Thursday, December 22, 2011

Boot Camp: If Cookie Baking Were an Obstacle Course

Some of the most awkward conversations happen while checking out at stores.  Standing in line at Costco with my mom and grandma yesterday, we began talking to the cashier.  He was a youngin (well early twenties) and mentioned the fact that he was hungry.  He told his co-worker, "Man, I need to stop eating out and start cooking at home more but I just don't like to cook."  To that, my mom said, "...or just marry someone who cooks."  The response, "You see, I don't really know people from our generation who cook."  My mom quickly offered, "My daughter does."  He stared at me.  I stared at my feet.  It got reeeeaaaaal awkward.  While my mom was just trying to prove a point, he thought she was trying to set us up and since there are not I-have-a-boyfriend rings, how was he to know the difference?  Excellent.  My life is awkward.  I think the reason I always buy cute shoes is because they are an excellent distraction to look at during awkward moments.  The awkward moment happens, you need something to look at besides the witnesses to the awkward moment, the floor is the instinctual place to look and when you do? BAM! Cute shoes! Awkward moment forgotten.  I have a lot of awkward moments ergo a lot of cute shoes.  Justification.

In all reality though, having a spouse that cooks is a definite win.  I suppose you could call the last few weeks of my life wife-in-training boot camp.  I have made a ridiculous amount of food.  Ridiculous.

Pinterest is not helping curb my culinary cooking splurges either.  I can now not only think about things I might make but oogle over them and put them into categories, which sends me right to type-A heaven.  So, what have I been cooking recently? First, it started with my cookie boxes.  I made some Dark Chocolate ThumbprintsGingerbread Biscotti, Oreo Cheesecake Cookies. Peppermint Sugar Cookies, Red Velvet Cookies, Eggnog Cookies, Caramel Apple Cider Cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, spritz cookies, pecan nut balls and the final cookie that makes Christmas official for me... molasses crinkles.  Overboard? Probably.  Necessary? Oh yes.  In case you are curious, I made 3 separate cookie assortments so each box did not get everything but I had fun.

At level 2, I moved onto the holiday meals.  I had a Christmas party with some friends.  Weeks before, a pinboard was created with all of the recipes.  Wife in training boot camp level two entailed: Lasagna Cupcakes, Toasted Ravioli, Zucchini Fries, Stuffed Mushrooms, Italian Meatballs (and let me tell you what a sight it is to see a vegetarian kneading through a bunch of raw meat), finished with some Pizza Egg Rolls

Level three? Random acts of hosting, including but not limited to: Breakfast Cookies, Eggnog Tres Leches Cake, Spicy Banana Zucchini Balls, Chicken Pot Pie and my all-time favorite: Eggplant Parmesan

Level four of the training program is still in process because this year I have overtaken the Christmas dinner.  There are lots of levels to wife-in-training boot camp.  It's kind of like Angry Birds that way.  Let the adventures begin!

 Alongside wife-in-training boot camp, I have begun another type of training but this kind is a little more figure-friendly called Jillian Michael's 6 Week Six Pack.  You need to know that I mostly judge work out DVDs and write them off for a weak excuse of a workout.  This DVD? Yeah, not so much.  I want to die and say not very nice things to the t.v. screen while I am doing it.  I am a gym rat and work out all the time and this DVD still kills me.  But I do it.  Even if I want to die.  Jillian even says in the video, "You may feel like you're going to die right now. You're not.  You're going to look ridiculous. That's what you are gonna do."  I better look ridiculous in six weeks or else. I can't figure out what exactly the or else is going to be, but I guess I have 5 weeks and 2 days to think about it.  All I know is that I better build some brute strength during these six weeks to fight all the people who will fight me for feeding them all of my cookies and finishing the cookie season with a six pick if Jillian pulls through and I get me one of those with her DVD. 

All of this training and I am excited to see the payoff.  I love the talents God has given me and am now spending my time making myself the best me I can be for His glory.  Somethings are selfish (like the six pack) but my training is allowing me to show hospitality to those He puts in my life.  That, I can dig. 

I love the idea of being in training, of being refined by fire for God's purposes, to become the famously quoted woman of virtue in Proverbs 31.  I think someday, it will come in handy.

"10A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family

16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."
Proverbs 31:10-31 

Happy cookie season!
The Troublebaker

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Visions of Sugar Plums

I. love. Christmas.  There are a litany of things that make that statement true, including but not limited to: Christmas carols, the smell of pine tree smacking you in the face as you walk in your door, and (something I am sure you are not surprised by) the baking of Christmas cookies and plenty of willing victims for my bake fests with a legitimate excuse to bake something for them.  Yes, friends.  I. Love. Christmas.  While it comes with its pitfalls, which is a list that mostly just includes over-commercialization and fruit cake, Christmas is a great season.  I couldn't WAIT to start baking for Christmas.  Some people agonize over when is too early to put up decorations or blast their Christmas carols, but I always wonder, how early is too early to make holiday treats?  I even devoted an entire pinboard to it.  Well? This year I had to wait until December 2nd, but it was worth every bit of wait.  I kicked off the holiday season baking for a banquet and auction.  It all began with some Christmas Swirl Tea Cakes. 

Nothing says Christmas like a swirly-twirly cake!  This was a 1,2,3,4 cake (which is your basic recipe of 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour and 4 eggs (then some salt, baking soda and vanilla) buuuuut being the troublebaker that I am and also being that I was at high altitude, my 1,2,3,4 cake was actually a 1, 2 (minus 2 tablespoons), 3 (add two tablespoons), 5 recipe.  So naughty...

Then the cakes were "tea-d" (as in cut into 1-inch squares and decorated).  A third got the lovely white chocolate glaze with hollies, but the rest were a creation due to the oh-crap-we-are-out-of-white-chocolate-chips-thanks-to-the-almond-coconut-bombs-I-made-last-night-and-we-are-in-the-middle-of-no-where-and-it-just-snowed-10-more-inches thing that sometimes happens. 

Creation 2 was a chocolate drizzle with red and green M & M's.  I don't think people were complaining at the change.  There were none left.

Creation 3 was a white chocolate drizzle, butter cream frosting and coconut to pay tribute to this great snow which almost left me trapped in this wonderful winter wonderland. 

Finally, were the cookies.  Two kinds were made.  First we had the buckeyes.  Since, they don't require baking, I guess they don't really count as cookies, but I have no other name for them besides balls of fat.  I don't think if you said to someone, "Hey, want to have a ball of fat?' however, anyone would actually accept.  Buckeyes.  A ball of peanut butter, butter, sugar and vanilla dipped in a chocolate coating of chocolate chips and shortening.  Yeah, ball of fat sounds like an appropriate name.  The others Coconut Almond Bombs.  They were increeeeeedible.  Okay, so I didn't actually try one, but the smell was incredible, they were all eaten up, and one of the men at the banquet tried a bite, then made everyone standing around him take a bite of his cookie because he thought it was that good.  I have decided to adopt this recipe for my family's cookie tray.  Since Christmas is a celebration, and therefore all foods are 0 calories , I will stuff my face full of them.  Looks like I've got me a new countdown... Count down to cookie-shoving-in-face!

Yup, Christmas is pretty swell.  I am looking forward to this season, I have dreams of what is to come in the upcoming year.  Plans? Not so much yet.  But visions?  Oh yeah.  Of things a little more than sugar plums.  Wishes? Oh yeah.  Of things a little more than my two front teeth.  All the while, I am grateful for a God who has greater visions then I can imagine and who gives us two front teeth and then some.  God is good.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bake Therapy

Bake therapy.  The amount of eggs that have flown in and out of this kitchen in the last weeks, insane amounts of butter, flour and sugar: bake therapy has overtaken my life.  I think at this point it might actually be economical to get some chickens and turn hipster.  I already have flannel shirts, it could work for me.  My cousin's chickens lay 4 eggs a day.  Thats enough for two batches of cookies a day or a batch of Shawn Taylor's favorite brownies.

Bake therapy is my go-to in times of stress.  Last Sunday? My friend Danielle invited me to bake and within 3 hours, we had made gooey chocolate cookies, carrot cake cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and banana chocolate chip muffins.  She didn't know what to do with me. Yesterday? 3 hours resulted in caramel apple spice cookies, cranberry salsa, prepping a pumpkin pie baked oatmeal and sweet potato crisps. 

I have been looking for any and every excuse to bake recently.  So I love the fact that it is Thanksgiving and there are lots of willing recipients of delicious fall treats.  So, what do I do? I invite all of my friends over for Friendsgiving on Sunday.  There will definitely be a repeat event next year.  I decided to take a break from my massive baking sessions and spent the last week pouring over recipe books and food blogs to make the perfect meal.  Theme: Southwestern Thanksgiving.  Challenge: Take all of the ingredients of thanksgiving and give them a southwestern twist.

It all started with the one recipe I failed to document, turkey cranberry quesadillas. I can't even tell you about how they tasted but I can tell you that people were delightfully surprised. You all will have left overs.  Make these.

Next? On to the carrots.  Chili Roasted Carrots.  Yeah. They were delish.  Had the leftovers today for lunch.  I still vote delish.

The mashed potatos were by far the hardest recipe to choose.  Turns out people like mashed potatos and adding lots of crazy stuff to them.  I guess it is the land of meat and potato lovers.  And I guess I shouldn't really be shocked since people are even doing things like adding bacon to milkshakes.  Chipotle roasted corn mashed potatos won the recipe battle.  Buuuut I am confessing here that I added sour cream to the recipe.  I also confess that I do not feel guilty because I didn't eat any.  I often make dishes with all the bells, whistles and extra calories when I know it is a recipe I won't eat.  So, sour cream happened. And now you know, for my friends? I don't cut calories.  You are worth every one of them. 

So with all of these trial recipes (which I question now why I didn't throw in an old faithful to make sure I at least had one good thing to eat at my Friendsgiving), this recipe was my favorite.  Squash Stuffed Roasted Poblano Peppers. Oh. Wow. They were delicious.  This will definitely be a repeat recipe.

Green beans are traditional at any Thanksgiving dinner.  Most often they are in the form of a green bean cassarole.  I really dislike green bean cassorole however.  I feel like each poor little green bean is screaming from the cream of mushroom soup saying "Help me! Get me out of this sad excuse of a claimed serving of vegetables."  I need crisp. I need fresh.  This recipe is much more that.  I was a happy girl crunching into one of these beans.

I threw in some turkey buscuits even though they are really just Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits, cut up and made into the shape of a turkey, with some of my pumpkin butter.  They were gobbled up by two little munchkins named Ty and Ryan who came to the feast.

It ended all with a pumpkin parfait. THIS was the recipe I was waiting for.  You see, generally I am content to nibble away in my rabbit food style at fruits and veggies, but then pumpkin happens and my cravings overtake my life.  I. love. pumpkin.  Can I get a witness?  (I don't actually know the appropriate time to use that phrase, it felt appropriate so I typed it.  I apologize for misuse of the English language if it occured.)

So, bake therapy.  Turns out there are some more delicious recipes out there, I need to get me some chickens, I need a sponsor for my baking addiction and most importantly I need to just face my anxieties, rolling pin in hand and take what the Lord is throwing at me.  Uncertainty is overwhelming but it compels me to trust in God and proclaim His sovereignty over my life. Uncertainty makes my heart race, my jaw tighten, my nights sleepless, and my free moments spent baking for the masses but slowly God is letting me release that grip and surrender my plans, my dreams, my desires.   He knows what's up when I don't and for that I am grateful. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, November 12, 2011

ABC, 123

The start of my endeavors in the culinary world began here.  Cranberry Sauce.  Every Thanksgiving, since I was seven, I was in charge of the cranberry sauce.  1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 bag of cranberries.  I will forever have that etched into my memory.  I think if I ever suffered an illness or injury that resulted in a loss of memory, I could still make cranberry sauce.  Thanksgiving, for this reason is the height of my baking season.  I. love. fall. food.  Pumpkin? Cranberries? Apples? Can it get any better?  The answer is no.  (That was not really a rhetorical question or one where you had the option of disagreeing with me.  It's my blog people.)  So today I get to go to a pumpkin fest, where we cook and share fall recipes.  I chose pumpkin butter, spiced apple drop cookies and this cranberry upside-down cake that I found from Browneyedbaker.  The cranberries were a tribute to my roots, a reminder of who I am, what has made me, me.

It began with a VERY well buttered spring-form pan (2 tablespoons if you really want to know), a layer of 1/2 cups sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon allspice.  Over all that? Cranberries.  Oh yeah baby!

Then? Some batter.  I mixed 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons of butter, 1 egg, 1/2 cup of milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla.  You know the drill, sugar and butter, then wet (minus milk), then dry, then milk.

Mixed and poured on top.  Confession?  At this point, I looked at the batter and thought, there is noooo way this is gonna be enough.  Feeling too lazy to make more, this was not going to be good. But...

Guess what? It was enough! I know I had you all worried.  I apologize for the anxiety I may have caused. If you were truly traumatized, I will make you an apologetic cranberry upside-down cake. Happy?

350 degrees and 35 minutes later? Ta-da! Oh man, I love fall! P.S. did you know that until this year I claimed summer as my favorite season?  True story! But then I realized that the fall foods, scarves and boots really made fall my favorite season and I had been denying myself claim to the best season ever. I. love. fall. 

O.K., so remember in the beginning of this blog when I was getting all sentimental over cranberries and the ooshy-gooshy back to my roots?  Well here is why:  this week I have been baking a lot and thinking a lot.  Still as unaware of the next steps on this path of mine, I was drawn back to the basics.  The basics of God's love for us, God's plan for our lives, God's goodness and the sweet blessing of His provision.  So often, the uncertainties of life draw us back to those simple truths that roll off our tongues in the good seasons without a second thought and they sound so much bigger.  To grasp these "simple" truths in these times seems difficult.  I am grateful however, that these are ingrained in my memory much like the cranberry sauce recipe.  God does love us.  God does have a plan for our lives.  God is good. God provides. 

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him." Psalm 34:8

Saturday, November 5, 2011

From Scratch

I have been blessed with an incredible chapter on this journey uncharted.  The map from here is unknown but I am hopeful and trusting in a God who loves with a love that is furious as my man, Jeremy Riddle sings, a God who knows the deep desires of my heart and delights in blessing me. So I'm waiting in faith for what is to come. 

This is my blank slate. My canvas.  How about a devil's chocolate cake canvas?  Typical me, when I am in need of deep processing and meditation, I have some bake therapy.  Today, the therapy was at my summer camp and my victims were two unsuspecting user groups.  Group 1: 25 women who traveled all the way to camp to quilt.  Yeah, that's right. Quilt.  For the record, these people mean business!  I walked by at 12 pm, there were people quilting.  On my way to work at 6:30, quilting.  I would like you to know that I value sleep very little, buuuut I would definitely choose sleep over a quilt. 

So naturally, a quilter needs a cake with a quilt on it.  If all quilts involved caramel and chocolate, I might just change my mind about quilting.

A layered quilt cake.  Betcha can't do that on a sewing machine! Feeling accomplished and also slightly tempted to finally dig into one of my creations, it was time to move on.  Group 2? Nothing like group one.  Try 90 crazy high schoolers and their youth leaders (who pretty much act like high schoolers by profession) at a Harry Potter themed retreat. 

So, I decide these lovely youth need a piped frosting creation.  I regretted this decision about this far into the piping project.  I contemplated other hobbies, but then remembered that other hobbies were things like quilting and sports that require coordination I do not have so I kept piping.

End result? The monster book from Harry Potter.  Eyes? Check! Bookmark tongue? Check! A massive amount of sugar on top to send these kiddos into a sugar coma as they consume these along with the pumpkin pasties and butterbeer? Double check.  Seriously people, butterbeer is cream soda with butter, brown sugar, heavy whipping cream, and a few other things all topped with a dollop of whipped cream.  Sugar rush inevitable.  Also convincing me that if you could develop Diabetes over night, this would do it for you.

Piping.  Not something I will ever do again to this degree on a cake of this size.  Bad life choice.  But its so fluffy (It's so fluffy, I'm gonna dieeee!)! So the perfectionist in me desiring a wonderfully fluffy monster cake was glad for the piping (while my hands were not). Details.

So, now at the end of the day, I now sit here.  I am wishing my life canvas were as complete as my cake canvas because the unknown is not always a comfortable place to be.  But I relieved to know there is an end, there is a plan, and a God who knows whats up when I don't.

"And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail." Isaiah 58:11


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Does anyone have a checklist for things you need to do to be type-B?

I am type-A.  Hyper type-A.  Trying to be type-B is difficult.  I cling to lists, schedules, budgets and plans.  Life somehow has a funny way of making all of the above go awry though.  For those situations, God invented frozen yogurt and a cozy bed.  And in the mean time I would like to report that I successfully made it through an off-schedule day.  One of the many unscheduled events was a going away party for one of my students.  This student will truly be missed.  Why?
Reason 1:
This student wrote me a letter every day talking about how he liked me, how he liked being in my class, etc.  Adorable letters, really, and sometimes even cartoons.  Then, one day he got in an argument with one of his classmates and I handled their argument with a "Welp, you're a big boy, work it out!"  He didn't like my answer.  So, his letter the next day?  Dear Ms. A, today I am not writing you a letter because I am mad.  Love, Me.  Classic.  (Fear not, after this not-letter letter? He continued with nice letters, although the not-letter letter DID make me chuckle).
Reason 2:
This student had the most enthusiastic attitude of any 7 year old I have EVER met.  He would come in to sharpen pencils at the beginning of the day and rattle off all of the day's occurrences.  He would talk for 20 minutes and I am not even sure he ever stopped to talk a breath.
Reason 3:
Today, during his going away party, he asked to share 2 magic tricks with the class.  Neither worked, but both were attempted multiple times with a final concession that magic works better at home.
So? Buh-bye, my little ray of sunshine! You will be missed! 

I am still in the hunt for the next baking project, but I feel it might be a cooking project.  I, the vegetarian, will be hosting a carnivore for a few weeks and I feel that my adventures into the world of cooking meat will be documentable to say the least.  I have begun my mad clipping of recipe after recipe and even have this new cool addiction otherwise known as Pinterest to aide in this adventure.  We will see how it goes...  You never know, I may end up sleep walking and try to free the chicken tenders from the fridge in my sleep.  Ok, probably not because that has nothing to do with why I am a vegetablearian, but it is going to be bloggable.  So I guess I should get one of those bumper stickers and just tweak it a little bit to make it say: for every chicken I don't eat, I'll cook 3?  Yup, sounds about right.

In honor of all you carnivores out there.  I will finish with a joke (y'all know I love my cheese).
Q: What do you call a cow with no legs?
A: Ground beef!
Ha... ha... ha...

Peace, y'all!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Its all over your face.

For the record, I never need an excuse to bake but I also rarely actually consume what I bake and so I need some taste testers.  Luckily, I teach and I have hungry little mouths greeting me every day so every once in a while I mix them up a little treat.  Today's treat was hamburger cupcakes which I had mentioned making in a previous blog.  I had made a resolution to begin including my recipes but this recipe has not been perfected for our mile-high location so this will be more a how to.  What you need?  A recipe for a white cupcake, I used a vanilla cupcake with a light spring feel.  Its almost fall, but who cares. None of my students said ummmm this cupcake has more of a spring feel to it, I would have gone for some more fall spicing, so I think I'm golden.  Before you bake the cupcake, sprinkle some sesame seeds on top to give it that bun-y feel.  Bake it then slice that baby in half.  Wa-ching! (I felt it needed a sound affect and  I didn't know the sound for a bread knife so you got a machete.  Details, people.)

Now you have successfully sliced cupcake and it is time for the burger (and yes I am aware that this is a slightly odd project for a vegetarian to be doing, and no I did not eat my imitation burger cupcakes because it did in fact weird me out if you were wondering.)  Take a chocolate butter cream (way to delicious and easy to just get a tub of frosting, 4 ingredients people.)  To ice the cupcake, put the frosting in a frosting bag and use the 1M tip. Make sure to be messy so you can lick your fingers upon completion. 

Lettuce anyone?  How about some green food coloring mixed into coconut.  Yup.  Win.  I recently converted to the gel food colorings.  They are cooler.  To be honest, I don't even know the benefit to using it verses the liquid, but its cool.  All the cool people could potentially be doing it, so I am to. 

Whats left?  Well this one you can decide on.  I went for a raspberry jam ketchup.  Some I have seen use butter cream died red and yellow, which in hindsight might be the route I take next time.  There will be a next time because this perfectionist has not yet perfected this recipe.  Plus, there is an apartment warming party to be had.

Upon completion, put the top back on the cupcake.  Want a little rebellious baking fun?  Don't put the top on the cupcake you got it from.  Troublebaking, I'm pretty sure it is right up there with buying a motorcycle or sneaking into an outdoor pool after 10, right?  I'm such a rebel...

Face shoving.  It is the only thing left to do.

Unless you rocked the face shoving and you got a little somethin somethin on that chin o' yours.

Peace, love, and yuuuuum!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Victory in Slow Motion

Do Do Do Do Do Dooooo Duhduhduh Do Do Do Do Do DUHduhduhduh. In case you are wondering what that song is, its this one: Chariots of Fire.  Yeah that one.  That's the sound of victory.  If you want to know, this song can be contextual to my life next to never because I HATE to run.  I loooove to work out, its something psychological maybe but regardless, running is not my thing.  But today I am feeling victorious, hence the song of victory.  You see, last year I was coerced into running a race.  Remember the aforementioned hatred of running?  Yeah, was more true then than it is now.  But, I like my friend, so I accepted the invite and my stubborn butt ran the whole 4 miles.  I was slow, but I did not stop.  By slow, I mean I could have power walked around the mall 10 minutes faster than I ran this race.  I finished with an end time of 58 minutes and some change.  The most ironical thing is that I was assigned the number 1 for my running tag last year.  I was definitely NOT in first place or in any hopes of getting there.  So this year I moved from turtle categories.  Last year I would have been classified as a box turtle (about .25 mph) and now I will call myself a terrapin turtle, which apparently is comparatively faster, while still a turtle.  I cut 9 minutes off my time!  Still slow? Definitely but I whopped old-me's butt.  So, ha! Take that old-me.  VICTORY!  Maybe the bigger feat was that I did it without anyone making me except my own stubbornness.  Maybe next year I will attempt again and chop some more time off. I am determined.  Also, you should know I named my playlist for the run "Si se puede" which I think helped.  It started off with some Van Halen's Jump. Mid run, right up the hill, the song that came on was this: Mika's Big Girl (You Are Beautiful).  That song took me right up the hill.  Finished up with some Da Family's Boom Boom Mama.  Playlist also equaled victory.

I love this feeling but as I relish in my own little victory, I am feeling overwhelmed by the awareness that God's victory is so much greater.  He does things far bigger in the blink of an eye, almost as an afterthought.  Like what about that one time God helped David kill Goliath with a sling shot, or helped Joshua conquer a city by just marching around it 7 times, or won a battle with 300 men, or a battle was won just because Moses held up his rod above the battle.  Now THAT'S victory. 

I'm gonna end today with my song of victory.  It is not one that you will find on a soundtrack but I love God's victory.  He is good!

"But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:57

Peace and love y'all!  (And don't worry, I'm baking soon!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The times they are a changin (or really just the length of my hair)

So, besides the fact that I thoroughly enjoy educating the future of America and my kiddos are a lovely part of my day, in my other life I really really really really want to bake. (Really really really).  So, how do I combine those two loves? Oh yeah, throw a party and make my kids these awesome cupcakes for no reason at all.  See awesome cupcakes here: Juicy Lucy Burger Cupcakes.  Yeah. Awesome, right?  So its happening.  I give my students marbles for each time I catch the class doing exactly as I asked and let's just say the marbles have been flowing into that jar so I can make them these cupcakes soon!  It helps that this class is ridiculously well behaved and I am blessed this year with that, but none the less... CUPCAKE fever. 

Also you should also know that when I am not thinking about cupcakes, I am shaking in my boots over this haircut that is occurring in my life tomorrow.  I donated my hair to Locks of Love five years ago for the second time, but the stylist gave me a fro and since then hair cuts have been few and far between.  I am to beauty shops as kids are to the dentist.  I avoid them.  So tomorrow I am doing the big chop again.  I emailed the stylist and put in bold, NO FRO PLEASE.  Okay, I didn't go that far but I was tempted to.  She is coming to the school tomorrow and my students get to watch the transformation.  Seat belts for safety! or helmets, or whatever you might need for this life-rocking event.

Finally, I will officially be done with my masters this Saturday.  I will celebrate, but not until October after I forget my strong dislike of my professor and the bitter taste has left my mouth.  I plan on having a baking project.  I have been mulling over ideas.  I am wanting to make more artsy-fartsy goodies that look as bomb as they taste.  So, here it goes.  As a rule, I avoid the cutesy things because it often comes at the cost of taste, but I will be a purist and make only the best.  No fondant here!  So off we go! Next baking challenge... waaaaahooooo!

Welp, thank you all for stumbling upon these musings and actually making it to this paragraph.  I applaud you (and if you are around me I might even hug you- sorry readers from afar, you don't get one of those).  I have to say, I feel like God has got me in a good season right now.  I'm blessed!  Until next time!...

Peace, love, and enjoying my last day with long hair and using a half bottle of hair products per day.

(Don't worry I'll take pics!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A toast: not the kind with jelly but the kind you give to a Mr. and Mrs.

Here is a riddle for you: What's thesis, maid of honor, and first week of school all over? Oh yeah, me last week.  Ok, so its not a good riddle but I am serious, last week was busy.  I would like to take a moment to celebrate the completion of a lot of things last week.  *moment*

This Saturday was the wedding of my dear friend.  We have been friends since 4th grade and let me tell you, of all the makeovers, made-up dances, hours at Starbucks, and general shenanigans, this event has been the climax of our friendship thus far.  You do not know this girl, perhaps, but you should know this incredible story. 

Read incredible story here:
(for the record the incredible story is titled incredible because of events not because I wrote it)

Upon proposal, almost two years ago, this couple was in love.  During their engagement period, there was a point when they could have called it off.  It would have been justified.  This couple however chose to stick it out.  People have divorced for less, yet they fought.  Most would call them crazy but I find them anything but.  This is a testament to God's grace and redemption. The world is full of brokenness and this brokenness results in this search for a source of perfection.  In a time when everything was telling them to call it quits, they ran to God and God, the Author and Perfecter, brought them closer to Him and closer to each other.  Since this, they have let God write their love story.  Almost two years later, they are now married.  It makes me want to shout from a rooftop, "Wooooo marriage!"  Their relationship deserves celebration and points directly to the glory of God and His power.  I know that they would have not been walking down the aisle if God had not given them His strength, His grace and His love, which surpasses all.  People fail, God is unfailing.  Let Him write your love story, because it lets you get your hair did, invite your friends to wear matching dresses, dance down the aisle, enjoy delicious food, and get your groove on. 

I am praising God today for this couple.  I know that their choice to stick it out will bless them in their marriage down the road and has prepared them for inevitable challenges to come. I also know that it will allow them to mentor others.  God is going to use this couple to bring more redemption to marriages elsewhere.   I love that God gets to use these two broken people to do huge kingdom work. Praise. the. Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:27-31
"27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

"Who likes married people?????!!!!!????" -(quote of the wedding, maybe you had to be there... but this blog could not end any other way.  Sorry. But not really.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Things I wish I would have known before, um, now.

So, today's story begins with an anecdote of something that happened yesterday that I am still laughing about. I was at a beautiful wedding celebrating a truly blessed union between two dear friends, Amy and Justin about 24 hours ago, where you would have found me (24 hour younger me)  in a dress.  A black polka dot dress with leggings.  A black polka dot dress that also is of the style of a puffy bottom within those that can make one look pregnant when one is not.  This is not a feature of the dress I was aware of but I quickly learned as we stood in line to get our food.   Someone mistook just that.  Asking, "Awwww, are you pregnant?" is not a question one wants to hear after dropping two dress sizes in a summer, especially with her man standing right next to her.  So I sat there, corrected her kindly and then filled my plate with twice the vegetables because welp, I might as well if people already think I'm eating for two as a result of this dress.  I then thought of this Brian Regan skit. 

Word to the wise: Never ask a girl if she is pregnant unless the baby is like coming out of her, cause you never know with styles this days. 

Word to the unwise (myself): Tuck this dress away until you are actually pregnant many years from now to avoid confusion.

In other news, for my birthday I got 3 dessert cookbooks and a whole creme brulee kit.  I will be a well-fed preggers when the time comes.  Until then? I will make some goody bags for my man. A way to a mans heart is through his stomach, right?  Lets see how this stomach likes tropical or cranberry pumpkin cookies.

Since Proverbs 17 says a cheerful heart is good medicine, I thought this story was good to share.  I love life's funny moments and am a strong believer of the necessity to share and spread the joy.

Until next time,
Me (Joyful, 24-hour-older-and-maybe-slightly-wiser me)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

And to think that I once claimed to not like chocolate.

That is a true story for the record.  I.  Kirsten.  Said throughout my college years that I did not like chocolate.  I, in fact, avoided chocolate for other desserts.  What I realized is that it was not in fact the chocolate that I didn't like, but weak excuses for chocolate in muted forms.  This chocolate is not that.  Lets try a triple chocolate cheesecake with more calories in one bite than I ever wanted to know could occur in a bite of food. Beginning with an Oreo crust, then melted chocolate, chocolate cheesecake, a hard chocolate shell, hot fudge and finished with a chocolate whipped cream and Oreo crumbles. Delish.  See here:

Or this fudge crumble in a wonton cup.  Buttermilk chocolate cake with fudge icing drizzling down the sides? Double delish.  See here:

Some people besides me do or have claimed to not like chocolate.  My friend, Heather Merry, says she doesn't like chocolate but she had some and then had some more.  Take that haters! Man it was good.  It was even better that Heather got to taste my cheesecake because she lives a bajillion miles away and I rarely get to be in the same state as her.  Soul sisters that live states away are always the best to see.  That's what I am grateful for this week.  Soul sisters.  Having them is a beautiful thing because they can live next door or thousands of miles away and every time God lets us connect again, its like we never skipped a beat.  There is warmth and comfort, security that everyone merits in these people who allow them to be themselves, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Soul sisters are like that triple chocolate cheesecake that you let overwhelm your senses when you normally just munch on the rest of your stash of Halloween candy.  It doesn't compare and the richness in each moment is remarkable.  I am fortunate to have many of these types of friendships and I sit today just feeling blessed by each and every one of you.  Know that you are a friendship to be savored, enjoyed bite by bite and if you want I will make a triple chocolate cheesecake for you in your honor next time you stop by!

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

Friday, July 22, 2011

LIfe is better in a wonton cup.

Routine? Sometimes I tire of it.  I am on week 5 of baking the same recipes.  Like today is Tuesday? Chocolate cake, pizza, Texas toast and my only play time in the kitchen of the week: treaty Tuesday.  Delicious or not, it is repetitive.  Its like having a Monday outfit, Tuesday outfit, Wednesday outfit ... and never wearing anything else.  Its time to play.  So?  Cake pops have been peaced out and I am moving on to wonton cups.  You can put anything in a wonton cup.  It is fun and if a dessert can be flirty (which I think it can) it is flirty. 

So I began with a mocha mousse.    Love.  This was definitely the most popular.  Even I, the rabbit ate one or three of them (which totally negates the appropriate portion size of a wonton cup, but who cares).

Next?  I moved on to a limeade tart with a lime strawberry sauce.  Yum.  Except I was able to resist these ones.

Then? Well... I threw out Wednesday cake pops from the menu, treaty Tuesday was over but my wonton cup craze was not.  So? I made them for the campers.  How about a cherry cheesecake.  Yup.  It happened.

Its official.  Wonton day is now Wednesday.  Changing the wardrobe up.  Does this wonton make my butt look fat? Well, not yet, but it will... Oh wontons, you are cute and delicious.  I wonder, if all the icky things life gives you were put in a wonton, would they automatically improve? I might enjoy that.  If I could put my half finished action research project or my journey through the visa process in a wonton cup with some whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, I totally would.  Unfortunately, wontons are not duct tape or Jesus so I will trudge on, remembering  "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:4 

Yeah, that sounds pretty alright to me. Can't wait for my next wonton adventures!  Now what to put in them next...

Peace, love, and wontons!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Surgeon General's Warning: This Product Contains Perfectionism

So, many of you might be wondering what I might have been up to as of late and what goodies and baking adventures have come my way.  Well, I attempted some colombian recipes for a homesick boy who needed some good home cooking which resulted in a Treaty Tuesday of arequipe, milhojas, arequipe brownies, arequipe bars, fried plantains and arepas.  I am no expert to these dishes, but I have found an awesome blog which helped the process.  I feel some day I might make a meal just like momma makes it, but the learning process is fun.  Random fact?  Yucca is not found in Colorado.  Many recipes must wait.  Send me some or hook me up with a place to locate it?  I will give you a high five.  High fives are cool.  You know you want one.

Other baking adventures?  Welllllll, lots of cookies, breads, buns, the usual. Then I made biscotti. You need to understand that I bake thousands of calories worth of food a week and never eat any of it but then I made biscotti on Wednesday and it all came crashing down.  In fact I am pretty sure my night total was 6 biscotti.  It was insane.  Insanely delicious.  I. love. biscotti.  This is a new discovery for me.  I am adjusting to my new identity as a biscotti addict and trying to avoid it at all costs.  I will bake them blindfolded and with a pin to clip my nose shut as a preventative measure.  Totally safe, right? Riiiight.

This week also included a few treasures for special treats.  I love birthdays because they involve fancy goodies and I get to imagine my life as a pastry chef in all its glory.

On Friday, this resulted in a strawberry swirl cheesecake with an oreo crust and strawberry sauce on top.  See here:

Birthday number two? A carrot cake.  It was carrot cake the way a carrot cake should be made.  Half cake batter, half carrots, raisins, pineapple, coconut and walnuts.  The works.  This same carrot cake almost resulted in a heart attack at my young age of 24.  Story as follows: Andrei rolling a cart.  Cart rolling into cart with cake on it.  Pan alllllmost toppling over onto freshly sculpted carrot cake bunny.  Heart stopping.  Heavy breathing.  I am a perfectionist, so ruined cakes don't exactly keep me cool as a cucumber.  This baking job has really heightened that perfectionism in me to an exceptional degree.  But? Such is life.  I ended with a carrot cake, bunny sculpture on top, bunny tracks, carrots, half eaten carrots by the bunny and bike tracks (since the birthday boy is a biker).  It was fun!  

Speaking of baking... this baker has to clock in for the morning so it is time to sign off.  More adventures to come!  


Thursday, June 30, 2011

One plus one can equal five if you sneak some on the side and other basic things you need to know about life.

So. Baking life. Fun? Yes.  For example today I made 250 cookies, 5 test recipes of bread pudding to have a bake off with myself and pick an official recipe, and made corn bread.  Lately I have been getting into the fancy. The same-old same-old basic recipes don't cut it.
Example A:

Treaty Tuesday this week was a margarita cheesecake with honey-lime soaked strawberries on top accessorized by sugar cookies shaped like limes.

Example B:

Chip and dip cookies went with our nacho bar lunch today.

So, here is why this is important to know.  Yesterday? I made Rice Krispie Treats for dessert.  Rice. Krispie. Treats.   It was a long day and after so many different baking endeavors, I wanted simple, basic.  Yesterday in many areas, my desire to impress whacked me in the face like a pie full of whipped cream, except maybe it was actually more like a shaving cream pie, because it did not leave any deliciousness afterwards to lick off.  Reality?  Sometimes we live to impress, whether it is gourmet desserts instead of the old faithfuls, or with our actions.  A strong character, drive and passion can be subdued in the attempt to impress people with your mad skills and abilities to make one plus one equal a number other than two.  There is no need to over think the basic, try to make complex out of the basic because sometimes the basic is fitting and beautiful just as it is.

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sprinkles and Jesus

Baking is a joy.  Recycled baking is a double joy.  You should know that one of my least favorite things about working in the kitchen is throwing away food at the end of a meal that we can't keep.  This is especially true for my baked goods.  I cry a little bit for each slice of cake or each cookie crumble that falls into that trash can. Sooooo... I have begun to recycle the cake into cake pops!  This makes me love life a lot.  So, today in my cake making adventures, I was dipping my little cake pops in the melted candy and you would get those little imperfections, because mine just don't seem to look as asthetically pleasing as a machine can do them at Starbucks *sigh*.  My response however is sprinkles.  Today I sprinkled cute little stars all over each little imperfection.  Result? Restoration.  They were beautiful and delish. (Not that I actually know... I am on a ten pound challenge with a friend and an invitation to Qdoba awaits me if I beat him sooooo you know I am not gonna back down!...)  Regardless, today I am indebted to sprinkles.  Sprinkles were the grace of today's imperfection.

I think Jesus is better than sprinkles and his grace can do a heck of a lot more than some multicolored star sprinkles, even if they are full of color and joy.  Praising the Lord for grace today!  I think he restores a bit better too! Mannnnnn, GOD IS GOOD!  And so is this song:

Sprinkles and Grace today baby! Get some!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sliced fingers are not finger food.

Once upon a time,deep in the mountainous forest lived a baker.  This baker liked to bake at her plains home but an evil villain had kidnapped her desiring homemade breads and baked goods of his very own (Sorry Stu, its for the story's sake).  He would make her bake and bake and bake all day and then lock her up each night in the dungeon below with the guise of an unfinished portion of the retreat center.  So she rose each morning as the last and baked all day, exploring the art of high altitude baking and trying to bake her best.  One flat cake or thin cookie meant 20 minutes in the lair of Stumpy, the camp's old ghost.   O.K., so that adventure is completely made up.... but I really do bake a lot and high altitude baking is an adventure that should have its own story, so I wrote one. I have loved being a baker!  Its like my own personal playground.  Tomorrow, I am making German Chocolate cake for the first time.  The anticipation is overwhelming! (although I am sure that anticipation really stems from something else that is happening tomorrow...).  Making this cake will be an excellent distraction at least!  I will document.  Also, for the record, you should know that I am slowly succeeding in chocolate-cake .  Not quite redeemed, but getting there.

In other news, and the reason for the title, I sliced my finger yesterday.  When you slice your finger in the kitchen world, it means these wicked little finger gloves you have to wear.  Also, I was bleeding for like 2 hours.  Lame. Near death? Probably not.  Was I dramatic? Probably. But you will be happy to know that I made it down to a band-aid and my dear little finger is healing quite nicely. Oh the adventures of kitchen life...

One thing is for sure, as a result of being team kitchen, I have had hospitality on the brain.  I love the ability to serve others.  Hebrews 13:2 says "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."  In a fast pace, independent-minded nation, it is so easy to overlook hospitality, our service to others.  No, we might not all be gourmet chefs but we are all called to love and serve, even if its a bag of chips and jar of salsa shared with a co-worker.  As I have been in the kitchen this summer, I have been a lot more mindful of how I am serving others and worshiping God through that service, with my attitude, with my actions and my words.  I am writing this I guess to encourage y'all to do the same.  Share something this week.  Lets go kindergarten style and practice sharing, entertaining strangers, maybe angels unaware?

Sharing is caring!

Peace, love and SERVE, y'all!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Took a wrong turn at the metric system and ended up at the super-sized pans

This baker has been playing up in the kitchen in the mountains.  It has been an experience because everything I know about cooking, I have learned from Google and the Food Network resulting in a lot of self-taught methods that work for my kitchenito at my casita but are not quite as functional nor efficient for feeding the masses. Also, my measurements of cups and teaspoons have been replaced by ounces, pounds, and gallons.  Daunting would be the perfect word to describe the task.  Successes? Pizza dough.  Reasons: It was delish.  It is also most excellent  way to have awesomely toned arms.  I think this summer is gonna get me some guns.  Failures? I threw away a cake batch, TWICE! The perfectionist in me died a little bit inside. (I am grateful p.s. for math skills or I would be drowning.  The Justin Bieber simple math "me plus you" is just not adequate unless he starts singing in fractions like "you have half my hearrrrrrt" then we might be in business again). We had ice cream that night for dinner instead. Making super sized recipes is an adventure to say the least.  Today is take two of me vs. cake.  Banana cake.  I will make it look adorable and my inner-baker will be once again at peace with the world. *sigh*  So let the adventures begin!

Baking is about to begin so more blogging and photo documentation to follow but until then:
Peace, Love and Bake!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sunless on a Sundress Day

Staring outside at the gray sky and the clouds that envelope the mountain caps, it is clear that my sundress so carefully selected for this special occasion is not the recommended outfit.  Today, however, I will let the love in my heart keep me warm because this dress will. be. worn. I have conceded to wearing close-toed shoes, hiding my freshly pedicured toesies but THAT IS IT.  For girls, I have decided, weather rarely dictates our wardrobe choices.  The girls who walk around downtown in the winter on a Saturday night are my witnesses.  Fact: Whenever I am downtown in the winter, I get this urge to start a charity called Pants for the People or something that helps pant-less girls cover up in winter (or really anytime would be ideal).  Girls: It is cold.  You are wearing next to nothing.  You could get pneumonia or pants, you decide.

In other news, my dear friend is getting married today (hence the sundress I am still wearing and the pedicure.)  She is one of those people everyone should be lucky enough to have in their life.  Heart. of. gold.  So, today is a great day to celebrate.  Today there will be much jubilation and dancing.  I will also be reading some of that Good Book at the wedding, so there might be some nervous.  I teach reading every day of my life, but today is a test of my reading skills.  Will I open to the right page?  What if I skip a word? The passage has the word "admonish" in it.  While I would like to say I use that word often and it just rolls of the tongue, well...that's just not true.  So, here it goes. Me. Teacher-getting-her-masters-in-literacy. Reading a passage.  Can it be done? Hope so...

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:12-17.  
So, here goes today! Celebrating and putting on love and sundresses despite the gloomy weather.