Tag Archives: semi-homemade

Trifling things (birthday cake trifle)

7 Jun

You may know from Twitter that I think about and read about social justice-related things a lot.  I’ve been quite stricken this week about a certain, horrible thing that’s happened, and I don’t have words/am very overwhelmed right now to write about it.  So instead we’re going to chat about trifling things today, specifically, trifle, which is a delicious combination of pudding and cake and whipped cream and sometimes other stuff (fruit).  Banana pudding is basically a trifle, so you know trifle’s gonna be awesome.

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Even when berry upset, trifle is a piece of cake, just a matter of pudding some ingredients together. (ignore the other fruits, they don’t (man)go in)

Last week was my birthday, so I decided to throw a little party and make a cake.  We didn’t actually want to be social for several hours, so it was a combination social hour + 3 hours of board games, and during those board game hours people kept popping into the kitchen to get another scoop of this birthday cake trifle!

I started the day before, by baking a Funfetti cake from a box.  You need a cake, if you make one from scratch that’s great too!  On the day of the party, I assembled the trifle a few hours early to give it time to meld flavors in the fridge.  You could do it even a few days early, but it gets mushier/more homogeneous, which is maybe what you want but not what I wanted.

I was worried about putting fruit in this trifle, but I had all that fruit that was going to go to waste, because baby decided he didn’t want berries this week, only bananas.  So I mixed up my blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries and sprinkled them with a few tablespoons of sugar to macerate (aka soak/sit) while preparing everything else.  This softens and sweetens them.

Make pudding (from scratch or I used a box).  Box pudding is SO magical and easy; even my 20-month-old could do it! …sort of.

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Sometimes he looks at me so whiskfully while I bake, so I let him help

Then either use cool whip/reddi whip or make your own whipped cream.  If you have a stand mixer/electric mixer, homemade whipped cream is really the way to go.  It’s SO DELICIOUS.  Take your cream, put it in a bowl, and start whipping it at half-power, then slowly up it to full power.  Add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar (I just tipped the bag toward it for a few seconds).  If you want, add extract (vanilla, almond, etc.), but I like it just pure and fresh and creamy and light.  Stop whipping when it looks not-liquid anymore.

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I really hope Willow Smith loves whipped cream and sings while making it.

Now gently fold the whipped cream and pudding together; this is the glue of the trifle that will eventually soak into the cake.  It doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed (again, I prefer non-homogeneity in this dessert).

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Aladdin’s little known-talent: trifle-making. I can show you the swirl/ shining, shimmering, splendid/ tell me, princess, now when did you last let your mouth decide!

Cut your cake into bite-size pieces.  Trifle is awesome because you can use any flavor you want!  Lemon cake would be so good here.  Also angel food cake.  Also chocolate cake.  Any cake!  Any pudding!  The world is your oyster/trifle!  Don’t make a trifle with oysters, please.

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If you want to fool someone into thinking this is healthy, say a sentence about salad, and then mention that you have some lattice (say it real fast).

Take a big, beautiful glass bowl (or a trifle dish if you own one and also why do you own one?) and smear some whipped cream-pudding on the bottom.  Then top it with a layer of cake-cubes.

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It’s for my birthday!  So it’s special!  A special cake-cube complex!

Now top that layer of cake-cubes with another layer of pudding-cream, and top that with berries.  You want to go all the way to the edge of the bowl so you can see the layers from outside.

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If you’re upset someone’s razzing you, at least you’re not black and blue

Then cover that with another layer of cake-cubes, then a layer of pudding-cream, then a layer of berries, cake-cubes, and if you’re me and ran out of pudding-cream, top it all with more whipped cream!

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If you’re failing at something and running on an empty stomach, why not have some trifle and try full?

I decorated the top with sprinkles and crumbled cake-cube.  Toss in the fridge for at least an hour, and serve with a deep serving spoon.

This has been a hard week for us because that adorable person up there is having some anxiety issues at daycare, and he’s only 20 months old!  Poor little dude.  We’re meeting with the pediatrician and the speech therapist later this week to figure out if we can do anything to help him be happier.  Parenting is a thing, and I’m still new to it, and my poor baby.  Anyways.  That’s why this post is about trifle!  Because sometimes you just need to make something delicious and easy, and it’s best if that something is light and fluffy and cloud-like too.  Baking is totally therapeutic.

20160604_165904Birthday Cake Trifle (serves 16 or so)

1 13×9 cake (you’ll have leftover cake) or use a 9×9 cake for a smaller trifle.  Any flavor

1 box of pudding mix (some flavor that goes well with your cake.  I did Funfetti cake-vanilla pudding)

1 pint heavy whipping cream OR 1 tub Cool Whip OR equivalent (reddi whip is also good)

1-2 pints of mixed berries or other fruit

2 TB sugar (optional)

1/4 c powdered sugar

3 c milk (or whatever it says on the pudding mix)

  1. If your fruit is a bit tart, toss with the 2 TB sugar to macerate, set aside.
  2. Make the pudding according to box directions.
  3. Fresh whipped cream: beat cream with whisk attachment of mixer at 2-3 speed, then slowly increase to full speed and add powdered sugar.  Beat for a few minutes, until it looks like whipped cream.
  4. Gently fold whipped cream into pudding.
  5. Cut cake into 3/4 inch-ish squares.
  6. Use a big beautiful glass bowl, and smear a small amount of pudding-cream on bottom.  Top with a layer of cake-cubes.  Top with a layer of pudding-cream.  Then a layer of fruit.  Repeat, alternating cake-cubes and fruit with pudding-cream–top layer should be pudding-cream.
  7. Decorate with cake crumbs and/or fruit.
  8. Refrigerate at least one hour.  Serve cold with a spoon.
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Pineapple upside-down cake, using box mix

11 Jan

I’m alive!  My fingers and palm are tingling a bit as I type this, because I contracted a particularly virulent strain of hand, foot, and mouth disease from my baby (it’s not as bad as it sounds).  Yesterday I had a 103.1 fever, and last week he had a 103.1 fever.  I took him to the ER, I gave myself a Tylenol and a nap.  It’s been mildly hectic.  As I’ve said before, I’m so impressed with stay-at-home parents and I don’t know how anyone gets anything done with their kids (like, for instance, a Ph.D. thesis).  Baby had a mild fever the day before his crazy one, so I kept him home with me.  We went to the store, and I thought hey, it’s never too early to introduce kids to the things you love to do, so let’s bake a cake!

I’ve blogged before about a super easy pineapple upside down cake, but that required some amount of measuring so I decided to just go with a box cake.  Semi-homemade all the way, snobbery be damned!

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If Rooney Mara and Al Pacino got together and decided to combine last names, would they be the Maracinos?  Also that would be gross because she is 30 and he is 75 and unrelatedly he is 5’7″.

The topping is the same as for the easy-peasy amazing cinnamon buns I’ve done over and over again: put a stick of butter in a pyrex in a cold oven, and turn it on.  You could definitely do this with only half a stick of butter instead; I just had a frozen stick so used the whole thing.

Meanwhile, drain the pineapple rings and you’ll get just under a cup of pineapple juice.  This is great, you use it to make the cake, following the box instructions and subbing juice for water.  Also I’m not so great at following instructions, so I used yogurt instead of butter (I got the “butter recipe” box).

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Do you ever worry you won’t measure up?

 

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That even with all the eggstras you’ve added to the world, the whisks involved with you weren’t worth the benefits?

I mentioned that I didn’t feel like measuring, so I didn’t, but you probably know how big half a cup is, and can eyeball about that much of full fat yogurt.  (Remember, we’re using yogurt to replace butter so we need the fat).

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It’s important to remember that we were all once babes in the woods, and also it doesn’t matter how effective/efficient you are, but that you made an effort.

If you were starting with half a stick of unfrozen butter, it’s probably melted by now.  If like me you had a stick of frozen butter slowly melting in your oven, you have some time now to play patty cake or clean up or sit.  Whatever floats your boat.

Once the butter is all melted, take it out of the oven and sprinkle brown sugar all over it, then lay down the pineapple rings and sprinkle maraschino cherries everywhere they’ll fit.  Pour on the batter.  I put in about half the batter, then sprinkled it with coconut, and added the other half to cover the coconut.

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Sometimes you feel like you’re a ringer, but you’re just cherry-picking examples where you don’t fit in.  (Incidentally I’ve been using the sports idiom “ringer” wrong my whole life I thought it was a great person you save for the end who will win the game what’s the word for that?)

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Cakes are like onions; they have layers! (Shrek joke, does that date me?)

Bake it for 40-45 minutes, let it cool for a bit, and then invert it onto a plate.  Honestly the hardest part of this cake is finding something to invert the cake onto.  I ended up picking up the whole thing and putting it back into the Pyrex after, for storage.

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Everything will be okay, just turn that brown upside down!

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Even if you miss, there’ll always be an imprint of your attempts at success (I located the sticky pineapple ring and put it back on the cake, btw).

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Pineapple upside down cake, adapted from Betty Crocker

1/4 c (half a stick) of butter

1/2 c brown sugar

1 can pineapple slices in juice

1 small jar maraschino cherries

1 box yellow cake mix

3 eggs

1/2 c full fat yogurt

1 c sweetened flaked coconut

Put the butter in a 13 by 9 dish, and put it in the oven.  Turn to 350.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs, juice from the pineapple, cake mix, and yogurt until almost totally smooth.  This is a good place for kids to help!

Once the butter is melted, sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over it, then lay in the pineapple slices and put in the maraschino cherries wherever they’ll fit (take off the stems).

Pour half the cake batter oven the topping, then sprinkle the coconut all over it.  Pour the rest of the cake batter over.

Bake for 40 minutes or until brown.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then run a knife all along the edge and invert onto a plate.  Eat.

 

Mmmm rummmm cake

9 Jul

When I started this blog I couldn’t imagine the directions my life would take.  Two and a half years ago, I did a post on a semi-homemade rum cake and titled it “Shame on me” for being semi-homemade instead of from scratch.  Rereading it, I feel like that’s the cake I should’ve made the other night.  I was feeling bad because I’d found a fundamental problem in my research (still unresolved…) after wasting away my morning and before picking up the baby late from daycare because I’d forgotten an umbrella.  So after putting the baby down and eating dinner, I decided to make a rum cake.  During this time I was chatting with my husband and offhandedly asked him the last time he was proud of me.  He said “I’m proud of your right now, you’re making that cake.  You’re so capable.”

Hell yes I am capable!  My research is stagnant; last time I timed myself it took me 13.5 minutes to run a mile; I keep not getting the oil changed on my car.  BUT I’m trying research, I am active, and my baby is still alive.  AND I made a rum cake.

Some days, you need pep talks from those who love you.  Some days, you need to bake a cake.

Semi-homemade doesn't hurt the eggsecution of this dish

Semi-homemade doesn’t hurt the eggsecution of this dish

I didn’t have a Bundt pan (we don’t know what happened to that old one but rum cake is the only thing I make in a Bundt pan so it seems silly to buy one), so I used a 13 x 9 pyrex instead.  Generously grease and flour it, then sprinkle with nuts (I used peanuts do not do that.  Use pecans or walnuts).

Peanuts, equality, and granite- doesn't quite have the same ring to it as liberté, egalité, et fraternité.  I guess France can keep its flag-they'd be nuts to adopt this one, even though it rocks.

Peanuts, equality, and granite- doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as liberté, egalité, et fraternité. I guess France can keep its flag-they’d be nuts to adopt this one, even though it rocks.

Then you make your doctored cake by adding pudding mix, an extra egg, and rum. Yum.  This makes the cake a bit lighter and bouncier while somehow super moist (that’s the pudding mix).

When you whisk upon a star, you'll probably burn up no matter who you are.  Because stars are really hot and why would you be whisking anyway anything you wanted to bake would already be burned to a crisp/nothingness

When you whisk upon a star, you’ll probably burn up no matter who you are. Because stars are really hot and why would you be whisking anyway anything you wanted to bake would already be burned to a crisp/nothingness

I thought this label was hilarious on the box:

IF I PUT THINGS IN ALL CAPS YOU WILL READ THEM.  (google translate:) Si pongo COSAS EN MAYÚSCULAS USTED puedan leerlas.

IF I PUT THINGS IN ALL CAPS YOU WILL READ THEM. (google translate:) Si pongo COSAS EN MAYÚSCULAS USTED puedan leerlas.

So then I took this picture:

Breaking all the rules!  That's me!

Breaking all the rules! That’s me!  Or illiterate! O analfebetos!

Anyways, while that’s baking you can doodle around the house for half an hour, then make the glaze- it’s just butter + sugar, boil it, then add rum.

I ran out of white sugar so I substituted in brown for the remainder.  Insert appropriate racial joke here?  It's hard because multiple ethnic groups claim "brown" which doesn't make sense because isn't everyone some hue of brown?  I'm staring at my white husband's skin right now to try to figure out the color.  Pinky-peach but not like a sunset.  He just held up a piece of paper but white people aren't all albino.  I don't know.  I'm not good with colors.  That's why I subbed in the sugar.

I ran out of white sugar so I substituted in brown for the remainder. Insert appropriate racial joke here? It’s hard because multiple ethnic groups claim “brown” which doesn’t make sense because isn’t everyone some hue of brown? I’m staring at my white husband’s skin right now to try to figure out the color. Pinky-peach but not like a sunset. He just held up a piece of paper but white people aren’t all albino. I don’t know. I’m not good with colors. That’s why I subbed in the sugar.

After the butter and sugar have boiled, turn off the heat.  Make sure you use a deep sided pot, not a pan, because when you add the rum things get exciting and it fizzes up.

This isn't a zero-rum game

This isn’t a zero-rum game

After the rum

After the rum

After the cake comes out of the oven, poke it all over with toothpicks or skewers, as much as you can until you get bored (so maybe 40 times?).  Then drizzle half the glaze all over it.  Wait a bit, invert the cake onto a plate or baking pan, and poke again + drizzle again.  It’s great warm, but it’s awesome about 12 hours later, when the rum has soaked in a lot and everything is moist and rummy.

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Buttery rum cake, adapted from allrecipes

cake part:

1 c chopped nuts (I prefer pecans)

1 box yellow cake mix

1 box vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

1/2 c each water, vegetable oil, rum

glaze part:

1/2 c each butter, rum, white sugar, brown sugar

1/4 c water

 

cake part: grease and flour a pan (Bundt if you have it, 13×9 if you don’t, two 8″ or 9″ rounds if you don’t have that either, if you don’t have those I’m not sure why you’re looking at a cake recipe)  Sprinkle with nuts (toast if you so desire)

Whisk together cake mix and pudding, then add remaining cake ingredients and mix.  Pour into pan, bake at 325 for one hour.

glaze part: fifteen minutes before cake is done, melt butter in a pot with sugars and water.  Bring to a boil, constantly stirring.  Take off the heat and stir in rum BE CAREFUL IT BUBBLES UP.

When cake is done, poke holes all over it.  Dribble half the glaze over it.  Carefully loosen sides of the cake from pan, then cover with a serving plate and invert the cake.  Poke holes all over the nutted top half, and dribble remaining glaze all over it.

Ridiculously easy mini banana cinnamon buns

15 Feb

While I’ll always make those vegan (sometimes) pumpkin cinnamon rolls whenever I have three or four hours to wait, I now make these cinnamon buns every time I want cinnamon buns NOW (but really, within half an hour from start to finish, which is faster than going to the store to get them).  I’ve had this recipe for about three months and have made these at least six times- they were the first thing I baked after baby was born!  They were also the second thing I baked after baby was born.  And possibly the third.

No matter how many people you have eating these, they’ll be gone very quickly.  I think four is a great number, so everyone gets to have two and maybe wishes they had more.  But three is also wonderful, because eating three of these is wonderful.  Honestly I could eat all eight that come in a batch by myself.  What I’m saying is THESE ARE SO GOOD GO BUY SOME CRESCENT ROLL DOUGH AND MAKE THEM NOW.

They’re so good that I didn’t take a picture of all the ingredients beforehand.  If you bake at all you already have all of these minus the crescent roll dough.

I just did jury duty.  Everyone had pat responses to everything

I just did jury duty. Everyone had pat responses to everything

First put a pat of butter in a smallish casserole dish or pie pan, and stick it in the cold oven.  Turn the oven to 350.  I love when stuff goes in a cold oven, so you aren’t wasting gas by preheating.  Anyways.

Open your can of crescent roll dough (this was not intuitive to me and it took me awhile and I still think I do it wrong), and spread out the dough.  Pinch together the edges so you have one big rectangle of dough.

It wasn't hard to get the witnesses to open up, you just had to press at the right moments

It wasn’t hard to get the witnesses to open up, you just had to press at the right moments

With the facts spread before us, we had to return a verdict

With the facts spread before us, we had to return a verdict

It’s OK if it’s not perfect; pinching just makes it easier to cut the buns.  Now stick another two tablespoons of butter in the microwave for 15 seconds (or if you’re one of those people who leave butter out, just take that softened butter.  I think I’ll start leaving butter out.  It’s so convenient!) and spread it on the dough.  Mash or slice a banana and spread it on top of the butter.  I’ve done it both ways and I think I prefer eating the mashed banana, but slicing is SO EASY.  Then mix some cinnamon into some sugar and sprinkle it over the whole thing.

We were following the letter of the law, ignoring ideas of sin. Amen!  Church and state should be separate

We were following the letter of the law, ignoring ideas of sin. Amen! Church and state should be separate

Sometimes witnesses would sprinkle in random facts/observations, and we'd take that into account too

Sometimes witnesses would sprinkle in random facts/observations, and we’d take that into account too

Now take the long edge and fold up an inch.  Roll up the whole thing this way (so you’re traveling a shorter distance and holding the longer side).

Taking a break from court- check out this natural log!  It rules!

Taking a break from court- check out this natural log! It rules!

Cutting the roll is the hardest part of this.  I’ve used floss, as in the next picture, but a sharp slightly wet knife has worked the best.  No matter how I’ve done it, I smushed the rolls.  That’s OK.  Cut in half (the dough already does this for you), then cut each half in half, and each of those in half, so you end up with eight. (Yes, Yen, two cubed is eight.  Good job!)

Sometimes it was hard to cut between the lines and figure out what actually happened.

Sometimes it was hard to cut between the lines and figure out what actually happened.

Now pull that casserole dish out of the oven- the butter should be nice and melted now.  Spread it around, and sprinkle with two tablespoons of brown sugar.

This was just a small civil case, not like Brown vs. Butter of Education.  Oh it was Board of Education, huh.  Mixed it up in mind for some reason.

This was just a small civil case, not like Brown vs. Butter of Education. Oh it was Board of Education, huh. Mixed it up in mind for some reason.

Many things were mixed up in the case- who was where when, why and how what happened happened, sugar and butter (I brought cookies for day 3 of jury duty)

Many things were mixed up in the case- who was where when, why and how what happened happened, sugar and butter (I brought cookies for day 3 of jury duty)

Now put the rolls, spiral side down, in the pan.  They’ll be a few inches apart, which is fine- they’ll spread into deliciousness.  This brown sugar-butter combination on the bottom makes a crust similar to pineapple upside down cake.  It’s awesome.

Bake for 20 minutes.

I love these plain, but you can also glaze them (powdered sugar + milk + vanilla) or frost them (cream cheese + powdered sugar + milk +vanilla).  I prefer the cream cheese and will include that below.

It was hard to look at the plaintiff when we returned the verdict in favor of the defendant- there was no way to sugar coat it.

It was hard to look at the plaintiff when we returned the verdict in favor of the defendant- there was no way to sugar coat it.

Baby cinnamon rolls, adapted from kevin and amanda (theirs is also good but uses twice as much butter and sugar)

1 can Pillsbury crescent rolls

1/4 c butter (1/2 stick)

2 TB brown sugar

2 TB white sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 very ripe banana

(optional): 2 oz cream cheese, 1 c powdered sugar, 1 TB milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla

Cut two tablespoons of the butter into a pie pan or a small casserole dish.  Place into the oven and set oven to 350.

Spread out the crescent roll dough, pinching seams together.  Soften remaining two tablespoons of butter (microwave 15 seconds) and spread on dough.  Either mash banana and spread atop butter, or slice and lay in lines across the dough (like an American flag).  Mix white sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle over the dough.  Roll up dough into a log.  Cut into eight slices.

Remove warm pan from oven.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Place slices spiral side down onto the butter-sugar.  Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

(Optional): Soften the cream cheese (microwave for 15 seconds), then mash with a fork.  Add in powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, and mash until you have a thick frosting.  Plop some onto each warm cinnamon roll.  Devour.

Homemade flavored salts, or quick wedding favors

13 Apr

Many apologies for delay since last post.  My Yale talk went over great, and I meant to make a Q&A: Grad School post with all the questions the undergraduates asked and my answers, but my amanuensis didn’t take any notes!  Since then I’ve been reading a lot of cool stuff, including this awesome paper by the awesome Matt Clay.  So hopefully I can get that paper into a blog post, as well as some cool math from the SECOND annual Midwest Women In Mathematics Symposium (the first one was last year at UIC, mentioned in that blog post).  But this is not a math post.

I cannot imagine doing this for a wedding of more than 25 people (and really I did favors per household so I only made 14), but if you had helpful friends then knock yourself out.  These are also “fill in the blank” favors or small gifts (housewarming?).  I made four types of flavored salts, which are SUPER EASY and fairly quick if you just let them dry out for a day or two instead of baking them.  They mostly follow the same idea:

Take X amount of salt, and mix thoroughly with Y amount of flavoring using your fingers.  Spread on a baking sheet and let dry in a not-humid room for a day or two.  Package cutely.  Note the lack of equipment, expertise, or active time!

Most flavorful: Sriracha salt

This one is a darling of the internet and is straight from the Sriracha cookbook, which I do not own nor think I ever will (we own two or three cookbooks right now: my mom’s 1970s copies of “Joy of Cooking,” a Three-Ingredient Cookbook from my sister-in-law, and possibly his copy of Rachel Ray’s 30-Minute Meals, which he claims is a misnomer).  I did 1 1/2 c salt + 1/4 c + 2 TB Sriracha.

It'd be great to make a robot that could play the music of British progressive rock bands.  It'd be called "Bot-Tull" (Jethro in case people didn't get the reference)

It’d be great to make a robot that could play the music of British progressive rock bands. It’d be called “Bot-Tull” (Jethro in case you didn’t get the reference)

Mix that up with chopsticks until there are just little clumps left, and lay it out for a day or two.  This ends up being pretty chunky, so people recommend beating it (wrap in a towel and hit with a rolling pin) or pulsing it in a food processor, but I am lazy so my guests got chunky Sriracha salt.

Orange you glad I only make bad puns sometimes?

Orange you glad I only make bad puns sometimes?

Prettiest: Rosemary salt

This one is the opposite of the last, in that it’s not all over the internet and the Martha Stewart website I got it off of kept being down.  Other recipes call for a food processor and just pulsing the rosemary to teeny bits, but I actively hate having pieces of rosemary in my food so I went with rosemary scented salt.

You should go lie down, salt, you're looking a little green around the edges

You should go lie down, salt, you’re looking a little green around the edges

You heat up rosemary with salt in a pot (I did 1 1/4 c salt + 4 stick/twigs of rosemary) and stir every minute or two for 10-ish minutes until little pieces of rosemary start falling off and it smells good, then put it in a tupperware and forget about it for a few hours.

Some parts fell off, but I'm at piece with that

Some parts fell off, but I’m at piece with that

Or you’re Martha Stewart and you remember about it after five minutes and cover it.  In any case, pop a lid on that and leave it for a day or three.  It’ll smell SO GOOD when you take off that lid.  For packaging, I popped a teeny piece of fresh rosemary in to each little jar and topped it with salt, discarding the big pieces and leaving in the little cooked parts.

Most unusual: Vanilla salt

I still don’t really know what to do with this one.  I bought a vanilla bean from the store, which I’ve never seen before, and mixed it into a cup of salt using my hands.  You use your fingernails and scrape out the inside from the bean-holder-thing (pod?), and then use your fingers and massage it into the salt.  It smells good!  Then spread it out and let dry like the others.

Best smelling/most versatile: Citrus salt

This is a fun one: take 1 1/4 c of salt, and zest a bunch of citrus over it.  I used two oranges, two lemons, and two limes.

We're naked... is that appeeling to you?  Actually 'fruit porn' is a thing (sometimes it's just food porn, and sometimes it's I don't know what I don't want to click on the links)

We’re naked… is that appeeling to you? Actually ‘fruit porn’ is a thing (sometimes it’s just food porn, and sometimes it’s I don’t know what I don’t want to click on the links)

Use your fingertips to crush the zest into the salt, releasing the yummy smelling oils, and then spread out a baking sheet.

A far better than usual interpretation of "yellow snow"

A far better than usual interpretation of “yellow snow”

I tried to dry this in the oven and hated the results and did it over again- I cooked it too hot and it sucked all the citrus flavor out. Plus you have to pay attention to the oven and who likes to do that?  (Possibly readers of baking blogs, but let’s forget about that…)

Sometimes I just want to yell, "Ogre in da house!" when I'm feeling the opposite of orange.

Sometimes I just want to yell, “Ogre in da house!” when I’m feeling the opposite of orange.

I packaged these in small jars I found on Amazon, but my maid of honor sent me cuter ones which I thought were too small: about two ounces of flavored salt is pretty good.

2014-04-08_08-34-15_232We buy 4 oz jars of flavored salts when we do so (it’s always truffle salt), so half that for a favor sounds perfect to me.  Plus the colored lids precluded the need to label each jar, which would’ve been a pain for ~50 tiny jars.  I threw them in clear favor bags I picked up a Target, along with a printout of a Bible verse/Byrds song, some suggestions on how to use the salts, and a thank-you tag.

2014-04-08_08-34-25_656 2014-04-08_08-34-38_2192014-04-08_09-05-09_289

Total cost:

20 count Favor bags (Target): $2

Ribbon (Target): $3

Printing (Fedex/Kinkos): $5

Salt (Grocery store): $4

Vanilla Bean (Grocery store): $3 (!)

=$17 if you don’t count stuff you’re going to use anyway

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Lemons, Limes, Oranges (store): $5? (and then we ate them later, so basically free!)

Bottle of Sriracha (store): $6? (we’ve had this for awhile)

Rosemary (store): $3 (and then we ate some lamb with it!)

=$31 if you count things you will eat

I’ll leave this post with something I thought was ridiculous when I went to Target.  Also, shout out to the amazing Alliance Bakery for the BEAUTIFUL job they did with our cake!  I’ll post pictures of that cake up when I get some.  It was lemon with a mango mousse filling.  Yum!

Why would you buy these?

Why would you buy these?

Hummingbird muffins (pineapple loaf)

30 Mar

Last Christmas was the first time I met a lot of my fiance’s extended family, and I wanted to make a good impression, so I brought one of those delicious fruitcakes from my very first blog post.  Turns out people don’t like fruitcake much (why?!  It’s SO GOOD!!!).  This year I brought a loaf of hummingbird cake, which is essentially banana-pineapple cake with some nuts.  Turns out you should refrigerate it, so keep that in mind if you make this.  It is still quite tasty and moist, though not as good as the fruitcake (but not nearly as labor and time-intensive).

I don't have my Ph.D. yet, but you could still call me doctor for doctoring this cake mix!

I don’t have my Ph.D. yet, but you could still call me doctor for doctoring this cake mix!

The bananas look a little beat up in the picture above, but they aren’t actually that ripe.  So I cheated and threw them in the oven to roast to get a riper flavor.

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We're GOING (roasted) BANANAS IN HERE!

We’re GOING (roasted) BANANAS IN HERE!

Another reason this was not time-intensive: it’s semi-homemade!  I used a box of “supermoist” yellow cake mix instead of measuring out flour etc.  I didn’t have instant pudding on hand (the only time I can recall buying instant pudding was in the future, for my barely-semi-homemade banana pudding), so I subbed in some powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mixed in some cinnamon, then made a little yolk-y picture.

If John Travolta and Nicolas Cage were in my kitchen, I bet they'd race to pull the eggs out of this bowl.  It'd be a Face/Off.

If John Travolta and Nicolas Cage were in my kitchen, I bet they’d race to pull the eggs out of this bowl. It’d be a Face/Off.

This all happened while the bananas were roasting.  I also drained a can of crushed pineapple, so I could put the juice into the egg-cake mix-sugar batter.

Our dog was standing in the kitchen and looking at this and kept saying "fruit roof!"  But since he's a dog, we thought he was saying "Fruit Loops!" and gave him a handful of cereal. That story is ridiculous.  You know we have two cats, we certainly couldn't also fit a dog in the apartment.  Much less a talking one.

Our dog was standing in the kitchen and looking at this and kept saying “fruit roof!” But since he’s a dog, we thought he was saying “Fruit Loops!” and gave him a handful of cereal.
That story is ridiculous. You know we have two cats, we certainly couldn’t also fit a dog in the apartment. Much less a talking one.

While the iced teas are popular, sometimes Snapple likes to make wacky promotional flavors, like pie.  Pie Snapple, however, was a dud, and Mr. S. decided to pull out his support.  Pi-napple was a huge hit!

While the iced teas are popular, sometimes Snapple likes to make wacky promotional flavors, like pie. Pie Snapple, however, was a dud, and Mr. S. decided to pull out his support. Pi-napple was a huge hit!

Once those are mixed with the yogurt, you can mash the bananas.  I love doing this with super ripe bananas because they yield so easily under your fork!  Also, I appear to use banana a LOT when baking (I love bananas!)  Mix in the pecans and pineapple with the banana, and then mix those with the cake mix.

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This guy used to mix up letters and numbers.  So when his girlfriend asked him to pick up some home decor items at this one store, he was very confused to find himself at a historic pier.  Though he messed up in that direction, he'd never do the converse: for instance, look at this bowl and say it's a pur-one.

This guy used to mix up letters and numbers. So when his girlfriend asked him to pick up some home decor items at this one store, he was very confused to find himself at a historic pier. Though he messed up in that direction, he’d never do the converse: for instance, look at this bowl and say it’s a pur-one.

Batter batter batter SWING!  Actually don't, please, you'll get cake all over the floor.

Batter batter batter SWING! Actually don’t, please, you’ll get cake all over the floor.

I initially meant to make this time and labor-intensive cake (just how labor-intensive?  You crush the pineapple by hand instead of buying the can), but went with these little muffins and a mini-loaf instead.

No pun: I suddenly wonder why they don't sell cake batter the way they sell cookie dough: just pour and bake.  It seems like something people might use... maybe not.

No pun: I suddenly wonder why they don’t sell cake batter the way they sell cookie dough: just pour and bake. It seems like something people might use… maybe not.

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Bake til done!  While it’s cooling, make a quick icing drizzle with cream cheese, milk, and powdered sugar:

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Even if something REALLY SAD just happened, you probably shouldn't cry over this.  You'd get saltwater in your icing

Even if something REALLY SAD just happened, you probably shouldn’t cry over this. You’d get saltwater in your icing

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If you’re talented/pinterest-y, you can make a pretty drizzle.  If you’re me, just chuck it on.

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It’s been a little while since we’ve had a picture of me eating, so here’s one!

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Hummingbird loaf: adapted from this recipe, who took it from Dole (the company)

1 box yellow cake mix

1 1/4 c powdered sugar, divided

4 eggs

1/4 c full-fat yogurt (I use greek)

2 tsp cinnamon

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple

2 bananas

1/2 c chopped pecans

1 tsp vanilla

1 TB milk

2 oz cream cheese

 

First, roast the bananas: put on a cookie sheet, in their peels, and throw in the oven.  Set oven to 350.

Drain pineapple, reserving 1 c juice.

Mix cake mix, 3/4 c powdered sugar, cinnamon.  Mix in eggs, pineapple juice, yogurt until smooth.

Do something else for a few minutes (I emptied the dishwasher)

Remove bananas from oven.  Peels will hopefully be black by now (about 10 minutes).  Carefully peel, then mash.  Add pecans and pineapple to bananas, then fold the mixture into the cake mix.

Pour into greased mini loaf pans or muffin tins (I made 12 muffins + 1 loaf out of this).  Bake in that 350 oven for 30 minutes, check the muffins.  If toothpick comes out clean, they’re done.  Loaf should be done around 40 minutes.

While they cool, smash cream cheese with remaining 1/2 c powdered sugar and milk until smooth.  Drizzle icing over loaves/muffins.  Store in fridge if they last more than two days.

 

 

Spring break! Actually, banana pudding

22 Mar

I’m in a hotel room in New York right now, enjoying my first day of spring break (it’s a Saturday so we’ll see how good I am at not working during the week).  What a great day so far: breakfast at Frontera in the airport (the ORD location is much cheaper than the real one), lunch at Katsu-Hama (I try to always go when I’m in this city), and dinner at the very young (4.5 month old) Wallflower for fancy-pants date night.  Thought I’d take advantage of the time difference and blog.  Actually now I’m hungry… I’m going to go get some food and come back to this post later.

Sated!  Grabbed a late-night falafel.  I love travel-eating.  Eat-cation.  Speaking of non sequiturs, each week in my advisor’s secret seminar, the speaker from the week before brings treats, preferably homemade baked goods (you can guess who started this tradition…)  Two weeks ago, our new and fantastic postdoc brought in a big bowl of his mom’s banana pudding.  So of course I emailed him to ask for the recipe and figured I’d make it for this blog, especially since I still haven’t bought lots of baking supplies for the new place (like a mixer… we did get bowls for Christmas though!)  Despite how much I LOVED my last banana pudding post, and I recommend that one if you want to make banana pudding from scratch, Mama Hull’s recipe is ridiculously easy.  It’s hard to even call this semi-homemade… as Michael said, “slicing the bananas is what’ll take the most time.”

Va-ped-atin sounds like "something missing substance," per fiance.  Which is perfect, because those are all the letters missing from these to make real words (va-nilla, whip-ped cream, jell-atin).  Sorry if that didn't make sense, I'm feeling a little daze-y.

Va-ped-atin sounds like “something missing substance,” per fiance. Which is perfect, because those are all the letters missing from these to make real words (va-nilla, whip-ped cream, jell-atin). Sorry if that didn’t make sense, I’m feeling a little daze-y.

The directions for this recipe are basically: mix everything, slice bananas, layer with Nilla wafers.

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I have actually never made instant pudding, so this was AMAZING to me!  You just whisk milk with the powder and it turns into pudding in like three minutes!  So crazy!!

Are you sure this is food?

Are you sure this is food?

I think I have had cool whip before in my home, as a kid.  I used to be REALLY into making elaborate jello parfaits for my family, layering different colors mixed with ice cream, fruit, or whipped cream.  When I was seven or so, someone in my family got me a set of parfait glasses for Christmas (I have a tendency of receiving kitchen gear for Christmas), and that spurred this phase where everyone had to pretend to like my creations.  Thank goodness that’s over!  (…I hope.)

Mix ALL the different and confusing textures!

Mix ALL the different and confusing textures!

Once you mix all the stuff, you really do have to take a long time to slice all the bananas!

The three phases of a dead banana's life: whole, peeled, sliced.  Not so appeeling, is it?

The three phases of a dead banana’s life: whole, peeled, sliced. Not so appeeling, is it?

At first I tried to slice the bananas in the banana peel and not use a cutting board, but it’s so much faster to cut six bananas on a cutting board.

Then layering time!  So pretty!  I, unsurprisingly, went a little dorky on it and made a smiley face out of Nilla wafers on top.  Michael’s looked much prettier with a circle of bananas on top and some crumbled wafers.

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This recipe makes enough to feed about 10 people who like banana pudding a lot, based on our dinner party and the leftovers the next day.  Just realized I failed at reading the recipe, which was literally two lines in an email.  Sigh.  Well, do whatever you like.  This is delicious!  Make sure you let it sit for a long time (I did overnight) so that the flavors meld and the Nilla wafers sort of melt into cake-like texture.

Yum!

Yum!

I have at least one friend!

I have at least one friend!

Mama Hull’s Banana Pudding, emailed from Michael Hull

1 large box (~5oz) vanilla instant pudding (I used two boxes of the 3.5 oz size)
2 2/3 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
1 (8oz) container of cool whip
1 box nilla wafers
6 bananas
Mix pudding with milk; whisk for 2 min.
Add sour cream and cool whip and mix together.
Layer, in a large dish, nilla wafers, 1/2 sliced bananas, 1/2 pudding; repeat. (I made three layers)
Crumble wafers on top. (I didn’t read this and it still turned out okay!)
REFRIGERATE.  Best if left overnight, but a few hours is OK too.

 

 

 

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