Friday, May 28, 2010

Baking for XPN

Last summer I volunteered to work at the XPN summer music festival. I had a blast and it really made me want to do more for my favorite radio station. This week was their pledge drive so I decided I wanted to go help work the phones and take pledges. I even convinced my boyfriend to do it with me. Than I realized it would be a nice way to put my baked goods in tons of hungry hands. Hands can't be hungry, can they? Hungry mouths? Hungry stomachs? You get the point. So I stayed up late the night before and baked plenty of snacks. I enjoyed finally being able to use my mixer! Which, by the way, is amazing. Sadly I didn't realize until it was too late that I should have been taking pictures for the blog! I was way too busy and just was not thinking clearly. It was a lot to take on by myself with not a lot of time.

I ended up making white chocolate chip chocolate cookies which came out AMAZING. I am not a fan of tons of chocolate but wow, these were so chewy and full of flavor. I would not change a thing about these. I have already decided to make them for June's Dolla Holla Bake Sale.

Also peanut butter chocolate chip bars. Personally, I do not like peanut butter in my baked all. So I do not have much to say about this, except that they did go over very well. Whatever floats your boat I suppose.

Strawberry shortcake cookies turned out far better than expected. Only downside was that any bit of strawberry touching the cookie sheet turned black and I had to try to pick it off. The recipe said they were best if eaten the same day, I actually thought they tasted great the next morning. They weren't brought to the radio station until later the next night and they were the favorite of the bunch I think.

Even after I baked all of this I still felt like I needed more. I got up early the next day and decided I wanted to make churros. What a crazy time that was! I didn't have the tool to make them come out like big thick stars so I decided to use a pastry bag with the smallest (and only) star tip I have. They came out like tiny garden snakes. That was fine for making bite size snacks, except they cooked so fast!! The second they hit the oil they were done. Within seconds they would already turn black. They still tasted fine but I couldn't bring black churros to hand out. My whole apartment filled with smoke and it smelled like burnt oil all day. Still, I would love to make them again, they were worth the trouble.

We brought everything to XPN and I must say it was my most positive baking adventure yet. Everyone was so nice and thankful. People assumed I went to cooking school and one lady even asked what my bakery was called! HA! They offered to talk about me on the air but sadly they completely misread my info on the air. They got the Angela from Voorhees, New Jersey part right, and that's about it.  Totally bummed out but there is nothing I could do and I was invited back to bake for the station anytime. Even met some great fellow volunteers who asked about my blog and such. So, hey Mike and Dana if you are reading!

As I said, wish I could have gotten more pictures. I really wanted one of Roger LaMay, GM of XPN, eating a cookies : ) No such luck. But my boyfriend did get to hand his band's cd off to him which was pretty sweet.

So onward with pictures and if you would like to check out XPN, do it! Where else can you hear Ray LaMontagne followed by INXS followed by a ten minute Rush song?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chocolate Banana Bread

Along with the strawberries, we also bought some fantastic bananas from the farmer's market and I have been waiting patiently for them to ripen. I was in the mood for chocolate but not something super sweet. After a decent amount of time spent online, I found a recipe for chocolate banana bread. I left out the nuts that the recipe called for and used regular chocolate chips instead of white since they were all I had handy. The white chips would have added a really nice dash of color to the bread. I recommend keeping a few smaller chunks of banana in the mix too. Mine may have been mashed up too well for my liking.

The top is nice and crunchy while the inside is so moist and perfect. 

And I must say, I really am glad that I have had a bit more free time lately to be able to work on my baking. My boyfriend says that my products are coming out better and my overall skill is improving. It is so hard to find time between jobs and life to bake as much as I would like to. It also doesn't help that there are still so many supplies and tools that I need to make things easier. June is approaching which means I can have another bake sale and all that money can go toward buying cake pans, muffins tins, ingredients.....
I am always so grateful for the gifts I am given to help me expand my baking. My boyfriend's mother has given me a Julia Child baking book that seems so helpful, I can not wait to start using it. Also some spring-form pans and a cookie gun. All things I know I will use. I just want to be able to keep baking and creating new and better food!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Strawberry and Cream Muffins

Before I go into the recipe for these delightful muffins, I have wonderful news to share.

I now own a mixer! A friend of mine told her mother all about my interest in baking and she offered me up her mixer that she never uses for a very nice reduced price. I paid for it with all the money I made from the bake sale earlier this month which really makes me feel like the bake sale was a true success. Now you may notice that this is not my dream mixer, Fred, but I think Aurora (yeah that's it's name) will work just fine :)

Yesterday I was somehow lucky enough to have off from both jobs so the boyfriend and I took full advantage outdoors of this beautiful day, we have the the painful tan lines to prove it! We hit up the farmers market and I bought some beautiful strawberries. Their appearance was so perfect I almost didn't want to eat them.  But then I realized if I didn't eat them they would just go bad and that would be a terrible waste, don't you think? Maybe they should be put into a fantastic summer these muffins from Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal. I am very glad to have found this woman's blog, the recipes all seem so yummy and even her pictures make me jealous. I have a feeling I will be sighting this blog as inspiration again in the near future. 

Strawberries & Cream Muffins

Makes about 12 to 14 regular size muffins, or about 6 jumbo muffins.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1 cup whole milk (or, you can use something like 2/3 cup of 2 percent milk and 1/3 cup half-and-half, mixed together)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
2 large eggs
2 cups All Purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh ripe strawberries chopped into very small pieces (the redder and sweeter, the better!)

4 oz. full-fat cream cheese, very soft
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. of liquid from one whole egg that's been beaten lightly
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Put paper liners in the cups of your muffin pan, or use nonstick baking spray very liberally.

Cut up your berries and set them aside.
In a small bowl, mix together with a spoon the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, the 1 and 1/2 Tbsp. beaten egg, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract. Mix until almost all the lumps are gone. Set this aside, but don't chill it.

Melt the butter slowly in a sauce pan on low heat. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and the milk into the butter, stirring to combine. Cool until the mixture is just warm, then whisk in the eggs.

Thoroughly combine with a whisk, in a large mixing bowl, the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour all of the butter, milk, and egg mixture into the dry ingredients, blending just until combined. Don't overmix. It's okay if a few little flour streaks are still evident.

Using a portion scoop or spoon, fill each muffin cup barely half full. Scatter a few pieces of strawberry on top of each one.

Using a small spoon, dab a generous teaspoonful or so of the cream cheese mixture on top of the berries.

On top of that, add on another tablespoon or two of the muffin batter.

On top of that, add a few more pieces of strawberry. Push them in just slightly. 

Sprinkle the tops of the unbaked muffins very generously with coarse sugar for a nice sparkle.

Bake the muffins for about 15 to 18 minutes, until they're light golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. The middle of the cupcake should be kind of firm when lightly pressed with a finger.

Step 1 (L), Step 2 (C), Step 3(R)

Tell me how I have completely lost all of my metal muffin tins? I bought the toss away ones and boy are they a pain. They get so easily bent out of shape, some of the muffins don't even lay flat against the rack in the stove. Next bake sale profits are going straight to buying me new bakeware.
I also don't have regular coarse sugar so I used the red kind. Red muffins liners + strawberries + red sugar. Love it!

Finished product. So so tasty.

I really suggest you give this a try. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Baked Ham & Ziti Casserole

First off-- Happy Mother's Day to all the mommy bloggers out there!

Did you know that you could use your oven to bake things other than desserts? I know, it's a shock. The other night I decided to give it a try. This recipe is from an old ripped-out magazine page I found. I wish I knew what magazine it was from, sorry! This is a easy and fairly quick dinner option. My only suggestion would be that  you may want to make extra sauce. I used the measurements that the recipe called for and my pasta got a little dried out on the top from not being covered with enough sauce. I used a 9 x 13 casserole dish and double the amount of sauce would have been perfect.

Baked Ham & Ziti Casserole

8oz penne pasta
12 oz fresh broccoli florets
8 oz diced ham steak
white sauce (recipe below)
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350
Add pasta to pot of rapidly boiling salted water, cook for 4 minutes
Add broccoli florets to pot with pasta, cook until broccoli is tender and pasta is al dante (about 6 minutes)
Drain immediately and transfer to bowl (I put it right in the casserole dish to make things easier)
Add ham, toss to mix
Prepare white sauce, while still hot add cheese and stir until melted
Pour over pasta mixture
Toss lightly and bake for 30 minutes or until browned

Basic White Sauce (makes about 2 cups)

4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter on high in microwave safe bowl, about 20-30 seconds
Stir in flour until smoothly blended
Add milk, salt and pepper and stir until blended
Microwave on high, stir every 30 seconds or so until sauce is thick and bubbly about 1-2 minutes

In case you haven't noticed yet, I love up-close pictures of food!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Oh man! The past 2 days have been crazy. I have been trying to save money for a mixer and I thought "Why not try to raise money for a mixer"? So I started the Dolla Holla Bake Sale!

I had the house to myself last night, what better time to concentrate and get down to business? Countless dirty dishes, many cups of sugar and one burnt pinky finger later, I finally stopped at 1:30 in the morning. I had made chocolate chip and pretzel cookies, blue raspberry flavored candy popcorn, chocolate chip coffee cake and double chocolate chip cookie dough that sat in the fridge overnight. 

This morning Greg and I got up early and baked the double chocolate cookies and I made chewy banana bars with cream cheese icing. We bagged everything up and I went off to work. My intention for the Dolla Holla Sale was easy and pretty self explanatory-- everything is a dollar.  I posted about this all over facebook and came to work with a huge bag full of goodies. I have a hard time asking people to buy things so when they asked me the price I ended up blurting out that everything was a donation. I must say some people were mighty generous. For the most part Dolla Holla held up to it's name but a special thanks goes out to everyone who gave a little extra. 

I could not believe how much I sold!! I am completely out of the banana bars and the chocolate chip pretzel cookies. I am off tomorrow so I know there is a long day of baking ahead of me to prepare for Tuesday night's work shift. Co-workers have already placed orders. 

All of the money raised has gone into a special envelope that is not to be touched until the time has come for me to purchase my appliance, oh I can't wait. I have decided I would like to make this a monthly event. Each month making a completely different batch of snacks. 

If anyone would like to purchase anything (or donate to the fund) please e-mail me at

And now, I present, the recipe for the most fabulous chocolate chip coffee cake from Pete Bakes!

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp water
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
6 oz chocolate chips

1. mix 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, chocolate chips.

2. cream butter, 1 cup white sugar, and eggs. add the sour cream, vanilla and water.

3. in a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and soda. combine into the wet ingredients.

4. pour half of the batter into a greased and floured 9×13 inch pan. sprinkle half of the cinnamon, sugar and chocolate chip mixture on the batter. pour in the rest of the batter and top with the rest of the cinnamon, sugar and chip mix.

5. bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. let it cool for at least an hour before cutting into it, or the chocolate chips will be too melty and it will be hard to get out of the pan.

It looks so good, don't you agree?

Really, how could you not agree?