Missouri Governor Race

6 Nov

ImageAt nine in the morning on November 6, Governor Jay Nixon supporters lined the sidewalk in front of the Miller Performing Arts Center in Jefferson City, Missouri to support the governor as he cast his ballot to vote.

“It gives you a really good chance to become more aware of differing political views in the state,” Tim Ittner, 17, said about volunteering for the governor’s campaign.

The governor has been consistently ahead of his opponent, Dave Spence, a      Missouri businessman and Republican challenger. Real Clear Politics puts Nixon nine points ahead of Spence, and Public Policy Voting puts him ahead eight points in its November 4 poll.

“We’re supposed to have good weather today, so people should get out and vote,” Nixon said at a press conference after he cast his ballot.

He went on to say that he has faith that Missouri voters will choose him for another four years. He touted his leadership in the state and said that he would be spending the rest of the day with his family, waiting for results to come in.

Lavender Almond Cupcakes

26 Jul

Background: The inspiration for these cupcakes were, surprisingly, pot brownies. While I won’t tell you how I came to know the method of making them, I will let you in on the secret of them: infusion. You simmer the weed in the oil or butter for as long as you can without burning said oil or butter to infuse it with the pot. The longer you simmer, the stronger the…effects. Walking around Hy Vee, I saw a package of lavender hanging by the basil and other herbs. I almost squealed with excitement: lavender is another one of my baking fantasies. And thus began another baking adventure…

Baking Disasters: While simmering the butter with the lavender, I found myself happily cleaning my brand-new apartment and forgetting all about my lovely lavender concoction. Bad idea. Before I knew it, I had brown butter and had to start all over again. Babysit your butter: it’s a slippery bugger.

 

Almond Cupcake Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted sweet cream butter, softened

2/3 cup of sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1 ½ cups flour

¼ cup of powdered almonds

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp milk, or more as needed

 

Lavender Frosting Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted sweet cream butter, softened

6 sprigs of lavender

2 ½ cups powdered sugar, or more as needed

2 tbsp heavy whipping cream, or more as needed

 

Method

Frosting:

Melt the butter in a saucepan on low. Add in the leaves of the six sprigs of lavender. Simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes (it really depends on the stove you’re using and the pot you’re using). If you see any bit of brownness infecting your butter, instantly pull it off the burner. Strain the butter through a strainer, making sure to get all the lavender leaves out of it. Let cool.

 

Once your butter is solidified again, cream it until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in slowly. Frosting is all about preference. I prefer it smoother, and thus with less powdered sugar. Some people prefer it stiffer, and thus with more powdered sugar. Do what you feel. Add in the whipping cream to give it a creamier texture once you’ve reached your desired thickness. It will taste delicious, I promise.

 

Set it aside and get to work on your cupcakes.

 

Cupcakes:

Preheat your oven to 350. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

 

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla and almond extracts.

 

In another bowl, whisk together flour, almonds, baking powder and salt. To powder almonds, use a chopper and crush it as fine as you can get (if there are still weensy chunks, that’s okay).

 

Alternately beat in dry ingredients and cream to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry. The mixture should be thick. Add in the two tablespoons of milk. The mixture should get creamy. If it’s still too thick, add more milk until it is creamy.

 

Fill up the cupcake liners and throw them in the oven for about fifteen minutes (every oven is different). You’ll know they’re ready when you can lightly poke the top and it bounces back.

 

Let them cool and then frost with your lavender frosting. 

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

4 Jun

Adorable, easy, delicious…

Background: Whenever I’m sitting at the intern desk where I work, there is some sort of dessert or food item waiting there for me to munch on. After telling some of my co-interns about my baking blog, I naturally felt inclined to bake something for them. I needed something small. Something munchable. Something cute. What instantly came to mind were these mini cupcakes that my mom bakes. Just about anything mini tends to be cuter than the normal size (mini puppies, mini cliff bars, mini coopers). And when dealing with food, mini always makes for the perfect finger food. So, mini lemon poppyseed cupcakes it was.

Baking Disasters: I have two “disasters” for you today. One involves a nasty encounter between my finger and a zester (apparently human skin can be zested as easily as lemon “skin” can) and the other involves me completely forgetting to take my prized mini cupcakes to work. Yes, after all that work, I neglected to bring the perfect little buggers to their intended consumers. This left me with the terrible fate of having to dispose of most of them myself. Mmmmm.

Ingredients:

1 package of lemon cake mix

1 package of vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1 tsp orange zest

1 tsp lemon zest

Glaze:

4 cups powdered sugar (you may need a bit more if the glaze is too thin)

1/3 cup of lemon juice (you may need a bit more if the glaze is too thick)

1 lemon, zested

1 tbsp orange zest

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp water

Directions:

Turn on the oven to 350.

Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray, or grease with butter (I suggest the spray…this takes forever). Combine the cake mix, pudding, eggs, oil and ginger with a blender for about two minutes (it should be smooth–not bubbly). Mix in the poppy seeds and lemon and orange zests. Fill each mini muffin tin about 2/3 full and bake for 8-12 minutes.

For the glaze, sift the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, zest, oil and water. Mix until smooth. You can make it thicker by adding more powdered sugar or thinner by adding more lemon juice.

While the cupcakes are still hot, drench them with the glaze and place on wax paper to cool. Top with extra zest if you feel the urge to make them look pretty.

Note: I’m normally against using boxed mixes, but my mom makes this recipe–originally a Paula Deen–and it’s damned good!

Cardamom and Orange Cupcakes

24 May

Background: Sleeping for eighteen hours straight, I found myself pleasantly awoken by three screaming little girls. Why these children insisted upon hanging around me I don’t know, but I was throwing Play doh, playing dress-up, playing with make up and coloring for a few hours straight. I felt like quite the mother, literally carrying a girl on each hip. Cleaning up after these adorable monsters, I never felt so domestic in my life. So, naturally, I decided to bake.

Baking Disasters: Some people fantasize about money, mansions, yachts or luxury cars. Some people fantasize about their perfect significant others or sexual encounters. I fantasize about baking. The particular fantasy I’m going to divulge today involves coarsely granulated sugar (some candles and petroleum jelly…). Have you ever had that perfect muffin with the wonderful bits of crunchy sugar creating the perfect first bite? If you haven’t, I suggest you hurry on over to Dunkin’ Donuts and get yourself a Chocolate Chip Muffin. The muffin part is mediocre, but the delicious crunchy top is divine. But I digress. I finally bought myself some of this marvelous sugar so that I could bake perfect muffins–a baking fantasy of mine. I was so excited about this sugar that I added it to the top of a few of my cupcakes before baking. Sugar overload.

The Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

2 sticks of butter

1 cup of sugar

4 eggs

2 cups of flour

1 1/2 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cardamom

The zest of 1/4 an orange

For the frosting:

1 stick of butter, softened

2 cups of powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp sour cream

1/8 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp ginger

The zest of 1/4 an orange

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two muffin tins with baking cups. Throw all of the cupcake ingredients into a bowl and blend it together until smooth. Fill baking cups 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes.

To make the frosting, beat the butter with the sour cream, lemon juice, ginger and vanilla. Slowly blend in the powdered sugar (you may need more) until it reaches the desired consistency. Mix in the orange zest and frost on top of cooled cupcakes.

Sesame Peanut Chicken Kabobs

16 May

Background: This blog was supposed to be about my many baking endeavors, but Publix quickly changed that. Publix, one of the many things I missed about Florida, is simply the best grocery store known to mankind (and some animal species). As I walked amongst the aisles, I found myself dreaming about peanut chicken, which I had seen somewhere on the Food channel the previous night. I hadn’t a recipe or anything to guide me, but I bought a can of tahini, a can of coconut milk, a jar of dijon mustard and a package of organic chicken breasts. I had no idea where I was headed with this, but I decided that tonight, chicken was on the menu.

Baking Disasters: I don’t know about you guys, but I have never made a kabob in my life. I tend to do things on impulse, and this was certainly one of them. As I was just finishing kabobing my chicken and vegetables, I was fortunate enough to get a call from my mother, who informed me that the best way to cook these kabobs was to broil them. I’ve never broiled anything in my life, but I have to say, this turned out pretty amazing.

The ingredients: DISCLAIMER: For this recipe, I measured absolutely nothing, so you’re really going to have to do this by taste.

4 oz. Sesame tahini

2 T. Dijon mustard

1/2 cup plus 3 T. Unsalted peanuts, chopped finely

3 T Flour

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup Coconut milk (canned)

2 tsp Garlic

2 Boneless chicken breasts

Sea salt

Whole pepper kernels

Cayenne Pepper

Cinnamon

Cumin

Curry powder

Vegetable Ingredients: 

1/2 Sweet onion

2 Sweet Peppers (different colors preferable)

1 Lemon

1/4 cup of coconut milk

Sea salt

Pepper

2 tsp. Garlic powder

The Method: 

Chop 1/2 cup of peanuts with whole pepper kernels. Season with sea salt (not too much–it’s more potent than regular salt) and mix in the flour. Set aside.

Mix together the tahini, mustard, worcestershire sauce, garlic and coconut milk. The mixture should be pretty thick, but creamy. Grind the remaining 3 T of peanuts and mix in. Season the mixture with sea salt,  a couple of dashes of cayenne pepper, a couple of dashes of cinnamo, about two teaspoons of cumin (more if you desire) and a tablespoon of curry powder. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Chop the chicken breasts into pieces about a half inch thick and one inch long and wide. Coat them entirely with the tahini mixture, then coat entirely with the peanut-flour mixture. Set in refrigerator while you prepare the vegetables.

Cut the onion, 1/2 lemon and peppers into large wedges (about one and a half inches long). Place in a bowl. Squirt the remaining 1/2 lemon over the vegetables. Pour the coconut milk over them. Add the garlic powder, and then season the vegetables to taste with sea salt and pepper. Let marinate for however long you’re able to wait.

Turn the oven on to broil. Coat a pan in olive oil (don’t drown it, mind you). Place the chicken and vegetables alternately on kabobs and lay in pan. Place pan on a rack on the bottom third of the oven and let the kabobs broil for two minutes on one side. Flip the kabobs around. Let broil for two minutes on the opposite side. They needed an extra two minutes in my oven after this, but yours may differ. Just make sure the chicken is cooked thoroughly. If the peanut crust starts to blacken a bit, don’t worry–it tastes really good.

Serving tip: I have never used canned coconut milk before, but I found a strange, delicious coconut paste on the bottom of the coconut milk can. Spoon this on the plate and use it as a dipping sauce for your chicken. It is absolutely delicious.

Endeavor Two: “Chocolate and Mocha Chantilly Trifles”

15 May

Baking Jargon: I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what a “Chantilly” is (the first hits on Google tell me it’s a place in France, Virginia and a high school) and I only have a vague idea of what a “trifle” is (I imagine something British). But I saw this recipe on the Best of Baking website and decided it looked just complicated enough for me to attempt.

The “Disasters”: I did not have any rum on hand (that began to slowly disappear the last time I was home from college), nor any cognac, so I decided to replace that with Kahlua, my baking alcohol of choice. I also lacked coffee beans to make the “chantilly,” so I compensated with some well-brewed coffee. For the most part, though, this recipe went pretty smoothly. Now back at home from college, I have access to a full-size kitchen equipped with almost everything an amateur baker could possibly want. No having to share a dorm kitchen with idiot freshmen guys attempting to pan-fry spicy sausages in a basement without proper ventilation, no having to take cookies out of the oven with your shirt because there are no potholders to be found, no getting caught making out with your date while you wait for your brownies to bake…

For the cake:

  • 5 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp Kahlua
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold eggs
  • 1 cold egg white

For the mocha chantilly:

  • 1½ cups whipping cream
  • 2 T strongly brewed coffee, cooled
  • ½ cup of milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 vanilla beans (well, the innards of them, at least)

Make the cake:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the sides of the 8-inch round spring-form pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan into several layers of heavy-duty foil. Trut me. You’ll need it. Put a pot of water on to boil.

Place the chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine the cocoa, flour, ½ cup of the sugar, and the salt in a small heavy saucepan. Whisk in enough of the water to form a smooth paste (the three TBSP will do), then whisk in the remaining water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly (especially around the edges of the pan) to prevent scorching, until the mixture begins to simmer. Simmer very gently, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Immediately pour the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Whisk in the Kahlua and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, egg white, and the remaining ½ cup sugar with an electric mixer at high speed until nearly doubled in volume, 5 to 6 minutes (agonizing). The eggs will be very foamy but still liquid rather than thick. One third at a time, fold the eggs into the chocolate mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and gently bang the pan on the counter to settle the mixture.

Set the cake pan in a large baking pan at least 2 inches deep. Pour enough boiling water into the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cake rises and crusts slightly on top and the surface springs back when gently pressed, about 30 minutes. It will have the consistency of an undercooked cake, gooey but not liquidy. Remove the cake pan CAREFULLY from the water and cool completely on a rack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

Make the mocha chantilly:

Place the cream and coffee into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often to prevent the cream from scorching. Put the chopped chocolate into a large bowl. Pour heated cream mixture over chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and combined completely with the cream. Let it cool, then cover and refrigerate until cold. Once cold, whip the cream-chocolate mixture until medium peaks form.

Serving:

Lift the elbow of the arm you hold your racket with up into the air so that your racket is behind your back. With your other hand, throw the tennis ball straight up. While the ball is still in the air, swing the racket up and over to hit the ball.

Just kidding. To serve this very rich dessert, find a smallish bowl (six inches in diameter, approximately). Fill the bottom completely with about half of the cake. Lightly spoon the whipped cream mixture on top, completely covering the cake. Layer the other half of the cake on top of that. Top with the rest of the cream. Use strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries for garnish. Serve in small quantities (tiny desserts are in vogue).

I’m not one for presentation, but I’m sure if you wanted to, you could make this dessert look magnificent!

Endeavor One: Brown Sugar Cookie-Scones

15 May
I need to work on presentation...

A college baking miracle

The Birth of a Summer Project: As all my friends go off to work summer jobs, vacations and internships, I find myself sitting alone in a friend’s apartment in Columbia, Missouri. Armed with a college student’s budget and a first apartment’s very limited cooking supplies, I search online for a basic recipe and come upon this: a recipe for brown sugar cookies with browned butter frosting.

Baking Disasters: I have a tendency to perfectly mess up recipes, usually because I love to make my own little tweaks to them. This one was no exception. I made two little changes that seemed to significantly alter the cookies–for the better. I replaced sour cream with Greek yogurt and regular milk with Almond Silk Milk. The yogurt replacement managed to give the cookies a scone-like consistency and made them rise nicely. The Silk milk replacement gave the frosting a very slick texture, making it an unpalatable topping but a perfect filling. I compensated for this lack of topping by making a glaze to pour over the top of the cookie-scones after I had spread the filling inside them.

College Baking: In a kitchen the size of a powder room and with an oven far older than I am, I managed to somehow pull off these cookie-scones. I was also sans a real baking pan, forcing me to use a pizza pie pan that looked like it had been through a couple of wars. Of course, I can’t even begin to convey the agony of using a magic wand thingymabober in place of a real hand mixer. I felt like I was mashing potatoes instead of beating a batter. While my best friend whose apartment I was staying at was off getting plastered on margaritas by a pool, I was spending thirty minutes beating a batter that a person with normal baking equipment could have knocked out in two minutes. Ah, college. The good life.

The Recipe: 

Ingredients:

2/3 c. butter, softened

1-1/2 c. brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla extract

2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 c. Greek yogurt

Directions:

Blend together butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time; blend well.  Add vanilla; beat until light.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with yogurt; mix well.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto non-stick or lightly greased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.  Remove from pan and slice in half. Spread browned butter mixture on bottom half. Replace top. Pour sugar glaze on top. Makes 2 dozen.

Browned Butter Filling

1/4 c. butter

1-1/2 c. powdered sugar

2 T. Almond Silk Milk

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it turns golden.  Watch carefully as this will happen quickly. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and enough milk to make a spreading consistency.

Sugar Glaze

1 c. powdered sugar

2-5 t. almond Silk milk

Start with about a cup of powdered sugar. Add a teaspoon of the silk milk. Stir. Continue adding teaspoons of the milk until the glaze is a pourable consistency.

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