Baking through Literature

Hey There!

Do you remember BOOK IT! through Pizza Hut? Or summer reading programs at your local library? Every summer, I would sign up for these programs (OK, like 3 of these programs). I would go to the library and emerge with a tote bursting at the seams with new adventures. Looking back, I’m surprised our family vehicle made it to the beach. It was over the weight capacity from just my “beach books.”

For some reason now though, I don’t make as much time in my life to read. I have several old friends I need to revisit, and so many new friends I need to make. I’m embarrassed to share this with you, but there are several classics I haven’t read yet. I left Anna Karenina in the middle, and I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice. (I know. I know. We can still be friends, right?)

The other day I was watching the movie adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (the Megan Follows adaptation, as if there were anything else), and I began to yearn for Anne in her later years. Anne of Green Gables is a character that you grow with, and every few years I go back to her to see what lessons she can teach me. And then we came to it. The tea scene. If you haven’t read or watched Anne of Green Gables, you cannot understand the heartbreak that comes with Diana Berry’s accidental intoxication over afternoon tea.

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Then it hit me. Why don’t I use MiaT as my reason to do two things I love: read and bake?

Baking through Literature. Starting this month, at least one post each month will bring you recipes for food/baked goods from the books that I read. My goal is to bake items as I come to them the book. That being said, if something is seasonal (like Marilla Cuthbert’s crab apple preserves), it may need to wait a bit.

I am so excited to get back my reading time, share my favorite characters with you, and bake some delicious treats!

What are your favorite books? What should I put on my reading list? Let me know in the comments below!

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Big Top

This past week was our Employee Appreciation Week, and it had a carnival theme. We had a lot of fun! There were carnival games, food, and a  bunch of guest visitors from other branches of the company.

I ate my first fried Oreo which was simultaneously delicious and disgusting. All that grease! But that’s to be expected.

There was cotton candy on a stick (Side note: Other countries’ names for cotton candy include Candy Floss, Fairy Floss, Tooth Floss and Sugar Clouds. Sugar Clouds is my favorite.) which made me particularly happy. I never had cotton candy on a stick as a kid, but I would always see it in old pictures and things. When I got cotton candy, it was always in a bag. I’ve had it on a stick only one other time. Yuuumy!

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Don’t mind me. I’m just clowning around!

We also had a dessert contest at work. I originally planned to make a Big Top-themed cake with a performing elephant on top but ran out of time. I decided to make the easiest thing I could find – fudge. Normally, we make peanut butter fudge, but I was feeling some chocolate.

This recipe is all over Pinterest from a dozen different sites with little to no variation.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 bag of chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
sprinkles (optional)

Put the full bag of chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl. Pour the can of sweetened condensed milk and vanilla over them. Microwave for one minute, stir, pour, chill, and serve. It’s that easy! (But I will give you some additional tips in a moment.)

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I’ve made this with both semi-sweet chocolate and milk chocolate chips, and it sets up about the same with both. My mother thinks that the semi-sweet chocolate chips are too “chocolaty,” but I think they’re just fine. (There is never enough chocolate for me!)

For work, knowing that each judge would need a piece and having already bought the elephant, I decided to pipe the fudge into mini cupcake wrappers instead of just pouring it into a glass baking dish lined with wax paper (which is how I did the second batch and what I would actually recommend doing with this recipe). The fudge doesn’t harden like some fudges; it stays pretty pliable – which can make it hard to get out of the wrappers.

I added some fun rainbow sprinkles to give it a little carnival color pop, printed some circle circus cupcake toppers, and arranged them on a tray around Reginald the Fancy Elephant.

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Working with office supplies, Reginald’s stand is a Dollar Store bucket, that I usually keep pens in, with a paper circle and star, and his top hat was printed on our no-color printer.  He now lives on the cubicle divider between my desk and my neighbors among the jungle that is my office plant.

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We’ve grown rather fond of him.

Summer Vegetable Color Pop Skillet

Fall is slowly creeping in. It’s still warm, but the mornings are crisp, and I’m ready for hot apple cider. While fall is coming, the last bits of summer are fading away including the end of most of the fresh garden produce.

A friend recently gave me a beautiful summer squash and I was so excited to use it! (The zucchini was purchased.)

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A staple meal in my tiny apartment is a veggie skillet. Usually I go for a spaghetti sauce-based meal, but for this one I went with just some seasonings.

Ingredients:

1 Yellow Squash
1 Zucchini
1 Large Onion
Grape Tomatoes
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Chop your zucchini and squash, slice the onion, and halve the grape tomatoes. Squash takes longer to cook than the rest of the veggies, so get those in your pan first! Add a little bit of olive oil and cook over  medium heat.

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Once the squash has softened, add in the zucchini and onion. Next add in some garlic. I used two heaping tablespoons of garlic, but that’s because I love garlic. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and a seasoned salt. Garlic-seasoned salt is the best. Now, the seasoned salt I used is from a phenomenal spice vendor from Pennsic (the SCA event I attend each summer). Don’t worry; the dish with just the ingredients listed above holds its own!

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Also, I was so excited to get this fox bowl! I wanted one last year, but the only one  in stock was cracked, and they never got more in. Now this one is in my cupboard!

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Pickle Party!

Sometimes you just don’t question where ideas come from. This was one of those times. A Facebook invite popped up from a friend for . . . a Pickle Party!

He provided the vinegar, liquids, and spices, and everyone brought their own jars and whatever they wanted to pickle.

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The Fellow and I ended up bringing mushrooms and green beans since that was what I had in the fridge. We made an apple cider brine that I feel pretty confident will turn out yummy.

We quickly realized that having multiple pots of vinegar boiling in an enclosed space was probably not the best of ideas, but once we got the windows open and fans going, it cleared out. It was a lot of fun; everyone chatting and swapping ingredients, recipes, and ideas!

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Our host also made a special appetizer in advance – Koolickles. Yes, you read that right. Koolickles. Kool-Aid soaked pickles. Apparently, they are a delicacy from the Mississippi Delta region. They are a cherry, sweet, dill pickle infusion, and they are amazing!

Here’s the recipe from Taste of Home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar (32 ounces) whole dill pickles, undrained
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope unsweetened Kool-Aid mix, flavor of your choice

Directions:

  1. Drain pickles, reserving juice. In a small bowl, combine the reserved juice, sugar ,and Kool-Aid, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Slice pickles; return to jar. Pour juice mixture over pickles. Discard any remaining juice. Cover and refrigerate for one week before serving. Store in the refrigerator up to two months. Yield: 3 cups

Try it; it’s interesting!

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Death by Decadence – Chocolate Cake

We celebrated my mother’s birthday along with Memorial Day this year, so Grammy and I headed down home for a picnic. We had ate outside on the deck and had burgers, chips, baked beans, macaroni salad, and corn roasted on the campfire. We ate out on the deck since the weather was finally warm!

As usual, I made my mother’s birthday cake. This year it was a monstrosity of a cake; it took nearly a full jar of peanut butter to complete!

Unfortunately, the project was pretty time consuming, and I was on a deadline so I wasn’t able to do a step-by-step, but I’ll give you a synopsis as best I can.

I only had one cake mix, so I stretched it. I added 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup oil, and 1 egg. Since this was going into a chocolate cake, I made the sugar a slightly heaping 1/4 cup and added 2 T cocoa powder.

I always substitute out milk for water when making a box cake, a trick I learned from an amazing woman and talented cook back when she made my 14th birthday cake!

I baked the cake in 3 pans. On one of the layers of cake, I used a bowl to cut out the center leaving a hole.

Then I whipped up some peanut butter icing. I have absolutely no measurements for this. I used nearly a whole jar of peanut butter and a 2 pound bag of powdered sugar and a drizzle of vanilla. Whip on high and add in milk until you reach your desired texture. Good Luck. Godspeed.

Now comes the fun part. I laid my first cake layer down on the plate and drizzled it with Hershey’s syrup. After the syrup, I spread straight-from-the-jar peanut butter. On top of that, I piled on the peanut butter frosting. Next came the cut-out cake layer. I filled the hole with Peanut Butter M&Ms and more Hershey’s syrup, and peanut butter and peanut butter frosting followed. Finally – the last layer of cake. I used almost all of the frosting to over the outside of the cake. This cake probably weighed 10 pounds.

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In the remaining frosting, I crumbled some of the cake that had been cut from the center layer. I set the cake/frosting mixture aside while I worked on the next step: chocolate ganache. Now, this was my first attempt at ganache and I followed Martha’s recipe. I bought mini Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I don’t think that the cocoa count was high enough.

Next time I’ll be sure to get a more quality chocolate. I drizzled the ganache over the cake, crumbled the cake/icing mixture around the edges and scattered in some mini and whole-sized Reese’s Cups and finished it off with a sprinkle of peanuts. This cake was layered, drizzled, smothered, scattered, and decadent! You should’ve seen my mother’s face when I pulled off the lid of the cake carrier.

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It was such a pretty day that when we rolled up she and Daddy were out on the hammock.  We had corn on the cob roasted in the fire ring and ate on the deck. Nothing like country living.

This month has involved so much traveling! I went to Canada, Pittsburgh, up above Harrisburg, down home in WV and the next trip will be to the beach! I hope the warm weather holds out because I need some salt water to soothe my soul.

Comfort in a Cookie

I can smell spring, can’t you? I am so excited. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming.

Until it gets here though, I thought I’d experiment with a warm cozy recipe.

Two things that I love: tea and cookies. A special treat for me is a cup of Chai. Chai tea is warm, spicy, frothy, and delicious. However, I usually don’t splurge five dollars for a single warm beverage.

Sometimes I just have to have my chai fix, so I was excited to find an affordable powdered chai mix! It’s from Pacific Chai and is around $4.00 at Wal-Mart. One container makes about 13 servings. At 38 cents a cup, that is a price I can handle.

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I also love drop cookies. They are easy and homey. I had made a batch of snickerdoodles  during the blizzard and thought that I could convert that recipe into a chai cookie to create a spicy and delicious comforting treat.

I added two tablespoons of the powdered chai mix to the regular snickerdoodle recipe, and it worked awesomely! The first bite tastes like your traditional snickerdoodle and it follows with that wonderful spicy chai flavor.

 

I gave a few plates away on a plain white plate with a ribbon and a Twinings Chai Tea bag to follow the theme.