Sunday, January 31, 2010

Several hundred calories later.

Trying to come up with compelling blog material these days is downright painful. Not that it was all that compelling to begin with, but at least it was something. I don't know what the problem is. I'm not mad or sad or bored or lazy.

(Well, maybe a little lazy.)

The words just. won't. come. I sit down with a vague idea, write and rewrite the same sentence eighteen times, never managing to get it quite right and, eventually, quit.

It’s possible I just have nothing to say. It's possible probable I'm spending too much time reading. Maybe if something were actually happening, I’d be able to write about it, but alas... nothing.

Nothing is happening.

I work. I read. I bake. I sleep. I start over. The only thing causing me any angst is whether or not my book club selection will be a success. And let me tell you, there’s something unsettling about having nothing to worry about. It's been a while. I don't know how to handle it. I know, I know. I should stop before I jinx myself.

So, here are a few things to come out of my kitchen recently...

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies

Yes. Bacon. These were awesome and totally delicious, but as I was editing the photos, I realized they looked like, well... poop. I know, I'm ruining the idea of these cookies, aren't I? I'm sorry. But once the idea pooped, I mean popped, into my head, I couldn't get rid of it and suddenly I didn't want to share the recipe because I was afraid that everyone would see what I saw and... yeah. But you should definitely try them. They were soft and sweet and chocolatey... and the bacon added a little something special. Actually, you could leave it out and make some seriously divine chocolate chocolate chip cookies, if you're so inclined.

Ingredients | Printer-friendly recipe
6 slices maple-cured bacon, chopped
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup softened butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon according to preference and crumble. (I cooked mine to a nice crisp and crumbled finely.) Beat the sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract until fluffy and smooth. Stir in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the chocolate chips and bacon. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Oreo and Nutter Butter Cookie Balls

Why it took me so long to get to these, I'll never know. Crushed cookies... mixed with cream cheese... covered in chocolate. Need I say more? I was surprised, though. I enjoyed both, but the Oreos were, hands down, my favorite. And yet everyone else preferred the Nutter Butters. Weirdos.

Ingredients | Printer-friendly recipe
1 package Oreo or Nutter Butter cookies (the ones with the cream center)
1 8 ounce package cream cheese (softened)
chocolate bark (I used white for the Oreos and milk chocolate for the Nutter Butters)
(By the way, I love parenthesis.)

Finely crush 7 cookies in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine consistency. Reserve for later. Crush remaining cookies and stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to mash the two together. Roll the mixture into 1″ balls and place on lined cookie sheet. Melt chocolate as directed on the package and then dip balls into chocolate. Tap off extra and set aside on cookie sheet to dry. Decorate with reserved cookie crumbs, sprinkles, your mouth, etc. To store, keep refrigerated. (If they last that long.)

S'mores Bars

Now in a cupboard near you.

I've been looking at this recipe on the back of my graham cracker box for a while now. I finally caved. They were certainly tasty, but I walked away with mixed feelings.

Ingredients | Printer-friendly recipe
12 whole graham crackers
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 cups mini marshmallows
4 milk chocolate candy bars, broken into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 15" by 10" jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on ends; spray foil with cooking spray. Place graham crackers onto foil so sides touch. Melt butter and brown sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and mixture just comes to a boil, about 5 minutes. Pour evenly over crackers. Bake 5-6 minutes or until bubbly. Remove pan from oven; sprinkle with marshmallows and chocolate. Continue baking until marshmallows begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Cool completely. Lift from pan and cut into bars.

Okay, here are my issues:

First, the butter/brown sugar mixture, while one of my favorite combos, was just too much. I tried the recipe twice and only used half the second time. Much better.

Second, the marshmallows don't really set and I found that when I took a bite, all of the marshmallows and chocolate would come sliding off. Like the cheese on a pizza. That bugs. I don't really want to hold my food in place while I eat.

They're very tasty and perfect while the marshmallows are still warm, but they don't store well. Just a little tip from me to you.


Last night, I got the incredible urge to bake. I wanted to make this, but I didn't have any lemons. Then I wanted to make these, but didn't have any kisses. I had everything for these brownies, so I made them and they were amazing. Go check out the recipe. You won't be disappointed. (But do yourself a favor and do not over bake them. You'll be sorry and I'll be saying I told you so even as we stuff our faces because they're that good.)

And why are there no pictures? Well, I tried. Honest. But I just could not get happy with 'em. I'm an anal perfectionist. Sometimes I get over it and sometimes I just can't. Today I just can't. (I don't think I've ever taken a decent photo of brownies. I'm going to start obsessing about that.)

That's all. The end.

(Is anyone else in need of a nap now?)

Your ever-expanding friend Stephanie

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ugly yellow sprinkles.

I made lemon cupcakes. I wanted it to feel like springtime. Because I'm over winter and not yet ready for summer. (Target, I'm looking at you. Put those swimsuits away.)

I was going to garnish said cupcakes with lemon zest, except I used my last lemon when I made the frosting.

The sprinkles (or "jimmies," if you're so inclined) were a good idea in theory. They looked okay on one. On all four? They looked... stupid.

I tried to use a toothpick to pry them out of the frosting, but quickly realized I would destroy all those pretty lines and curves if I continued.

I wanted to refrost, except the leftover frosting was already in the trash. (It was the only way I'd stop eating it.)

Then I thought about adding more sprinkles in another color, like hot pink, hoping that it would add some fun contrast, but I was afraid it'd just make things worse.

Finally I gave up.

I ate two cupcakes to make myself feel better. And thought about swimsuits the entire time. (I hate you, Target.)

The end.

P.S. the cupcakes are damn good.

Lemon Cupcakes
Ingredients | Printer-friendly recipe
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in one bowl. In another, combine the buttermilk and lemon extract. Set aside. Combine butter, sugar, and lemon zest in large mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is fluffy and much lighter in color. (Beat well, at least 5-10 minutes.)

Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate the first egg before adding the second.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk in the following order: add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, 1/2 of the wet, another third of the dry, the rest of the wet, and the rest of the dry. Mix until just combined and finish with a spatula. (If you overmix after the dry ingredients are added, the cupcakes will not rise properly and the texture will be chewy and dense.)

Bake in the top third of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Let cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter
6 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon

Beat butter until creamy. Add 3 cups of the sugar and the rest of the ingredients. Beat at high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually add the rest of the sugar, adding 1 cup at a time and beating for 5 minutes after each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, continue beating at high speed till the mixture is extremely pale, light, and very fluffy. Use immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A letter to Summit Entertainment, LLC.

Dear Summit,

I'm a big fan. Huge, actually.

I won't lie to you. In the beginning, you had me worried. Twilight was an abomination and I couldn't help but wonder if the monkey you so obviously hired to write the screenplay had even read the book.

But you more than made up for said blunder and proved yourself worthy with New Moon. Job very well done, my friend. And you're welcome. Those exorbitant ticket prices add up, especially when you've seen the movie as many times as I have.

Remember Me looks wonderful and I'm very much looking forward to it. I admit I've gone a bit gaga over Mr. Pattinson since it became clear that he does, in fact, know how to operate a comb. (And I forgive his Wolfman-esq appearance on the Hope for Haiti telethon since it was for a very, very good cause.)

Even more than Remember Me, I'm pee-my-pants excited for Eclipse. June 30th is quickly approaching and it's like a beacon in the distance, calling me home. You have no idea what I'd give for even the briefest glimpse of a trailer. Or for... oh, I don't know... a poster maybe?

You see, this poster has been floating around the internet for a while now:

I've been trying to convince myself that it was just a tease. Something someone put together to pacify us Twi-hards. (Or "Twi-retards" according to the bitch I work with. I'm not offended. I understand she's just feeling left out since she was never invited to join a certain book club. But she doesn't read. And she really is a bitch.)

But I digress. You see, today, while at the theater, I saw said poster hanging in a hallway, looking very... official.

Summit, please. Tell me something else is in the works. Tell me some big, beautiful poster of Edward is coming out soon. Edward, Bella... even Jacob! (But preferably Edward.)

Summit, I trust you. I have faith in you. I certainly don't want to have to resort to violence, that's for sure.

But I will. Oh, yes, I will. Gladly. Especially, if you don't get your act together, get rid of that piss-poor excuse for a poster, and give me some Edward, damn it.

I thank you for your hasty response in rectifying this matter.

Your friend and hopefully-not-enemy (if you catch my drift),

Friday, January 22, 2010

Definitely not making the news.

So, I’ve done run out of things to say. Seriously. Sometimes I lay awake in bed at night and think up the cleverest little blog posts ever. Of course, in the light of day, I can’t remember the slightest tidbit and if I do, it always sounds like pure poppycock and I can't help but wonder if I wasn't dreaming. I briefly consider getting up to write it down, but, dude, I need to sleep.

I’ve been reading a lot. This normally wouldn’t concern me except I’ve developed the absolute worst sleeping pattern and it just ain’t conducive to working at six a.m.

Speaking of which, while I was lying in bed last night WIDE AWAKE, listening to the wind and rain and counting the very few hours until I had to wake up, I was thinking of all those book recommendations. (By the way, I announced my selection. We’ll be starting Loving Frank on February 1st. Two people made the recommendation and I couldn’t resist.) I have the incredible urge to work my way through each suggestion and make this big ole production out of it, but let’s face it. I don’t finish anything I start.

And that there fact, this inability to follow through with anything, has become a monkey on my back. A loud, screaming, hair-pulling monkey that won’t shut the fuck up and is quickly becoming my favorite obsession. It may or may not explain my recent lack of creativity and why I've kept my nose buried in a book. At least while I’m reading, my total disappointment in myself is finally quieted for a bit.

(This is turning into one hell of a downer. That was so not my intention.)

So, have you heard the news? Southern California is drowning. The grounds are saturated and there are lakes where there shouldn't be. (Instead of drive, I now paddle.) This may just be the day where all of those asinine predictions come true and we break off from the rest of the country and sink.

Right to the bottom of the Pacific.

I know it's only been a few days, but I've come to the conclusion that this rain will never end, the hem of my pants will always be wet, and 45 m.p.h. will be the fastest I'll ever drive again. Which means I'll always be 15 minutes late for work. Which means this weather will be responsible for me losing my job and not only will I eventually be homeless, but I'll be homeless IN THE RAIN. Awesome.

Okay, one last thing.

This season's psycho on The Bachelor has been working AT MY HOTEL FOR THE LAST MONTH. I have yet to even see her, but hear she's a real bitch. I admit it: I'm pretty much planning on stalking her for the rest of the season.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Four. A meme. 'Cause it's all I got.

Four jobs I’ve had
1. Cashier Official taste tester for Mrs. Field's Cookies.
2. Server. And I’d rather clean toilets for the rest of my life than wait tables.
3. Supervisor. Lousy pay. Lousy hours. Lousy.
4. Administrative assistant. Great for blogging. Because, you know, lots and lots of downtime.

Four jobs I wish I had
1. Baker
2. Photographer
3. Bad ass romance writer
4. Robert Pattinson's housekeeper

Four movies I can watch over and over
Aside from the obvious?
1. The Family Stone
2. Beauty and the Beast
3. Sex and the City
4. Love Actually

(The "obvious" being Twilight and New Moon, naturally.) (And, really, this is a horrible question. I love movies. Do you know how difficult it is to stop at four?!)

Four books I can read over and over
1. Paradise by Judith McNaught (plus every other book she’s written)
2. Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
3. Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts
4. If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon

Four places I’ve lived
1. Orange County, California
2. Orange County, California
3. Monterey, California
4. Orange County, California


Four TV shows I love
We all know I have a serious problem with TV. Meaning I watch way too much. These are the four I can't get enough of lately.
1. The Real Housewives
2. The Bachelor
3. Family Guy
4. The Office

Four TV shows I wish were still on
1. Sex and the City
2. Friends
3. Seinfeld
4. Lipstick Jungle

Four places I’ve been on vacation
1. Yellowstone National Park
2. Disney World
3. New York City
4. Hershey, PA (for one reason only: chocolate)

I’ve never been out of the U.S. Unless you count Tijuana. Nobody counts Tijuana.

Four of my favorite meals
1. Thai chicken pasta from Cheesecake Factory
2. Mini corn dogs and chili cheese fries from Wienerschnitzel
3. Honey barbecue chicken strips and a side salad from WingNuts
4. Gorgonzola-stuffed dates wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon from 3Thirty3 (it could be a meal.)

Four places I’d rather be
1. Having a cookie with Stephenie Meyer while convincing her to finish Midnight Sun. (She seems like she’d have plenty of cookies readily available.)
2. Convincing Judith McNaught to write something, anything, because it’s been much too long.
3. Making butter cream frosting with Alton Brown. 'Cause I've tried, like, eight times and I can't get it right. It's FROSTING, for crying out loud!
4. Becoming Scott Kelby's BFF.

The end. And I'm sorry. Real post coming soon. But don't hold your breath.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chocolate Nut Bars

I'm having one of those weeks months where everything I write comes out sounding like pure nauseating drivel. Which is probably why I'm spending more time baking than blogging. And, trust me, the goodies coming from my oven taste much better than the baloney flowing from my fingertips.

These bars, for example, were pure deliciousness. And easy. And I got the recipe from a cook book I never thought I'd use because it has very few pictures. Pictures are important to me.

I could eat the graham cracker crust by itself with a spoon. But then... I say that about most crumb crusts and toppings. In fact, while at work a couple days ago, I ate the crumb topping off a peach cobbler. Lunch of champions, my friends. And it was awesome.

Since I accidentally grabbed milk chocolate chips rather than semi-sweet, I used a combination of both. And I didn't shy away from the pecans. Pecans are your friend. Especially the ones roasted in cinnamon and sugar that I buy from the Huntington Beach farmer's market every Tuesday night.

(This post is making it glaringly obvious why my jeans have become rather snug lately.)

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts

Directions | Printer-friendly recipe
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter; press firmly on bottom of ungreased 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake 8 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt 1 cup chips with condensed milk and vanilla. Spread mixture over prepared crust. Top with remaining 1 cup chips and nuts; press down firmly.

Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool. Chill, if desired. Cut into bards. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

And then immediately report back and let me know how you're able to keep baked goods around without inhaling them same day. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dude. I'm trying to sleep.

I'm sorry, Luke. You're just so stinkin' cute.

I know you hear me, buddy.

Wanna play?

By the way. The blanket? So not an accident. You're my friend, right? And, as my friend, you want me to be happy, right? Well, I'll be happy if The Husband is happy and that man will be [insert colorful swearing here] ecstatic if Minnesota beats Dallas on Sunday. So, we'll all be praying for the Viking's victory... right???

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies. Again.

Did I mention that I'm on a quest to find the world's best chocolate chip cookie recipe? No? Well, that's probably because I'm not. But, if you like yours crispy, these could definitely be a contender.

And you make 'em in a food processor. Fun, right? And I used walnuts. I know. But I processed them first so there were just bits of walnuts throughout. I really, really liked the flavor they added without having to chomp through big chunks of walnuts. I admit it: I'm not a fan of walnuts. Which is kind of surprising considering I could, single-handedly, plow my way through a Costco-sized container of mixed nuts. I love mixed nuts. LOVE.

Anyway. This is a great recipe. Crispy, buttery, sweet. I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I tried to chop them up a bit, but, as you can see, they were still rather chunky and thus the cookies came out rather chunky as well. For a more consistent shape, I recommend chopping up a bar of high-quality bittersweet chocolate. (Or not so high-quality. Whatever.)

6 oz. (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate (or chips)
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Throw all ingredients, except nuts and chocolate, into food processor; process until combined. Transfer mixture to a bowl and mix in nuts and chocolate with spoon (wooden, silicone, etc) of your choice. Use a disher to evenly scoop dough onto nonstick baking sheets. (Parchment paper is your friend.) Do not flatten. The butter will do its part in helping the dough spread evenly. Trust me. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Let cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

These are the directions as interpreted by yours truly. For the fancy-schmancy book directions, here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's like I'm in high school again except way better because it's nothigh school at all.

2009 was a big (HUGE!) year for me reading-wise.

And I'm thinking this year will be even bigger because I went and joined a club. A book club. Or I created one. Or I helped create one. Whatever.

The point is this: 2010 isn’t just about the tiger anymore. It’s about the book club. And the Edward doll (or "action figure" if you prefer) (The Husband hates it when I call it a "doll"), but I'm not ready to go into too much detail about that yet, so...

I'm in a book club now. With ten other women. We started reading our first book on the first, naturally, and started with The Lucky One. So far I've only discovered one minor drawback. Well, one in addition to our argument over how to pronounce Thibault's name. (Is it Tih-boh? Or Tee-boh?)

We all love to read and, since several of us work together, we talk about books constantly. We were so excited to start a book club, but now there's almost too much excitement. We're finally reading the same book! At the same time! And I can't wait to hear what you think! And see what page you're on! And hear what you think will happen next! And exchange exclamation points! Hooray!

It makes it a bit hard to focus. Once I'm at home, alone, with the TV off, I'm finally able to relax and let myself get into the flow of the story and stop thinking about what everyone else is doing/thinking/feeling and I find I'm very much enjoying the book.

But the real problem is this: I'm next to choose a book. And I have to announce our next book on the 15th which means I'm quickly running out of time and this is just the sort of decision that makes me freak out. There are too many options!

Do I choose a book I’ve already read and loved? What if everyone hates it?

Do I choose something totally new? What if I hate it?

I’d choose a book I have yet to read by one of my favorite authors, except, with the last few SEP books I read I've done run out. That's it. So now it's either find someone new to love or… wait. (Judith McNaught, I’m looking at you. Tick tock, woman.) And I’d love to find someone new, but… who???

So, peeps? I’m turning to you. Any advice? Thoughts? Book or author recommendations?

Now remember who you’re dealing with here. I'd really love to be one of those people who’s all I'LL READ ANYTHING, but I’m not that person at all. So, while I’m totally open to all of your recommendations, let’s face facts and accept that I need at least a little romance action. Wait. I don't mean action action, I just meant action as in romance. You know, a love story. I certainly wasn't suggesting... oh, never mind...

That's all. The end. And thank you.