Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sooo... Japan!

So Favorite and I have been back from Japan for a while so I figured it was probably about time I posted pictures. This is going to be a long post so sit back and relax.

I met Favorite in San Francisco the night before our flight to Japan. The day of we got to the airport very early (there was no one at the international flights desk yet) and so we spend a huge amount of time waiting around. Then of course we spent another 12 hours on the flight. By the time we arrived in the Narita airport we had been awake about 18 hours ( we refused to sleep on the plane because we wanted to be able to sleep that night). We then spent another hour or so figuring out what train would take us toward our hotel and then another two hours on that train. When we finally stepped foot onto the streets of the Shinjuku area of Tokyo we were completely spent. AND we had no idea how to get to our hotel. After some wandering around Favorite saved us by combining some sweet map skills with some sweet police-officer-asking-skills to get us to the hotel. Dragging a huge suitcase around streets mobbed with people when you don't know where you are going is not the most fun thing when you've been up for almost 24 hours.

That night we went out and wandered into a nearby restaurant to eat. I tried my best to use our Japanese phrase book to get us some food and tea, but just to confound things more, we had happened into a Chinese food restaurant and I don't think anyone there understood Japanese either. After some pointing and awkward laughing and apologies Favorite and I ended up with some hot oolong tea, some fried noodle dish, and a plate of General Tso's chicken...

Okay, so obviously I could talk for hours telling in great detail the entire story of our trip, but I think I will save some of my words and let some pictures talk a bit.

Left: Shinjuku at night.

Right: Saw sculpture outside convention center.

Left: Giant cuckoo clock.

Right: Crowds in Harajuku on Sunday.

Left: Entrance to Meiji Shrine.

Right: Wedding at Shrine.

Below Left and Right: All dressed up in Harajuku

Left: Mt Fuji.

Right: Imperial Gardens.

Left: HUGE Tree.

Right: Picnicking at the park

Left: Indoor bento picnic.

Right: Cherry Blossoms

Left: Assorted desserts with green tea.

Right: Outdoor bento picnic

Left: Big Green Dusty Guys.

Right: Assorted mochi.

So we had a great time. We caught the cherry blossom season perfectly, had a ton of delicious foods, and saw all kinds of crazy Japanese things. This post seems so lame to describe the trip. I took 549 pictures and just about all of them are of something different.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I'm not usually a cupcake person. I like the chewy comfort of a cookie; the delicious, satisfying, toothy wonderfulness. I find that cupcakes are more often than not simply used as a vehicle for some kind of horrific sugar laden topping. Some people eat cupcakes JUST for the frosting. I am not one of these people. However, I am trying to break out of my own mold a little and try something a bit different. As a result I made these red velvet cupcakes. The recipe is out of The Hummingbird Bakery book that I received for Christmas last year. Sadly, I don't often have cream cheese in my house though and decided instead to top these babies with a meringue frosting found elsewhere in the book. The frosting was alright as far as frostings go, but just to crank it up a notch I decided to utilize my creme brulee torch making the top into a veritable toasted marshmallow. I think I would still prefer the more classic cream cheese frosting in the future, but these were okay after all.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Merinque Frosting


  • 4 tbsp room temp butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp red food coloring
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 1 c. + 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Beat butter and sugar with paddle attachment of mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Turn mixer up to high, add egg, and beat until incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa, vanilla, and red food coloring to form a dark paste. Add to butter mixture and combine thoroughly until everything is an even color.
  5. Turn mixer to low and add buttermilk and flour and beat until well incorporated. Turn mixer to high and beat until smooth.
  6. Turn mixer back to low speed and add salt, baking soda, and vinegar, beating for a couple more minutes.
  7. Fill cupcake cups 2/3 full with mixture and bake 20-25 minutes or until cake bounces back when touched. Cool slightly in pan before cooling completely on rack.
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Put egg whites, sugar, and 2 tbsp of water into a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  2. Beat with a handheld mixer until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and beat in vanilla.
Frost cupcakes only after completely cool.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Muffins

I have a lot of posts to catch up on so most of them are going to be pretty short. I stole the recipe for these muffins from Tracey's Culinary Adventures and you can find the recipe there if you are so inclined to make these. They were pretty delicious as far as peanut butter baked goods are concerned, but as a muffin I thought they were too dense. I was having a crazy day when I made them though so maybe I didn't achieve the optimal result. In fact, if you go to Tracey's website you can see that her muffins look fluffier and a whole lot less like peanut butter bricks.

Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever

Sometimes I like to try new recipes so I can experience new tastes and textures, but sometimes you have the urge to just find the best of a particular recipe. I know there are endless posts on the best chocolate chip cookies, for instance. This urge is what led me to try these so called "Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever" found here.

I changed the recipe around a LITTLE. I added more cinnamon than called for (and ground it fresh instead), I left out the ginger because somehow I was out, and put in 1/2 tsp of cloves in its stead. I also decided against letting the raisins soak forever in the vanilla egg mixture, and simply added a very small quantity of milk to the raisins in a very small saucepan and heated gently until it plumped the raisins up. After all that, I don't know if these were the best oatmeal cookies EVER, but they certainly are friggin fantastic. I brought most of them into work with me and instead of simply disappearing (which is what baked goods tend to do at work) people were actually coming up to me and asking, "What is in these cookies?! They are amazing!" This recipe is copied over from the above linked website almost verbatim so the comments included are the originators, not mine.


  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 TBSP (yes tablespoon) vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinammon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups oatmeal (quick cooking or old fashioned, not instant)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)


  1. Preheat to 350 F
  2. The key is to soak the raisins. This makes all the difference in the world. Beat eggs and vanilla together and then add the raisins, stir. Soak for an hour or two. I just walked by a few times and stirred it while I waited.
  3. Cream butter and sugars with mixer. In a seperate bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinammon, ginger & nutmeg.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients until well blended.
  5. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well. Now add in the egg & raisin mixture (I used my hands). Then add oatmeal and chocolate chips/nuts and combine well.
  6. Form into balls on cookie sheet.
  7. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2-5 minutes or until firm enough to transfer to wire rack.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Browned Butter Hazelnut Drops

This is a pretty homely little cookie, and I wasn't too thrilled with them at first bite, but they grew on me. I liked the nutty richness of the dough. These cookies are very dense with no spring to them, but they are not hard or brittle. It really is just like turning a delicious nut into a chewy cookie dough.

Browned Butter Hazelnut drops

1/2 c. butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 c. milk
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 cup toasted hazelnut flour
1 recipe browned butter frosting

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat until it reaches the color of light brown sugar, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Stir in both flours until combined.
  4. Drop by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges just begin to brown. Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet before transferring to rack to cool.
  6. Cool entirely before frosting.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Italian Cocoa Honey Spice Cookies

Um yum, yum. These cookies are good! They are a little different style for me, I usually go for chewy sweet cookies with or without delicious chunks, but these were more like a tea cookie, denser, toothy, almost like a cross between a cake and a biscuit. They were also more richly chocolatey than I expected considering the only chocolate in here is cocoa powder and the only fat (!) is from the almonds.

That's right. I am on a diet so that I am not mistaken for Godzilla when Favorite and I make our momentous trip to Japan at the end of the month. That means I had to break out my "Perfect Light Desserts" book when Favorite's parents came over this past weekend.

Italian Cocoa Honey Spice Cookies

3/4 c. cocoa
1 1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 cup whole almonds, processed until fine
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 c. water or red wine

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the center and pour in water and honey.
  4. Incorporate wet mixture until a soft dough forms.
  5. Break dough into 6 pieces and roll each piece into a 12 inch log on a lightly floured surface.
  6. Use the palm of your hand to gently flatten the logs and then slice the log diagonally to make 2 inch diamonds.
  7. Place on parchment 2 inches apart in every direction.
  8. Bake cookies for about 15 minutes or until they are well risen and feel firm but springy when touched.
So the recipe makes a note of being sure not to overcook them because they don't have much liquid and, again, not fat but what's in the almonds. I actually ended up taking mine out at ten minutes and though I was a little nervous that they would be liquidy somewhere in the middle, they came out perfectly. They were in fact firm with a little give, but not dry at all.

I recommend, if you are not being too cheap with calories or time, that these cookies with drizzled with melted dark chocolate.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What the guys...

Ok, these are not baked or knit:

But they are ADORABLE! That's right. We're taking a time out for some cuteness. For some reason, even though these guys claim VEHEMENTLY that they do not care much for each other, the always seem to be doing the same thing at the same time. And despite what they say about their desire to avoid each other, I have documented proof of them touching.

Boy those guys look grumpy. And beefy.

How about the view from where I sit?

Well, I had one beefer on my lap tonight:
And the other nearby in the office bed.

Then some jealousy happened.There was a short tussle, some furry fists were thrown, but everyone ended up alright.
Now it is time for everyone to go to bed. I hope I get room to sleep on the bed tonight and don't wake up to any kitty butts in my face.

Honey Nut Bars

My sister was making fun of me the other day because she was looking at my blog and asked, "Ooo, how were those coffee frosted cookies?" and I had to tell her that she had, in fact, eaten them. She had totally forgotten since my post went up about a month after I had actually made them. This seems to be par for the course with my blog. No matter how often I bake I doubt that I will ever have the drive to do a post a day, or even a post a week. I have been sitting here in front of the computer for over an hour and I almost didn't even write this post.

I digress.

Here is a picture of a honey nut bar:
Yes, yes. Not bad looking. I made them about a billion years ago, but at least the picture stays fresh.

These bars were pretty tasty really. They are not something I would want all the time, but they made a delightful little breakfast treat. The bars came out a little dense, but I don't want to make it sound like a bad thing so I'll call them "hearty". Here's the recipe:

Honey-Nut Bars (from The Ultimate Cookie Book)

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup honey
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. coconut
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 recipe powdered sugar icing

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and shortening on medium to high speed for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add honey, baking powder, and salt and beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally.
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined and then add flour.
  5. Stir in coconut and nuts.
  6. Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in pan, cut, and then allow to fully cool before drizzling with icing and topping with more nuts.
Mmmm.... I definitely wish these bars were around right now. I mean freshly baked ones anyway. I don't know about how it is where everyone else lives, but my house is being pummeled with angry rain. It is pouring buckets outside and the wind doesn't sound too happy either. It would be quite glorious to light the fire and have a nice cup of tea with a honey nut bar. ALAS! I am on a cursed diet. I happened to step on a scale the other day and nearly passed out when I saw the number. Terrible, terrible. Who is going to eat my baked goods now? The new job employs a person with a nut allergy which means I have just about no one to pawn my sweets off on. Maybe I should start an account with UPS so I can just keep shipping everything to my old job...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Rounds

I know. They look rather unimpressive. This time I will not blame my camera, or my lack of photography skills. These cookies really were quite underwhelming. I had in mind when I picked up the recipe that they would have the chewy, toothy sweetness of an oatmeal cookie while incorporating some delicious peanut buttery flavor. These fell flat. Granted it may be my fault... the recipe calls for 1 cup and a quarter of flour and I may have lost count (using only my quarter cup since my full cup was eggy) and accidentally added a cup in a half. Or it may have been the fact that I used one of those "only contains peanuts" peanut butters. Perhaps the recipe assumed that my peanut butter would already be sugared and salted. Either way these cookies came out too dense in a dry peanut buttery way and I actually had to add a good amount of salt (considering it's a cookie) in order for the flavor of the peanut butter to come out. Still, the idea of a peanut butter oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips still has a hold on me. Maybe next time I will try a different recipe.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Rounds (from The Ultimate Cookie Book)

3/4 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 c. rolled oats
1 c. chopped cocktail peanuts or chocolate pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.
  3. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.
  5. Beat in as much flour as you can. Stir in remaining flour, oats, and peanuts.
  6. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are light brown.
  8. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Amigurumi Owl

This little guy goes by the name Filbert. He is my latest creation from a book Favorite bought me of patterns called "Tiny Yarn Animals". I put this guy together as a gift for my mentor at Pilgrim station who took me under his wing and taught me the ways of nuclear. Little Filbert was shipped off along with some good old Tollhouse Cookies and some sugared molasses cookies the recipe for which I stole from the TWD Crowd. The molasses cookies tasted delicious, but I had a problem with the spreading and over baking just like the Cookies with Boys Blogger. I ended up adding an extra 1/2 cup of flour to the recipe to get the right texture and baked them for the minimum amount of time. Because of the trials and tribulations of those that came before me I had thankfully done a few single cookies as test batches. I recommend this approach until you find an amount of flour and bake time that works for you.

Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies
Dorie Greenspan

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (plus 1/2 cup or so)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and pepper.
  2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat for 2 minutes or so to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear. If some flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, to avoid over-beating the dough, mix in the last of the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. You'll have a smooth, very soft dough.
  4. Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
  5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Put the sugar in a small bowl.Working with one packet of dough at a time, divide it into 12 pieces, and roll each piece into a smooth ball between your palms. One by one, roll the balls around in the bowl of sugar , then place them on one of the baking sheets. Dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar and use it to press down on the cookies until they are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops feel set to the touch. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, if the cookies have spread and are touching, use the edge of a metal spatula to separate them while they are still hot.
  8. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature.
  9. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Key Lime Shortbread Cookies

So, once again I have been away from the blogging world for a while. Let me catch you up to date. First off, I have been without a job now since December 18th, which is a little slice of heaven, and while enjoying my freedom I have baked these Key Lime Shortbread cookies. I know it probably seems weird to make such a tropical sounding cookie during the middle of the winter, but I was grasped by the Imp of the Perverse when I saw the bag of key limes in the store. There is no other explanation. The cookies themselves were tasty enough, light, crisp, with a little hint of tartness, but it was the icing that made them into little bursts of sunshine! The icing was made only of confectioners sugar and the fresh key lime juice and it just exploded with juicy flavor as it melted instantly on your tongue. This recipe came from my Land o lakes cookie recipe book.

Key Lime Shortbread Cookies

cookie dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp fresh key lime juice
2 tsp fresh grated key lime rind

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp fresh grated key lime rind
2 to 3 tbsp key lime juice

  1. Beat butter until creamy.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to butter and stir on low until a dough forms.
  3. Shape dough into two-ten inch long rolls on a floured surface and wrap both logs in plastic wrap.
  4. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Cut logs into 1/4 inch slices and space one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to set for 1 minute before removing to racks to cool completely.
  8. Make glaze by mixing powdered sugar and zest with just enough juice to make the desired glazing consistency. Spoon glaze onto cooled cookies and allow glaze to set.