Experiments with Snickerdoodles

What do you do when you have leftover cream cheese icing? My first thought was brownies with cream cheese icing. My daughter had other ideas, though – sandwich cookies a la Great American Cookie Co. So I made Snickerdoodles using the recipe I’ve posted before. I divided that dough in half and added 1/4 cup cocoa to half of the dough. Mmmm mmmm good!

What would I do different? I would perhaps flatten the cookies more, and I would probably use less cocoa. To tell you the truth, the chocolate version would probably work better if I made a completely separate batch so I could adjust the flour measurement. It tasted fine, but the dough was a little denser.

The whole point was to use up the cream cheese icing, but I think the icing itself was a little too thin. I’m not sure if adding a bit of powdered sugar at this point (several days after making the icing) would have worked out, but I think I would try next time.

Was  I disappointed? Not at all. Well worth a try if you’re so inclined!

2013 Big Bend vacation

I wrote this a little over a week ago, but didn’t have a connection and couldn’t post it. So I’m posting it now. :-)

I’m sitting here on the porch of our cottage at Chisos Mountain Lodge in Big Bend National Park. I just watched a spectacular sunset through The Window, which we caught from the trailhead feet away from the cottage. Now I’m enjoying the gloaming, Venus has just made her appearance, & the wind is singing our lullaby. This is totally the life.

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The summer of ice cream

Since Houston is way too hot to do much baking in the summer, I hereby declare this the summer of ice cream.

I kicked off the summer Memorial Day weekend – yeah, I know it’s not officially summer, but in Houston it may as well be – by making Oreo ice cream. It was creamy and delicious and frozen to perfection. Easily the best ice cream I’ve ever made. Since we only got the ice cream maker last summer, this isn’t saying a whole lot. But trust me, it was good!

Oreo ice cream

Yesterday I searched my Pinterest boards for ice cream and found this recipe for Peanut Butter Nutter Bar ice cream. I only modified the recipe slightly; instead of 2 cups of heavy cream and 1 cup of milk, I used 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 cup of half and half, and 1 cup of 2% milk. Still wouldn’t call it healthy, but it’s not *quite* as fatty. This was another winner! I keep accidentally saying Peanut Butter *Nutter Butter* ice cream, and I see a variation using Nutter Butter cookies instead of Nutty Bars in my near future.

Peanut butter Nutty Bar ice cream

Here’s a cool video my husband took of the ice cream in the making:

The Creation of Peanut Butter Nutty Bar Ice Cream

Where has the time gone?

I haven’t posted in 4 months, and I truly have missed it. I’ve been fairly prolific on Instagram lately, which works for me, but I miss the words. I’ll try to be better.

As usual after a blogging hiatus, I’ll start off with some baking, knitting, and books talk.

I actually haven’t been baking as much as I was. I’ve been counting calories and using my Fitbit (which I love) and, believe it or not, I haven’t really *wanted* the baked goods as much. Last night, though, I did do a little baking. I made a lemon gooey butter cake, modifying Paula Deen’s recipe by adding some lemon zest and about 1/4 cup lemon juice. It turned out very good!

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The last post I made was about my Vintage Cakes project. I’ve actually done several recipes now, but have only posted pictures on Facebook or possibly Instagram. Looking at the table of contents, I’ve made (in addition to the ones in the previous post): Texas Sheet Cake (which was a fail as far as the actual recipe went (baker error), but still tasted delicious), Lemon and Almond Streamliner Cake (this was amazing!), Malted Milk Chocolate Cupcakes (pretty good), and The Pink Cake (which was a chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream – oh.my.god). These cakes tend to be a little time intensive, which is part of the reason I haven’t been baking them regularly. I tend to wait for an occasion, of which there haven’t been many lately. I can’t remember which cake I was planning to make next just by looking at the table of contents, but it involves strawberries and ricotta cheese. Maybe that will be a “yay for the end of school cake” in a couple of weeks!

On to knitting. I’ve been knitting a ton lately, but finishing little. Wow, I just looked at my projects page on Ravelry and got a little persective. I’ve actually finished 10 projects in 2013 so far. I have several things on the needles but am actively working on 3 right now:

And reading. I’ve only finished a handful of books this year – well, according to Goodreads I’ve read 12, which isn’t too shabby, but it feels like I haven’t read much. The only “wow” book I’ve read this year has been The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, which was *this* close to getting 5 stars. It lacked some little spark that would have put it over the 4-star edge, but it was a damn good book. I highly recommend this one, especially if you are a fan of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

In other news , or just rambling-ness, life is crazy. Work is crazy, and I will be very glad when July 1 has come and gone. My daughter was going and is now not going to Japan, all in the course of less than a week. Disappointing (and expensive, since we had to get an expedited passport) to say the least. We’re planning a trip to Big Bend in early July, and I absolutely can’t wait. I just wish we could stay longer. My husband is in Atlanta for the weekend with his school’s Academic Challenge (aka Quiz Bowl) team for Nationals, and we’re planning to go to the Mississippi coast in a couple of weekends. And that’s about it. I miss writing and hope to be back soon.

The Vintage Cakes Project

For Christmas, my good friends Cathy & David gave me a copy of Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. I immediately thought, “New project!” After listing all the recipes in the book, I noticed that, serendipitously, there are 52 cakes in the book, which reinforced my plan. I have made a cake a week since (albeit only 3 weeks), but haven’t gotten around to blogging about it, which was the original plan. So I will kick off the project with a 3-in-1 post. Unfortunately, my thoughts are not fresh on the first two cakes, but I’ll do the best I can.

Cake #1: Angel Cake with Orange and Chocolate Freckles

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This was my first angel food cake, and I was a little wary, because I don’t have a great history with meringue. I have historically had a hard time telling when my peaks were stiff enough (or whipping just a little too much so they fall). Not so with this cake. This recipe called for 12 egg whites, and they whipped up to meringue perfection. Such a beautiful tower of fluffy meringue. I wish I had taken a picture, but, alas, I didn’t. Angel food cake’s not my most favorite of cakes, but this was pretty good. What I learned from this recipe: grating chocolate by hand is a pain – next time I’ll use the food processor.

Cake #2: Italian Cream Cake

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The cake itself may have been traditional Italian cream cake (I’d never made one before this, so I wouldn’t know), but instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting, this had a chocolate ganache. Also, instead of frosting the whole cake, you only frost between layers and on top. This was a pretty darn good cake. It would have been even better had I not tried to cook all 3 layers in the same oven at the same time. I knew better and next time this comes up, I’ll use both ovens. The ganache was amazing and did a good job of masking the crunchy edges.

Cake #3: Berry Long Cake with Ginger Crust

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This cake was delicious. The cake itself is not too sweet. It only uses 1/2 cup sugar. It’s also a mix of flour and corn meal, so it has an interesting texture. My discerning daughter said, before knowing it had corn meal, that it tasted sort of like corn bread. I couldn’t really tell, other than that it had a toothier texture. I used about 6 ounces of blackberries and 8 ounces strawberries, and that was a nice combination. You could really use any berry, I think. The only difficulty I ran into was with the topping (a streusel with brown sugar, flour, diced crytallized ginger, and butter): like a streusel, it is supposed to form a crumb-like consistency, but either the butter or the flour measurement was off, and it formed more of a dough. The end result was fine, though. The little bits of crystallized ginger were really a nice touch and not too overpowering. I will most definitely make this cake again.

2012 Knitting/Crocheting in Review

  1. Pretty Petals afghan squared for my quickly-abandoned square-a-month project
  2. Wishing for Winter hat
  3. Tamarind Cowl
  4. The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief
  5. Nathair Mitts
  6. Dr. Who socks for Jimmy
  7. Stacked Eyelet Cowl
  8. Harvest Dew socks
  9. Leaf Blanket
  10. Windschief hat
  11. Simplicty socks
  12. Belle Epoque socks
  13. Sockhead hat for Laura
  14. Maurandya socks
  15. My Knitted Heart Vanilla Socks #1 (with “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” yarn)
  16. Santa ornament
  17. My Knitted Heart Vanilla Socks #2 (with “The Grinch” yarn)
  18. Facets hat
  19. Vanilla socks #2 (with “The Santa Clause” yarn)
  20. Dustland hat
  21. A Very Braidy Cowl
  22. Library of Congress hat
  23. Vanilla socks #1 (with Knit Picks Felici in “Aquarium”)
  24. Drawstring bag
  25. Crocheted sun dress (mostly crocheted in 2011; finished in 2012)
  26. La-La-Love-You Cowl

Afghan blocks: 1
Hats: 6
Cowls: 4
Shawls/kerchiefs/shawlettes: 1
Socks: 9 pairs
Baby blankets: 1
Ornaments: 1
Bags: 1
Dresses: 1
Mitts: 1

Look at that. Almost an equal number of projects as books read. Coincidence? I think not.

In addition, I have 7 projects I worked on quite a bit this year. Four of them are in “hibernation,” but 3 of them are still active projects that I will finish in the nearish future.

2012 Reading in Review

I meant to post this at the beginning of the month, but life and all. I was pretty disappointed in my fewer-than-30-books reading total this year but have to remember that the biggest culprit is that I was knitting a lot, which I enjoy. So it should be a fair trade, huh? Well, it should be, but I don’t really see it that way. I’d really like to increase that number in 2013.

What I read in 2012 (roughly in order of most recently read):

  1. A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
  2. Funny Little Monkey by Andrew Auseon
  3. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  4. A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
  5. Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
  6. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  7. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
  8. Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr
  9. Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo
  10. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
  11. The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure
  12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  13. Sabriel by Garth Nix (re-read)
  14. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  15. The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer
  16. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  17. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  18. Bound South by Susan Rebecca White
  19. Remember Ben Clayton by Stephen Harrigan
  20. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
  21. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
  22. Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
  23. Once by Morris Gleitzman
  24. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  25. The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love by Jill Conner Browne
  26. The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale
  27. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

19 Adult Books
8 YA/Kids Books
3 Nonfiction

Some reflection. First of all, as I was making the list, I kept thinking to myself, “Oh, that was good!”, so overall, while my number wasn’t high, there was some quality reading. Second, I quit thinking that about halfway through the list (so the first half of 2012, roughly). I’m not sure exactly what that means, except that the second half of the year had much less “obligation” reading. I think the biggest takeaway from this is “Read what you want, not what you’re supposed to read.”

I would also like to point out that while my total was only 27 books, I have 2 chunksters going that I’ve been working on for more than a year, so that accounted for a chunk of reading time. Also, there were a lot of books that I started and didn’t finish for whatever reason (either I didn’t like them or I was sampling them for the Dublin Award nominating committee at work).

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