Monday, December 31, 2012

Sparkling Lemonade with Pomegranate

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I really try to avoid any unnecessary waste leftover from any recipe, so I can usually have the excuse to make something else. I don't like having a quarter of a potato around, or half a can of pumpkin puree in the refrigerator. So, last week, to avoid wasting the lemons I had leftover from making candied citrus peels, I made this sparkling lemonade with pomegranate seeds. I thought of a tart, some cookies, or several bars to use this lemon juice, but summer was calling and prompted me to make this refreshing drink.

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While lemon used to not be a favorite flavor of mine, it's slowly growing on me and I'm really starting to like it as a main flavor.

I liked the lemon flavor in this lemonade, and it's not too sweet. Each glass is half full of a lemon simple syrup, and half full of sparkling water. You could definitely make this sweeter by adding more of the simple syrup.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Buttermilk Biscuits

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There are always those things that you wish you did more often. These could range from writing more letters, reading more books or visiting your grandmother more often. Rather than thinking of something that I want to do and trying to do that certain thing a ton (like writing 10 letters a week), I've resorted to just trying to make these tasks more realistic.

Rather than writing 10 letters a week like I used to (I'm not even kidding), I've set a new goal to rather write everyone once a month. That's more reasonable. Even if this doesn't happen, at least it's more likely to happen.

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I've tried to apply this to food as well because I have been known to try to make 8 cakes, 12 pies and 24 batches of cookies in one day (total exaggeration), but I'm learning how to manage and learn how much time things actually take.

I've been trying to plan ahead and be way more realistic with things.

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So, instead of making 4 different kinds of biscuits for when my grandparents were here about two days ago, I settled on just one type. It's definitely doable, not unachievable.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chocolate Chunk Blondies

DSC_0510Sometimes, I really need to stop and think about what I am doing and not just go through the motions. I need to be conscious of the salt I am measuring, and be watchful of the oven that contains this important cake. I need to fully read the recipe before I begin baking and I need to recognize exactly I'm making and what I want to achieve in the end.

Sometimes, I just go through the actions. Cream the butter and sugar, and mix together the dry ingredients. Step 1, step 2, throw it in the oven and let it cool.

I need to always be fully aware of what I'm doing, even though that is definitely not always the case.

DSC_0511About two years ago, I started following a recipe for a blonde brownie that I was prepared to make. I pulled out the necessary ingredients, I followed the recipe, I made a batch of blondies, and they turned out strangely... gooey. These blondies were not a good type of gooey; they were falling apart and left a weird stickiness in the bottom of the pan. They definitely could not be classified as a sturdy, baked blonde brownie.  I just thought that this blondie failure (truly, a complete failure) was due to the weird recipe.

So, I tried another recipe. Unfortunately, I achieved similar results with this second batch, except they were even more stickier and gooey than the previous batch. I had no idea what was going on with my baking skills and these blondies.

I was discouraged with these results, so I baked a batch of cookies next. I blocked blondies from my head, and headed towards a different product. I really paid attention to the ingredients I was using, and when I reached for what I thought was the flour container and scooped and leveled a cup of the stuff, I realized it did not had the same consistency as flour.

And so I realized that this "flour" was powdered sugar. Yep, I had gone through two, and almost three, recipes confusing these two obviously different products. I was not realizing what I was doing when I used the powdered sugar as flour. Since the containers of flour and sugar are identical and the powdered sugar one was where the flour container typically lived, I just assumed that it was flour. I never realized in those first two recipes that it was not what I was supposed to be using.

Since then and forever, I really try to be fully conscious of what I am doing because you never what you might be messing up if you're not giving your full attention to what you are doing.

Hey, you might get disastrous blondies if you're just going through the actions.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sparkling Sugared Cranberries

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So, it's December 25. That's crazy! I cannot believe that 2012 is almost over. The holidays, anticipation and food towards the end of the year are all so wonderful.

Cranberries are one of my favorite foods in November and December, and these sugared cranberries are definitely going to become a staple every year because they are soo incredibly delicious and simple. While I love cranberry sauce, this alternative way of serving cranberries is so genius.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts with Pecans

DSC_0033My dad has said before that the only reason I enjoy cooking and baking is because of the "gadgets" that are involved in the process. In this case, gadgets refer to so many things: the necessities (not always necessary, necessarily) and utensils that I use in the kitchen. While this is definitely not the only reason I love to make great goods in the kitchen, the amount of kitcheny items I have accumulated over the past year about is a little much sometimes, but I love it. I love finding plates and items that I am not sure as to what they are and using them for whatever.

Most of these are from the flea market, or are gifts, and they are coming together to form a constantly growing pile in our dining room. Is that bad? probably. I just think of it as an investment in the future since I'll never have to buy a set of plates when I move out since I'll have so many already.

The other part of the "gadgets" include the actual tools that are involved in the cooking and baking process: the pans, pots and measuring spoons. I don't particularly like buying the super specialty pans that are in the shape of castles that I'll only use one time, but I knew that one pan I would be purchasing was a doughnut pan.

And this brings us back to the reason of this post: pumpkin doughnuts.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Strawberry Jam Oatmeal Bars

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When I first really got into baking, I used to love making bars. I still do, but I just do not make them as much any more. So, when looking for recipes that involved strawberry jam last night, I remembered seeing these bars from The Pioneer Woman. They are full of oats and strawberry jam to make a delicious bar.

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You don't have to use strawberry jam, but these tasted great with said jam. I think it might be cool to do several jams on one batch of bars so there are different flavors and colors in the same pan together. Also, this would be a great way to use any lingering leftover jars of jam in your refrigerator.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fleur de Sel Caramels

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I'm not sure if I'm alone in this matter, but I have pretty much always been afraid of using a thermometer for baking. So, when I decided to get one, I made marshmallows first. Basically, the thermometer didn't work, and stopped at 120˚F. So I guessed. Thankfully, they turned out alright.

Next, I made toffee. The thermometer stopped at 120˚F again. I guessed, and it came together again.

I had given up on this thermometer now and the next weekend, I made toffee yet again. My guessing and cold water tests did not work so well this time, and the toffee did not turn out.

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So, I've avoided anything with the use of candy thermometer since for two reasons.

One: I did not buy another thermometer for months

and...

Two: I was back to being nervous about heating something in a pot and needing to pay attention to the temperature.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Cheese

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With the end of the semester rapidly approaching, I haven't been cooking or baking quite as much. Thanksgiving was a nice break filled with lots of goods, but now I am just waiting for these two weeks to be over so I can go on another baking spree.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

DSC_0057For every Thanksgiving that I can remember, we've had a pecan pie make it to the table. Still, up until this chocolate chip pecan pie, I had never tried a piece of pecan pie. The gooey, over-baked dessert that was placed on our table years before this has always left me with the thought that pecan pie is disgusting. It was definitely just the brand of pre-made pie that a member of our family brought every year that was a little suspicious. And whenever I think of it, I always picture my brother's ex-girlfriend eating the leftover pie that was rejected.

DSC_0059That's just what I think of when I think of pecan pie, but I was planning on making a classic version of the pie for this holiday to give it a second chance and see what it really tastes like. However, a chocolate variation came to mind and I decided that chocolate had to be included in some form.

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