raw food.

Not because it’s “healthy” or “cleansing,” but because that’s what we can do. It’s about all we can do, really. Did I mention that the zoo keepers at the zoo where I worked for five years brought monkey chow home to eat for breakfast and lunch because they couldn’t afford to pay tuition while keeping? Thank goodness I haven’t been reduced to that yet. I would never do something that desperate, ever.

That’s probably just because the grad department doesn’t have its own set of in-residence monkeys, though. Otherwise, I’d be all over that chow.

Just kidding! I have this delicious hummus sitting in my fridge, and you should clear out a space out for it in yours, too!

What are some weird food associations that you make?

Black Sesame Tahini Hummus
Yield: Approximately 1.5 cups
Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice, adjusted to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Pinch of pepper
Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread black sesame seeds on a foil-lined baking sheet and place in preheated oven. Toast for 7-9 minutes, until fragrant. (Note: Be careful–black sesame seeds burn easily! Their dark color makes it difficult to tell by any sense other than smell, so make sure you check on them frequently.) Remove from oven and place in food processor.
  2. Add oil to food processor and secure lid. Process for 3-5 minutes, until mixture reaches a liquid consistency. Now that you have your tahini ready, add the remaining ingredients (starting with 3 tablespoons lemon juice) and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. At this stage, you can add additional lemon juice and/or oil as necessary to reach desired taste and consistency.
  3. Serve with your favorite Halloween fare (remember the trolls!) or just whatever food strikes your fancy, including raw veggies and fruit.

6 Comments

Filed under Dips/Spreads

Cookie Butter and PB Cookie-wiches

Let’s talk about Commercialized Holiday Mania.

Funflour Fact #1: Did you know that according to some studies, the number one fear in the world is not death, but public speaking? (I totally empathize!)

It’s catching. It’s contagious. And it’s extremely, rampantly…

Annoying.

You can probably guess who’s been receiving copious amounts of unseasonable (literally) emails as of late.

The great big Disney corporation has been sending me notices about its Halloween Bash since July. July, as in, the month of summer sunshine and the-only-place-that-sees-anything-remotely-autumn-like-is-Australia-where-it-SNOWS. And snow is considered winter, folks, not autumn. Don’t get me wrong: I love Disney. If I had to get a tattoo in an unnamed place, it would probably pay tribute to the cartoon version of the 100 Acre Woods inhabitants (sorry, A.A. Milne!). But when I get emails with a royal fanfare that trumpet at me, “Get your Halloween Bash tickets now, before time runs out!” while I still have my air conditioner blasting and sweat is dripping off the edge of my nose…

I don’t know what it is. Sometimes the holiday season cheer just feels sort of, you know–lacking.

Flour Power: I just signed up for a 1.5k open water swim to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness this weekend. What have you done lately to help your community?

I say this as I drink out of my Disney-sponsored mug with a great ol’ picture of Grumpy on it and the caption: “BENEATH THIS GRUMPY EXTERIOR BEATS THE HEART OF A DASHING HERO.” I stole this mug from my dad…to whom I had given the mug as a birthday present earlier this year.

Did I mention that my life ambition is to become either the world’ greatest pirate who only steals gifts she’s already given to other people, or else a bigger grump than everyone else around me? So far I’m pretty well on track on both counts, thanks for asking!

It’s actually a bit like baking cookies. I’m really good at stealing back the things that I make and hand out to other people. You know that moment when the cookies just come out of the oven and you think to yourself, Oh god, those smell delicious–I can’t believe I’m giving all of these away! I’ll just try one and see how it tastes?

And then you try one, it melts in your mouth like a grand pile of epic gooey-ness, and that little cookie fiend in the corner of your mind screams for you to grab the cookies and run like all the furies of hell are on your tale.

Yeah. Think about that moment carefully, because you’re on track to become a pirate, too. We can even be ship-mateys, if you like. Arrr.

And the best part is, pirates and grumps (or grumpy pirates) don’t have to worry about getting a zillion and one emails in big glittery font telling them about how Christmas is “right around the corner.” Because it’s not. And unless you’re going to send me a present for every single day leading up to “almost-Christmas,” it’s not Christmas until I say it is. Until then, though, enjoy these! Ahoy, mateys!

What treat have you made for other people and ended up keeping because it was too good to give away?

and…

What’s your favorite/least favorite part about the holidays?

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Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe adapted from Allrecipes Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips or white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
Filling Ingredients:
  • For cookie butter filling: 1 cup cookie butter
  • For peanut butter filling: 2/3 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup softened butter, 1 to 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Combine all ingredients and spread as a filling.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Roll into small cookie balls (about 1″-diameter) onto ungreased pans.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.
  4. Using desired filling (or one of your own creation!), spread onto a cooled cookie and sandwich on top with another cookie. Serve your cookie-wiches and prepare to delight your guests!

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Cookies, Dips/Spreads

Individual Kahlua Chocolate Cakes

There are two types of parents in this world.

There are parents like my roommate’s. When asked what their daughter does as an English grad student (she’s in the same program as me), they happily expound on the importance of her literary choices and defend her to the core from the most cynical attackers.

And then there are my parents.

Oh, yes. My parents are absolute gems.

They’re what I call type B parents.

B as in “Bahahaha…I have no idea in holy tarnations what my daughter does. Why don’t you ask her? Then tell me when you find out. English lit-er-what, what’s that?” (That’s my dad.)

Or B as in “Baking–why do you do that? And when did you get so fat? Here, eat more.” (That’s my mom.)

Okay, I’m partly kidding. I love my parents more than I love a great jello cheesecake (which is saying a lot). They’re possibly the funniest, most loving people in the world.

But–and this is the other big B–they do have their share of slightly sardonic parenting moments. And when I say “share,” I mean a whole whopping whipped cream-sized dollop of them.

How many of your parents proudly tell their coworkers or friends that their children bake? I know you’re out there. All I have to say is…

Boy, you lucky bugs! Are any of them looking for surrogate children? Because I volunteer! At least for the confidence boosting part.

The biggest example of this parental cynicism at work is when it comes to my baking. My mom absolutely swears to everyone and anyone that she will not eat anything I’ve made. She says this in the same voice that uses when I used to bring home A exams from school.

“A! What happened to A+? HA HA HA!”

When applied to my baking:

“No no no, my daughter made it, yeah?–I won’t touch that! HA HA HA!”

Yeah, real cute, my parents. 

Of course, they only do it because it amuses them to think that they’re being the stereotypical tough love parents that you see, like, everywhere in the media these days (as in my favorite video of all time–my parents swear they don’t do this stuff, but they were also cracking up like crazy). For that, I forgive the regular references to the number of times I used to botch microwaveable frozen dinners.

When I make something–like this Kahlua chocolate cake for my mom’s company picnic–it becomes something like part of a long-running joke between us. Well, them.

Mom: Our daughter made what today?

Dad: Kahlua…chocolate…cake. Oh yes. You shouldn’t eat it. Terrible.

Mom: Terrrr-ible?

Dad: Oh yes. (Takes a giant bite.) None for you. Shouldn’t eat it. I’ll eat it.

Mom: Oh, if it’s terrible, I’ll eat it then.

Nothing like an argument about how terrible the food you’ve made is to boost your confidence, right?

This is why I need the Parental Comments Interpretation System. This is a personalized coping scale that helps me figure out what in holy tarnations my parents are on about.

What they say: “Aiyah, in the kitchen again today? Counters so dirty.”

What they really mean: “You’ve been baking. Well, where’s my sample?”

What they say: “Ehhh, too sweet” or “Ehhh, not sweet enough.”

What they really mean: “This sucks. Make something I like.”

What they say: “Ehhh.”

What they really mean: “Yum. Mine.”

What they say: “I want to make my coworker something soon so I can thank her. What are you doing tomorrow?”

What they really mean: “So you’re canceling your plans so you can bake something for my coworker tomorrow, right?”

What they say: “Oh, my coworker doesn’t like chocolate desserts.”

What they really mean: “I don’t like chocolate desserts. Make something else.”

…And this is why I love my parents.

They give me so darn much stuff to blog about.

Individual Chocolate Kahlua Cakes

Adapted from Allrecipes Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

Yield: 12 cakes

  • 1 cup Kahlua or any coffee-flavored liqueur
  • 1/2 cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Glaze:
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup Kahlua
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Place cocoa powder in a medium bowl. In a small pot over medium heat, heat up Kahlua until it just begins to boil. Turn off, remove from heat, and pour over cocoa powder. Whisk quickly until cocoa dissolves completely and no lumps are left. Set aside to cool completely.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, either by hand or mixer (2-3 minutes). Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients alternately with the cooled cocoa mixture to the butter mixture, until all ingredients are just incorporated.
  4. Divide into 12 separate muffin tins (I used silicon molds). Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, until middles are just or not quite set. Allow to cool, then remove onto wire rack with a tray underneath. Using a toothpick, make a dozen holes on the bottoms of each cake and coat with glaze. Let the cakes sit for 10 minutes, then flip them over and repeat.
  5. To make glaze: In a saucepan over medium heat, melt chocolate and butter. Whisk until completely smooth. Add Kahlua and turn off heat. Add powdered sugar and whisk until no lumps remain. Pour over cakes.

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Brownies & Chocolates, Cakes & Cupcakes

Cookie Butter Bad Boys

Awkward questions are funny. Hilarious, sometimes.

They are less funny when they happen to you.

They are even less funny when they happen to you in “real time,” a.k.a. real life, where you aren’t allowed one full week in which you painstakingly type out messages, scrap drafts, cobble together 3 sentences that sound almost civilized, and finally panic as you check your Sent Mail box right after you hit the send button.

You can probably guess who’s feeling slightly mortified at the moment.

To be fair, I’m a currently a certified patient in the Hospital of  Awkward Social Circumstances. I can’t help it.  My dad once wanted to ask a lady “how many months along” she was…Thank god I was curious and craned my neck for a glance of her first.

Verdict?


Yeah. Totally not preggers.

Genes. I blame genes.

Symptoms include laughing when things aren’t meant to be funny, going to the bathroom five times in an hour in order to avoid conversations at a party, and agonizing for hours in bed over whether or not you sounded too desperate when you were talking to your crush that afternoon.

Fortunately, my Socially Awkward Interaction of the Day (SAID) was neither meaningful nor particularly malignant in nature. I will probably not have to change my name after this encounter, although I do have an alias in case the need ever arises (it’s Rosie-Posie Foxburr of Loamsdown, in case you’re interested–courtesy of this fantastic Hobbit name generator!).

The telephone conversation:

Private number calls.

Me: Hello?

Caller: Hi. May I speak to <something like my name, sort of>.

Me: <trying to be all sly and loop-holey> There’s nobody here by that name…

Caller: I’m sorry, I said that wrong. Is Ala there?

Me: Who’s calling?

Caller: I’m calling from the National something-or-other-that-you-probably-wouldn’t-care-about-anyway. (Okay, she didn’t actually say that–but it’s true.)

Me: Um.

Caller: Is there?

Me: <slightly flustered as I try to rack my brains for a polite way to end this conversation> Wait. No. Um.

Caller: Am I speaking to Ala?

Me: Er, no, I don’t think so, there’s not–

Caller: You don’t think so? You’re not sure whether or not I’m speaking to Ala?

Me: No, that is, I’m–

Caller: Is this Ala or not?

Me: Nothere’snobodyhereIdon’tknownevermindBYE. <Hangs up>

Queen of awesome conversations? Not really.

Going to obsess over how awkward moments like these define my social life and explain my lack of meaningful, lasting connections with other people?

Maybe. Probably. Okay, yes. Definitely.

While I purport to go off and bang my head on the oven, I’m actually going to sneak in some of these cookie butter bad boys. You heard me. Cinnamon, white chocolate, and cookie butter-coated cereal. Guess being a social hermit has its benefits–now I don’t have to share with anyone.

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Cookie Butter Bad Boys

(I was determined to make these a while ago when I first discovered Biscoff, but it was Laura’s post for Biscoff puppy chow that inspired me to actually try my own version of it. Thanks!)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon chips (you can also substitute peanut butter or white chocolate chips)
  • 3/4 cup cookie butter, store-bought or homemade
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups rice or flake cereal, as needed (Note: I used Special K fruit ‘n yogurt because I love the cinnamon-y undertones, but any slightly sweet cereal will work!)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, as needed

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, combine all chocolate chips and cookie butter. Over medium-low heat, melt chocolate mixture, stirring constantly, until almost smooth. Remove from heat, add cinnamon, and stir frequently until mixture is completely smooth.
  2. Add cereal to mixture and gently stir in until completely coated. (Allow for generous coating–you won’t regret it!)
  3. Sprinkle 1 cup powdered sugar and toss cereal to coat. Add more powdered sugar as needed. Allow to cool, then serve these bad boys as a snack or delicious dessert your guests won’t want to miss!

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Snacks

Pumpkin Pie Bars (and Hello from Yellowstone!)

I consider myself a fairly open-minded kind of gal.

Okay, sure–there are a few things that I tend to stereotype about. Whenever somebody says that word “Texas,” I immediately imagine a plump southern lady carrying a homemade batch of hush puppies and telling “y’all” to try a bite.

Anyone who seriously uses Twitter to update more than once a day is uncool. Anyone who still has an active Neopets account, on the other hand, is quite awesome.

And people from Idaho?

Tater farmers.

All 1,584,985 of them.

Okay, maybe 1,584,984 of them. I’m sure there’s got to be at least one kid who’s broken free from the tater chains and become a yam farmer.

I kid. I won’t deny that the thought didn’t cross my mind as I crossed into Idaho this week, though–oh yeah, did I mention that I was in Idaho? Wyoming, too. And Utah. And Montana. Doing what, you might ask?

Having a grand old family vacation!

And looking at sights like these day in and day out:

Does this photo look as insanely unreal to you as it does to me? Because this is the real deal. Midway Geysers in Yellowstone National Park. (Remember, I’m an amateur photographer who couldn’t do that sort of photo editing even if somebody set a giant grizzly on me and commanded me to do it.)

I love, love, absolutely love the feeling of being away from civilization and all of its busy buzz.

I love knowing that I can round a corner and not be bombarded by zillions of senseless advertisements telling me how a miracle detox plan is going to change my life.

I love getting in touch with my inner wolf/coyote/fox/bison/elk/whatever-the-heck-I-feel-like-being.

I love knowing that all of my cardio work on the treadmill and elliptical actually amounted to something when I descended (and climbed) the equivalent of 40 flights of stairs to see this view:

I also love the feeling of standing in the middle of the world’s first national park and feeling just the tiniest bit smug that I’m not running around with my head buried in insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things things like deadlines, grading, and life concerns.

Two things I do NOT miss about this vacation:

Thing that will remain unmissed #1: People in the Midwest really, really love their meat. Especially in Idaho, land of the oh-look-at-these-potatoes-they’re-vegetarian-so-I-think-we’ll-put-some-BACON-in-them.

True story. Halfway through my bowl of mashed potatoes from the fair (the only “vegetarian” main dish available in a 5-mile radius), I found a gigantic slab of bacon.

They also endorse things like these.

(How they manage to swallow any of it after passing by all the displays of cows and pet pigs for sale, I will never fathom.)

Thing that will remain unmissed #2: The most high-tech piece of cooking equipment to which I had access was the miniature honeypot I bought myself. Another true story.

I did, however, run into this clever cute sign at one of the mud geysers that absolutely warmed my heart:

Whoever wrote this sign was either a genius or a little wacko in the head giggling at his/her witticism and thinking everyone else reading it would find it equally witty. I’m going to go with genius.

I did, however, miss my oven very much, and I was consoled only with the knowledge that I’d be posting a stellar recipe when I got home, to internet, my oven, and all of civilization’s glorious mind-sucking technology.

Did I mention that autumn is here?

No, I didn’t. Because it’s not here, and I refuse to believe all reports that say otherwise. Even though I made these amazing pumpkin pie squares that you absolutely need to try.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Yield: 9×9-inch baking pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin (you can increase this to as much as 30 ounces if you prefer a more pumpkin-y taste)
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/3 cup white sugar, melted butter, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until mixture is completely moistened. Press evenly into a lightly-greased 9×9-inch baking pan. Bake crust in preheated oven for 7-8 minutes, or until golden and mostly firm. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs and 3/4 cup white sugar. Add pumpkin and evaporated milk, and beat in thoroughly. Mix in salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Pour pumpkin mixture over slightly cooled graham cracker crust.
  3. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, or until filling is set. Cut into bars and serve while denying the arrival of autumn!

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars